I wanted to report about this, but my sources are slow, or no coming. It’s bizarre that specific peoples cannot help but understand the prospect of the Corboda mosque being built near Ground Zero as a provocation.
Islam’s devotion to peace, love, and family – traditional American values – is very common knowledge. We “know” that Islam is a faith devoted to peace, and that only a few Muslims have been terrorists, and then Islam mustn’t be the foe. The same rancor would have to erupt over whether a church or a synagogue was to be erected near Ground Zero, right? It’s about terrorism, not faith. Right?
The uproar and seemingly rampant ignorance is shocking, and it isn’t. We each choose those “facts” that we want to believe, no matter if they hold a base in reality. A phallanx of people, willfully confused and barely informed, still wants to believe extremely conservative propaganda – that Islam contradicts peace.
But there’s also a confounding gray area: We each also cling to biases that we hold dear. Our mamas and daddies taught us life lessons, which may no longer serve us.
My former rhetoric professor mentioned that, with the protracted construction process that New York City, or any metropolis, has Corboda mosque’s process was probably begun before the towers were struck.
Why is that that bogeyman image attracts us with such ease and comfort us, like Häagen Daaz, or any kind, ice cream on a blistering hot day?
In stressful eras, (like a grievous recession) these images, common foes, and fears unite us. Rhetorically speaking, people need an enemy to concentrate on. Is it as simple as the conviction that “those” people, who look so different from us, who can’t possibly live as we do, can’t embrace the same “traditional values” that we do?
Many of us “say” that we want to live as a united people. It’s morose how easy and often it happens that people are willfully ignorant, or cling to now wilted convictions, and want to emphasize division over a promise, at least, of unity.
One crisis of the Sherrod story: when journalists scramble to publish, vital facts, context can be ignored
United State Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod’s inspiring words, spoken at a recent event, and about a 20-year-old lesson in humility and equitability, were taken out of context. The 7-second excerpt vilified her. Or rather those pundits and journalists who leaped on the incendiary story did that.
In doing this, that rush to judge and punish Mr. Sherrod tainted the department’s reputation and the Obama administration’s – for a “moment.” The Today Show’s Matt Lauer hyped this segment, emphasizing how wrong it is to jump to conclusions without being well informed.
A different angle of story, and the hypocrisy, is that this is common. The conduct is so common that it’s banal. Viewers see these embarassments so often that they must decide when it’s worthwhile to complain. That doesn’t make it acceptable.
A separate point makes this worse. “Race,” bias, and bigotry worked as rhetorical and political kindling for conservative pundits to indulge the prospect of reversed bias, while an honorable professional was forced to eject and deject herself from her position.
The CBS’ Evening News invited Jeff Greenfield to remind or admonish viewers and journalists to watch it; to get the story, but “get it right.” His points were candid, well informed, and worth a concentrated listen.
Why would the pundits across the network and cable channels make this rush to judgement the crux of their segments? This effectively punished Ms. Sherrod. It would be more valuable to ask how many of those who leaped on the story had watched the entire video, and then ask how that would change their segment’s agenda.
These questions are in the same family of this one: “should Sunday panel show pundits’ sound bites be fact-checked; and then should those pundits be confronted, and pressed to explain when they’ve erred?” Certainly they should.
A difficult question is why the U.S. media chose to broach this self criticism in the wake of the Sherrod affair. Her story was worthy of it, but many prior and more high-profile stories were too.
Bastille Day celebrates fraternity, among other values, but only some… paler… citizens feel that love, even in the 21st-Century. Bias remains a pillar of French culture, at least through American eyes. The suburban immigrant uprisings in 2005 told or reminded us of that.
As we look at this anniversary of the French revolution let’s pose a difficult, sensitive question: what about the brown, black, or beige French people? Let’s consider a recent French film that has shoved this topic, and the more awkward questions of black face in our faces.
Let’s consider that the filmmaker, Safy Nebbou, cast the title character of a French film, about a multiethnic French literary icon, Alexandre Dumas, with white French acting icon Gerard Depardieu.
That makes you raise your eye brows and ask, “hunh?!” Mr. Dumas wrote “The Count of Monte Cristo,” and “The Three Musketeers,” and other seminal literary works. His grandfather was black.
This film The Other Dumas, entered theaters five months ago, in February. The film which is « L’Autre Dumas » in French, considers Dumas’ principal collaborator, Auguste Maquet. It’s not a conventional biographic film. It raises questions about whether we should see Dumas and Maquet as an iconic literary duo instead of leaving Mr. Dumas’ legacy to hold the lot of it.
