Jennifer Lawrence, Trump and Freedom of Speech

I first saw a trailer for Mother in front of It, and although the odd trailer grabbed my attention I had no interest in seeing it due to Jennifer Lawrence. I watched the first Hunger Games film and Silver Linings Playbook, which made me a fan. Then I saw her performance in the newer X-Men films and the spell wore off. The films became the Mystique show simply due to Lawrence’s status and she was the weakest link when compared to the performances from actors like Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy.

All of this to say, that I am not a Jennifer Lawrence fan. When ads for Mother popped up on my twitter feed my curiosity got the better of me and I scrolled through the comments on the ad, eager to see what other people thought of the upcoming film. Lo and behold, the comments were swarmed with people “boycotting” Lawrence for comments she apparently made about Hurricane Irma and Trump..

Although there are plenty of people saying Lawrence thinks Trump caused Hurricane Irma, that just demonstrates how bias and/or a lack of reading comprehension can lead to misinformation. During an interview Lawrence said that Irma is one example of “Mother Nature’s rage, or wrath”. She advised that there is scientific evidence to support the argument that humans contribute to climate change and she said voting is one way to influence action on climate change.

So for those with poor reading comprehension: She means that a candidate like Trump, who believes climate change is a hoax, will enact policies that will further contribute to climate change. Did she say he caused Hurricane Irma? No. Anyway, there lies the latest source of online rage directed toward “liberal Hollywood”. The thesis of most of these statements was that actors should stay out of politics. I wasn’t able to retrieve the thread I initially came across but the one below has more examples of the backlash I am discussing.

This isn’t a new phenomenon: It is one I most recently discussed after David Harbour received a wave of criticism for his Stranger Things SAG acceptance speech, where he indirectly criticized Trump. Similar to the Lawrence backlash, most of the negative comments I have seen express disgust at actors daring to have a political opinion.

Actors and actresses are not dolls assembled to perform, and then tucked away until their next performance. Although the adoration they receive might make us forget, they are real people too. They care about their values and ideologies as much as the regular person does. Does that mean they should make all their films revolve around their personal beliefs? No, but it does mean they should be allowed to discuss these issues on public forums, just like every other American citizen is allowed to. Yes, they have more clout than the average person and people like to argue that is why it is dangerous for them to express their ideas. With that said, let me get to the crux of my argument.

If an actor or actress expresses political views I don’t agree with, I don’t fault them for having an opinion. I fault them for the views themselves. I don’t say “Oh they should stay out of politics”, I say “It’s a shame they support that candidate’s views…”.  I like to think it is a less hypocritical approach, since I would not despise an actor if they expressed political views I agree with. Would these Trump supporters be upset if Lawrence had made comments about what a great president he is? The same freedom of speech that people use to defend marching Neo-Nazis is the same freedom of speech being stripped from an actress who says climate change is real.

Some of the Twitter comments openly criticize Lawrence for attacking Trump, and I can actually respect those comments. I don’t agree, but I am happy to see less hypocrisy. Maybe some of the comments criticizing Lawrence are from people who genuinely don’t like actors discussing politics, whether they support the same ideologies or not. However, I have a strong feeling most of these people telling Lawrence to “stick to acting” just don’t like seeing freedom of speech used against them. They prefer when it is used against immigrants, Muslims and other minorities.

Zazie Beetz – Deadpool and “Blackwashing”

I posted this video a few weeks ago discussing the reaction people have to Zazie Beetz’s casting as Domino in Deadpool 2. Like many other videos, I emphasized the double standard present in people’s reactions to whitewashing versus “blackwashing” e.g. when a character is whitewashed, people argue that talent or marketability should trump race. If a character is blackwashed, people complain it is wrong to change the race of beloved characters and that the actor was selected only due to their race. If a white actor plays a character of colour it is because they were the most talented person to try out for the role. Vice versa, and the actor of colour was picked only due to their race. Whitewashing becomes a common sense business move, while blackwashing is just “pandering” to minorities. People tend to ignore how whitewashing also “panders” to white people, since one of the most common arguments used to defend whitewashing is that more whiteness in a film makes it more appealing to white people. Some people will even go so far as to say the film will be an economic failure if the film wasn’t whitewashed. Of course, the success of films like Straight Outta Compton disprove this theory.

