Django is NOT The Hero Black People Deserve

Django is NOT The Hero Black People Deserve

There was a lot of talk about the excessive use of violence and the n-word in Django. The criticism is personally hard for me to get. As a non-American, it’s hard to understand the powerful connotation of the word. I know the context, I know some of the facts, but the concept of eliminating a word from your vocabulary, except for a chosen few – black people and Louie CK – is hard to understand. There’s just a single comparison that arises: most of the times I hear the n-word (not nigger by the way, but actually the n-word), it takes me back 10 years, back to when I was reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for the first time; sitting in the Hogwarts Express, watching people shivering and twitching, adjusting in their seats, and contorting their faces at the mention of a word, “Harry, it’s He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”

Despite the fact the horror for a particular word feels alien to me, I can understand it. It’s associated with a dark period in America’s history. It’s both synonym of pain and oppression for African-Americans, and shame and guilt for white people. Even understanding its power, if I had a problem with the word, I don’t think I’d have a problem with its use in Django; historical accuracy should be enough to make it a non-issue.

Tarantino explained it:

“Personally, I find [the criticism] ridiculous. Because it would be one thing if people are out there saying, “You use it much more excessively in this movie than it was used in 1858 in Mississippi.” Well, nobody’s saying that. And if you’re not Continue reading “Django is NOT The Hero Black People Deserve”

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5 Issues With Today’s Blockbusters

Blockbuster, now you see me, wwz, world war z, poster, new on dvd

In the past years some blockbusters had an exponential increase in IQ. The people behind some of them have actually started treating the audiences as people who know the meaning of the word exponential. Nolan’s Batman and Inception, The Avengers, Iron Men (the plural of Iron Man I, II and III). Even last year’s action flicks Dredd and The Raid: Redemption, despite their brainless action, managed to treat audiences as educated members of society, who simply wanted to watch people’s brains spluttered on walls. It’s not completely my fault that I expected too much from WWZ. I was just spoiled.

Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof, J. Michael Straczynski and Matthew Michael Carnahan. These were the four writers of WWZ. Five if you count Max Brooks, the writer of the novel (amazingly narrated). But I don’t know why you’d do that; as it’s been repeated to exhaustion, the movie took only three words from the novel: World War Z.

Its first scene made me look into these four men’s biographies. To my surprise, none had worked in advertising. The way they tried to cram so much information in the first sentences seemed more appropriate in a commercial than in a feature film. It should be the example used in lesson number one of screenwriting classes, under the title:

Common Pitfalls of Character Development.

Instead of an organic way to develop the background story of Brad Pitt’s character, the writers decided to make his kids ask him what they felt the audience needed to know. They chose that exact morning breakfast to have a conversation that would demonstrate all of our hero’s backstory. Show, don’t tell, was a rule completely ignored throughout the movie:

“Brad, we need you ‘cause of that thing that you did in that place.”

“Brad, he’s the leading figure of that thing with the thing we need the most right now.”

“Brad, you are 5’10’’, with blond hair and dreamy grey blue eyes.”

Yes, we can see that. Stop treating the audience like a bunch of brainless zombies! Write some intelligent and Continue reading “5 Issues With Today’s Blockbusters”

José & Pilar

saramago, quotes to live by, sad quotes, quote,

I used to try to shake off my mother whenever she tried to make me look more presentable. She’d try to clean a smudge of dirt of my freckled nose and I’d push her away yelling “Leave me alone, Hermione!” She’d try to button my shirt properly and I’d push her away, “I’ve missed a case, but I like it this way.” And I’d walk out the door with one collar near my ear and the other close to my chest. My mother no longer cares how messy I look, or simply learned to look as if she doesn’t care. Ironically to me, inevitably to her, now I’m the one who asks her for help to straighten out a sweater and make sure my shirt peaks out evenly underneath it.

“… the best way of killing a rose is to force it open when it is still only the promise of a bud.”

That was an excerpt of José Saramago’s The Cave. Saramago is a Portuguese writer and Nobel Laureate, who was born in Azinhaga, Iberian Peninsula, in 1922. I learned about his writing in high-school. One of his books was part of the curriculum so, naturally, due to my very cool rebellious teen spirit, I proceeded to ignore it, which was my mo. with any book I HAD to read. A few months after finishing high-school, after I could do nothing to change my paltry grades, I decided to read it. He slowly climbed up the ladder of my favourite writers to the top. It was a small ladder, Enid Blyton was there, as was J.K. Rowling and a Maxim Magazine erotica writer, whose writing helped me a lot in the pre-adsl days. It was still, by no means, a small accomplishment.

Saramago deals with daunting subjects. His most recognized work is Blindness. It paints a vivid image of violence, chaos, and Continue reading “José & Pilar”

Shift in Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

Zombie Survival Guide HERE
Zombie Survival Guide HERE

On a previous post I grazed a subject slightly tongue-in-cheek. I had paused my The Last of Us game at an interesting moment. Joe, the apocalypse survivor resignedly explained a massacre that occurred by saying, “You sacrifice the few to save the many.” Ellie, the 14 year old girl that accompanies him says, “That’s kind of shitty.” I jokingly extrapolated from this, by comparing these two apparently inconsequential states to the opposite utilitarian and Kantian moral philosophies. By opposing minimalism with an overwrought idea I intended to make humour happen. I failed in that, but the idea stayed with me.

