The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Monday, August 03, 2009

"The Collector" (2009)


And what did that cop (I don't know his name--not the arresting officer, though) call Gates? "A banana-eating tree monkey"? But his lawyer assures us he is not racist. I am sure that there are some people who may agree with that, and I think I can guess their skin tone. There is something that is almost tragic here, and I mean that sincerely. As the world shifts, an entire generation or three that grew up looking at America as the world's greatest power, the beacon of freedom and hope, etc., is seeing other countries rising up to meet our standard...while we (in areas like health and education) are starting to lag. But wait, there's more. If you look at old movies, you can see clearly that the dominant mythology in America was that White People Ran The World. This was a white nation, everyone of consequence or substance was white, and that was just the way it was. I actually feel sorry for those who are awakening to the fact that that was always an illusion, always a very temporary dream from which they are now awakening. And it has to be depressing as hell to those who placed their ego in the skin-color bucket. Obama comes along...not just black (by the definitions established by this country over 400 years.) but with a strange last name, an African father, and a Muslim middle name. No wonder his opponents have had a difficult time confining themselves to criticizing him on grounds of policy. No wonder we're seeing so many racially-tinged comments, violent slips of the tongue, accusations of "racist" by white people who probably don't have a single black person on speed-dial.


Wow. Whatever comes of all of this, in some critical ways America really has shifted, and these people are just dinosaurs searching for a decent tar pit. There's really nothing to do but speak kindly to them and wait for them to die. Their children will do better. Or their children. But...wow.

##

Saw Bill Maher taping last night at CBS Television City. Wow. Worked there about 30 years ago. The Price is Right, Sonny and Cher, All In the Family...I remember asking Carroll O'Conner questions about dealing with my girlfriend's father's racism..Carol Burnett being incredibly gracious to a disabled friend of mine...Lily Tomlin walking me to my car at two in the morning and kissing me goodnight (in a sisterly way). Good times. Maher was hysterically funny talking about the "Beer Summit", and reminding us that the Birthers may be nutty, but that kind of poison can grow if you don't watch it.


Humor can be a superb medicine. And old high school friend, Karla Henderson, arranged for the tickets. Hadn't seen her in 40 years! I enjoy "catching up". We appeared in a version of "The Lottery" together onstage, and I remember overacting feverishly. Oh, well...Karla was played my sister, as I recall, and did a fine job.

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Saw "The Collector" Yesterday. It's about a cat burgler trapped in a house with a serial killer who has targeted the home-owners, and laced their house with vicious traps. It's better than it might have been, but no classic. The only thing that really worked for me was the fact that, for once, the protagonist was competent, and not just a screaming, oblivious teenager. I'd give it a "B" for fans of hard-core horror, a "C" for others. Maybe less.

##

While talking to Tananarive about showing the current draft of our script to an advisor she trusts, I realized that my instinct was to turn down the input at this phase of the writing process. My gut curdles at the thought...but I openly admitted that she was probably right. I know from long experience that her instincts about these things are usually right. There is no real reason that we SHOULDN'T. But the feelings are there, overruled by my commitment to trust Tananarive unless I have what I consider to be a solid, non-subjective reason to do otherwise.


But the feeling. And I know I could wrap it in all kinds of logical reasons, but underneath all that, it's just a feeling. And I think that we all have stuff like this: convictions that something is right, regardless of lack of evidence, just a KNOWING. That is still wrong. That we can have all of the same feelings that something is right, even if it makes no real sense at all. If that's right, then it ties right into the idea that our reality maps warp easily (Birthers? 9/11 Truthers? Bodies disobeying the laws of physics? Lottery addicts? People who mistake sex for love?) especially when something threatens what we consider to be our core identity or sense of how the world works. In this case, its the feeling that at certain stages of writing I can only trust myself. I let Tananarive into my circle with this (I've never written really personal stuff with Larry, so this never kicked in the same way) but beyond that? Well...let's say I have trust issues.


