The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, September 26, 2008

No, thanks

McCain blinked. He'll be at the debate. Now it will depend on who controls the narrative of what happened. McCain might perform brilliantly, and Obama might stumble--that's about John's only chance. Otherwise...well, you read my prediction yesterday.


Sorry that the 101 project isn't off the planning boards yet. Mushtaq is having eye surgery, and it's slowed things down considerably.


Spike Lee's new movie "Miracle at St. Anna" is getting bad reviews. It may or may not deserve them...I'll see it this weekend. But considering that it has a black man having sex (according to the previews) we can predict that it will bomb at the box office, and that white reviewers and audiences will tend to have problems. But it's stranger than that. It also seems that even black directors, if they are dealing with such material, simply cannot bring their "A-game." In other words, the reviews might be justified. I suspect that there is SERIOUS cognitive dissonance, even in black people, around this issue.

On the other hand, "Lakeview Terrace" with Samuel Jackson as a racist cop harassing a mixed-race couple (do we have to guess whether it's the husband or wife who is white?) was #1 at the box office last weekend.

No, I haven't seen it. No, I have no plans to. Unless I see a movie with a black man being sexual (and surviving. And with a woman) I will not watch another film with a black woman screwing a white guy. I am simply filled-up sick to death with it. The fact that Will Smith's production company created it just says that he knows exactly what the game is, and is printing money. Since I suspect Smith will be the one to carry the baton across the finish line (and probably some time in the next year) I'll give him a pass on this. But no, no "Lakeview Terrace" for me, thanks.


Reluctant Lawyer said...

Miracle at St. Anna - I haven't seen the movie yet, but I read the book a few years back. Loved the book and can only hope that despite any box office failings that Spike Lee manages to do justice to a great story dealing with a somewhat forgotten aspect of WWII.

Now, if someone will do a movie on the 761st Tank Battalion or the Harlem Hellfighters, I'll be happy.

Christian H. said...

If Spike would just make a movie with black people instead of about black people's problems, it'd be great.

I think that "out in the open" most white people will respond positively to well-presented material no matter who's "getting their groove on."

But a big issue is that sex is just hard to sell anymore period so don't hold your breath.

Of course internally many whites just don't want to see fulfilled, morally-straight black people in the movies.

I guess the question is:

How much money is needed to keep doing the same crap? I only know of one black actress that hasn't "crossed over" and interestingly enough she's also the only under 30 actress who has not been involved in sex scandals or overly-risque (read:nude) roles.

Anyway I think that your coginitve dissonance idea goes to a lot of things in this country especially entertainment.
Most mores are based in white culture and black film makers tend to think that's off limits so they throw in some Ebonics and a bigoted superior and think that makes a movie.


I think Will Smith has shown that white people want good films with heroes that have strong moral fiber. And speaking of Will Smith I Am Legend was interesting because most black leading men in mainstream films have no family, wife, anything which fits with the theme of I am Legend anyway.

I would personally rather make a film that a select group of people will see again and again because of the quality of the story and characters rather than a piece of fluff that perpetuates bullshit stereotypes just to "not offend."

If I want white people to see my movie I make it about people who don't use Ebonics.

I always say you can't make a movie WITHOUT white people as it's not realistic in America.

A great example is Ocean's. It has 12 protags of which two have relationships. The relationships are peripheral though rather than integral.

The most popular movies have very few of anything but white males in heroic roles - even if they are "slackers."

It's indicative of the argument I had with some guy on here.

It's OK if you see the outcome but not the path.

Down with foolishness.

Steven Barnes said...

I beg to differ: Ocean's 11 was driven by Danny Ocean's desire for his ex-wife.

Steven Barnes said...

And sex isn't a hard sell at all. More than 20% of the box-office films over 100 million have love scenes.

Josh Jasper said...

Blinked isn't quite harsh enough. He fumbled.

Oh, and before he made that announcement, his campaign released an ad saying he'd won the debate. Which is a pretty interesting claim seeing as it hasn't happened yet.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I don't know if I (anyone) has asked you this question, but in light of the new Spike Lee movie I'll ask now: what did you think of Spike Lee's "He Got Game" ?

Anonymous said...

Thank you Steve Barnes re: your comment about Lakeview Terrace. I also am not going to see it because God forbid they show an interracial couple-or some fine black man having mind blowing sex with a white woman (and she enjoying it). THEY are not having it. You maybe saw in Jungle Fever but that is it. But then that film was about the "taboo" of interracial sex.

Then again- I am ok with that. I wanna see more films with black people loving each other, being intimate. Especiallya brother loving a woman who is the same HUE as him. That is why I can't wait to see when "Casanegra" or "In the Night of the Heat" becomes a film-so the world can see a black man loving a black woman, having mind blowing sex, and in a relationship.

Marty S said...

My personal opinion is that McCain was correct in the first place and the debate should have been delayed. With the debate taking place during the financial crisis, there are bound to be questions about it even though the debate is supposed to focus on foreign policy. Once Obama and McCain start debating the solutions, the process becomes more partisan because neither party wants to make their candidate look bad. This could make it harder to actually pass a bill.

Anonymous said...

"I beg to differ: Ocean's 11 was driven by Danny Ocean's desire for his ex-wife."

Hmmph, I thought it was driven by the search for more money.

Anonymous said...

Well I've seen both Lakeview Terrace and Miracle at St. Anna.

hmmm...Lakeview Terrace made me nauseous and depressed. Ive tried to put it out of my mind, so I won't go into detail. I will say it was THE most ANTI- black male film I can remember seeing...