In The Last of Us, like in all post-apocalyptic books, movies, TV shows, there is a shift of moral codes. In this setting your mortgage payments cease to be a priority, and fucking your new nanny loses, in the battle of importance, to filling your reserves with Twinkies*. In this setting it’s probably justified to kill your new nanny to get those Twinkies; but not to fuck her. No, necrophilia is still not cool in Zombieland.

The issue of morality and economic systems in a post-apocalyptic world is so rich, that I don’t know where to start. I’ll start randomly, a system of organization as good as any other and very dear to my heart:

One of the first things that would happen, should be the inversion of importance of roles. Basically, the people whose skillset we value the most and the people with the least valued skill-set would switch places (the only exception being immediate health care specialists). By value, I mean pay. Entertainers, professional athletes, highly specialized professionals and scholars would see their skills completely devalued. Army men, Handy men, plumbers, electricians, would see their value increase diametrally. This was covered for the first time (as far as I know) in World War Z. In the second moment of the zombie apocalypse, after survival to the first wave of zombies and the creation of a new society, famous artists were taught by plumbers or electricians a new trade. Imagine Jay Leno lisping “Oh, but this shit isn’t going down!”

This specific example shows the volatility of the current system of free enterprise. It can be used as the perfect argument for socialism: Cringe, Americans! While in World War Z this isn’t stated, the flaws of capitalism become evident. What we value today is decided by our society; the fact that Jay Leno gets millions of dollars for talking in front of a camera is decided by the people who want to sit and watch him. Easily enough, the paradigm in which his skillset is valued shifts. The same is true for any other profession. Michael Jordan made millions as a basketball player, because in the eighties and Continue reading “Shift in Post-Apocalyptic Fiction”

Orson Welles Never really liked Movies

[read the] Interview of Orson Welles where he says he despises most American Film-makers

Andre Bazin was a French film critic of the 50’s. One of his books (two volumes) is described as quintessential for film students, What is Cinema?, which made for the perfect bragabook (book you read to brag about). Your French accent and quirky moustache could only get him so far, it was his writing which established him as THE film critic to read. It has endured for 50 or 60 years, and will continue to endure, an extraordinary feat considering that cinema was only beginning to get credibility as an art, which makes him a pioneer.

Bazin was an admirer of Jean Renoir and Orson Welles. He wrote a book about each of them, but my library had only the latest – which was actually surprising considered its dimensions and the general lack of demand for fifties French film criticism on a director with only one recognizable work in my country.

I devoured the book in one day. It’s short and a particularly boring passage of Karamazov Brotherscombined with a particularly boring afternoon at the beach, made reading it in one sitting the most sensible course of action. It had pictures, too.

I learned quite a few things I didn’t know about the man and his upbringing, his difficulties to get a movie done and his personality. He said something worth quoting, that I couldn’t find on the web:

“Only the optimists are incapable of understanding what it means to love an ideal.”

(Unprecedented words from an interview in the Ritz, 27th of July of 1958)

He broke my heart, by confirming he lifted the story of the Cuckoo Clock from a Hungarian play and Continue reading “Orson Welles Never really liked Movies”

Mr. Arkadin or How Welles Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Short Shot

[read the review] of Orson Welles "Mr. Arkadin"

“A certain great and powerful king once asked a poet “What can I give you of all that I have?”

He wisely replied “Anything Sir… except your secret.”

Orson Welles never had the same financial or artistic freedom since the moderate commercial success of Citizen Kane. Those limitations are clear from near the beginning of the film. In the initial lengthy dialogue, most shots are short and done with stand-ins. Over-the-shoulder visual bores. In some of those the words are still sounded after the actors mouths have quit. There’s maybe one longer shot that comes close to the length and quality of the initial shot in Touch of Evil, and close is not the right word. It’s both interesting and painful to think how much more could he have achieved with deeper pockets, with a faster scissor in them – he was famous for slow editing, which drove the studios to finish the editing themselves; Mr. Arkadin took him 8 months and the studio removed him and finished his editing. Despite these limitations, Welles print is visible throughout the film. One of the first shots uses depth-of-field making me reminiscent of Kane playing in the snow and Continue reading “Mr. Arkadin or How Welles Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Short Shot”

Mary and Max

[read the review of] Mary and Max (2009)

It is not often that wonder is the word to describe what I feel when I start watching a movie. It is usually discomfort, before I adjust my pillows. I think I could have sat on the remote for the whole 90 minutes, that wonder would still be the right word. This happens every two years, with a Wes Anderson movie and the fact I didn’t watch it for 4 years since it came out in 2009 makes me… wonder.

Mary and Max is an animated fairytale for grown-ups.

