Category Archives: hollywood

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Open Thread: Scandal 3.11, ‘Ride, Sally, Ride’

By Arturo R. García

Our own Kendra James will have a proper review Monday morning, but we figured we’d get the ball rolling and gather your first thoughts on the Scandal spring premiere. SPOILERS UNDER THE CUT

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Eight Episodes, 800 (or so) Questions: The Scandal Spring Season Preview

By Arturo R. García

Welcome back, Scandalizens, as we embark on what Shonda Rhimes and company are billing as the all-killer(s), no-filler portion of the season: eight episodes, all in a row, telling what promises to be a three-sided war within the Pope family, with another conflict brewing within Fitz’s administration, despite Cyrus’ best efforts to (nearly literally) hide the bodies.

So before mounting up tonight, let’s play catch-up under the cut. SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON.
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Future On!: Michael B. Jordan And The New Human Torch’s World

By Arturo R. García

The Human Torch (left) and Michael B. Jordan. Image via ScreenCrave.

After months of speculation, Thursday night brought confirmation: Michael B. Jordan will play Johnny Storm/The Human Torch in 20th Century Fox’s newest attempt to build a Fantastic Four film franchise. And while some geeks reacted as badly as you might expect, this iteration of Marvel’s First Family is worth keeping an eye on for far more interesting reasons.
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Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Athena FF: Amma Asante’s Belle Revisits Jane Austen Through Black POV

By Guest Contributor Inkoo Kang, cross-posted from Women And Hollywood

“This is the story of a woman who is loved.”

Those are the words black British director Amma Asante used to describe her marvelous sophomore feature Belle at the Athena Film Festival this past weekend, and they had a palpable emotional impact when Asante uttered them at the film’s post-screening Q&A.

That’s because it’s still all-too-maddeningly rare to see a gentle romance about the loveliness or adorableness or winsome sweetness of black women. Asante’s intention to make exactly that — her version of Jane Austen, based on the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle, an 18th-century half-African, half-British historical noblewoman — feels radical, even though the film is in many ways a comfortably familiar period piece primarily concerned with courtship and marriage.

Last year saw a flurry of high-profile films with (male) black protagonists (12 Years a SlaveMandelaFruitvale StationThe Butler, and 42), and the wonderful thing about Asante’s carefully constructed film is that it’s not a story grounded in black suffering. Living in a pre-abolition Britain, Dido, played with grace and passion by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, is certainly no stranger to racism.

But, as Asante explained, her film tells a story about Dido “teaching people how to love her” — to let themselves be won over by her charms and wit despite their knee-jerk prejudices. Rounded out by critiques of sexism and classism, Belle is a quietly ambitious project that’s already put Asante on an ascendant path in Hollywood.

If you missed its NY premiere at Athena, Belle will be released on May 2.

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Quoted: Jeff Yang on SNL and Yellowface

In early January, you took a step — a big step — to address your lack of diversity by bringing aboard new castmember Sasheer Zamata, the first African American woman player for nearly six seasons, and two African American female writers, too:  LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones. But last Saturday was a reminder that this big step is only the first one.

That’s because, in a show being hosted by the awesome Melissa McCarthy, you turned her opening monologue into a skit about her feud with castmember Bobby Moynihan — a feud that erupted into a high-flying, wire-swinging martial arts duel between the duo. Now, let’s set aside the fact that the humorous context of their fisticuffs seems to have been anchored in the comic sight of a pair of lovably large people pirouetting through the air; they were game and graceful, and I tip my hat to the midair somersault McCarthy managed to pull off.

But it was almost as if you knew there weren’t enough yuks in just having McCarthy and Moynihan punching it out, Shaw Brothers style (and you were right). So to underscore the joke, you put a little yellow icing on the cake, bringing in a squinting, eyebrow-quirking Taran Killam in a Nehru jacket to play the fight’s narrator, complete with stilted accent and gong. (Taran Killam — Cobie Smulders’s husband. You know, the actress on CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother” who was just slammed for doing yellowface two weeks ago?)

Whoa, SNL. That wasn’t cool, and it wasn’t particularly funny, either. It looked like a desperate move to save a skit that was going nowhere. It was embarrassing. And even Killam himself seemed to look vaguely uncomfortable, as if he was saying in his head, “I’m only doing this because I’m the closest thing this show has to an actual Asian dude.”

