I saw this awhile ago somewhere, but I forgot to copy the link, so my apologies to the author.
How the basic plot of “Star Wars” derives from the Books of Samuel in the Old Testament:
farm boy (Saul-Anakin) anointed future king by a seer (the
cloak-wearing Samuel/Obi-Wan), taken from his mother and trained, farm
boy reveals himself to be wrongly anointed after an abuse of powers
and repeated failure of character; his authority and kingdom, as well
as the divine spirit, removed from him and given to another farm boy
(David-Skywalker) who is now the rightful heir and savior of the
kingdom. Persecution for the newly anointed savior-king by the fallen
former one ensues. The righteous farmboy/king/jedi triumphs over
fallen king at, no joke, the location known as “Endor,” where
Samuel/Obi-Wan figures makes one of his ghostly appearances.
I don’t think George Lucas or Lawrence Kasdan took this directly from
the Bible intentionally, but, more likely, Lucas ripped off some
obscure pulp fiction or comic he read as a kid in the 50s and THAT, in
turn, was the text that ripped off the David story.
This comedy/drama written and directed by Irish playwright Martin McDonagh (“In Bruges“) would be a fine sleeper hit if it didn’t win a bunch of Academy Awards. However, Frances McDormand, Mrs. Joel Coen, is, with Meryl Streep in “The Post,” a frontrunner for Best Actress. Conversely, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson are excellent too as Ozark small town cops who have outraged McDormand by not solving the kidnapping/rape/murder of her daughter.
This is the kind of movie, like “Shakespeare in Love,” “Crash”and “The Artist,” that would be better off in the long run if it didn’t win a whole bunch of Oscars. McDonagh doesn’t quite have control of the tone of his movie, and inserts a lot of both jokes and tragic incidents. If you stumbled upon this movie late at night on cable, you’d think it was well above average. If it won a lot of Academy Awards next March, however, you’d be pickier because your expectations were higher.
Martin McDonagh’s older brother John Michael McDonagh is a fine screenwriter too (e.g., Brendan Gleeson in 2011′s “The Guard“‘; his 2016 comedy “War on Everyone” with Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Pena as crooked but lovable New Mexico cops isn’t bad either). Unlike the Coens and a lot of other modern frateurs, the McDonagh’s have a normal amount of sibling rivalry and thus don’t write together, although they share actors, such as the great elder Gleeson. Lately, they’ve been using the almost incomprehensible Caleb Landry Jones (similarly cast in “Get Out”) as a degenerate Southerner.
Like most of the better filmmakers of 2017, the McDonaghs are, by the standards of 2017, pretty far right wing. But this isn’t widely noticed. Critics think because it’s set in Missouri, “Ebbing” is a Ferguson Movie. But it’s really a Law and Order Movie.
Somebody should make a movie about two rivalrous Irish screenwriter brothers who are finally cajoled into writing a movie together in the mode of the Coens and all the other recent brother acts, disastrously.
It’s really not that easy to get along with your brother (e.g., see the recent hit animated children’s film “The Boss Baby,” now on Netflix.)
“The Disaster Artist” is actor/director James Franco’s fairly good movie about the making of a belovedly bad movie called “The Room” that has achieved cult status and nurtured a bunch of “Rocky Horror Picture Show”-type customs among audiences at midnight movies, such as throwing plastic spoons at the screen. Franco plays the international man of mystery calling himself Tommy Wiseau who wrote, financed, directed, and starred in “The Room” in 2003.
Nobody knows where Wiseau got the $6 million to pay for his movie about, presumably, the blonde who broke his heart. Here’s the flower shop scene (either from the original or from Franco’s reproduction, I can’t tell the difference):
“The Disaster Artist” isn’t as good as the 1994 film “Ed Wood” starring Johnny Depp as the director of “Plan 9 from Outer Space” (and numerous other contenders with “The Room” for Worst Movie of All Time). But “The Disaster Artist” is a decent entry in the genre of the Passionate Incompetent.
Franco as director and star did a good job of matching a lot of his famous friends in showbiz, such as Seth Rogen, Judd Apatow, Bob Odenkirk, Zac Efron, Hannibal Buress, Sharon Stone, Bryan Cranston, Jacki Weaver, and his brother Dave Franco to the real life losers who were involved in “The Disaster Artist.” My guess is that Rogen is a fun guy to watch bad movies with at home, so “The Disaster Artist” is an attempt to reproduce for the mass audience Franco’s experience of watching terrible movies while Rogen cracks wise.
Wiseau is convinced that he deserves to be a Hollywood movie star despite having some kind of Eastern European accent and a massive speech impediment.
One scene in “The Disaster Artist” mentions that Wiseau decided to become an actor while in the hospital following a car crash. Nobody else more familiar with the story than me seems to believe this, but my guess is that he suffered brain damage in the accident, which could be why he talks funny.
People really like movies. One thing that jumps out at you while reading the history of WWII is that Hitler, Stalin, Churchill, and FDR were passionate movie fans. In contrast, the other Franco, Francisco, who had the good sense to sit out WWII, does not appear to have been.
Where Wiseau got the money to make his elaborate movie, I don’t know. Most of the large cast and crew guessed that it was a money-laundering scheme involving organized crime, but the grandiose and defective Wiseau doesn’t seem like somebody that a gangster would want to be involved with.
Perhaps Wiseau was in a car crash that killed other members of his extended family in New Orleans and he was the beneficiary of a big settlement? For example, comedian Tracy Morgan and the heirs of another comedian appear to have gotten a big payouts from insurance companies for Walmart, whose truck driver ran into their limo in 2014. The rumor, which Morgan’s attorney pooh-poohs, is of a $90 million settlement. Whatever it was, Walmart’s insurance companies are currently trying to claw some of it back on the grounds that Tracy isn’t as crippled as initially feared (of course, his friend remains as dead as originally reported).
