Two movies I enjoyed, one thing that bugged

Both The Station Agent and Adam risk the “disadvantaged white person with valued black friend” trope, but what’s interesting about the two is that Adam puts more effort in the script to make Harlan (the valued friend of Adam) a more robust character, and yet The Station Agent much more successfully gets away with the trope.

There is a clear background for Adam’s rapport with Harlan; Adam’s father was best friends with Harlan, they were in the service together, and so it makes sense that Harlan would be involved in Adam’s childhood and know (much better than most neurotypicals) how to interact with him. Therefore, it is perfectly understandable that Harlan would be the guy who is there for Adam when his father dies.

And yet, the character still comes across as the movie cliche of stalwart black person as needy white person’s support system. (See also, The Secret Life of Bees) In The Station Agent, Fin’s employer is barely present on the screen, and yet the awkward aroma of Tired Racial Trope doesn’t hang over the screen to nearly the same extent. Perhaps that’s because he’s barely present, and therefore has less time to prop up Peter Dinklage’s character? Or perhaps it’s because the employer’s death is what motivates Fin to get the heck out of Dodge and meet other people who see him as a guy named Fin who’s new in town and likes trains, rather than as a nameless midget. Maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s because, although he has far more time on screen and far more personality, Harlan in Adam isn’t nearly as vital to the plot. Perhaps the difference is that one movie invests all its characterization in the principals, while the other manages to create supporting characters with some depth.

Question for readers

My Netflix queue is getting pretty low. What movies should I add to it? I welcome recs for any movies within the last 30 years or so.

My plans for the weekend, fingers crossed, are: edit the shit out of Charlinder or die trying. I have decided to donate blood tomorrow morning, at some point I’ll need to visit the bank and deposit my paycheck (waiting for direct deposit to kick in), and there is a dumbassed movie coming in from Netflix tomorrow. When I’m not doing any of those things: edit Charlinder. Let nothing stand in my way.

1 movie I enjoyed, 1 thing that bugged

Elektra is a satisfactorily entertaining and diverting flick, but I disagree with the director’s distinction between realism and visual appeal. I don’t think it would have detracted from the film’s cinematic effectiveness to put Jennifer Garner’s hair in a ponytail for action scenes. My hair is just as straight and shiny as hers, but if I did that much leaping and spinning around with my hair flying free, it would become a viciously tangled mess in about 10 minutes. Just sayin’.

The red satin pants, however, are awesome.

*chirp*chirp*chirp*

Since I a) just started a new temp job which b) keeps me busy while c) I still need to keep looking for permanent work, it appears that I won’t be able to update this blog as often as I’d like for the time being. Expect entries to be short, random, cranky and sparse. I am not above lecturing on grammar, be warned. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a sad and mildly unsatisfying foreign film about the sort of shit that can happen with illegal immigrants in Europe, I can recommend Lorna’s Silence. (Props to the filmmakers for portraying Albanians without pissing me off. They’ve got one up on the jackasses that wrote Taken.)

3 Movies I Enjoyed, 3 Things That Bugged

Freedom Writers

Here is my problem: I like my fictional characters with some dimension. I can do without villains who are all darkness and heroes who are all light. Among the chaos and tribalism of Long Beach, LA in 1994, the character of Erin Gruwell is just too uniformly, unrealistically good. I’m sure the real-life person of Erin Gruwell is a woman of integrity, generosity and courage, but I don’t think she was ever as perfect as the character we see in the movie. There’s nuance all around; her students are both victims of the gang culture and its participants. They suffer from LA’s damaged race relations but they’re also part of the problem. Gruwell’s colleagues are sympathetic up to a point; after going through 12 years of public school in the U.S. and teaching for 2 years in Albania, I can absolutely relate to Imelda Staunton’s character stating that “you can’t make someone want to learn.”

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“Pseudo-doctrine”?

The Vatican poo-poos Avatar on theological grounds:

L’Osservatore said the film “gets bogged down by a spiritualism linked to the worship of nature.” Similarly, Vatican Radio said it “cleverly winks at all those pseudo-doctrines that turn ecology into the religion of the millennium.”

The criticism is not that the film is overly religious or insufficiently religious, but that it’s not the right religion. It is a critique that presupposes an agreed-upon definition of religion as worshipping God–their God, specifically–and never something frivolous and pagan like nature. It assumes that ecology could not possibly be the basis of a valid religion, and everyone already knows that. The Vatican is behaving as though it is uniquely qualified to decide what is a valid doctrine (theirs) and what is a pseudo-doctrine.

Granted, that’s totally their business. It’s just a movie review, and they can say whatever the fuck they want about Avatar or any other movie. I haven’t seen Avatar and I probably won’t see it. If I’m surprised at anything, it’s that a movie about blue aliens (and which has so far received very lukewarm reviews) is important enough to warrant a theological opinion from Vatican officials. It still raises the question: what exactly is it that makes a religion? Who gets to decide?