But I have to respect T's process. And logically, I THINK she's right, I just don't FEEL she is. Sigh. The question is: if this is true, how do we protect ourselves from...ourselves? The way that seems to make most sense to me is to think of an idealized, balance self-image, and head toward that. If anyone else has ever accomplished what I want, I figure it's possible for me. One question: if these three things are what I got out of life, would I be satisfied? Healthy? Successful? Happy? Are they depriving anyone else of life, liberty, possessions, or honor? Does the path between me and those things sound interesting, with bitchin' scenery, even if it's uncomfortable?


In fact...if it doesn't make me uncomfortable, it isn't much use, because I will have chosen it to allow me to stay in my "box." And even though that is comforting in the short term, it is a form of death. Every time I've broken through a wall in one of the three primary areas, I felt pain, fear, anger, resentment...and on the other side of that wall was greater freedom, power, and pleasure--enough to dwarf the discipline or emotional clearing it took to break through it.


Of course...there are paths to excellence that lead to self-destruction. And that is the horrific imbalance you could see in a Michael Jackon. It ain't that hard to be superb in one thing...if you are willing to sacrifice everything else. Seeking balance is like holding up a mirror to the back of your head. "Perceive those things that cannot be seen." Oh, yeah. Yes, it makes me a bit dogmatic at times, but that's not always a sin. I'm sure I get it wrong sometime, but it is amazing how useful that simple tool is.


I don't want to share my work at this phase. Tananarive does, and I trust her. So my choice of a partner helps fill in the gaps in my own emotional world.

##

Saw "The Unborn" (2009), a supernatural tale of a woman haunted by a Jewish demon (and I'm telling you it's about time!) that is actually pretty scarey. Written and directed by David S. Goyer, it has some tasty images, decent rationalization, and a dynamic climax. I'd give it a "B"


WARNING: SAMBO ALERT


Given that Goyer is responsible for the "Blade" series, which was objectionable for multiple reasons:

1) Blade, the titular character, isn't given so much as a kiss in three films, in a world in which vampires are clearly presented as hyper-sexual.

2) Snipes was promised a relationship in the third film...but after he signed, the studio reneged.

3) Goyer brought in three white vampire hunters, and wanted to kill off blade and replace him. Wesley refused to shoot the death scene, which is one of the reasons we haven't seen him in theatrical films for some time: "you'll never work in this town again." Same thing happened with Avery Brooks, by the way, on "Deep Space Nine."


So, given the above, I wondered what a racial filter would do with "The Unborn." First, and most obviously, the lead character has sex. Well well, what a surprise. Secondly, there are two black characters, and both die protecting the white woman. Isn't that special?

##

By the way--I think I have a crush on Rachel Maddow. She was on Bill Maher, and I think she may now officially be my favorite lesbian. Smart, cute, frisky...she was such fun. Love to meet her some time.

15 comments:

Marty S said...

This has nothing to do with this post, but I thought I would share this example of the quality of a government implementation. I went to the clunkers site see if my 1998 Ford Contour would qualify. I clicked on the required tab and after a minute or two it came up with a page that told me the information I would need and asked if I wanted to continue. I clicked yes and two or three minutes later it gave me list of model years. I clicked on 1998 and it went comatose, finally around five to seven minutes later it gave a list of car companies, I clicked on Ford and it went comatose again. Eventual it gave a list of Ford models,. I clicked on Contour and it went comatose again. I was now on my second game of spider solitaire. It woke up and gave a list of Contour transmission and engine combination. I clicked on my combination. It went comatose and eventual gave me the message that the site was not responding. So I never found out if I qualified

L. R. Giles said...

Mr. Barnes, good morning. You say you don't want to share your work at this phase, and I was curious, is there ever a phase (prior to publication) where you feel totally comfortable sharing what you've written, or does that anxiety exist up to (and possibly beyond) the point where the work it totally out of your hands? Thanks.

Christian H. said...

Maybe now you'll believe me when I say that MOST "Republicans" want to go back to the "white man rules the world" time. Obama just forced them out of their hole - on a grander scale than I am currently able to.

Again, with the problems with casting etc. in movies - my favorite actor was in The Unborn, it's clear that there aren't enough minority males serious enough about it to get their kids in acting school.

If there aren't any actors to replace Wesley - which there really aren't - then of course he'll have more trouble with something like that.



I can agree with you about feedback on a script. The biggest problem I have is people don't know how to read a script. Too many readers search for the subjective page numbers or character arc - which doesn't really exist - rather than the range of emotions the character has or the progression of scenes (transitions).