Personally, Mr. Insurance Company, I think Tracy Morgan, especially as Tracy Jordan on “30 Rock,” has made my life better-humored, so I’m not really too bothered if he manages to come back most of the way from the coma that your client’s bad driver plunged him into.
Or maybe Wiseau inherited money from his New Orleans relatives? Or got lucky investing during the 1990s tech bubble? Or made a fortune off fake designer jeans? There are a lot of fairly random rich people these days.
Pixar’s animated movie “Coco” about a boy in Mexico who visits the afterlife on the Day of the Dead is another nice effort from the Northern California studio. On the other hand, it’s a little dull and repetitious: Did you know that Mexicans care a lot about their families? If not, you’ll learn that from “Coco,” in which the word “family” comes up maybe 50 to 75 times. Also words referring to family relations like “great-great-grandmother” are mentioned many dozens of times as well.
The banality of “Coco” might have something to do with Pixar being paralyzed by fear of saying anything non-boring about Mexican culture. They had to do the usual thing these days for movies of hiring some official notes-givers from the teeming ranks of ethnic activists, which can’t do much for the interest level.
The story is about an entrepreneurial family of shoemakers who are the only family in Mexico, or maybe the world, who abhor any and all music, and their rebel little boy who, you’ll be shocked to learn, likes music.
This is a pretty lame contrivance to get the plot going. The usual conflict in a Mexican or Mexican-American family drama, such as 2002′s “Real Women Have Curves,” is between the educationally ambitious young hero/heroine and his/her family, who expect him/her to get right to work instead of going away to pursue education. To turn this central conflict into a family that hates music is strained.
I kept thinking of the video in which Ali G asks Donald Trump “What’s the most popular thing in the world?” so that when Trump says “I don’t know,” Ali G intends to say “Ice cream!” except that Trump says, “Music,” which is indeed even more popular than ice cream.
Anyway, that got me thinking about whether there are any forms of puritanism in Mexico. In American history, a huge fraction of the factories and colleges were started by either puritans or people descended from puritans. Much the same is true in some other countries. Did Mexico, however, ever have any form of puritanism or did the Counter-Reformation block it from ever coming to Mexico? Is that one reason Mexico is the way it is?
Like a huge fraction of movies these days, this one is about death and missing the dead. Like a lot of movies since maybe “Ghost,” this one includes a whole bunch of rules about the afterlife. Nobody is as theologically creative these days as screenwriters, and nobody is more thorough at thinking things through than Pixar screenwriters.
Did ethnic activist consultants actually advise Pixar writers on all the complicated rules for the Mexican afterlife displayed in the movie? Or did they just agree to them all?
Coco revive less grating old Mexican pop song styles from the 1940s when the Mexican economy was at its peak due to WWII. The only famous dead Mexicans I recognized in the land of the dead were painter Frida Kahlo and wrestler El Santo. I guess more famous Mexicans like Pancho Villa would be too stereotypical or something for gringo audiences. (Shocking fact: Mexicans love Pancho Villa and his bandoleros.)
Pixar’s Mexican land of the dead doesn’t look much like any part of Mexico I’ve been to. It’s full of tall buildings (Mexicans, in contrast, love sprawl) in a sort of Victorian greenhouse look.
Maybe the Pixar artists went down to Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, the teeming Mexican shopping street, and like all yuppies and hipsters when they go to Broadway in DTLA to sample Mexican culture wound up finding refuge from the Mexican mobs in the Victorian greenhouse Bradbury Building made famous in the original Blade Runner? Everytime I go to Broadway in DTLA I wind up, like Sir Ridley Scott, trying to get into the hyper-Anglo Bradbury Building to get away from the teeming masses of Mexicans.
About 15 years ago I tried to go to the Bradbury Building to see an exhibit of abstract sculpture by Professor Edward Tufte, author of the famous The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. But the Bradbury’s door was locked. I looked around for fellow fans of Professor Tufte, and quickly located them among the thousands of shoppers on Broadway because the Tufte admirers were a head taller than the shoppers.
Anyway, movies need heights these days because climactic scenes virtually always involved the threat of the hero falling to his death.
Pixar prettifies the Mexican tendency toward grotesquery with a lot of skeletons that aren’t terribly scary.
A few years ago there was a lower-budget but fairly-similarly themed animated Day of the Dead movie directed by Jorge Gutierrez from Tijuana called “The Book of the Dead.” The skeletons were more grotesque, but here’s a nice song from it:
I suspect bullfighting would have been a Mexican subject too “stereotypical” or “controversial” for Pixar’s huge budget.
The other downside of “Coco” is that instead of the usual six minute Pixar cartoon running before it, Disney is running an interminable 21-minute cartoon from the lucrative and slightly lesbian Enchanted franchise featuring an irritating snowman.
My new Harvey Weinstein-related column in Taki’s Magazine, “The Overlord of Oscar Bait,” argues that, just as Hollywood should no longer import chimpanzees to appear in movies like Bedtime for Bonzo because they can now be digitally simulated by putting Andy Serkis in a motion capture suit, we should consider banning professional child actors in the fairly near future. Perhaps acting ought to be a profession for adults to choose freely, rather than for children to be pressured into by their stage moms and dads? For example, you aren’t allowed to be a professional football player until roughly age 21, so maybe child acting could be restricted to amateur theatricals up through, say, age 18.
One of the funnier aspects of Hamlet is that in the same astonishing scene (II, ii) in which Hamlet delivers his “quintessence of dust” speech for the ages, Shakespeare, speaking through Hamlet, goes on to indulge in some extremely topical and local satire regarding the London stage fad c. 1600 for grown-up plays (including a couple by Ben Jonson) performed by all-child troupes. (This exchange is often cut to shorten the run-time of productions of Hamlet.)
Shakespeare, the theatrical businessman, is particularly annoyed that Jonson’s plays for child actors satirize adult actors (such as Shakespeare’s own mostly grown-up troupe):
Hamlet — Do they [i.e., Globe players] hold the same estimation they did when I was in the city? are they so followed?
