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Clarence's Hollywood

  • 08/16/2010 - 23:14
    Katherine Stockett’s excellent novel, The Help, is about the African American maids who worked in white households in Jackson, Mississippi during the 1960s. Stockett reflects the brutal realties of 20th Century slavery being carried out in pretentious southern white households that continued from the Slave Era through Emancipation and Reconstruction and the Jim Crow Era to the modern Civil Rights Movement. Pray that Hollywood does not attempt a film adaptation or we will see yet another white-wash of racial reality.
  • 08/02/2010 - 16:27
    Whether Hollywood is an art form or a commercial enterprise seems unworthy of debate. It is all about the money. But is the motion picture “Power Elite” still as staunch in its belief that movie-goers must always ethnically identify with the screen protagonist for a film to be profitable? The 2009 rags-to-riches Bollywood feature, Slum Dog Millionaire directed by Englishman Danny Boyle, made much money and received much praise, though it did not surpass the intelligence of Mira Nair’s gritty and independent Salaam Bombay (1988). Ashutosh Gouariker’s big budget Lagaan (2001), which was set in Victorian-era India, generated white cross-over appeal as well, as had Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (1982) and Gurinda Chadha’s Bend it Like Beckham (2002).
  • 07/19/2010 - 19:49
    Racist and anti-Semitic websites and blogs abound on the internet. Many of these missives reflect a notion that there exists an overwhelming presence of Jews in Hollywood and imply that a Jewish presence influences the images in Hollywood films. To deny that social and political realities are independent of Hollywood imagery would be a direct contradiction of this particular blog. But the issue is less “so what” than to plead for caution in playing into the hands of bigotry.
  • 06/18/2010 - 00:22
    One would think that in 21st century Hollywood, the image of the Asian female as exotic and sexually subservient would have moved way beyond such a racist and sexist stereotype. Anna May Wong (1905-1961), the famous Asian American actress who spanned the silent and sound era, battled racism in America and escaped to Europe in search of less stereotypical and more multi-dimensional film roles. But then the less talented Nancy Kwan as the sexy gold-digging night-club singer, Linda Low, appeared in Henry Koster’s musical, Flower Drug Song (1961). The film, interesting for its time (African American actress Juanita Hall [1901-1968] was featured), was filled with so many Chinese American stereotypes it must have been what Harve Foster / Wilfred Jackson’s Song of the South (1946) was to African Americans.
  • 05/17/2010 - 22:57
    African American actor Danny Glover of the Lethal Weapon franchise has advised caution to the draconian anti-immigration laws passed in the state of Arizona in 2010. Glover, a recognized activist, believes that calls for a state boycott go too far. Ironically, it was Glover who filed a taxi discrimination law suit in New York in 1999 charging that cab drivers refused to pick him up because he is black. It is not unusual when Hollywood entertainers step into the political limelight though extreme caution has to always be the watch-word or they make fools of themselves and others.
  • 04/30/2010 - 21:00
    Much discussion about the 2010 United States Census has been on the growing rate of the Hispanic/Latino populations in the U.S. Wealthy Mexican-American comedian George Lopez can produce a rousing response from what might be a predominately Hispanic/Latino audience when he announces how the U.S. had better adjust to what is now more than 40 million people of Hispanic/Latino descent. Jay Leno, the fading late night TV comedian, can also get a rousing reaction from audiences comprised of mostly whites when referring rather disparagingly to the increasing prominence of the Mexican-Americans in California. What neither Lopez nor Leno seemed to get is the significance of phenotype. Indeed, “race” (distinguishing people be superficial physical characteristics such as skin-color) is more a boundary marker than ethnic identification (distinguishing people by nationality or culture) which still defines Hispanic/Latinos.
  • 04/05/2010 - 15:48
    The pre-Darwinian idea of “The Great Chain of Being” placed monkeys next to the original people of Africa, but whites were conveniently placed next to God. It turns out that Hollywood has consistently reinforced this Eurocentric symbolism which should have been left back in the Dark Ages.
  • 03/11/2010 - 15:26
    I am not a sports fan, but you don’t have to be one to appreciate Ron Ichikawa’s Tokyo Olympiad (1965) (Tokyo Orimpikku), a magnificent and gloriously filmed spectacle of the 1964 Summer Olympics held for the first time in an Asian country. The passion, lyricism and sheer beauty of Ichikawa’s ground-breaking achievement surpasses anything ABC’s World of Sports has been trying to mimic since. From the opening to the closing ceremonies, this extraordinary sports documentary went beyond the typical razzle-dazzle hype of corporate media and brought forth 170 minutes of compelling images regarding the human condition.
  • 03/01/2010 - 15:45
    Hollywood has a long history of presenting White Anglo Saxon Protestant actors as Jesus Christ. Such examples have included blond and blue-eyed Jeffrey Hunter in Nicholas Ray’s King of Kings (1961); pale and perplexed Ted Neeley in Norman Jewson’s Jesus Christ Superstar (1973); and wimpy Willem Dafoe in Martin Scorsese’s Last Temptation of Christ (1998). It is highly unlikely that a Middle-easterner such as Jesus of Nazareth would have such Eurocentric phenotypic features as these WASP actors. At least the physical embodiment of Christ was more realistic in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ (2004) with swarthy James Caviezel as Jesus. Also, in Catherine Hardwicke‘s The Nativity Story (2006), the dark Keisha Castle-Hughes as Mary, the mother of Christ, is part Maori.
  • 02/04/2010 - 01:41
    On January 12, 2010, a massive 7.0 earthquake centered on the capital city of Port-au-Prince in Haiti killed and maimed more than a quarter million out of a population of almost 9 million people. Haiti is a conjoint but economically delayed twin nation situated west of the Dominican Republic and one-third the island of Hispaniola. Invaded in 1492 by that lost Italian, Christopher Columbus, Haiti was colonized by France and under the brilliant leadership of ex-slave Toussaint L’Ouverture (1743-1803), won its independence in 1804. But the island has experienced a history of economic deprivation, environmental exploitation, and political upheaval, stemming in large part as retaliation from a western-based Power Elite. That anyone would now be surprised by Haiti’s current plight has probably spent far too much time buying into cinematic propaganda about life in the Caribbean.
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