The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Sunday, May 31, 2009

"Up" and "Drag Me To Hell"

"Drag Me To Hell" is the best "fun" horror movie I've seen in maybe a decade. Sam Raimi's tale of a bank loan officer (Allison Lohman, sweet and terrific and utterly game) cursed by an evil gypsy (Lorna Raver, braver still) and struggling to prevent the titular event, damnation at the hands of a demonic force called the "Lamia". It's kinda like "Evil Dead" meets "Curse of the Demon" (a truly superior 1957 horror film), where rationality and the supernatural collide head-on, and while it ain't pretty, it's funnier than hell (pun intended) and scarey, and gross-out good in a way that used to make great date movies. Justin Long (the Mac guy) plays her boyfriend, and he is so sweet and nice that you just KNOW something awful is going to happen to him. Ah, this one is an instant mini-classic. An "A" for horror fans. A "B" for regular audiences. Really top-notch.


All the evil people are dark-haired "others". All the people who know of the "forces of evil" are dark-skinned. A little Mexican boy is dragged to hell in the first five minutes of the film. And no, I don't think that the film-makers would have done that quite so cavalierly with a little blond white kid. Reminded me of the last "Exorcist" film, where a little black child was dragged off and devoured by jackals. I'd never seen a white child treated so horrifically, and believe the "disconnect" is responsible for this. Sam Raimi's Fat Black Woman from "Spiderman" (the only black people with dialogue [Macy Gray singing doesn't count] in "Spiderman" are both rather overstuffed) makes an appearance. In "Spiderman" she's warning Peter Parker he's too small to fight in a cage match. Here, she just sits silently in the background at the bank. Nice to see she's getting work, I suppose, but it annoys me. So blond Allison Lohman is threatened by dark people, assisted by dark-skinned Spiritual Guides. I'd be lying if I didn't say there was part of me cheering for the demon.


"Up" (2009)

Pixar is on the edge of creating their own genre: the "Pixar Film." If you'll notice, no one compares their movies to other people's any more. They just rank 'em in order of their favorite Pixar offerings. And this is just. They are so far ahead of the pack in terms of consistently imaginative and spectacular, moving and technically perfect works that it's beginning to get absurd. This tale of an old man (played to perfection by Lou Grant himself, Ed Asner) who decides to fulfill his younger dreams by floating his house to South America in search of adventure, is quite mild, not frantic at all, and contains the kind of emotional resonance found in the story of Jessie's abandonment in "Toy Story 2." That's the first half. But when things kick into gear, it's never the kind of frantic overcompensation one senses in, say "Madagascar" or "Bee Movie." Everything just works. And while this isn't their best film, it may well be their wisest. Kudos to Jordan Nagai, the little Asian cub scout who goes along for the ride. First time I remember seeing an Asian in an animated film other than "Mulan" and it's about #$%@ time. Damned good weekend for movies: An "A" as well. Pixar is simply wonderful right now. Whatever they're doing, I hope it spreads.

My personal favorite Pixar film? "The Incredibles." What's yours?


I love the fact that "racism" is the charge used by folks like Gingrich and Limbaugh against Sotomayor. And that's with nothing but anecdotal instances of discrimination or disadvantage. Anyone who thinks blacks or Latinos are too quick to complain, or women too swift to complain about sexism, needs to note this. Everybody uses anything they can to gain all the advantage available. But man...if there was ever an actual statistical disadvantage for white males, these guys would squeal like pigs. It really is like I've said: if you take people who make these comments, and switched races on them, I bet they would absolutely HATE white people. Makes me laugh, it really does.


Christian H. said...

Gingrich and Limbaugh are fat slobs that don't need to be in positions of power.

Hell, Limbaugh a druggie. I praise the fact that thery are saying this because it means they know they only got anywhere because they're white men who look the other way on their way to the top.

The funny thing is once there they have to embrace the letter of EVERY LAW and that includes equal protection and equal employment rights.

As a software developer with five years of Microsoft experience, I have seen too many white guys lie on their resumes.

According to what I've read she has a terrible record in terms of siding with the plaintiff in discrimination cases. Even in appeals. Every race should be represented if they are citizens - and qualified.

Marty S said...

I googled Gingrich for his comments on Sotomayor. I only found one article by someone on NBC that had a complete word for word. I don't know if this letter is identical to the twitter text everyone is talking about. In the letter I read he never actually uses the term racist to describe Sotomayor. He does ascribe to a fictional white nominee a statement about Latinos, similar to Sotomayor's statement about white and indicate that a white male judge who made such a statement would be considered a bigot and be forced to withdraw. This implies that he finds Sotomayor to also be a bigot. Which is not quite the same thing as calling her a racist, although close. At any rate most of the letter is about her statements about judicial activism and advocating that judges make law, as a strict constructionist he has criticized white male judges with that the same philosophy and he is entitled to his opinion. Criticizing him for doing his job as a citizen to speak up for his point of view shows a lack of tolerance for anyone who doesn't agree with you.

Daniel Keys Moran said...

Newt said:

"White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw."



That longing for a lost america resonates with me. Paul Newman in his valedictory (even if we didn't know it was, at the time) ... Lightning "McQueen" ... the Mother Road.

I miss the Los Angeles I grew up in. I miss Jim Murray, Chick Hearn, and Jack Smith. I miss my Dad. There's a new city here now, and it's not better or worse, but it's different. Cars makes me remember being a little boy, riding on Route 66 with my Dad.

All the Pixar movies are very good, but Cars is personal.

Mike R said...

The Incredibles. A wonderful and uplifting story while also being one hell of a ride and tweaking my childhood memories of super-heroland.

Marty S said...

