The Wrath of Kahn

tn_torqueRecently using the “twitter” technology I “twittered” this one-liner:

“I love the wide spectrum of views in this summer’s sci-fi. TRANSFORMERS 2 and DISTRICT 9 show both sides of the racism issue, pro and anti.”

So today Aaron S. emailed to inform me that Joseph Kahn, the director of that movie TORQUE that I liked, has a new blog where he has written some against-the-grain views on those two movies. He seems to have a different idea than me about which one is pro.

I didn’t want to write this as an open letter and make a big deal out of it, but I couldn’t get the damn comment thing to work on his blog so what the hell, here is my long response to his post Transforming Michael Bay.

An interesting essay, Mr. Kahn, and I think some of your points have validity. But I strongly disagree with you on your conclusion that “the twins” are therefore not an ugly racist stereotype.

I’m not going to say whether or not Michael Bay is a racist. I don’t know him and wouldn’t want to. I doubt he sees himself as a racist (although he put his Bad Boys 2 director credit over a shot of a burning cross!) but that doesn’t change the fact that his movies are full of demeaning racial stereotypes (not to mention corny anti-gay jokes).

I like your point about Bad Boys being risky with two black stars. If that was Bay’s choice then you’re right, you can give him credit for that. But let’s not pretend like he’s doing The Fred Hampton Story or something. I don’t think you can deny there’s a Bamboozled minstrel show aspect to those movies, with Smith and Lawrence constantly having to joke about being “negros.” I don’t think that was Bay’s idea (that’s Lawrence’s trademark) but it’s still the movie he made and put his name on. He clearly didn’t know any better.

In part 2 Will Smith, after already having been nominated for an Oscar for Ali I believe, is reduced to using the n-word repeatedly while threatening to rape a kid for dating Lawrence’s daughter. In Transformers Bernie Mac calls his mother a bitch and says he wants to bash her head in with a rock. Anthony Anderson (in the same year he finally broke out with The Departed and Hustle & Flow) plays a donut-eating fat buffoon who keeps yelling at his grandma to shut up. When the authorities arrive his cousin is such a coward he immediately jumps through a window.

This is not so much racist humor as lazy humor. Bay’s movies are constantly trying to be funny so he goes for any cheap joke he can get and that often involves stereotypes and minstrelsy. But he breaks the camel’s back with the twins. You’re right about the “Cybertronian” detail but it doesn’t matter, the joke is still to say that these “black” characters can’t read. They also want to “pop a cap in that ass.” The slang is out of date because despite what you said at least one of them (I thought the credits said both) was voiced by Tom Kenny, the white comedian who also voices Spongebob Squarepants. His comedy style is hyperactive and full of wacky voices like Robin Williams and he shares Williams’ belif that imitating a black dialect is always funny. I don’t think that’s necessarily racist but it always makes me cringe. I think the subtext of that type of humor is to demean the black and hip hop culture you are trying to defend in your post. At best it’s a lame joke.

directedbymichaelbayAnother aspect you didn’t address is the design of the robots. To the extent that you can make out their faces under the horrendously overcomplicated designs they look like Sambos with stoner eyes, monkey ears and gold teeth. They’re the only robots with cartoon caricature faces, the rest (even the “what’s crackin bitches?” stereotype from part 1) just look like machines.

When I saw the movie it wasn’t a question of “laughing with or laughing at.” In the notorious “we don’t read so much” scene where you finally see their faces there was a gasp and then groaning and booing. Later there was applause when it seemed like one of them died, and booing when it turned out he didn’t. They are the Jar Jars of the movie, and I don’t think by accident. It’s a style of attempted humor where a character being annoying and stupid is supposed to be funny. In this case they are also “black,” so it’s easy to take as mean-spirited toward the movie’s idea of black culture.

Here’s what I agree with you on: most of the characters in Bay’s movies are ugly stereotypes. That’s what he thinks is funny. And I honestly think that after working with Martin Lawrence so much he probaly thinks that’s just how you do black characters. But I disagree that that excuses having characters like that in a movie in 2009, especially since they claim (whenever deflecting criticisms of the movie’s overwhelming stupidity) that it was made mainly for little kids.

Look, I’m a white guy, I’m not trying to speak for black people. But I’m not the hypothetical “fanboy” you’re talking to who doesn’t respect black culture. I’m not gonna be a jackass and list my credentials but if you read some of my essays you’d know. And to me there’s no getting around that that twins shit is straight up demeaning and racist. I don’t care if he’s just trying to make Soul Plane. The faces of those Jar Jars could be on a KKK pamphlet. There’s no excuse.

