Monday, January 7, 2013

A Dozen Movie and TV Notes (including an invite for tonight)

1. I enjoyed my Django Unchained outing, a reminder that John Brown probably had the right idea – whereas the nation’s first anti-gun laws were pushed by groups like the Klan who wanted their black victims disarmed.  Of course, today we’re supposed to think gun control will ensure the peace.  Yet, as Tom Palmer noted recently, somehow things like this bank robbery shootout can still happen in heavily gun-controlled Sweden. 

2. As for Lincoln, I don’t know if I’m ready to be suckered into seeing the film’s version of reality: Lincoln was a lukewarm defender of freedom for blacks compared not only to the (much more consistently libertarian) abolitionists – and of course to the aforementioned John Brown – but also as compared to the unified Republicans of the day (the ones in Congress weren’t harangued by Lincoln into coming on board as the film suggests; Lincoln was the slacker, and one of the reasons he was lackadaisical about liberating the slaves was that he knew an incoming, much more Republican Congress would surely take care of the matter). 

3. Indeed, it was the prospect of the first Republican candidate for president returning to electoral politics that finally nudged Lincoln into doing something.  So maybe someone needs to make a prequel to Spielberg’s film about that forgotten politician, called: Fremont.

4. In other racial-progress news, I’m all for Samuel L. Jackson (who was an electrifying portrait of projected self-hatred in Django) playing Col. Nick Fury in the Avengers movies, but I think making the new Nick Fury in the main print Marvel Universe black as well is actually a small step backwards for race relations.  I admit this gets slightly complicated, but hear me out. 

The original Nick Fury was white and lived in the main Marvel Universe.  Marvel created a second universe featuring a Nick Fury who looked like Samuel L. Jackson.  Pleased by this, Jackson agreed to play Fury in the movies.  But Marvel couldn’t leave well enough alone and (this is the part that strikes me as a step away from what in theatre would be considered race-neutral, progressive casting) decided that the main-universe Nick Fury has to look like Jackson, too – and so they introduced his long-lost half-black son, who promptly (in a ridiculous coincidence) lost his eye and so ended up with an eyepatch just like Dad.  And Dad disappeared.  And the son took his name, becoming Nick Fury Jr.

If you’re going to go to all that trouble, you might as well have had Fury get “experimental melanin injections” and skipped the new character.  But then it’d be even more obvious the character now has to be black.  For a while there, by contrast, it was as if the race of the character didn’t really matter.  I mean, they can do whatever they want, but it’s sort of two steps forward, one step back. 

5. I am tempted to visit the Schomburg Center’s day-long discussion of such issues in comics up in Harlem this coming Saturday, 10am-4pm.  As the related documentary clip seen here suggests, there is a complex love-hate relationship between black comics creators and the handful of well-known black comics characters.  The characters, much like Shaft, can be both points of pride and at times embarrassingly retrograde – and a few circa 1970 had “Black” right there at the beginning of their names to underscore the novelty, something they’re all pretty much stuck with now (Black Panther, Black Lightning, Black Goliath, and so on). 

As an amused friend of mine once asked, “So do they have a character named Hasidic Lightning?”  Look, man, I can’t rewrite history. 

6. Hell, I can’t even go see a black comedy (in the non-ethnic sense) about superheroes called All Superheroes Must Die, because even though the low-budget satire opened in several cities this past Friday, New York isn’t one of them (neither is L.A.).  I nonetheless wish it well.  If you’re Florida, Chicago, or a few other places, you may have a shot (the movie doesn’t even seem to have a main website, and I can no longer locate the list of venues that was briefly on its amateur-hour Facebook page – it’s amazing sometimes that even the creators of something manage to see it). 

7. But then, almost no one saw the new anti-fracking movie Promised Land, and that has Matt Damon in it and was directed by Gus Van Sant (it made about a million dollars on its opening weekend, which will likely be its last). 

By contrast, JOIN ME TONIGHT, if seats are still available, to see Phelim McAleer’s pro-fracking documentary FrackNation at Chelsea Cinema (260 W. 23rd, 7:30pm Monday)but e-mail fracknationnyc[at] to ask if there are any seats left (or space at the after-party).

8. In other exciting media news, NBC is contemplating reviving Twin Peaks, spurred by Internet rumors one might happen (which may in turn have been caused partly by a Psych episode parodying the series).  Fans will recall that the very end of the show was a flash-forward to twenty-five years later (with our hero, played by Kyle McLaughlin, trapped in the mystical Black Lodge while his demon-possessed body did who knows what back on Earth), so the timing is right and the mystery premise built-in.

But perhaps the villainous Windom Earle put it best when, with the show’s characteristic realism and subtlety, he said in one episode:

Once upon a time, there was a place of great goodness, called the White Lodge.  Gentle fawns gamboled there amidst happy, laughing spirits.  The sounds of innocence and joy filled the air.  And when it rained, it rained sweet nectar that infused one's heart with a desire to live life in truth and beauty. 

Generally speaking, a ghastly place, reeking of virtue's sour smell.  Engorged with the whispered prayers of kneeling mothers, mewling newborns, and fools, young and old, compelled to do good without reason.  Heh-heh! 

But, I am happy to point out that our story does not end in this wretched place of saccharine excess.  For there's another place, its opposite: a place of almost unimaginable power, chock full of dark forces and vicious secrets.  No prayers dare enter this frightful maw.  Spirits there care not for good deeds or priestly invocations; they are as like to rip the flesh from your bone as greet you with a happy "Good day!" 

And if harnessed, these spirits in this hidden land of unmuffled screams and broken hearts would offer up a power so vast that its bearer might reorder the earth itself--to his liking!  Now!  This place I speak of – is known as the Black Lodge.  And I intend to find it.

9. As if that weren’t weird enough, Wes Anderson says he’d like to do a short Han Solo origin film.  Hey, why not?  They let hipster Rian Johnson make a half-assed time travel movie.

10. The Oscar nominees will be announced this Thursday, but I’ll be in the audience at Rev. Jen’s Anti-Slam, which is twice as glamorous.

11. I already have a list of ten movies I want to see this year...

•Die Hard 5 (2/14)
•Oblivion (4/12)
•Star Trek 12 (5/17)
•Man of Steel (6/14)
•World War Z (6/21)
•Kick-Ass 2 (6/28)
•Pacific Rim (7/12)
•Wolverine (7/25)
•Ender's Game (11/1)
•Hobbit 2 (12/13)

(plus Machete Kills and Beyond Apollo at some point)

...but Jacob Levy kindly notes this list of 77(!) and then some sci-fi-type movies out this year, if you really have a lot of time on your hands in 2013. 

12. And while attending Frack Nation tonight, I’ll be DVRing something that just might prove even more controversial: frothing libertarian conspiracy theorist Alex Jones will be LIVE (think about that) on Piers Morgan’s 9pm Eastern show on CNN (h/t Andrea Pisani).  I hope it becomes the stuff of legend.  

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