Even if Gingrich did say in his tweet exactly "White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw.". Sizing on that statement to totally dismiss him is exactly the same as sizing on her one statement about white males to dismiss her candidacy. I'm in favor of having a diverse view on the court. It can be important in determining how to apply the law in any given case, For example, the law says it is illegal to shoot and kill someone unless its in self-defense. A woman shoots and kills someone and claims self-defense. In deciding whether the case is truly one of self-defense a woman's point of view would be desirable because men and women might feel a different degree of threat in the same situation. The problem from the point of view of the strict constructionist comes when instead of interpreting law as in the above example a judge starts creating new law and legislating from the bench. Sotomayor's statements with respect the role of judges is more crucial to her detractors than the higher profile statement about white male judges

Daniel Keys Moran said...

Marty, I was just responding to your statement that you didn't know if Newt had called Sotomayor a racist. He did.

As to the rest of it, I'm not even going to argue. The GOP should go to the mat on this one. A filibuster would be ideal. Right now the GOP is stuck in a rut that they could get out of, with some wise outreach to the Latino community. But a few more of these paroxysmal attacks on people guilty of being not-White, and the Republican Party could work its way into two generations of irrelevancy.

Marty S said...

Dan: As I said I'm in favor of a diverse court, but in my opinion it is dishonest to support someone simply because of their minority status. The Republicans who are opposing Sotomayor because they don't agree with her on the issues have every right to do so without being labeled racist, just like the Democrats who didn't like or support Clarence Thomas.

Daniel Keys Moran said...

>in my opinion it is dishonest to support someone simply because of their minority status.<

Yeah, that's what we're doing. Sotomayor's six years as a federal judge and decade plus as an appellate court judge plainly leave her unqualified to serve as a Supreme Court justice. Contrast her with some Republican picks and it's downright embarrassing that Obama nominated her. Clarence Thomas, for example, had been a judge for an entire year when he was nominated -- but then, he had that inspiring personal history behind him.

I'm tellin' ya, filibuster is what you're looking for here.

Marty S said...

Dan: You are distorting the intent of what I wrote. I did not say that Sotomayor was unqualified. I said if you disagree with a minority candidate on the issues and you would oppose an identical non-minority candidate then it is dishonest to support that candidate for no other reason than the candidate's minority status.

Lobo said...

*The Republicans who are opposing Sotomayor because they don't agree with her on the issues have every right to do so without being labeled racist, just like the Democrats who didn't like or support Clarence Thomas.*

The problem with this is that the most vocal members of the Republican Party absolutely are using racist and sexist rhetoric against her. The Fox News Twits have been bleating about her being a reverse racist all week (code for "watch out, she's gonna take your shit and give it to her lazy illegal cousins.") Hell, one guy (Krautheimer, I think) even said that he hoped she wasn't on her period during the committee hearings. Never mind that she's obviously past her change of life, that was just a slap across the face to women in general.

You can't have it both ways on this. The people who are screaming the loudest are spewing the same old fashioned "Watch out for the black man and his fiery latina girlfriend. They're gonna steal your woman and stab your dog." race-baiting. It's dog whistle politics at it's worst.

Are there principled Republicans who might oppose her on the issues? Sure, there are a few. Most of them have already acknowledged that she's going to get confirmed in a walk. Unfortunately, those are also the people who won't say boo to people like Limbaugh, effectively letting him be the face of the party.

Is Newt a racist? An aging, powerful, southern white Republican? Inconceivable, if you ask me. If anything, the tweet is probably about as straight a representation of how he thinks than you're ever likely to get from one of his wordy, rambling talk show answers.

Unknown said...

"I said if you disagree with a minority candidate on the issues and you would oppose an identical non-minority candidate then it is dishonest to support that candidate for no other reason than the candidate's minority status."

I don't expect Sotomayor to be your average Republican's favorite possible pick ever, any more than Alito was your average Democrat's favorite possible pick ever; it's a given that anybody Obama would want to pick will generate opposition on the right, just as it was a given that anyone Bush would want to pick would generate opposition on the left.

But I do think it's fair to judge people as race-baiting in their opposition when those people try to describe Sotomayor as some unusually unqualified affirmative action pick who's the equivalent of Harriet Miers, when in fact her qualifications stack up just fine next to Alito and Roberts. Or when they suggest that Princeton and Yale degrees are somehow easier to come by for Latinas from the Bronx than for us poor, deprived white people, who find it ever so hard, comparitively, to get into Ivy League schools.

I think Megan McArdle (who doesn't expect to agree with Sotomayor much as a judge) has an apt take on that variety of criticism here: And those Republicans who are criticizing her on affirmative action grounds (as opposed to differing with her judicial philosophy) are asking for trouble.

As for Pixar movies, I particularly liked The Incredibles.

Marty S said...

Lynn: I agree with almost everything you said. It is clear that given the current makeup of our government the next supreme court justice will be a liberal. It is also true that suffering from an occasional case of hoof in mouth disease doesn't mean you are not qualified to be a supreme court justice. We all suffer from that malady occasionally. All I have said is that those who don't agree with her on the issues and honestly oppose her on the issues should not be labeled racist. The Democrats who opposed Clarence Thomas even though he was Black were doing the right thing, because they were following their beliefs.

Scott said...

"All the people who know of the "forces of evil" are dark-skinned."

Gypsies weren't; evil one's granddaughter was whiter than me.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

I saw "up" and liked it. There are a couple of things that had me twitching slightly-- one is that the good guys don't use actual weapons, but defeat the bad guy who does. The other is that there's no hint that anyone actually needs to learn anything. Skills just appear as needed. I don't know if I'm being too picky.