Tag Archives: Johnny Depp

I Saw The Lone Ranger So You Don’t Have To

By Guest Contributor Adrienne K.; originally published at Native Appropriations

 

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It’s been 12 hours since I saw The Lone Ranger, and I still have the darn William Tell Overture stuck in my head. I wonder how long that lasts. It’s like waking up with a Tonto hangover, I guess. I have so many thoughts on this film, and only maybe one of them is good. But I think we need to start off with this: The Lone Ranger is just a bad movie. It’s 2.5 hours of a film with an identity crisis, not knowing if it’s supposed to be funny, campy, dramatic, “authentic,” or what. At points, it was very hard to separate the stereotypical and hurtful from the bad script, bad editing, and bad character development of the movie itself.

So, if it even needs to be said: SPOILER ALERT–I’m about to give away everything. But you’re not going to see the movie anyway, so it shouldn’t really matter. But you know how the internet is. Here’s my review, in only six parts. I restrained myself.

Some quick overall thoughts: Like I mentioned above, this movie didn’t know what it was, and that was a problem. It was also so. incredibly. long. By the time we got to the final big train chase scene at the end, where the pair save the day (accompanied by the aforementioned William Tell) I wrote in my notes: “FINALLY! I AM SO BORED!” and then that scene drug on for another 15 minutes and I just wanted it to end. I forgot what we were even fighting for. Which I think was the problem all along.

This is also the most violent movie I’ve seen in awhile, and I’m a fan of Game of Thrones. Don’t take your kids, despite the Disney label and PG-13 rating. There is so much shooting and stabbing, and they show the aftermath.  Early on in the film the bad guy even cuts out and eats the Lone Ranger’s brother’s heart (yes, eats it). They have no qualms about shooting someone for the sake of shooting someone, and there are blood and guts and barn beams smashing people’s heads. It’s not something I would want to expose my kids to, at all.

And for those of you new to the blog or needing a refresher, here’s all my Tonto coverage over the last year or so, which covers the casting, the costume, and a whole bunch of other things: my initial reactionswhy you should care about Tonto when there are “bigger issues” out theretearing apart Depp’s reasoning over his costume choicesthe controversy I dealt with for writing about Tonto, andArmie Hammer’s comments about Indians loving the movie.

Part 1: The Opening Scene–Indians are so backward and funny, y’all!

The movie opens with a Buffalo Bill-style Wild West Show, set up like a museum of Natural History, and a little kid wanders in dressed like the Lone Ranger, eatin’ some peanuts, lookin’ at the buffalo, then, oh hey! “The Noble Savage in his natural habitat.” Guess who that is??

Spoiler! It’s Johnny Depp. In some scary-ass old person makeup. Like seriously crypt keeper style. Then OMG he moves! and reaches out! and says in a croaky old person voice, the first words of the whole film: “Kemooosabeeeh.” Then there’s this whole bit where Tonto asks the little boy to “traaaade” (sounding like zombies and “braaains”) and points to his peanuts, which Tonto exchanges for a dead mouse. Then he proceeds to eat the peanuts with the shells on, crunching through them to the boy’s disgust and wonderment, while feeding the crumbs to the bird on his head.

I won’t go this in-depth with the rest of the film, but I wanted to set the stage. The very first scene we are presented with an image of a Native person, in a museum–which presumably we’re supposed to critique, but there’s no questioning of Tonto’s position there. To me it reinforces the idea that all the Indians are dead, relics of the past, which is actually a theme throughout. This Indian is so silly and backward he trades a dead mouse for a bag of peanuts, doesn’t even know how to eat peanuts, and is feeding a bird, but it’s dead. Even the child knows that’s wrong. So this is the “new” Tonto? Definitely an improvement, amiright? (that was sarcasm. In case you missed it.)

Anyway, Tonto launches into the story of the Lone Ranger for the kid in the museum. So the whole movie is in flashback.

Tonto speak summary: Tonto in museum. Tonto old. Tonto silly and backward. You listen to story now.

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The Racialicious Entertainment Roundup: Welcoming in June

Child’s Tonto costume, via. the Disney Store

By Kendra James

Halloween’s gonna be a doozy this year.

Instead of just selling the usual generic “Sexy Native Princess” or “Indian Brave” costumes, Disney  gets to go a step further! We have the upcoming film The Lone Ranger and Johnny Depp‘s portrayal of Tonto –complete with styrofoam crow– to thank for that. You can find this child-sized costume online for order here on The Disney Store website, along with several other pieces of questionable taste. The movie hasn’t even opened yet, and I can only imagine this is just rubbing salt in the wound for those who have openly addressed Disney with their concerns over the film.

