Tag Archives: hollywood

Back To The Future: The Racialicious Review of Star Trek

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García, also Posted At Arturo Vs. The World

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WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!

Let’s get the questions out of the way now:

Is the command structure in the new Star Trek entirely ridiculous? Yes!
Is the “Red Matter” the epitome of flimsy sci-fi “science”? Yes!
Is a small, evil part of me disappointed that we didn’t see Tyler Perry as Admiral Madea? Kinda!
Is Classic Spock’s entire presence a series of plot-connecting contrivances? Definitely!
Does any of this make the film any less enjoyable? Absolutely not!

No, the new Star Trek (iTrek, for short) is not anything like the original series. That’s the whole damn point, one that’s acknowledged early on. This is a different timeline – doesn’t mean prior canon doesn’t count; just that the game is different from here on out.

And even then, this story and this ensemble nailed the most important aspect of any Trek movie – the relationships between the Enterprise’s core group – while at the same time redefining them. In short: Uhura hooking up with Spock? Good. Uhura hooking up with Spock over Kirk? Great! Continue reading

‘Obsessed’ Wants to Run Smash Into You (And Nearly Misses)

by Guest Contributor SLB, originally published at Postbourgie

“Breathe,” Derek Charles says, as he vigorously shakes the leggy blonde psychotic in his hotel bed. “Bitch, breathe!”

And with this line, another awesomely campy stalker flick is born.

Trust me. You already know the plot of the newest Beyonce vehicle, Obsessed: naive married corporate exec (Elba) runs afoul of the wrong temp. You’ve seen it all before: things start off innocently enough (benign flirtation in the break room), then before long, the crazy chick can’t hide her crazy anymore and out come the crocodile tears, the trench coats covering presumed nakedness, and those ridiculous IM windows with the super-stupid, super-obvious screen names (here, Ali Larter’s Lisa calls herself TEMPGIRL).

The ending is telegraphed before the opening credits finish flashing (over a too-loud soundtrack of really crappy music). All the characters are pat and underwritten. The budget’s clearly low (The lace-front on Beyonce’s curly wig is visible in almost every scene), despite the truckload of “executive producers, including Magic Johnson, Mathew Knowles, and Beyonce (which would explain the laborious, overlong caress of the camera on the latter as she emotes). The dialogue is appropriately cliche-ridden. And, like most of the stalker flicks that came before it, Obsessed relies on a great deal of doltish behavior on the part of its protagonist in order to build its plot. (That is to say: with just a few more realistic, practical choices, there wouldn’t be a movie.) Continue reading

Menace II Society (Allen and Albert Hughes, 1993)

by Guest Contributor Geo, originally published at Prometheus Brown

Sixteen years after its release, its easy to look back and pick apart Menace II Society, even easier to accept it nostalgically as the dope film we all thought it was back then. But the feeling of being in your early teens watching this flick, surrounded by folks who bang (pause) or did knucklehead shit remains, and it’ll always be a classic to me. Moreso these days for being a historical document than a dope film.

There are plenty of memorable scenes in the film affectionately known as Menace. But today, on the 17th anniversary of the 1992 LA uprsising/Sa-I-Gu, I’ll dwell on one in particular: the opening scene. For those not familiar: two young Black men, Caine and O-Dog, stop for some 40s at the cornerstore run by a Korean couple in South Central L.A. The lady spies em and utters the first of the films countless immortal quotables, “Hurry up and buy.” After a tense exchange at the counter, the Korean dude makes a fatal mistake, uttering the second quotable under his breath, “I feel sorry for your mother.” O-Dog turns around and asks “what you say about my momma?” before murdering them and robbing the joint as Caine watches in exasperation. O-Dog grabs the surveillance tape as a souvenir he’d later show to the homies.

