Category Archives: movies

Being Married to a Black Woman is *Really* Exasperating!

by Guest Contributor SLB, originally posted at PostBourgie

I know it’s a little late to be bringing up Lakeview Terrace. Typically, reviews for feature films appear in publications the week the film opens. But let’s be real here: despite its Week 1 box office triumph, Lakeview Terrace is the kind of film you wait a week or two to see… at a matinee showing. And that’s exactly what I did. Frankly, though, I’m fairly certain I would’ve been better off waiting on the DVD release or the bad BET overdub on basic cable (You know it’s coming… in 2011).

But I’ve digressed.

I can’t imagine what drew audiences to this bizarre race film last weekend. Was it director Neil Labute’s arthouse reputation as a skilled provocateur? Was it the involvement of Will-and-Jada’s profitable Overbrook Productions? Was it Kerry Washington’s alleged “hotness?” Or was it simply that surefire, time-honored Sam Jackson delivery of the classic trailer line, “Ah’m the POE-LEASE! You HAVE to do what I say!”?

Maybe it was a little of everything. For me, morbid curiosity was the driving force. I took stock of the premise: black cop terrorizes the interracial couple who move in next door, simply because he’s anti-miscegenation and protected by the badge, and I decided that there was no way this could be executed well. But I certainly wanted to see folks try.

I’ll give you the short version of events here and please note that from this point on, there will be HEAVY SPOILERS. So if you still intend to support Will, Jada, Sam, Kerry, or Patrick Wilson with your box office dollars, STOP READING NOW. Continue reading

Deconstructing Whoopi

by Guest Contributor SLB, originally published at Post Bourgie

I’ve never seen The Color Purple in its entirety. Oh, I’ve seen snippets here and there—enough that, if strung together sequentially, I’d have nearly 7/8 of the film before me. I’m only disclosing this because I’m fairly certain that The Color Purple will be raised in criticism of the discussion I’m about to open.

See, I’m about to talk about Whoopi Goldberg. And in my experience, no discussion of Whoopi Goldberg is ever complete without mention of her Revelatory Turn as Celie in The Color Purple. I mean… I get it. Whoopi was great as Celie and, for many, the cool points she earned as part of Spielberg’s formidable cast erased a multitude of Goldberg’s race-related “sins.”

But my earliest memories of Whoopi Goldberg have nothing to do with “Till you do right by me….” My earliest memory of Whoopi Goldberg is from an oft-forgotten ’80s gem called Jumpin’ Jack Flash. I was seven when this film emerged, probably eight when I saw it on cable. On first viewing a few thoughts ran through my head:

  1. “Is that a woman or a man?”
  2. “Oh. That’s a lady. Who is this lady and where did she come from?”
  3. “Where’d she get that goofy name?”
  4. “Why aren’t there more Black people in this movie?”
  5. “What’s up with her hair?”
  6. “Why is she always waving her hands around all wild and wide like that?”

I was naive. I didn’t know what dreadlocks were when I was eight, didn’t know that black chicks and white dudes were allowed to hook up on movie screens, didn’t know that there were ways to be feminine on celluloid that didn’t involve the wearing of dresses, cosmetics or jewelry.

Needless to say: I didn’t get Whoopi Goldberg.

Because I knew nothing of her stand-up work, I had only the study of her films (aside from The Color Purple, of course) by which to shape an opinion of her. As time went on, she continued to befuddle me—as a bookstore owner/thief surrounded by an all-White cast in Burglar, as an au pair/Mammy figure surrounded by an All-White cast in Clara’s Heart, and as a flamboyant psychic helping her two, top-billed White co-stars find romance despite the grave in Ghost. But the more befuddled I became, the more attention I paid to Whoopi when I saw her onscreen.

I simply didn’t know what to make of her. I hadn’t yet known any Black women like her, who easily navigated all-White social circles and rarely dated within their race (onscreen and off), who rarely played into the stereotypes of traditional femininity but were near-constantly romantically linked, in spite of their system-bucking.

Occasionally, as I grew up, I’d overhear adults judgmentally murmuring about her. At the height of her ’80s popularity, words like “sellout” and “Mammy” and “shuckin’ and jivin’” were always wafting out of the grown folks’ conversations at my house, but I didn’t know then what any of that was about. I’d just remember her turn as a concerned professor in the Emmy-nominated episode of A Different World, where Tisha Campbell reveals her HIV status or I’d think of her performance in the film adaptation of Sarafina! and I’d shrug.