Rosencrantz — No indeed they are not.
Hamlet — How comes it? do they grow rusty?
Rosencrantz — Nay, their endeavour keeps in the wonted pace: but there is sir, an aery [nest] of children, little eyases [eaglets], that cry out on the top of question, and are most tyrannically clapped for’t: these are now the fashion, and so berattle [i.e., abuse] the common stages – so they call them – that many wearing rapiers [i.e., gallants] are afraid of goose-quills [i.e., the satire of the boys' playwrights] and dare scarce come thither [i.e., to the public playhouses].
Hamlet — What, are they children? who maintains ‘em? how are they escoted [i. e., paid]? Will they pursue the quality [i. e., the profession of acting] no longer than they can sing [i. e., before their voices change]? will they not say afterwards, if they should grow to common players – as it is most like, if their means are no better – their writers do them wrong to make them exclaim against their own succession [i.e., the profession of public actor, to which they must shortly succeed].
This dialogue is often cut in productions of Hamlet to get the play over before midnight.
Also, in Tom Stoppard’s inversion of Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, it is pointedly implied that the impoverished mostly adult actors troupe that comes through Elsinore is not above — times being what they are (indifferent) — pimping out the youngest boy in their troupe for special private performances.
Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was a celebrated figure during the (perhaps now finally concluded) Bill and Hillary Era. In particular, he was the central string-puller of the insufferable orgy of virtue-signaling that the Academy Awards have become.
The annual Oscar season is the Olympics of self-satisfied displays of moral superiority. And no one ever played the Oscar campaign game better than Weinstein, whose companies have had their fingers on 341 Academy Award nominations.
Harvey issued a statement last January when his company’s movie Lion received a Best Picture nod:
“‘Lion’ is the company’s 26th Best Picture Nomination in 28 years, and it is just as exciting as the first. I couldn’t be more proud of the entire team. The most important part of this is the effect that ‘Lion’ is having on social issues around the world. Its themes of diversity, love, and unity are very special to me on a personal level. UNICEF said it best — ‘Lion’ is an anthem of hope, love and acceptance.’ That means more to me than anything.”
Despite all his successes in the virtue business, Harvey, like Bill and Hill (for whom he bundled so many contributions), is not a virtuous individual.
The 1982 Blade Runner was also one of the first (and last) sci-fi movies to feature demographic change. Los Angeles in 2019 was overwhelmed by Asian immigrants and everybody had moved back downtown into giant high-rises, two forecasts that seem right on track with two years to go.
While the mass immigration and the no-backyards crowding are arriving on schedule, Blade Runner’s flying cars and off-world space colonies, however, are lagging.
To this day, most other sci-fi movies foresee a future America that’s majority white with African-Americans as the main minority. Idiocracy is just about the only successor to Blade Runner in suggesting that America’s dystopian future will be even less white than its present.
Movies usually take at least two years to go from conception to completion, even with all the money in the world behind them. For example, the sequel to the August 2014 surprise hit Guardians of the Galaxy arrived in theaters in May 2017, 33 months after the original.
So, it’s obvious that all the Oscar-bait movies currently debuting on the festival circus were conceived of no earlier than November 9, 2016. Or at least that’s the impression we are supposed to get …
Some of the biggest hits—and one notable flop—at the Toronto International Film Festival played as blunt allegories for the current political moment.
DAVID SIMS 1:23 PM ET CULTURE
When introducing his new movie The Shape of Water at the Toronto International Film Festival last week, the director Guillermo del Toro was clear about the message he wanted to convey. The Shape of Water is a romantic, grown-up fairytale, where a mute woman (Sally Hawkins) working at a secret government facility in 1962 falls in love with a sea creature (Doug Jones) that’s being held there against its will. It’s a story of empathy triumphing over prejudice, one where the facility’s villainous supervisor (Michael Shannon) is largely driven by hatred of what he doesn’t understand.
… When discussing The Shape of Water, del Toro (who is Mexican) has been equally upfront about how its sea creature is a stand-in for “the other,” or the outsider, in any kind of political situation. As this year’s Oscar race kicks off, del Toro’s movie is resonating—it won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. It’s also part of a larger trend in political and allegorical mainstream filmmaking, where directors are plainly and loudly tackling the Trump administration, some with more grace than others.
… This year, a sizable chunk of the festival’s biggest hits have a few key things in common—they’re coming out in the first full year of the Trump administration, they’re deeply topical despite many of them being period pieces covering unfortunate historical events, and they have all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.
… But The Shape of Water is more directly applicable to the current debate raging over the White House’s hardline immigration policies and the emergence of the alt-right. Del Toro hasn’t shied away from that interpretation, saying of Shannon’s villain, “He doesn’t see anyone because his arrogance is so big. … It speaks about the issue we have today that choosing fear over love is a disaster.” When asked about the current political climate, he said, “It’s like a cancer. We have a tumor now. That doesn’t mean the cancer started with that tumor. It was gestating for so long.”
In dramatizing America’s idealized past in The Shape of Water, del Toro tries to get at the root of problems in the present. The film takes place in the ’60s, when the country is a forward-looking superpower, but the story is set largely within a darker underbelly. “If you were white, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant, it was a great time to be alive,” del Toro said of that decade. “If you were not, if you were anything else, it was not.”
Guillermo del Toro knows because he is a famous Person of Color, as you can tell from these photos of him with Peter Jackson, Ryan Gosling, and Michael Shannon. Del Toro’s dad owned an automobile manufacturing company in Mexico, which means that Guillermo knows all about racism and oppression. Del Toro’s dad was kidnapped in Guadalajara and held for ransom for $1 million for 72 days, until Guillermo’s friend James Cameron paid it.
Who here can’t identify with having James Cameron pay your industrialist dad’s ransom? It’s practically a rite of passage.
Del Toro may look like a Hobbit, but his ancestry comes from the extreme northern border region of The Shire, so that makes him The Other.
