January 30, 2006

Notes from the Trenches

how could I resist? it was easier than you'd think.

Lost a week back there – not sure where the time went, but it obviously didn’t go into screenings of Annapolis and Big Momma’s House 2, the latter of which screened late on a Thursday night, effectively shutting out any major daily coverage (their deadlines are generally Wednesday afternoon), while discouraging the report that it wasn’t screened for critics. Same goes with Underworld 2 but more so as that little gem screened at 10pm the night before it opened. It’s not exactly the kiss of death, you know, as practically not screening for the critics resulted in two straight box office wins for the pictures in question. All of which calls into question again what the practical function is of film critics in the first place.

If not for the esoterica and academia, what I’m saying is, and especially at this time of year, what’s the point of reviewing these films? I’m sure we’ll get ‘em on video, but at least there we’re freed somewhat of the tyranny of the studio’s release schedule. There’s method to the madness of releasing these pictures when most markets’ critics are away at Park City, by the way. Think about it.

What I did do was host a discussion at the Denver Public Library of William Wyler’s The Letter (1940) – a fantastic film, better than I remembered, with one of the most memorable openings in film history and a rich text that can be looked at in any of a number of ways. The symbols are broad and over-used, perhaps (like spinning webs and moons from behind clouds) but it doesn’t make it any less fulsome. More, I was stricken with the picture’s visual similarities to Val Lewton’s pictures – while also sharing with contemporary Huston's Maltese Falcon a dedication to noir lighting and Hitchcock's Rebecca a completely subjective feminine point-of-view shot that’s staggering in its thematic sophistication. Easily Wyler’s tightest picture – it also has a Hayes Code-enforced ending that wrenches it from the Somerset Maugham short story and play upon which it’s based, but also introduces a wonderfully-meaty subtext about the dangers of colonialism.

The whole final (added) section, in fact, reminds of Jacques Tournier’s I Walked with a Zombie in its haunted invitation into the wild – shadow to shadow. It all begins with a dagger pointing the way: “MacBeth” in the details. Considering the time of its release (just two years before the British lost the area essayed in the picture to the Japanese), the tenor of the world at, or on the brink of, war, The Letter is indispensable stuff and the discussion, running the full hour allotted and more, was lively and fascinating. Check out the write-up on this series in our local alternative weekly, Westword.

Was interviewed for over an hour by a local small-press newspaper for a series I’m doing in Lone Tree – the experience of being on the other side of a long-form interview one that was both embarrassing and familiar.

On the verge of closing a deal with another major library system in Colorado this last week for a film series, as well as setting up a new set of flicks with a local coffee shop, and a modern science fiction series for a previous client. The central branch’s “Cinema Club” is revving up in a week, as well, with the “Modern Love” series. Deep in the middle of lesson planning for that one – taking more time than I expected as is the habit of most things. With a few personal appearances scheduled in the next few weeks, find me ecstatic again to be in this business. This is busy in the right way.

Here’s this week’s screen capture – will tally the score so far in the morning – spread myself a little thin tonight taking the clan to a Chinese New Year’s celebration (Year of the Dog, yo) at CU Boulder’s Glenn Miller Ballroom.

In the meantime, take a look at the review of Bresson’s Pickpocket on the muthasite along with Alex’s dip into the Sundance pool, Bill’s DVD write-up on Doom, and Travis’ final coffin nail in the inexplicable controversy about quality still surrounding Jerry Lewis’ irritating career.

Hot off the Presses (1.30.06):

Read my own DVD round-up of the freshly-released The Exorcism of Emily Rose. I didn't like it initially, I like it even less now. Alex, meanwhile, continues ruffling feathers from Park City.

