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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 11/05/99 -- Vol. 18, No. 19
Table of Contents
Chair/Librarian: Mark Leeper, 732-817-5619, firstname.lastname@example.org Factotum: Evelyn Leeper, 732-332-6218, email@example.com Distinguished Heinlein Apologist: Rob Mitchell, firstname.lastname@example.org HO Chair Emeritus: John Jetzt, email@example.com HO Librarian Emeritus: Nick Sauer, firstname.lastname@example.org Back issues at http://www.geocities.com/evelynleeper. All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.
It has been my impression over the last decade that many popular films have been pushing a political agenda. Films have taken the easy road of bowing to political pressure and take a stance that is anti-white-male. What struck me as interesting was the film PLEASANTVILLE. In this film the white male power structure is the target for their standing in the way of society's sexual awakening. We have a town of people who are discovering their true natures, including their sexuality. In the metaphor of the film they are going from monochrome to color. But standing in the way is the white male power structure who, from the safety of a bowling alley, are controlling the town and using their power to retard the town's sexual self-discovery.
Now what struck me as odd is that in so many other films the complaint is that the white males are too lascivious. They are the ones on the voyage of sexual self-discovery and everyone else stands against them. And in both sets of conflict, it is the white males who are in the wrong. White males are damned if they do and damned if they don't. In these enlightened times they have replaced Jews as the universal scapegoats. Jews to did and do face similar contradictory stereotypes. They are said to be cheap and at the same time they are said to spend their money like water. It does not matter what behavior they have, they are criticized for it.
This article actually comes out of an observation I made when I saw the trailer for the then upcoming film CRIMSON TIDE. It was clear from the description that it would be about a conflict between two US Navy men aboard an atomic submarine. One was to be played by Denzel Washington and one by Gene Hackman. I turned to Evelyn and said I bet I knew which one was the villain. How did I know? When was the last time you saw Denzel Washington play a negative role? The closest he has come was in MALCOLM X in which he was a petty criminal who reformed.
We have come to assume that when there is a conflict crossing gender lines the male will be portrayed as being in the wrong. When conflicts cross race lines, it will be the white who is in the wrong. To some extent in the nineties it is also true that youth will be right against older people. At least that is my gut feeling.
The first question we might ask is whether this is really important. Who does it hurt if white males are being used more as villains. Does it rally hurt white male if in the imaginary world of cinema they are made to be villains? I think the answer is yes. Life tends to follow art. As has been proven many times this century cinema is a very effective propaganda medium. The propaganda films of both sides in World War II are still studied today for their persuasive power. Secondarily It also hurts female and minority actors. Frequently the most interesting roles in films are villains. To restrict minorities from playing major villains is not good for the actors.
However, we frequently hear just the opposite complaint that women and minorities are not portrayed favorably in films. Probably what we should do is actually look at popular films and see how women and minorities are portrayed. Next week we will look at some major films and collect some data. [-mrl]
MR. CANTON AND LADY ROSE (a film review by Mark R. Leeper):
Capsule: Jackie Chan's own favorite from among his own movies turns out to be a really strange curiosity. It is a remake of the Frank Capra comedy LADY FOR A DAY done with a little nominal martial arts. The problem is that Chan does little of real value that was not in the original film. He merely brings his familiar plot to new audiences. And the LADY FOR A DAY plot is getting a little tired. Still it is amazing this adaptation was attempted at all. Rating: 6 (0 to 10), high +1 (-4 to +4).
Jackie Chan is a Hong Kong martial artist with a sense of humor. His films are already quite popular in the US. This film (also known as THE CHINESE GODFATHER) is reportedly his favorite of all his films and it is also a genuine cinematic curiosity. While there are some martial arts sequences, for the most part it is a remake of an old Frank Capra film that Capra himself remade. The films from Capra are LADY FOR A DAY and A POCKET FULL OF MIRACLES. This is so unlikely a story for Chan to want to remake as a martial arts film it had to be seen. Chan plays a sort of country bumpkin from Canton whose martial arts temporarily save the life of a crime lord. In spite of Chan's efforts however the crime lord dies of a natural death. As he is dying he names Chan as his successor. Chan attributes his success to having just bought a rose from an elderly street vendor. Chan decides to go ahead and take the role as gang boss put pushes the new gang into legitimate enterprises including opening a new night club. Whenever he needs luck he buys a rose from the same street vendor. From here the story is a very much LADY FOR A DAY. Most scenes are directly borrowed from the Capra. The rose vendor has convinced her daughter that the family is affluent. The daughter has a wealthy fiance whose family wants to meet the bride-to-be's mother. They would never consent to the marriage if they knew the mother-in-law was a lowly street vendor. Chan learns of the rose vendor's problem and determines to carry out an elaborate ruse to make his friend appear to be the society woman she has pretended to be. Before he is done he has traditional enemies cooperating in his good deed. The alternate title THE CHINESE GODFATHER is an allusion not to the crime elements but to the young couple saying they want Chan to be the godfather of their first child.
Chan takes the opportunity to make this film even more different from his usual fare. Included is an extended tracking shot that took three days to film. While it does not stand up to the tracking shots of THE PLAYER and TOUCH OF EVIL, it is remarkable that it is present. Also for the night club scenes he has a lavish singing production number. It took tremendous chutzpah to pass off this sentimental comedy to audiences who had come for an action film, but the result could be Chan's most unusual film and it certainly seems to be unique in the martial arts genre. The one complaint is that this is territory that has so frequently been visited. Capra, of course, did the story twice. But also with a few substitutions the plot was reused for LA CAGE AUX FOLLES and THE BIRDCAGE. I rate this film a +6 on the 0 to 10 scale and a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]
Quote of the Week:
In every well-governed state wealth is a sacred thing; in democracies it is the only sacred thing. -- Anatole France