- Gerard Depardieu as Alexandre Dumas, an ethnically mixed, French literary icon
Both French and North American peoples consider and respond to questions about diversity in very different, even disparate, ways: in the U.S., we track a near myriad of statistics in regards to color, and rarely and barely have conversations that lead us to shrink the stark social boundaries that divide us. The French handle it very differently. Their government keeps no official statistical records about ethnic or “racial” groups. They are convinced that that defies the objective of liberté, égalité, and fraternité, their ideal, without regard to your color. Most Americans probably find this bizarre, awkward, and even ghastly.
This will tell you a lot about the respective characters and outlooks of France’s and North America’s cultures; France trusts (and expects) citizens to know right and act right. The United States has little such trust or expectation.
La Fête de la Fédération (Bastille Day) is an instructive hour to pose awkward questions about the realities of that haven, which many non-French people expect to find in France.
- A likeness of Mr. Dumas himself
Mr. Depardieu, who has no African ancestry, and didn’t wear burnt cork, the black face material, but reportedly he did “blacken up.”
One English writer’s conservative point of view proposes a rational approach instead of an emotional one. In writing for the “London Telegraph,” Patrick West, a free-lance writer he said, “Sometimes ‘blacking up’ can have no racist intent, even if people are determined to detect it.” In “Why ‘blacking up’ white actors isn’t necessarily racist,” he elaborated that, as long as the “portrayals didn’t aim to perpetuate ethnic stereotypes,” we should not take offense.
Marcia Dawkins, a media scholar with California State University – Fullerton, has been considering the Dumas question also. She has been writing about a recent trend in film casting: passing for mixed. In response to Mr. West’s stance, Prof. Dawkins said, by-phone, that Mr. West isn’t completely off, “but it ignores the complex history… We need to be more sensitive to how” these subtle and very sensitive questions are dealt with.
When people see that Depardieu used a contemporary version of black face, rancor easily follows. The word mistrel pops to mind. Prof. Dawkins understood this easily: “I definitely think it is to some degree. It’s not the same as minstrelsy. It’s like a first or second cousin of it.” Just because you can take a cool, rational approach to this, “…that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s cool..,” Dawkins said
As the Univ Texas-Austin looks at renaming a building, questions of history, bigotry, and forgiveness come.
As we use history to frame how we see ourselves, we can also use it to frame how we understand progress. The University of Texas at Austin faces a compelling and easily sensitive question: does it change the name of one of its dormitories because it memorializes a former Klansman?
The university’s leaders only recently learned about the late Professor William S. Simkins’ biases. The question, and particularly our approach to it, reveals a lot about not only the institution’s character and interest in a peaceful future, but those of the state, and of our country.
A key question persists:
- At what point does someone’s past, however vile or evil as many other people may see it, stop tainting their present day?
William S. Simkins was a devotee of the Ku Klux Klan before he taught at the university. He reportedly referred to his membership and to his own bigotry in speeches while he was a professor. How necessary is it to remember someone at their worst when their present day conduct, or simply a faded public memory, might grant mercy or lean toward less toxic memories?
As News 8 Austin reports, understandably many people are concerned about the message, which Mr, Simkins’ legacy sends about the university, and even the wider community.
In looking at Mr. Simkins’ case, some reporters have compared him to the late Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who also subscribed to the Klan’s ideology in his youth. But as Sen. Byrd grew, his attitude and openness to other peoples and their differences did too.
The University of Texas at Austin faces the question of renaming a dormitory, not pushing through legislation that might allow some peoples’ access or power to something that had been denied. The scope of the consequences is minor. The question is not.
For other situations, when may we decide that someone’s actions or attitudes, in the present, overshadow their offensive?
A few words to remember:
- Focus on that, which unites us, rather than those ideas, which divide.
For some bizarre reason, we, in the United States, but also across the world, focus on the negative by reflex.
After having written many different pieces of film criticism and analysis, some advisers have suggested that I start a web journal specifically for that writing. This’ll be a space away from topics where I write about national political topics that involve color and bias.
As I continue to write about film, it’ll be at WrightAboutFilm.
How vital is Pres. Obama to moving us beyond bias when Southern juries still shed Blacks?
So the New York Times reports on a phenomenon that probably shocks many, saddens and disappoints some, and doesn’t really phase others.
What shocks me is not the segregated jury pool. I find that morose and vile, but not a shock. What shocks me (although it shouldn’t) is the extent to which the public is shocked. But for the public to not be shocked, they would need a longer or deeper memory for and sustained personal interest in social justice.
As usual, it probably comes down to a meager portion of America that feels these things come home to them. The splintered, non-stop news, information, and entertainment cycle doesn’t help.
Ours is a society of bizarre and laughable contradictions: founded in freedom acknowledged (for some), and provided only to some, where largely “great” men owned their fellow men, and their great, great grandchildren elected a brilliant, but brown man with a funny name, Barack Obama, to lead their country and the free world.
Surely people used to say, at home, in the barber shops, and elsewhere, that “once there’s a Black president…” Everything would improve. Dramatically. And traumatically for many.