Hot off the Presses (1.31.06):

The moment we've all been dreading and it's worse than expected. By my quick skimming, Memoirs of a Geisha got three nominations and A History of Violence got two. That's beautiful, isn't it? The hard truth to swallow is that if films of actual indisputable quality and courage were ever nominated for Best Picture, then you'd have to take a good hard look at those films again to suss out exactly how you over-estimated them. Nominees for Best Picture, then, none of which made any of our Top Tens this year, are:

Brokeback Mountain(**1/2/****)
Capote (**/****)
Crash (*/****)
Good Night, Good Luck (**1/2/****)
Munich (**/****)

Everyone's tabbing Brokeback as the shoo-in, but damnit if I can't shake the feeling that Crash has a really good chance to nab it. Not the least for the reason that this is a self-awarded industry prize and that the cast of Crash numbers around 74 while the cast of Brokeback is, what, in the low teens? Scrutiny of box office might be a bellwether as well. I've been threatening for years, but this is the one that I stop watching the Oscars. What's the point?

So where's Cronenberg and Malick (not to mention all the other directors who deserve to be in here more)? Not in the Best Director's category:

Clooney, Haggis, Ang Lee, Bennett Miller (! For Chrissakes, whatever's good about Capote is Hoffman - it may be one of the most poorly-directed "prestige" pictures of the year!), and Spielberg.

Best Actor? PSH, Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow), Ledger, Phoenix, and Straithairn.
Best Actress? Huffman, Judi Dench, Kiera Knightly, Charlize fucking Theron, Reese Witherspoon
Supporting Actor? Clooney, Dillon, Giamatti, Gyllenhaal, William Hurt
Supporting Actress? Amy Adams, Keener, McDormand, Weisz, Michelle Williams
Orig. Screenplay? Haggis, Clooney, Woody, Baumbach,Gaghan
Adapt. Screenplay? McMurtry/Ossana, Futterman (Capote), Caine (Constant Gardener), Olson (History of Violence), and Kushner/Roth (Munich)

As previously blogged, no foreign pic nom for Cache and no doc nom for Grizzly Man though Paradise Now counts as a surprise nomination because Palestine isn't recognized as a country by this country. Something that has, in the past, restricted Palestinian films from consideration. Hoorah?


Chad Evan said...

Au Hazard Balthazar

projectbeat said...

diary of a country priest

Walter_Chaw said...

wow - not even one Frances guess - great job Chad.

Here's the tally so far into this sixth week:

Jack S - II
Chris A
Keith U
Chad E

Four guys with a chance to tie next week, leading to a run-off the week after or - should Jack win again or a sixth contestant take the week, Jack gets this round of "goodies" and, of course, bragging rights.

The Captain said...

Two FFC reviews recently grabbed my attention; first up, Walter's phenomenal North Country review, which I'm sure is but a memory for most of you but is soon to open here in Aus:

It's a picture that doesn't respect you very much and so presents to you a beautifully-painted, one-dimensional piñata it then proceeds to knock around for a couple of high-falutin' hours until you're showered in a welter of righteous candy.

Holy shit - the whole review is absolutely awesome, detailing the shortcomings of the tacky crapfest in such a way that's not just precise, informative and interesting, but entertaining as hell. It's perfect, the definitive review but also a fantastic, artful piece of writing. While the most well known Aus critic here gives the crappy film yet another 4 out of 5 stars (just like every Spielberg, Lucas and Eastwood film of the last decade) I'm really, really thankful we have a voice of reason amongst all the garbage that passes off as film criticism nowadays.

On the other hand, not so impressed with Alex's Sundance Capsule of Thin:

Everybody hates the anorexic/bulimics. It's a disease exclusive to spoiled white girls with "negative body image"--a pseudoscientific catchphrase of the pseudoscientific psychiatric community that dominated in the diagnosis-happy 1970s. While people in the rest of the world--the rest of the country, even--starve from hunger, these rich brats "restrict" themselves or "purge."

