Tag Archives: movies

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

Homo Harlem Film Retrospective

By Guest Contributor Monica, originally published at TransGriot

Racialicious Note: This post from TransGriot is from mid-June, so this festival has passed. But we thought this great list of African American LGBTQ films was worth posting anyway.

TransGriot Note: Received this interesting e-mail from the Maysles Institute in NYC about a TBLG film retrospective slated to kick off on Juneteenth (June 19) at the Maysles Cinema.

homoharlem

With arguments often eerily reminiscent of old rationales for black oppression, gays and lesbians remain openly, legally and even, ‘righteously’, discriminated against.

For LGBT people of all races, knowing ourselves, making our extraordinary history known to others, much as with blacks, becomes a key component to liberation. If LGBT heritage remains often obscured and belittled, achievements of African American lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, are less well known still.

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, the film festival, Homo-Harlem: A Film Retrospective, Friday, June 19th-Saturday, June 27th, cosponsored by the Maysles Cinema at 343 Malcolm X Boulevard with Men of All Colors Together, seeks to help to remedy this lack of recognition.

Through a series of coordinated screenings, critical discussions and walking tours, Homo-Harlem for the first time officially brings Stonewall observations uptown to focus on and honor, figures as diverse as poets Audre Lorde and Langston Hughes, social justice activist Bayard Rustin, composer Billy Strayhorn, photographer Marvin Smith and living legend Storme DeLarverie, whose courageous stand at the Stonewall Bar, 40 years ago, literally helped set in motion the entire Gay Pride Movement.

We LGBT people have always been busy making Harlem better, as one resident reported in 1928, “Never no wells of loneliness in Harlem…” Space is limited for this exhilarating experience, so be sure to make a reservation in advance and get ready to be enlightened, to be amazed and to party hard!

Homo-Harlem Curator and Author Michael Henry Adams

Please direct all press and requests for reservations to cinema@mayslesinstitute.org

Homo Harlem: A Film Retrospective

$10 Suggested Donation For All Screenings

Friday, June 19th

Opening Night at the Museum of the City of New York
(1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd St, Enter at 104th St)

6:00pm Cocktail Reception

7:00pm Discussion: Kirk Shannon-Butts, Michael Henry Adams

7:30pm Screening
Blueprint (Short Preview)
Kirk Shannon-Butts, 2008
Harlem shot and set, Blueprint is the story of Keith and Nathan – two New York City college freshmen trying to make a connection.

Continue reading

More White Men Behaving Badly: A ‘Brain-On’ Look At The Hangover

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

hangover1

For perspective’s sake, let me start with a confession: Tropic Thunder made me laugh aloud several times, even after the misgivings I had about Kirk Lazarus. The Alpa Chino twist in the village was brilliant, even if the villagers were written like something out of an Oliver Stone wet dream. And I regularly laugh as much as I grimace at South Park and Family Guy, neither of which is exactly friendly to … well, anybody. So I’m not opposed to “lowbrow” humor.

What I cannot abide is brainless humor. And so, when I tell you that The Hangover is celluloid excrement, I don’t say it lightly. I refuse to believe that it’s “just me.” But I’m telling you, R readers: this isn’t a comedy, or even a film. I’m now halfway convinced it’s proof those cheeky Hulu “alien plot” commercials are really taunting messages of truth from our secret alien overlords. Sure, you might say, “just turn your brain off, it’s a movie,” but don’t you need a working brain to enjoy any movie?

SPOILERS AHOY!

Ostensibly a Las Vegas travel ad masquerading as a bro-mantic comedy, the root of the problem is one common to a lot of modern comedies: we’re dealing not with characters, but anthropomorphic third-rate comedic tropes – Phil the Player (Bradley Cooper), Alan the Weirdo (Zack Galifanakis) and Stuart the Wuss (Ed Helms). Coding them as such is believable when you start a film, but there’s barely a hint of personal development, let alone the “growing up” moments that usually permeate these types of films. Continue reading

Based on a True Story…Again?

By Guest Contributor slb, originally published at PostBourgie

mlkWe’ve made no secret of our belief that Hollywood is producing just a few too many paint-by-numbers Black biopics, and this week’s announcement of a whopping four black-themed biopics was just a case in point. According to Rotten Tomatoes’ Weekly Ketchup, all systems are go for an “official” biographical drama on Martin Luther King Jr., with Steven Spielberg at the helm; Will and Jada’s Overbrook Entertainment (in concert with Sony Pictures) has acquired the rights to John Keller’s life story (an ex-Marine who oversaw the rescue of 244 fellow Katrina victims); and Denzel is mulling his third directorial project, a little pet project called Brother in Arms, about “the only tank unit in the European theater of World War II that was manned by all African Americans”–based on a book co-authored by Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

We should note that the latter project has no shooting date–and the Weekly Ketchup writers slyly suggest that, perhaps, this is because there’s already a black WWII flick in the works—a Tuskegee Airmen project, currently filming in Europe.

