Logan: The End of Ol’ White Men

The “Whitelash” theory of Trump’s super-embarrassing slide into the presidency (well, we never claimed the U.S. wasn’t anti-intellectual, did we?) has the still-ascendant, but demographically shrinking and culturally stagnating white/cis-het/male contingent (helped substantially by their female counterparts) striking back at the diversity of Obama’s America by electing a crypto-white-supremacist in response to his racist and xenophobic dog whistles. Although not the only compelling narrative of the last year and a half, Trump’s Whitelash has enough truth to it to make it into at least a Ronald-Takaki-authored history book, if not a textbook from Texas.

Meanwhile, pop culture may be lashing in the opposite direction — and, in fact, contributing to the panic. Whereas the last Academy Awards shows of Obama’s presidency featured a field of winners that rivaled a wedding-dress-clad polar bear fainting on an iceberg for whiteness, it is President Trump’s first Oscars that saw the Academy — now led by a black woman — crowning its first African-American-made Best Picture. The last season of tv was the most diverse in history, and we don’t need numbers or stats to know this. And even the debate around diversity failures points to how far we’ve come, and how aware of the changing nature of American culture the mainstream has become.

So it’s not much of a stretch to see Logan, clearly the end of a franchise, as the gentle, mournful and mourning, Hollywood-sanctioned version of conservative white panic.

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Pan and the Amazing Technicolor Natives

First things first: Pan — opening in U.S. theaters this weekend — is a colorful, action-packed PG-13 reimagining  of the origins of Peter Pan and his relationships with and to Captain Hook, Tiger Lily, and Neverland as we know them through J.M. Barrie’s play and novel and their myriad subsequent Broadway, Disney, and Hollywood (re)interpretations.

My daughters, ages 11 and 6, enjoyed the film, and the 6-year-old, who often asks to leave the theater during intense or “scary” action sequences, made it through with only a bit of parental ear-covering during loud bits. The world-building and -design and the effects were beautiful and well-done, with visual call-backs to many fantasy, science fiction, and action films that parents will recognize fondly (the Mad Max films and Avatar being just an example) and original effects like giant bubbles of water containing aquatic life floating in the sky that I will remember for a while. But it’s the twists, and the questions and consequences they bring up, that I want to talk about now. So from here on in, SPOILERS AHEAD.

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X-Men and the Oscars of Future Past

A while back, I shared a couple of lists I curated of DC superheroes and their Academy Awards. It’s a hobby I picked up a bunch of years ago because I’m as much of an Oscars junkie as I am a superhero movie one. I hinted that I would tackle a similar list featuring the actors of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but instead, I decided to take on the Oscar winners and nominees from that other multi-movie Marvel megafranchise: the X-Men.

Part of the reason is because X-Men: Days of Future Past just shattered a ton of Memorial Day box office numbers on its way to a $111 million opening. Also, with seven movies spanning fourteen years under its belt, the X-Men franchise is just as deep as the Batman and Superman oeuvres, though the mutants have far less noms and wins than DC’s big two.

Some more stray observations after the jump.

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The Conversation We Should Not Have About Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

Gal GadotZack Snyder cast Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman for the upcoming Man of Steel sequel, thereby ending months of speculation about the possible portrayal of DC Comics’ oldest nod to feminist virtue and grrl power. Previously seen by American audiences in the recent Fast & Furious movies, Gal Gadot’s casting has been met with equal praise and derision. My initial response is hearty, heartfelt, and honest.

I told you so.

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In Defense of The Wolverine

At the beginning of this blog’s life, The Wolverine was a very popular topic. Jenn wrote about her issues with the film — primarily how she felt the movie was yet another example of Hollywood’s exotification of Asia and is essentially an Orientalist fantasy in the spirit of Miss Saigon. Later, Claire rebutted Jenn’s claims of Orientalism in the movie but still thought it sucked because of all the plot holes and poorly drawn characters. We even discussed it at length on Hard NOC Life.

Here’s the thing, though. I liked this movie. Like, a lot. It was probably one of my favorite movies of the summer and is definitely my favorite in the X-Men movie canon (which, I guess, isn’t all that difficult since X2 and the Magneto bits in First Class are the only good ones in the franchise).

Now that it’s out on blu-ray and DVD, I thought it was an opportune time to express why I liked it (even though it seems no one else on the blog did).

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The Wolverine Sucked for Narrative, Not Political, Reasons

Okay, folks. Just to start NOC off on the right foot (i.e. to NOT give you the impression that Nerds of Color are all in agreement), I have to say that I totally disagreed with Jenn’s analysis of The Wolverine.

Well, I disagreed with 75% of it (and I’m not the only one.)

The part I agreed with is that it sucked: The Wolverine was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad movie … but not for political reasons. I think it was horribly badly written by someone who did not know how to write. Or else horribly hacked up by a director who did not know how to make a movie make sense. Or some of both.

I think what Jenn was doing was filling in the blanks with the products of her own intelligence because the movie was all blanks. And nerds abhor a vacuum.

Here’s what I saw (spoilers ensue):

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The Wolverine: Memories of Miss Saigon

wolverine-saigonMy boyfriend and I rarely go to the movies these days: tickets are overpriced, concessions are empty calories, 3D makes our heads hurt, and no one seems to follow basic theatre etiquette anymore. But, we make the rare exception for blockbuster movies: any film for which the special effects necessitate a big screen. Earlier this summer, we braved the Friday night mall crowds to check out Iron Man 3. Without fail, we found ourselves seated next to a trio of fanboys who, moments after the room darkened, launched themselves into a loud and obnoxious litany of Mystery Science Theatre commentary on the 15 minutes of trailer, each statement of amateurish snark blasted at full volume so that the entire movie-going audience could “share” in this bit of uninvited “fun.”

When the trailer for The Wolverine came on, MST Fanboy #1 — the fanboy who of the bunch was both loudest and closest to us — let out a shrill squeal. “I so can’t wait for when this comes out! It’s gonna be epic,” he declared loudly to no one in particular between fistfuls from his bucket-sized popcorn, and the rest of us found our lives enriched by the knowledge of his growing excitement about this movie, or at least by a momentary respite from the scathing and unrelenting witticism that he had unleashed upon the other trailers.

(By the time the movie started, it was clear that these fanboys had no plans of letting up. 20 minutes in as Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark led us through his post-Avengers PTSD, we pointedly turned to MST Fanboy #1 and hissed loudly to get his attention. As soon as he turned to us we snapped: “Hey, dude, we can ALL hear you, and you’re not funny enough to justify this. You need to shut up. Now. ” The rest of the movie was enjoyed in much-appreciated silence punctuated by periodic glares of sullen reproach from my left.)

I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t one of those fanboys, and not just because I know how to enjoy a movie in respectful silence.

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