Beautfully shot. Great integration of candlelight. Well-acted.

It's great to see movies about how slavery is the horribly unjust foundation of contemporary America. We need more of this sort of historical awareness. Not that Django is historically accurate, nor does it claims to be. It's kind of a trend with Tarantino what with Inglorious Bastards and all. But what's curious is how, the further we get from the present, the less people care about historical inaccuracy. WWII is more precious than the antibellum South, and no-one cares about wild flights of imagination in the medieval period.

The gender politics are crap. There is some terrible use of the "damsel in distress" trope, with one exception  - the inversion of the "man of colour menacing white women" trope. But not enough to redeem the gender politics. I could write on it, but Tracy Bealer has already said it better.

The only thing I have to add to that essy on gender is that it's curious how the damsel never actually gets raped during the story (as it would make her "less pure"), and the hero never gets castrated (as he'd become "less of a man"). I'd kind of prefer the movie if this wasn't the case. Because that's how slavery worked - you cross the people in charge, and they make an example of you.

For a movie about slavery, and for a blacksploitation movie, the middle has a lot of Candie and Schultz (white leads) talking. However, this changes towards the end as the last two leads are Django and Stephen.

Also, it shows that interpersonal violence is usually not about two people facing off, but one person getting the drop on the other. The "face-off" between two mortal rivals only happens when one person leverages the indisputable advantage of force to push their world-view on the other (like how an armed police officer will lecture you about being in the park after it closes... even though it hasn't closed yet) and it's an act of courage to give back-talk. I like that.

___

 

Follow up thought: I realize now that the filmmakers managed to mostly (completely?) ignore shade, which is kind of an important axis of how slavery was organized in the 1860s. Is a slave 100% african? Exactly half white, half-black? Less than 1/8 and 7/8ths? Somewhere between categories? This measure of white vs. black blood was an important indicator of relative status, and who did what jobs (i.e. housework vs. fieldwork). But Django seems to have passed it by. Oops. Might want to talk to casting about that.

A Merreden Proverb, and a sound one in this situation.

Upon viewing this elegant and thorough graduation speech by Neil Gaiman, I was struck by two pieces of advice:

1. Punctual, Genial, Skilled - you only need to be good at two.
Something I'd recently realized upon viewing the careers of local artists.

2. This is really great. You should enjoy this.
Something that blindsided me. Yes, I'm concerned at the unbelievable scads of money that course through this company, like a river, eroding islands in what will hopefully be a lush stream of creativity and employment for many - and not a hoodoo-filled desert. But if I'm going to be putting in tonnes of my own work as well as my life savings, plus calling for help from over a hundred people, then I'd might as well enjoy the ride, no?

Part of an actor's job is to sleep and eat well. To exercise.

Part of a leader's job is to set the tone. To have fun. You pull your bow that much harder, shoot that much further. And so do the people around you. Not only is it silly not to enjoy this, it would be downright irresponsible.

Limitless is a 2011 film about a revolutionary smart drug and a man who takes it. I enjoyed watching it.

It's beautifully shot, has topical subject matter and is inspiring.

It's also disappointingly normative.

In short, it's where transhumanism often fails
      The Future! Like Today, Only... uh... More!

(Don't worry, there are lots of cool transhumanists out there)

(I'd really like a link to the stuff trans people are doing to control our own healthcare)


Eddie is a New York novelist who can't get anything done and whose life is falling apart. On a fluke, he gets introduced to a miracle smart drug that boosts his cognitive abilities and allows him to pull his life back together - at a terrible price.

 

The cinematography is phenomenal. It integrates colour, digital effects, perspective, film speed, depth of field and all the other stuff we learned in film school. It creates "subjective camerawork" to put us inside his head and share his altered state of consciousness with the audi

I'm also glad to see a movie about smart drugs - promising, untested, useful, possibly addictive or dangerous.

Eddie, when he's on smart drugs, makes a fine study for confidence and high-status behaviour.

 

But it's normative. Ther'es no imagination in where Eddie goes.

When he's boosted, Eddie only seeks status and follows the American dream - money, women, power. He's not an asshole, but he does get involved in backhanded deals in the oil business. He doesn't change or question his values. He sells his novel, gets laid, beats the bad guy and thinks about running for office - although it's not clear what he would do once in office. Which is scary, as it seems that he wants power for its own sake.

You might think this makes sense - someone getting smarter doesn't make them wiser, right? Valid. But then why does on-drugs-Eddie suddenly clean his apartment, develop remarkable focus, interpersonal skills and gain perspective on his relationships? The implied message is that he does become wiser, and that it is wise to seek power for its own sake. Scary.

