Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

In browsing Facebook today, I came across an interesting article in relation to the recent Universal release Lucy. The article asserts that the film is a prime example of what is wrong with Hollywood…whitewashing of casting options. While I think this may be a little unfair to single out this film, there were some interesting points and it does spotlight this challenge with Hollywood…diversity.

Full Article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/olivia-cole/lucy-why-im-tired-of-seei_b_5627318.html

Focusing on Lucy first, the casting of Scarlett Johansson to play the lead character in itself is not really a problem. The reality is that she has been accepting a lot of roles recently that take emotion out of the requirements for her on-screen presence, and she seems to revel in it. She also seems to be taking on this somewhat action oriented roles, with The AvengersCaptain America, and Iron Man included in that list. Why should this be a problem? In the context with the rest of the film, there are a few challenges. Lucy is considered the oldest discovered hominid from Ethiopia. Being that she was discovered in Africa, why was she appearing in the film as living in more of a temperate climate amongst a North American-like landscape. While the location was never specifically stated, it seemed odd that the film’s depiction of hominid Lucy was not in Ethiopia. The have Scarlett’s character named after this hominid then seems out of place but not necessarily a problem.

So let’s broaden the scope a little more…

The article also talks about Hercules, which is just one in a long line of films to take African and Middle Eastern representations but have white actors portraying the characters. There cannot be a shortage of possible actors out there of African and Middle Eastern descent to fill these roles. Dwayne Johnson in Hercules is fine, but the lack of represented diversity in the rest of the cast is wrong. Prince of Persia ended up starting Jake Gyllenhaal and a cast of a similar lack of diversity to Hercules. Another strong example is The Last Airbender. Besides the film being a poor adaptation of the story, the cast was mostly white when the populations should have been from more Asian descent. Title characters have encountered this treatment for years. John Wayne played Genghis Khan in The Conqueror. Rob Schneider played an Asian/Canadian minister in I Now Pronounce You Chuck & LarryAnd while the film was supposed to be offensive to the point of somewhat making a statement, Robert Downey Jr. dressed up in blackface to play one of the leading characters in Tropic Thunder.

Added to this issue with misrepresentation of characters through casting, actual diversity in film seems to lack attention to quality opportunities for actors/actresses of color. There are some successful films that have diversity represented well, but the overall issue is that many great films are passed over and outproduced by the Hollywood standard.

So let’s look at the facts…

Academy Awards Infographic 18 24 - FINAL - REVISED 2-24-2014Courtesy of the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/24/diversity-gap-academy-awards_n_4838536.html

There have been some strides in film. In the last 15 years, there are four people of color who have won either Best Actor or Actress (Halle Berry in Monster’s Ball, Denzel Washington in Training Day, Jamie Foxx in Ray, and Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland). During that same time, there have been five winners in the Supporting Actor and Actress categories (Morgan Freeman in Million Dollar Baby, Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls, Mo’Nique in Precious, Octavia Spencer in The Help, and Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave). Steve McQueen became the first producer to win for Best Picture with 12 Years a Slave in 2013. Though the graphic above depicts this information in a more negative light, it does also represent the entire history of the Academy Awards as opposed to more recent successes. There has been a slightly more significant amount of representation in the nominees and winners.

Unfortunately, there are few other populations that can talk about even the success that the Black community has experienced. In the Asian community, only Ang Lee can represent recent success in major Academy categories for his work with Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi. The Hispanic community in nominations and winners is nearly nonexistent. The graphic above also goes more in depth with actual representation of the voting members.

I am not saying that Hollywood needs a complete overhaul, but it does need to take a long look at how it promotes growth and representation. We as consumers should be more interested in seeing more diversity, even if it is to get more variety in our films and storytelling. Talent is out there and we need to embrace it. Tyler Perry does not represent the only diversity that can grab attention at the box office, even if he has broken some ground for consistent box office success. Of this year’s films, new talent is emerging. Tony Revolori from The Grand Budapest Hotel showed off his quirky, comedic, and touching acting talents. The Raid 2 is an action-packed thrill-fest that is of much better quality than many of the action films that are still to come out this year, including The Expendables 3. Ken Wantabe continues to get more roles to provide better exposure for what he can do.

Let me know what you think…do you believe it is time to embrace more diversity in film?

 

I was searching around on Facebook today and saw a post about a short film with true emotion. It sparked a little interest and I decided to give it a chance. In the short few minutes of the film, I was definitely impressed with the vivid world the artist created and the inspirational theme of holding on to your creativity. Here it is:

One of my favorite movie series of all time is the Star Wars saga. The universe is constantly expanding, but the original three movies are classics with such a great collection of memorable characters, scenes and quotes. When Obi Wan gets struck down in A New Hope, Han drops into the carbonite chamber in The Empire Strikes Back and Luke battles the Rancor in Return of the Jedi, you can easily get lost in the action. Even the prequels had their shining moments. Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace definitely has that cool factor with the red/black-colored skin and double-edge lightsaber. Attack of the Clones saw Anakin grow into a whiny teenager but the battle against Jango Fett leads to the creation of the hatred in the young Boba. Then the series finally closes the gap between the original trilogy and prequels with Revenge of the Sith and the epic battle between Anakin and Obi Wan over the river of fire. There was definitely a slight bit of satisfaction in seeing Hayden Christensen lose the fight and wind up losing an arm and both legs. Sorry, it’s the little things that helped to make his acting bearable to watch.

