stereotypes

All posts tagged stereotypes

It Comes at Night Sheds Light on Human Nature

Published June 11, 2017 by rmpixie

It Comes At Night (2017, 1hr 31 mins.)

 

How will the world take the dissolution of society as we know it? Will we isolate ourselves, band together or give in to our basest instincts? We’ve already taken the zombie route in the post-apocalyptic world with many films and shows including The Walking Dead, but Trey Edward Shults’ film It Comes at Night, which debuted at the 2017 Overlook Film Festival, takes us to these uncomfortable places by exploring the horrors of human nature when faced with an unknown threat.

Paul (Joel Edgerton) Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and their teenaged son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), live in a boarded up rambling house deep in the woods. Society has fallen to an unknown illness, leaving the family to fend for themselves away from cities and those who could be carrying the disease. When Travis witnesses his grandfather falling to the disease and his father’s matter-of-fact disposal of the body, the experience has left him with vivid nightmares and in a state of shock.

When the family catch an intruder in their home, they find that he is just looking for a safe haven. Will, the intruder (Christopher Abbott), has his wife Kim (Riley Keough) and their young son Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner) hidden in an abandoned home nearby and are equally terrified of contracting the disease. After a tough interrogation from Paul, he invites Will and his family to come and live in his forest fortress since Sarah feels there is strength in numbers. With the new family comes a renewed sense of hope. This is short-lived however, as human contact pits man against man and each is tested to do the right thing to stay alive.

Shults’ film is a build-up to a big lesson in human nature. The limits of how much we trust our fellow human being is complicated with our primal fears, denial and what we believe to be true. Perceptions are key in this film, as well as perspectives. Shults and his cinematographer Drew Daniels are very skilled at showing us perspective through the camera lens. With wide forest shots, close-ups lit only by a lantern, and slow-moving stedicam shots as we glided through Travis’ nightmares, they switched the mood from dread to terror effectively. The smart use of limited spaces also created an interesting way to focus on the isolation of this new world and internal turmoil. Claustrophobic and myopic, we get a sense of what the characters are feeling in this tense story.  It was also interesting that Shults doesn’t reveal character names until well into the first act.  It’s as if names don’t matter anymore because relationships seem difficult to maintain in this harsh place.

The performances were amazing. Edgerton played Paul with a restrained melancholy, giving us a glimpse of the comfortable teacher’s life he left behind, replacing it with a steel-hearted survivalist mode. Ejogo was a contrasting softer side of his forced strength, steering him away from a total lack of compassion.  While she was a strong character, she was able to show some vulnerability instead of the stoic “stiff-upper lip” stereotype for Black female roles. They were great choices for the protective parents, and Abbott, most known for his role in Girls, impressed as a desperate man trying to survive the aftermath of this diseased environment. The standout for me however, was Harrison Jr. His portrayal of Travis was riveting, and his character served as a barometer for humanity. His sweet nature and sensitivity combined with his terrifying nightmares made him the most present even though he seemed to be in another world. It’s not explained if this was attributed to the constant traumatic events or what appeared to be a slight mental disability. Whatever the case, his was a portentous existence guiding the audience through the brutality of this new world.

Paul (Edgerton) and Travis (Harrison Jr.) search for menace in the forest.

The flaws and degradation of humanity in this film left me feeling profoundly sad, but the hype about it is true. It’s a different type of horror film and a must-see for all of us in this era of desensitization and brutality. You’ll be left thinking about survival and the tough lessons that makes us examine the basics of who we are as humans.

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Ghostbusters 2016 Ain’t ‘Fraid o’ No Ghosts, and Ain’t That Bad Either!

Published August 2, 2016 by rmpixie

ghostbusterspsot

Ghostbusters (2016, 1 hr, 56 mins.)

The revamp of the classic comedy Ghostbusters has been the subject of nerd controversy ever since word got out that there would be a new film and an all female cast.  There was the infamously hated trailer, the championed the girl power angle, and the bellyaching, diehard fans who pooh-poohed the idea and spewed purist commentary to whoever had an ear to listen.  While the nerd storm rages on, this light and silly film was a fun addition to the ghost chasing tradition.

Erin (Kristen Wiig) is a physicist eyeing a job with tenure at Columbia, but is “haunted” by a book she penned with her then friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) about the paranormal in which she strongly stated her belief in ghosts.  Erin is desperately trying to hide this fact, but the book’s discovery by a descendant of the Aldridge Mansion Ed Mulgrave (Ed Begley Jr.) has tracked not only the book down, but Erin herself in the hopes that she can help with a haunting there. Erin seeks out Abby to stop her revival of the book which jeopardizes Erin’s chances of moving up in the world.  When Abby hears about the Aldridge haunting, Erin reluctantly goes along, and they, along with Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), a kooky engineering whiz kid and Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), a seasoned New Yorker with a wealth of historic information about the city, begin a paranormal escapade that involves plenty of crazy antics and ectoplasm in order to save the Big Apple from ghosts once again.