Man, that's harsh, and hateful, and even a touch ignorant. It doesn't sound like "everybody" hates them, clearly you do, though. "Negative body image" - are you happy with the way you look? Is your wife? Are any of the females you know? Are there a thousand billboards around you showing a drybrushed skeletor as perfection screaming at you to look better? From where I'm standing, not only does it look like "negative body image" actually exists rather than being a pseudoscientific catchphrase, but that it affects basically everyone in our culture. Sure, anorexia and bulemia are the most extreme outcomes and also never occur only as a result of negative body image (check your DSM-IV to see all the other conditions that are linked and associated). But why does that mean we should hate them? Because someone down the street is different? Because we're different? We're better? What you're saying here sounds like the painfully ignorant "People should just get over it!" viewpoint to depression. And the follow up comparison with people in the third world or even those our own lower class is rigmarole - you can make a similar argument with anything to reduce it by comparison. Oh, sure, you might be getting underpaid, but at least you're not getting 12 cents an hour in a third world sweatshop. Oh, you think your cancer is so important - what about babies born with aids in Africa, or even in our own country? Scrapping empathy for individual situations and replace it with broad, sweeping hateful generalisations with dismissive ignorance underneath and you achieve, what?
What's more, it doesn't seem to add anything to your review. Not really impressed - but defend away.

Anonymous said...

Darn it, Walter, that was an easy one (especially with the following Bresson reference). Wish I'd gotten to it sooner. Great film, though; hypnotic.

As for Underworld: Evolution, I'd actually suggest a watch and a review. I saw both films on the same day and the difference there is just staggering: Both terrible films, but check out the Matrixesque stupidity of the original versus the hyperactive modern action film that was the sequel.

Big Momma's House 2 though... perhaps the wiser decision was yours. Not eye-stabbingly awful, but still a pretty terrible time anyway.

Practicality in that sense? Tough one. January's a dumping ground, no doubt. Don't forget, though, that both of those box office winners had a preset audience in the way of sequels, both of which for movies for people with low, low expectations (one a pratfall-fest, the other a bullet-fest). The point, for me, is one of completeness -- I really want bragging rights for a Top/Bottom 10 this year. Admittedly, got a ways to go yet, and prospects are grim (Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World awaits, and Grandma's Boy will have to wait for DVD), but damn if I don't love writing about every one of these horrible flicks -- they're a real chore to sit through but they result in a lot of great material.

Alex Jackson said...

I wasn't offering my own take on eating disorders but dramatizing what I consider to be popular consensus. I guess that wasn't clear in the review, I've been having troubles with how people read that.

Did you miss that I'm an FCHD major? I'm interested in eating disorders and even want to work with at-risk youth for a living. I do have sympathy for people suffering from eating disorders and wouldn't have been interested in the film (or liked it to the degree that I did) had I not been otherwise.

To answer your question, which I think is kind of getting personal and nasty, no I'm not particularly happy with how I look and no, neither is my wife. We're both overweight; which actually isn't much of a problem except we hate to see ourselves in pictures.

My wife by the way, takes the spoiled brat approach to the eating disorder crowd; but I haven't seen it necessary to lecture her about how ignorant she is in no small part because, while I don't share it, I empathize with her point of view.

Now is it popular consensus that everybody hates the eating disorder crowd? Aside from my wife's testimony, somebody just yesterday posted on my message board that my intro to the Thin review spoke to his feelings. In the media, I remember an episode of ER where the Bosnian doctor used the third world argument when he pumped the stomach of a sorority girl who binged. The children's cartoon Animaniacs I think had a storyline where they were on a scavenger hunt where they had to steal a supermodel's lunch which was something like a single pea. Daria had an episode where she submitted a satirical poem inspired by a picture of a pretty girl combing her hair in the mirror that rhymed: "she's a winner" with "barfing up dinner".

From what I can detect, the eating disorder crowd is well below the homeless in most people's empathy spectrum.

What does this have to do with Thin? Well, any Sundance film that has to do with any satelite of suburban angst is going to have the cards stacked against it anyway. The film strikes me as preaching to the converted.

I mean, I don't think that I conveyed this very well, but I was thinking that "I feel Pretty" should have played on the soundtrack somewhere. Like a montage where they look at their atrophied bodies or when they were purging. And you know, that would bridge the gap between the public's glib attitude to eating disorders and the reality of it.

Or, and seriously, connect this with the monks and saints restricting themselves and get into the mindset of what these people are actually trying to achieve.

