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From Slate:

The Disturbing Truth That Makes Get Out Depressingly Plausible

By Damon Young

… It is just disproportionately easier for us to be snatched, plundered, discarded, and ultimately forgotten about.

And from Fusion:

Jordan Peele’s ‘Get Out’ is a horrifying warning about what happens when you trust white people

For a more intelligent review of Jordan Peele’s Kill-the-White-People horror movie Get Out, see Screen to Screed:

Being John Mal… colm X: a Get Out Review

Here’s my review in Taki’s Magazine.

 
• Tags: Movies 

From my new movie review in Taki’s Magazine:

Get Out, a remarkably racist kill-the-white-people horror movie that makes Django Unchained seem like My Dinner With Andre, is the box office and critical smash of the winter. …

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.

Read the whole thing there.

For an alternative view of Get Out, here’s Cosmopolitan:

Get Out Perfectly Captures the Terrifying Truth About White Women

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.

 
• Tags: Movies 

Of course not!

We all know, from first principles, that immigrants are Good.

We also know that Sweden’s natives are very, very white, and thus are Bad.

Therefore, we know, both from abstract reason and from documentaries like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which people are the real problem in Sweden: the white nativist native whites.

And also the Russians. (If any.)

From my review in Taki’s Magazine:

Fight the (Imaginary) Power
by Steve Sailer
December 28, 2011

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. …

Read the whole thing there.

 
• Tags: Movies, Sweden 

Screenshot 2017-01-29 14.28.33From the Los Angeles Times, a blow-by-blow account of a feminist celebrity struggle session at the Sundance film festival:

Celebration of women filmmakers triggers heated debate among Salma Hayek, Jessica Williams and Shirley MacLaine

Amy Kaufman

… 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.

Hey, thanks!

​​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 a​f​ter 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 head​s ​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.

From Wikipedia:

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.

 

Commenter Almost Missouri writes:

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.

Screenshot 2016-10-27 00.14.48

“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.

 
• Tags: 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.

 
• Tags: Flynn Effect, IQ, Movies 

From my movie review in Taki’s Magazine:

War Dogs: The Real Spiel
by Steve Sailer
August 24, 2016

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.

Read the whole thing at Taki’s Magazine.

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:

 

From my movie review of Ghostbusters in Taki’s Magazine:

Paul Feig, Honorary Non–Straight White Male
by Steve Sailer
July 20, 2016

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.

Read the whole thing there.

 
• Tags: Movies 

The hit Disney kids’ movie Zootopia about a city where talking lions lie down with talking lambs came across to me as something that must have started out culturally rebellious but then got throttled by the test marketers and executives into the usual You-Go-Girl fare.

Here the creative team talks about their original vision, which is pretty great: the prey have subdued the predators with “tame collars” that shock the predators any time their predatory instincts start to kick in (much like the Ludovico Technique does to Alex in A Clockwork Orange). The hero fox, Nick Wild, discovers when a doctor temporarily removes his collar that he feels free and happy. So he comes up with the idea of a Chompers Only speakeasy / amusement park, Wild Times, where predators can get their collars illegally removed and enjoy their innate selves.

In A World Where white guys are publicly resented, incessantly, for still having much of the talent, it’s not surprising that the talented are getting tired of being the rhetorical punching bags just for being white guys. This surreptitious rebellion of the talented explains a lot about what’s going on.

 
• Tags: Movies 

I finally went to see two popular animated movies at the $3 theater: Disney’s big budget / big hit Zootopia and the medium budget / medium hit Angry Birds based on the Finnish smartphone game. Like a lot of mainstream movies these days, both are allegories about classic iSteve topics like biodiversity.

Zootopia is a cop movie set in a utopian city of talking animals where lions lie down with lambs, where predator and prey normally get along with perfect amity. It’s about a tiny girl bunny who comes to the big city to follow her dreams and be a policeman, even though everybody tells her only large animals can be cops. To solve a big case and convince the police chief, a hard-headed Cape buffalo voiced by Idris Elba, that she belongs on the force, she has to enlist the help of a handsome fox conman (Jason Bateman).

Zootopia likely started out as a satire on diversity and political correctness, but then self-emasculated itself when early research reports came back that audiences want political correctness about diversity and feel-good pap: Anybody can be anything they dream of, as long as they work out enough.

The movie is still quite decent, although it’s painful to think about how good it could have been if that much talent had been given free rein to follow their instincts without PC being given a chokehold on their creativity.

From Slate today comes an article worrying that Disney almost didn’t gut their own movie:

This Deleted Scene From Zootopia Would Have Made the Racial Allegory a Lot More Disturbing

By Aisha Harris

After months and months of vague promos, Zootopia’s arrival in theaters came as a surprise to viewers—not only was the film fun and entertaining, but it was also totally a message movie about the perils of racial profiling. And if you thought about it too hard, the racial allegory quickly began to fall apart: What’s with the discriminated-against predators also being in positions of institutional power? And why, in a movie about shutting down stereotypes, is the fox actually sneaky and the weasel really a cheater?

And why, in the scene that get the biggest laughs, are all the clerks at the Van Nuys Department of Motor Vehicles (pretty much the Van Nuys DMV I go to and where Homer Simpson’s sister-in-laws Patty and Selma work) sloths? And not stereotype-shattering sloths, but sloths who fulfill every stereotype you ever guiltily entertained about sloths and DMV clerks?