I went into the theatre with no expectations.  I knew about the kerfuffle over the female cast and the purist haters, but I stayed clear of it because I didn’t want any bias for when I saw the film.  As the end credits rolled, I think the IMdb rating of 5.4 is a little harsh.  I was expecting some major story issues that veered off into far, far left field in terms of the Ghostbusters universe, but was surprised that it stayed really, almost too close to the formula of an intro to the team who then realizes there’s a threat and the subsequent resolution.  I though it was a fun, summer popcorn movie that paid homage to the franchise and I’m still wondering what the issue is.

chrisHGhostbusters

Chris Helmsworth as the hunky Kevin

Great one liners, kicky comedic timing, and the swooning over Chris Helmsworth as their handsome but ditzy receptionist Kevin hit all the right notes for something light, funny and unapologetically cute.  McKinnon and Jones steal the show, and I’m glad.  McCarthy and Wiig had their vehicle of Bridesmaids to catapult them into the comedy classic annals, leaving plenty of room for others to shine.  It could also be that McKinnon and Jones have great chemistry because they’re current castmates on SNL.  My only wish was that the surviving cast of the original 1984 film had reprised their roles instead of the random cameos placed in the film.  I think that would have made for something with a bit more substance.

And I simply don’t understand the trailer controversy.  The pointless amount of time people spent critiquing, commenting and whining over a 2-and-a-half-minute clip to promote a film that they can’t get back.  Newsflash:  Most trailers are misleading, too long, crappy or give you a false idea of what the film will be.  I didn’t see anything unusually bad about the Ghostbusters trailer, in fact, I didn’t really pay attention to it except to note the cast and that the reboot was nigh.  Another thing was all the vitriol against feminism spouted by the haters.  How Sony had some sort of “social justice” agenda.  Who knew casting four women would cause such a furor?

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The Ghostbusting gals ready for battle (against ghosts…and crusty naysaying nerds…)

The character of Patty Tolan was also criticized for being a black stereotype.  I have a fine-tuned stereotype radar, and while I felt some of her wardrobe was probably considered “black” attire, and I agree with the criticism that she should have been a black scientist, her character was one of my favourites (especially during the concert scene).  She didn’t translate as “street-smart” as she is often described, but as a native New Yorker and historian, and having seen Jones’ stand-up act, she adds a bit of her shtick to the character of Patty.

I was in a theatre of mostly kids, and it was nice to hear them laughing at the gags and discovering a new take on the franchise.  There were also the older movie-goers like myself, including a woman who hooted and hollered each time an original ghostbuster made a cameo.  That made for a great time, reminded me why I liked the original and defied the lukewarm reviews floating around out there amidst all the school yard pouting about whether girl ghostbusters are better than boy ghostbusters.

Oh Canada. A Woman Of Colour and Her Perspective On Horror In The Great White North

Published December 4, 2014 by rmpixie

I am a fan of many things.  At the top of my list is the horror genre.  From the first scary story my late mother told me when I was a kid to the last horror film festival I attended, I’m all in.  I am also a fan of my country.  I love Canada.  Being born in the States and relocating here at an early age, I consider myself a bred Canadian.  I love our way of living here, the at times maddening weather, and our culture of easy-going politeness, tolerance and multiculturalism that is world-renowned.  When the two combine, however, I am sorely disappointed because the obvious mixture of culture that we experience day in and day out is lacking in the indie horror film industry here.

Last year, my best friend and I went to a screening of The Dirties.  Heavily endorsed by indie giant Kevin Smith, this Canadian independent film documents 2 high school students as they make a film about killing their bullies which becomes a deadly obsession for one of them.  I was an outsider as a child, with very strict parents and not a lot of money.  I had a small group of nerdy friends and we were all tormented by bullies at some point, so I was really interested in the subject matter.  Both my friend and I were enjoying the dark, quirky humour until one scene in particular. The boys recreate a scene from Pulp Fiction, and one of them is in blackface as he portrays Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Jules Winnfield.  I’m not sure if this was intended to show how much of an idiot the main character Matt was, as his friend let him know that his characterization was inappropriate, but I was let down.  Let down because the significance of that historical offence was somehow beyond the filmmaker’s radar.  Let down because that historical offence was made light of.  After the film, my friend also pointed out that even though the cast was diverse, the bullies were people of colour.  The filmmaker failed on two points.  He not only stereotyped the Black bully, but himself as White and ignorant of other cultures.  We approached another movie-goer after the film, another Black woman, who also notice the scene and was also disappointed.  Having discussed it at length with my friend, I let it sit with the other things in my mental file called “Really People?!!”, but stayed silent, like a good Canadian.

Just recently I attended a horror film festival featuring only Canadian horror.  I  really love this festival, and enjoy all the chatty fans and great independent films made right here on my doorstep.  Many of the films were great, and I don’t take issue with the festival itself, but there were two movies that really stuck in my craw, and overwhelmed by disappointment as a rabid horror fan, I can stay silent no longer.