For more than two minutes, scored with piano and strings, moving shots of meaningless day-to-day objects introduce us to the brown world of Mary. The music is replaced by the voice of what I imagine a father would sound like reading a story before bed. The narration portrays Mary as a lonely kid with an adorable view of life. The thing that get stomped out of you by society, she has in abundance. The thing is beautiful. It goes well with her world. She sees it with a child’s clarity, which is very different from a grown-up’s.

Two dogs are attempting doggy-style coitus. She envies them, because she also wants a piggy back friend. She craves friends to fulfill a void in her world. She has a taxidermia obsessed father that attaches strings to tea bags; a mother who drinks sherry and shoplifts; a rooster, who’ll hopefully – and painfully – lay an egg, one day; a Greek stuttering neighbor who needs slap on the head to spurt out his name and a homophobic/agoraphobic neighbor, who lost his legs to flesh eating goldfish. Not only her mind observes her world in a peculiar way, but her world seems to be drawn from her imagination.

To satisfy her thirst for knowledge and friendship, she rips a page from the phonebook from an alien place, New York City, and Continue reading “Mary and Max”

Spring Breakers

Review of Spring Breakers (2013)
 

Within the first few minutes of Spring Breakers I got up and turned off my TV. I wiped the moist that it was soaked in and turned it on again. 47 oiled boobs, 18 ass cheeks, 12 popsickles sucked in the least orthodox way possible and 8 nipple piercing appeared on screen in those first minutes. I couldn’t risk my flat-screen.

The movie was accused of exposing too much the bodies of the actresses. Ex-Disney stars aren’t supposed to be sexualized. I say the way they use guns and partake in robberies is more offensive than their partially naked bodies, but very few people make that argument. I would even understand the protests if that exposure was gratuitous, but I don’t think it is.

Spring Breakers starts with 4 pretty girls trying to make money to get to… spring break. Three of them rob a restaurant and the religious one, Faith, is slightly disconcerted with their actions, until she sees the produce of the deed, and those 14 years of Catholic School get thrown off the window. We see them in their natural habitat. Normal girl, partying or singing in a Church group. They get to spring break and, after a very graphic night of partying they get thrown in jail. They need to pay their bail but have no money. The answer falls from the sky in the form of Alien (James Franco), a metal toothed gangster with a fantastic musical taste.

The movie shifts with the introduction of this character. It whirls into decadence as he brings them into his world. Alien’s the local dealer with a Continue reading “Spring Breakers”

Before the Last Stop

Before Sunrise Review (1995)

I was reading The Gambler’s last pages on the train. Having a phone with a short battery life does wonders for my reading habits. Two French girls sat across from me. One was pale and blond and pretty, the other doesn’t really matter. She spoke mellifluously, fortunately, since I’m trying to plug this word since I can remember. She was also reading a book. The other girl said something and the blond girl started chortling like a pig, really digging the sounds from the back of her skull through her nostrils. A pig would put a hoof in front of his snout.

No, this was not my Celine.

In Before Sunrise, Celine (Julie Delpy) is travelling back from Budapest, where she visited her grandmother. She gets annoyed by an arguing German couple – I suppose if they were Italian, she’d stay – and moves seats to avoid them. Unwittingly or not, she sits abreast Jesse (Ethan Hawke). They bond over other couples’ problems and quirks, moving their conversation to the food cart. Celine is French and, like most French girls, her accent while speaking English is a mix of sexy and adorable. Her unconventional beauty and hippy style, combine perfectly with the accent. Jesse is American. They bond some more and Jesse asks Celine to get out of the cart in Vienna where he’ll have a flight early next morning. (My train would stop in 45 minutes in the remotest village in Portugal, which would make it harder to convince my Celine to leave with me). That decision was made a few minutes before. Jesse tells a story from his childhood that makes Celine eyes twinkle. Later on we see him as a practical man, with little mystical and Continue reading “Before the Last Stop”

MONSIEUR NOBODY

"Mr. Nobody" (original title) M/12 141 min  -  Drama | Fantasy | Romance  -  4 October 2012 (Portugal) 7,8 Your rating:   -/10   Ratings: 7,8/10 from 57.467 users    Reviews: 139 user | 80 critic A tale that spans different time zones of the 20th and 21st centuries.  Director: Jaco Van Dormael Writer: Jaco Van Dormael Stars: Jared Leto, Sarah Polley, Diane Kruger | See full cast and crew

Watching Mr. Nobody I was assaulted by more feelings than I’m used to when watching a movie. In that department I can only compare it with Synecdoche, New York. I was in awe of parts of it, I became emotional in more scenes than my misguided manly self-image could take; I was surprised and confused; I felt both cheated and rewarded and I told myself, at least once out-loud “Oh, bulshit!”.

If you were one of the people who classified Inception as intelligent and complex prepare for getting your brain folded into a knot worthy of honors in Camp Ivanhoe. Jared Leto plays Nemo Nobody in four different dimensions/timelines. It’s hard to know which. Early in the story he has to decide whether he wants to stay with his father or leave with his mother for New York. This shattering moment splits the story in three. In one he goes with his mother and Continue reading “MONSIEUR NOBODY”