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filmmaven's coffee chat

a morning discussion of film and popular culture over coffee

Month

January 2016

Film Maven Lecture Series: When your White Privilege should embarrass you

There is a temptation when talking about certain subjects to enter with care, with a light humorous tone that will feel inclusive and entertaining while making a point. We shall call it a teaching moment . Perhaps it is more than a temptation, but a necessity. If I approached many varied subjects with the wrath and disgust I feel, everyone would run away or move to duck n cover mode. So here I go, with my cup of French Roast (lightly sweetened with the International Delight’s new Simply Pure Hazelnut creamer, SO GOOD!), a smile on my face and a sweet adorable entre vuex paragraph of the Film Maven’s Lecture series to say ……People …..your white privilege is showing and its seriously NOT ATTRACTIVE.

You know that dress that Bjorn wore with the swan looking dead over her shoulder? and you liked it, or wanted to like it…but felt repulsed at the same time? Yeah…Its like that. Its inventive, its sort of acceptably artistic but it is really and truly grossing me out.

Film Maven, why do movies, or movie awards matter? Shouldn’t we (as a country, as black people, as women; like many pointed out this week)- be worried about more serious issues? 

When no black faces are present, center and noted in our most visible human story telling medium the United States of America, which creates some of the most watched films around the world, should sit up and take notice, should be embarrassed, should be shocked, should stand up and say – HOLD ON. Wait. Let’s go back over this. Something is not right.

In a year which films had death threats and hatred spilled onto a black actor (Star Wars Storm Trooper conflict) for daring to be in a film – Yes, the absence of people of color should be noted AND protested – LOUDLY. This is not about the Oscar’s …I support boycotting the event – but also do not lay the blame on the Academy. The blame lays with the audience, the idea that a year with out people acclaiming over black films, black actors went unnoticed.

Human story telling is heard / seen most often through film. If you are not seeing black actors and actresses in major roles, academy worthy story telling in the year 2015. TWO THOUSAND AND SIXTEEN, 21st century. Something is wrong and trust my words; its not the lack of brilliant black actors & actresses.

Films are about making money. Films are cast, written, produced and advertised to make money. So studios and producers will tell the stories that you, the audience, will pay to see. So you, dear audience – hold the key – hold the power – to have the stories told, with the actors you want, with the backgrounds that will excite you…..if you don’t demand diversity, fairness, and reflect that with cash – nothing will change. We will all go comfortable back to the same story being told over and over again, with the flavor of the month being in all the major films. Thus, my heading for this rant: Your white privilege is showing (its hanging out like a piece of TP out the back of your pants).

So we lead a very unpleasant trail ..from film, to schools, to water, to death by black being a crime. The dots are there to follow. Its not only about an award show. Its about accepting, even arguing the point that black people just didn’t act good. For an entire years worth of films. In 2015.

 

 

 

Whitewashing American Film

When the Oscar noms are shared I generally pay more attention to things like cinematography and costume design; the categories I notice most in films. Then of course, I want to know if I’ve seen any of the films and are there any good documentaries I should pay attention to, then I scan the acting categories. Here unfortunately I must confess I don’t think about things like why are all of these white people? And really, shame on me for not noticing. When I first saw the New York Times article “Another Oscar Year, Another All White Ballot”  I was ready to jump on the bandwagon of blaming the academy for not choosing actors, writers and directors of color. How DARE THEY!

But then- I started scanning over the films of 2015. Did you know there are only 5 black actors, 1 black actress and 1 Hispanic actor in all of Hollywood?   Yep. Its true.

It seems that Michael Pena (who I think is a great actor and have written about in this blog) is enough actor to represent all of the Hispanic people. Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Mackie, Idris Elba, and Chiwetel Eijiofor are all those black actors that are not Don Cheadle. Thank Goodness that Jada Pinkett Smith is versatile enough to be the second best friend and/or the hard kick ass chick, she has all those covered.

Yes ..I’m both sincere and sarcastic in this rant — I hold only myself responsible, in a I have no power but am complicit sort of way. If I am the audience and I don’t demand, through voice and dollar – that real stories with a variety of faces are seen and heard, who is to blame for what is on the screen? So ….I’m making a pledge to myself and to you readers: I will speak out, I will notice, I will actively participate. I want the movies and television I see to reflect what I think is important; All sorts of people.

I want female action heroes, I  want fat people to exist other than as the butt of the joke, I want people of color to be SEEN; as real, as more than the purse snatcher or drug dealer or the comic relief best friend. If I am not as comfortable with a black storm trooper (I don’ t  understand that reaction but many people where uncomfortable- that is very telling of our general attitude) – I want to be confronted with that discomfort and allow myself to acknowledge it and then actually see the film.