Thin is just so tasteful and straight-forward. And it's just preaching to the converted. Nobody is going to learn anything from it.

The Captain said...

To answer your question, which I think is kind of getting personal and nasty, no I'm not particularly happy with how I look and no, neither is my wife. We're both overweight; which actually isn't much of a problem except we hate to see ourselves in pictures.

Ok, apologies for making it personal, but this flies in the face of "negative body image" being wack, being nothing more than a pseudoscientific catchphrase. The pressure is on all of us, so the problem involving anorexics and bulimics is demonstrative of a much bigger problem with society, rather than the insensitive "toughen-up-brats" you're putting forward there as being mainstream thought. The supermodel almost-no-meal gag has been used time and time again as illustrative of the unrealistic, unhealthy sacrifices of being a model today. Sickening yourself for beauty, what's that really saying? "Hah, the model might be beautiful, but we don't have to starve ourselves!" Deconstruct that gag thoroughly, like you do, and I'm pretty sure you'll find it's not about hating the anorexic/bulimic.

Likewise the Daria episode in question (Arts and Crass, which I adore, btw, all of Daria, pray for DVD release, pray) was also not about this at all. Daria and Jane took the existing picture of the "happy teenage girl" and changed the context completely with the poem:
"She knows she's a winner,
She couldn't be thinner.
Now she goes in the bathroom,
And vomits up dinner."

It's not hating the anorexic, it's pulling back the curtain to reveal that behind the happy existence, obscured by the normality/perfection, is much darker, more upsetting goings-on. (In other words, it's like every unsettling scene in the fascinating Elephant.) Subsequently the parents and teachers reacted predictably with censorship, and the message was lost.

Anyway, I'm just taken back by the "stone the victim, not the source" mentality, particularly in the way you put it - it suggested that rather than making a statement on the state of things, you actually believed it.

Alex Jackson said...

Just got an angry e-mail from somebody. Boy, really put my foot in it. He complained about me saying that eating disorders are exclusive to spoiled white girls saying that they span all age groups, socioeconomic levels, and ethnic groups and I would know this had I done some research. Even through Google. I then did some research and discovered that yes, eating disorders do span all those groups. But still, they're localized among spoiled white girls.

I looked at the review again and yeah I didn't really dismiss the mindset. Rather I used it as my intro, and I don't regret doing so. It felt real right.

I'm not sure that I AM dismissive of the "spoiled brat" mindset. I say that I'm sympathatic toward those with eating disorders but I think that that may have been built upon an acceptance of it being a "whitebread" disease. Later in my review I attack Greenfield's objectiveness, saying that it's a naive way to come to the Truth. The one Absolute Truth is made up several subjective ones.

If the introduction were really patently false, I wonder if it would have struck such a nerve. There seems to be a measure of truth to the assessment, if not particularly one to the conclusion.

Anyway, I didn't read Daria's poem as showing sympathy for the girl in the picture but rather using a way to associate threatening concepts like prettiness and light-hearted cheerfulness with a form of weakness that would allow them to dismiss her. If sympathy were to be in play, I'm sure that they would find a way to acknowledge her pain.

Anyway, I'll try not to visit this blog again until tomorrow. I have other capsules to write and nothing breeds writer's block like criticism. Not asking you to stop challenging me and keeping me honest, just saying that I'll have to continue this later.

Seattle Jeff said...

Oscar nominations are out.

This is the first time in my life I have not seen any of the Best Picture noms. Not only that, I haven't even seen any of the nominated performances.

It's strange how good that makes me feel.

I think I'll bone up for the Razzies though so I can a rooting interest.

Oh, and speaking of rooting interests, Go Seahawks!

Alex Jackson said...

I haven't seen Brokeback Mountain or Capote but I was planning on picking them up Saturday anyway.

Surprises: North Country picking up nods for Theron and McDormand. Terrence Howard getting one for Hustle and Flow. Crash getting lots of love including a Best Picture nod. What do you think, has Roger Ebert officially made the Academy his bitch?