This is another example of what U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder called a “cowardly” country when it comes to conversations and questions on color and bigotry.
“Winter’s Bone” is the refreshing story of a tough 17-year-old broad in the Ozarks, Ree Dolly, played by Jennifer Lawrence. I could describe her in more polite or delicate language, but I doubt that she would. Her story amounts to an odyssey as she locks horns with her rural, often criminal neighbors and family. Her dad, Jessup, put their house up as collateral for his bond when he was put in jail on drug charges for making meth. With his court date imminent and himself missing, Ree, hearty and hardened beyond her years, is saddled with fixing this.
Her mom can’t; she’s ill, seems catatonic. Her brother and sister are too young. In pleading for her neighbors’ cooperation, even empathy, she says, “they’re too young to even feed themselves yet.” You might call this film is a petty detective story is worth your time is because of Ree’s fight against the dire consequences for the family. This young broad’s story exemplifies a relentless love and commitment to her family, her siblings.
“Winter’s Bone” had its premiere, at least its Minnesotan one, on June 2nd at the Walker Art Center, where director Debra Granik introduced it and answered questions afterward.
Ree has to track down and deliver her father, even if it’s just evidence of his death, in order to keep her home. She doesn’t want to step on anyone’s toes, but those are the least of her concerns. She must feel like Harry Truman, a 20-century Missourian. After President Roosevelt died he said, “I felt like the moon, the stars and all the planets had fallen on me.” So, she’s willing to be denied, lied to, yelled at, bullied, and gang-beaten. She won’t take “no.” As long as her brother, sister, and mother are at-risk.
Location and culture as character:
Neither Ree, nor her family of sometime foes, are the only memorable characters. South Missouri and its poor, and often criminal subculture, are characters as much as “Winter’s Bone’s” characters are. The traditions dictate how people live their lives and treat one another.
In the introductory scenes, Granik, uses the sparse, poor kitchen where Ree prepares the breakfast to illustrate their poverty. The local morning radio show plays in the background. It plainly announces the community’s goings-on. This illustrates the work-a-day attitude of the area where the criminals and innocents alike make their ways. Soon enough we see the trailers and the shanty-like structures that the residents claim.
This ambiance reminds me of rural Nebraska, where a 1990s independent film,”Boys Don’t Cry,” takes place. So few TV or film stories, or at least good ones, about poor, rural peoples’ lives have been done; it’s very hard to spotlight useful comparisons. That’s why this film is refreshing and thankfully it’s potent story and well-developed characters make it stand out.
During the Walker Art Center’s Q&A, Ms. Granik said that “there are enough ‘ands’” that none of the details or characters should come off as stereotypes or digs at Hillbilly’s. By “ands” she describes social and moral contradictions; those people who are both tender and brutal, or aloof or cooperative, depending on the circumstance, or just how far down the wrong road their passions or uninterest have careened.
“Winter’s Bone” is memorable, maybe indelible. But there’s a caveat: The most memorable scenes are also the hardest to take. This is a world where the women’s strength must never rival a man’s. Her neighbors and family would just as soon punish her, in a way straight out of a Yakuza movie, if she won’t take their gruff, plain-spoken, yet subtle hints to back off. This is a world where contemporary gender equality is a foreign concept.
Ms. Granik describes the story and source of “Winter’s Bone” on the Sundance Film Festival’s “Meet the Artist.”
Early on, when Ree presses her uncle, Teardrop, to stop being cryptic, but be straight with her, he grabs her up by her throat, as he might to discipline a hound, to deliver his insistent point. Basically: “Shut up and suck it up!” He sets the community’s tone and attitude toward her straights. Finally after an elder’s convinced that she’s pushed too far, his wife – who had already abundantly established that neither of them is to be troubled – leads a small gang of women to beat Teardrop’s point home to her – barbarically. It’s bloody.
And Ree pushes on. Warily.
The film only flaw is a dream montage that stands out so much from the whole story’s style that it distracts you. It’s very brief. But I don’t know why it was there either.
It comes out in wide release on June 26.
- We have a strong, perseverant female lead character
- It’s a refreshing, but simple, even innovative, detective story
- The narrative and characters are thoroughly developed, as adapted from the novel
- We are introduced to, or reminded of, a very different way of life, in South Missouri
Recently, “The New York Times” ran a story, “Teaching Work Values to Children of Wealth,” that asked how well middle-class and richer families train their children to deal with and appreciate money. Really, the power of $1.
That reminded me of an excellent, incisive documentary: 2003′s “Born Rich.” It illuminates a world that very few people know: Those who have no common worries about money.
Jamie Johnson, heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune and dynasty, made the film. It highlights several of his young peers’ experiences. They, like him, are heirs to North America’s ruling and aristocratic families. Some of these 20-something’s attitudes and humbleness might surprise you – or not.
