Category Archives: movies

Searching for Our Decolonized Image: Nicki Minaj Puts the Other in The Other Woman

By Guest Contributor Rajul Punjabi

The trailer for The Other Woman, a flick about the unlikely blossoming friendship of three women (Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, and Kate Upton) while they conspire against their mutually shared cheating man (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), was released last week. Nicki Minaj is in it too, and a plethora of entertainment outlets are ablaze with blurbs about her non-animated silver screen debut.

One of my favorite headlines reads, “Nicki Minaj Stars in The Other Woman.“ Fun, right Barbz? Finally, her formal theatrical training and the scintillating possibilities of Minaj channeling one of her alter egos on the silver screen. But, as the preview reveals, she’s hardly the star of the movie. She plays a “sassy, outspoken, legal assistant” to Cameron Diaz’s power lawyer. She’s not even the side chick. She is the side chick’s sidekick.
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Can Gareth Edwards Build A Global Godzilla?

By Arturo R. García

The release of the trailer for the latest Godzilla release spawned a pretty good discussion over at The Mary Sue Wednesday, including this critique from a fan:

It’s too early to tell just how “global” this new Godzilla is, but it would be really nice if it acknowledged that the death of human beings is universal and is no more or less tragic by virtue of location, nationality or ethnic background. I don’t see that happening for the promotional campaign, because the people who make trailers and commercials are frequently different from the actual filmmakers, and tend to be somewhat problematic at the best of times – so I don’t see them doing anything different from the norm.

Because the sad fact is that lots of people are going to look on the deaths of non-Western non-white people in films, even outright disasters, as they do for real life: as sad or upsetting, but not *quite* as upsetting as if it happened to “their” people – even if it takes place in a western city with an ethnic majority. It isn’t cinema’s job to challenge those preconceptions, but cinema is in a strong position to make a difference. Would it really be such a problem for a film to make the “bold” statement that the death of thousands of non-Westerners is just as tragic as the death of thousands of Westerners? Would that really constitute “reverse”-racism? Is that infringing on white people’s representation in the media?

The first trailer doesn’t give us a lot to go on on that score. And even if the film’s IMDB cast list counts at least six people of color involved, what we see here is mostly focused on white characters (starting with the nameless white soldier who jumps into near-certain doom at the beginning). But the only POC featured, Ken Watanabe, will likely be playing a key character in Godzilla canon — Dr. Daisuke Serizawa, the man behind the invention that killed the original Godzilla in the monster’s 1954 eponymous debut.

But a piece of the synopsis has me, at least, hopeful that this film won’t just aspire to be a “reimagined version” of the character’s first appearance, and will show better judgment in picking which parts of Godzilla canon to explore.

SPOILERS UNDER THE CUT
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Rumour Mill: Casting for the Man of Steel sequel and CW’s The Flash pilot

gal-gadot-wonder-woman

Gal Gadot cast as Wonder Woman via. IGN.com

By Kendra James and Arturo Garcia

The ups and downs of being a DC Comics fan have never been more apparent than this past week. The WB cast a big screen Wonder Woman (Israeli actress, Fast and the Furious alum Gal Gadot)… but not for her own movie. She’ll be sharing the stage with Henry Cavil’s Superman, Ben Affleck’s supposedly older and wizened Batman, and a potential mutual adversary in Lex Luthor. Luthor who will, according to casting rumours, most likely be African-American, echoing the WB’s already demonstrated willingness to race-bend with Perry White in Man of Steel. Personally, I don’t think this should be much of a stretch of the imagination for anyone who grew up on the Superman cartoon of the 90s. 

I didn’t think this man was white when I was 7 and I still don’t.

On the heels of a fantastic Arrow mid-season finale, the CW revealed a casting call for their Flash pilot showing their intentions to making Iris West Allen (The Flash’s –Barry Allen– main love interest and Wally West’s –another Flash– aunt) and her extended family African-American woman rather than white, as she’s been traditionally portrayed in the comics. If the pilot and ensuing show is anywhere near as good as Arrow, a diverse cast of main characters won’t be an issue (even if I am still annoyed about Sin.)

With DC’s television and cinematic universes both expanding quickly, we thought it was time for another quick chromatic casting.

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Quoted: Stacia Brown on “Black Film Fatigue”

12-years-a-slave-poster

In The American Prospect, writer Stacia Brown explores the seven stages black moviegoers confront when faced with the latest “important” black film.

The stages are doubt, guilt, self-preservation, annoyance, anger, vulnerability, and acceptance.

You may have never heard these stages named, but you’ve likely experienced most of them. And if you’re one of the fortunate few who’ve escaped the cycle, it’s safe to presume you’ve seen someone else struggle through it on social media. For some, the cycle starts as soon as a new black film, chronicling an important issue or public figure, is announced. It persists through marketing, early reviews, and opening weekend, as we wonder what effects the film will have on us. We may predict, with doubt, annoyance and anger, “This writer or director is not going to do this story justice.” We might declare, with some vulnerability, “I’ll have to mentally prepare myself to watch this.” Or we may opt out of a viewing altogether, with the self-preservation explanation, “My heart just can’t take seeing this.” Box-office numbers tell part of the story; the better attended an Important Black Film, the more of us have reached the acceptance stage.