Whoopi was “Black enough” for me.

She was a staple of my childhood and whether or not she dated white men or relied on a broader brand of physical comedy than I typically laughed at didn’t really matter. Seeing her onscreen comforted me. She seemed smart, for one. Her voice sardonic, her lips smirking, she always looked like her whole Hollywood persona was an inside joke and, someday, she’d reveal that the joke was on her detractors. Continue reading

Hong Kong (Influenced) Phooey: Bangkok Dangerous

by Guest Contributor Arturo R. García, originally published at The Instant Callback

So, you’re Thai directors Danny and Oxide Pang. You’ve got a shot at making a Hollywood remake of your debut hit, Bangkok Dangerous. How do you do it without subverting your original vision?

Simple: F!#k the original vision! This lumbering, hollow re-vamp takes the Pangs’ original and goes anti-Dragnet with it: the names are the same, but the story is completely changed, and plays out like a $2 plate of John Woo soup.

In this version, hitman Joe (Nicolas Cage) ventures to Bangkok for a series of kills he hopes will propel him into retirement. Joe has a loosely-defined moral code, but no identifiable personality; he’s your typical Byronic cipher, the Lonely Man doing One Last Job. The Pangs and co-writer Jason Richman wisely play up his outsider status in Thailand — he doesn’t speak the language, and the local cuisine kicks his ass worse than any opponent — and Cage gets to use his patented tics and nervous glances to express that. What the material doesn’t give him is the ways to make you care about the character as one did for, say, Jean Reno’s Leon or even John Cusack’s Martin Blank.

The problem, of course, is that the original wasn’t about Joe at all. It covered — with more visual vigor and identifiable emotion — the rise of Kong, a deaf gunman who was tutored by a veteran. Here, the Kong character (Shahkrit Yamnarm, slumming it) is nothing more than Cage’s Rochester (“You got it, boss!”) and a convenient hostage during the film’s third act.

When not teaching Kong martial arts or the Art of Killing, Joe tries to make time with pharmacist Fon (Charlie Yeung), who takes over the deaf character slot while guiding him through the “non-corrupt” parts of town, including, of course, a temple. So, she’s pretty, spiritual, has a good job, “exotic” and doesn’t speak a lick. Does she have a sister?

Inevitably, Joe starts slippin’ on his business as his personal life blossoms, culminating in the Job being botched and the rescue mission for Kong. But you’ll be wishing you spent the rental money on the original long before that. Strong recommendation to avoid this dyspeptic, disjointed, dreary mess of an import.

muslims – they’re just like us!: representations of islam in traitor

by Special Correspondent Thea Lim

traitor

(spoilers inside) *

Contrary to the buzz, (and much to my dismay) Traitor is not a Bourne-esque spy thriller. My movie-watching companion (MWC) and I realised we’d been tricked into the theatre by some loose Bourne comparisons as soon as the opening credits came up. The camera pulled back to reveal a Zellige-like design and the strains of dramatic Middle Eastern music.

Generally my MWC and I avoid films that deal in war, terrorism or the suggestion that all brown people are inhuman fanatics. It looked like we were in for all three.

But the positive (and surprising) thing about Traitor – which begins with arms dealer Samir (Don Cheadle) meeting terrorist group al-Nathir in a Yemeni prison and joining their ranks – is that it goes out of its way to present Muslims as a massive, ethnically, culturally, nationally and linguistically complex group. To a lesser degree it does the same for Black folks in America.

We get to see a lot of different kinds of Muslims: Samir, who is Sudanese but effectively Americanised down to the hoodie and Don Cheadle accent; dreamy Omar (Saïd Taghmaoui) who was educated in Switzerland and longs for another thinker – not just a soldier – to join his ranks; evil Fareed (Aly Khan) who is South Asian and wears fancy scarves.

And then we meet even more Muslims across America [and Canada: Samir visits Toronto (wut wut!), Port Hope and Halifax**] when al-Nathir enlists Samir to distribute bombs to Muslim suicide bombers living on student visas, and leading ho-hum lives until they are activated.*** We meet Muslim terrorists who are living as students, business people, honest-to-goodness rural dads – and get this: they look just like regular Americans (gasp!).

