Film

Is George Lucas Revealing Hollywood’s Systemic Racism?

Darth Vader
Darth Vader via Wiki Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:4329723049_6abd60de0a_o_d-1-.jpg

I was a Star Wars kid. I was almost six years old when the first movie hit theaters and it blew my mind, as it did the minds of all my friends. We all wanted to grow up either to be Darth Vader or Obiwan Kenobi, depending on your particular bent.

Not for nothing, but I did tear up when Vader finally died. Kenobi just wasn’t as cool.

The Star Wars saga helped define pop culture in many ways throughout my childhood. And so George Lucas, creator of the epic films, was the cinematic god of our youth. And if anyone has juice in Hollywood to get things done, it’s Lucas, who owns Lucasfilms (his own production company). So if there’s a film he wants to get made, it’s going to happen.

Unless the stars of the movie are black, that is.

Power and No Glory

ROLAND EMMERICH is known for making the kind of disaster movies that fans of quality filmmaking—the kind with literate scripts, acting that’s not just phoning it in for a Mulholland Drive mortgage payment, and values that approach the humane—love to hate. His films also garner massive audiences. Ask yourself what you were doing on the weekends that Independence Day and Godzilla were released and you may know why.

But look beneath the surface and there’s a more thoughtful sensibility at work. The Day After Tomorrow engaged climate change without easy solutions, and 2012 proposed that salvation for the U.S. will only come from accepting its interdependence with other nations. Emmerich is German, and it’s obvious that his outsider status permits him to raise an eyebrow at cinematic U.S. imperialism.

It’s refreshing to see him turn the eye beneath that brow to a European story in Anonymous, a fantasy that purports to be about whether or not Shakespeare really wrote his plays. Emmerich is having smart fun and so are we. The film takes the debatable authorship theory at face value, so don’t expect a credible laying out of the evidence. What you get instead is a fascinating hybrid movie: a cloak-and-dagger-historical fiction-Greek tragedy-inspirational comedy about how storytellers can change society. It’s bombastic and implausible and full of bad Elizabethan teeth and people who would only say “thou” and “thee” given half the chance. But in its imagining of the power of art to create a new way of thinking about the world, Anonymous ends up being the inversion of the disaster movie: It’s a glorious—if slightly ridiculous—evocation of the artist’s vocation to tell the truth whatever it costs.

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"The Muppets": Triumphant Return of Beloved Frog or Insidious Communist Propaganda??

What could Bolling and Gainor have against The Muppets?

What could the movie have done to cause so much offense?

I mean, Sam Eagle got loads of screen time.

Did Fozzie make the GOP presidential candidates the punch line to one of his high-caliber jokes?

Did Bolling Statler and Waldorf heckle Bolling and Gainor?

Were the Fox talking heads offended that the greatest love affair of modern times is between a frog and a pig?

Or perhaps they detected a tacit nod of approval to the gay community in the Muppets' cover of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" even if it didn't make it into the film?

 

http://youtu.be/tgbNymZ7vqY

 

Nope. It turns out that The Muppets committed a far more serious transgression — the gravest of sins — it poked fun at corporate America.

That’s right, poor defenseless corporate America — in this case, the particularly vulnerable oil industry — faced the mighty wrath and unmitigated cruelty of felted bullies.

A Few Good Men

George Clooney is a rare star—as good-looking as Cary Grant, as committed to social activism as Michael Moore. He’s willing to use his cultural power for something more than the lucrative repetition of a blockbuster bloody alien invasion artistic travesty every other summer. Instead, Clooney’s films are often meaty explorations of truth-telling and the common good. Good Night, and Good Luck is an indictment of media distortion; Solaris reflects the meaning of love and grief and the spaces in between; and his TV version of Fail Safe (aired in 2000) warns against the consequences of backing up international relations with the threat of nuclear attack.

Clooney’s new movie, The Ides of March, serves as a thoughtful and entertaining mirror for next year’s presidential election. Like Robert Redford’s Lions for Lambs, it presents policies we could believe in (Clooney’s candidate offers realistic ways to reverse climate change and reduce the threat of terrorism—and is wise enough to realize that these may actually be two sides of a coin). Ides also seeks to transcend partisanship by avoiding a rose-tinted vision of secular liberalism, and it challenges the mythological hypocrisy that goads the public to permit almost any bad behavior from a president (war, execution, economic degradation) as long as he at least pretends to maintain moral Puritanism in private life.

The Ides of March is a smart, disturbing film, and an invitation to ask if we have reached rock bottom in our politics—which may be the best place from which to work for change.

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Must Watch: Hard Times Generation: Families Living in Cars

Homelessness is a growing problem for children around the United States.
Homelessness is a growing problem for children around the United States.

This weekend, 60 Minutes aired a piece that has been commended by many as a shocking but must-see insight into poverty in the United States today.

Sixteen million children now live in poverty, and for many, they don’t even have a proper place to call home. These situations are even more frequent in areas of the country where traditional industries have collapsed in the wake of the financial crisis – such as the construction industry in central Florida.

Woody Allen and His Evangelical Fan Base (Yes, Really.)

The author's basket of eggs and Mr. Allen.
The author's basket of eggs and Mr. Allen.

Both Colson and Land are such diehard fans that they can -- and did, during conversations with Boorstein -- quote lines from Allen's movies.

Can you imagine Land, with his low Texas drawl, reciting Allen's famous monologue from Annie Hall?:

"The other important joke for me is one that's usually attributed to Groucho Marx but I think it appears originally in Freud's Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious - and it goes like this. I'm paraphrasing. I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member. That's the key joke of my adult life, in terms of my relationships with women."

Yeah, me neither.

"Courageous": A Sermon Wrapped in a Movie

courageous-poster-ec6b2

This was not so much a movie as a (very long) sermon. In fact, it's a sermon that actually culminates in a sermon, as Kendrick's character spells out what he has learned in a message delivered to his church congregation.

Despite its well-meaning intentions, Courageous fails to say anything new about fatherhood, family, faith or anything else, for that matter. The few funny or moving scenes are surrounded by clunky acting, overly-moralistic dialogue and a plot that is trying to be three movies in one -- and none of them terribly believable.

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