Here’s the thing: we love heralding Black accomplishments as much as the next guy–and far be it from us to stand in the way of Our Own Stories Being Told. But aren’t most of these films rather indistinguishable from one another? If you’ve seen Remember the Titans, you’ve seen Glory Road. If you’ve seen Ray, you seen Cadillac Records (or parts of it, anyway). If you’ve seen The Rosa Parks story, you’ve seen Boycott. If you’ve seen Ali, you’ve seen… Will Smith in one too many of these vanity projects.***

It isn’t that we don’t endorse Black films being greenlighted; we do. It isn’t that we don’t love our history; we do. It’s that biopics, as a genre, are largely rote oversimplifications of incredibly complex lives. And no matter how nuanced an actor’s performance (or, as in the case of Denzel as Melvin Tolson, how phoned in), the formulaic storytelling impedes any real understanding of the person’s struggles and, more importantly, the accomplishment(s) that warranted a film in the first place. They all sort of bleed together untill you’re like, “You remember that flick where Cuba Gooding’s in the submarine and he’s a cook who manned a gatling gun?”

The best way to know your history is to research it for yourself. All the swelling music and single-teared male stars in the world aren’t going to provide you comprehensive—or even accurate—knowledge of actual events. So these “First Black ___ to Do _____” biopics work best when you go into them with your facts about the film’s subject straight. That way, you’re just watching for entertainment value and voluntary emotional manipulation.

All that said, we have to admit, we’re more than a little bit amped about Josh Brolin’s genius plan to both produce and star in a John Brown biopic. You can never have enough films about bloody, if ill-fated slave revolts.

Kinatay

by Guest Contributor Tanglad, originally published at Tanglad

Let me get this out of the way first. This is not a movie review. It is a review of movie reviews about Brillante Mendoza’s Kinatay. Spoilers follow, though the title pretty much tells you what you’re gonna get.

Last weekend, Filipino director Brillante Mendoza won the best director award at the Cannes Festival for the movie Kinatay (”Slaughtered“). Mendoza’s win was a surprise, considering how Kinatay is probably, as Prometheus Brown puts it, the most hated film at Cannes.

Exerpts from Maggie Lee’s synopsis and review at The Hollywood Reporter:

Newly married Peping, who attends the police academy, receives an offer via text message to make a fast buck with a shady friend. By nightfall, he is in a van with a group of vicious gangsters who have kidnapped a bar hostess to demand a loan repayment under orders from an elusive general…

The real time pacing, feels like being stuck in a traffic jam, but the dramatic thrust is relentless as one hears through the muffled darkness, the woman being gagged and beaten mercilessly. The horror escalates to rape, murder and dismemberment. None of this is left to the imagination, with the men’s verbal sexism being equally distasteful.

That was a positive review. (See here to view Kinatay excerpts, and here for a round-up of reviews and more background on the film.)

Roger Ebert’s review, charmingly titled “What were they thinking of?”, is typical of how critics who hated Kinatay approached the movie. There is hardly any discussion of the merits of the movie itself, and instead a whole lot of indignation over the unpleasantness that viewers were subjected to:

It is Mendoza’s conceit that it his Idea will make a statement, or evoke a sensation, or demonstrate something–if only he makes the rest of the film as unpleasant to the eyes, the ears, the mind and the story itself as possible…

No drama is developed. No story purpose is revealed…

Continue reading

Blood: The Last Vampire U.S Trailer

by Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

I know I’ve previously mentioned the live-action Blood: The Last Vampire adaptation before, but I’ve neglected to mention the trailer, which has been making the rounds for a while. The movie, based on Hiroyuki Kitakubo 2000 cult hit anime of the same name, marks South Korean actress Jeon Ji-Hyun’s English-language debut.

Jeon, who has apparently changed her name to Gianna Jun for the leap over the Hollywood, stars as Saya, a half-human, half-vampire samurai who is part of a covert government agency that hunts and destroys demons. In post-WWII Japan, she is inserted in an American military school to discover which one of her classmates is a demon in disguise.

Yay, for demon-hunting half-vampires. While I was a fan of the original animated movie, and enjoy vampire asskicking as much as the next guy, I am skeptical about whether this can stand out amongst the Buffy/Blade/Underworld narratives out there. And can Ms. Jun prove her chops as an English-speaking star? I guess we’re going to find out. The movie is set to open in theaters sometime this summer.

Notes from AFF’s Diversity On Screen panel

by Guest Contributor jbrotherlove, originally published at jbrotherlove

I haven’t been a very good cinephile lately. And by “not very good” I mean I haven’t attended any films in this year’s Atlanta Film Festival. In addition to being very busy at work in the past few weeks, I attribute the oversight to a combination of procrastination, lack of Atlanta friends who are passionate about independent film (Boo!), and confusion over my AFF membership status (holla at a brother, Charles).

However, I did manage to get over to the newish Starbucks in Midtown Promenade (off Piedmont Park) to attend the festival’s Diversity On Screen panel, part of their Coffeehouse Conversations series. The panel was moderated by journalist and author Gil Robertson. Author Ronda Racha Penrice, Felicia Feaster (The Atlantan), Ryan Lee (Southern Voice), and Will Hong (TurnerAsia) rounded out the panel.

In general, the panel agreed that the state of diversity in film (race, sexual orientation, gender, age, etc.) is improving. But film lags far behind television and digital/internet in terms of portraying characters and stories with complexity (Hong). Continue reading