Del Toro hasn’t lived in his native Mexico since his father’s kidnapping, but that just makes him more aware of how racist you are for having doubts about not welcoming so many Mexicans to America.
Finishing outside the top ten, Annapurna’s Detroit had a tough weekend. Kathryn Bigelow’s latest struggled in its nationwide expansion, pulling in an estimated $7.7 million from 3,007 theaters for a $2,411 per theater average. Expectations heading into the weekend were a performance in the low teens, but instead this performance is much closer to that of Free State of Jones, another adult drama that debut in the summer last year and managed to only bring in $7.6 million in its opening before finishing with $20.8 million for its domestic run. Audiences did agree with critics (78 on Metacritic), scoring the film with a strong “A-” CinemaScore, but with an opening like this it’s unlikely word of mouth will be able to keep it around for too long.
Here’s my review of Detroit about the 1967 riot in Taki’s Magazine last week.
Detroit, rather like Jordan Peele’s hugely profitable Get Out from earlier this year, is kind of a horror story about white racism killing black bodies.
But it had a number of strikes against it:
- Directrix Kathryn Bigelow, unlike Jordan Peele, is white. In fact, she’s extremely white, with a lot of formal education in modern art theory. Blacks like blacks, while whites like to worry about how problematic it is that a white person is allowed to make a movie with black characters. Thus, from Slate a thumbsucker thinkpiece on Detroit and some other film that is morally superior due to the filmmakers being black.
- Bigelow’s not a big crowd-pleaser (even Point Break was more of a cult hit). Her most important audience has been male directors like her mentors Walter Hill and ex-husband James Cameron who like the fact that here is a technically skilled woman director who is interested in the masculine stuff they are interested in (e.g., blowing stuff up — her Hurt Locker features some of the more realistic explosions in movie history). But who also preserves an independent viewpoint as an intelligent woman who admires men, but also analyzes them because she’s not one of them. As a woman director making movies about men-in-uniform she is a fish that knows she’s wet. (Bigelow reminds me a little of Patti Smith, another Art Theory type, whose great topic was masculine charisma in rock music.)
- White people may well be getting tired of rehashes of Whites Behaving Badly in the distant past (which may bode poorly for the three (that’s 3) Emmett Till movies said to be in development).
- Among that slice of whites who can’t get enough of movies of Old Time Whites Behaving Badly, Bigelow and Boal’s movie is a little too realistic for the purely politically correct. For example, blacks are repeatedly shown doing stupid, greedy things to set off the Detroit Riot. Detroit is not quite enough of a Hate Whitey movie for the Hate Whitey white audience.
This is the first movie distributed by Annapurna Films, the production company of Larry Ellison’s daughter Megan, and Annapurna perhaps tends to be the anti-Weinstein Brothers of companies in the Oscar Bait business., focusing less on Message Movies than the Weinsteins do. For example, Annapurna’s next three movies are being directed by Alexander Payne (Sideways), Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood), and Wes Anderson (The Grand Hotel Budapest). I’m sure that critics will go through contortions to explain how each one of these movies is intended to be an anti-Trump message movie and is in fact exactly What America Needs to Heal from Trump’s Horrible Tweet of Yesterday.
But I suspect that those three directors mostly just do their own, very different, things, and Megan Ellison is happy to use a little of her father’s giant pile of money be in business with them.
In contrast to Detroit, the other mid-summer Oscar contender, with its entire cast drawn from the native stock of the British Isles, is rolling along:
Dunkirk finished in second with an estimated $17.6 million, dropping only 34% in its third weekend in release for a domestic cume just shy of $135 million. Internationally, Dunkirk delivered an estimated $25 million from 63 markets bringing its overseas cume to $180.6 million for a global tally that now stands at $314.2 million. Looking ahead, the film opens in Italy at the end of August followed by early September releases in China and Japan.
The key moment in the self-destruction of the once great American city of Detroit over the past half century can be dated precisely to July 23, 1967, when blacks began the Detroit Riot. Before 4,700 paratroopers from the U.S. Army’s 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions finally halted the orgy of criminality, African Americans had looted 2,500 stores and burned down 400 buildings in their own neighborhoods.
The next year, 80,000 whites moved out of Detroit. …
Of course, today we are instructed to think of these white refugees from black violence not as victims but as perps. Almost nobody is interested in the stories of the millions of Americans whose lives were literally dislocated by the huge surge in black urban crime during the peak years of American liberalism, 1964–75.
For example, the opening text for the new movie Detroit, which opens nationally on Friday, pins the blame for the black riot of 1967 on the economic devastation caused by the 22,000 whites who had presciently left Detroit the year before, apparently taking all the magic dirt with them, leaving only the tragic dirt.
In reality, the Detroit Riot had little to do with economic decline. Instead, it was a classic example of how rising expectations fuel resentment.
Our most celebrated thought leaders, such as Chancellor Merkel, have repeatedly pointed out for us that European values morally require the demographic inundation of the European peoples in The Other. Similarly, the New York Times film critic is highly enthusiastic about how humane values require human extinction in War for the Planet of the Apes. A.O. Scott raves about the latest monkey movie for finally coming down wholeheartedly on the appropriate side of the Who? Whom? divide:
NYT Critic’s Pick Directed by Matt Reeves PG-13 2h 20m
Reviewed by A. O. SCOTT JULY 12, 2017
… The apes pause to witness the aftermath of the carnage they have narrowly escaped, and their wordless, shocked response, registered above all on the face of Caesar, their leader, is an eloquent rebuke to a species that has abandoned any but a biological claim to the name human.
… We are now, three movies into this reborn franchise, entirely on the side of the apes. The prospect of our own extinction, far from horrifying, comes as a relief. At last the poor planet will catch a break.