I presented numerous different examples and clearly laid out how this double standard serves to reinforce the idea that white is inherently better, and the video was met with a wave of dislikes and comments where people repeatedly go back to the same double standards that I laid out in my video. One comment after another said it was wrong to change the race of characters, that the actress doesn’t look like the character etc. The video was sitting at less than two hundred views for a while but got a new influx of new viewers over the past week, leading me to believe it might have been shared on a website, or possibly got more traffic after the first picture of Beetz as Domino was released.

Keep in mind, my video came out before we got our first pic of Beetz as Domino. While some people complain about how she looks in terms of her hairstyle, clothing etc., my video was made for people criticizing the fact that a black actress got the part. This detail, along with just about all relevant details, were ignored by the people who swarmed to my video. Some even admitted they didn’t even watch the full video before commenting.

I previously discussed how the right-wing often uses the word “triggered” to criticize anyone who doesn’t endorse bigotry. Here we see triggered people who likely saw the title of my video or watched a minute of it before rushing to the comments. I have often disagreed with the views expressed in other videos, but I have never commented on a video that I didn’t bother to finish watching. If I disagreed I did not ignore every point made. I made sure I fully understood what the uploader was trying to say, because I wanted to respond with counter-arguments that actually disprove their points. My video was only five minutes long so I don’t think the issue is that my video is too long either. People simply came across something they didn’t want to hear and refused to engage with the facts I laid out, hence the repeated defferal to all of the same arguments and double standards that my video criticizes.

I pointed out the tendency for people to criticize hypothetical examples of whitewashing that they said they would criticize e.g. White Luke Cage, to take attention away from all of the real examples of whitewashing they supported.

“Ok I guess we’ll have white Blade….right? or Chinese wolverine… right?….hindu superman?….right…….. yeah… Fuck out of here!! Stick to the true origin !! fucking social justice warriors jerk offs!!”

I pointed out the tendency for people to appeal to the “colour-blind” mantra or the simplistic notion that a character should look the way they are supposed to (which also ignores all the times whitewashing was supported)

“I don’t have a single problem seeing minorities on the screen.I just wanted Domino, the character I love to be portrayed as the character I love. Very, very simple.”

I avoided appealing to emotion, and thought that a clearly laid out set of arguments and counter-arguments could break through to some people on the other side of the aisle. The only positive comments I received are ones from people who likely already shared my views.

There were some people who probably fancied themselves as enlightened and expressed less vitriol, while also displaying a stunning level of ignorance.

“And for the record, when is the last time you’ve seen anyone in this modern era “Defend whitewashing”?”

This poster could have found examples of whitewashing being defended on THE SAME VIDEO they commented on. Yet again, there is an unwillingness to engage with facts that conflict with their world view. Yes, you can find numerous articles and videos online from major publications that criticize whitewashing. The whole point of the video is that audiences react differently, e.g. the people who swarm the comment sections of those articles with comments like “political correctness”, “reverse racism” and “social justice warriors” to criticize the people who are bothered by whitewashing. This is in contrast to the comments they give in support of whitewasing such as “It’s just a movie”, “Best actor for the part, race doesn’t matter”. Now if “blackwashing” happens the comments will be swarmed with comments saying it is wrong to change the race of characters.

My mom once said you can’t have a debate with people if the ground isn’t fertile for it. This ground isn’t just infertile, it’s scorched.

Norwegian news site NKR is currently using their beta site to test a tool that makes readers take a 15 second quiz before commenting, to ensure that they actually understand the point of the article. Readers don’t have to agree, but the developers hope the quiz will give people time to calm down and ensure that they are less likely to resort to the slew of straw man arguments I see on my video. Ironically, people commenting on the NRK article also added comments that made it clear they misunderstood the purpose of the tool:

“Here we go..thought crime..three questions to make sure you agree with our angle on the story.”

Maybe it’s time to let the terrorists win.

 

It Trailer #2 Thoughts

 

The summer movie season is winding down, and after seeing Dunkirk, there are still a few films I am excited to see. I still need to see Baby Driver and War of the Planet of the Apes. I have some reservations about Justice League but the fanboy in me is still very excited. However, the film I am most excited about at this point is IT. 

