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14 August 2009 @ 08:45 pm
Well that was unexpected  
Remember how i said a week or so ago that there were three films that i was kinda looking forward too all coming out today? Well i got around to checking the reviews on RottenTomatoes now that there's a decent number of them out. Ponyo is at 95% (with 75 reviews) District 9 is at 87% (with 133 reviews) and The Time Traveler's Wife is at 36% (with 102 reviews.)

I know that reviews don't necessarily equate to actual quality, and there's far less correlation with success, but still, if i was expecting any one of those three to do poorly with reviewers i would have thought it would be District 9.

So yeah, definitely gonna go see Ponyo and District 9. We'll see about The Time Traveler's Wife.
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Coraacoraa on August 15th, 2009 06:55 am (UTC)
I wanna see Ponyo, for sure. Am ambivalent about District 9, because I hear it's got some... iffy things in it as regards race. We'll see what others think.

I loved the book of The Time Traveler's Wife, but I am not at all sure it would make a good movie. It does interesting things with text that I don't think would translate very well to the screen.

(I'm also not sure you'd care for it, although you might. It's somewhere between mainstream lit and chick-lit, despite the sfnal plot device. While it's a lot better, quality-wise, calling it 'science fiction' is sort of like calling "Thirteen Going On Thirty" 'science fiction' because it has time travel, or for that matter calling "Big" fantasy. Yeah, it has a speculative element, but genre-wise it really doesn't fit as an sf/f theme.

That said, I really liked the book, so hey, you might like it too.)
Sister Atom Bomb of Courteous Debateakiko on August 15th, 2009 05:18 pm (UTC)
DonAithnendonaithnen on August 17th, 2009 05:26 am (UTC)
Is there any kind of brief summary you could give? I'm curious about it, but don't want to read the spoilers.
Coraacoraa on August 17th, 2009 05:50 am (UTC)
One of the big ones, as far as I can tell, is that it's set in South Africa, apparently in the future, and all of the main characters, including the hero, are white people. And, indeed, it's the black people who spout the worst "racism" about the aliens. This would be wince-worthy enough under other circumstances, but when you're making a movie that's an allegory of apartheid, it's pretty bad.

(I have also heard that the black characters that do exist are mostly gangsters, prostitutes, and superstitious 'witch doctors.')

I have not seen the movie (and probably will not), so I don't know much more than that.
Marvin Spencermarvinalone on August 17th, 2009 05:05 pm (UTC)
I went to see District 9 last night, pretty much only based on this post, and the comments. I expected social commentary, but I got an action movie. It was a very good action movie, so I'm ok with that, but the race thing wasn't front and center.

From here it gets a bit spoilery, so read with care. Is there such a thing as an lj-cut in comments?

The difference between blacks and whites in the movie is that the blacks are much more direct ("We should kill them all!"), whereas the whites try to, ahem, whitewash what they are doing ("We built you this camp, in which you have space to grow and prosper."). I found the whites in the movie a lot creepier. In fact, I can't remember the real shudderworthy quotes from the whites; That one is a paraphrase.

It's true that the witch doctors are all black, but it's set in contemporary South Africa. I don't think you'll find many whites living in slums, trading weapons and tiger penises there right now. Putting them into the movie would have been unrealistic.
Coraacoraa on August 17th, 2009 05:33 pm (UTC)
Well, I'm tired enough of movies where the heroes are all white when they're set in the States; for one set in South Africa, I'm afraid it's a dealbreaker for me.

And I don't understand why we need 'witch doctors' at all, of any race. It's a nasty, outdated stereotype.

But then, I also found the race stuff in the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie upsetting enough to screw up my enjoyment of the movie, so.
DonAithnendonaithnen on August 17th, 2009 07:27 pm (UTC)
Well i don't know how they're referred to in the movie itself, but according to the cast page on IMDB the character isn't a "witch doctor," but a "Sangoma." (Which it seems is technically a witch doctor, though that term is considered derogatory these days.)

And according to wikipedia, "Sangomas far outnumber western-style doctors in Southern Africa, and are consulted first (or exclusively) by approximately 80% of the Black population."

So it would really depend on how it was handled in the movie i think.

On a kinda related note, i saw a trailer for "the Princess and the Frog" before Ponyo last night. It looks like it's got an all black cast and is set either somewhere in the Caribbean or New Orleans. Oh, and the frog was "cursed by a witch doctor," who looks like he's supposed to be a Voodoo priest/whatever. I'm kinda curious how that's gonna fly. Yeah, the Disney fairy tale movies always have an evil witch of some kind in them, but on the other hand...
Coraacoraa on August 17th, 2009 08:19 pm (UTC)
Well, the reason I decided not to see it was that all the non-white people I know who saw the movie had real problems with the race issues, and all the people who saw it and thought it was fine were white. The reason that has an impact for me is because I know, as a white person, that I am less inclined to notice skeevy race issues because I don't have to -- they don't happen to me. But a non-white person spends their whole life living as, well, a non-white person, and dealing with race. So I weight their opinion of how it's handled more heavily, for the same reason that I weight a woman's opinion of how sexist a movie is more heavily, or for that matter, the same reason that I weight a scientist's opinion of how good the science in a movie is. They're more 'expert.'