For instance, in my favorite script - just happens to be for the actor above (damn she's good, no pun intended) - I have a long journey through college which starts at the mirror of a "girl" and ends at the mirror of a "woman." No one noticed that. People did notice there were a few lines of "slang" though.
But then that's another place we have little to no presence - script consultants\readers.

But then my goal is to have no two people find the same issue - I have several done and I'm still batting 1000.


Bill Maher is a great satirist. Don't think I'd want to meet Rachel Maddow in a non-professional setting. I have to keep something sacred.

Dan Moran said...

Marty,

You've never seen a private website go offline when it got slammed?

Anonymous said...

" seeing other countries rising up to meet our standard...while we (in areas like health and education) are starting to lag."

Depressingly, in terms of race relations vis-a-vis black/brown enfranchisement, the USA may actually be AHEAD of most other Western nations. While race relations may be somewhat better in urban Britain, Holland or South Africa, we're definitely far ahead of Latin America or France. Cuba's aged White Communist oligarchy is said to be quaking at prospects of Obama influencing the Black/Mulatto masses. Russia's so backward racially, it's unsafe for Africans or Indians to walk the streets of Moscow or Saint Petersburg.

Ethiopian_Infidel

mjholt said...

Go with your gut. If showing the work now gets your gut in a knot, you are best off waiting. While Tananarive may be right, she may be right about what she needs, not what you need. I know that showing a ms too early can stop/kill the writing process. Ask yourself and Tananarive what that possibility means to the writing process and your part in it.

Re Gates: I think police "thuggism" and general racism is much higher now than it was in 2000. The incident with Gates is just a peek at those two situations. If this can be used to make people more human to each other all the way around, then good will come of it.

Look at the underhanded "dissing" of President Obama by the likes of a 3rd-rate news reader Lou Dobbs. This birther crap is not news, but it is a focal point. With any luck, it may kill the GOP. I am not against conservatives, but I am against venal, greedy, stupid, hypocritical, and racist conservatives.

(Why I think Lou Dobbs is 3rd-rate: He was a reporter in the Seattle area years ago, and was no great shakes then. He took some acting classes and lowered the pitch of his voice that is all that sets him apart from the guy in Omaha who can't get a job out of town. Dobbs isn't very smart but I think he is cunning. I remember that from long ago, and I see it reported now. He has consistently given illegal (he has touted stocks on the air) and misleading stock tips, and gotten away with it.)

Anonymous said...

"With any luck, it may kill the GOP."

The GOP's future hinges on how Obama handles the economic crisis. If the stimulus et al turn things around, the GOP's hibernation switch will stay on Deep Freeze until a Republican equivalent of the Democratic Leadership Committee (DLC) apes Clinton and restructures the GOP platform and image to mirror those of the triumphant opposition. If Obama fails to significantly revitalize the economy, many Americans will assume events vindicated the race baiters.

Ethiopian_infidel

Marty S said...

Okay, I have to be fair. I tried the site again and got through the whole process in about two minutes so I guess the first time was just real bad timing.

Steve Lewis said...

Steve, I have to hear more about the Avery Brooks/DS9 thing.

Sisko is my favorite Star Trek character and Mr. Brooks is a favorite actor.

My brother and I used to fight over who got to be Hawk when we played Spencer for Hire. Neither one of us actually wanted to be Spenser, so we made up a brother for Hawk! We were so much more effective than Spencer ever was :)

Anonymous said...

Me and a host of my friends have decided to not see movies anymore--plus we all got rid of cable. Being that there is little to no black presence in film or television, why give them the money? Crap like "Superbad" can get made, but there can be no racially equitable films? They can do black face in Tropic Thunder, but Spike can't get his Jackie Robinson film made? F)*k Hollywood.

Some friends and I are trying to film a short film now because if you don't see what you want, you have to create it.

Shawn
popsandkids.blogspot.com

AF1 said...

I actually enjoyed Superbad. How can you not like McLovin?

Christian H. said...

Me and a host of my friends have decided to not see movies anymore--plus we all got rid of cable. Being that there is little to no black presence in film or television, why give them the money? Crap like "Superbad" can get made, but there can be no racially equitable films? They can do black face in Tropic Thunder, but Spike can't get his Jackie Robinson film made? F)*k Hollywood.