I hope he runs into Spike Lee at some industry even some time. Also I hope the Boondocks make an episode about this.

Anyway Joseph I’ll keep an eye on your blog, and I still like Torque.


p.s. check out this montage of Michael Bay humor.

As for his post DISTRICT NEIN, I agree with Joseph that the allegory is sloppy because of the oppressed minority being the immigrants. That’s not the same setup as South African apartheid, obviously, and that’s why I tried not to think of every single thing in the movie as symbolic of something else.

But I do want him to consider the point I made in my review about the documentary style. Most of the movie is a documentary from the human point-of-view. They don’t interview a single alien, they just show them digging through garbage and rioting. The fictional filmatists don’t think they’re racist, but then Wikus doesn’t think he’s a bad guy when he burns alien eggs and makes jokes about it.

It’s only when the movie finally leaves the documentary style that we see the family life and hopes of an alien. Christopher and his son are the only real good guys in the movie, but we’d never know that if it stuck to the documentary style. I think that’s the most interesting point of the movie. Otherwise I would agree with Joseph but I think if you see it that way it becomes not only an anti-racist movie but a critique of the way media depicts minorities.

(my apologies for the headline, I bet he’s tired of that one)

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 at 1:45 pm and is filed under Blog Post (short for weblog). You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

135 Responses to “The Wrath of Kahn”

  1. Damn, I really thought you would have finally reviewed “Star Trek 2”. :)

  2. Tom Kenny did a hilarious bit on Mr. Show where he emulated the Robin Williams hyperkinetic-but-no-content kind of schtick for about five minutes straight without doing a single joke. I *think* the joke is “look how unfunny this is!” but all I know for sure is that the Mr. Show guys were dying with laughter on the commentary.

  3. Hi Vern,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond.

    I would like to point out that Mudflap was voiced by Reno Wilson, the black actor who voiced he Hardaway Sprite puppet a few years back.

    I’ve already stated my reasons for my arguments so I won’t repeat them here. However, I need to add one last defense of Michael Bay here on the subject of race. Bay shot Bad Boy in 1994 which was an age before rap/rock, only two years after the Los Angeles race riots, and released in the year OJ Simpson was acquitted of murder. The nineties were clearly an era of bifurcated race relations, and a white music video director rolling the dice on essentially a black pop movie was a pretty strong move. Unpopular, you might even say. Bay didn’t have to take that project, he could have waited out another opportunity as his calling card work was strong enough to attract everyone’s attention. Even my work which was in its crude infancy attracted many producers in the 90’s who offered all sorts of 30 million dollar scripts. He definitely had options.

    My argument is that Michael Bay has clearly put his money where his mouth is and made movies that integrate black and white people. Bad Boys is a pretty revolutionary concept in Hollywood movies and is one of the few movies minorities can point to as a blockbuster with American-born non white leads. The significance of that in 2009 is probably diminished, but in 1995 it was groundbreaking. He shows interest in black street culture, and while you may feel his take may be low brow, I would like you to consider that much of street comedy would be considered “low brow.” Yo’ mamma jokes et al. Stereotype humor can mean different things to different people depending on the context. Michael Bay shows genuine interest and appreciation for black comedy, and staked his career on it. Perhaps TF2 is a misfire and misread for some, but I’m positive his intentions were right.

    And on a side note, directing improvisational style humor through months of complex integrated cgi is an easy place to get derailed on squeezing your intent out. It appears to me the hyper-caricaturization of Mudflap and Skid’s physical features is a direct response to the trap he built by making his robots so complex they are indestinguishible. I have never been a fan of any of those designs in general.

    On a personal note, I just want you to be aware that when I say “fanboy” I don’t put you in that category. If you somehow read it as a personal attack on you, I apologize. I read much of your work and have the highest regards. You are in my top three critics working today. You obviously have some well analyzed unorthodox views that go way outside the fanboy box, and I admire how strongly you can argue a new perspective. I am also aware of your political views which gives much backup to your genuine interpretations of stereotyping. I believe you are honest in your offense, and well, that’s kind of cool. And if you actually wear Gap, I apologize for the snarkiness.



  4. You know what though, there are a ton of people who find all that fucking hilarious. I work with a ton of them. These are good people too that laugh at the DUMBEST shit. It really blows my mind really.