So, let’s think about what “Born Rich” says about the extent to which young people are taught to understand how much a $1 is worth to them. It is an ages-old ideal: knowing keenly how many hours of one’s work translate to a new car, smart phone, or “Burn Notice” DVD set. What about the crevasse between the children of vast majority of Americans who must work in order to have food, shelter, and clothing and those from the meager minority of old money who have created or accumulated most of America’s wealth: how disparate are their attitudes about money?
“Born Rich” opens with Jamie’s unsure reflections and questions about what his world means to his peers and himself. He just doesn’t know. He feels awkward about his inheritance and its meaning beyond him. That’s one of the key, if subtle messages: money does not (necessarily) make you. You can be normal. This sets the tone for the the documentary’s prime question: normalcy (what ever that even is). It also makes sure that the humbler and more introspective voices, Josiah Hornblower’s and Si Newhouse’s, seem sincere.
The full film is below:
In “Born Rich,” among the 10 people chronicled, the most vocal or candid are Si Newhouse, IV [Condé Nast Publications], Ivanka M. Trump [The Trump Organization], Josiah Hornblower [the Whitney and Vanderbilt dynasties], Georgina Bloomberg [her dad, Michael Bloomberg, runs New York City], and James “Jamie” W. Johnson [Johnson & Johnson] himself, came off as independent and the best-adjusted. Some of their peers, Stephanie Ercklentz ["finance hierace] and Luke Weil [Autotote at the time, now Scientific Games] are less so.
Many of them seem like normal young people who are striving and, at times, struggling to find and define themselves. At their core those individuals are regular folks. Instead, maybe it does stand out that none of them discuss career stressors. If you’re neither brown, nor brown, nor beige, maybe it takes you a long while to notice that neither of these young people is. There is a glaring clash between these different people’s ideas and ideals of Richness vs. Wealth.
Among the young people whom Mr. Johnson talks to, Ms. Ercklentz and Mr. Weil come off as close to “the” stereotype of wealth as anyone who makes the nasty headlines for behaving poorly while rich. But still, neither is crude, nor dumb, even if they might satisfy part of a mass desire to find a villain in someone who was born rich. Early in the film Weil says, “The notion of talking about ones wealth; of describing a bunch of people’s wealth – it’s just kinda tacky!”
As a hilarious side note Chris Rock reminds us of the two different realities of Richness and Wealth; the disparity and easy confusion. That, “Shaquille O’Neil is rich. The white man who signs his checks is wealthy.” Below.
While “Born Rich” is tight, smart, and well-paced and executed, maybe it could have been longer. This might also be a criticism born of it having given just enough to make a viewer hunger for more. More details. More background. Maybe more dirt, if you like that.
Notable omission: Robert L. Johnson’s children, Paige and Brett. He is the first black billionaire. But he was declared a billionaire in 2001, only two years before “Born Rich” was released. And wealth trusts old money most easily.
It is vital to teach young people who just or barely yet understand what $1 or $10 or $100 can do for them, or someone for whom it’s what separates them from a meal, from shelter, or from hope. Back to “Teaching Work Values to Children of Wealth.” When you decide to ask yourself whether “that,” whatever it is, is truly worth the four, five or more hours of labor that you put in, your mental math probably changes. Maybe dramatically. That clash of ideas or of realities is one reason why watching Jamie Johnson’s documentary is edifying, or at least interesting.
Money. Happiness. Success
Money = Happiness = Success
Which of these is which? Which is right for you?
Toward the film’s end, Ivanka Trump mentions that a man had approached her and asked point-blank, “‘what is it like to be wealthy: what does it feel like to never have felt any pain.’”
Ms. Trump’s reaction was angry and frustrated, but reasonable. “So ignorant,…people who think that, with money comes happiness,” she said. The financial, lifestyle lessons that the “Times” piece discusses are about acquiring a level-enough head to deal with the truth that “life is difficult,” as “The Road Less Traveled” begins, no matter which money obstacle you have.
Now, yes, “Born Rich” is “old,” if that’s what seven years means. But maybe that’s irrelevant; very few Americans pay attention to documentaries; non-fiction films seem to be cast down to public television. It’s a fascinating, relatively candid look at real people who reside in a bizarre world. So, if you’ve not yet seen it, then it’s new to you. In that way, it’s a “new” release.
When you think of the Chinese, a few images probably pop to mind: the food, Kung Fu, China Town. Exotic. Far East. “Oriental.” Most Americans are familiar with these. But these do not necessarily have much to do with being Chinese or Chinese-American. And what about the Chinese in movies? PBS presents a film, Hollywood Chinese as a part of its American Masters series. While it premiered last May, I imagine that it pinged off of very few people’s radars.
The film shows us just how much we’ve been missing in the mainstream films and majority culture. Hollywood Chinese provides a view of the culture well beyond the martial arts, Tong gang wars, opium trade, or passive, pliant women.
