Tag Archives: movies

Table For Two: The Racialicious Review of Machete

By Arturo R. García and Thea Lim

Arturo: I’ll be the first to admit it: it’s easier to talk about Machete than it is to review it. On one level, this is a “critic-proof” movie, because it was ostensibly made by Robert Rodríguez as a no-brainer successor to Planet Terror, with Danny Trejo taking his archetypal (and stereotypical?) Tough Guy character into leading-man status. And, as a guy who whooped it up along with everybody else when the original faux trailer screened after Planet Terror in theatres, I really wanted to like this flick.

But I didn’t, and was having a hard time talking about it. Enter my illustrious colleague Thea.

Thea: I was all ready to waltz around the digital Racialicious office singing the praises of Machete, when it was brought to my attention that Arturo gave the film two really big thumbs down. So I suggested we have a pop culture critics’ FACEOFF!!! Or rather, ahem, a friendly chat.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Thea: So, I thought Machete was a lot of fun.

Arturo: I thought it was a dull rehash of Planet Terror and Once Upon A Time In Mexico.

Thea: I have seen a bunch of Robert Rodriguez’s movies, but I don’t think I’m as learned in his oeuvre as you.

Arturo: R. Rodriguez seemingly couldn’t decide whether he wanted to go full-on over-the-top or craft an “epic.”

Thea: How do you think that your disappointment with the overall quality of the film connects to the race/gender stuff in the film? I was interested in the question that you posed — let me just directly quote you: “If you put a progressive message in an “intentionally bad” film, do you reduce it to a punchline?” Continue reading

REEL INJUN: Film about portrayals of American Indians in movies

by Guest Contributor Debbie Reese, originally published at American Indians in Children’s Literature

There’s been a lot of buzz amongst friends and colleagues about the film Reel Injun. The title itself says a lot. “Reel” —a reel of film—and “Injun”—a derogatory word for Indian—but the title also points to what is missing from film and from children’s and young adult literature: real Indians.

Saying the phrase, “real Indians”, makes me cringe. First, it is the year 2010, and we—people who are American Indian—encounter people who think we were all wiped out by enemy tribes, disease, or war.  Or, people who think that in order to be “real Indians” we have to live our lives the same ways our ancestors did. Course, they don’t expect their own identities and lives to look like those of their own ancestors… In principle, we are a lot like anyone else. We have ways of thinking about the world and ways of being in that world (spiritually and materially) that were–and are—handed down from one generation to the next. Though we wear jeans and athletic shoes (or business suits and dress shoes), we also maintain clothing we sometimes wear for spiritual and religious purposes. Just like any cultural group, anywhere. Continue reading

From Paris With Love…and some hilarious racism!

By Deputy Editor Thea Lim

Is it a new trend in trailers to highlight comic genius and audacity, by showing just a little bit of racism? First we had the Up in the Air trailer, and now this:

From Paris With Love stars John Travolta (apparently in a reprise of his Face/Off role, plus a keffiyeh) as Charlie Wax, and the adorable little fellow from Bend it Like Beckham as his sidekick. Midway through the trailer, our two leads find themselves in a classic Chinatown fight scene. I blanch at the sight of Charlie Wax using the East Asian waiter’s “oriental” uniform to choke him, and some other shots of things emblazoned with dragons and a Ming vase…

But it’s nothing to write about. That bad feeling in the pit of my stomach is just your regular, knee-jerk (and hey, maybe not-so-justifiable) response to seeing one of my own get pulped by a member of the dominant culture.

And then my most paranoid suspicions are confirmed at 1:05, when Wax’s sidekick asks him in the middle of the Chinatown fight scene

How many more of them do you think there are?

referring to the malevolent employees of the Chinese restaurant.

Wax shrugs, there’s a cut to a women in a cheongsam, and then Wax says

My sense is…about a billion?

Classy.