  5. Are you fucking kidding me? The director of fucking Torque is commenting here? God Bless this place

  6. For real. Vern, quick, do a review of Catcher in the Rye so J.D. Salinger shows up. That ought to help you get those ads you wanted.

  7. How about Badlands or Days of Heaven? After all, Terrence Malick needs to get out more.

  8. Monty – I remember that. The character was called Kedsie or something, right? And everybody was acting like they loved him. It was a pretty clever bit.

    You’re right Vern – District 9 is not really about racism – it’s more the idea of exclusion and oppression. The aliens seem to represent a kind of ultimate underclass, more than simply another race. It’s more expansive that way and evocative of the way we respond to other races, religions, the homeless, criminals, disabled people and on and on. Really good stuff.

    Kahn’s defense seems to be that it’s Ok to behave like Bay if it’s A, intentional – and B, it’s actually funny. I don’t see how he can demonstrate that the first one is true – but it’s clear he thinks the second one is. He is defending his own poor taste in comedy and condescension to a culture he purports to love, not Bay’s talent.

  9. Joseph – thanks for the response, I appreciate it. And no, I didn’t take it as a personal attack or in response to anything I wrote, and I do not wear Gap. Just wanted to add to the discussion.

    I guess maybe the issue is that in the case of the twins Bay is doing humor that I think would get alot of flack even if it came from an African-American director. I remember seeing D.L. Hughley on some show right after Soul Plane came out, and he was getting some shit about it. He said, “You know, I could talk about the first amendment, but the truth is my wife wanted to go to Jamaica.” He seemed genuinely embarrassed about it.

    To be honest I haven’t seen all of Soul Plane, but is there anything in there as broad as the twins? And don’t you think it’s even more questionable when it’s a white director?

    Anyway, I want to say that even though I disagree I’m digging your blog so far because they’re provocative and well argued points and I believe you’re sincere, not just trying to get a reaction like I usually think Armond White is. And I am honored to have the director of Torque show up in my comments.

    Also good job getting Dr. Dre in a Star Trek uniform in that Eminem video.


  10. Joseph – just curious, what are your thoughts on Rush Hour? I remember at the time, the studio (and Ratner in particular) seemed to pat themselves on the back for having the balls to have an action movie with two non-white leads, and there was all this press talk about “biggest box office opening for a movie with no white main characters” blah blah. And everyone seemed to act like this was some progressive step forward. Nevermind that 90% of the “jokes” in the movie were about making fun of Asian people. “I’ve been looking for your sweet and sour chicken ass”, “hey Mr. Rice a Roni”, “I’ll kick your ass back to China or Japan or wherever you’re from” – all lines played for laughs by the freaking HERO of the movie, and somehow critics and audiences lapped this shit up. When I saw it in the theatre I totally felt like Bruce Lee watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s in that scene from Dragon, no joke.

    Now I don’t think Brett Ratner is an out-and-out racist, and I don’t think Michael Bay is an out-and-out racist either. I think they both have good intentions; they both genuinely admire Asian and Black cultures, both really like hanging out with (and repeatedly casting) Ken Leung/Michael Clarke Duncan, and they both don’t have an axe to grind (like say, Mel Gibson and The Jews). But they both (especially Bay) seem to come off like that harmless sorority girl you know who has a Kanji Tattoo, that brags about how many black friends they have, that talks about Eastern Philosophy or Feng Shui too much, that goes to the club to dance to booty rap, but at the end of the day wouldn’t be caught dead kissing an Asian or black man.

  11. Brendan – Yeah, from Albert Pyun to Kahn. Who’s visiting next week, Neil Marshal?

    Kahn – Thanks for stopping by and posting. But I’ve got to greatly disagree with your argument about BAD BOYS being progressive.

    What is exactly so progressive about BAD BOYS beyond the leads? Shit that garbage started out, of all things, as a Dana Carvey/Jon Lovitz vehicle. But what particularly does BB do with the non-caucasian gimmick? Nothing, for thats all it is, a gimmick without anything worth a shit of interest behind it. It’s a rather uninspired and boring LETHAL WEAPON retread. That’s not progress, that’s tokenism.

    I hate to say this. Oh God I hate to say this, but RUSH HOUR was more progressive. See, I would believe the image of Brett Ratner reading that and slapping himself on the back. But that said, at least you had two non-white leads basically not respect each other, and assume only ethnic stereotypes (Chan can’t speak English, Tucker a useless lazy idiot) until they eventually do give each other props at the end. Then start over with the sequels, and repeat!