And there’s this scene that stereotypes wolves as liking to howl:

Moreover, if you watch closely, the filmmakers disclose what a Malthusian nightmare a predator-free ecosystem would be. For example, here is the rabbit heroine saying goodbye to her mother, father, and 275 siblings as she heads off to Zootopia. Watch Bunnyburrow’s population counter at 0:45:

Still, after decades of questionable and/or downright racist on-screen depictions of people of color, Disney’s attempt to address such heavy subject matter in an animated kids’ movie can be considered a valiant effort and a sign of progress.

Which is why it’s probably a good thing that a deleted scene from Zootopia that is now online didn’t make it into the final cut of the film.

This deleted scene explains the key question of why the 10% of the population who are predators don’t follow their instincts:

For starters, the tone of the scene is considerably darker than that of the lighthearted romp the movie eventually became. It depicts a ceremony, soon revealed to be a “taming party,” in which a young bear cub named Morris prepares to become a “big bear.” His father presents his eager, ecstatic son with a collar in front of a room full of equally eager and ecstatic bear cubs: “With this collar, Zootopia accepts me,” the papa bear announces, wistfully, as Morris repeats after him. There’s a tinge of sadness and hesitation as he goes to put it around Morris’ neck, and understandably so—Morris is soon given an electric shock after becoming too excited. The room gasps, and a startled Morris hugs his father tight.

The idea of animals in a kids’ movie suffering a form of ritualized corporeal punishment in order to gain acceptance by others is already pretty heavy—but it’s made even more disturbing when you consider it within the context of the film’s blatant racial allegory. The suggestion that the only way for the predators to coexist in the world of Zootopia is to “tame” them in adolescence would have brought in some icky, very colonial notions about race that such a film probably wouldn’t be able to engage with properly, to say the least. So let’s all be grateful that the top dogs at Disney made a wise decision to let this scene go.

And here’s another deleted scene, showing Jason Bateman’s male lead, a fox, having his taming collar temporarily removed by a doctor:

In other words, the predators were forced to stop preying on the prey pretty much the same way Alex is tamed in A Clockwork Orange. The idea of a huge budget talking animal knock off of the themes of A Clockwork Orange is pretty awesome.

But that explanation for why the world works the way it does was cut out of the movie because it wasn’t lame and PC enough. So in the final version of the movie, all the animals have just “evolved” to not prey on each other. Why? Just because. No cost is paid to evolve, there are no tradeoffs, no choices, nothing of interest.

To me, this lowers the stakes in the movie and makes the film quickly forgettable. Which is too bad because it has a lot going for it otherwise.

Here’s a documentary about how the creators were told by Disney suits and marketing researchers to drop the shock collars and make the movie about the evils of stereotypes:

Because audiences like Goodthink.

Angry Birds is set on a paradisiacal island where birds, lacking predators, have evolved to be flightless, much like the now extinct dodo bird of Mauritius and other birds on predator-free islands that have since been plagued, sometimes into extinction, by the arrival of human sailors, along with their pigs, dogs, and rats. Feral egg-eating pigs remain a major threat to rare birds on Hawaii.

The birds on their isolated island live in pleasant harmony with each other, caring for their eggs, taking yoga classes, and, sure enough, there’s the bird version of the Free Hugs guy from Times Square. (I told you that guy was famous.) Almost everybody is happy except for grumpy Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), who is an Angry Red Bird. He gets sentenced to anger management therapy.

Then a boatload of pigs arrive from an unknown island.

The naive birds, having never met pigs before, don’t listen to Red’s warning that something seems fishy about these friendly pigs.

SPOILER ALERT: The pigs steal all the birds’ eggs and take them back to their island for a feast. Red leads the now angry birds in an attack on Piggy Island, which requires the flightless birds to shoot themselves at the pig city using sling shots. The birds heroically retrieve their eggs and go back to their own island, and don’t live happily ever after with the pigs at all.

The movie is based on old fashioned 1990s Edward O. Wilson / Jared Diamond-style concern for biodiversity (here’s Diamond’s chapter in The Third Chimpanzee on the sad fate of the giant flightless birds of New Zealand after the Maori and their pigs arrived). But it seems topical today because of the Camp of the Saints floating hijrah in the Mediterranean.

It’s not bad, although it will appeal most to very small children.

 

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Oscars’ Diversity Dilemma: A Mathematical Solution to Parity in Voting

by Brian McLaughlin 1/29/2016 6:00am PST

Los Angeles Film School instructor Brian McLaughlin has a quick fix to mitigate the old white guy factor.

How to address the Academy’s diversity issue?

… So what to do? I would like to propose a mathematical solution, since I teach statistics at L.A. Film School.

He teaches what at the what?

There is a simple change that could be made so that Oscar voting would be weighted to correlate to the demographics of the moviegoing public.

Each year, the Motion Picture Association of America publishes the Theatrical Market Statistics report. In it, they slice and dice domestic and international movie attendance in every way imaginable. Using that report as a baseline, each voter’s ballot could be assigned an appropriate weight so that the total weighted votes would mirror the gender and racial breakdown of the domestic film audience.

… The same could be done with ethnicity, although the math in this example isn’t as simple. Minorities represent about 37 percent of moviegoers but only 7 percent of the Academy. So ballots of minority voters would need to be weighted about 7.8 times more heavily than those of white voters. Total white votes would have a weight of 5,580 (6,000 x 93 percent), and total minority votes would have a weight of 3,277 (6,000 x 7 percent x 7.8). Add the two together (5,580 + 3,277 = 8,857), and the weighted minority vote at the Academy becomes 37 percent, reflecting that of the audience.