Open Thread: The Princess and the Frog

by Latoya Peterson


Nadra and Andrea are still working on their response/conversation about the Princess & the Frog, but we have received requests for a conversation.  Consider this open thread a place holder.

Some things of note:

  • Jeff Yang and I had a long (think two hours) conversation about the Princess and the Frog, the nature of Princess, media versus non black media, and all kinds of other topics.  A few snippets of the discussion made it into Jeff’s Asian Pop column for the San Francisco Chronicle.  But what stood out to Jeff the most upon viewing the film wasn’t racial politics.  It was conservatism, which he writes about a bit on his blog:
  • During the five-year runup to the movie’s ultimate release, conservative critics have regularly lambasted the project as an exercise in political correctness and knee-jerk, quota-driven multiculturalism. Well, the film’s here—and as much as I enjoyed watching it, I have a sneaking suspicion that far from being rejected by the Right, the movie’s going to end up as a GOP cause celebre.

    I don’t want to give away any spoilers, because this is a film that really should be watched through eyes sparkling with innocent wonder. But the way the movie’s key themes and plot points map out to Republican talking points is really pretty stunning.
  • Tiana is a bootstrapping entrepreneur who refuses to ask for charity, preferring to work two jobs to make her small-business dreams come true.
  • She castigates those who rely on others for welfare, and only changes her ruggedly individualist outlook when she’s pointedly reminded of the importance of having a family—and finding a suitable partner in life.
  • Continue reading

    Casting & Race, Part 2.5: A Representative Interlude

    by Guest Contributor J Chang, originally published at Init_MovingPictures

    While it’s still relatively new news, I thought I’d tackle this brief article from Variety republishing the Screen Actor’s Guild annual diversity research. While the headline of the article reads “SAG stats: Diversity lags” and the byline mentions that minorities, seniors and women are underrepresented, the racial breakdown in the article shows the following:

    • 72.5% Caucasian
    • 13.3% African American
    • 6.4% Latino-Hispanic (?)
    • 3.8% Asian-Pacific Islander
    • 0.3% Native American
    • 3.8% Other-Unknown

    The article then goes on and adds data from the 2000 US Census, probably as a point of comparison:

    • 73.4% Caucasian
    • 11.5% African American
    • 10.6% Latino-Hispanic
    • 3.7% Asian-Pacific Islander
    • 0.8% Native American

    Now, if you simply compare those numbers, it only really seems like Latino/as are considerably underrepresented, if you’re broadly looking at the numbers (and assuming the US population breakdown hasn’t changed much in the last decade). Of course, the overall numbers actually fail to tell the whole picture, because there is no breakdown between the types of roles filled. As background comprises of a large number of actors, does this breakdown include background? How does the breakdown look when you examine supporting actors and leading actors? Recurring actors on television?TheTVAddict.com, upon discovering NBC’s new slogan of “More Colorful” was compelled to create this poster:

    Now, to be fair, most NBC shows actually do feature one actor of color somewhere in the regular cast, but how many actors in mainstream film and television actually get top billing? How many actors of color are A-listers? Try counting the number of actors of color in The Hollywood Reporter’s list of bankable stars or James Ulmer’s A-list.

    Of the actors in the breakdown, how many, by race, can earn a living from their actor’s wages? How many get steady work?

    I have the strong suspicion that we’re going to find that the numbers align less with the census the higher we climb the casting tower.

    While I appreciate the attempts from the industry to include more characters and actors of color in mainstream film and television, overall, the industry still a participant in systemic racism. There is still a strong and notable imbalance in representation in the top tiers of casting.

    In my next segment I’ll be looking into how mainstream film and television deal with the problem of diversity (alluded to in this segment) as well as how mainstream film can maintain cinematic verisimilitude, cast white actors for character of color and not resort to colorface at all.

    District 9 is racist [Alternate Perspective]

    By Guest Contributor Nicole Stamp, originally published at [pageslap]

    distric 9

    Saw District 9 tonight, the alien movie by Neill Blomkamp and produced by Peter Jackson. I thought it was appallingly racist; here’s why. (Spoilers ahead.)