    To put it another way in Marvel comic books, Black Panther was around before Luke Cage, but I bet you $5 that more fondly remember Cage more than Black Panther in the (awesome) progressive department. Why?

    Because outside of his initial (embarrasing) blaxploitation ebonics, Cage eventually became a unique personality within that crowded field. Black Panther was and still is a silly gimmick and costume. Why not just Panther? Oh wait: You gotta make sure the kids know he’s a Negro. That’s the point. Riiiiight Stan Lee….

    Hell more remember Luke Cage the name than his (stupid) persona, Powerman. Thanks Nic Cage. Take that episode of his when cheated out by Doctor Doom of a contracted, he goes off to Latveria to beat the fuck out of that armored-asshole. All for $200. You ever see the (white) Fantastic Four do that? Hell no.

    Or that fact that some recent years back, Marvel wrote him into if I remember right, a marraige with some minor league white heroine. The BAD BOYS way would be just to make a note of the superficial tokenism, instead of a storyline that Marvel has kept at it over the years. Or at least until they (pointlessly) reboot or have it thrown aside, simply to boast up sales figures by supposedly outraging nerds.

    Mr. Kahn, I think its pretty clear you know you’re trying to make a diamond out of dogshit. You have your fine points regarding BAD BOYS, and ones with some actual thought and knowledge of context of those times. I won’t outright dismiss it like I usually do with Baynito Michaelini, but I’ll just disagree.

    Though consider that Will Smith at that time was already a household star with that sitcom, and in fact did what ID4 a year after BAD BOYS? I guess at best, BB is to Will Smith what RAPID FIRE was for poor Brandon Lee: That would-be star vehicle before the smash hit everyone else remembers, or chooses to.

    *=penned by white writers who maybe saw SUPERFLY one too many times. Kinda reminds me of that cringeworthy script for that 007 picture LIVE AND LET DIE. Kotto was pretty awesome though, but shit he’s always that sort of dependable.

  12. Nice post N2Z.

    This is where things get tricky. Is the acheivement of Bad Boys/Rush Hour undermined by the material itself?

    I contend that Ratner and Bay have nothing interesting to say about any culture (their own, black america’s, France’s etc) – that isn’t what they are about. However they are still responsible for the cultural elements they do choose to include. When that continually amounts to the crassest, most obvious and pandering sterotypes, you have to admit that these elements are included out of ignorance, not love, of a culture.

  13. Game. Set. Match.


    Vern, please get your publisher on the line and see if you can get the following quote on the cover of your new book:

    “I read much of your work and have the highest regards. You are in my top three critics working today.” -Joseph Kahn, Director of Torque


  15. Off-topic, but I don’t think I ever saw TORQUE.

    Not an insult or anything, just it slipped by me.

  16. If you want to talk about cultural insensitivity in these kinds of movies I think Rush Hour 3 takes the cake. The one scene in that movie I remember is when Tucker and Chan get in a taxi, five minutes after arriving in France, and Tucker ges irritated at the cab driver, so he points a loaded gun at the guy’s head and makes him sing the national anthem, which the guy does in a terrified, quivering voice. And this is all played for laughs. Are you fucking kidding me?

  17. Brendan – Can you believe Polanski is in that thing?

    I actually think this is the perfect sight to discuss this on – because by the very nature of the things we’re into here (Seagal, Badassery, strange references to Felicity) we can’t really be accused of being over-sensitive elitists looking for things to nag Bay about.

  18. I guess the part I really don’t get is how it was culturally “ballsy” of Bay to make Bad Boys in 1995. In Kahn’s writing he acts like nobody was willing to make movie about “black street culture”, when in reality, by 1995 we’d been bombarded by movies about black street culture like Boys n Tha Hood, South Central, Juice etc. If anything, movie goers had probably been oversaturated with big screen depictions of black street culture.

    Doing a buddy cop formula movie with black dudes just doesn’t feel revolutionary to me in the least. I guess casting two leads known at that point for comedy in something more action-oriented was a risk.

    I do agree with Kahn in talking about how Bay just can’t leave his advertising mentality at the door. Yes, in advertising you need instantly identifiable images that cause people to react in the shortest amount of time, but movies are not commercials. You’ve got time. Tell a compelling story. Build a memorable character. Or at least film a thrilling sequence. Bay can’t do any of those things. But yes, he can stack moneyshots end to end in something that is a recognizable formula.

  19. As for Dictrict 9, I think it’s just a movie that riffs on the apartheid or uses it as inspiration. I don’t think it has anything big to say about it or is intending to make history entertaining by dressing it up as sci-fi. I think this apartheid stuff just went into a blender in Blomkamp’s head along with a bunch of daydreams about prawns and spaceships and came out a movie.

