Rightwing Film Geek

How French of her

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Before this year, the only actors to win an Academy Award for a performance in a foreign-language film¹ — Sophia Loren and Roberto Benigni — were Italians. Last week’s awards saw the first French performance to win an acting Oscar — Marion Cotillard for LA VIE EN ROSE. If these past few days indicate the character of French thespians, I hope there won’t ever be a second.

Marion Cotillard is a 9/11 (Un)Truther. (And that may not be her nuttiest bit of paranoia — she sure doesn’t believe “everything they tell” her about man landing on the moon, either).

plane.jpgHere is the interview in French. Here is the translation by the Times of London:

Marion Cotillard: I tend rather often to take the side of the conspiracy theory…. I’m not paranoid. It’s not paranoid because I think that they lie to us about an awful lot of things: Coluche, 9/11. You can see on the internet all the films of September 11 on the conspiracy theory. It’s fascinating, even addictive.
They show other towers of the same type that aeroplanes have run into and which burnt. There is a tower, in Spain I think, which burnt for 24 hours… It never collapsed. None of these towers collapse. But there (in New York), the thing collapses. Then afterwards you can talk about it for a long time. The towers of September 11 were stuffed with gold. And they were swallowing up cash because they were built, I gather, in 1973. And to re-cable all that, to modernise the technology and all of that, it was much more expensive to carry out the work than to destroy them. …. Did man ever walk on the moon ? I have seen a lot of documentaries on that and really, I wonder. In any case, I do not believe everything they tell me. That’s for sure.

To paraphrase Orwell, there are things that one doesn’t *answer.* No serious person expects actors to know their ass from a hole in the ground. And no serious person expects anything from the French, particularly une artiste, except America-hating terrorist-loving tripe, the nuttier the better. Kathy Shaidle has a line to dismiss the psychopaths at Du and Kos — “if Bush is Hitler, why aren’t you a lampshade?” In that same spirit, Marion, if the US government were as you think it is, killing 3,000 people on its own soil to save the cost of rewiring a couple of buildings, why hasn’t it rubbed you out for exposing this? If it were as evil as you seem to have no difficulty entertaining, it could even cover up its involvement in your murder. If you really, truly believed this, mon cherie, rather than stating it for the sake of posturing, you wouldn’t be filming in Chicago.

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March 4, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 17 Comments

History never ends

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BLACK BOOK — Paul Verhoeven, Holland, 2007, 8

Paul Verhoeven’s BLACK BOOK is the kind of movie that gives me and other Christian critics jock itch. The film’s entertainment and artistic value is, I think, unquestionable but, like the turd in the punch bowl, there’s a couple of “couldn’t leave well enough alone” moments of indefensible Christian-bashing.

In many respects, surface trappings of “Holocaust movie” and the Dutch shadow of “Anne Frank” aside, BLACK BOOK is a throwback to the spy thrillers of the 40s and 50s. Set in a moral muddle worthy of Carol Reed’s Vienna where friend and foe shift from moment to moment, BLACK BOOK mostly follows a single protagonist Rachel (Carice van Houten) weaving her way through wartime intrigue between the Dutch Underground and the Nazis, including infiltrating the SD headquarters, at the very end of the war.

But at the level of a boy’s comic-adventure serial, that might have run in Hotspur or Warlord when I was a wee lad, Verhoeven handles the genre mechanics expertly; I deliberately chose that lead image for its iconic, comic-book visual quality. He also keeps believable the shifts in alliances that take place owing to the war’s fortunes and internal tensions among both the Germans and the Dutch. He handles the set pieces, both violence and suspense, with the aplomb and verve you’d expect from the man who made ROBOCOP and Schwarzenegger’s TOTAL RECALL.
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February 18, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 2 Comments

IMPORTANT NEWS OF THE DAY!!!!!

Two “All-American” college students were victims of racial profiling in Ohio — it’s just unfortunate that their names were Fritz, Luigi and Akira Osama and Ali.

Nor is this all. Also the US president uses the term “Islamic fascists.” The German-American Bund Council on American-Islamic Relations is on the case, as cited in the Al-Reuters report:

We believe this is an ill-advised term and we believe that it is counter-productive to associate Islam or Muslims with fascism … We ought to take advantage of these incidents to make sure that we do not start a religious war against Islam and Muslims.

CAIR, carefully noting that there are only “alleged” terror plots, takes the role of leadership in this time of national and world crisis to warn against the great evil of our day — ethnic stereotyping:

“The American Muslim community supports efforts to ensure the safety and security of the traveling public,” said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad. “We once again urge law enforcement authorities and elected officials to caution against stereotyping entire religious or ethnic groups based on the alleged actions of individuals.”