The book is one of the first Stephen King ones that I can remember reading, and I definitely plan to re-read it before this film comes out. The book involves a group of eleven year olds known as the Losers Club: Bill, Ben, Bee, Richie, Eddie, Mike and Stan.  Together, they try to combat IT, a supernatural entity in the fictional town of Derry, Maine. IT has the ability to transform into any child’s worst fears, but often takes the form of Pennywise the Clown. The book also follows the Losers Club thirty years later, returning to Derry to combat IT again. From what I understand, a second movie will focus on the Losers Club as adults.

Cary Fukunaga, the director of the first season of True Detective, was originally slated to direct during the film’s long stay in development hell. Andres Muschietti (Mama) was finally brought on board in 2015 to give us the film we’ll see in September.

The marketing campaign has been amazing so far, preceded by promotional images and the two trailers (technically one teaser and one trailer) that preceded. Everything from the music, to the more restrained use of dialogue and images of The Losers club and Pennywise has kept the film mysterious but also interesting.

I usually avoid watching too many trailers so that I don’t spoil the film. Fortunately, this third trailer doesn’t appear to give away the film’s best moments.

We do hear Pennywise speak for the first time, “Here…take it.” His voice was one of the things that book fans speculated about most, and these few words leave me happy that Bill Skarsgard will be able to embody the role.

 

There are more shots of Pennywise this time, and some shots leaves me slightly worried about an overuse of jump scares. Most of the memorable images in the trailer come from its use of unsettling music or imagery and I believe those are always the most effective scares in horror films. Looking back on all the moments that scared me as a child, they were never jump scares. However, I don’t want to rant about jump scares too much since the editing of the trailer itself can make them appear more plentiful than they will be in the actual film.

Bill’s dialogue at the beginning of the trailer, about losing the feeling of being protected as you grow older hits close to home and is a microcosm of the book’s themes about the loss of innocence. I am sure the film will cut out the orgy (yes, really) that happens in the book so it will be great to see this theme portrayed in other ways.

Along with the scenes in the previous trailers, Bill’s lines make me less worried about the child actors’ abilities. I wasn’t worried about Finn Wolfhard specifically since I already saw him as Mike Wheeler in Stranger Things. There are exceptions, but there are numerous times when child actors are either a weak link among stronger actors, or are absolutely dreadful. The Jungle Book (2016) comes to mind.

Let’s move back to the film’s most divisive element, Pennywise himself. YouTube and Instagram are littered with comments by people pining for Tim Curry’s version of Pennywise from the 1990 miniseries. This happens with pretty much every adaptation or remake. Some people didn’t want to see Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man before Amazing Spider-Man came out, some people thought no one would ever top Jack Nicholson as The Joker etc. People get attached to the adaptations they see first. Some people might grow up with Tom Holland as their first Spider-Man, and maybe they won’t want to see anyone else in the role if a new series is made twenty years from now. Likewise, this may be the first Pennywise for many people and if another IT adapdation is made in thirty years, they’ll refuse to accept another version.

I don’t like the attachment mindset, but I can understand it. What bothers me more is one of the biggest complaints brought up by Bill Skarsgard detractors. Tim Curry’s version wasn’t as faithful to the books, in terms of his look or his behaviour. He behaved like we expect a clown to. He was energetic and jovial. Lots of fans of the miniseries miss this sense of humour Curry brought to the adaptation and interpret this one as too grim or trying too hard to be scary. However, 2017’s IT (from what we see so far) is what we got in the book. There was no dancing or whimsy. Adaptations typically try to emulate their source material, not just other adaptations. The people who criticize this Pennywise for being too serious make it clear they never read the book. Also, we get little dialogue from Pennywise in the marketing so we can’t judge his level of whimsy just yet.

 

Moving on from misinformed people, I have to say that the music in the trailers continues to stand out. We get more of the creepy chimes from the first trailer, but also get the chants of “You’ll Float Too” throughout the latter half. The chants get louder as the trailer progresses, and your heart beats faster to match it. The music might not scare you per se, but it gets you excited. It’s the horror version of pump up music.

Hopefully, this trailer will be the last. At the very least it will be the last one I watch, I don’t want anything else revealed before I see IT, hopefully on opening weekend.