    The same way the bad guys in Star Wars had uniforms and architecture inspired by Nazis and Soviets. I don’t think the Vader character was supposed to be any big insight into Stalin or Hitler, I think Lucas just had that stuff in his head like Kahn said, he used identifiable imagery. Nazis are bad, most people think this, so making a movie in which the bad guys are like Nazis makes it easy for the audience to hate them.

  20. Wolfgang – Don’t forget mother fuckin NEW JACK CITY.

  21. RRA – Or the entire blaxploitation subgenre.

  22. my original comment offered nothing, sorry about that. my computer didn’t load any of the other commenters or I wouldn’t have said something so pointless.

    but this right here is exactly what i love about vern’s site. the fact that there’s an actual intelligent debate going on between vern and joseph kahn is absolutely terrific, and is the exact reason i troll vern’s comments sections over the talkbacks at aintitcool.

    thanks vern, and thanks joseph for stopping in and contributing.

  23. Hey guys, I think many of you make very valid, intelligent points. I would never claim my opinion is the only right one, and I can be convinced otherwise if the arguments are persuasive enough. They are simply my personaly read on topics at hand – about as vaild as any other director currently in movie jail haha. But I’m sticking to my guns on Michael Bay not being a racist.

    Vern – this sounds bad after all that, but I gotta be honest – I never watched Soul Plane.

    Neal2Zod – your points on Rush Hour are spot on. I think it operates different from Bad Boys in that Will and Martin are ultimatey both positive portrayals and their mutual love/hate relationship is based on idealogical differences. Rush Hour is basically one long chink joke. But I do disagree with the Bay/Ratner comparison. They are technically two very different filmmakers with wildy different different competency levels. I know both to various degrees, and I will say this. Fuck politics. Brett’s truly a douche.

    Brendan – that was like a scene out of some fantasy Dick Cheney NRA vacation video.

    Telf – you may have a point. I may have bad taste in comedy. I casted Dane Cook in his first film cameo, and I love his stand up to this day.

    RRA – I agree, Luke Cage is more iconic of a character than Black Panther, but he also fits better into the Marvel Universe. Based in a real, identifiable setting with actual real world concerns. Black Panther is more like a DC character from a fantasy place and I generally think those types of characters make better Marvel villains than heroes. You just can’t relate to a prince.

    Wolfgang – I think my main point is that Bay was a white pop director who could have chosen a safer route. But on another issue, I agree with you completely. Movies have time and can breathe. I could have definitely used more that perspective better on my first movie, and you should have been kicking it into my head when I did haha.

  24. Forget Do The Right Thing, The Learning Tree, School Days, and all those other films mentioned by Wolfgang and RRA and the others. Clearly Bad Boys was the most progressive of them all.

    Damn. From The Learning Tree-to-Bad Boys. From Gordan Parks-to-Bay. We’ve come so far with racial equality in the media.

  25. Joseph – Thanks for your response and insight, I’ve always wondered who was douchier between Ratner and Bay, now I know. Btw – stuff like you coming on here and all of us having a civilized (yet still funny) discussion of race and film is why this site is kind of my little secret that I don’t even tell my friends about, for fear of it becoming the next AICN. Could you even imagine a conversation like this happening there?

    And btw – don’t kick yourself over Torque not having any time to breathe – i freaking love that it’s 80 minutes with credits and I wouldn’t change a damn thing about it.

  26. Neal – anyone who can appreciate the genius of Vern can’t be all that bad, including me lol. Thanks for compliments on Torque, it means a lot.

  27. Darn the incomplete post went up. I did not in any way read your blog post in the sense that Bad Boys was ‘the most’ progressive. Sorry for unintentionally sounding like a typical internet ass there!

    Though I will stand by my statement about looking back at Gordan Park’s The Learning Tree and looking at the now.

    Mr. Kahn

    As an Asian-American, what are your thoughts on the continuing white-washing of Asian characters in movies such as 21 or the upcoming The Last Airbender?

    It’s a subject that’s been really infuriating me this year and haven’t had many people to express it to or really converse about it about.

    Just wondering from someone within the industry if you think it’s wrong or if I’m just an overacting ‘fanboy’ about the situation?

  28. Hmm, your frank and brave admission of culpability in the Dane Cook fiasco speaks volumes as regards the content of your character, Joseph. As does your fact-based stance on the Bay/Ratner douche-off controversey. Fair play and kudos.

