Well, I missed updating yesterday, broke my promise again, but it doesn't matter anymore. I think I've gotten into the habit of writing. When I have something worth sharing, I think I've matured to the point that I'll write it down on Spice of Life. There's no reason to force myself to write everyday. If my plans of becoming a journalist are fulfilled, then I will be writing everyday. For right now, I'll enjoy myself. Have a good day.
So, I got together with some friends last night. We watched some college basketball, played a few hands of poker, and, as many do, watched a movie. It came down to either Elf or Crash. I fought hard to avoid Will Ferrel and eventually won out when, while people were arguing, someone slipped it into the DVD player. We watch for maybe twenty minutes and one friend pipes up, "Hey, there are some racial undertones to this movie." We laughed at him. Twenty minutes after that, another friend finally figures out that the movie's set in Los Angeles. Shortly thereafter, we've been put into a talking mood and start questioning the symbolism of various characters and acts and someone yelled to stop analyzing the movie. I rejoined that this wasn't meant to be a movie you watch and forget about like XXX or any Adam Sandler movie. To not think about this movie would be an insult to those who worked on it.
So, here I am, thinking about the movie. To get this into the clear right now, I come from a small, homogenous town. Racial issues are hardly something I confront on an everyday basis, they're something I see on TV or read about. Neither have I been to L.A. Is the City of Angels really that bad? Do the people really need to 'crash' into each to feel something? I don't know, and I doubt you could get the city itself to agree. But I digress.
Race is certainly the central issue here. You'd be an idiot to miss that, but there's a lot more going on. Human interaction and communication as well as 'the system' and the progression of good and bad acts are major themes I saw in this movie. The Persian shopkeeper can't figure out what the locksmith's trying to tell him and insurance subsequently screws him. The District Attorney has to (though this is certainly debatable and undoubtedly a controversial claim) act extra nice to blacks after his car is stolen by the two kids. Then the car jacker with cornrows lets the Asians in the van go with forty dollars after the director let's him go, even after being offered five hundred dollars for each by the guy who watches Discovery.
What about race then? Looks like a no win situation to me. Some people fill a stereotype like the black carjackers who, though they didn't run with a gang, were basically thugs with personality. Others don't. Boy was the District Attorney's wife wrong about the locksmith, the only completely sympathetic character I found in this movie. The problem is we don't understand one another. Not that understanding helps much. The bigot cop explains his father's situation to Shaniqua but still gets nothing. The District Attorney's wife doesn't want to look racist and gives the two blacks the benefit of the doubt by not turning around like she wants to but ends up getting her car stolen.
You want to take a message from this movie? Here's what I found. Life's a mess because it isn't simple. There are no good or bad people. Only ones we feel sympathy for and ones we don't because everyone has done things to be proud of and things they would rather forget. I don't know how deep or thoughtful that was, but it's true. Oh yeah, and L.A. sucks. Don't ever go there.
On all other counts, I think the movie does an excellent job. The acting is good, the cinematography is good, and the story is simply phenomenal. Still, I don't think I'll watch the movie again except to pick up things I missed the first time like if the second Asian in the cafe was the insurance man or why exactly the young cop couldn't or wouldn't file a report on his jerkwad partner.
I had some msigivings about this movie. I figured this movie was going to be blown hard core as Hollywood tried to recreate the success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, screwed with the plot, and placed incompetent child actors in key parts, a terrible fear of mine since Star Wars Episode I. I went on opening night and was pleasantly surprised, mostly because the acting didn't suck. Besides a few lines by the White Witch and the scenes with Peter and the wolf, Hollywood did a good job of translating the book on to the screen. And I finely discovered the huge Christian allegory going on. In my defense I read the books in elementary, but, geez, there were some huge, obvious metaphors.
Anyway, I watched the movie again and something kind of bothered me about it. The movie opens up with the Luftwaffe bombing London and the Pevensie family. Later, the fight between good and evil is precipitated by the dropping of rocks by griffins upon the White Witch's forces. Personally, I feel that some of the camera shots at these two points were meant to directly parallel each other. I believe we are meant to compare these two armies. I can think of two possible explanations for this. One is to humanize the Germans. Personally I don't like this very much. I prefer to believe that is a shot at the need for the glorious battle scene that so the movie going public was anticipating. In the book, this fight was really glossed over. It was hardly a centerpiece of the action. In the movie, they're building up to it since the Pevensies meet up with the Beavers. Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are not better than the Germans who bombed their homes, thus leading to their moving in with the Professor and beginning their adventures in Narnia.