British Muslim leaders also warn against the imminent pogrom:

We need to find out what was the connection between 7/7 and subsequent attacks. It is imperative to find that link to stop continuing Islamophobic attacks
(As Allahpundit asked: “Isn’t it more imperative to ‘find’ that link to stop terrorist attacks?”)

And the worst is yet to come as Abdurahman Jafar, vice-chairman of British Muslim Council’s legal affairs committee, warns.

Whether the result is successful or not does not matter. Muslims will be stigmatised and kids will come back from school with more vitriol thrown at them
(wondering … does vitriol produce this effect?)

Mr. Jafar puts the matter most eloquently. It. Does. Not. Matter. … what links to “alleged” terror may be among British Muslims. What. Does. Matter. … is that Muslims not be stigmatized. The London Times names the 19 latest victims of racial profiling:

Umir Hussain, Muhammed Usman Saddique, Waheed Zaman, Assan Abdullah Khan, Waseem Kayani, Waheed Arafat Khan, Cossor Ali, Tayib Rauf, Ibrahim Savant, Osman Adam Khatib, Shamin Mohammed Uddin, Amin Asmin Tariq, Shazad Khuram Ali, Tanvir Hussain, Umar Islam (born Brian Young), Assad Sarwar, Abdullah Ali, Abdul Muneem Patel, Nabeel Hussain

What … no Mary Margaret O’Malley, no Luigi Benvenuti, no Bobby Jack “Tater” Hatfield, no Sven Olsson, no Jacob Feldman, no Shamika Robinson, no Kumiko Yamamoto, no Lee Chin, no Rudolf Guttmacher, no Leszek Kowalski, no Juan Gomez Castro, no Rajiv Singh? wtf is going on here? This is prima facie racial profiling on a grand scale. And not smart, since it only pisses off Muslims who SO want to be America’s friends.

Anything else happen in the news today?

August 10, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Missing from WORLD TRADE CENTER

cartoons.jpgReaction shots from the Palestinian dear-hearts, taking time out from their marches and their studies. But don’t look for that kind of stuff in the MSM — it might “inflame” people. Not these people, you understand — the Western media and peace activists can aid their feasting on images like these all day — no problemo.

Of course, since the world media has to keep Israel’s “atrocities” front and center, they resort to recycling images, every time claiming them the result of the latest Israeli bombing (read the captions). Not to speak of manufacturing atrocities where none happened, staging photo-ops, or running misleading images or information — all curiously making the Jews (“that’s J-E-W-S“) look in a worse light. This is not a new practice and the result of past Arab treatment of photographers who snap embarrassing pictures.

August 10, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

America … fuck yeah

Another blow to my lifelong ambition to become a US Marine badass. Apparently too much fandom for TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE (it made my Top 10 in 2004) will get you in hot water with the leatherneck brassnecks.

Last month, Cpl. Joshua Belile has been hounded by the Jihad enablers and assorted liars for “Hadji Girl,” a song which proves again (years after Salman Rushdie, and shortly after the Danish cartoons: available here) that Muslims have no sense of humor.

The song’s hook “Dirka, Dirka, Muhammad Jihad” is taken from the Trey Parker and Matt Stone film (which all by itself should indicate that this is comical), an unapologetically jingoistic film, with one of the greatest monologs (the first quote here) in movie history, not only a masterpiece of creative obscenity and extended metaphor, but a political philosophy akin to Chapter 17 of Machiavelli’s “The Prince.” It’s no surprise that it’s a hit with US troops and bunches the panties of the CAIRs of the world (I wrote it about the song/film here and here). Best excerpt:

It’s also clear to anyone who knows anything about the history of war songs and war stories that soldiers have always engaged in gallows humor and sick jokes, partly from “brutalization” (not a bad thing within limits, BTW; we want warriors to be “harder” than civilians) but also partly as a way of dealing with the constantly-made-imminent fact of the men’s own mortality. At the very start of Western civilization, Homer tells dry jokes about how some soldiers “have the black fog descend upon them,” including one sequence in THE ILIAD where he compares a Trojan being speared through the jaw to a fish trapped on a hook. Nor is this confined to soldiering; all professions have humor, within the stakes of that profession. I have never worked in a newsroom where you couldn’t get at least a knowing smirk with a reference to lines from Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry” (“The boys in the newsroom got a running bet: / ‘Get the widow on the set / We need dirty laundry’.”) In a boxing movie called THE SETUP, all the “red corner” fighters share a single dressing room, and one guy who’s just won his fight is telling everyone else in graphic detail about how he worked over his opponent, mercilessly punishing his “soft” stomach and ribs. A green young lad getting ready for his first fight has to flee the room to throw up, causing the victorious fighter to ask in a puzzled manner: “what’s the matter with him.” Sick humor in a life-and-death situation is simply letting off steam; there have never been soldiers in any war who haven’t done exactly the same thing, only outside the glare of scrutiny by the Cambridge-Hollywood Axis.

