william steig drawing

Race in film

The White Default

One more thing: Here’s an article I wrote for Salon. “How Can White Americans Be Free?” The default belief that the white experience is a neutral and objective one hurts both white and American culture. I  also talk about Spring Breakers (great), and Girls (great and not great). Fighting the Default has been the main point of Mirror in many ways. Who knows what infamous commenter Max Oblivion will think. How Can White Americans Be Free? Measure, measure, measure. We learn to measure first. We spend our days measuring. And when we count we start at one. Every number after is in relation to one. Two is one after one. Three is two after one. And so on. Every child […]

Django Unchained

django I’m off to focus on my own films now. Here is my last post, my thoughts on Django, completely unedited. This is what something I write looks like before it’s anywhere close to being finished. Before I’ve toned it wayyy down or toned it way up, all out of order etc. I better get out of here before I start making disclaimers up the wazoo. *** Blood is so red. Thank god for its color. Thank god for blood’s redness and thank god for red blood in Django. In January. Its good to see guts in the wastelands of winter. In winter, the exteriors of everything rub on the exteriors of everything else. Coats pass other coats. Gloves shake […]

Ebert Presents: Race and the Movies

See parts 2 & 3 of the episode at www.ebertpresents.com And below are a few of my previous Race in Film posts that elaborate on some of the films and ideas mentioned on the show!

Attack the Block

streets On Saturday nights in 1993, the TNT television channel played science fiction movies back to back beginning at midnight. They called this the TNT “Monster Movie Marathon.” As my parents had recently divorced, my sister and I now spent weekends at my father’s house and the Saturday night Monster Movie Marathon quickly became our tradition. We made our bed on the living room floor and taped each movie on the VCR. Them! was a favorite, as was The Day the Earth Stood Still. The Thing, both the 1951 version and John Carpenter’s became beloved, as did The Day of the Triffids and Cronenberg’s The Fly. When I think of great science fiction now, these are a few of the […]

Race in Film: L’eclisse

In Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1962 film L’eclisse (Eclipse), time is the enemy. For this reason the chronically depressed will understand it implicitly. They will know that a fan turning left to right makes all the more stagnant the air in a room. They will understand that no part of that room, no corner or cushion, can provide relief from the realization that every approaching minute is opportunity for life to prove itself meaningless. Do you not hear the constant victory, in the human footrace of time, slow as fire, sure, and thick and Herculean accumulating its volume and adding its sad fiber? – Pablo Neruda (Cold Work) Faced with this pointless existence, the only thing to do is roam listlessly about, […]

Race in Film: Stormy Weather

**This video was made specially for Roger Ebert’s Far Flung Correspondents. That is why my mug is in it. Now you can see all the facial expressions you could only dream of before… and I apologize now for the state of my hair.** The first thing you must realize about Stormy Weather before anything else, is that it is not real. Of course it isn’t real in the sense that it is a narrative film and as such it is fiction, but it is unreal in another way. It is a  romanticization of African American life offering one-dimensional characters without nuance– in “response” to the one dimensional un-nuanced characters in other films. The movie opens as famous dancer Bill Williamson […]

Race in Film: Swing Time & Shall We Dance

*This video includes clips and commentary for both “Swing Time” and “Shall We Dance”, so don’t turn it off after the Bojangles number! Also my voice cracks a lot in a weird way… I guess I’m becoming a real man.* This, more than any previous Race in Film post, gets to the nitty gritty of the whole series, and I am very nervous. It might be strange to get timid nine posts in, but there seems to be no rhyme or reason to what I am comfortable talking and not talking about. Judy Garland is fair game, but Fred Astaire… Fred Astaire… He is the man that makes my knees lose themselves. I am in love with his high waisted […]

Race in Film: Freaky Friday

As you know, I have always remembered Rosalind Chao in The Joy Luck Club sitting proudly in the rain with the memory of her ancestors (see previous post). As depressing as the movie was to me as a child, this scene remains inspirational. I ask the world: Is it so hard to create more strong Asian characters like Rose? Then I saw Freaky Friday and the world answered “…Yes, it’s totes very hard. Obvi” I’m referring to the 2003 Lindsay Lohan/Jamie Lee Curtis Freaky Friday (If you’re thinking of the Jodie Foster version, bless your heart). I’m a fan of the movie actually. Lohan is great. But Do you recall the Chinese restaurant? It’s where the whole switcharoo is set […]

Race in Film: The Joy Luck Club

I know The Joy Luck Club like the back of my hand…Unfortunately. While I recite lines from The Thin Man Goes Home at the drop of a hat, I carry the script of The Joy Luck Club in my mind’s eye like the scene of a horrible crime. I cannot shake it. It will not be shook. It is not the film’s fault. It is a fine film. A moving film. A film about mothers and daughters. Chinese mothers and daughters. Asian mothers and Asian American daughters. About generational and cultural rifts in communication, and the importance of knowing one’s history. Honoring the lives that have given you life. Remembering who you are. This is a story I should have […]

Race in Film: Festen (The Celebration)

The inclusion of an African American character in Thomas Vinterberg’s 1998 film Festen (see previous post) is a curious thing.  First I should make clear that the character is indeed an American man of African descent, not a black Dane, or an African immigrant (an important distinction). In the middle of Helge’s birthday dinner, sister Helene’s boyfriend Gbatokai (played by Gbatokai Dakinah*) arrives outside in a cab. Surprise! He’s black! Thinking he’s a hotel guest come to rent a room, brother Michael runs out to send him away, and is ridiculously offensive. Poor Michael can’t stop trying to prove his masculinity. He makes a fool of himself once again attempting to defend an institution that will soon be proved a […]