    I honestly don’t think anyone worth listening to considers Bay truly racist. Just tacky and kind of ignorant. I also think he gets a kick out of pushing people’s buttons and being abrasive.

  29. I agree with neal2zod. One of the best things about TORQUE is the hyperactive pace. Short and sweet. More movies should do that.

    Any chance you will be getting out of movie jail sometime soon, Joseph? I’ve been hoping for a follow up to TORQUE for quite a while now.

    Also, since you sort of know both of them, is neal right? Would Bay and Ratner not be caught dead kissing an Asian or black man?

  30. I don’t know, Bay has a better eye for sunsets and explosions, Brett Ratner has a more comprehensible approach to rhythm and staging, and is friends with Chris Tucker. If only we could combine them into one superdouche…

    It’s funny, when I try to get people to watch Torque more than once they’ve frowned and said “Is that the one with Dane Cook?” And I say I guess maybe he’s in it but I think it’s a cameo. I didn’t know what he looked like at the time. (Turns out he was the unfunny comedian I complained about as Dennis Rodman’s sidekick in SIMON SEZ.)

  31. Any possibility of defending the twins from TF2 came to a screeching halt when I remembered one of them was named Mudflap. Isn’t it bad enough that they gave him a horribly offensive design and a buffoonish stereotypical personality, but do they also have to give him the most demeaning name in the movie? To be fair, I haven’t actually seen the movie, so there may well be even worse names to call the obviously black robot, but if one guy is named Optimus Prime (a fairly positive sounding moniker, in my opinion), being named after the thing that keeps shit from flying all over the road is just another heaping bucket of contempt. They’re on the same team, for fuck’s sake. I’m surprised his brother was just named Skidz and not Skidmarkz (though I guarantee that was their first fucking idea).

    As for Bad Boys, I do agree that doing the first really big black staring action movie was fairly ballsy, but the potential to cash in big on a completely open market totally outweighed the risk. It didn’t seem like a passionate gamble as much as a soulless and calculating act of marketing. Which pretty well sums up Mike Bay.

  32. I wouldn’t call Bay a racist. I would just call him an asshole.

  33. Fellas, are we forgetting ‘Beverly Hills Cop’? Didn’t part 2 spend the most weeks number 1 at the box office until ‘Titanic’ overtook it? I think Kahn is way overstating the importance of ‘Bad Boys’ in the progressive black action film department.

    Having said that, the only humor I find offensive is humor that isn’t funny.

  34. I guess the only encouragement I can give Kahn is, keep working your ass off, you’ll get early parole from movie jail. When you get out, give your toothbrush shiv to Cimino.

    Anyway, I mean look at Oliver Stone and Tony Scott. In their Hollywood directorial debuts….THE HAND and THE HUNGER*…both struck out, became a punchline, and didn’t direct again for several years.

    Then Tony got TOP GUN, and that same year Stone got the British Hemdale to put up low budgets in successive order of his SALVADOR and PLATOON. Both got Oscar nominated, and PLATOON won the gold.

    I really, THE HAND man. If Oliver Stone could comeback from that fucking nonsense (and his earlier directorial loser SEIZURE), then you can too Kahn.

    *=I still argue thats a pretty good movie, if on its own wavelength. Its also to me the ‘real’ Tony, if you get my drift.

  35. Geoff – well, I’m with you. Asian dudes are the easy punching bags of pop culture, and in the case of The Goods, literally. Ken Jeong’s oversized clitoris doesn’t help. I have hope the younger generation gets over this shit.

    Jake – Hollywood directors are supposed to kiss anything to further our careers haha. I have stuff in the works, but Torque was such a motherfucker of a studio experience the pay off didn’t feel worthy of the two year torture session it was. So yeah I am gunshy about directing a XXX3.

    David – that’s a really good point, BHCop set the precedent. Bad Boys is different – unlike Murphy, Smith and Lawrence were complete unknowns at the box office. I’ll say it again, as a white successful director during the hot button race years of ‘92-‘95, he could have hedged and replaced Smith with Charlie Sheen, or waited for a Van Damme, Swayze, or Christian Slater pic altogether.

    RRA – thanks for the encouragement. Been doin’ my push ups for when I break out.

    Thanks all.

  36. HAH! Vern I fucking love you man, that comment about Dr. Dre in a Star Trek uniform was classic. Even if its not a priority of yours, I think you ought to really hit the mainstream, make loads of money with your books and spread your seed of critical goodness throughout the land. I know so many moviegoers that would dig the hell out your work.