Dunkirk Review

I saw Dunkirk in IMAX on saturday, and after collecting my thoughts, I’m ready to share them with whoever actually reads my ramblings. I earlier stated that I hoped that this film would be a return to form for Christopher Nolan, since I didn’t like Intersetellar that much. I definitely can’t say Interstellar is a bad film, I just didn’t like it as much as his previous works. After seeing Dunkirk, Inception remains my favourite Christopher Nolan film. The Prestige and The Dark Knight might also edge out Dunkirk but it is nevertheless an engaging and brilliantly executed film.

Dunkirk is Nolan’s dramatization of the Dunkirk evacuation, where Allied Forces were trapped in northern France. Military and civilian boats were then enlisted or requisitioned to evacuate the Allied Forces to England. Dunkirk focuses on three different narratives: land, sea and air. Fionn Whitehead stars as Tommy, an army private. Tom Hardy stars as Farrier, a British pilot and Mark Rylance stars as Mr. Dawson, a civilian heading to Dunkirk. The movie cuts between the three different stories, and the stories intersect more as the film progresses. None of the characters are directly based on historical figures, but some are meant to be composites.

I hate to focus on a film’s visuals, but it must be said that Dunkirk is a beautiful film. I saw the film in IMAX on 70mm, so that probably gave an enhanced experience. Aside from the film’s clarity, it must also be praised for its cinematography and minimal use of CGI. Everything from the planes, ships, explosions etc. are all practical, or at least look like they are all practical effects. There is nothing wrong with CGI in itself, but a film like this benefits from minimal use since you want to be immersed in the history that is being depicted. Nolan succeeds in building and maintaining tension, making you as anxious as the characters as they try to survive one attack after another. Perhaps IMAX made me notice more as well, but I also have to add that the sound effects and sound mixing were masterfully done, recreating everything from the infamous sirens of the German stuka planes to the explosions that are replete throughout the film.

One criticism that has popped up when discussing the film online or with friends, is that the characters were not well-developed. Mark Rylance’s character probably gets the most back story and dialogue, but Whitehead and Hardy both have relatively sparse offerings. However, I didn’t realize this until other people pointed it out. Dunkirk was able to make me invested in characters that were not that fleshed out. The story was enough to keep me interested, and I saw each character as representative of millions of other soldiers’s fear and hopes during Dunkirk. Dunkirk is Whitehead’s debut role, and he does well with his limited time. I was pleasantly surprised by Harry Styles, who arguably steals the spotlight from Whitehead during some scenes. Christopher Nolan says he wasn’t aware of Styles’s fame before casting him and I am willing to say that all of my worries about Styles’s involvement proved to be unwarranted. Fortunately, I also didn’t have to deal with any screaming One Direction fans in the theatre. Kenneth Branagh is somewhat infamous for chewing scenery at times, but he is a stand out here in a more understated performance as Navy Commander Bolton. Cillian Murphy also deserves honourable mention as a shellshocked soldier eager to get back home. There are several other characters introduced throughout and they all form a necessary part of the film’s fabric.

A less capable director could have made Dunkirk dull and repetitive. When you really think about it, the film just depicts one attack after another, with relatively little dialogue between. However, Nolan is able to craft a story of survival that is visceral, entertaining and memorable.

Dunkirk and Harry Styles

Batman Begins was my first Christopher Nolan film, a film that I later discovered marked his transition into high-budget blockbusters. The Dark Knight became one of my favourite films, thanks in large part to Heath Ledger’s performance as my favourite fictional character. Afterwards, I went back to Memento and then added Inception to my favourites list. The Dark Knight Returns and Interstellar were both disappointments, but only disappointing when compared to Nolan’s previous work.

When I heard Christopher Nolan was doing a World War II film it became one of my most anticipated films of 2017. The teaser and the subsequent trailer still managed to exceed my expectations and affirm my belief that this would be a triumphant return to form. However, I couldn’t help but detect one drop of poison in the cauldron. The YouTube comments on the trailers were hijacked by One Directioners, proclaiming their love for Harry Styles and saying that their baby better not die in the film. A co-worker mentioned that Harry Styles was in the film, but I hoped that his role was a small one that would not overshadow Dunkirk. I still don’t know how big Styles’s role as “Alex” is, but the billing online makes it seem like it is pretty significant.

Although I personally loathe (trying to cut down on the use of the word ‘hate’) One Direction I didn’t want to let that hamper my perception of Styles. I have seen actors come from unlikely backgrounds and nail major performances. At one point, people probably thought it was ridiculous that The Fresh Prince would have Oscar-nominated roles. However, the horde of One Directioners that this film is apparently attracting does bring up some concerns.