This would be a multiplicative process, so votes by women of color would carry even more weight, 23.4 times those of white men.

What about people who think Furious 7 should win Best Picture? They should get ten times as many votes as people who liked Spotlight.

… I know that the basis for democracy is one man, one vote, but just as congressional districts have been gerrymandered, weighted balloting is a form of Hollywood redistricting.

Brian McLaughlin, a producer and actor, is an instructor at Los Angeles Film School.

These concepts of voting, counting the votes, giving the prize to the person who gets the most votes … they just seem outdated. It’s 2016! The producers should simply make up an inoffensive list of winners based on current social norms.

 
• Tags: Movies 

Screenshot 2016-02-05 02.54.01Hail, Caesar!, the Coen Brothers’ latest movie, is a cheerful comedy about a busy week in 1951 at the fictitious Hollywood studio, Capitol Pictures, where their Barton Fink took place in 1941.

That 1991 film told the story of Fink, a Clifford Odets-like Communist playwright (played by John Turturro) who becomes the toast of Manhattan’s cafe society during the New Deal for his leftist dramas about The People. But Fink then accepts a lucrative offer to write for Hollywood. There he discovers that writers have no power in the movie business (unlike the New York stage, where playwrights have the contractual right to fire directors), and gets assigned to write a Wallace Beery wrestling pic for all eternity.

Hail, Caesar! is set in Hollywood during the McCarthy Era a decade later.

We’ve seen this period portrayed a million times from the point of view of the subpoenaed screenwriters (e.g., Redford and Streisand in The Way We Were), but the Coen Brothers show us the Red Scare from the anti-Communist side’s point of view.

Ten years after Barton Fink, the screenwriters are still affluent Communists. A Malibu cell of Stalinist scribes has so far restricted itself to slipping pro-Soviet metaphors into detective stories and musicals, which have gone largely unnoticed by anybody (except by other leftist writers and the most paranoid rightists) watching the exuberantly pro-American studio output.

But now, the Malibu Marxism Study Group has moved on to direct action, kidnapping a Clark Gable-like star (George Clooney) from the set of a Bible picture (Hail, Caesar!) to hold him for ransom, while Herr Professor Herbert Marcuse of the Frankfurt School lectures him on the dialectic. Clooney’s character is dim enough and self-absorbed enough to like what he hears about Marxism. Fortunately, two anti-Communist patriots, a young cowboy star and the studio’s conservative Catholic fixer (Josh Brolin), team up to foil the Commies, although not before the Malibu Marxists gay leader makes a theatrical escape to Moscow.

This is the Coen’s Catholic flick to go along with their Jewish movie, A Serious Man, and their various Protestant sect movies, such as O Brother, Where Art Thou, No Country for Old Men, and True Grit.

Hail, Caesar! wasn’t rushed out in time for 2015 Oscar qualifying. Maybe it was delayed, or maybe the Coens realized it wasn’t quite up to Oscar quality. It doesn’t exhibit the extreme lucidity the Coens achieved in recent films, although it definitely doesn’t suffer either from the anhedonia of Inside Llewyn Davis.

But by the usual standards of February releases, it’s very good. It looks nice. The list of stars is impressive although borderline unwieldy in length: Clooney, Scarlett Johansson as a mermaid movie star in the mode of Esther Williams, Channing Tatum (Gene Kellyish — it’s fun to make unfair insinuations about Kelly because he was such an egomaniac), Josh Brolin as Eddie Mannix (a real life MGM studio official, whose job was to persuade the heavily Irish cops and the Catholic Church to not make public fusses over the various scandals the stars got themselves into), Ralph Fiennes as a sort of director George Cukor, Jonah Hill as a notary public who makes a living out of his unquestionable legal personhood, and Tilda Swinton as identical twins who are highly competitive gossip columnists.

The one newcomer, Alden Ehrenreich, steals the show as a laconic rodeo star trying to learn how to talk to rich people rather than horses.

After Frances McDormand gets done editing the cowboy kid’s seemingly flailing attempt at drawing room drama, it’s suddenly clear he’s going to be a big star in the James Dean – Elvis Presley mode that nobody in 1951 could yet anticipate.

Throughout Hail, Caesar!, the mood is sunny and there is always something happening.

On the other hand, the jokes aren’t quite as funny as the Coen Brothers at their best, nor does the plot appear to have quite the superb fit and finish of their top half dozen movies. The period details are fun, but lots of other filmmakers have affectionately parodied old time Hollywood.

Five movies within a movie are seen in Hail, Caesar! But the overtly disparate ingredients make the overarching movie more like sketch comedy, which many people can do pretty well. At peak form, the Coens, in contrast, can extract more from a single premise (What if James M. Cain wrote true crime stories for 1940s men’s magazines read in small town barbershops? What if our dope-smoking burnout buddy tried to solve a confusing Raymond Chandler detective case?) than just about anybody.

Granted, The Big Lebowski is stuffed with elements that didn’t strike viewers as having much connection when it came out in the theaters, but famously started to all make some kind of weird sense when viewed for the third time on cable at 3am. So, I may be premature in assuming that the movies-within-the-movies are just random in Hail, Caesar! Maybe 3 years from now we’ll all be talking about how everybody thought Hail, Caesar! was just a lightweight goof when it came out and nobody at the time grasped its transcendent whateverness.