… The distinction of this run of “Planet of the Apes” movies has been its commitment to the venerable belief that science fiction belongs to the literature of ideas, and its willingness to risk seeming to take itself too seriously. Each episode has pursued a stark ethical or political problem, and each has shifted the moral ground from human to ape.
“Rise” was about how people treat and mistreat animals, about the tension between recognizing them as sentient beings and the long habit of exploiting and confining them. “Dawn” was a wishful parable of decolonization and counterinsurgency, concerned with the competing but equally legitimate claims of two tribes occupying adjacent territory. “War” — which, in spite of its title, is less a war film than a western wrapped around a prison movie — vindicates Koba’s view of humanity as irredeemably cruel and deceitful.
… A new strain of virus is robbing people of their ability to speak, accelerating a reversal of species hierarchy set in motion two movies ago when Caesar first howled the word “no.”
He is a grayer, sadder hero now, and in “War” he succumbs for a while to a vengeful impulse at odds with his essential high-mindedness. You could say that he is putting his humanity at risk, or that he’s only human, after all, but of course both descriptions would be absurd.
Mr. Scott is aware that his praising the apes for being more “humane” than the humans is speciesist, and thus we need a new vocabulary purged of the old insensitive human supremacist terms that reflected the intolerable old hierarchy of species. But we’ll have to make do with these archaic words for now:
We’ll have to come up with a new vocabulary, but while we still have this one — and while flesh-and-blood people are still directing digital gorillas and chimps — I’ll just say that it’s good to see a movie so thoroughly humane.
Mr. Scott, however, has one complaint: the heroes aren’t portrayed quite as feministically woke as one might wish:
This world is also intensely and somewhat unimaginatively masculine. The default setting for primate social organization in these movies, human and otherwise, is patriarchal, and while a few female apes and a young human girl appear on screen, the filmmakers’ inability to flesh out the familial and affective dimensions of an otherwise richly rendered reality is frustrating.
Get Out could have been a very amusing movie, but Jordan Peele correctly perceived that in this era there is big money in supplying audiences with their politically correct racial hate uncut with much in the way of wit. People don’t want intelligence in 2017, they want anti-white animus. …
Get Out is clearly modeled on the funny scene in Woody Allen’s Oscar-winning Annie Hall where Alvy Singer has an Easter ham with Annie’s ultra-WASP family.
Of course, Alvy didn’t ultimately slaughter Annie and her entire family as racial revenge.
There are many scary things about the movie, but scariest of all is its realistic depiction of racism.
by KENDRA JAMES
Feb 28, 2017
Major spoilers ahead.
In Get Out, writer-director Jordan Peele takes 90 minutes to meditate on a lesson Kim Kardashian once spelled out for America via snake emojis and Taylor Swift: White women are not to be trusted.
… Peele brings Get Out to a higher level of horror, at least for any person of color in the audience. We’re all keenly aware of how possible it is.
The film begins with Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) traveling home for the weekend to meet his girlfriend Rose’s (Alison Williams) parents who live on the set of a horror movie — excuse me: in a secluded, wooded, mostly white suburb. …
It’s a literal and visual representation of building a better life in America on the backs of the subjugated.
As the plot unravels, it seems that Rose is willing to take Chris’s suspicions seriously and, as the title indicates, get out. …
But here, condensed into one 10-minute span, I recognized the sinking feeling of being betrayed by a white woman you’ve stanned for, loved, liked, or even simply been mildly okay with. …
For some, it’s the 53 percent of white women who voted for Trump, or finding out that the leader of your local NAACP chapter is literally a white woman in disguise. For others it’s finding out that Taylor Swift’s been coasting on America’s fear of black men for years. I feel it every time I realize there’s a white women on my Twitter timeline who will tweet in earnest for Planned Parenthood while sparing only a perfunctory tweet for Black Lives Matter or the Standing Rock Sioux. …
Jordan Peele is married to and expecting a child with a white woman, Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Chelsea Peretti. He’s also biracial; his mother is white. …
White women have always played, and continue to play, a large part in upholding the supremacy. They have not held the best interests of people of color. Putting full trust in them has often been to our detriment. Rose’s willingness to put herself and, essentially, the survival of white bodies above the well-being of black people was as unsurprising as it was terrifying. In Get Out, whiteness trumps all, and the true horror is leaving the theater knowing that, in this case? It’s not just a movie.
This essay seems like the kind of thing you didn’t see all that much of before about Obama’s second term. This was in Cosmo, for heaven’s sake. This kind of naked racial hostility was less socially encouraged before about 2012 or 2013.
The more popular it is to worry over some organized threat, the less of a danger it likely is in reality. After all, if some group or institution was truly fearsome, most people would either be terrified into silence or admiration.
For example, Dan Brown made a fortune off his The Da Vinci Code pulp novel during this low ebb of the Catholic Church’s powers with a tale of how a nearly omnipotent Church conspires to cover up pagan feminism’s golden age. … But Brown is practically Edward Gibbon compared to his successor as a global publishing sensation, the late Stieg Larsson, author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (or as it was originally titled in Sweden, Men Who Hate Women). Himself a hate-filled lefty nerd, Larsson concocted an elaborate fantasy world for true believers in the conventional wisdom. …
You may have somehow garnered the impression that Sweden is a politically correct social democracy where the main problems women face (qua women) are oppression and rape at the hands of Muslim immigrants whose traditional misogyny is sometimes excused in the name of multicultural sensitivity. Otherwise, Scandinavia would appear to be a feminist utopia. …
But readers of Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, which has sold nearly 30 million books, know better. Larsson fearlessly exposed the true plagues menacing contemporary Sweden: rich Nazis, Christian male chauvinists, rapist legal officials, and two generations of billionaire serial killers—the first preying on Jewish women, the second on immigrant women. …
… Here at the home of ChefDance CEO and founder Mimi Kim, Woodard, Shirley MacLaine, Elle Fanning and Jill Soloway were just part of a formidable group gathered during the Sundance Festival for a lunch to celebrate women in film. …
Shirley MacLaine, at 82, wearing purple and pink in honor of Saturday’s Women’s Marches, chimed in, saying that Donald Trump presented a challenge to “each of our inner democracy” and urged everyone at the table to explore their “core identity.”
