Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Whitewashing and Americanization

I hate Hollywood.

I take that back, I don't hate Hollywood. I actually kind of love the whole stupid glamorous self-absorbed situation. But they are working my last nerve.

First, there's the new film Extraordinary Measures, which looks kind of dumb on the whole anyway. But there's nothing overtly offensive about that, really, until you read this.

Basically, the story has Brendan Frasier and Harrison Ford working together to find the cure for a rare disease that strikes children. Harrison Ford plays the doctor, Brendan Frasier the aggrieved parent. It's based on a real-life story...sort of. As mentioned in Roger Ebert's review:
Dr. Robert Stonehill doesn't exist in real life. The Pompe cure was developed by Dr. Yuan-Tsong Chen and his colleagues while he was at Duke University. He is now director of the Institute of Biomedical Science in Taiwan. Harrison Ford, as this film's executive producer, perhaps saw Stonehill as a plum role for himself; a rewrite was necessary because he couldn't very well play Dr. Chen. The real Chen, a Taiwan University graduate, worked his way up at Duke from a residency to professor and chief of medical genetics at the Duke University Medical Center. He has been mentioned as a Nobel candidate.

I suspect Dr. Chen might have inspired a more interesting character than "Dr. Stonehill." The Nebraskan seems inspired more by Harrison Ford's image and range. He plays the doctor using only a few spare parts off the shelf. (1) He likes to crank up rock music while he works. (2) He doesn't return messages. (3) He's so feckless he accidentally hangs up on Crowley by pulling the phone off his desk. (4) He likes to drink beer from longneck bottles in a honky-tonk bar and flirt with the waitress. (5) "I'm a scientist, not a doctor," he says. He's not interested in Pompe patients, only the chemistry of the disease.
Uh huh. Why? Why does Hollywood feel the need to consistently whitewash Asians (and other ethnicities, but somehow this seems most prevalent with Asians) out of real-life stories? Or even cartoons (I'm looking at you, The Last Airbender! Or how about you, Prince of Persia starring super European-looking Jake Gyllenhaal!) At least the trend of remaking every successful Japanese horror movie to come across the Pacific into a crappier film starring white people seems to have slowed lately.

Second, and just as annoying really, comes this news that apparently a Hollywood biopic about Winne Mandela is being made, without ever asking her or even telling her about it.
Titled "Winnie", the film is directed by South African film-maker Darrell J. Roodt, whose work includes "Cry, The Beloved Country" and "Sarafina."

But a letter from her attorney Bowman Gilfillan said Madikizela-Mandela was "extremely concerned" to hear about the film, saying "she has never been approached for consent or at all," according to The Star newspaper.

"It is difficult to understand how a production bearing the name of an individual who has not been consulted at all could ever be appropriate or tell the full story of that individual's life as media reports suggest this production is intended to," the letter said, according to the paper.
Which is kind of rude, to say the least.

And that's not even mentioning this aspect of it.
The film had already stoked controversy in South Africa when Hudson was tapped to play the role, sparking outrage among local actors who complained that South African talent had again been overlooked by Hollywood.
No kidding. While I'm sure Jennifer Hudson could do an excellent job (although it would depend on how distracting her fake accent winds up sounding, I guess), they didn't even try? Maybe it's for the best, they might have cast Charlize Theron or something.

Friday, January 22, 2010

"Haiti is a Nation of Heroes."

Sometimes I think Jay Smooth lives inside my head. Literally, every video he makes I nod my head in amazement.

Am I the only one having a kind of mixed reaction to the outpouring of fundraising for Haiti? On the one hand, of course it's wonderful that so many people are giving, of course I think that it should be on tv, it's news, of course I think it's great that celebrities are involved because they have the ability to reach more people, make an issue more visible, etc.

But, I have this kind of queasy feeling about it all, like, it's not like Haiti didn't need help before. It's like, hundreds of thousands of people have to die suddenly in order for people to pay attention. And I'm afraid that this situation leaves the door open for more of the IMF/World Bank, etc type loans to screw over the Haitian economy further, or for the spread of further US corporations to "create jobs" etc etc.