But I was thinking that maybe Cpl. Belile should sing the song in the presence of Algerian badboy Zidane; I doubt THAT confrontation would end with a headbutt. And if Zidane can’t take trash talk on the pitch without (potentially, at least) costing his national team the frickin World Cup — well, maybe he should take McCloud’s advice and take his penchant for headbutts into the pro wrestling ring (we haven’t had a good French villain since the latter-day Andre the Giant).

July 11, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Amazing Chan and the Fox Klan

It was set to be a good summer for mystery buffs who get the Fox Movie Channel (both of them). The cable-movies network had planned the Charlie Chan Mystery Tour, a scheduled double feature of Chan films every Monday in June, July and August. But then the Fox got chicken. They got some letters from Asian pressure groups and cancelled the series, with a explanatory note on their Web site. Some uproar and letter-writing campaigns ensued on movies-discussion groups and the network kinda-sorta took it back later, changing the verb on the pop-up from “cancelled” to “suspended.”

In some ways, it would have been difficult to get very upset about the lack of a Charlie Chan movie marathon a couple of months ago. We are NOT talking about BIRTH OF A NATION, TRIUMPH OF THE WILL or BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN — films whose historical significance and dazzling artistry make them far too important to hold their repugnant (and explicit) politics too heavily against them. But we’re also not talking about agitprop here. The Charlie Chan movies are not the PROTOCOLS OF THE ELDERS OF SIAM — they’re a B-program series of mystery stories, of which, full disclosure, I have seen only one (I actually saw more often the early 70s cartoon “The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan” and can still hum the chorus to its Archies-style pop song “No. 1 Son.”) Still, the Chan films’ general reputation is sufficiently low, though like everything it has its fans, that I am confident in saying that world is hardly much the poorer for their relative lack of prominence.

But everything changed once Fox programmed the marathon — in a way similar to how, in the field of employment law, a decision to fire (or revoke tenure) is reviewed by a different set of standards than a decision not to hire (or give tenure). It’s easy (too easy, in fact) to mock the Asian pressure groups for their basic cinematic and dramatic illiteracy, like seeing Chan’s meek and subservient demeanor as an Asian stereotype, when any fan of detective shows or stories knows that this is a common detective mask, playing “dumb like a fox” (oops!) to lure the quarry into giving himself away. You can see it in Columbo, in Hercule Poirot, in Father Brown, in DIABOLIQUE.

But I want to be harder on Fox Movie Channel for their pussilanimity. Is this kind of weakness and toeing the ethnic-lobby line that people expect from *Fox* — The Conservative Tool Of Rupert Murdoch’s Plan For World Domination? If *they* are not gonna tell some ethnic Jacobins to go stuff themselves, who will? The sentence in the statement on their Web site that most beggars belief is this one: “In the hope that this action will evoke discussion about the progress made in our modern, multicultural society, we invite you to please click CONTACT US to send us your thoughts on the matter.”

I guess I don’t see what kind of discussion one can have in “our modern, multicultural society” (good gawd … *this* is the language of The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy) when Fox has pulled an example of something made in “their premodern unicultural” society. If you never see anything from outside your own cave, how can even know that you are even *in* a cave much less know its contours, i.e. its virtue and vice (yes … that *is* a Plato reference … get used to them.) The only discussion I see being provoked by this action would be plenty of self-congratulation about how “modern” and “multicultural” we all are, patting ourselves on the back for all our “progress” (good gawd … *this* is the language of The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy).

I may have to take all of that back however, because I must say that I have some serious doubts about Fox’s honesty. The statement announcing the cancellation of the Chan marathon said that Fox “has been made aware that the Charlie Chan films may contain situations or depictions that are sensitive to some viewers.” Huh? Forget *may contain* (there’s no “may” about it … they do). What does *has been made aware* mean? Is there anybody alive and culturally awake who doesn’t know that many Asians, however rightly or wrongly, see Charlie Chan as an offensive stereotype. Or that the term “Charlie Chan” has been used a disparaging common noun or moniker for Asians in general — at the level of “chink” or “gook.” (truth be told, I think the experience of being disparagingly called a “charlie chan,” not the actual content of the films, is why Asians see these particular movies as a special red flag). Program the films ordon’t program them — but don’t pretend that their perceived offensiveness is something that Fox just “has been made aware of.”