Firstly, I bet most of the One Directioners barely know anything about World War II, or even care about the story itself. They just want to see their hubby on screen. I like to think of Daisy Ridley as my wife-to-be but there is no way I would watch two hours of a story I have no interest in just to see her on screen. I have never understood this level of fan worship, and I honestly think it represents the worst of fandom. As a matter of fact, the only time I would watch a film just for an actor is if I appreciate their acting talent. I saw Shame simply because Michael Fassbender was in it, but I also had some interest in the story. As much as I love Fassbender, I still avoided Asssasin’s Creed like the plague.

An even bigger issue with Styles is that his addition in this film seems so, for lack of a better word, random. Was his audition truly so spellbinding that it beat all of the competition? There wasn’t a single other talented actor with the right age and look? A co-worker argued that must be the case if he got selected, and part of me hopes that logic holds true. Nolan isn’t Michael Bay, he doesn’t hire actors just because they’re hot or marketable. Yet why was Style’s, an unproven acting commodity, casted before actors like Cillian Murphy? I’m seeing Dunkirk on saturday and if Styles’s performance is anything short of spectacular then I will continue to wonder why I had to see him on screen, while surrounded by screaming Directioners.

Geostorm Trailer- The Sombre Song Trend?

I saw the trailer for Geostorm in front of Wonder Woman last week and although the film seemed generic, with the apocalyptic scenario and the subpar CGI, the cover of “What A Wonderful World” stuck with me. The new rendition added a great deal of irony and the song itself was hauntingly beautiful. In true nerd fashion I went online to see if anyone else shared my opinion, and came across this article. This well written (no sarcasm) rants details the “trend” of trailers using sombre covers of famous and well-regarded songs, which apparently started with The Social Network using a cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’.

This first article mainly lists examples, mainly from movies that I haven’t seen, such as The Great Gatsby and  Fifty Shades of Grey (which I will only see if someone gives me The Clockwork Orange treatment).

I have to point out that this list still only includes a small minority of the trailers released over the past few years, trying to make it seem like every other film trailer follows the trend nowadays. There are enough examples for us to say a trend is at work, but why are we acting like these examples warrant a call for a moratorium?

I digress. This blog post comes as a reaction to a linked article. This article also breaks down the history of the trend and uses Suicide Squad as a case study, comparing the teaser that used a cover of Bee Gee’s “I Started a Joke” to the second trailer that used Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. The reason I feel the need to discuss this: The thesis of the article is that the second trailer is better because it is more “fun”. I have previously discussed my disdain for the belief that fun always equals good, while serious or “dark” equals bad. However, I have mostly discussed this in relation to comic book films, with my article on Kingsman being an exception.

There has been a drastic shift in the reception of dark comic book films since The Dark Knight era. That is not to say that there isn’t a single dark comic book film that gets good reception these days e.g. Logan, but as a whole people value their “fun” now more than ever. People love the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) for its insistent levity and humour, and despise the DCEU (partly) due to its “dark” tone. Note that a lot of the positive reviews for Wonder Woman attribute its rating to its “hope” and “fun”.  I am not a miserable person, I don’t mind levity and “fun”. I just don’t mind darkness or anything that is serious either. It seems like people desire simple escapism now more than ever, where everything should be “fun”, regardless of the subject matter.

I must agree with the author on one of his points. In some cases, especially Avengers: Age of Ultron, the song choice adds gravitas that the film does not deserve. The Age of Ultron teaser built Ultron up as a frightening threat, who was ultimately neutered and played for laughs. However, I have to say that this issue of misdirection is not isolated specifically to sombre covers of well-known songs. Any dramatic score or serious song can have the same effect on a movie’s marketing. Many people hated the Matrix sequels and the music used for that marketing would likely be deemed just as “self-serious” to this author. It honestly seems like the covers of the well-known songs aren’t the author’s real issue. He just hates the serious or “grim” tone that it bestows on the trailers.