 

Drugs, money and women? I'd like to see a movie where Eddie uses smart drugs and figures out how to use them wisely, test them and share them with people who have a personal stake in ending exploitation. I'd like to see him experiment with sex/sensuality/intimacy outside of one-night-stands and one LTR (with young, thin women with nice apartments), questioning his assumptions around emotional connection, gender, beauty and pleasure. Power? Sure. But to share, to network, to change the world.


I've been told that my movie ideas are too political; that politics intrudes on story. This is sometimes true. But here, I think politics would make for a better story. Once Eddie has defeated some people who are trying to hurt him, he has a fine future largely guaranteed. There are no more stakes, and the movie ends. Eddie doesn't change. He's basically the same guy he was after his first hit, only established, stable - which is cool, but the movie doesn't seem to get that this is the case, like we are supposed to view him as a transformed hero. That's sloppy storytelling.

But an Eddie who started asking some hard questions about his life and values, then implementing them? That would make for entertaining watching because there would be long term character growth and huge stakes. You could not only make an entire series out of that, you could take the audience along for a ride of personal and oscial improvement.
 

So why doesn't it go there? I think because whatever body vetted the final script was some combination of invested in the status quo and/or afraid that the audience "wouldn't get it" otherwise.

I guess this is why I have a movie production company.

Review of The Taqwacores

The Taqwacores is a low-budget comedy-drama based on Michael Muhammed Knight's book of the same name. (not to be confused with "Taqwacore," the documentary)

The story is one year in the life of Yusef, a square medical (or veterinary?) student who moves in to a dilapidated all-Muslim house in Buffalo, New York, not understanding that it's also an all-punk house. He's welcomed and courted as a friend by Umar, a straight-edger whose blend of anger, Punk and Islam leads him into conflict with his more progressive/substance-using housemates. Despite this, he becomes buddies with Jehangir, the pink-mohawked hardcorester with dreams of hosting a cross-country Muslim Punk festival.

This film shines through its characters. Given their introductions in the preview, I was afraid that they would come off as one-note demographics. While some do (too many characters in 84 minutes), the point of the film is that labels can be empowering if worn with awareness and innovation. Thus, Rabeya, "the Riot Grrl in a burka" is no joke: she's six shades of political fierce that had me leaving the theatre thinking haven't I met her? This is true, albeit to a lesser extent, for Muzzamil, the Queer punk, and perhaps Lynn, the Catholic convert. It fails for Amazing Ayyub, who is a joke character anyways, and Fasiq, the stoner.

This film makes excellent use of repetition. It's shot in four seasons, and in each we see one Friday prayer (with rotating radical Imam), hear one phonecall from Yusef's parents, and watch someone try to sleep through an ignorant radio talkshow that highlights their exclusion from both xenophobic America and fundamentalist Islam.

That the Taqwacores is clearly shot on a tight budget only brings out the DIY punk aesthetic. The editing is choppy; often, several dialogue takes are stitched together and there is no attempt to hide this. Sometimes characters voice-over static images. But the sound is clear. And the sets are real. This is a punk film.

I also like that Yusef screws up where the personal and political intersect (especially with Muslim women), and, although he is learning, keeps screwing up. Education is a road, not a destination. It's a refreshing change from the more common narrative where a doofus becomes a hero of the oppressed.

Speaking of learning about oppression, I also like how the the authours of the screenplay (one of whom was the original authour of the book) listened to criticism of the original novel as downplaying Queer/Women's voices, and made changes to fix this onscreen.

Would I recommend it?

I hate punk music
and
I don't like having many possessions
and
I'm going go buy it
if only so that I can lend it to people.


Why? (It's reflexivity time!)

1. I want to shoot low-budget film and this is a fine example of how a tight budget can make a film better

2. I like religion, radical politics, and the organizing spaces where they intersect

3. It's a story about hybridity. It's in the intersections of identities, cultures, nations and communities where people are ground up, and where new ideas are born. I know this space.