For the black filmgoer, movies set during slavery or the civil-rights movement, as well as biopics which take place in contemporary, racially-charged America, are not mere entertainment or popcorn fare. Films like 12 Years A Slave, Fruitvale Station, Django Unchained, and The Butler hold particular emotional resonance. They re-enact (or subvert) sorrow with which we have some experience, sorrow that has worked its way through our lineage in the form of oral history.

This is why we deliberate before attending Important Black Films. It’s also why so many are marketed to us as moral obligations. We’re told we must support these films because they advance the narrative of our people in this country, each ostensibly offering one more chance to flesh out details that have been willfully overlooked in history books or minimized in favor advancing a post-racial objective. Read more…

The Racialicious Review Of 12 Years A Slave

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup in 12 Years A Slave

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup in 12 Years A Slave

By Kendra James

Warning: This review contains spoilers, and discussion of abuse, violence, and rape.

Normally, knowing that a story has a “happy ending” helps to ease the burden of getting through something horrific. 12 Years a Slave is not that movie. It can’t be that movie with the way Steve McQueen dispenses of the conventional methods to show the passing of time. This could be 12 months, 12 weeks, or 12 years and we wouldn’t have known; I even lost track of how long I’d been in the theatre. There’s no clear changing of the seasons; no transition from spring to summer or fall, just once the point made that a crop of cotton has been lost.

Time is marked by the passing of violence rather than the passing of seasons, and it blurs and stretches and bunches together in places as it must have for Solomon Northup  (a triumphant Chiwetel Ejiofor) himself. By not providing the viewer with any demarcation of time McQueen effectively puts us in his lead character’s position. How long Solomon’s been enslaved doesn’t matter and there’s no concrete end. Just one dehumanising experience to live through after another.

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Quoted: Malcolm Harris on Race In Breaking Bad

Bryan Cranston as Walter White. Image via Green Bay Press Gazette.

Demographically, the viewers AMC wants are more likely to do a lot of pills than unscrew a light bulb to smoke some ice, even if the substances are chemically similar. There are plenty of expert scientists making tons of money cooking up and selling amphetamines, but they’re not robbing trains or toting guns. Big Pharma brings in a $250 billion annually in the U.S. alone, much of it from the same chemical compounds in White’s lab. When it’s 89 percent pure, it’s illegal meth; when it’s 99 percent pure, methamphetamine is sold by Lundbeck Inc. under the trademark name Desoxyn, for “the short-term management of exogenous obesity.” Walter isn’t making crank; he is manufacturing black-market pharmaceuticals.

A “Breaking Bad” in which the street dealers were diluting the product would have had Walter and his partner Jesse Pinkman competing with every local operation, struggling to set up a larger distribution network without costly middlemen and, well, interacting with meth users a lot. But “The Wire on Ice” isn’t sexy enough to sell a Dodge, and a teacher slanging to his fucked-up former students would turn stomachs, not open wallets. Suffice to say it would be a darker show.

Which brings us to the other thing that sets White and Pinkman apart from their competitors: color. And I don’t mean blue.

The white guy who enters a world supposedly beneath him where he doesn’t belong yet nonetheless triumphs over the inhabitants is older than talkies. TV Tropes calls it “Mighty Whitey,” and examples range from Tom Cruise as Samurai and Daniel Day Lewis as Mohican to the slightly less far-fetched Julia Stiles as ghetto-fabulous. But whether it’s a 3-D Marine playing alien in “Avatar” or Bruce Wayne slumming in a Bhutanese prison, the story is still good for a few hundred million bucks. The story changes a bit from telling to telling, but the meaning is consistent: a white person is (and by extension, white people are) best at everything.

- From “Walter White Supremacy,” in The New Inquiry

[h/t Rania Khalek]

Quoted: Comedian Dean Obeidallah On Right-Wing Islamophobia

And then there’s The Washington Times. They whine that the movie is just a parade of liberals mocking conservatives. To be honest, they are correct. We do have some great progressive voices in the film including The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. Russell Simmons, Rep. Keith Ellison [D-MN], and comedians like Lewis Black, David Cross, Janeane Garofalo, etc.

But here’s the thing The Washington Times didn’t include in their article, because they didn’t contact us for a comment: We invited numerous conservatives to be in the film. To be specific, we asked Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Judge Napolitano, and Pat Robertson through their representatives. We even invited some of the most notorious Muslim haters. (I won’t list their names because they don’t merit the attention.)

One guess how they all responded? They, of course, said no. Why? You have to ask them but it’s clear that many on the right don’t want to be challenged when selling their rancid bill of goods to the public about Muslims.