In this case the author calls the Geostorm trailer and its accompanying music, “self-serious”  and “grim”. As I’ve noted before, the focus on tone ends up overriding any other issues of artistic merit, since “fun” becomes synonymous with good and serious of “dark” becomes synonymous with bad. Let’s look at the author’s comments on Suicide Squad as an example. He argues that the second trailer, with Bohemian Rhapsody is more fun and markets the film better. Obviously the second trailer will market the film better. The second trailer isn’t a teaser, therefore it is meant to show us more of the characters backgrounds and their interactions. Yet as expected, this author thinks the trailer is better ONLY because it’s tone is improved.

Many people, who do not know comic book characters as well as they think they do, insist that these films should all remain colourful and fun, no matter the storyline or characters being portrayed. Although I disagree, I can understand how a simplistic notion of a certain character or fictional world can lead people to think that one size fits all in terms of tone. However, Geostorm is not an adapation, yet alone an adaptation of “lighter” source material. Why does it have an obligation to be “fun”? It is a film about a global catastrophe, a dark tone suits it. Of course, some apocalyptic films can also have a lighter tone e.g. Independence Day, but that doesn’t mean that they all have to follow Independence Day’s example.

Pictured above: A perfect opportunity to use some “fun” music

Why can’t any film be allowed to look serious for a few minutes at a time without people labelling it pretentious or depressing? Even if a film is depressing, it doesn’t mean it is bad. Unless the film is explicitly meant to be a comedy, a film’s rating should not suffer because it didn’t make you laugh or smile enough. Since when did we become so sensitive that we need films to cushion us from the ugly realities of life? Life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. People argue that is why films should offer us fun, but I argue that is the best reason that they should offer us whatever the director or editor feels. Films often reflect reality, why have we forgotten that? There is nothing wrong with films having different tones. We can choose to watch different films based on our moods. There is variety. I would hate to scroll through Netflix or Kodi and come across a library of films that are all the same tone. Likewise, I would hate to go to the theater and have one preview after another with the same tone, whether it is dark or light.

Get Out

Note: Spoilers Ahead

After much delay, I finally got around to seeing a film I’ve heard nothing but good things about. I must say, the film lives up to the hype for the most part. Since the film was released a while ago I didn’t really feel like doing a review of it, which is why I want to sum up my thoughts on the film itself and move on to the interesting questions/issues it raised.

Firstly, the performances are all amazing. The only other film I have seen Daniel Kaluuya in in Sicario, and he was alright in that. The role was smaller and didn’t allow him to demonstrate the range we see in Get Out. It looks like things are looking up for Kaluuya since he also has a role in 2018’s Black Panther.

The Armitages, the family that Chris is expecting to join, are all outstanding. Caleb Landry Jones was particularly interesting as Jeremy, Chris’s prospective brother-in law. Keith Stanfield, probably best known as Darius on Atlanta, isn’t in the film that much but stole the spotlight when he was present.

Get Out works well as a comedy when it is intended to be comedic, as expected from Jordan Peele. However, it is also masterful as a horror film. The horror isn’t the type you would expect from a franchise like The Conjuring. There are no jump scares to be found. Instead, Peele forces an air of unease upon us that permeates most of the film. I was reminded of an episode of The Twilight Zone, where its strength lies in its ability to unsettle you and get your mind and heart racing. More importantly, it also gets you thinking.

Peele has described Get Out as a “very personal” story“. A friend at work pointed out that Peele has a white wife, and it is very easy to see Get Out as a satirical, cathartic reenactment of encounters with his wife’s own family. I forget the exact wording, but I remember a tweet that said Get Out isn’t about ‘hang that nigger’ racism, it’s about ‘I’m not racist because I have black friends and voted for Obama’ racism. I think that tweet is a perfect distillation of what Get Out offers.

The Armitages’ are a rich, white family who are openly welcoming to Chris when they meet him. The dad is quick to mention he voted for Obama and that Obama was the best president in his time. With this statement, the film starts to delve more into the issue of the fetishization of the black body. Jeremy is the one to bring up the idea that black people’s genetics make them superior athletes, expressing his own quiet disdain and envy at this fact. This stereotype is also brought up by the extended family, and the comments all bring back memories of comments I’ve head all through my life as well. I was recently involved in a Twitter conversation where @adamant919 had the audacity to call our supposed natural gifts “black privilege”. Funny enough, it looks like the user has since deleted his account.