The first was Bloody Knuckles.  It was getting quite a lot of buzz as being offensive but really funny, and had a premise similar to Idle Hands.  The creator of an offensive comic, Travis, angers a local Asian mob boss and is punished by losing his hand.  The dismembered hand is reanimated and wreaks havoc in Travis’ life and aims to get revenge.  One of the programmers of the event forewarned the audience that the movie was offensive.  Note taken.  The comic book covers depicting the Asian mob boss in an act of sodomy and an African military officer as a cannibal were vulgar and ignorant, yes, but it illustrated the character’s mindset.  What I couldn’t understand was why Travis says the “N” word to show that he has no boundaries when he is questioned about the inappropriateness of his work.  It was just unnecessary, since the point was already proven:  the character was obnoxious and had no filters.  There was no need to utter that word, which unfortunately carries so much weight to this very day, and immediately alienated me as an audience member.  Yes, I have been called the “N” word, and yes, it stings regardless of the context.  Apparently, the director did the film to, among other things, speak out against censorship, but when that word comes out of any mouth, White or otherwise, it is never appropriate.  And the portrayal of a gay character, the Asian thugs and mob boss were no better.  Aside from the great special effects of the reanimated hand, there was no real redemption here.  Travis didn’t seem to learn any real lessons about his character, so this film was a cultural fail.  To my surprise, it won as best film in the festival.  I am disturbed by this because it makes me wonder if I saw the same film as the festival jury, and it makes me wonder why something so blatantly offensive would charm an audience.

The icing on the alienation cake was the film Kingdom Come.  Nine strangers wake up in an abandoned hospital with no memory of how they got there and no way of getting out.  They must work together to escape and deal with demons, both in their hearts and in the halls of the hospital.  This film had so much potential with its large ensemble cast and interesting premise, but I was underwhelmed by the glaring racial stereotypes presented.  A character named Roger was a rapist.  He just happened to be Black, aggressive, and loud.  Then there was a Middle Eastern or South Asian man, Nadir, who was portrayed as weasely and hated Blacks, especially Roger.  Nadir accidentally kills his daughter when he finds out she had been dating a Black man, who is framed for her death.  She comes back to haunt her father, and in her rage, and to shame him, uses the “N” word.  Yet again, it rears its ugly head.  It made me wonder what the motivation for the actors who took these roles was, because I am still baffled.  The only redeeming factors for this film?  The production value including the great opening credits, the hospital setting which was really effective, and the stand-out performance by Jason Martorino as Daniel, whom I wished I had seen in something other than this film.

A note to Canadian writers and directors:  DO NOT USE THE “N” WORD. EVER.  It is vulgar and ugly and lazy.  Even if it comes out of a visible minority’s mouth.  Another note:  STOP USING ONE-DIMENSIONAL RACIAL STEREOTYPES.  I wonder if these images and roles are perpetuated because the White majority is tired of being politically correct and is just angry that they have to be sensitive to “The Other”; that we are here and no longer want to be silenced or parodied.  Or maybe in order to be provocative, minorities become casualties at the expense of the majority’s creative process, if we are considered for roles at all.  Please realize that horror has nothing to do with race.  It is an entertaining genre that many are drawn to because we love to be scared, and you will find a scary story in every culture, so when these very images, these words, these slurs for any cultural group are uttered or perpetuated, they are hurtful and immediately excludes and divides us.  I am by no means asking for a gag order, but rather to open your eyes to fans who are outside of your 14-30 year old White male demographic and get creative instead of regurgitating racial tropes from bygone eras that offend, alienate and disappoint.

I am a horror fan through and through.  And I am a woman of colour, a Canadian woman of colour, and I no longer want to feel invisible.  I am surrounded by diversity, which is what I think this country excels at in real life, but on the indie screen, it lacks in representation and scope.  Step outside your door, and you will see teachers, artists, writers, doctors and business owners of many hues.  The black rapists, racist minorities and stereotypes are not our absolutes.  Go to comic and horror conventions and you will see racially diverse horror fans with dollars that support your craft, not to mention the huge amount of women, and women of colour, who live for the genre, but that is another post altogether.  I therefore challenge all independent horror film makers out there, indeed any film maker, to think outside of the box, because you are Canadian, you can do better, and I expect more from you.

See Canada for what it is in 2014: cast some people of colour in roles because they can act or represent the character fully, not because of your laziness and what old school racial rules dictate.  They don’t apply anymore.  Network television is beating you by leaps and bounds with shows like Sleepy Hollow, Falling Skies, and Grimm with their racially diverse casts.  Take a cue from your crew, because when I read the credits to your films, I see a lot of diversity there.  Give me an Asian final girl, a Black hero/heroine outside of “the ‘hood”, a South Asian family that battles a creature, or, and stay with me here, Native-Canadian cast members. Why?  Because when you finally take your blinders off, you’ll see we’ve been here all along, supporting you.

 

 

 

 

 

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