Or maybe not.

All in all, Hail, Caesar! requires less mental effort on the part of audiences than did, say, A Serious Man, which has its advantages and disadvantages. Hail, Caesar! is the Coen Brothers movie for people who sort of like Coen Brothers movies.

 
• Tags: Coen Brothers, Movies 

With a 17th Coen Brothers movie on the way this week, I return to an old question: How have the two middle-aged men gone over 30 years without the kind of public spats that are common among showbiz brothers (e.g., in rock music: the Everlys, the Davies of the Kinks, the Fogertys of Creedence, the Gallaghers of Oasis, etc etc).

An interview in the Washington Post suggests one Coen strategy is to blur their individuality:

In conversation, as in their work, sibling filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen are known for a kind of uncanny symbiosis. Their sentences run together as effortlessly as they divide the writing, directing and producing duties they have shared over the course of 17 feature films, beginning with their 1984 thriller, “Blood Simple,” and culminating in their new satire of 1950s Hollywood, “Hail, Caesar!” So it seemed reasonable to ask, as they began a recent interview on a conference call from Los Angeles, that each brother identify himself before speaking.

“This is Joel talking,” a disembodied voice says with a sigh. “But we don’t care if you misinterpret. We really don’t. It’s not an issue. You can say whoever you want is saying it.”

“You can say you’re saying it,” chimes in Ethan, amid what sounds like cackling laughter. Back to Joel: “You can make stuff up if you want. We don’t care. It’s fine.”

My guess is that the blurriness of the Coen identities is an act. These guys are masters at insinuating images and assumptions into audience minds, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they consciously strategized a long time ago that they would get more work done if they de-emphasized in public their individuality and instead strove to give off the vague impression that they are identical twins (Joel is actually 3 years older than Ethan.) Over their 30+ years of doing interviews to promote their movies, they’ve managed to make the question of their differences seem extremely boring to the outside world. As with most things involving the Coen Brothers, that’s probably not an accident.

Since the Coens showed it could be done, there have been more brother acts who make movies together. So far, there haven’t been many sister acts writing or directing movies, although they are not unknown.

There have been over the years a number of married couple writing teams in the movies (and in songwriting). It seems like a pretty reasonable way to get started making a date movie, having both a male and female perspective. Casablanca, for example, started out as an unproduced play by a husband-wife team of writers. (It was later worked on by the Epstein identical twin brothers, who supposedly each came up with the single best line in Hollywood history — the reuse of “Round up the usual suspects!” — simultaneously. But then they would say that, wouldn’t they?)

There seem to be fewer husband-wife teams these days, although Jaffa and Silver, who wrote the fine 2011 reboot of Planet of the Apes, come to mind.

It’s hard, however, to think of brother-sister creative teams (no, the Wachowskis don’t count). There have been brother-sister performing teams in show biz, such as the Astaires, the Carpenters, and the Osmonds, but it’s hard to come up with any brother-sister creative teams in the mode of the Coens. Woody Allen has employed for the last two decades his younger sister as his chief movie producer, but that’s presumably more of a business than creative relationship.

Probably the best known sibling pair behind the cameras is Garry Marshall and his younger sister Penny Marshall. He created the TV hit Happy Days and spun off Laverne & Shirley, casting his sister Penny in it. He then moved into directing movies, including 1984′s Flamingo Kid and had his biggest hit with with 1990′s Pretty Woman with Julia Roberts. He encouraged his little sister to direct and she may have been the first in the family to make it to the $100 million box office level with Big with Tom Hanks in 1988. But as helpful as they were to each other’s highly successful individual careers, I think they did most of their work separately.

I’m not sure why there haven’t been many brother-sister creative duos. Is it because entertainment usually involves sex in some fashion, and brothers and sisters are averse to discussing it? Is it because brothers and sisters don’t hang around together all summer watching movies?

 
• Tags: Coen Brothers, Movies 

After an Oscar nominationless half century career of playing Mean Girls who don’t give a damn, 69-year-old Charlotte Rampling refuses to be White Guilted over her first-ever nomination. From the New York Times:

Charlotte Rampling Says Oscars ‘Boycott’ Is ‘Racist Against Whites’
The Carpetbagger
By RACHEL DONADIO JAN. 22, 2016
Photo

PARIS — Charlotte Rampling, an Academy Award nominee for best actress, on Friday waded into the furor over the lack of diversity in the Oscar acting categories, saying that the supposed calls to boycott the ceremony were “racist against whites.”

Speaking fluent French in an interview with France’s Europe 1 radio, the British actress said that one would “never really know” how the Academy makes its decisions, and that “sometimes maybe black actors didn’t deserve to make the shortlist.”

… Ms. Rampling — who is a member of the Academy and thus eligible to vote on Oscar awards — said she disagreed with quotas. “We live now in countries where anyway people are more or less accepted,” she said. “There are always problems: ‘He’s less handsome’ or ‘He’s too black’ or ‘He’s too white.’ There will always, always be someone who will say, ‘Oh, you’re too ….’ What are we going to do? We’re going to classify all that to create thousands of little minorities everywhere?”

Asked what she thought of the fact that so many minority performers still feel that they lack the recognition they deserve, Ms. Rampling gave a crisp “no comment.”

The backlash online was swift, with commenters like Cameron Bailey, the artistic director of the influential Toronto International Film Festival, and others also suggesting that Academy members may privately agree with her.