Of course, noone else I talked to noticed these parallels, so, whatever, I could be seeing things. Have a good day.
You know what I hate? Rhetorical questions, especially when people substitute the classic "Hello" with "How's it going?" or its various incarnations. How am I supposed to give a reasonable answer if we're just passing by? My emotional state is hardly a matter to be summed up in a few words. I'm forced to either answer "Fine" or ignore their question. I have no problem being asked that question when it precedes what will be a longer conversation because I can give a full and complete answer then. When people ask "What's up?" in passing I feel as though they're attempting to show concern but don't really care because they know I can't give an involved answer which would likely lead to further questions because we're only passing each other. It's a verbal trap.
You know what? I just noticed that I used multiple rhetorical questions in this post. Seeing as how it's impossible for anyone to answer the questions I posit within this blog, they're all rhetorical. I have seen the enemy, and it is me.
So, I was kicking around on Metaphilm.com (an excellent which I suggest everyone check out for some good laughs or intriguing takes on popular movies) and read the essay on Die Hard. It was about how the media was the true villain in the movie and how names and identities were power. Personally, I don't see how Die Hard is unique in either respect, but it did get me to thinking and writing. Don't expect any Wildean social commentary like that found in my other posts but a bunch of observations.
My name is Christopher Francis Heinrich. The origins of each individual component are as follows: Christopher was the only name my parents could agree on (and was preferable to Dwayne or Tryptophan), Francis is the masculine form of Frances (my mother's middle name), and Heinrich, as is the case of most last names, is my father's family name. Normally, I go by Chris because it's faster to say.
Then there's a horde of nicknames that people call me by. My dad calls me Spud for some unknown reason. My friends from high school have quite a few names for me. There's Marlin for the Hawaiian shirt I was fond of wearing. For a while I was called Cubore because they thought my head was square. That ended when I started to grow my hair out, but then one of my friend's dad started calling me Tina (short for Tian Turner) because of my hair. This name undoubtedly arose from jealousy seeing as how the man was bald. For a short while I was called Hurricane after Hurricane Francis went through Florida, and The Scorpion's "Rock You Like a Hurricane" became my unofficial theme song.
Then there are the name I chose for myself. On AOL I go by DarthOzymandias, a mix of the pop (Darth) and classic (Ozymandias). On a bunch of online games, I call myself DarthJoJo, a clever amalgamation of deep evil (Darth) and the ridiculous (JoJo). In high school French I went by Raoul and Sir Galahad (which would've been Sir Lancelot had I not told my friend, the name stealing jerk, my idea and then been gone the day we took names). For some reason I can't remember I created an overly long name. It was JoJo the Half-Naked Insance Australian Super Karate Master with a Doctorate in Hydro-Nucleo Sporadic Physics and phD in Donut Making, Bronzesmith of the Silver Jaws of Irony, and Part-Time Monkey Trainer, or King JoJo for short (the title was implied in the King).
There's some naming game where you combine your middle name and the name of the street you live on to create your porn star name. Mine is Francis 1st or Francis Premiere, which sounds a whole lot cooler.
Juliet said, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other word would smell as sweet." Well, I have a lot of names, as you can see. Do I remain the same person because the social standards put upon me in these different situations are definitely different, and my actions are different. Does my essential identity emerge or do these different names give me the ability to conform to a new, appropriate performative identity? Ooh ... philosophical if not original. I so smart.
I don't know when it started though I believe the whole movement gained a lot of popularity with the first Christmas episode of The O.C., but this whole winter holiday amalgamation thing is something I truly detest. I don't hear people wishing me a Chrismukkah (of The O.C.) or Chrismahanukwanzukah (courtesy of Virgin Mobile), but I'm disgusted at the their mere existence.
Quit making up holidays and trying to appease everyone! We're not all the same and aren't meant to be! Get over it! Whatever happened to the notion that differences are to be celebrated and make us unique? Or has that idea been discarded in the hope that strict conformity will prevent discord and strife?
These rabid drives at pluralism serve merely to cheapen the original holidays. Chrismukkah is nothing and Chrismahanukwanzukkah is an advertising campaign. I really see no upside to their existence. Moreover, these holidays aren't even compatible! According to Wikipedia (the modern Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and fount of all knowledge) Kwanzaa was invented as a secular humanist response to the Western religious traditions. Combining it with Christmas and Hanukkah, the very holidays it is directed against, is an insult to all involved.
I've read in a few places that these are supposed to be meant as satires on the immense secular natures of these holidays, and, in some sort of screwed up logic, I guess one could rationalize their drive to add to it.