This fascinating documentary introduces us to, or reminds us of, elementary myths and stereotypes about the Chinese. The director, Arthur Dong, accomplishes this by introducing the milestone films.
He shows clips and actors’ reflections on “The World of Suzie Wong,” the “yellow face” casting in the Charlie Chan series, and in “The Good Earth,” and contemporary concerns with the adaptation of Amy Tan’s “The Joy Luck Club.” In citing these titles, he demonstrates where Chinese films either went off the course of reality or authenticity or were course corrected.
As an example of the Web’s limits, I haven’t yet found the documentary at YouTube, nor even at SnagFilms.com. While I found neither an excerpt nor a full video, there is a Q & A with a renowned actor Nancy Kwan. Her career broke open with “The World of Suzie Wong.”
“Hollywood Chinese” brings us face-to-face with various Chinese and Anglo actors’ and scholars’ opinions about these films and the films that marked or meant a lot, either positive or negative, to the Chinese, or America at-large, if not both.
Among the fascinating details from this documentary is the saga of Anna May Wong, the first Chinese-American to make an American film about her community, The Curse of Quon Gwon, in 1916. Time Magazine has a slide show about her work and her legacy.
“Hollywood Chinese” engaged me as much as yet another documentary, “Chop Socky,” but that’s a whole nother topic. While I found no link to the full documentary, American Masters does provide edifying outtakes.
I found this at Melissa Silverstein’s Women and Hollywood. The woman speaks for herself. No need for me to spout off.
This 17-minute documentary, “The Colour of Beauty,” produced by, Elizabeth St. Philip, and released by the National Film Board of Canada, tells the story of a 24-year-old model, Renee Thompson, who’s a 10-year veteran, globetrotting professional. This as she strives to “make it” before “aging out,” she has moved to New York City.
But, as the title may imply, hers isn’t a frolicking story of the “glamour” of a professional pretty body and face. Instead, it’s a candid and somewhat in-depth examination of what the United States’ majority sees as the opposite of our standard of beauty – The money-losers of the glamour and beauty industry. Generally, those who have African, or obviously “other,” features.
There are “‘No black girls allowed’ on a lot of the break downs for castings.” Thompson said.
“Colour” stands out for its candor, for including sources of many different shades, and for its high technical quality. Ms. Thompson is a compelling character with a compelling story. Even the briefness provides a nice sense of a story, a narrative arc, and a well-developed personality and set of values. She’s relentless, committed, ambitious, and utterly charming. And she “has a little bit left in me” to compete in this brutal world. Of course, if your worldview or comfort level with this topic is superficial or timid, you won’t stay “tuned.”
“There still seems to be this crazy kind of a racism – I hate to say that – but a kind of consciousness in the fashion world..,” Jeanne Beker, Host Fashion Television. She called it tokenism.
For some that candor, that comfort level, may make or break their experience with this film: If Ms. Thompson’s story, and her peers’ professional plights, isn’t news, that “Colour” will be a stern and stark wake-up moment.
This is a world where, despite urges for a post-”racial” landscape, “White girl” features rule. They want white features, “dipped in chocolate. They really look like white girls who’re painted black – That’s beauty – to the industry,” said Justin Peery, Ms. Thompson’s New York agent.
CBC news showed “Black model’s struggle highlighted in film.”
As excellent and exceptional as the film is, there are problems: The duration of 17-minutes is awkward. It won’t be marketed or promoted in a conventional way. That may just be Ms. St. Philip’s intention. Too few people will know about or watch this.
- She could have filled out a full 30-minutes by either including another brown or black model, even a man, to juxtapose two different careers, attitudes, and results.
- Or why she’s only now doing the last sprint toward “top” status.
- Or by including more indelible and evocative details on Ms. Thompsons’ career.
Another speed bump is the focus solely on Renee Thompson’s experience: In some way, I think that Ms. St. Philip took the easy way out; even though brown and black bodies and faces scare or intimidate people, the men do so the most. Yet, she omitted a man’s story. There are far fewer of them, so that would have been an excellent way to fill out 30-minutes and have a film that is superior and also at a more marketable duration. It’s bizarre. The film and Ms. St. Philip leave questions that dangle.
Still, the “Colour” works: In the end “Colour of Beauty” shows how ugly the search for beauty can be, especially when those who choose don’t see an obvious beauty staring right back.
For a change, I have seen a film that compelled me to write in praise. “The Secret in their Eyes” is a rare film that met and then exceeded my expectations. Smart stories that are well-developed and boast strong, well-developed characters interest me the most. I am convinced that, when a story shows that a filmmaker clearly has meager, if any, passion for the film he or she has made, why should I or anyone else pay attention to it?
