Last time I asked, when it comes to actors playing roles, Who Can Play Who? To what degree do characters, particularly fictional ones, have fixed race or gender? How much latitude exists in adaptations of existing stories? Is there an acceptable spectrum from faithful retelling to jazz riff to based on to inspired by and finally to all but unrecognizable? If not, why not?
Last time I focused on race. This time I’ll focus on the gender side of the equation. Sexual differences and sexual attraction add a large and complex additional dimension. The question expands beyond matters of representation and actor swapping.
For instance, there is the additional notion of the Strong Female Character (SFC).
I was born in the Bronx and became a young man in Los Angeles, so I lived in racially mixed neighborhoods during my formative years. I’m aghast at the pain we cause over what are essentially paint jobs and accessories. It’s a vast and vital topic — a needed ongoing conversation. For now, suffice that “race” should never be the answer to any important question.
Such as the question of who can — as in “is allowed to” — have what acting roles in movies and TV shows. Specifically, the issue of “race swapping” in previously established roles. Complicating the matter is an asymmetry; swapping X for Y isn’t the same as swapping Y for X.
There is also the question of “gender swapping” and the “strong female character” in modern writing. We’ve forgotten Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor.
I had plans today but woke up feeling less-than-great (still have a headache). Fortunately, friend was fine with tomorrow. Meanwhile, here’s a post planned for next Sci-Fi Saturday. Ironically, after my complaints about modern movies, here’s another delight.
Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022), starring Chinese superstar Michelle Yeoh, written and directed by Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), is wild and wacky — a comedy action thriller about family, choices, and saving the multiverse. Also, a bagel with everything on it.
Gets a Wow! rating. Recommended (as ever: if you like that sort of thing).
I complain a lot about American cinema and rightly so. Given the vast amount of money and effort expended in Hollywood, there often doesn’t seem much bang for all those bucks. Yet if you go through my Movie Reviews, you’ll find I’ve given plenty of Wow! ratings to American films.
Just usually to the smaller films, the “little gems” that come from a filmmaker’s heart. I rarely find much value in the bland American McAction McBlockbusters. (Certainly not in the increasingly worn-out superhero genre.)
But, oh, my goodness, RRR (2022), by Indian filmmaker and screenwriter S. S. Rajamouli is the best, most interesting, most enthralling, most exciting, surprising, colorful, amazing, delightful action (superhero) blockbuster I’ve seen in… well, it feels like ever.
The worst of it is the three posts in my Drafts folder that I can’t seem to move forward. They sit there, woefully incomplete, mocking me while other posts spring forth, quietly get dressed, and move on out the virtual door.
They’re stuck, in part, by a need for diagrams, and I’ve been stuck between whether to load my increasingly obsolete graphics app onto my new-ish laptop or invest (time, money, effort) in something new.
And life keeps happening, and that leads to another edition of Friday Notes.
Last night I decided to enjoy a special double feature: Blade Runner (1982), the Ridley Scott classic (final cut), followed by Blade Runner 2049 (2017), the Denis Villeneuve sequel. I’ve seen the original many times, although not in years, so it was great to see it once again. For a 40-year-old science fiction movie, it’s stood the test of time well and is rightfully considered a modern classic.
The Villeneuve sequel, I think, will never be more than a forgotten footnote. It comes out the gate suffering from being an attempt to ride the coattails of an original work by another (better) artist. Stir in Villeneuve’s self-indulgent excessively languid pacing and tendency to put image over substance, and the result is (at least to me) unmemorable.
I started fast-forwarding scenes and ultimately turned it off 45 minutes from the end. I only lasted that long because I wanted to see the part with Harrison Ford.
I learned a very long time ago that, when it comes to movies, it’s the little ones from the filmmaker’s heart I find most interesting and worthwhile. This seems ever truer in an era of endless, empty sequels and mind-numbing blockbusters with no more depth than an amusement park ride. Nothing wrong with amusement park rides, they can be fun, but they’re rarely memorable, let alone creative.
Sorry to Bother You (2018), written and directed by Boots Riley, is exactly the sort of thing I mean when I say my main ask of a story is to take me someplace new.
A bonus for me is that it stars LaKeith Stanfield, whose work I’ve found so delightful in the surreal (and outstanding) TV series Atlanta (which also nails the “take me someplace new” thing).
Back in 2020, I posted about my surprise rediscovery of Agatha Christie. The initial discovery is lost in memory, a hand-me-down from my dad. I favored heroic action figures back then, Superman, Sherlock Holmes, Clint Eastwood. I enjoyed Christie’s Hercule Poirot but filed the rest of her work under ‘dowdy British library murder mystery’ and ignored it.
A mistake. My surprise discovery of 2020 was that Agatha Christie was a fascinating genius who rightfully earned the title Queen of Mystery.
Last week I watched a recent adaptation of Death on the Nile (1937), one of the more well-known Hercule Poirot novels. I had high hopes, but I can only give it a weak Eh! rating.
Recently I posted about one of my new favorite YouTube channels, The Critical Drinker, which features reviews of movies and TV shows. The Drinker is the alias of thriller novelist (and YouTuber) Will Jordan, and one reason I like his channel so much is that our tastes seem well aligned. (I confess that I also love his extremely blunt presentation style.)
Another reason I enjoy his channel involves how he reviews and highlights unregarded movie gems. He and I share an appreciation for some fairly obscure, but very worthwhile, movies many have never heard of (let alone seen).
For Sci-Fi Saturday I thought I’d present some of his SF recommendations.
It’s been a while since the last Wednesday Wow post. It isn’t so much a lack of things that invoked a “Wow!” so much as that they were the wrong polarity of wow — negative rather than positive. (Speaking of which, I’ll be posting soon about Sprint-which-is-now-T-Mobile, Apple, and some other tech companies that have wowed me in quite the wrong direction. Why are tech companies so awful?)
But as I watched some videos by one of my new favorite YouTube channels, The Critical Drinker, I was (in both senses of the word) positively wowed by two of his videos about two outstanding and worthwhile movies.
And in general, he does some of the best movie reviews I know.