Some friends and I are trying to film a short film now because if you don't see what you want, you have to create it.

Shawn
popsandkids.blogspot.com





Well, like itold Steve, count how many 23 year old ACTORS there and now see how many of them are black and actually went to school for Fine Arts.
How can we be in movies when we all are athletes, rappers and for the most part, JUST PLAIN BUMMY?

I won't pay for a "black" movie but I will pay for a movie about Americans who happen to be black.

No one wants to see depressing stories about racism and discrimination.

Spike has made ONE movie that wasn't about racism. There's more to being a black American than racism or drug dealing.

I'm sitting on the 30th Floor of a Morgan Stanley building in NYC and the other black men don't speak to me. Well, there's only like three that aren't security or maintenance which probably explains why white people expect that that's all I want.

Stop sitting on the sidelines complaining and get in the fucking game. I can send you casting notices that I get.

But then most brothers just wanna talk shit and blame white people for their problems.

I have worked at Microsoft, Pfizer, Bristol Myers, NYC DoITT and several other places where we were not 13% of the employee population. We should always be, but here in NYC, we dress and act like MudFlap and Skids and hate on a brother that's in there and still representing his race.

I'm trying real hard to get some quality films made but if 50 Cent is the best I have to choose from for 20-something leading men, I'm making movies about white kids and black women - not the same movie of course.

Oh, RANT OVER.

Christian H. said...

Depressingly, in terms of race relations vis-a-vis black/brown enfranchisement, the USA may actually be AHEAD of most other Western nations. While race relations may be somewhat better in urban Britain, Holland or South Africa, we're definitely far ahead of Latin America or France. Cuba's aged White Communist oligarchy is said to be quaking at prospects of Obama influencing the Black/Mulatto masses. Russia's so backward racially, it's unsafe for Africans or Indians to walk the streets of Moscow or Saint Petersburg.






This is a violent world and you should be acting like it. White men respond well to violence. I have gotten away with things that other blacks would be amazed at.

It's skills and violence that wins in this world. Sometimes you have to give up the group for yourself - especially if the group seems to be BITCHES in disguise. Assholes will be assholes until; you put them in their place.
Of course they'll just look for someone else to play TOP-BOTTOM with but if everyone says "enough is enough," young black men wouldn't be sucking up your tax dollars and making kids that will only suck up your tax dollars.

Just like trailer park "rockers" who think they're tough. They just hide better because people would rather concentrate on blacks. But then I've seen brothers get "punked" by old white ladies so I guess you stick with what works.

Anonymous said...

"This is a violent world and you should be acting like it. White men respond well to violence."

While one of my life's goals is to avoid incarceration or violent death, in this very violent world, people(s) have sometimes to throw down. War and personal violence are BOTH diplomacy by other means. Primates human and otherwise use violence to force submission, establish pecking orders and to win the good things in life like food, booty and respect. Humans even seem to have ritualistic "suck up to and idolize the victor" programming (termed Compliance by Primatologists). Hence, women readily reconcile with rapists and batters, Japanese mutilate their eyes in resemble the gaze of the conquerors who nuked their cities, Blacks bleach themselves to resemble their former masters, and Whites express admiration for Zulus, the one group of Blacks who gave them the shaft (literally!). For myself, I'd rather navigate life fairly with charm and talent. However, necessity sometimes demands resort to that tied and true dominance-submission ritual, i.e. whip that mother's ass good and own him! Hitler spoke sagely when he told his thugs the masses generally respect violence.

Ethiopian_Infidel

Christian H. said...

Blacks bleach themselves to resemble their former masters, and Whites express admiration for Zulus, the one group of Blacks who gave them the shaft (literally!). For myself, I'd rather navigate life fairly with charm and talent. However, necessity sometimes demands resort to that tied and true dominance-submission ritual, i.e. whip that mother's ass good and own him! Hitler spoke sagely when he told his thugs the masses generally respect violence.





I haven't been in a fight in years. Violence can be just looking people in the eye and telling them to FUCK OFF. And meaning it.

I do it ALL THE TIME.