This fetishization reduces the black body to something that is either a threat, a conquest or a toy. Get Out is one of the first films in a while that generally surprised me with a third act reveal. Initially I thought that Chris would simply be brainwashed into submission, becoming another Andre Hayworth via Missy Armitage’s hypnosis. It was genuinely chilling to hear the breakdown of the surgery that would be performed to turn the black body into a vehicle for someone else, reducing Chris to a passenger within his own body. The Armitages’s could easily do the same process with white bodies, but it is clear that they are appealing to a desire specifically for black ones. In Chris’s case, Jim Hudson only wants his eyes so that he can capture the kinds of pictures he envies Chris for. However, the groundskeeper (Walter), is being controlled by Rose’s grandfather. Walter’s role on the estate becomes more chilling when we realize it is an old white man reveling in what his new body can do. The infamous Walter sprint, which grandpa calls his “exercise”, becomes a man testing out stereotypes for himself.

Peele is currently being considered to direct The DC Extended Universe’s Flash film and I was hesitant when I heard this, since the role seems far removed from his skillset. After seeing Get Out and how it manages to combine satire, horror and comedy, I am sure Peele can find a way to handle any project that comes his way.

The Dark Tower Trailer

I heard about The Dark Tower series nearly a decade ago but only got around to reading the first in the series, The Gunslinger, earlier this year.  I was an avid reader of King’s other works and decided that with the movie coming out, the time was right.

After watching the first trailer it became obvious that the movie is not following the first book closely. A quick search online also confirms the film is taking parts from the first book, but also from books 3 and 4.5. In essence, this adaptation is its own amalgam of the series’ events. In short, I think the trailer makes the film look amazingly generic, but Idris Elba still motivates me to see it in theaters. If you haven’t watched Luther, I highly recommend it.

Before I get into the trailer itself, or the general plot of the series, I have to bring up something this film illustrates. As I have discussed before, there is a huge double standard when it comes to race-changing in adaptations for television and film. If you change the race of a minority (e.g. black, Asian, Indian, Native etc.) character, and make him white, people are quick to argue “best actor for the part, it’s not about race”, “it’s more marketable/relatable” or that they are “colour-blind”.  These criticisms come flying out whether the character’s race is central to the story or not.

Now, when a white character is changed to a minority, people suddenly aren’t colour-blind. They don’t like the “political correctness”.

Or maybe people avoid bringing right-wing buzzwords into the argument. They don’t like the fact that the character is not portrayed as described in the book. They’re not racist for saying the characters should be portrayed as intended. Funny thing is, these same arguments are thrown out to protest white-washing, but they always fall on deaf ears. The Hunger Games (2008) incident proved that people might even block out information that reveals a character isn’t white, since many “fans” took to twitter to complain about Rue being black (even though she is described as having dark-brown skin in the books). I have no doubt that some of the people criticizing this casting choice also supported the casting in The Last Airbender (TLA) and Ghost in the Shell.

Idris Elba is no stranger to this controversy since he also received criticism for his casting as Heimdall in the Thor series. Of course, Asgard is a fictional world but people say that Heimdall should be white since he is from Norse mythology. However, the fictional world argument was used to defend the whitewashing of Sokka and Katara in TLA, a world that the creators said was inspired by Asian and Inuit cultures.

Katara and Sokka were Inuit characters that were even drawn with brown skin in the show. Some people argue they must be white if they have blue eyes, but white people don’t have a monopoly on blue eyes. I have met a black man as dark-skinned as I am with blue eyes. Would you say he must be white due to his eye colour? Additionally, the blue eyes are a symbolize their water tribe affiliation. The same way the Earth Nation inhabitants have green eyes, and air nomads have grey eyes. In the film, we get two white leads (with a white grandma) mysteriously surrounded by Native American villagers.

Despite all these arguments people still defended TLA since “it’s just a movie”. Then The Hobbit added black EXTRAS (non-speaking actors) and people complained that black people didn’t belong in a world inspired by Ancient Europe. Point being, this double standard is nothing but a result of racism that people refuse to admit or to address. What they should really say is: “I don’t mind race-changing as long as it leads to more white people.” I am not saying that race-changing is right in either case, white-washing or vice-versa. I am just unsympathetic to cries of “blackwashing” since the concern for character integrity clearly doesn’t go both ways.