So unbelievable is that particular construction that I’m tempted to agree with a silent-film scholar who said at a rountable discussion at a film convention in Arlington, Va., this weekend that he thinks that Fox might have planned on caving in upon the first receipt of protest letters and then planned the tentative reversal once the publicity had been generated. The use of the letters and the cave-in were just a way of ginning up publicity for their Charlie Chan series — a group of movies for which the public is not exactly beating down the door.

I suppose I should make clear that when I called the Asian groups Jacobins, I mean that in the cultural rather than head-chopping variety (a more-recent analogy would be the Taliban’s destroying the Buddha statues in the name of Islam — hey, let’s discuss the progress Islam has made over paganism). For one thing, these low-rent Robespierres have an one-dimensional, essentially propagandistic and self-centered approach to art. In his letter to Fox, Eddie Wong, the National Asian American Telecommunications Association executive director, explicitly set up this standard for representations in the following phrase — “humanistic, historically accurate, and empowering images.” Yikes. Doesn’t this “humanistic … empowering” talk sound like a schoolmarm addressing her charges? Anybody who uses the term “empowering” should be “empowered” all right — by the attachment of some jumper cables.

And then he complains that Chan’s behavior “did not resemble my parents, friends or any Chinese person I knew.” Double yikes. Can a human being be that narcissistic or is this “I don’t know anybody like this” seriously meant as an argument? Who started these humorless nursery games of “I have to see myself on the screen” and “Characters of my ethnicity have to resemble my life-memories.” I can recall seeing only one Scottish-born American resident in a noncomic U.S.-made movie — Ted Danson’s cop in THE ONION FIELD, and look what happened to him (but he wasn’t Catholic, so maybe he doesn’t count). Isn’t the point of art to see something other than yourself, or has reality TV changed all that?

While it is true that the Asian pressure groups are not calling for censorship in the formal sense, their efforts, if successful, would destroy the Charlie Chan movies just as effectively as (if more slowly and less self-consciously than) any fire lit in the name of destroying the offensive past that The New Revolutions (Revelations) Hath Made Obsolete. If the films’ are offensive, inaccurate, stereotypical and whatnot now — they will be that way forever. And if the Charlie Chan movies should not be shown now on those grounds, that argument will be just as persuasive until the lion lie down with the lamb. And there could never be any historical revisionism or rethinking about them — on two grounds.

First, because these ethnic pressure groups prevent them from being shown, they’ll eventually go down the flusher of social amnesia as they never get a chance to make the case for themselves. Second, film is fragile. Decent preservation costs money, and whoever owns the rights to the Charlie Chan series (or any other movie) needs to have some way of recouping the cost. A red-headed stepchild movie that essentially cannot be shown for any reason (ethnic protests in this case, but the point is generalizable) cannot recoup its preservation costs. The films will eventually fall apart, evaporate, explode, fade away, get lost or any of a number of other fates. Yes, the Charlie Chan movies also are readily available on tape now, but tape falls apart and fades as well.

One can say “no great loss” and he may very well be right. But let’s not kid ourselves about what the Asian groups want. They may not be government censors (and so the First Amendment Fundamentalists breathe easier) — but they will destroy these movies just as surely as any “censorship.”

July 15, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Fox hears “yellowface” and turns yellow

There’s one other point that deserves some elaboration in the Charlie Chan controversy — and that centers on the Asian critics’ frequent use of the term “yellowface.”

Eddie Wong, the National Asian American Telecommunications Association executive director, wrote in his letter to Fox Movie Channel that “Asian Americans feel that Charlie Chan is a demeaning portrayal that is culturally inaccurate and ‘entertaining’ at our expense. Add to it the insult of ‘yellowface’.” The Asian lobby group’s release says an early 80s Chan film “featured Peter Ustinov in yellowface” and asked its recipients whether they were “offended by yellowface …”

Now, naive person that I am, I actually assumed that “yellowface” meant, by analogy with “blackface,” a kind of grossly-exaggerated skin-tone makeup used by a European to play an Asian. But on reflection, that didn’t make sense. Whatever the morality of “blackface,” if a white person is going to play a black person in a black-and-white film, he clearly has to use some kind of skin-tone makeup.