Miracle at St. Anna - I'm still processing. I'm satisfied having seen it, but definitely ambivalent about my feelings. In terms of filmmaking, i thought it was brilliant. Spike came pretty darned close to making a "foreign film". More subtitles than not which I hadn't expected. He transcended race as a director with this one.
Many powerful statements about race, provocative in some parts, certainly controversial. Some disappointments and concerns though: the Magical Negro, the adulation of White (Italian) Femininity, basically some typical Hollywood race mess. The religious overtones, ehhhh...I don't know. Thankfully, there were some incredibly POTENT and INSPIRING images of Black manhood. I anxiously await STeve's review!

Anonymous said...

"If Spike would just make a movie with Black people instead of about Black people's problems, it'd be great". I'm wondering if this is the CLOSEST he's come, though it is wasn't an original story; I'd be interested in reading the book.

Anonymous said...

Haven't seen Miracle at St. Anna yet, though I probably will. Did just read Armond White's review and he wasn't a fan, or even gracious.

Here's the link:

For those who have seen the movie, what do you think of Armond's criticism?

Christian H. said...

Ocean's in general had no sexual content and no relationships other than Danny. The second one only involved Catherine as a love interest and they both made those peripheral meaning that part of the story was interspersed throughout.

It depends on what you mean by "sex scene." Iron Man : 0. Dark Knight : 0. Hancock : barely. Titanic : barely. All Star Wars : 0. Shrek : 0. Knocked UP : barely, no actual nudity, no foreplay.

So I'm not sure which top grossers you mean.

Anonymous said...

hmmm, read the review. It struck me as more of an attack on Spike Lee than anything else. I did agree with him on a couple points though: the ending, the Magic Negro, and some of the religious themes. Typically, he trivialized and reduced the struggle of Black folk to nothing more than bitterness and animosity, implying that we should "get over it already"...

THat was actually one of the most disparaging film reviews I've read. The movie was MUCH better than he makes it out to be. It's a suspicious review he wrote...

Anonymous said...

ANNND sending thoughts of a comfortable and restful recovery for Mushtaq!

Lester Spence said...

she's gotta have it, crooklyn, and mo betta blues stand out as three spike lee movies that weren't about "black people's problems", and in as much as it was a biopic i'd include malcolm x here as well. the 25th hour, son of sam, and inside man weren't about blacks at all. that leaves do the right thing, school daze, he got game, get on the bus, he hate me, and jungle fever.

mjholt said...

McCain blinked then he smirked to no avail. Here is a link with lots of opinion and some data Who won the debate

I want to see Miracle at St. Anna just because it is not about white soldiers.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

I don't intend to see "Lakeview Terrace" because white police are much more of a danger to black people than the other way around.

I might not have seen it even if everyone in it were white-- more bullying than I'd be likely to have fun watching. Still, it would be something to have a movie that gets away from police worship.

Afaik, the other real-world risk from police is them abusing their wives.

My impression is that even egregious white racists aren't personally afraid of black police. It's possible that this movie will shift that.

There's more to this mess than sex.

Shady_Grady said...

I read Armond's review. I think Armond has deeper issues with Spike.
I did think the film could have used some tighter editing and better focus. I didn't care for the Train character.
It will be interesting to see Steve's take on Miracle at St.Anna.

Steven Barnes said...

1) Iron Man and Titanic BOTH had sex scenes of the kind I discuss (remember? I said every James Bond movie has them. Kissing to a fade-out in a bed room is entirely enough). And of COURSE "Knocked Up" had a sex scene. Are you kidding? Interesting how folks want to assume I must be talking about something nearly pornographic. Look at these movies again, and grasp that I'm saying that those are the cinematic conventions of sex in PG and PG-13 movies, and that Black men don't even get that much. That's all I've ever referred to, and it fascinates me how hard it is for people to grasp it. This shit goes DEEP.
5) Yes there is far more to this mess than sex. It hits on every chakra. Sex is just a way I can quantify the problem in a way anyone willing to do some research can see for themselves.
6) In a very odd way, "Lakeview Terrace" might be Will Smith's way of helping Obama (!) by providing a release valve for the palpable discomfort some white people are having right now as the power shifts...
2)Movies are about problems. Black people have black people's problems. What we don't want is defining black people in terms of white people.
3)I thought "He Got Game" was o.k., and touched some interesting emotional buttons. But I think Spike is dealing with a LOT of rage and it affects his choices.
4) The debates shouldn't have been postponed unless the election was going to be postponed. They are two hours of time for the American public to get to know their prospective leaders better. I can think of nothing more important. Neither of these guys was "needed" in Washington as much as they needed to present themselves to the country.

Mark Jones said...

I have no desire to see either Lakeview Terrace or Miracle at St. Anna, and the fact that a black character has sex in the latter has nothing to do with it. (I didn't even know about that til I read it here.)

The previews for St. Anna just didn't interest me. The previews for Lakeview Terrace, on the other hand, just pissed me off. Oh noes! Another movie in which well off people are terrorized and victimized by a thug because they're too "civilized" to deal with the problem directly. People like that are idiots and chumps. Why would I want to watch them being chumps?

Steven Barnes said...

Not that I want to defend "Terrace" but it's hard to defend against a thug with a badge and a license to carry and use a gun. That's a hard one. I would be interested in the movie, if it weren't for that pesky race problem...

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