Every time I bring this up people look at me like I'm kicking an adorable puppy.

This is a similar feeling I had after Katrina, and after (well, after reading about, as I was too young to really notice at the time) Rwanda. (Although it hasn't done much for the people in Darfur, really.)

Why do we only care when Bono tells us to? Why do we only notice when it horrifies Anderson Cooper?


**added** And just to make clear, I don't leave myself out of the "We" mentioned above. I've been keeping this blog for almost a decade, and I don't think I ever wrote about Haiti once. Why not?

Oh, oh, and if you want to know the type of havoc IMF and World Bank loans can wreak on an economy, I can't recommend this movie enough. (Again.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Life with Abbie

I'm done with my current writing assignment, so I have nothing much to do.

Now is the time to make you all bask in my daughter's adorableness!!!!

(Yes, I *do* enjoy annoying the sanctimoniously "childfree," why do you ask?)

Abbie has been spontaneously breaking out in these semi-descriptive arias lately, where she screams/sings what she's doing, what I'm doing, or just random stuff. Hilarious.

She builds these great, ornate, huge, floor-spanning Lego creations. Awesome.

She likes to make up weird games, like "Peekaboo Mice." To play Peekaboo Mice, you first have to think about mice, then you turn off the light, then you turn it back on and scream, "Eek, mice!"

No, I don't really get it either.

She loves to totally rock out dancing.

She's in the question asking phase. This just happened:

ABBIE: Mama, how come I ask you so many questions?
ME: *dies*

And also, here's Abbie and a ukulele.

The end.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Help in Haiti

By now everyone probably knows about the horrific situation with the earthquake in Haiti. Maegan la Mamita Mala at VivirLatino has a good link roundup of places and ways to help. This is the one I did.
For those interesting in helping immediately, simply text “HAITI” to “90999″ and a donation of $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts, charged to your cell phone bill.
I hope this isn't as bad as it looks at the moment.

Monday, January 11, 2010

RIP, Miep Gies

What a brave woman. This part, especially, touched me.
After the apartment was raided by the German police, Gies gathered up Anne's scattered notebooks and papers and locked them in a drawer for her return after the war. The diary, which Anne Frank was given on her 13th birthday, chronicles her life in hiding from June 12, 1942 until August 1, 1944.

Gies refused to read the papers, saying even a teenager's privacy was sacred. Later, she said if she had read them she would have had to burn them because they incriminated the "helpers."
Emphasis mine. I always felt a little weird about reading Anne Frank's diary without her permission. And in this age where we all spew our inner thoughts all over the internet, Gies's respect for the privacy of others seems all the more admirable.

There should be more people like her. RIP.

I have just met you, and I love you. Will you be my prisoner?

Best pickup line, ever.

I recently (finally) saw Up, and it made me cry. And I'm talking, embarrassingly, openly weep-in-front-of-friends-and-family-members cry.

Here's the part that really got to me.

Even all those years later, even after having the best kid anyone ever had, I guess I still wasn't over it.

See, I can barely even type the word! Miscarriage. The miscarriage. Still, in my opinion, too taboo of a subject in American culture.

The rest of Up is also fabulous, especially Dug the dog in all his earnest literalness. But that little montage alone is perhaps the most moving piece of American filmmaking I've seen in years. If there's any sense of justice living in the souls of the people at the Academy of Arts and Sciences, it will garner an Oscar nomination. And I mean a real, big-kid Best Picture nomination, not the Best Animated Feature, kid's table consolation prize.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Where the HELL have you been?!?!?!

I have to apologize as I've mostly retreated to the relative safety of Facebook. I, like a lot of sensible people, have pretty much had it with the blogosphere.

I may or may not be entering grad school next year, depending on how seriously they take my awful GRE scores. Yeah, I kind of choked on the math part.

Consequently, depending on how much time I'll be having on my hands, I've been considering what to do with this space. I've been doing some freelance writing for hire lately, and it's kind of got me into writing and pop culture analysis and that sort of thing again. I might consider doing some blogging about it.

Look for more in the near future, for sure. I'm not dead or anything, I swear.