There also existed in the era of Charlie Chan other kinds of pancake makeup used to blanche actors’ faces, although often by a white actor for purposes other than racial identification (e.g. silent comedian Harry Langdon’s baby-face clown). Ironically, that same whitening makeup is widely used in Japanese period films (e.g., KWAIDAN and UGETSU MONOGATARI) to signify ghosts. And contemporary latex-prosthetic makeup allows any actor to play any skin tone (e.g. the memorable barber-shop scene between Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall in COMING TO AMERICA).

But “yellowface”? In real life, Asians run along a similar pale-swarthy spectrum as whites (e.g., Ang Lee is very pale; Wong Kar-wai very swarthy). And I have seen enough Asian-made movies to know that the range of Asian skin tones — as captured by black-and-white film — isn’t *that* different from the range of European skin tones. Obviously things were done around a white actor’s eyes to make them look slanted and such costuming effects as mustaches, hairdos and clothes can be used to make a white person look “more Asian.” But “yellowface”? In films like Charlie Chan that weren’t in color? I solicited on a silent-movies newsgroup, where numerous historians and collectors post, for anyone to tell me whether there was such a thing as “yellowface” makeup. One person defended the Asian protests, but said the term “yellowface” was not strictly accurate, but merely an analogy (which he thought defensible in service of the larger point). The LA Times article, if one read carefully with this particular fact in mind, also showed that this wasn’t what the Asian groups meant. It uses the phrase “what they have dubbed ‘yellowface’ — Caucasian actors playing Asian characters.”

There is a question here of intellectual honesty and rhetorical probity. I’d hazard that 95 percent of the population, when asked to define “blackface” would say “a type of acting makeup and/or its use” rather than “any and every casting of a white actor in a black role.” And therefore, upon reading the NAATA statement and other quotes, think the Charlie Chan movies are like a Spike Lee fantasy, which isn’t only not true, but false in a particular way. To put it bluntly, whatever private language the Asian groups might think they’re using, they made-believe a lie for the purposes of producing a particular reaction in the ignorant. I include myself in the term “the ignorant” … while I never really believed there *was* such a thing as “yellowface” (and the NAATA press release’s inaccurate descriptions of the Charlie Chan character made me doubt their cinematic knowledge from the beginning), I felt sufficiently unsure to ask about it in public.

The LA Times article provides the key to understanding why make-believe *this* lie. It cites Guy Aoki, founding president of Media Action Network for Asian Americans, as calling such images “no less hurtful and dehumanizing for us than blackface has been to African Americans.” And this is why I think this minor point about the term “yellowface” is worth chewing over. It is symptomatic of one of the laziest rhetorical tropes in political discourse, and one that pretty quickly causes me to lose regard for its maker. If SOUTH PARK’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone were to write a script about this brouhaha, they might call it “Operation Get Behind The Darkies.”

The rhetorical trope, an analogy with the black civil-rights movement, is common to many people other than the ethnic-grievance groups (or even to liberals). Homosexual advocates, especially Andrew Sullivan, campaign for homosexual “marriage” by trying to analogize the status quo to anti-miscenegation laws; for Jesse Jackson, everything, from the Juliette Binoche movie CHOCOLAT to the hiring of football coaches, is always “Selma”; even right-wing groups critical of affirmative action and abortion argue that they are upholding the civil-rights movement’s ideals of a color-blind society and equal protection.

People will find these various named causes’ similarity to the civil-rights moments varyingly persuasive (and I’ve named only a tiny sample). But what interests me here is why everything in American life has to find its comparison to the civil-rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, no matter how strained. It’s as if that’s the only way to get any moral traction with the broader public is to wrap yourself, not in the flag, but in “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” This law, we might call it the Godwin’s Law of the Pre-Internet, may have something to do with the civil-rights movement being the last successful moral crusade before the 60s generation smashed the existing moral language and social structures and planted a global suspicion toward those very concepts.

But, regardless of its cause, this trope is intellectually impoverishing and lazy, the contemporary Political Cartesianism — “I’m offended, therefore I am.” Politics and cultural life get reduced to “my offense” and/or “your guilt.” It’s also false to the civil-rights movement, whose leaders become secular saints and objects of quasi-religious veneration rather than the complex and vibrant human beings they were.

No thanks to any of this.
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Here are the links to the information cited in these Charlie Chan articles:
The LA Times news article
http://www.calendarlive.com/tv/rosenberg/cl-et-lowry1jul01,0,7652748.story?coll=cl-home-more-channels

The discussions on the controversy among film buffs:
http://www.mhvf.net/forum/general/posts/124241519.html

The leading Asian lobby group:
http://www.naatanet.org/

Fox Movie Channel:
http://www.thefoxmoviechannel.com/chan_pop.html
http://www.thefoxmoviechannel.com/

July 15, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment