Sunday, March 23, 2008

And A White Man Shall Lead


Today I suffered through what was quite possibly one of the worst films ever. What I really have to say about 10,000 BC (In case your wondering the BC stands for Boring Crap) is "Don't See It." But beyond that bit of advice I have to tell you that it is a stunning disaster, historically, logically and in the way that it is performed. Personally, I also felt a strong hatred towards the overall themes presented, ones that we are all familiar with, loathe, and yet never seem to leave the film industry.

So my journey with 10K Boring Crap began on my daily commute to Times Square where I saw a great poster featuring a man pointing a long spear at a humongo Saber-Toothed Tiger. Fun! I immediately wanted to see the film. When my good friend Nic came to town Thursday and admitted she wanted to see it too, I thought Great! I love a good "Man Saves His People" flick.

However, upon viewing the first shot of this misguided piece, I dreaded that the film would not live up to its enticing ads. There was a mysterious sounding narrator that said things like "My People" and shit about mountains to kick the whole thing off. Snooze. I then saw dozens of people in the weirdest looking tribe ever. White, yellow, brown people surrounding a large Polynesian woman, called Old Mother of all things, with bone accessories, fur loincloths and long, tangled locs, chanting in some primitive language. Okay, a United Colors of Bennetton ad with dreads and brown body paint. Gotcha.

Then the movie went all the way over to my bad side when the narrator spoke of a prophecy from Old Mother about a "blue-eyed girl" that would save their people. Enter a young, olive-skinned child with freaky, light blue contacts. Now, I've just told you that the tribe is supposed to be people of color, although many of the actors were white, so this whole "blue-eyed" girl will save us is weird. Clearly her blue eyes were something strange to them. Clearly they were the brown savages waiting to be saved by someone with more European features. The girl in question does arrive and is immediately put on a pedestal by the tribe and steals the heart of D'Leh, the young son of the tribe's head honcho. Hmmm.

So I pretty much hated it after that. Long story short, everyone cherishes the girl and her "unique" features including D'Leh. The village is devastated by a group of slave-hunters and ole Blue Eyes is captured leaving D'Leh with the mission of finding her. He battles Saber-Toothed Tigers, weird, gigantic ancient birds and the big, hulky, Jheri-curl-sporting slave-hunter (who, of course, becomes taken with Blue Eyes), all the while gathering groups of warriors who have lost their women and children to these mysterious people-hunters. The warriors are all African. They eventually reach a massive city full of slaves working to build pyramids for some person-god (pyramids in 10,000 BC?). D'Leh kills the god, but not before lots of weird scenes involving Jheri-Curl lecherously leering at Blue Eyes or scene-stealing Black Albino people hipping D'Leh and Co. to the god's secrets.

Okay, I feel the need to remind people that I am not militant, I do not hate white people and I recognize films as creative outputs that are not necessarily politically correct. There, the disclaimer. However, it bothers me when I see things like this because I believe that the more subtle racism is, the more damaging. Blatant slurs can easily be brushed off as one lunatic that doesn't reflect the entire culture. Subtleties go relatively unnoticed and permeate the culture, making them a lot harder to prove, dispel and overcome. Who the hell green-lighted this? Who thought that it was OK to make Albinos a race of wise, god servants? Why do all the Brown men have to bow down to the beauty of the white-like girl? Why couldn't the Black people have saved their own people instead of waiting for all two of the white men to lead them? Why are dreadlocks an indicator of primitiveness and savageness? Why, Why, Why?

Beyond the cultural implications, it just didn't make sense. There were holes upon holes upon holes in the plot. For example, D'Leh's father leaves the tribe in order to help them, but keeps the last part a secret, leaving everyone to believe that he was a Deserter. Okay. But we never find out how his leaving helped. Also, Old Mother speaks of four-legged demons that will be the end of their tribe. We then immediately see a herd of Woolly Mammoths charging. Are these the four-legged demons. Not sure. Oh, okay, here come men on horses, these must be the four-legged demons.

And the film jumps all over the place, leaving me to wonder, more than once, what the hell was the point. First they're fighting Woolly Mammoths, then their village is pillaged, then D'Leh's fighting over-sized dinosaur birds, then he's trapped in a pit with a Saber-Toothed Tiger. No, seeing all that did not make it any more clear.