I want to be a person who notices, wait…..there are no films with LEAD black American actors/actresses and that just doesn’t seem right or real?? How is that even possible? Scan the posters for all films released in 2015, notice the people of color, the stories, the ideas. Become aware – not noticing is just as bad as not protesting it. Let’s not be complicit in this oddity- don’t white wash our American films and shrug it off. I for one, am not comfortable in my lack of attention to the disparities.

David Bowie…Goodnight Dear Ziggy

I have a few favorite books and films that when reviewed at various ages have given me insight and sparked new inspiration, finding energy and phrasing that has a different impact as I age. I deeply admire anyone who can do that in their own lives and recreate themselves & their art – – becoming almost completely new entities over time. David Bowie (David Robert Jones, January 8, 1947 – January 11, 2016) was one of those people. His creativity matured but remained energetic and fluid. As a fan I feel the loss as a reflection of my own aging, the meaning David held for my various stages of existence. His grand narrative and poignant reflections gave meaning to so many sounds and visualized ideas in ways like no one else. 

Having lost someone to cancer a few years ago, I extend my deepest sympathies and good will towards his family and friends. Its a blessing and a torture; the process forces you to see through vivid eyes, holding close to every moment that you have then feeling guilty that you want them to be there for you…..never wanting to let go and grabbing onto every second together like a treasure, a gift …….but wishing them a different way – a release. 

As we let him go, above into the stars – we are all jealous of the heavens that get to have him now. 

Basquiat (1996, dir: Julian Schnabel) — I confess- I still have my Interview Magazines from the late 70s early 80s – I scanned the back pages of Vanity Fair’s party scenes  photos for any glimpse of the bright and scuzzy artists that I loved, including Andy and Jean-Michel…Having David play Andy in this film was a brilliant move (also note a few moments of Vincent Gallo, Tatum ONeal, Parker Posey…..) 

The Prestige (2006, dir; Christoper Nolan) — Again, casting David as a truly important character- a pivotal notation on the world’s stage; brilliant. I am not a fan of Jackman nor Bale but watched this with interest, finding it amusing but limited. Almost like something is holding it back from its real depth?? 

The Redford Theater in Detroit is playing 2 films featuring Bowie, The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) and Labyrinth (1986)  – See them on the big screen if you can.

 

A Week not watching much: the Filmmaven’s dilemma

I’ve been in a funk. I just don’t care. I’m waiting on the sidelines for “Better Call Saul” to start and all other shows / movies seem like …”WHATEVER”. I promised my inner filmmaven to watch as many new things as possible over the holiday week….but I didn’t. Instead I read books, took down all the decorations, rearranged the living room and watched BUFFY & DEXTER.

Why I asked my brain…WHY …would you be obsessive over something you’ve already seen more than once?? I think there might be something hypnotic in the theme songs …or subliminal messages in the credits?

No worries – I found a grove to pick up and her name is JESSICA JONES …–and maybe one or two other things that you should watch ….. So here we have a bit of TV to binge, a few small movies to love and one small nod to a costume designer;

 

A Little Chaos (2014, Dir: Alan Rickman) – Not something I was looking for, although I do have a fondness for the time period and the historical characters….It needs to be something WOW for me to put time aside for a long, slow period work ….Alan Rickman (your favorite evil Professor Snape, as well as the big bad of DIE HARD) hasn’t directed on film since “The Winter’s Gues”  in 1997 (also very much worth watching) so this one became a curiosity that crept up on me …..So, watch for whatever your reasons are; Love story, epic French History, Kate Winslet, beautiful fabric and design choices by Joan Bergin or a fascination with gardens ..whatever it takes..but choose a quiet day around the house and watch this pretty film. (available this month on HBO)

The Box Trolls (2014, Dir: Anthony Stacchi & Graham Annable) – The story itself is not new or even all that interesting ….the plot line is dot dot dot familiar. The watching is in the art, the beautiful ugly art of 3-D Stop Animation ….its clever, its gorgeous, its hideous – its more than watchable…its a wow moment that is sad and horrible when its over …you just want MORE ! Clever and gorgeously done.

Marvel’s Jessica Jones (2015- , Netflix, various Directors) — Many attempts to create tough powerful female characters often mimic what it means to be a male character with a few feminine fault lines…..Jessica Jones and the series in general, does not drop its characters in anything restrictive – they are comic book classic with powers and angst but well round and full with back stories, character flaws and emotion. Pulling along the development of characters through the entire season, giving the audience just enough snippets to make us care what happens to them. Special nod to the casting of Carrie-Anne Moss and Rebecca DeMornay ..both actresses add just enough high quality turn of scenes to enhance the show but not mock the other actors. Yes, I binged over the week to finish out the season, but not in one sitting, savor the episodes just a few at a time.

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