Until recently, it would have been considered a compliment to say that only Charlotte Rampling has the courage to say what other are thinking, but we’re well past all considerations of individual character.

… Q. This year the Oscars are beset by polemics: No black actor or actress in the selection for the second year in a row. Do you understand the anger of, for instance, Spike Lee, who called for a boycott of the ceremony?

A. No. I find that goes in the other direction: it’s racist against whites.

Q. Really?

A. Yes. We can never know if it’s really the case. Sometimes maybe black actors didn’t deserve to make the shortlist.

Q. He [Spike] explains that he wants to instate quotas for minorities in American cinema so that they can make it into the selection.

A. Why classify people? We live now in countries where anyway people are more or less accepted. There are always problems: ‘He’s less handsome’ or ‘He’s too black’ or ‘He’s too white.’ There will always, always be someone who will say, ‘Oh, you’re too…’ What are we going to do? We’re going to classify all that to create thousands of little minorities everywhere?

Q. The fact that they still feel like a minority, that doesn’t speak to you? They feel like a minority. They say, ‘We’re black actors and we still don’t really exist.’

A. No comment.

Ouch. There are few things more deflating of your public hissy fit than a crisp “No comment” from Charlotte Rampling.

In other news, the Academy vows to purge Stale Pale Males, but may unintentionally cut down on the number of female voters. From another story in the NYT:

Academy Board Endorses Changes to Increase Diversity in Oscar Nominees and Itself

By MICHAEL CIEPLY JAN. 22, 2016

LOS ANGELES — Confronting a fierce protest over a second straight year of all-white Oscar acting nominations, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Friday said it would make radical changes to its voting requirements, recruiting process and governing structure, with an aim toward increasing the diversity of its membership.

The changes were approved at an unusual special meeting of the group’s 51-member governing board Thursday night. The session ended with a unanimous vote to endorse the new processes, but action on possible changes to Oscar balloting was deferred for later consideration. The board said its goal was to double the number of female and minority members by 2020.

“The academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” the academy’s president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, said in a statement. Ms. Isaacs referred to an often-repeated complaint that the academy, in its lack of diversity, reflects the demographics of a film industry that for years has been primarily white and male.

The most striking of the changes is a requirement that the voting status of both new and current members be reviewed every 10 years.

Voting status may be revoked for those who have not been active in the film business in a decade. But members will have lifetime voting rights after three 10-year terms, as will those who have won or been nominated for an Academy Award.

It was not immediately clear how many members would be purged from the voting rolls by the new rule. But the step, which aims to replace older members with a younger, more diverse group, is certain to be met with criticism, and perhaps resistance, from some.

“I’m squarely in what I would call the mentorship phase of my life,” said Sam Weisman, who has been a member of the Academy’s directors’ branch since 1998, but has had no directing credit since “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star” in 2003.

(Here’s my review of Mr. Weisman’s “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star” with David Spade as Dickie Roberts, former child star.)

But will purging people who haven’t gotten a movie credit in ten years make the voters more female? I don’t know, but I would hardly be surprised if the unexpected consequence was the opposite: the average active movie career of actresses is shorter than the average movie career of actors, at least if they don’t have the bone structure of Charlotte Rampling. For example, my late Japanese-American neighbor Bill, who became an Academy member many decades ago in an early diversity drive, continued to get minor credits late into life because he had this imposing Japanese Tough Guy face that only got more striking as he got older.

 
• Tags: Movies 

It’s award season for the movies. Here, for example, are the Best Picture nominees from the Producers Guild of America, which tend to correlate decently with the eventual Oscar nominees, with links to my reviews:

“The Big Short”

“Bridge of Spies”

“Brooklyn”

“Ex Machina”

Mad Max: Fury Road

“The Martian”

“The Revenant”

“Sicario”

“Spotlight”

“Straight Outta Compton”

I was pleased that, in my desultory way, seeing about two movies per month, I managed to write about nine of the ten PGA nominees. I haven’t seen “The Revenant” yet and, admittedly, I’ve only written about “Spotlight” so far to draw an esoteric analogy in the immigration insurance proposal. But that’s a decent proportion of the movies worth seeing without too many of the other kind.

It was not a great year for great movies, but it was a pretty good year for pretty good movies. None of these nine knocked me out, but I liked all nine.

I was most excited going in about “Mad Max” based on its trailer. Indeed, the movie was just like the incredible trailer, but diminishing returns set in after it became apparent that there wasn’t much besides what was in the trailer.

Other contenders for a Best Picture Oscar nomination that I’ve written about include Pixar’s “Inside Out,” “Creed,” “Steve Jobs,” “Trainwreck” (a long shot), and the new “Star Wars” remake.

Contenders I haven’t seen include the new Tarantino film, “Carol,” “Room,” “Joy,” and “Woman in Gold.” I saw about five minutes of “Trumbo” dropping in at a theater, and while Bryan Cranston in a spiffy 1940s suit was cool, the film didn’t seem exceptionally well written or edited.

My favorite film of 2015 was “Love & Mercy,” the biopic of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. But, like “Steve Jobs,” it didn’t take off at the box office. In contrast, the NWA biopic “Straight Outta Compton” sold a lot of tickets (in the U.S., not overseas), and it would look racist if in the competition between the two Socal musical biopics if the old white people of the Academy voted for the Beach Boys over NWA just because the Beach Boys are better, both musically and movie-wise. And, anyway, the rap biopic isn’t bad.