While Tonto’s costume is available in full, you can only buy The Lone Ranger’s hat. I guess a blue shirt and a black mask weren’t exotic enough for the studio merchandisers, who are probably banking on sales to bolster a film whose production supposedly went way over their $250 million budget.

Unfortunately I don’t think merchandising is going to help Will and Jaden Smith’s After Earthwhich opened in a disappointing 3rd place this weekend with a domestic box office of $27 million. Personally, I don’t think the film didn’t look all that interesting or complicated. Professionals agreed, and the film led Adam Thompson of Shadow and Act to question Smith’s apparent aversion to controversial roles:

What’s surprising then is the lack of “risky” roles in Mister Smith’s nevertheless glorious resume. The nineteen films he’s starred in have grossed a total of almost six billion dollars, but only one of them – to my mind, at least – can be considered controversial. Six Degrees of Separation (photo above) based on a John Guare play – itself based on the antics of real-life con man David Hampton (with whom I share a birthday) – introduced Smith as a serious dramatic actor who could sink his teeth into a nuanced role. Stockard Channing got the Oscar nod but it was “Big Willie” who stole the show.

Despite the opportunity, Smith refused to kiss (in character) another man (fellow thespian Anthony Michael Hall).  Instead, the two actors were filmed at an angle that implied a kiss. Smith’s reasoning, later blasted by Sir Ian McKellen as “the disease” of homophobia, was that his kissing another man would “gross out” his fans. Smith wasn’t the first actor to “go gay” for a major film role (think Al Pacino in Cruising); in fact, playing a homosexual while being straight nowadays can actually up one’s acting cred  – you’re welcome, Jake Gyllenhaal. (It should also be noted that Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, the duo behind Independence Day, specifically cited Six Degrees as the reason they picked Smith for the breakout role of Capt. Steven Hiller.)

I’m not saying Mister Smith or any other actor has to play it grimy for accolades, but it’s a shame that the star of Pursuit of Happyness hasn’t at least tried to take on more risky roles. Besides Six Degrees, the only other “controversial” movie I could even point to would be Ali, and even then only with regard to past issues of race in America and concerns about historical accuracy. All the great actors have played against type, showing the range that the truly talented chameleons are blessed with. If Smith counts himself among them, I implore him to consider going in a direction opposite that of a Hancock or Robert Neville or Agent J. In other words, don’t turn down another Django!

After Earth certainly wasn’t going to rock any boats (unless you count the rumblings that it proves the Smith family’s Scientologist leanings, mentioned in almost every major review), and this desire to blend in and stay bankable seems to have been a desire from the first ‘Big Willie Summer’. His Independence Day co-star Vivica A. Fox had this to say at the NYC premiere of After Earth: ‘“Will Smith told me years ago when we were doing Independence Day to become colorless to people. Yes we are African-American… that is who we are. But when people internationally can love you, trust you deliver a good film, trust you to save the world, it’s a good day.” 

If by ‘colorless’ he meant ‘one of the blandest Hollywood careers of our time,’ then Smith is golden. If not, well… international superstar status aside, the color of his skin hasn’t changed and judging from that appearance on The Graham Norton Show, plus the nonstop world promotional tour for After Earth  international love isn’t too much of a problem. It’s understandable that as a Black man in Hollywood, Smith treads and plays the game carefully, but it’d be nice to see him pop up in a small indie or Sundance film. Something unexpected– the proverbial Magnolia, if you will, before his next summer action blockbuster.

I’m not sure if Forrest Whitaker’s casting as Martin Luther King Jr. for a new Paul Greengrass flick is anymore of a risk, but I’d lay down good money that it’ll be a better movie. More interesting is  J. August Richards‘ suddenly being on the television come up again. He’s been cast as lawyers in a few cancelled shows since Angel ended it’s run, but this year he’s involved with S.H.I.E.L.D  as we discussed here beforeand now there’s a rumored involvement (thanks to a series of tweets between Richards and cast member Sarah Paulson) in the new season of American Horror Story. Between Richards, Angela Bassett, and Gabourey Sidibe consider my interest piqued.

'American Horror Story' Twitter Exchange

Tweets between Sarah Paulson and J August Richards via International Business Times.

And I’d be remiss to let you go without mentioning the News Of The Weekend brought to us first via. Bleeding Cool: Matt Smith won’t be joining Doctor Who for an eighth season and this year’s Christmas Special will be our last outing with Eleven. The crossed fingers for a Twelve who’s not a white male begin now. Arturo will have more for you on Wednesday, but for now my two favorite tweet suggestions on the matter:

 

Johnny Depp As Tonto: I’m Still Not Feeling ‘Honored’

By Guest Contributor Adrienne K., cross-posted from Native Appropriations

I guess we can put all the talk about Johnny Depp “honoring” Native people to rest now. ‘Cause it’s been over a month since those first horrendous publicity pics of Depp-as-Tonto surfaced, and more information has been trickling out about Depp’s “inspiration” for his lovely costume. I think we’ll now see just how careful, respectful, and honoring Mr. Depp was with his “research” for his role.