That's not to say that the other perspectives I listen to are always going to be 'right,' of course, since people are fallible; but I know that I'm not going to notice it as much, and it helps me to make up for that by educating myself with another opinion. I might not understand it or see it, now or maybe even ever, but I accept that I'm less likely to, so it's important to me to listen to the perspectives of people who can and do see it.

That's not to say that I think that people who go watch it and enjoy it are Bad People. It's just that I think it's important to listen to the voices of people who live with this stuff every day -- especially when their voices are maybe not as frequently-heard, so they have to be sought out. (For instance, most newspaper movie critics are white.)

Anyway, as I said, I haven't seen the movie -- it's just listening to critiques from people of color that made me decide I wasn't going to.

Sorry for the going-on-at-length!
DonAithnendonaithnen on August 18th, 2009 12:09 am (UTC)
Well that's certainly fair. I was just hesitant to criticize them for including shamans in the film by itself, given that there apparently still are quite a lot of them in South Africa. Not without having seen/heard how they actually handle them in film first anyways. Obviously if they do treat them as stereotypical witch doctors rather than as real shamans that would be an issue.... although i don't really know enough about how the actual shamans behave to make a reasonable comparison against the stereotypes =P

But in any case it sounds like you have a lot more points to go on than just that :)

So have your sources said anything about "The Princess and the Frog" yet? Or is that not going to happen until the movie is actually out?
Coraacoraa on August 18th, 2009 12:12 am (UTC)
Not yet. There's been sort of a mix between "It's wonderful to finally see a black Disney princess!" and "OMG I hope they don't screw this up." But a lot of tentative hopefulness that it will not suck.

I also hope that it doesn't suck! (I was delighted that Up had an Asian American protagonist -- well, one of two protagonists, and the other was old, which is another demographic that doesn't get much play in movies -- although I'm hoping for a Pixar film with a female main character soon.)
DonAithnendonaithnen on August 18th, 2009 02:30 am (UTC)
"I was delighted that Up had an Asian American protagonist"

*blinks* It did? The kid i presume? I'm afraid all i can remember about him at this point is that he was a bit chubby. And he was a scout. And... SQUIRREL!
Coraacoraa on August 18th, 2009 02:38 am (UTC)
Yeah, the kid -- and it's kinda cool, actually, that he's Asian (and portrayed by a Japanese American voice actor) but the movie doesn't make a huge deal about it. It's just there. Which is awesome.
Coraacoraa on August 18th, 2009 12:16 am (UTC)
(And yeah, I certainly think that it's possible to have shamanic characters who are treated respectfully and accurately -- it just doesn't sound like that's what happened here. But as I said, I haven't seen it. :) )
balivatn: rainforestbalivatn on September 3rd, 2009 01:08 pm (UTC)
Princess and the Frog
It is set in New Orleans, and it looks like there is a "evil" houngan and a "good" mambo (that's the priests and priestesses in Haitian vodou, I can't remember the Louisiana Voodoo spellings).

Disney has had to do some adjusting already regarding race - they changed the princess' name and dropped her being a chambermaid. They probably won't depict Voodoo accurately, but we'll see how much they mangle it :)
Marvin Spencermarvinalone on August 17th, 2009 07:30 pm (UTC)
This is going to be extremely spoilery, but I don't think you should see it anyways. It touches a lot of buttons.

There are really only two heroes in the movie. One is an alien, and the other is a white guy. Everyone else is evil. It's true that the whites are evil in stereotypically white ways, and (most of) the blacks are evil in stereotypically black ways. Some of that is certainly unnecessary, but some of it is just the times it plays in. Whites are still far richer than blacks, even in South Africa, which gives them different means to be evil. That is reflected in the movie. If I wanted to be generous, I could say that the movie is saying "Look, we can still see the effects from the last time we fucked up, and we're already doing it again!".

Now the white guy starts out as quite evil himself, in a Heinrich Himmler kind of way. A (physical) weakling himself, he organizes a forced relocation, separates family members, orders beatings, and, in the most harrowing of the scenes, delights in burning down a shack full of alien eggs. All the while he is certain, even cheerful, that he is doing good work. It takes him a very long time to turn just good enough to make for the right ending (but not so good that you'd be comfortable in his presence). I think for a plot like this one, there was just no way out. If he had been cast as a black man, the charge of racism would stand even stronger.

I can buy a white guy cheerfully suppressing because he is to small-minded to know what's really going on (or very good at ignoring), but a black one, and a South African at that? I'd have a hard time believing that someone who was at the other end of the baton just a few years ago could block out the true state of affairs as much as the male lead in this movie does.
DonAithnendonaithnen on August 17th, 2009 05:37 am (UTC)
I actually got it from Audible sometime last year. I liked it a fair bit but would have enjoyed it more if not for the obviously forecast incredibly depressing ending.

I actually thought it was very much science fiction though, since it made the time traveling a genetic condition and then did a good job of exploring the repercussions of that, including attempts at a a medical treatment, inheritance, etc.

It actually did a better job of examining the implications of its SF elements than some books that are actually classified as SF. Off the top of my head, Linnea Sinclair's stuff is often very good romance but really glosses over the SF background of the various universes she's created.
Coraacoraa on August 17th, 2009 05:42 am (UTC)
Huh, interesting.

I can't exactly explain what about it seems more like mainstream to me than like SF/F, but it really, really does. It has a lot in common with the books my book group reads.