So I doubt “Love & Mercy” will get much Oscar attention other than perhaps the superlative Paul Dano as Young Brian (they’re running Dano in the Best Supporting Actor category), but beating Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in “Creed” is going to be tough.

Furious 7” and “Jurassic World” won’t get non-technical nominations, but they subsidize the smaller pictures that do.

Hollywood (defined very broadly as the Anglosphere movie industry) enjoyed an okay 2015 at the American box office and a highly prosperous 2015 overseas.

UPDATE: Sorry, my next paragraph appears to be incorrect because I was taking on faith the Box Office Mojo list of movies, but my commenters point out that there are Chinese movies that made enough in China alone to make the global top 40. Perhaps the problem is that the Box Office Mojo list only counts movies that have been released in the U.S.?

The English language movie industry is incredibly dominant around the world: the top 40 global box office hits of 2015 were all English language productions, with a Chinese film “Wolf Totem,” finally in 41st place. When you read complaints about how Hollywood movies are so bad because of white male privilege keeping out the diverse, note that there are plenty of fifteen year olds in Guangdong who like Hollywood movies just the way they are.

It’s not exactly clear to me why the English language movie industry remains so dominant, since there is plenty of talent all over the world and plenty of local advertising and television work to get experience in — e.g., television commercials in a country like Turkey are about 98% as spectacular as they are in America. A dozen years ago I would have said that Chinese language films would become a serious rival for English language films by 2015, but that trend died off.

UpUpdate: There are suspicions that the highest grossing Chinese box office film Monster Hunt may have had its reported take juiced by various methods for papering the house. What’s the fun of not putting a thumb on the scale? Forget about it, Jake, it’s China.

 
• Tags: Movies 

Brooklyn is a pretty good although strikingly sedate movie that might snag one of the many Best Picture Oscar nominations, but won’t win.

It’s a fairly realistic story of a pretty but not exceptionally beautiful Irish girl (Saoirse Ronan) in 1951 whose sister arranges for her to immigrate to Brooklyn, where a kind Irish priest (Jim Broadbent at his most avuncular) gets her a job in a fancy department store and a place to stay at a witty Irish lady’s boarding house. There, more Americanized Irish girls take her under their wing and teach her how to put on makeup and the like.

The Irish in Ireland are portrayed as being snippy toward each other, but the Irish in New York in this movie are always looking out for each other.

At a parish dance, she meets a handsome Italian-American boy with honorable intentions. But then she has to go back to Ireland for family business. With her year in Brooklyn, she’s more glamorous than before, and her best friend sets her up with the most eligible bachelor in Enniscorthy (Domnhall Gleeson [Ex Machina and the fascist general in the latest Star Wars], the son of the great Brendan Gleeson). His intentions are honorable too.

Which equally handsome lovelorn swain will she choose: the working class but ambitious American or the upper middle class but less ambitious Irishman? There’s a plot twist I didn’t tell you about, but, basically, Brooklyn is like a classy Masterpiece Theater version of the basic plot of tween sensations Twilight and Hunger Games: which cute boy will the heroine choose?

The heroine doesn’t beat up any bad guys. In fact, the only bad guy in the movie is a nasty lady in Enniscorthy who is a mean gossip. A surprisingly realistic aspect of Brooklyn is that it portrays the world as being quite nice to nice-looking middle-class 19 year old girls with good manners.

But that means Brooklyn is sorely lacking in light-saber duels.

The screenplay adaptation is by Nick Hornby, a popular novelist and memoirist: High Fidelity, About a Boy, Fever Pitch, books that in the 1990s helped open up the topic of music and sports fandom as a literary subject. (Hornby is the brother-in-law of thriller novelist Robert Harris: Ghostwriter, Fatherland, which was a saner working out of the rich Nazis-won-the-war alternate universe idea than Philip K. Dick’s Man in the High Castle.)

There’s not much market lately for novels for guys, especially for a novelist whose strong suit is relationships and feelings and probably doesn’t want to compete with his sister’s husband, a prodigious researcher, at writing genres that still appeal to male readers like spy stories and historical politics. So Hornby has recently been remaking himself into the the straight guy who writes novels and movies about female main characters: An Education with Carey Mulligan, Wild with Reese Witherspoon backpacking, and the pleasant novel Funny Girl about an English TV comedienne. Or at least that’s my guess about Hornby’s career strategy.

I like his recent stuff about heroines, but my wife is indifferent to it, so perhaps he hasn’t yet overcome his fundamental guyness.

 
• Tags: Movies 

I finally saw the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie, which is much like the old Star Wars movie of 1977. My hunch is that it was aimed in part to rope in the giant Chinese audience, which was too busy slopping the pigs down on the collective farm to get into Star Wars mania back in 1977-1983, and was unimpressed by the 1999-2005 prequels. So when the new movie opens in China in a week, a lot of Chinese people are going to experience an intentionally vintagey film in the hopes of showing them what all the excitement was about.

As with Harry Potter and many other recent blockbusters, the central theme remains Heredity Uber Alles. My impression was that George Lucas didn’t originally intend for Star Wars to be so inbred in plotting, but audience responses drew him toward making everybody related to somebody else.

The obsession with breeding adds interest to the casting decisions, although Adam Driver would make a better Professor Severus Snape Jr.

One of these days I’m going to have to write up an explanation for why heredity became such a magnetic force in popular culture in the 1970s, just as heredity was being driven out of serious intellectual culture.

I don’t think the opposing trends are wholly coincidental.