    If I had to guess I’d say flattery probably weirds you out, so I’ll say adieu.

    P.S. Saw the 16-minute preview on Avatar Day and it really gave me hope for the movie! I think Ebert is right when he says you need to sit in the rear and dead center of the IMAX auditorium for the 3D effect to be completely flawless. If the idea of colonial marine-style military guys doing battle in a rainforest a million times huger and scarier than the amazon with an Apocalypto-style culture of honorable yet badass alien warriors is an idea that appeals to you, I think you’ll love it (:


  37. Joseph Kahn,

    Never, EVER appologize for TORQUE. My buddies and I get together for movie night every Thursday, and Torque is one of our very favorites. It’s fast, funny, and bizarre. Plus, it teaches important life lessons, like where Sushi comes from.

    Sure, it brazenly ignores some important things, like, you know, gravity, but so what? I don’t care. I have a blast every time I pop Torque into my DVD player and the ridiculous over the top pop art elements (the “carpe diem” leather jacket, the CGI windmills, the train ride, the skirt blowing) are a big part of that. I would rather watch Torque than any film by Bay, Ratner, Cohen, McG, or any of those guys.

    I’m seriously looking forward to Necromancer.

  38. I saw Torque on the Big Screen over here in Germany(here it was called “Hart am Limit”, which means “pushing the limit”). I enjoyed it.
    I think the lead dude, Martin Henderson, has good charisma and the action was over the top, just as I like it. The train sequence was crazy shit(in a good way).
    And it has Jaime Pressly and it is always good to have Jaime Pressly in your movie. Sequel?

  39. Joseph, didn’t you almost do a Transformers movie one time? And do you think yours would have been more, less or equally racist?

    You don’t have to answer that. But did you seriously get offered XXX3? Because I am looking forward to that movie and I think you could make it more fun than Rob Cohen did with the first one. But I understand if you don’t want to take that plunge.

    Patrick – you know what I’m referring to, right? Joseph here directed the Eminem video “We Made You,” and in one scene Eminem and Dre parody Star Trek. I don’t know why but I seriously thought Dre managed to still look cool while wearing the Star Trek uniform. I was impressed.

  40. “I wouldn’t call Bay a racist. I would just call him an asshole.”.

    Joseph – loved Torque – especially with the DVD commentar where Hendo and the rest of the cast are talking about it, and how you just have to kick back and enjoy it. And the Mullet shot has yet to be matched in modern cinematography.

    I’m curious as to the development history though – did the script knock around before The Fast and The Furious came out, or was it written in reaction to it?

  41. I’m sorry man, you can all be dazzled by the director of Torque all you want, but when it comes down to it dude has had sour grapes about District 9 since it came out in what I can only assume is some kind of professional jealousy cause Blomkamp hit it out of the fucking park on his first go in every way imaginable. Admit it Kahn, you’ve been down on this movie since you saw it and while thinking about it you’ve hit upon the notion that it’s racist.

    I would say that Peter Jackson’s King Kong has some serious race issues, and Lord of the Rings is really really eurocentric… But Blomkamp has created the single most subversive movie about racial division in years, no less in a successful sci fi action flick.

    To say that District 9 is not a direct allegory for South Africa is both true and false. There are hints and intimations that it is an overreaching essay on South Africa as a model for the future filtered through the prism of science fiction as a subversive genre. The opening documentary mixes direct quotes and ideas from the insane worst days of apartheid (the man on the street suggesting a virus developed to wipe out the aliens – an actual thing that the Apartheid govt pursued) to casual drops of very insider-y Joburg slang. District 9’s ultimate message is so specific to South Africa, that the numbing effect of knee jerk reactionary political correctness has blinded a lot of Americans from seeing what’s truly the message of the picture. Not that “racism is bad”, rather, we’re headed on a path where the Johannesburg that already existed is OUR FUTURE and those in power are, recontextualized, surviving on the backs of exploiting their fellow human because of an essential darkness in our nature that turns us into casual, happy fascists who only get challeneged when it’s too late.

    But to also think that a movie about aliens trapped on earth is a DIRECT allegory for the specifics of apartheid is dumb. That’s obviously not what it’s doing. The Joburg it depicts is the present one post apartheid, in which black people are still economically disadvantaged, and sparingly integrated.