Then Jessica Williams, the former “Daily Show” correspondent who was at Sundance as the star of Jim Strouse’s “The Incredible Jessica James,” spoke up.
“I have a question for you,” Williams, 27, said to MacLaine. “My question is: What if you are a person of color, or a transgendered person who — just from how you look — you already are in a conflict?”
“Right, but change your point of view,” MacLaine offered. “Change your point of view of being victimized. I’m saying: Find the democracy inside.”
What does “democracy inside” mean? That you should give each of the voices in your head an equal vote? Each of your past lives gets a say?
“I’m sorry,” [Salma] Hayek said, jumping in. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Williams answered.
Uh-oh … Microaggression!
I realize Salma is now 50, but it’s probably not a good idea for a 27-year-old actress to call her “ma’am.” Just sayin’ …
“Who are you when you’re not black and you’re not a woman? Who are you and what have you got to give?”
Williams took a deep breath. “A lot. But some days, I’m just black, and I’m just a woman,” she said. “Like, it’s not my choice. I know who I am. I know I’m Jessica, and I’m the hottest bitch on the planet I know.”
It’s generally not advisable to say that to Salma Hayek. The question of who, exactly, is the hottest bitch on the planet has never been one that Salma can ponder, which she does every time she looks in a mirror, with wholly disinterested objectivity.
“No, no, no,” Hayek said. “Take the time to investigate. That’s the trap! …There is so much more.”
“Right,” agreed MacClaine. “The more is inside.”
On the inside, for example, Shirley MacClaine is also, via her famous past lives, an androgyne of the pre-Atlantis Lemurian era, the harem girl of a Turkish pasha, a dancing girl of Old Isfahan, and “I remembered being a Muslim gypsy girl who had migrated from Morocco and was living with the Coptic Christians in the hills of Spain.”
Top that for Intersectional Pokemon Points, Jessica Williams!
Williams, whose speech at the women’s march at Sundance was praised as one of the most powerful and effective last week, looked down and said she was struggling to articulate herself. Peirce [the butch lesbian director of Boys Don't Cry] tried to help her, saying that when she goes out in public looking masculine, she causes discomfort in a way Williams might as a black woman.
But that wasn’t quite right.
There’s nothing straight black starlets like Jessica Williams appreciate more than being told that they are about as alluring as white middle-aged butch lesbians.
So after a few moments of reflection, Williams returned to Hayek.
“I think what you’re saying is valid, but I also think that what you’re saying doesn’t apply to all women. I think that’s impossible.”
“What part of it is impossible?” Hayek responded. “You’re giving attention to how the other one feels.”
“Because I have to,” Williams said.
”If you have to do that, then do that,” Hayek said. “Then that’s your journey. But I want to inspire other people to know it’s a choice.”
This was when “Mudbound” filmmaker Dee Rees — who had moments earlier introduced herself as a black, queer director — jumped in. At this lunch, she said, she didn’t feel like she was posing a threat to anyone. But in line at the bank? Things were different. “I don’t see myself a victim,” she said. “[Jessica] doesn’t see herself as a victim. But it’s how you’re read.”
“I also feel like the word ‘victim’ — I feel like it has bothered me,” Williams replied. “When I talk about feminism, sometimes I feel like being a black woman is cast aside. I always feel like I’m warring with my womanhood and wanting the world to be better, and with my blackness — which is the opposite of whiteness.”
In case you were wondering.
Cora, who had been in the kitchen cooking lamb stew and halibut, wandered over to share that she grew up gay in Mississippi, where she was sexually abused from age 6.
Thanks for sharing.
No matter an individual’s experience, she said, she just wished all women would have one another’s backs.
And maybe more than just backs, but you have to start somewhere.
It was a somewhat of an abrupt turn, and “Transparent” creator [Jill] Soloway returned to Williams to ask her to continue speaking.
“With intersectional feminism, it’s our responsibility as white women to recognize that when there are people of color or people who are queer — we need to prioritize your voices and let you speak the loudest and learn from your experience, because we haven’t been listening. So please, Jessica, finish your thoughts.”
You know, Jill, maybe Jessica Williams was starting to realize that while nice, she isn’t quite in Salma Hayek’s league and would rather you change the subject to something like having Elle Fanning give her opinion on Shirley MacClaine’s most awesome past life.
Williams, visibly uncomfortable, said she also wanted to encourage all of the women in the room to pay special attention to women of color and LGBT women.
In other words, I’m definitely better looking than most LGBT women, but can we get off the subject of me vs. Salma Hayek, please?
“I think we need to not speak over black women,” she said, “not assign them labels.”
It’s nothing personal, Jessica, it’s just racial.
“What does this mean, ‘speak over?’” Hayek asked.
Oh boy, Jessica, you shouldn’t have provoked the alpha uber-female.
“To project your ideas on me,” Williams said. “I think there is a fear that if we present an idea that, ‘Hey, maybe [black women] have it a little bit harder in this country’ — because we do; black women and trans women do — if we’re having it a little bit harder, it doesn’t invalidate your experience. I really am begging you to not take it personally.” …
Lots of luck with that … The more actresses you gather together the more rapidly the chance of things being taken personally approaches infinity.
“So when you say women of color,” Hayek began. Then she noticed that Williams was not making eye contact with her. “Jessica, do you mind if I look at your eyes?”
Salma discovered at about age 13 that the only way interpersonal exchanges didn’t go in her favor is if the other person didn’t look at her. For example, it’s harder for Salma to get her way with blind people than with deaf people.
Williams barely looked up.
This is like Donald Trump meets Stuart Smalley.
Still, the back-and-forth continued, with Hayek questioning whether or not she was considered a woman of color in Williams’ estimation.