Moving on. The Gunslinger, focused on Roland’s perspective as he travelled through Mid-World, a world similar to the Old West, in pursuit of the Randall Flagg. Flagg is often referred to as The Man in Black and is also a villain in King’s novel, The StandThe Gunslinger does imply that this Old World is actually an alternate timeline or dimension. The film’s trailer seems to confirm this. Since the film doesn’t follow the first book alone, it will likely also contain spoilers for those who haven’t read up to book 4.5. Since I have only read book one, I also can’t judge how closely the film follows the plots of the other books.

With that said, some of the dialogue makes this film sound like hundreds that have come before. The line about protecting the tower so that both worlds don’t fall just screamed cliché. There is nothing wrong with the concept itself, it’s the delivery of it that can make it somewhat fresh, or downright stale.

Aside from Elba, I am excited to see Matthew McConaughey as Randall Flagg. I have yet to see Dallas Buyers Club but McConaughey was spellbinding as Rustin Cohle in True Detective. The biggest question mark is Tom Taylor, who’s character will apparently be the film’s true lead.

I find that slow-motion is sometimes overused in promotional shots, but I actually like its use in this trailer. Roland’s gun-slinging is a visual treat, but I am hoping it isn’t all that the film has to offer. I also hope that the film doesn’t go into 300 territory and give us battles where we see slow-motion more often than not. I am more excited about The Defenders than this film, but King and the cast will still motivate me to see it in theaters when it comes out in August.

 

 

Kingsman: The Golden Circle and James Bond

Note: Spoilers for Kingsman

I wasn’t sure how to feel when a Kingsman sequel was announced a while ago. While the first film was a pleasant surprise I was worried that a sequel wouldn’t be able to recapture the same level of magic. This is the main reason I refuse to see Bad Santa 2, even though the first is one of my favourite comedies. I was also more hesitant about the Kingsman sequel when I heard that Colin Firth’s character will return. While Firth was amazing in the role I was also worried that his resurrection would introduce some nonsensical plot point that tarnishes the impact of his death in the first film.

So, with those reservations in mind, I was still intrigued. Taron Egerton was amazing as Eggsy, and his performance in Legend also demonstrated that he is a versatile figure and one to look out for. Aside from Egerton, the sequel sports some other amazing cast members, including Pedro Pascal (best known as Oberyn in Game of Thrones). As much as I hate Channing Tatum overall, he was enjoyable to watch in the Jump Street series so I am hoping this role is geared towards his comedic strength. I checked out the first trailer and was immediately sold.

However, I detected a common sentiment as I made my way through the YouTube comments, which can be summarized as: “The Kingsman series embraces the fun of the old James Bond films. This will be so much better than those dreary Daniel Craig movies.”

Now, Kingsman has made it no secret that it set out to emulate the older, more fantastical bond films. Firth and Samuel L Jackson’s characters even express this explicitly in the first film.

I don’t have a problem with people wanting to embrace something fun. My issue is when anything that isn’t “fun” gets criticized purely for its tone. Maybe Harry is guilty of doing it here, but it is interesting to see that fans react the same way to the Daniel Craig Bond films. I have talked about this numerous times on this blog or in my YouTube videos, but normally it is in reference to comic book films. However, it is interesting to see this mindset also filter into other genres.

I am perfectly willing to embrace the outlandish fun of Kingsman, but that desire to embrace fun, doesn’t lead me to criticize other good films. “Fun” is not synonymous with good, and “serious, dark, gritty, dreary” etc. are not synonymous with bad. A film can be serious or dark, but also be good.

Quantum of Solace and Spectre were both disappointing, I will give you that. Personally, I loved Skyfall and Casino Royale. Yes, they aren’t “fun” Bond films. No over the top henchman or gadgets. However, that doesn’t stop me from liking them. That doesn’t make them bad Bond movies. I can like Kingsman, while also liking these supposedly depressing Bond films.

Casino Royale came along after Pierce Brosnan drove an invisible car around an ice fortress. It seems like people were all funned out and ready to have a more serious Bond. Now that Kingsman has whet their appetite for fun, Casino Royale becomes a terrible film.

Since when is something considered bad only because it doesn’t make us laugh and smile? Obviously this criteria doesn’t apply to “Oscar-bait” films, yet. Maybe in twenty years only “fun” films will be present at the Oscars. No more depressing exploration of issues or characters, just more one-liners and over the top action.