“Secret” provides an Argentinean retired court investigator, Benjamin Esposito, portrayed by Ricardo Darín, decides to write a novel about a case that, while resolved long ago, has weighed on him for many, many years. He does this, in part, to exorcise the toxicity from it and absolve himself of whatever culpability he had felt he had.
When I read a compelling description by a Minneapolis “Star Tribune” film critic, Colin Covert, “Argentine Oscar winner masterfully merges drama, romance, crime and suspense” piqued my curiosity. Another one, from “The New York Times,” struck me as the most potent though: is it “both a detective story and a tale of unrequited love.” The last time I saw a film that combined those to narratives – and well – illudes me.
Perhaps it’s “strange” or just rare to yearn for highly-intelligent and complex in our society; oh well.
The director, Juan José Campanella, is the kind of filmmaker where you tell yourself to look for his other works to be sure that you haven’t missed a gem. But much of his latest work has been confined to the small screen, TV; he has directed many episodes of some very popular and potent shows: “House, MD” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”
In 2004, he made “Luna de Avellaneda,” which translates as “Moon of Avellaneda.” IMDB describes like this: “The story of a social and sports club in a Buenos Aires neighborhood and of those who try to save it from being closed.”
What else can he do in cinéma?
The extraordinary way he makes alternatingly unnerving and beguiling plots, about a gruesome muder and a barely uttered romance, respectively, conspire seemlessly is an achievement. Mr. Campanella’s talent stands out for knowing how to build a story that shows a plot of perverted justice, while interlacing it with one about two established professionals who dance around the osified realities of an irreconcilable love. This is special, maybe unique. The way that it was executed could have collapsed or imploded in a less talented film artist’s grip.
The latticework organization of the narrative is intricate, but comprehensible – compelling. We quickly find strong, solid reasons to care for or take specific character’s sides. That the object of his desire is his boss, Judge Irene Menéndez Hastings, played by Soledad Villamil, makes the story even better, more dangerous.
Still there are problems: at the beginning of the last act, which, for me was not obvious, the film began to feel long. Secondly, after having witnessed evocative camera work in the story’s opening, I wish that would have continued, and consistently, throughout. Third, I could have gone without the bravura shot in the stadium, which has already been debated in other reviews. It distracted me, while doing too little to propel the story. (Also I admit that, as some critics have probably written, maybe a superior film would leave me to find troubling flaws in at least the main characters.)
This is a tale that, from one moment to the next, makes you wince, laugh, or drop your jaw at its twists; this, sometimes, in the span of mere minutes. What deserves praise is that it works!
Without betraying a spoiler, “you told me it was for ‘life’” is the line that sticks with me.
The man in charge of the U.S. Navy’s submarine group 10, has said that female officers are going to serve on submarines. Some submariners are cool about it. Others feel cold toward it. It’s great for those women who want to serve on a sub. But some fundamental questions are being ignored.
Is it more important to ask why the U.S. Navy is doing it? Or to ask why politics and our society’s hesitance have allowed the service to wait until only the last several years to finally consider this? Only several years ago, women were placed in combat positions.
The U.S. Navy published a frank story in October’s “Navy Times,” mentioning that, among other details, this is deliberate; the Department of the Navy has been discussing this for several years.
There was a pithy scene in the 1997 film “G.I. Jane,” where a female and senior senator asks Demi Moore’s character, Jordan, how she felt about being denied submariner service. (I could not find the clip from that film)
“Did it piss you off?,” the senator said.
“Yes, ma’am. It did.” Jordan said.
“Good. I like pissed off,” the senator.
The movie broached the consequences of a women undergoing SEAL training; probably the penultimate alpha male cadre. The military services have a very public and shaky history of treating women with abject distain.
There’s another compelling and telling scene from the 1990 HBO film, “The Court Martial of Jackie Robinson,” (who had his own unnerving bout with the U.S. Army in Texas), where he admonishes his lover for her desire to serve in uniform – “Do you know how shabbily the Army treats women!?!”
But she stands her ground. Which is what anyone must do to move past or beyond a naysayer or an obstacle. But so much more so for women.
After you’ve been around a while, you notice that North America’s laws and behaviors are about a generation behind. Life moves far too fast for our laws to keep pace.
The argument for separation, segregation, or denial of women’s service, as with anyone from our society’s margins, is that including them will threaten the good order and military discipline.
On NBC’s “The West Wing,” Joint Chiefs Chairman, Adm. Fitzwallace, provides a mature, concise, and no-nonsense retort to that rhetoric in the final minute. The context is about “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell,” but the principle works well beyond that.
No matter your background or color, if you’re different, you are often told to wait until someone else feels more comfortable around you. You have to decide: do you wait, or do you make your own way?
The hijab seems to freak people out. More awkward, still, is the burqa or niqab, which hide all but a woman’s eyes. The image creeps me out.