Though the Star Wars universe has so much to appreciate and enjoy, there are plenty of elements that just don’t make the cut (and I don’t just mean the multiple remakes and re-releases by George Lucas). The prequel trilogy seemed to include a number of elements that were just not that impressive. The entire speeder race helped to push forward the story but was laced with a number of goofy and unnecessary dramatic elements that did nothing to add to the intensity. The battle of the Gungans was extremely lopsided and only seemed to turn out okay because a young Anakin stumbled upon the opportunity to take out the Trade Federation’s command ship. As Anakin struggles with the requirements of becoming a Jedi and the love he develops for Padme, the two share an excruciatingly long stare into space scene as the two struggle with a growing rift between them. And someone explain to me how a bunch of little, cuddly bears in the woods can beat a supposedly well-trained military force with laser weapons…

With some of these scenes listed above, there are particular characters that make them less enjoyable. Below is the list of the most annoying, frustrating and irritating characters of the Star Wars universe, at least those in the two trilogies.

#10: C-3PO – I will start by saying that I am a fan, but C-3PO is kind of a downer throughout the series. He is constantly complaining about R2-D2’s actions and decisions and about the random adventures they find themselves in. Before Jar Jar Binks, he served as the comic relief for a set of films that include a lot of action and drama.

#9: Palpatine/Darth Sidious – As one of the characters that spans all six of the films, you get the greatest exposure to his development. In the prequels, he clearly has a hidden agenda, though no one who surrounds him can even get a sense of his villainous behavior. He acts frail and unable to protect himself to a point that he nearly gets himself killed. Compare the “younger” Palpatine to the Emporer and you find a man who is riddled with poor dialogue and quite the ugly skin complexion. When he gets killed, he somehow cannot stop shooting out lightning from his fingers and lets an injured Darth Vader pick him up and throw him over the railing without putting up a fight. Pathetic… I will give him credit for the fight scene with Yoda in the Senate chamber.

#8: Luke Skywalker – You wouldn’t expect that the hero of the original trilogy would make this list, but like father like son. Luke is a whiny child while he lives on the surface of Tatooine and clearly has to go through some growth to eventually take on his father and the Empire. When training with the great Yoda, he is nothing but disrespectful and ungracious for the assistance with his development. When Jedi Knights used to be trained from a young age, this extremely old former leader of the Jedi Council is doing this undeveloped Jedi apprentice a favor. He then gets a confidence between the capture of Han in carbonite and his recovery from Jabba’s palace that never seems to get explained. And talk about incest with that passionate kiss with his sister…

#7: Padme – I am a fan of Natalie Portman, but this was clearly not one of her best performances. The young woman goes from a Queen of the planet Naboo to a girlfriend of an untested Jedi. How does someone who is at least several years older seem to make such a creepy connection with a young child then whiny teenager. The most heart-wrenching scene happens when she starts crying out from a broken heart. Sigh…

#6: Fode & Beed – These may not be well-known characters, but you may remember that the pod race included a set of announcers to give the play-by-play of the race. They are not the worst characters of the series, but as members of one of the most pointless scenes in the movies, they only help to push you to want their part to finish. I am a fan of Greg Proops as a comedian and a vocal talent, but it just does not work for the flow of the film.

#5: Jabba the Hut – With all of the power he has over the beings on Tatooine, he seems to leave himself very vulnerable to attack. Though Leia fails in her attempt to get Han back, she gets revenge by strangling him with the chain he uses to keep her locked up. Though he is this large creature, without the gaggle of flunkies he would be nothing. If he had not been so greedy with Han’s bounty and not waited so long to take out a clearly talented Jedi, he could have stayed in business and lived his days out comfortably.

#4: The Viceroy – While I certainly can (and probably will) go into the stereotypical and discriminatory elements of the ‘races’ of the Star Wars universe, the Viceroy and Neimoidians come off as an unfortunate attempt to make a statement about the eastern countries, possibly the Chinese or North Koreans. Considering their ability to take out large populations with their even larger collection of powerful droids, how do they come off as so horribly uncoordinated and defenseless?

#3: Salacious Crumb – Who? This is a character that appears in Jabba’s Palace and has no significance to the story at all. The only thing this character does is laugh in an excruciatingly loud way. He does not even seem to laugh at moments of actual humor.

#2: Anakin Skywalker– As Darth Vader, he is one of the most memorable characters. As a boy and a teenager, it begs the question of how did this kid become one of the strongest beings in the universe? As a boy, he acts incredibly smart for his age but also seems to shout for joy way too much for being a slave and stuck in a war. The entire scene where he takes out the command ship just makes his character appear way more powerful than he should be for an untrained child. As a teenager, Christensen exaggerates Anakin’s angst to a level that is painful. For someone who is supposed to balance the force, how could the entire Jedi Council ignore his blatant stupidity. Where did all of that intelligence go from his childhood without exposure to the world outside of Tatooine?

#1: Jar Jar Binks – This cannot be a surprise, can it? Jar Jar is a bumbling fool who is more of a jester than an actual helpful character. To make him more entertaining, Lucas allowed this character to stumble into beneficial actions (like taking out droids by flopping around on the ground) and exponentially acts more ridiculous than any single character in the entire series. If someone can explain how a bumbling fool can go from general of a ragtag group of natives from the planet Naboo to a senator, I would love to understand that decision.

Dishonorable Mentions: Mace Windu (If Samuel L Jackson is supposed to be such a badass, how does he get defeated so easily), Boss Nass (though he is better than Jar Jar, he is not that much better), Joh Yowza (one of Lucas’s additions to Jabba’s Palace, he and Greeata serve to make the band go from grooving to ear-splitting), the Tuscan Raiders (you know the scream when you hear it), the Stormtroopers (though cloned and possibly continued through incest breeding, they seem to be the most trained/untrained military force ever) and the Ewoks (though cute and cuddly, how do they take out the Empire).