    Basically, 20 years ago, a million crustacean-like space aliens arrived in Johannesberg. They’re forced to live in a horrible slum called District 9, and now the human citizens want them gone, so they’re about to be evicted from their slum and relocated to a concentration camp outside the city.

    If you look at the film as an apartheid allegory, it has problems right off the bat. The aliens are loathsome, trash-eating vermin who fight endlessly, destroy property for no reason, and piss on their own homes, which isn’t a truthful or flattering allegorical comparison for actual black South Africans under apartheid. Apartheid is terrible because humans were denied rights. The “apartheid” of these aliens isn’t that terrible – it’s kind of justifiable, because they’re actually dangerous, violent and destructive. I think it would be a better allegory, and a more sophisticated movie, if the aliens weren’t unpleasant. If they were peaceful and kind, but the humans still demonized them, the film would be much more chilling; the horror would be “man’s inhumanity to lobster-man”, not “eew gross they eat pig heads!”

    But to my knowledge, District 9 does not explicitly present itself as an apartheid allegory, and changing the nature of the aliens basically makes it a different movie, so I’m gonna give it a pass in this post (although I’m very open to hearing other people’s thoughts about the allegorical angle). I think the choice to make the aliens disgusting was mostly artistic license, designed to make the film’s tone and visuals more gritty and scary, rather than any attempt to actually be representative of black people oppressed by apartheid. So that wasn’t my problem with this film.

    Continue reading

    Shrimpin’ Ain’t Easy: A Look At District 9

    By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García
    Also posted at
    Arturo Vs. The World

    district9 1

    The much ballyhooed District 9 succeeds at one thing – it leaves you with questions. The problem is, not all of them are of the good kind.

    The film’s conceit – sticking a million-plus misplaced extraterrestrials in the middle of Johannesburg – is promising. But from there, the story is built on a series of cheats, the biggest one being the rather loud absence of the word that, like it or not, comes to mind once you set the story in South Africa: Apartheid.

    *SPOILERS AHEAD*

    Continue reading

    What’s Wrong With This Picture?

    by Guest Contributor Jehanzeb Dar, originally published at Muslim Reverie

    If you’re having trouble trying to figure out what’s wrong with this newly revealed poster for Disney’s upcoming film, “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” it may help if I pointed out that the title character is played by Jake Gyllenhaal. In other words, the prince of Persia is not played by a Persian/Iranian. Big surprise, huh?

    Why is this a big deal? Well, considering that negative perceptions of Middle-Easterners and/or Muslims have increased since 9/11 (and haven’t gotten better according to statistics and civil rights incidents reported by CAIR), a relatively anticipated film like “Prince of Persia” would seem like the perfect opportunity to help break stereotypes and misconceptions about Middle-Easterners. The film is based on a very popular video game of the same title, which allows you to play the role of a Persian prince who has to save his kingdom (or world) from a time-altered reality. I remember playing the game when it was released in 2003 and even though it’s filled with Orientalist stereotypes, I always felt the story and character depictions could be tweaked into a mainstream film with serious potential (and by that, I mean a film with an actual story, real character development, and appreciation for the culture it intends to represent).

    Unfortunately, Jake Gyllenhaal isn’t the only White actor playing a Middle-Eastern character. Gemma Arterton, who plays Tamina, the film’s version of Farah, an Indian character from the video game, is also White. Ben Kingsley is also cast as a Persian character, and while he is of half-Indian descent, many Iranians recall how poorly he played an Iranian father in “House of Sand and Fog.” The best part (sarcasm) is that Alfred Molina will play a Persian again after his abusive and oppressive Iranian husband role in the 1991 propaganda film, “Not Without My Daughter”! As a user on IMDB commented: “Tamina = Indian / Gemma Arterton= White; What the hell is going on?”

    Continue reading