A powerful, graphic scene (except for the fact that you can see the filming crew in the mirrors: FAIL). But what did the Hughes brothers intend to say with this? That Koreans are racists who deserve this cinematic execution, perhaps a fantasy retribution for Latasha Harlins? Or to jar and shock the viewer into feeling sympathy for the Korean couple who are merely trying to get by in the same fucked up conditions that the Black community lives in? Does it advocate or justify violence, or does it condemn it? Whatever their intent, this is the effect on others I saw: no sympathy for the Koreans, fanning the flames of Black/Asian tension (to this day: look at the comments on the YouTube clip) and convincing everybody that Larenz Tate is actually a G.

This scene reminds speaks volumes about how much those tensions still remained after April 29, 1992. In retrospect, mainstream media did everything to fuel this tension, which was a very real thing. And still is, even though it’s no longer evening news material. Too much of it bought into that myth that Koreans (and all Asians) and Black folk are just natural enemies like that. I refuse to think so, and though I question the Hughes brothers’ intent with this scene, I still find it telling and deserving of revisiting, to ask ourselves: how far have we really come?

Quoted: Producer Will Packer on ‘Obsessed’ and overcoming Hollywood bias

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

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In the wake of that disturbing article in Fade In magazine, there’s at least one black producer out there with a film opening this weekend, and some of the objections Will Packer says he faced early in his career parallel those we heard about in the Fade In piece: that films featuring African-Americans were “niche films” for “a niche audience.”

“It’s tough to get any film made – black, brown, it doesn’t matter. It’s definitely still tough as African-American film makers because they (traditional Hollywood studios) don’t make as many african-american themed films as they do other films, so you’ve got smaller windows of opportunity. But it’s certainly different than it was 20 years ago.”

obsessed2Packer’s latest film, Obsessed, features a relative host of “niche” story points: Not only are two of the three leads – Idris Elba and a non-singing Beyonce Knowles – POCs, but there’s an interracial aspect to the Fatal Attraction-ish scenario presented, involving Elba’s character and a temp played by Ali Larter. Packer says there was always an interracial factor in the story, but only as a backdrop.

“I think that audiences are a lot more sophisticated now,” Packer says. “You certainly can portray inter-racial relationships but you have to do it in a realistic way. In our film, it’s not about race – it’s interesting that the husband happens to be black, but it’s nothing that we feel the need to make any more provocative or to otherwise single out that fact.”

Packer says his successful film, 2007′s Stomp The Yard, also had to fight the “niche” argument.“Nobody saw Stomp The Yard coming,” Packer says. “But we tapped into an audience that was a cross-section of dance-movie fans and African-American audiences who knew about college life, and we managed not only to open No. 1 at the box office, but to hold the No. 1 spot for another week. Suddenly people in Hollywood were trying to call us, and asking, ‘What do you mean, they don’t have agents?’.”

The film went on to gross $75 million worldwide.Packer says the “nobody saw us coming” thing started as soon as he and director Rob Hardy founded Rainforest Productions and made their first film, Trois, in 2000.“We didn’t have a film school. We didn’t have money. We didn’t have connections. We didn’t have long-standing Hollywood relationships,” Packer says.

“I wanted to start a film production company. My partner wanted to be the next Spike Lee. We moved to Atlanta because we felt that was a market where we could be a big fish in a small pond. We made Trois, and nobody in Hollywood cared. We literally drove city-to-city and handed out flyers, shook hands, kissed babies and we convinced 19 theatre owners to run our movie for one weekend. Then we went out and hustled, got the word out. That film made over $1 million dollars.”

Despite the success he’s enjoyed in producing films geared toward audiences of color, Packer says things are still very difficult. “People don’t have any single viable studio catering to that audience,” he says. And how far off is that studio?

“Distribution is still kind of the final frontier, and that’s still very difficult,” Packer says. “If African-American audiences and mainstream audiences respond to that kind of material, then it’ll happen.”

Quoted: Reggie Rock Bythewood on Writing Notorious

Excerpted by Latoya Peterson


I was not enthused about the project. There seemed to be little humanity in Christopher Wallace. He sold drugs, used the “N” word as a noun, verb, and adjective, then became a famous rapper. My initial thought, “So what?” Instinctively, though, I knew if I could find a way to connect to him, the film would be entertaining. I liked some of his music. I also knew a film about this icon could be a platform to challenge some of the “cancers” plaguing the inner city. There’s an expression: “You have to enter somebody’s world before you lead them out.” That’s what I would try to do. [...]