But I’ll have to come up with an explanation first, so don’t hold your breath.

Update:

I have the standard Los Angeles view that editing is crucial to a movie (e.g., the Best Editing Oscar is usually a pretty good tell as to what is going to win the Best Picture Oscar an hour later) without actually understanding editing.

My teenage opinion was that the original Star Wars was sensationally well edited. Mrs. Lucas was one of the editrix who won an Oscar for Editing even though the Best Picture went to Annie Hall. (The 1977 Oscars are an interesting example of the two poles of editing, with Stars Wars superb at shot by shot micro-editing, while Annie Hall was purportedly made by editor Ralph Rosenblum’s macro-editing success in talking Woody Allen into dropping about an hour of the movie that involved a murder mystery, later reshot as Manhattan Murder Mystery, and making the film into a romantic comedy.)

I’ve always suspected that the breakup of the Lucas marriage might have contributed to Lucas’s downfall as a director (note that he had previously directed the immensely successful American Graffiti, so he wasn’t a one-hit wonder). In contrast, Martin Scorsese has had the good luck and good sense to have kept Thelma Schoonmaker as his editor for the last four decades. Granted, us outsiders can’t unravel who contributed what to the Scorsese-Schoonmaker films (she rarely works for anyone else) …

All that serves as an introduction to my impression that the new Star Wars movie isn’t as well-edited as the original. But then how many movies are?

Also, the original Star Wars benefited from a huge step forward in movie and theater sound, which had finally started to improve after having been standardized by the Academy in 1938. The Dolby Corporation’s website signposts the 1977 film as a landmark in better quality sound, although that may be exaggerated in the sense that that’s when the media noticed improvements that had been going on since, say, Ken Russell’s Lisztomania in 1975.

The combination of John Williams’ overture and the bass rumble of the battle cruiser in the opening moments of the movie pretty much earned suspension of disbelief: sure, there’s no sound in outer space, but, if there were, it would sound like this.

The 1970s upgrading of movie sound, both in recording and playback, had a lot to do with the now-famous shift of audiences to young males. Back in 1940, my 20-year-old mother and her best friend went to the movies several evenings per week. My mother like dialogue rather than explosions and that was the audience Hollywood catered to until the 1970s blockbusters.

Back in 2002, Michael Blowhard wrote on 2Blowhards:

About ten years ago I spent time talking with some movie sound editors and technicians. The issue of the day was the new audio systems that were being installed in movie theaters.

One of the interesting bits of not-in-the-textbooks knowledge the sound guys (all guys, no women) passed along was that people have strong volume-level preferences, and that these preferences change predictably with age.

For most young people, loud noises are enjoyable, even exciting — young males are even more prone than young females to be excited by loud noise. It’s sometime around the age of 30 that people start losing the taste for loudness. By the time they’re in their 40s and 50s, most will actively dislike loud noise, finding it annoying or even painful.

The sound guys were thrilled by their new toys, which offered possibilities for wonderful sonic detail and atmosphere. Yet what they were mostly being ordered to do was pump up the volume: to deliver shake-the-floor thunderclaps, rib-rattling explosions, thumpa-thumpa scores.

The sound guys weren’t surprised by the result — which was that movie attendance was skewing ever-more-pronouncedly towards the young. Older people simply don’t want to be knocked around by sound in that way.

But starting about with Jaws in 1975 (with its famous Rite of Spring-like score), young males started to find going to the movies more exciting than any other demographic quadrant. I suspect this was due in part to a new generation of filmmakers attempting to deliver some of the thrills of rock concerts in the movie theater.

 
• Tags: Movies 

From my movie review in Taki’s Magazine:

The Bubble, Hollywood-Style
by Steve Sailer

December 16, 2015

The Big Short, a comedy starring Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt as finance-industry renegades betting against the Housing Bubble in 2005–08, is another in the rather improbable new genre of nonfiction feature films that display the business world with more complexity than Hollywood dared before this decade. Based on the 2010 best-seller by Michael Lewis, the king of Frequent Flyer books (e.g., Moneyball and The Blind Side), The Big Short pushes the envelope of just how many acronyms for abstract financial instruments (such as MBS and CDO) a popcorn-eating audience can digest.

Read the whole thing there.

 
• Tags: Mortgage, Movies, Real Estate 

There seems to be some kind of quiet rumor going around that there’s going to be a new Star Wars movie. (Don’t quote me on it, but that’s what I’m hearing.) So I got interested in the perennial kvetching point about why so few movies with budgets over $100 million are directed by women.

For example, Maureen Dowd complained at length in the New York Times:

The Women of Hollywood Speak Out
Female executives and filmmakers are ready to run studios and direct blockbuster pictures. What will it take to dismantle the pervasive sexism that keeps them from doing it?
By MAUREEN DOWD NOV. 20, 2015

Colin Trevorrow’s Hollywood fairy tale started at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012. The bespectacled, bearded director, then 35, came to Park City, Utah, with an endearingly quirky time-travel romantic comedy executive-produced by the endearingly quirky Duplass brothers, Mark and Jay, and starring Mark. The $750,000 indie film, ‘‘Safety Not Guaranteed,’’ went on to make $4 million in theaters.

The young director soon found a mentor in Brad Bird, who became famous at Pixar directing ‘‘The Incredibles’’ and ‘‘Ratatouille.’’ Trevorrow started hanging out with Bird on the set of his big-budget George Clooney movie, ‘‘Tomorrowland.’’ Bird called his pal Frank Marshall, a producer of ‘‘Jurassic World,’’ to give him a heads up.