But here’s the truth that some on the right will hate to hear: We will prevail. And when I say “we,” I don’t mean Muslims. I mean American values. How can I say that? Our nation’s history makes it clear how this will end for the Muslim bashers.
- From The Daily Beast

45 Women of Color in Science-Fiction/Fantasy Movies

By Guest Contributor Karishma; originally published at Persephone Magazine

This isn’t a definitive list of women of color in film. This isn’t a “best of” list, or a list of the most complicated or progressive characters in science-fiction or fantasy. This is simply a list of women of color in science-fiction and fantasy films. I tried to make it as full as possible, but ultimately had to decide on some parameters. These are women who are either secondary leads (because there are almost no women of color leads) or supporting characters. To better see how small the visual representation is, we have to be willing to look at all of the characters, in spite of their flaws, or limited screentime, or problematic nature. It helps paint a more accurate picture of the women we do see, and helps us understand why characters like the girls of Attack the Block never seem to break out into fan favorites, or why perceptions of Mako Mori becomes such a hot button topic in the weeks after the release of Pacific Rim.

Looking my previous post on the topic, after asking for suggestions, the answers didn’t really surprise me. Doctor Who’s Martha Jones, and Star Trek’s Uhura were repeat suggestions, but again, they were primarily TV-based suggestions. (I should clarify that even the Uhura suggestion pointed more at the TV-iteration of the character over the current Hollywood portrayal). In searching for a more complete list, what I found, unsurprisingly, is that most of the women of color on film are mostly background players, filling highly stereotyped and exoticized roles. I reached out to sci-fi and fantasy fans on tumblr, and pored through cast lists of the “100 Best Science Fiction Movies,” “Top 100 Science-Fiction & Fantasy Movies,” and “50 Greatest Fantasy Films.” Again, many people were stumped by the question, or reluctant to pick favorites, as women of color served to fulfill stereotypical roles, i.e. meek Asian woman or Magical Negro mystic, that furthered the white, male heterosexual narrative.

Fans often have to isolate the parts of the narrative they find compelling within these problematic portrayals, or be willing to look past the negative aspects of the narrow characterization to find something to relate to. Even in worlds where crime can be predicted before it happens, and lightning can be bottled and sold, women of color still cannot be protagonists, or have complicated and compelling backstories. It’s frustrating when I look at the casts of some of my favorite films and wonder what about the role seems to require a white actress (or actor). As much as I love Stardust, I’m not quite sure why Yvaine had to be played by Claire Danes, or why there weren’t any people of color in the fantastical candy-colored world of Edward Scissorhands, besides Officer Allen. We are slowly moving towards more visibility for women of color, as crowd-sourced films and more venues for the fan conversation call for better characters and more visibility. Just look at the conversation around this summer’s Pacific Rim, led to the creation of an alternative Bechdel test, the Mako Mori test.

Mako Mori in Pacific Rim

Mako Mori being great.

Without further ado, here are 45* women of color in science-fiction and fantasy films. Again, this role isn’t exhaustive or anywhere near complete, but serve to illustrate the types of roles that women of color get in these genre films. All of these women and characters should have greater visibility as we continue this conversation about women of color in Hollywood. (*Two women on the list, Mary Alice and Gloria Foster, share a character, so they have been grouped together, only because I think 45 sounds better than 46.) It should also be noted that superhero/comic-book movies have also been grouped in with the overall sci-fi and fantasy category, if anyone wants to get nitpicky about it.

  •  Aaliyah as Queen Akasha in Queen of the Damned
  •  Alfre Woodard as Lily Sloane in Star Trek: First Contact
  •  Alice Braga (who I’ve mentioned before) with multiple roles in Elysium, Predators, Blindness and I Am Legend
  •  Amandla Stenberg as Rue in The Hunger Games
  •  Angela Bassett as Det. Rita Veder in Vampire in Brooklyn and Mace in Strange Days
  •  Aubrey Plaza as Darius in Safety Not Guaranteed (character isn’t obviously a woman of color, but is played by a biracial actress)

Audrey Plaza in Safety Not Guaranteed

  •  Charlotte Lewis as Kee Nang in The Golden Child
  •  Clare-Hope Ashitey as Kee in Children of Men

Clare Hope Ashitey in Children of Men

  •  Danielle Vitalis as Tia in Attack the Block
  •  Doona Bae as multiple characters in Cloud Atlas and Park Nam-Joo in The Host
  •  Eva Mendez as Sand Saref in The Spirit and Roxanne Simpson in Ghost Rider
  •  Frieda Pinto as Carolina Aranha in Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  •  Gina Antwi as Dionne in Attack the Block
  •  Gina Torres as Zoe Washburne in Serenity and Cas in the Matrix movies
  • Gina Torres in Serenity
  •  Gloria Foster and Mary Alice share the role of The Oracle in the Matrix movies
  •  Grace Jones as Zula in Conan the Barbarian

Grace Jones as Zula

  •  Halle Berry as Storm in the X-Men films, Catwoman in Catwoman, and multiple characters in Cloud Atlas
  •  J.L. Reate as The Golden Child in The Golden Child
  •  Jada Pinkett Smith as Niobe in the Matrix movies
  •  Jennifer Lopez as Catharine Deane in The Cell
  •  Katie Leung as Cho Chang in the Harry Potter Movies
  •  Maya Rudolph as Rita in Idiocracy

Maya Rudolph in Idiocracy

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