If your lineage includes a diversity of traditions, I don't understand what prevents one from celebrating each individually. Acknowledge your roots as the separate traditions they are. If they overlap, that's great. It shows a shared set of values. Still, there's no need to ram these sacred holidays together. They deserve more respect than that.
And so I say Humbug to Chrismukkah! Fie on Chrismahanukwanzukkah! And shame to those who created these holidays!
So, I already failed to uphold my promise of daily posts. It's really inexusable too since I wasn't doing anything yesterday, but I had writer's block and couldn't be bothered to think of any interesting topics. So, as penance, I will put up two excellent posts today. There, now we can all be friends again.
Last night I was visiting a friend of mine, and he took it upon himself to expose me to a television series that he enjoyed immensely, The Office. The series is set-up as a mockumentary of office life. The cameras are obviously handheld and fairly often they'll sit down with one of the actors and interview them, get their take on the day's happenings. If you think about Dilbert and Office Space, which The Office certainly must draw a lot of comparisons too, you have about the right tone and sense of humor.
I had seen part of an episode on my own before and chuckled a little bit but never made an attempt to watch it again. Now, after seeing another two episodes, I can put into words why. The show is depressing beyond belief. The eccentric, quirky cast of characters the character based comedy are entirely unlikable, and, by the end of the first episode, I just wanted to jump into the TV and beat everyone with a two by four, that is if I hadn't been consumed by the despair for my future The Office generated. I couldn't look beyond the arrogance or timidity or passive-aggresiveness or total disconnect from reality any of these characters displayed and hated all of them. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad if any of these characters displayed some depth or heart, but they didn't. The director's / producer's / writer's idea of moving a character beyond the single trait they were built upon was putting the boss into an improv class where he acted the exact same way he did at work.
For myself, I like reading Dilbert and enjoy watching Office Space even though the closest I have ever come to working in an office was a strange sort of free-lance marketing internship for a local bank last summer. Those had some key differences though. Dilbert is a cartoon which further discombobulates it from reality. As cruel as the boss may be or as lazy as Wally gets, they're still cartoons and not confused with real life. Office Space has a happy ending and a fully developed protagonist.
All that being said, there are still some things I enjoyed about the series. The acting was excellent. I did feel as though I was watching real office workers and not a bunch of actors, and the camera work, which I had originally expected to irritate me, actually worked in the show's favor and drew me in.
So, this particular post was inspired by the movie Memoirs of a Geisha. A few weeks ago some friends of mine were talking about movies they were looking forward to and Memoirs of a Geisha came up. That's when I heard that Ziyi Zhang would be playing the lead role, a Chinese woman playing a Japanese. For a long time, this irritated me something terrible. I respect her acting abilities and everything, well as much as I can since I don't understand her language, but "Come on," I thought "Let's show some respect for the source material," which I recently discovered was book written by an American man.
Anyways, I thought about it some more and read a few reviews, and I like to believe that I have since come up with a more thoughtful idea. One review I read said this was a step up from the days of Hollywood where Asians were simply Caucasians wearing a little eye make-up. This reminds me of the stories I heard of Shakespeare's time when women weren't even allowed to appear on stage, and men played all the roles. Was this wrong? Yeah. These decisions were made because women weren't able to take the rigors of acting or something, and Asians probably weren't allowed to portray themselves because directors had no faith in their acting abilities. These decisions were made from a position of superiority.
Another case that came to my attention was that of Ken Watanabe in Batman Begins. I didn't really pay attention at the time but, when I was flipping through an issue of Mad later, found that his role in the comics was Arabian. Mad suggested that this casting was made because Japanese don't tend to blow themselves up when they want to protest against something they aren't pleased with. So, here we have cross-racial casting because of political correctness concerns, according to Mad. Whoo! Seven degrees of separation. Watanabe is in Memoirs of a Geisha as well!
So, this brings us to the case of Memoirs of a Geisha. To me, the problem, here is of a different manner. I've come to accept Ziyi Zhang's casting. I no longer have a problem with it. The advertisers aren't celebrating the fact that she's Chinese, but they aren't hiding it. Ziyi Zhang is a fairly well-known game in the United States as are the other two Chinese actresses cast as Japanese in Memoirs. Maybe, if they were trying to slip in an unknown Chinese actress into the role, I would have a problem with it. But they didn't.
This is a movie, art. It's not real life. At most, it's a representation. The only reason for proper racial casting is to maintain the suspension of disbelief. In different situations this may be more or less appropriate. This movie is not about race, as far as I know, it's about love. The best actor or actress for the part should be chosen according to their respective acting skills for fitting the part, not their skin color.