Usually there's a spoiler in the director category. A nominee who didn't helm a Best Picture nominee, effectively killing the chances for the film not in both categories. Like Fernando Meirelles in 2003 taking Ross' shot for Seabiscuit. Not this year.

I actually have a capsule written for one of the animated short nominees: The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello. Street Fight, which I think Walter saw and gave four stars to but I haven't heard anything else about since, got a best documentary nod.

Anonymous said...

This is the first time I've seen all nominated movies, and I find myself fairly unthrilled about everything about this year.

Chris said...

You can never stop watching the Oscars.

But like Catholic guilt to masturbation, you end up feeling worse about yourself everytime.

...at least Jon Stewart is hosting.

rachel said...

All the Oscars've done is remind me how tragically "Howl's Moving Castle" sucked and wonder how anyone can even SAY "It's Hard out Here for a Pimp" without dissolving into helpless laughter.

Walter_Chaw said...

"It's hard out here for a . . . " BWAAhahaha. Yeah, you're right. What a loada crap.

Wanna' bet that tepid Wallace & Gromit wins that award? What did Ebert call it? The most enchanting film in history or something? I think Oscars = Ebert's bitch is one of those equations where you might be distracted by other environmental factors insomuch as Ebert seems to be mainly the reflection and champion of the mainstream middlebrow taste. Funny/sad/infuriating thing is that he's nothing like that in private.

Jonathan said...

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Memoirs of a Geisha actually pulled five nominations-- that's one more than King Kong.

For a bit of trivia, the last time the Best Picture winner wasn't nominated for Best Film Editing was 1982: that Crash could upset Gay Cowboys Eating Pudding really isn't so far-fetched at all.

The internet people who live and die by predicting the Oscars did awfully well this year, in that there's not really a single nomination, even for the tech awards, that came completely out the left-field of "deserving" films. My shot-in-the-dark pick was that Herzog snagged a Best Director nod to make-up for the snub of both Grizzly Man and The White Diamond as "eligible" documentaries-- which was, of course, just wishful thinking that someone would bump Paul "Makes Both Writing And Directing Cry" Haggis out of contention.

All told, though, it seems to me that 2005 got the Oscar roll-call that it really deserved.

Bill C said...

Why in God's name is Paul Giamatti nominated for Cinderella Man?

I know it's a rhetorical question, but even though I didn't think much of the performances he was notoriously shut out for (Sideways, American Splendor), they were better than this.

Seattle Jeff said...

Walter -

I'm with you. I'm not remotely interested in watching the Oscars. (Although I'm frightened that my disdain will somehow give me something in common with Michael Medved. Ack!)

Hey, here's a nice quote from Chuck Klosterman on ESPN.com to cheer you up:

all I can really do is look at the Internet and check the results from the SAG awards. I see that the big winner was "Crash," a movie designed for people in Los Angeles who just figured out that racism was "complex" (and must therefore be secretly central to every conversation any two Americans ever have). I wish one of the bears from "Grizzly Man" would eat Matt Dillon and Ludacris.

Joan said...

Just out of curiosity, does any country recognize Palestine as a country? I mean, there was just a dust-up at the U.N. because they've been using a ceremonial map backdrop-thing with "Palestine" on it, and even they admitted that was incorrect.

Raphael said...

Is it just wishful thinking to expect Jon Stewart to make a few snide remarks about the bullshit hollier than thou political correctness of some of the nominee?
Somehow i hope to see the same Jon Stewart who fucked up Crossline mess with the righteousness of the academy...
By the way, i keep thinking that this would have been the perfect year for Chris Rock to be a host.Remember the Martin Luther King day joke at the golden globes?
I cant believe political correctness has come to the point where a song titled "It´s hard for a pimp out there" gets a nomination.

Alex Jackson said...

My wife reminded me that A History of Violence got the wrong nomination. Supporting Actor for William Hurt's ham and cheese performance while Viggo Mortesen, who can "do nothing" better than any actor I've seen in a long time, gets passed over.

the petaluma center said...