‘‘There is this guy,’’ Bird said, ‘‘that reminds me of me.’’

Marshall was so impressed with Trevorrow that he took him to meet Steven Spielberg. That’s where Trevorrow hit the jackpot: He was tapped to direct and co-write the $150 million ‘‘Jurassic World.’’ The movie went on to make $1.6 billion, and Trevorrow was signed to direct the ninth ‘‘Star Wars.’’ …

In August, Trevorrow drew ire by suggesting that the dearth of female directors making films involving ‘‘superheroes or spaceships or dinosaurs’’ was because not many women had the desire to direct studio blockbusters. He had already drawn a backlash for portraying Bryce Dallas Howard’s character as a cold career woman running away from dinosaurs in high heels. ‘‘Would I have been chosen to direct ‘Jurassic World’ if I was a female filmmaker who had made one small film?’’ Trevorrow mused in an email to Slashfilm.com. ‘‘I have no idea.’’

As I pointed out last summer responding to a very similar article in the NYT, starting off an article about Hollywood sexism by complaining about Trevorrow getting the Jurassic World gig seems a little self-defeating since his movie made about $800,000,000 more than the expectations for it.

Anyway, even though female directors have not taken off in Hollywood — the only two to get nominated for Best Director in this century are Kathryn Bigelow (who won for The Hurt Locker — ex-wife of James Cameron) and Sofia Coppola (nominated for Lost in Translation — daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, cousin of Nicholas Cage, ex-wife of Spike Jonze, and I’m sure I’m missing some other connections) — there have been lots of female production executives now for several decades.

For example, a name I’ve seen in credits a million times is Frank Marshall’s wife Kathleen Kennedy — she has 93 production credits, including 8 Best Picture nominations, from E.T. in 1982 through Lincoln in 2013. She’s now president of Disney’s subsidiary Lucasfilm, which is bringing out the new Star Wars film.

I got to wondering about Kennedy’s background. What kind of pull did she have to get launched on such a productive career? It turns out: not much. A nice family (father a judge). But it’s long way from Redding to the Oscar ceremony via local TV in Anchormanville.

Kennedy was born in Berkeley, California, the daughter of Dione Marie “Dede” (née Dousseau), a one-time theater actress, and Donald R. Kennedy, a judge and attorney.[6] Kennedy has two sisters, one of whom is a location manager. Kennedy graduated from Shasta High School in Redding, California, in 1971. She continued her education at San Diego State University where she majored in telecommunications and film. In her final year, Kennedy got a job at a local San Diego TV station, KCST, taking on various roles including camera operator, video editor, floor director and finally KCST news production coordinator.

After her employment with KCST, she then went on to produce a local talk show, entitled You’re On, for the station for four years before moving to Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, Kennedy secured her first film production job working as an assistant to John Milius, who at the time was executive producer of Spielberg’s 1941.

So there’s her secret: John Milius liked her.

In fact, I’m starting to think that a secret history of big money Hollywood over the last 45 years could be entitled: The Friends of John Milius: Coppola, Lucas, Spielberg, and the Rest.

Milius, a rightwing gun nut who got Spielberg hooked on shotgun shooting, has himself only been moderately successful: he directed Red Dawn, Conan the Barbarian, and The Wind and the Lion and wrote Coppola’s Apocalypse Now plus Dirty Harry’s 44 Magnum speech and Jaws’ USS Indianapolis speech. That’s an impressive track record; on the other hand, he was already a legend 40 years ago.

Milius’ friends from the 1970s, however, including his one time assistant Kathleen Kennedy, have very done well for themselves.

So maybe that offers some insight into the much discussed topic of women and power in Hollywood: you need to be able to get along with guys like John Milius.

 
• Tags: Movies 

I went to the $3 theater and saw Sicario, an ambitious thriller about the FBI, CIA, and Delta Force battling a Mexican drug cartel on the border. Unlike Spectre, this film was presumably not subsidized by the Mexican government’s tourist agency. The scenes set in Mexico will make you want to vacation instead in, say, Denali National Park.

Sicario is clearly modeled upon the Peak Coen Brothers art-pulp classic No Country for Old Men. The Coens don’t do sequels, so I guess it’s okay for French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve to make a movie that’s very much in the mode of No Country.

Roger Deakins did the cinematography for both movies. Josh Brolin is back from No Country, this time playing a cheerful CIA man. Benicio del Toro (who won an Oscar playing a Mexican policeman in Traffic in 2000) substitutes for Javier Bardem in the Anton Chigurh role of unstoppable killing machine. Bardem and del Toro are two of my favorite movie stars, and del Toro does okay with the concept of a semi-humanized Anton Chigurh, a Terminator with some remnants of a conscience.

Emily Blunt is cast as an FBI agent/waif who slowly figures out that she really doesn’t belong in a workplace full of ruthless men with large guns.

Sicario is maybe 80% as good as No Country, which isn’t bad. The plot even makes more sense than Cormac McCarthy’s novel No Country, which is pitched at kind of a scary campfire story level of realism. On the other hand, Sicario doesn’t have the kind of mythic grandeur of No Country. It’s more like Stephen Soderbergh’s 2000 ensemble Mexican drug cartel movie Traffic, an intelligent, well-made film that, for better or worse, doesn’t haunt your nightmares like No Country.

 
• Tags: Movies 
Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, VDARE.com columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.


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