The Flight From White.
Nearly everyone in the room responded that Hayek was.
Who would dare insult Salma Hayek by saying she is white?
Granted, Salma is a Conquistador-American on her mother’s side and a Crusader-American on her father’s side. In 2017, that ancestry makes her a Woman of Color.
Next week, I’d like to see Salma Hayek, Cameron Diaz, Sofia Vergara, and Alicia Machado debate who is more Woman of Colorish.
“Wouldn’t it solve it if women just all had each other’s backs in general?” Cora [the lesbian chef] asked suddenly.
The solution, obviously, is for hot women to stop competing for the attention of the enemy, men, and have each other’s backs, like with my famously relaxing back massages. I’m an expert chef so you know, Salma and/or Jessica, I have really good hands. And if that doesn’t fully relieve the stress …
“Sure,” Peirce said. “The thing is this, yes, all women can work together, but we have to acknowledge that black women have a different experience. She’s here struggling and we keep shutting her down.”
“I don’t think anybody here shut her down,” Cora said, fighting back.
“Can I interrupt, because I feel misunderstood,” Hayek agreed.
I’m not sure I’d call that agreeing, but it’s best not to disagree with Salma if you know what’s good for you.
“It’s not shutting you up. I feel misunderstood on one point: We should be also curious about our brain.
Tell Salma you are curious about her brain.
“By being the best that you can be. That’s what I was trying to say to you. Let’s not just spend all the time in the anger, but in the investigation.”
“Baby, I’m Mexican and Arab,” she went on, addressing Williams.
After all, who has ever heard of a Mexican Arab getting ahead in this world?
“I’m from another generation, baby, when this was not even a possibility. My generation, they said, ‘Go back to Mexico. You’ll never be anything other than a maid in this country.’ By the heads of studios! There was no movement. Latino women were not even anywhere near where you guys are. I was the first one. I’m 50 years old.
Parts of me are less than 50 years old, but, overall, I’m 50.
“So I understand.”
“You don’t understand,” Williams said, shaking her head quietly.
To be fair, almost everybody sounds like an incoherent idiot when reporters publish verbatim conversations. It would have to be a conversation between, say, Steven Pinker and Charles Murray to look impressive on paper when unpolished by the reporter.
For example, when I was captain of the Rice U. College Bowl quiz team, the Houston Chronicle published a front page article ostensibly on the subject of what geniuses we were. But the reporter published quotes from me verbatim, which made me sound like a dope. I was a little mad at the time, but it mostly struck me as adding an extra layer of entertainment — Quiz Kid Talks Like Bozo –to the article, and thus was funny while being fair enough: I really did say exactly what the newspaper said I said.
Hayek was born Salma Hayek Jiménez in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, Mexico. Her younger brother, Sami (born 1972), is a furniture designer. Her mother, Diana Jiménez Medina, is an opera singer and talent scout. Her father, Sami Hayek, is an oil company executive and owner of an industrial-equipment firm, who once ran for mayor of Coatzacoalcos. Her father is of Lebanese descent, with his family being from the city Baabdat, Lebanon, a city Salma and her father visited in 2015 to promote her movie Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. Her mother is Mexican, with her grandmother/maternal great-grandparents being from Spain. Raised in a wealthy, devout Roman Catholic family, she was sent to the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, USA, at the age of twelve. …
On March 9, 2007, Hayek confirmed her engagement to French billionaire and Kering CEO, François-Henri Pinault, as well as her pregnancy. She gave birth to daughter, Valentina Paloma Pinault, in September 2007 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. They were married on Valentine’s Day 2009 in Paris.
Another thing is that Federal agencies like the FBI and ATF mainly employ young-to-middle-aged white guys, so if your organization looks like that, they’re all set to infiltrate you. If your org is full of weedy Near Easterners or scabrous ghetto thugs, well, you can go your way unmolested by the Feds.
From my review of the 2001 movie Spy Game starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt as undercover CIA agents operating in China, Vietnam, and Lebanon:
If all CIA covert operatives look like Robert Redford and Brad Pitt, the stars of the snazzy but brainless “Spy Game,” it’s no wonder our spooks have proven so ineffectual ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall deprived them of a blond enemy they could infiltrate. …
“Spy Game” is set in 1991, when retiring master spy Redford learns that his protégé Pitt has been arrested in China. (The wily Communists caught him by using the sophisticated counter-espionage technique of noticing that Brad Pitt isn’t Chinese.) …
I last saw Redford play a CIA man outwitting his heartless Agency superiors in 1975′s “Three Days of the Condor.” In the quarter century since, my own hair has deteriorated sadly. Yet, I’m happy to say, not a hair on Redford’s 64-year-old head has changed, other than that the passing decades seem to have infused his hair with even more body.
“Bridge of Spies”
Actually, in most movies hostile to the CIA, you can usually tell who is the CIA agent by his thinning hair.
I Googled for evidence for this perception of mine and found a good quote in a recent book entitled The CIA in Hollywood: How the Agency Shapes Film and Television by Tricia Jenkins:
“CIA higher-ups were almost always portrayed as cruel, devious, and incompetent uber-WASPs with thin lips and thinning hair.”
But it turns out that is from my review of another CIA movie, The Recruit.
Anyway, are there ethnic differences in tendency to have thinning hair? I could imagine that American Indians don’t have much of it, but among whites, it mostly seems to come up as a WASP stereotype in CIA movies.
Monsieur Hulot ponders office cubicles of the future
I finally got around to watching a couple of movies by the great French comedian / director Jacques Tati, 1959′s Mon Oncle and 1967′s Play Time.
Home sweet home for M. Hulot
Tati, a successor to Chaplin and Keaton, made post-silent comedies without much plot or dialogue but with a lot of sound effects and visual gags.
Tati liked the eccentric, traditional Paris and aimed his satire at the coming wave of rationalized, Americanized modernism.