I interviewed the important players in Biggie’s life – Faith Evans, Lil’ Kim, Lil’ Cease, Wayne Barrow. Even P. Diddy came to the crib. The peripheral characters began to take shape. However, I still had not uncovered Biggie. I had to go “method acting” on this bad boy. Instead of looking outside of myself for the main character, I looked inside. I never sold drugs, but as a teenager growing up in the hood, money was important to me. I got a gig acting on a soap opera when I was 16. I wasn’t making Donald Trump loot but I was making as much paper as the drug dealers. I defined my manhood in in a materialistic, superficial way. As I reflected on all this, it struck me. This movie is not about a rapper. It is not about a drug dealer. It is about someone navigating his way to manhood. Continue reading

Fade In Magazine Talks Racism in Hollywood

by Latoya Peterson

Arturo sent me an email a few days ago, asking me to add this to the links. But when I looked at the source material, I knew I had to do a post.

In an article called Minority Report: Hollywood’s Dirty Little Secret, Fade In Magazine pulls anonymous quotes from professionals working in the film industry about their jobs. Fifty percent of Fade In’s readers are in the industry and from what I can tell, the magazine appears have the qualities of both a mainstream glossy magazine and a trade magazine. The mag has been in publication since 1994, so it appears to be credible. And if they are credible, and all the sources they quote are who they say they are, it is one of the most illuminating piece I’ve ever read on racism in Hollywood.

In addition to the graphic above, which accompanied the article, check out some of the major quotes:

Screenwriter “Hollywood’s not liberal. That is such an oxymoron; such a joke. There are so many things… I don’t even know where to begin, because it’s so pinned up, because you have to control it. One of the things that Hollywood, along with society, has successfully done is blame the victim. You’re the victim of racism, but they blame you if you say anything. You will never be able to get behind a computer again in your life.

“Hollywood is anything but liberal. I call them liberal bigots. Hollywood is filled with liberal bigots, and they use the thing of being liberal as a reason for being bigoted, for if they’d listen to themselves talk, and listen to their friends talk, they would find that they tell way too many black jokes, ethnic jokes.”

Screenwriter “I wrote a very celebrated movie. I busted my ass, worked hard. I would meet with the director from nine o’clock in the morning – to talk, not to write – until about twelve or one o’clock in the morning. Now, it took that long, because he was on the phone, all of the time, chitchatting with his friends. It should have been a shorter meeting. Then I would write until two or three o’clock in the morning. I finish the script and do all of this work, and then him and another white guy lie and say they wrote it! And white Hollywood believed them over me. I couldn’t fight it, because if I tried to fight it, if I were to scream racism, I’m done. He did something on the set that pushed me to the point as a man where I could have kicked his ass. Then what would have happened is the owners would have been on me: ‘Violent black writer loses his temper and beats up white director.’ Even though all of Hollywood knows that this guy is a jerk.

“Then I had to go through the whole shame of going to meetings where people were asking me, ‘So did you really write this? Can we see samples of other stuff you did?’ Even though this guy has never written anything that they can point to and go, ‘Oh, well, he’s written this.’ Since then, he hasn’t written anything, but because he was white… He said in the arbitration letter, ‘I didn’t want anybody to know my efforts were being done because I didn’t want to undermine Mr. [name withheld].’ Can you believe that? I literally cried when I read the arbitration letter. So he played the affirmative action card, [claiming] that I was an affirmative action writer. There are whites in this town who still to this day believe that this white man [wrote the script].”