– From The Wall Street Journal

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Stories that Ally vs Stories that Appropriate: a Yardstick [The Throwback]

In this February 2010 piece, Thea Lim examines how “Avatar” exemplifies a disturbing type of faux-progressive filmmaking.

By Deputy Editor Thea Lim

How do you know when a story is allying, versus appropriating?

In other words, if someone of privilege writes a story about the political oppression of a group they do not belong to, what is the difference between:

a) a story that brings marginalised voices to a wider platform and advocates for their rights, versus
b) a story that simply appropriates a political conflict for a writer’s own end, taking advantage of the fact that communities who experience marginalisation are rarely ever allowed to speak for themselves?

Apart from the fact that a story that appropriates usually winds up grossly misrepresenting a marginalised group, this is my yardstick for telling friends from foes:  one of the central purposes of a story that acts as ally, is to use one’s own privilege to tell another’s story, in the hopes of ameliorating the others’ situation.  Meanwhile, a story that appropriates just wants to spin a good yarn, get some adulation, and uses another’s story in order to do so.  An ally story is giving, an appropriating story is taking.

Quit jabbering Thea, you may say.  It’s easy to tell the difference between stories that appropriate, and stories that ally! We don’t need a yardstick!

Not true.  At least within mainstream opinion, it is startling and depressing how many stories that appropriate get passed off as political progressive, as allies.  Like Not Without My Daughter.  Or the documentary Born into Brothels, which purported to tell the story of the children of sex workers in Calcutta, but really just seemed more interested in showcasing the magnanimity of the American photographer who worked with the children.* Or another documentary, Paris is Burning, about the black trans/gay vogueing community of New York City, which brought immense praise on the white outsider director, but painted the community as tragic and hopeless, while bringing little benefit to them. I’m sure you can think of loads more films like this.

Including…(drumroll)…Avatar. Which I finally saw last week, in all its headsplitting 3D glory. And it fulfilled all the negative press I had read over countless months, from anti-racist and anti-ableist camps among many others. But seeing how my esteemed peers did a lot of the deconstructing work for me, I was left to ponder another question. If Cameron is as leftist as claimed, why didn’t he tell the story of an actual conflict between big business (or colonialists) and an indigenous group? Why use blue allegory?

Hollywood films have a generally untapped power to sway how people think about political events. Packaging a political story within the rhetoric of emotion (and also I guess, within face-blasting special effects) is often the best way to get people to swallow arguments they would otherwise reject.  Hence a movie that – at least at face value – is very anti-war, anti-military and anti-capitalist is demolishing box office records with hardly a peep from conservative viewers.

Can you imagine the impact that a movie like Avatar could have, if Cameron had used all the CGI to recreate (for example) any area of the Americas the way it looked before first contact with the Europeans, and instead told the real story of an indigenous group struggling to protect themselves from genocide?  Imagine the kind of support it could create for indigenous rights.

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The Hope of Just Representation in Entertainment

By Guest Contributor refresh_daemon, cross-posted from Init_Scenes

The cast of the original “Star Trek.” Image via English Online.

There Is a Problem

Every year, without fail, a report will show that the American entertainment industry has consistently underrepresented people of color on screen, both in character and by actor. Even when studies show that it is actually in the best interest of Hollywood to have more equitable representation, we do not see equitable representation on screen. This is true for film, network television, and cable television and not only in front of the camera at all levels, from leading roles to background actors, but also behind the camera, from the writers, to the directors, the producers, and all over the corporate structures that run the studios and networks to even the big money interests that fund them.

And it is not only a product of racism, but the inequitable representation of people of color, women, and other marginalized groups, actually contributes to and reinforces deep underlying systemic racism and other injustices not only in the United States, but also to any place where our entertainment products have reach.

And this is a problem.

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‘Murican Idol: Here’s What Didn’t Get Phil Robertson Suspended from Duck Dynasty

By Arturo R. García

Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty.” Image via Facebook.

By now you’ve no doubt heard that reality “star” Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty “fame” was suspended from the show — or, in snake-oil TV-speak, placed on “indefinite hiatus” — after glibly engaging in some concern-trolling homophobia in a GQ interview while painting his show and his family’s public embrace of its Christian faith as some sort of antidote for whatever it believes ails America.

But what hasn’t been reported nearly as widely is the amount of outright racially prejudiced statements Robertson also lets fly in the piece, which points to a bigger problem for A&E. The network has been all too happy to trade on Robertson and his family’s “good ol’ boy” brand. Now it has to deal with the consequences.
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