These films star his standard character, a tall, amiable pipe-smoking duffer named Monsieur Hulot who grapples, not particularly effectually, with the modern world.
Monsieur Hulot is a man well suited for life in the picturesque and extremely French working class neighborhoods of Paris.
His nine-year-old nephew, who lives in an expensive all-white modernist mansion where he is bored silly, is entranced by his opportunities to visit his uncle in his downscale French world of motorbikes, horse-drawn carts, and dubiously added-on apartment buildings.
Here’s a photo from 1966 of my father and I trying to recreate the famous poster shot from Mon Oncle on my dad’s new Honda 90:
For decades, this photo and the uncharacteristically carefree expression on my worrywart dad’s face were vaguely associated in my mind with the words “French comedian.” So I’m very happy to have finally watched the movie (even though, it turns out, we were going the wrong direction).
But Monsieur Hulot is more than a little lost when he must venture into modern International Style districts.
In fact, Play Time is set in a steel and glass skyscraper district of Paris that didn’t exist yet.
Tati went broke building a set that looked like Sixth Avenue in New York City.
One running joke are the travel posters inviting you to visit destinations such as London, Hawaii, Mexico, and Stockholm by showing the same International Style skyscraper in each:
Watching Mon Oncle and Play Time got me thinking about the Flynn Effect of rising raw scores on IQ tests.
The Flynn Effect is one of the more unexpected and interesting social science discoveries of the later 20th Century.
The Flynn Effect has been strongest on IQ subtests that are least affected by local cultures and that most resemble having to deal with electronic machine logic.
The futuristic Raven’s Matrices tend to be less culturally biased than other IQ tests but has had a very large Flynn Effect of about 3 points per decade, or a standard deviation per half-century.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the first American IQ test, Louis Terman’s Stanford-Binet, emerged in what’s now Silicon Valley and that Louis’s son Fred Terman, Stanford’s Dean of Engineering, has perhaps the best claim to be the father of Silicon Valley. My general hunch is that one cause of the Flynn Effect is that early IQ test designers had a pretty good sense of the direction in which the world would be moving: away from tacit, locally idiosyncratic patterns of behavior and toward machine logic ways of thinking, a shift in which Silicon Valley has led the world.
Much of the joke of the Monsieur Hulot movies is that Monsieur Hulot is a pre-Modernist man. He is accustomed to the Paris of the first half of the 20th Century, which in Tati’s view is about as good as human life gets. But, despite, being a curious fellow open to new things, Monsieur Hulot can’t seem to become accustomed to the global culture of the second half of the 20th Century.
In this scene from Play Time, Monsieur Hulot has ventured to a new skyscraper to take care of some business. A 75-year-old messenger boy tries to notify the man Hulot has come to see via a new message machine that’s like a Raven’s Coloured Progressive Matrices IQ test:
In Mon Oncle (1959), Monsieur Hulot investigates his wealthy sister’s ultra-modern kitchen (my apologies for the sound on this clip being slightly out of sync — Tati movies need the sound effects to be perfectly synced with the action):
Tati was a rich kid who was a gentleman rugby player before he got into comedy. He started out in show biz doing impressions of rugby players, so I imagine that’s what he’s doing bouncing the plastic coffee pot.
And here’s a link to a classic scene in Mon Oncle in which Monsieur Hulot’s upwardly-mobile in-laws try out their new automated garage door with the electric eye trigger that their dachshund can’t open for them when they get trapped in the garage because he feels guilty, although he doesn’t know why, and thus isn’t wagging his tail.
This is the saddest scene ever.
And then they call their maid to set off the electric eye, but she’s afraid of electricity.
The comic biopic War Dogs starring Jonah Hill as Efraim Diveroli, the 22-year-old Miami Beach international arms dealer whose scandal was a nine days’ wonder in 2008, serves as a fun test of my instincts about how the world actually works.
Eight years ago, I went out on a limb to predict that the stoner bro who won a $300 million Pentagon contract to supply AK-47 ammunition to the Afghan army wasn’t going to be the Bush administration’s Watergate or even its Iran-Contra. The more I looked into it, the less it smelled like a vast conspiracy implicating the entire military-industrial complex all the way up to Dick Cheney…and the more it seemed like a Jonah Hill movie.
By the way, here’s video of the 2008 mushroom cloud over Tirana, Albania. It almost certainly wasn’t Diveroli’s fault, although it involved people he was involved with. Albania’s paranoid dictator Enver Hoxha, who hated both the West and the Soviets, made it the most heavily armed country on Earth. For awhile Albania was friends with Chairman Mao, but then Hoxha turned against the Chinese for Marxist deviationism. When Albania joined NATO, the country set about destroying its former Communist ammunition, but occasionally there would be slip-ups. And, when there was, Ka-Boom!
Also, commenter Brutusale points out this scene in an Adam Sandler movie that explains a lot of the business model Diveroli brought to international arms dealing:
Do you ever get the impression that our endless identity-politics culture wars have less to do with the liberation of their ostensible beneficiaries than with the further career advancement of a small number of individuals whose careers were already doing pretty well?
For example, consider the hoopla over how it’s your social duty to attend the big-budget remake of the 1984 hit Ghostbusters because the well-worn roles are filled this time by actresses.
And yet the writer-director who finally got the privilege to bring back to the screen this prized boy toy franchise after 27 years is…a man. In fact, he’s the King of Women’s Comedy, Paul Feig, previously director of Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy.
Email me at SteveSlr *at* aol*dot*com (make the obvious substitutions between the asterisks; you don’t have to capitalize an email address, I just included the capitals to make clear the logic — it’s my name without a space and without the vowels in “Sailer” that give so many people, especially irate commenters, trouble.)
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The IRS has issued instructions regarding Bitcoins. I’m having Coinbase immediately turn all Bitcoins I receive into U.S. dollars and deposit them in my bank account. At the end of the year, Coinbase will presumably send me a 1099 form for filing my taxes.
Payments are not tax deductible.
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