Maybe you see the problem here. What is positive about Traitor is also what is negative: while the film possibly intended to show how complex the global Muslim community is, out of the dozens of Muslims portrayed in the film, you only meet three who are not terrorists. The message you take away from the movie is this: Muslim terrorists can come in any shape or form, so…

Continue reading

Summer Movies: The Mummy, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

by Guest Contributor Arturo R. García

Though relatively “inoffensive” in dealing with a new locale The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor doesn’t raise the historical bar any higher than its’ predecessors – in fact, it makes Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights look like History Channel specials.

The set-up takes place “long ago” in China, when an unnamed Emperor (Jet Li, who apparently doesn’t count sci-fi in his “no more historical pieces” promise) is killed and cursed after discovering an affair between his top general (the criminally underused Russell Wong) and sorceress Zi Juan (Michelle Yeoh). The Emperor and his army are subsequently transformed into the world’s biggest collection of terra cotta statues, frozen in his palace until they’re dug up in “present-day” 1946 by Alex O’Connell (Luke Ford) and re-animated thanks to an EEEEvil west Chinese paramilitary general (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang). You know he’s evil because he can stage an operation to raise a guy who’s been dead for two millenia without the knowledge of any government.

And, he has a goatee.

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Judd Apatow and the Art of White Masculinity

by Guest Contributor Marisol LeBron, originally published at Post Pomo Nuyorican Homo

“That shit is SO fuckin’ homo”

So I finally saw Pineapple Express this weekend and throughout the whole movie the men around me were constantly expressing how “fucking gay” the movie was. I left there thinking about the two very different displays of masculinity I had just witnessed in the movie theater. The men in the audience, who were mostly young men of color in their late-teens/early-twenties, were attempting to (re)affirm their masculinity through homophobic and sexist comments in response to the perceived lack of masculinity they saw on the screen. On the screen however the cast of Pineapple Express (most of whom are white men with the exception of Craig Robinson) were celebrating their homosocial (but not homosexual) affection for each other and their outsider status as members of the informal economy. I thought about the ways that homosociality functions not only in Pineapple Express but in Judd Apatow movies generally as a comment on the state of contemporary white masculinity in American society.

For those of you who might not know who Judd Apatow is, he’s the writer and/or producer of many of the successful “Frat Pack” movies including: Pineapple Express, Step Brothers, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Superbad, Knocked Up, Talladega Nights, The 40 Year Old Virgin, and Anchorman. He’s was also the Executive Producer of the cult TV show Freaks and Geeks on NBC.

Yeah, he’s that guy. Continue reading

Open Thread: Summer Movies

by Latoya Peterson

Readers, we have a problem.

There is no way in hell the Racialicious team is going to be able to get through all the summer movies we want to get through. There just isn’t enough time. So this thread is going to have two functions: (1) to solicit suggestions for which movies we will cover and (2) to share resources if any of our readers know of other sites who have covered these movies and discussed all the “-isms”.

Continue reading

Bitch Slapped by Satire

by Guest Contributor Marisol LeBron, originally published at Post Pomo Nuyorican Homo

A friend of mine from college recently sent me a link to an AfterEllen.com article about the movie Bitch Slap coming out in December 2008. She asked me for my thoughts and here they are…

I think I might be the wrong person to ask.

Reason being I love gratuitous sex and violence in movies, within reason of course. I loved Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse movies. A woman with a gun for a leg killing military created zombies – count me in! Sexy ladies exacting revenge on a psychopathic-misogynistic-vehicular-homicide-loving Kurt Russell – more please! I loved these films so much that after returning them to Netflix I promptly ran out and purchased them, and then made all my friends watch the films with me repeatedly.

I know what you’re thinking that I’m a horrible queer feminist of color, right? Well, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree. And here’s why…

While I hate the way that closet racist and annoying hipster elitist try to use satire to reinforce their supposed superiority and avoid being called bigoted while doing it, I think satire when it’s done right, or at least when it’s read in a critical way, can be extremely subversive. Smart satire can often effectively challenge concepts of power, race, sex, and gender among other things. Continue reading