While the eyes are the windows to people’s souls, their humanity, I get the absolutely opposite feeling when they are all that I can see of someone’s face.
I’m of two clashing minds. While I feel that way, I try to be cool and accept the women’s personal and faith choice.
It’s not about me.
There is a popular and very poorly informed (extremely conservative) idea that Muslim women are compelled to submit or subjugate themselves to men or to the Quran.
More and more European and North American governments are banning the veil; it makes me shift in my seat as look around for state enforcers who lay in wait. The French are making good on their discomfort in regards to the niqab or veil.
So many people just ignore that it’s the women’s personal choice.
Here is a woman’s incisive perspective about niqab wearers being a minority among Muslims, among other points. She raises are broader and more disturbing questions.
Whether you’re of the United States or Europe, it’s too easy to see and accept either societies’ extreme, combined assumptions: that Muslim women are forced to cover themselves. Maybe those people who do this are simply very ignorant and frightened. For some reason, the majority media are simply going with that angle in their news stories. This is a problem since very few people seek their news from either public radio or public TV. That’s morose.
The idea of submission to or compliance with a Muslim higher power sits largely on our society’s margins. No matter how religious or spiritual either the United States or Europe are, that simple, and yet humbling, and challenging choice seems foreign – unAmerican.
Now the Canadian and European governments think that banning the birqa or the niqab will serve and lift these women. Why do these societies, or their respective governments, think that banning these women from making this choice is good? Isn’t that presumptuous, egotistical, or arrogant, if not all three? I find that it reflects the worst, most backward of Western thinking.
The niqab. An obligation?
Feeling uneasy around veiled women isn’t terrible. It’s disappointing, but not a character flaw. It depends on your open mind; how curious you are about those people who seem to be nothing like you. But exploiting the law to tread on someone’s, seemingly bizarre, choice for modesty is a problem. While somewhat typical (if you look at which out-dated laws are still on the books), makes that kind of ignorance palatable.
Ultimately, as with what used to be called “the negro problem,” this is an issue of provincial minds needing to open up to the fresher air that disparate cultures and beliefs can provide. So, some of us feel uncomfortable, even physically so, around these veils that hide all but the eyes?
This is also about the women’s freedom to choose how to submit to their god, Allah. It is morose – truly unconscionable – to use the mere and meager criteria of our comfort zone to dictate the boundaries of women’s human rights.
I think this means that we need to grow up some more. Even if, in so many other ways, we think we are urbane, educated, or refined, if not all three.
For those of us who covet films with strong, smart, and compelling stories with well-developed characters, the summer movie season is an obstacle.
So, what summer titles will besiege us? According to “The Wall Street Journal,” “Hollywood is turning out more derivatives than a Wall Street bank.” We agree on this. Among the dozen titles that the Journal highlights are “Toy Story 3,” “Iron Man 2,” “Shrek Forever After,” and “Sex and the City 2.” So, at least one-third will be derived, sequels.
Of these 12, only one boasts someone with color in his face, Javier Bardem – in “Eat, Pray, Love.” It’s interesting that this one was adapted from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book.
Film industry veterans often declare, “oh, we don’t make anything we haven’t seen before,” while betraying no irony on their faces.
If you enjoy the blockbuster junk food and define your entertainment more broadly than other film snobs do, revel in the summer season. There’ll be plenty of pyrotechnic and escapist fun. As an alternative, you could catch up on prior years’ cinema that you missed or forgot about. Or how about the books on which some of them were based?
My personal and selfish problem is that the summer is my off-season for cinema. Summer is great. I love cinema. But those blockbusters consistently irk me. Again, I covet films with strong, smart, and compelling stories with well-developed characters. Now, I strive to either pay even more attention to the independent cinemas or concentrate on reading. Since people already have a surprising impression of me as being very well read… well I want to start feeling that way, myself.
I want to recommend only titles that I, myself, have already read, but…again, I am not as current in my reading as I yearn to be. I haven’t even read the Western Classics yet. There’s a stupendous line in “Die Hard” about “the benefits of a classical education.”
Let’s consider some of the films, from the last few years, that were adapted from books:
John Godey’s “The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3″: Actually, after having watched that on Hulu.com, and not yet read it, I must “say” that the original adaptation, with Walter Matthau, is great. It’s a smart, compelling, and dramatic thrill. So, partake of either the original adaptation or the book.
James McBride’s “Miracle at St. Anna.” While Spike Lee’s adaptation was around three hours, I suspect that the book from which it came would make for a nice evening or even beachside read.
The film adaptation of Richard Schlink’s “The Reader” was an exceptional and smart take on a coming-of-age story…gone cracked. Judging from the novella’s description, it boasts, of course, the nuance that contemporary films will no longer afford.
Robert Kaplow’s “Me and Orson Welles” looks like it was a compelling film. I infer that the book would be at least doubly compelling. Michael Phillips and Anthony Scott of “At the Movies,” recommended it.