(It is worth noting that it's slightly dated. At present, "Taqwacore" refers not just to Islamapunk, but is expanding into a pan-Southasian not-necessarily Punk or Muslim music-politics; an example of hybridity at work)
I am pleased with Cloverfield. Walking home I see the housing projects near the railway overwalk, and feel a touch of alarm. Same goes for an open park. I realize that it has managed to partially recode my perception of "urban environment" so as to include "danger!"
You may be aware that Transformers is a crap movie, but it is not only very pretty, but may be worth your time. It contains:

Spoi - lers )
Indeed. As was mentionded before, we'll be watching Strange Days at my place. Show up as early as 5:30 (especially if you want food) and the movie starts at 7:30. RSVP if you want food.
You should be afraid of California.
I mean really, think about it. Look at science fiction (a predomenantly American genre) its stories have moved from the cities of the East Coast to the West coast. We've left belching smokestacks, wailing sirens, ghettos, towering apartment buildings, subways and docks and have arrived in a place where the air pollution comes from the exhaust pipes of the vehicles that range across the hundreds of miles of freeways; where the police don't storm an apartment in their war against crack, but black kevlar forms pile out of a van in the parking lot of a strip mall or subdivision. In L.A. there are no flying cars, but there are cameras everywhere: it's the widest prison ever.

A Scanner Darkly isn't exactly about this, but it's good anyways. Oh - and it actually feels like a Philip K. Dick novel.
So I'm all gung-ho on my business plans, and I like having people over, and I like watching  movies, and I like asking questions, so I'm gonna do something about it... every Wednesday I think.

The trial run went well, so it's gonna be dinner and movie and discussion every Wednesday (Tuesday and Thursday are also an option. I can't remember what works best for y'all) . Show up at 7:00, movie at 8:30, I go to sleep some time a bit after midnight.

"What movies?" you ask.
(this is not a choice, you must ask it... go on, I'm listening through the bugs in your computer)

"Why movies to do with the stupendous neo-reality event which I am concocting: movies to do with cyberpunk, the near-future, film noir, moodyness, Bollywood, colourful costumes and so on." I sagely answer.

"And how does this tie in to your event?" you dutifully ask.

"I'm gonna ask you a bunch of questions about genre, theme, visual elements and what you'd like to see, or would certainly despise, in such an astoundingly magnificent event as I am planning. It should be a lively and humorous conversation." I respond.

So there you go. I think I'm gonna go with Blade Runner next week, but I'm not 100% certain. It might be Tetsuo, or well... I'm not sure, but it won't suck. That's right folks: it won't suck. So I'd appreciate RSVP's, but don't insist on them unless you either want to be a part of the food (if you don't RSVP and don't bring food, there may not be enough to go around), or plan to bring a guest.
I've spent a good chunk of time now watching movie trailers and studying calculus and have come to be intrigued by the possibilities of some related mathematical functions.

1. Length of any given cut in a movie trailer as a function of year, genre and length of trailer. (cf. X-Men 3)

2. Prevalence of attention deficit disorder in the general population as a function of function #1, or vice-versa

3. Fraction of trailers with voice over by Hal Douglas and Don LeFontaine as a function of year.

4. Length of time between original movie and remake, or remake and re-remake as a function of year and genre. (cf. King Kong, The Island of Dr. Moreau)

According to my calculations, the year 2056 will see AI emulations  of Douglas and LeFontaine squabbling over the audio track of the simulataneous fifith threugh seventh remake of the 1897 classic  "Studies of Time and Motion: Ascending a Staircase." This will prove a less a challenge to narrate as market as future projectors will be unable to diplay cuts that are shorter than planc's time.
Harry potter IV: Harry Potter Forever, is a public art performance that uses the innovative techique of projecting light through a strip of moving plastic, to "project" colouful illusions onto a large white canvas. This is accompanied by sonic illusions created through the magic of electrico-magnets.

The plot of HP4: The Quest for Peace sees Harry returning to the ring to battle Ivan Drago, a soviet boxer who killed his mentor or something along these lines. He is accompanied by two rival wizards from foreign schools: one with good manners but terrible fashion sense, another with the best clothing I have ever seen.

Harry Potter: Vice City contains all the makings of a good movie: actors, a set, props and seats to sit in while you watch in. Many moments in HP, such as Harry's battle with the dragon, were exteremely humourous, although some say they were intended to be action-packed. Parts of the movie were pretty. Alan Rickman was good. The interrogation scene was more than capable. Daniel Radcliffe was a capable supporting actor, buoying up the lead of Computer Graphics.

Chris Columbus has made one serious oversight in this film. Hard-core Potter fans will see anything, no matter hom bad, and will complain about anything, no matter how good. Newell is one in a string of directors employed in homage of Rowling's innotative writing technique of contracting out each book to a different ghost writer, which is especially bold as it involved a change of director/writer after Harry Potter III: Harry Potter Revolutions, which was recognized by many critics as being "good." Paul Verhoeven is expected to be the one to blame for part 5 (I am defensively proud to say that I have not read "Harry Potter: Assignment Miami Beach" but would like you not to inquire as to how I can relay the contents in detail).

I heartily reccomend recognizing the fact that it is, without a doubt, a movie that you can watch.

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