Screenwriter “I went to a meeting at Warner Bros., with a producer and a director and an exec. I’m sitting there, and I’m a black writer going to write about this black guy. I won’t say what he did, because that’d give away who it was. So before the meeting started, the three white guys started telling towelhead jokes: ‘This towelhead this, this towelhead that.’ And I’m sitting there listening to them tell these towelhead jokes. The Warner Bros. exec started it, and then the producer and this director chimed in on it. I couldn’t believe this was taking place. I didn’t say a word; you know I’m not going to say an N-word joke or tell a towelhead joke because I’m next. So I’m listening to this. Then, afterwards, they then start talking about this black project, which I had no interest in pitching, because I thought, ‘You’re some of the most insincere sons of bitches I ever met in my life’ – motherfuckers is the better word. I had another life before I became a writer, and I’d never heard any shit like this before. I probably gave them one of the most insincere pitches I ever gave in my life because I didn’t want to be a part of [anything with] these three assholes. I couldn’t believe they were doing it. It was totally unnecessary.”

Continue reading

Lionsgate – An African American Studio?

by Guest Contributor Melissa Silverstein, originally published at Women and Hollywood

Nzingha StewartLionsgate Studios, which has been in the very lucrative Tyler Perry business for several years now, is clearly on track to take up more of the slack in producing and distributing entertainment for the underserved African American market. They bought Push (now renamed Precious) out of Sundance with Perry and Oprah, and now has acquired the film rights for Ntozake Shange’s play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf.

The play was supposed to have been revived recently on Broadway with India.Arie but financing fell through. The play initially opened off Broadway in 1974, then moved to Broadway and was nominated for a best play Tony in 1977. A TV movie was made of the play in 1982.

Lionsgate “touted its ‘leadership role in producing and distributing a diverse roster of motion pictures about black characters.’” when announcing the film.

Interesting.

From what I can tell this is all about Tyler exerting some power. For Colored Girls will be directed by music video director Nzingha Stewart who adapted the screenplay. She has an affiliation with Perry having directed The Marriage Counselor which is a part of the “Tyler Perry Collection.”

It’s pretty interesting that the last indie studio is being this formal, deliberate and public about it’s strategy. Will it be a success? And can it maybe influence someone to think about women this way?

Lionsgate acquires ‘Suicide’ (Variety)

Defiance: How Jews Depict Jews Within a Larger Context

by Guest Contributor Matt Egan

Starring Liev Schrieber and Daniel Craig, directed by Edward Zwick, Defiance tells the story of the Bielskis, Jews who fought the Nazis in the woods of what is now Belarus. Zwick is Jewish. Schreiber is Jewish and has done a number of Jewish-themed projects lately, including the relatively unsuccessful adaptation of the novel Everything is Illuminated and starring on Broadway as Alan Berg in a revival of Talk Radio. I found Defiance moving, but also entertaining. It swells with action in the best tradition of Hollywood. For some people, this is a problem. The most commonly expressed fear of directors making films about the Holocaust is that they will trivialize and exploit the tragedy. Ralph Seliger complains about historical inaccuracies and that the Bielskis are cheapened as “the image of Hollywood heroes.” My concern is different. There were six Holocaust films out at one time, but given the history of how Hollywood has depicted Jews and the Holocaust – and the way in which I understand antisemitism as shaping that depiction – Defiance was the only one I had any interest in seeing.

Perhaps embarrassed by the number of Holocaust movies out at once, Humorist Joel Stein wrote a satirical column in December for the LA Times a short while back that parodies the common myth that The Jews run Hollywood:

As a proud Jew, I want America to know about our accomplishment. Yes, we control Hollywood. Without us, you’d be flipping between “The 700 Club” and “Davey and Goliath” on TV all day.

So I’ve taken it upon myself to re-convince America that Jews run Hollywood by launching a public relations campaign, because that’s what we do best. I’m weighing several slogans, including: “Hollywood: More Jewish than ever!”; “Hollywood: From the people who brought you the Bible”; and “Hollywood: If you enjoy TV and movies, then you probably like Jews after all.”

I thought that the piece was funny and subversively camp. However, I’m also concerned he’s playing with fire. It was no surprise to me when the top Google hit for Stein’s piece was a white supremacist website. Continue reading