To boot, I anticipate that “In My Father’s Shadow: A Daughter Remembers Orson Welles” might be just as worthwhile.
That’s what you’ll find in the stories that rely on early facts, without noticing Roger Ebert’s words at his weblog. So, after a generation Disney is convinced that “At the Movies” no longer works. We, the audience, have been splintered across disparate demographics, niches, and media in that long time. What’s the next phase?
These days the world is distracted by too many, often time wasting, digital, and web content. I bet that people miss having conversations about movies – the kind that puts us in each other’s spaces, face-to-face. But that valid and vital assertion belongs in a whole nother piece.
Just like the vital, but barely head question of why no brown, black, or beige film critics are nearly as well-known as either Roger Ebert, Anthony Scott, or their other peers. Anyway fewer people are watching thoughtful film critics on TV.
With the slow deaths of TV broadcasted critics, fewer “authentic” spaces for this remain. More and more who talk about movies – the good, the bad and those that make us scratch our heads – probably resort to web forums. I’m a late, or never, adopter. To me they are pale, flaccid imitations of real conversations.
I’ve also seen too many participants who are far less literate or intellectually engaged than the more seasoned film critics. I’ll miss the opportunity to watch smart, eloquent adults discuss how or whether films met their hopes or expectations. We’ll need another critical outlet after August.
But what if Disney’s story about “At the Movies’” demise isn’t the whole one? When you read Roger Ebert’s last journal entry, he slows down the train headed for “At the Movies’” demise; he has other hopes. He’s counting on the ideal that there are plenty of film lovers who want this.
“At the Movies” needs to distinguish itself by making it indelible and undeniable in web 2.0. Make a way for people who desire a way to interact in a real, personal way and also for the 20-somethings to get their web-centric Facebook and Twitter fixes.
Ah, but how..?
After having diligently, or tried to diligently, maintain a consistent presence and voice here, sometimes it just seems like the myriad voices and righteous opinions render mine less necessary.
To my mind, the most interesting news comes from Europe. In France feminism seems cooky and fickle. On one hand their politicians have taken another step forward (or backward) to banning the burqa in public, or at least in schools. On the other hand, France is going forward with a quota goal to move more women into certain leadershp positions.
Listen to a piece by Eleanor Beardsley, NPR’s France correspondent, about the burqa.
So, if you’re French and Muslim life is frustrating. If you wear the burqa, it’s even harder. If you’re neither, but you are a woman, things might be heading toward truer equality?
The Golden Globes and the Oscars seem to loom before us – at least if you love film. Maybe you’re a cinéphile, or a cinéaste, or you simply love to go to films and talk about them over coffee, or something.
It’s great fun…unless you don’t have or take the time to “indulge” in going; whether you want to see Jim Carrey or George Clooney. It’s almost a shame. And what if you want to write about your film passion? You see the new Siskels and Eberts, you listen to film critics on National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air,” or you read the best of lists at TheRoot.com, if not all of these.
That’s me, except for “Fresh Air’s” film criticism. It’s too snobby. I’m chomping at the bit to reflect, write, and take part in these conversations (albeit the haute culture ones) – the fall, serious dramas are my season. The summer movies? Nope. Entertainment for me is what others see as work. I’m a film snob. Summer is when I’ll have to catch up on the DVDs of the independent and foreign films that I missed in the last…14 months.
I still haven’t seen “The Class.” The French documentary about a teacher working with either typical or at-risk students.
I saw the English film, “An Education,” only two weeks ago. I got out of it what I’d wanted; it means something to me; it made me laugh, think, and ask myself questions during and after. That’s almost always what I want. I’m on the edges of movie watching though.
“(500) Days of Summer” engages me. At least the title. It’s charming. I’d forgotten about Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies.” I haven’t seen the film, bit I did talk to Melvin Purvis’ son, an East Coast arts instructor, for a great radio segment this summer. Part of me wants to bear witness to the hype about “Precious.” I know about abuse. I’m curious about “Up in the Air.” The writing. The characters. Its footing in the 2008-2009 realities. All of these elements engage me.
I still want to watch “Good Hair.” The trailer sold me on it. But TheRoot.com’s criticism cooled my jets; according to them, the movie looks like a long-form docu-comedy – should that be a genre option? – not a documentary that examines and pursues candid answers. There are tough questions that the hilarious trailer opens and leave that way.
I have seen “The Hurt Locker.” I still have no love for it; my mind boggles at audiences’ exuberance and adulation. My expectations remain as high as when I criticized Roger Ebert’s fawning over it.
I have a faint and fading recall, other than these titles, of which films came out after last January. I feel horrible. I had to check a list of nominations to remember even that 10% or so of the titles. I love film, but I sure don’t show it. I feel culturally detached and unengaged.