Tag Archives: movies

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.


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    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?”

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    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.


    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


    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?


    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.