I give this film two, very enthusiastic thumbs down. 1/2 a star, and that's only for the most tolerable performances by Cliff Curtis as Tic'Tic, D'Leh's mentor and by Nathanael Baring as Baku, the charming young wannabe hunter.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Goodnight, Hoppers, Goodnight, Po-Pos, Goodnight, The Wire, Goodnight, Moon

Tonight I must say Good-bye to a very good friend. Well, lots of very good friends...Bunk, Michael, Bubbles, McNulty, Avon, Carver, Poot, Beadie, Prezbolyski, Marlo and Cheese, just to name a few. Of course I'm talking about all of the fantastic characters that assemble for HBO's best series to date: The Wire. Arguably the best thing that's ever been on the boob tube (and named so by many of the world's leading entertainment publications), no other television series has examined so accurately and non-obtrusively the make up of the modern American city. With close looks at life in a drug trafficking organization, an inner-city police force, in City Hall, in an urban classroom and in a big city newspaper, the show has created a virtual city while breaking down the inner mechanics of the typical, urban one.

I discovered this show in October 2006. I was a Senior at Howard and completely enamored with my seven HBO channels. I had heard of The Wire, but generally from the same sort of people that watched Oz, if you know what I mean, and didn't think it could ever be my show. But I stumbled upon an article in EW (which has the best Wire coverage ever, Slate is a close second) written by one of their contributors Stephen King that hailed it as the hottest thing smoking with those elusive qualities that only HBO dramas seem to possess: great writing + phenomenal acting - the overly dramatic touch of a major network. I found out that HBO was showing the first three episodes in Season 4 one night and decided to catch-up. It wasn't easy...

First off, those accents. Being in D.C. and befriending a few Baltimoreans, I knew it was authentic. But that didn't make it any easier to understand. And the characters, there were dozens of them. The police force, the police command, City Hall and its labyrinth of council members, judges and aides, the many drug corners of Marlo, Prop Joe and the independents and now, the schools. To add insult to injury, the producers played everything completely straight, no descriptive costumes in classrooms of 20 kids. Sex and the City only had four principle characters and we could still spot Charlotte, Samantha, Carrie or Miranda from a mile away just because of their distinctive looks.

Despite all of the obstacles, I became hooked. The show instantly made me feel as if I had been dropped on the West Side of Baltimore and given opera glasses to carefully move my gaze from Bodie's corner on Pacey to Mr. Prezbo's Math Class to Carcetti's campaign headquarters to Mayor Royce's office and back again to the streets to Marlo's lair near Druid Hill park.

Each week, I sat fixated for an hour, grimacing when baby Kenard called Micheal's mother a "f***ing dope fiend," screaming at the TV as Herc unknowingly outs Randy as a snitch, glaring as Carcetti's Chief of Staff says decisively, "Kids don't vote," and sobbing as if he were my own child when I witnessed Dukie on the corner selling drugs, wearing Micheal's old coat. I recently went back and discovered seasons 1-3, which were all as masterfully done as Season 4, but maybe not as heart wrenching, which is a good thing because no one can take the disappointment of Season 4 more than once.

The beauty of this show, is in the details. The glances, the gestures, the unspoken communications. My favorite moment of Season 1 is when McNulty and Bunk go back to an old crime scene and solve a cold murder case with nothing more than a series of "F***s" and the occasional "Motherf****er." The most poignant moment in Season 1 was D'Angelo Barksdale standing up to the vindictive Stinger Bell who walks out on D, but not before D begins to wildly ask, "Where's Wallace?! Huh? Where's Wallace?!" Over and over and over he screamed and I was weirdly gratified to know that the homeless, parentless corner boy was missed by someone. Seasons 2-5 have also been filled with these moments, which are pay-offs for regular viewers, who by now are trained to look for the nuances and file them away in their memory to be rediscovered in the season's ending episodes.

Season 5 has been pure Wire, building on prior storylines and setting us (rabid fans) up for the pay-off, or big let-down, however you want to look at it. I've had to say good-bye to some stalwarts over the past couple of years with The Wire...Bodie, Prop Joe, Omar, Snoop and I'm certain that at least a couple more will leave the world tonight. But who stays and who goes takes a backseat to the overall effect of the show as these people, that have managed to leap out of the screen and become 3-D forces in the minds of millions of viewers, have left their indelible mark on television and the world. And even though the real Dukies and Wallaces and "little bitches on the chessboard" will continue to be so, their stories have partially been told. This, I believe, has created a space for "the rest of us," the non-corner kids, to begin to understand the Why's and to question How we can change things. Hate It or Love It, The Underdog's Still On Bottom.