First of all, Munich and Brokeback Mountain may not be revered on this film site, but they're on my top ten list, specifically Munich, which, albeit rushed and flawed, is serious and moving and dark and tough and, frankly, more important than A History of Violence is right now - especially considering Hamas' victory in Palestinian elections.

As for Brokeback, I was frankly impressed, not appalled, with Ang Lee's ability to pack a great deal of information into short scenes spanning 20 years. The JG thanksgiving scene is especially good - note the bowl of mush the boy eats instead of turkey dinner. Walter's problem with Alma's role is with Ms. Proulx, not the filmmakers, for all three of the scenes he mentions in the review are in the story, just so. And the movie is presented as a series of vignettes, hitting the high points of that time and conveying change -sometimes a lot - within those scenes. While I concur about the "gayness" being underlined in the first 45 minutes - the back-to-back scenes of each guy shirtless is a bit ridiculous, I walked out of that movie appreciating the sadness emanating from all the characters, not just Ennis.

Yeah, I think King Kong oughta be on the best-of list. And Match Point. And The New World. But I can live with those picks, especially since you knew Crash was going to be on there.

And I'll predict it now: Munich wins this thing. That it was even nominated over Walk The Line is a surprise (not to mention Capote) but once the voters actually see it, the material and movement (it really is a good action film) will make a difference, as will the Spielberg name and hype machine.

Agree totally with Bennett Miller's nom. Weird pick there. Malick deserved it. So did his picture.

Theron shouldn't be on that Best Actress list - Naomi Watts should be there - but does it matter when Witherspoon just has to go pick the damn thing up?

Actor is a respectable list.

BTW - Whatever King Kong did or didn't get, the Memoirs of a Geisha noms are all technical and some are deserved. Costumes? Yeah. Art direction? Yeah. Cinematography? Hard to argue after watching it. The movie is extremely well-made, and I advocate recognizing down-the-line professionals who can't control the screenplay or the casting or the absurd romance, but just do their job, and do it splendidly.

Jefferson said...

Fine raveup on the Emily Rose DVD, Walter. I used to adore the format for the extras -- commentary, behind the scenes docs, cut scenes -- but so many disc packages made since the advent of DVD have just amounted to circle jerks with the director saying nice things about the lead actress, the lead actress cupping the balls of the producer, the producer backpatting himself over discovering the director and/or lead actress, and on and on. So few of the artists involved have anything to say ... You created the film, Señor Hotshot Director, and yet you can enunciate no aesthetic evaluation or philosophy AT ALL without sounding like Film School 101?

The Oscars ... overall, a depressing prospect. I have a hard time believing enough people even SAW Crash for the Academy to laud it completely on awards night. My thought? Brokeback goes into the best pic race with an edge over Crash, given a) Heath Ledger's great performance in a flawed film and b) the fact that there are more gay, closeted, or gay-friendly voters in the industry than there are black voters, or even white voters who are really conflicted about the issue of race.

I will watch for Jon Stewart. That is all.

Bemis said...

How the best picture nominees rank for me:

Munich ****
Brokeback Mountain ****
Good Night and Good Luck ***
Capote **1/2
Crash *

Despite the inexplicable praise for Crash, I can't get too worked up. It's worse when the frontrunner is a truly shallow or dishonest movie like Chicago or A Beautiful Mind. 2005 was a strange year; there are justifiable reasons to dislike even my favorites (Munich and Brokeback Mountain among them), yet I still feel they're worth arguing about.

Crash is fairly terrible, though.

Anonymous said...

I cant believe political correctness has come to the point where a song titled "It´s hard for a pimp out there" gets a nomination.

I could care less about the song or the awards, but I'd love for someone anyone to explain to me how that nomination qualifies as "political correctness."

Seattle Jeff said...

I'd only watch the Oscars if Steven Colbert were hositng.

Wait...no I wouldn't.

Hey, I bet Sean Penn's sense of humor will be way out of sorts with the death of his brother and all.

Jon Stewart should make a Chris Penn joke just to test him out.

Raphael said...