As background, Depp has said in numerous interviews that wanted to change the role of Tonto, and wanted to “reinvent” the relationship between Indians and Hollywood. He also cited his Native heritage–“Cherokee or maybe Creek”–as part of his reasoning behind taking the role. In this clip from MTV news, Johnny describes his plans for Tonto’s character, which, out of context, actually sound pretty good:

He says in the clip:

I like the idea of having the opportunity to sort of make fun of the idea of Indian as sidekick… throughout the history of Hollywood, the Native American has always been the second class, third class, fourth class, fifth class citizen, and I don’t see Tonto that way at all. So it’s an opportunity for me to salute Native Americans.

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The Woman is Red: The Racebending of Billie Frechette

By Guest Contributor Gabriel Canada, cross-posted from Racebending

Under happier circumstances, Billie Frechette would have been my great aunt. She toured around the country for five years with my great uncles as part of the “Crime Doesn’t Pay” stage show. There, she recounted her six months with their son and brother John Dillinger–and her own two years in jail that came as a result of her fateful romance with him.

It was true that crime didn’t pay for the family. John Dillinger served several years in prison and was later killed by Federal agents.  People in Indianapolis,  Mooresville or Martinsville were not lining up to risk dating the daughter, or the niece, or even the cousin of a member of the “Dillinger gang.” It was a hard life–and an odd one–because if the family wasn’t making a great deal of money of off John, the media certainly was.

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In Or Out: On Keanu, Akira, and expectations for multiracial actors

By Guest Contributor Monique Jones, cross-posted from moniqueblog

If you’ve been following the news surrounding Akira, you might have heard that Keanu Reeves was circling the film and probably would have been cast in the role of Kaneda. But Reeves has dropped out of the film. Also, according to CinemaBlend, a big chunk of the staff on the movie have been let go and the previsualization department has been shut down. However, WB says the movie is still in development in the following statement:

Production on Akira has not halted or been shut down, as the film has not yet been greenlit and is still very much in the development stage. The exploratory process is crucial to a project of this magnitude, and we will continue to sculpt our approach to making the best possible film.

Reeves, whose background includes Hawaiian and Chinese heritages, may have been considered by the studio execs and/or the casting agent over “Akira” to be a good pick for the film because of this. Racebending.com seems to think so. However, Racebending explains their hesitance to see Reeves cast as Kaneda:

We can sort of see why Warner Bros. would want to go with one of their previously established stars–Reeves is arguably Warner Bros. biggest actor of Asian descent (granted, only 2% of WB films from 2000 to 2009 had an Asian lead, and they were mostly Asian nationals like Jet Li and Rain.)

At the same time, it’s unsatisfactory to see Reeves (who has played white characters, multiethnic characters, and even Siddhartha) default to Hollywood’s only go-to actor when they need to find someone to portray an Asian lead character. Hollywood isn’t exactly hard at work to discover this generation’s next hot “Keanu.”

For Asian American actors who aren’t Keanu Reeves, opportunities to play lead characters continue to be few and far between. Will Warner Bros. exceed expectations and cast an Asian American actor alongside Reeves to play Tetsuo? Can a $230 million Akira project that barely resembles the source material make enough to make a profit?

Now, I understand what Racebending is saying here. They would like to see Asian/Asian-American actors who aren’t the typical Hollywood type cast in the film adaptation of one of the biggest Asian art exports ever. They are also slightly annoyed at Reeves being constantly picked for these types of roles instead of Hollywood execs trying to find someone new. To be clear, I’m not knocking what Racebending’s opinion on the matter is; they are, after all, an Asian-American group and I’m African-American, a person on the fringes. And their opinion is partly the impetus behind my epic Akira Asian shortlist posts, because it does get tiring to see the same people get cast over and over again. But something that I noticed in the comments section of various movie websites paints a different picture about Keanu-gate. Yes, the commenters are just as annoyed as Racebending, but there’s a large number of people who think Reeves is white and white only, thereby not suitable for the role.

This wave of dissention from commenters raises the issue about the murky state of biracial or multi-racial actors and actresses in Hollywood. Some are thought of as a representation of one race while others are viewed almost like an “all-purpose” type person; both ideologies have a bit of error in them. The statement also raises an even bigger question–what is Hollywood’s role in our race perceptions?

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