I could care less about the song or the awards, but I'd love for someone anyone to explain to me how that nomination qualifies as "political correctness."

It wants to tell an uplifting story of rags to riches, of victory and sucess despite racial obstacles.That would have fine if the sucess story werent about a freakin pimp.It doesnt to be racist but it is.I wonder what kind of reception the movie would have had if the pimp was a white boy.Just cause the protagonist is black and poor it´s okay to see him suceeed in a musical carreer where he glorifies pimping and excuses the misogynistic treatment of women?This is why 50 cents tops the charts.What´s this deal with all this tolerance of a criminal behavior and subsesquent boastng of it in song lyrics?That´s not racial acceptance,it´s racist condescendence.I should have been more precise and say that that´s when political correctness becomes a paradox and racial triumph is made at the expense of women´s dignity.

B. Earnest said...

The character is an Afro-American archetype that first arose in the pop consciousness as bad bad Stagolee, the St Louis pimp who shot Billy Lyons on Christmas Day in 1895 and has been celebrated ever since, by Duke Ellington and Woody Guthrie and Tina Turner and Nick Cave. He's been around forever, and will be as long as American black men have to find a way to sublimate their racial greivances, such as through art.

I don't know if it's particularly good art, or healthy, but I still don't see what "political correctness" has to do with anything. "Political Correctness" is a straw man-slash-shield set up before any number of majority group axe grindings. To call something politically correct is like calling it un-American.

For instance, you know, lots of folks would find "political correctness" issues with your defense of women against this song. What are you, an ultra-PC feminazi? It's just a song. So we're not allowed to portray violence against women anymore? Anything else we're not allowed to write songs about anymore? Anyone else you're afraid to offend?


Chad Evan said...

"As long as black men have to find a way to sublimate their racial grievances through art..."

So misogyny in black music is a response to white racism? Where then does white misogyny come from? Do black people only behave in response to white pressure? Would they be blank zombies without racism to deal with?

People are very complex creatures, and saying chauvinism in African-Americans is a reaction to white prejudice is achingly simplistic.

B. Earnest said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
B. Earnest said...

Seriously, did I say any of that?

The baaaaaaadass pimp is a very old black American archetype. Are you disagreeing with that? See the Van Peebles guys, see Cecil Brown's book Stagolee Shot Billy. See this article in the Guardian.

My point is mainly that 50 Cent is not a new cultural artifact, is not primarily a product of these times, and that his success is hardly a by-product of "political correctness," which, c'mon -- if anything is "achingly simplistic" it's that P.C. and "kids these days" business.

Chad Evan said...

I never said anything about political correctness, nor did I say the black pimp was not an archetype--I merely took issue with your reduction of the types' significance to a "sublimation of racial grievances," as though that were the only issue at work in these characters.

Alex Jackson said...

Masculinity has a history of being devalued among African-Americans by whites, and so there is a degree of overcompensation within the subculture.

the petaluma center said...

b. earnest...

You talk about black America needing to use art because some avenue remains of expressing racial grievance. And that is?

chad evan...

Didn't you know prostitution is empowering?

Seriously, this stuff isn't a black/white issue. It's a I-want-it-now-and-easy-American-culture problem. Rappers articulate what kids want. They want to fuck various partners, they want to buy stuff, they want to stroke their growing egos and they want to have a good time. I remember spending much of my teen years wanting to do at least one of those four at any given time, and sometimes all four - although I was a virgin until college. Kids are kids, and the real problem are baby-boomer and 70s-era parents who don't know fuck-all about how to raise them, because they're still trying to unscrew their childhood too. In reality it's mostly white people running around with an addiction for instant gratification and an ego boost, and their kids growing up in a maturity vacuum, and using their I-wanna power to run the great advertising machine that is television.

I spent some time in NO after Katrina helping out. I can tell you there weren't a bunch of people braying about racism (despite what you heard)or worried about meaningless shit like what rap song said what to who. No. They were worried about what they'd eat and where they'd shit it out without ten people watching them. Take everything away, and all the clutter we surround ourselves with doesn't really matter.