    Johannesburg is a place of extraordinary extremes of wealth and poverty directly related to race. Rampant casual violence, especially when it comes to personal theft, is an everyday occurence. The wealthy and predominantly white esconce themselves in biometric thumb reading car locks and gated communities, while the real slums – an actual shooting location in the film – house the disenfranchised. Multinational corporations base business there for cheap labor and tax breaks. Environmental destruction runs rampant, along with fighting over scarce resources.

    Wickus is a very pointed and unbelievably subversive character. Our ostensible hero, given a Hollywood style hero’s journey arc – but ultimately a facist and coward, there can be no doubt. He’s also a projection of the reality of South African white men – who tend to view themselves as quite hard or macho, when the majority of them work as bureuacrats for multinationals that exploit cheap labor (why do you think it’s been such a big destination for commercials shooting, Mr. Kahn). Let’s think about this – the white hero of this studio released action film is a coward who runs from doing the right thing repeatedly and takes part casually and proudly in genocide, aborting the children of an intelligent bipedal species.

    The real kicker, and the thing that seems to have upset so many with knee jerk racial reflexes programmed from god knwos what, is the depiction of the Nigerians. Online scuttlebutt has this gruesome depiction of Nigerians as racist for their cannibalism and having sex for money with the aliens.


    They aren’t cannibals. They want to eat aliens, which is a distinction.
    And you NEVER ever see the Nigerian prostitutes with an alien. It comes in a montage of half truths, hearsay, and subjective reportage.

    Furthermore, the notion that every black person in Africa is a perfect human being is a little ridiculous. Now are they warlords who are brutal and exploitative? Of course most of them are not, and the story of apartheid as a black story is one of nobility and the best of humanity.

    But let’s think about what the goals of the Nigerian boss and the heads of the Multinational are in District 9.

    They want the exact same thing. Wickus arm. His DNA. They have the exact same desire. The only difference for the Nigerian is he lacks the technology, grooming, and hideous manners of his counterparts in the corporation. And the only truly noble human we see depicted is Wickus black coworker, who goes to prison for doing the right thing morally. The really harsh thing about District 9 is that ultimately it’s pretty fucking downbeat on the entire human race as a whole. It sees no distinction of race in depicting those in a consumptive food chain that exploits fellow man or alien wherever and whenever it can and the only true powers are extreme violence or the might of wealth.

    I believe District 9 intentionally uses the Nigerians in a self aware manner knowing it’s a provocative image (in fact Blomkamp says it’s based on news stories of Nigerian gangs in S Africa who were eating albino black men in order to gain supposed magical powers… And ultimately even more fucked up, let’s think about the cultural forces at work in Africa in regards to the supposition that HIV / AIDS is a hoax and look at their corresponding disease rates) hoping that it will press a button. Blomkamp can’t have it the cowardly way, like Jackson did, and feature a saintly black man a la King Kong in order to offset the racist depiction of the islanders. The “good” black character still takes part in everything Wikus does.

    I will admit that District 9 is the product of a white person’s imagination who has self reflexive doubts about what it means to be South African – but it never lets itself off the hook as a dominant, culturally imperialist force. It has an enormous amount of guilt and attempts to investigate what deeper forces are at work in humanity which led to and is leading us to the same. But we forget that one of the true beauties of science fiction is its usage as a subversive, satirical genre. There may be no other way to address such complexities in filmmaking and get that shit past an audience – the simple ridiculous platitutdes of Blood Diamond or (from the same director) even worse, The Last Samurai being examples of the typical route Hollywood takes when it deals with foreign cultures.

    And let’s just fucking admit it – District 9 is a first time feature made by a dude who’s just shy of 30 that never has a false step, does its fucking business completely uncompromisingly, personally, dangerously… And it made a lot of money. There’s just a bunch of jealous bitches in Hollywood right now cause the big expensive movies are the sci fi action ones, and Blomkamp just showed up and staked his claim.

    As for Ratner and Bay, to me they’re endemic of the fact that most white Americans (and I am not white, for the record) not being aware that their attitudes are racist… Because they are based on perceptions ONLY present in pop culture as they live in segregated communities that offer few chances of actually interacting with people of other races. If I were to base my entire opinion of black people – which given the majority of white suburbs in this country – on the films of Michael Bay and rap videos, I’d have a really fucked up idea of what black people are. Not multifaceted human beings capable of both good and bad and humor and sadness. That’s for damn sure. The reason The Wire has become a high water mark for drama with a predominantly black cast is because it actually dimensionalizes all its characters regardless of race.

    We need to get over stereotype as a whole, or challenge and destroy it. No more saintly magical negroes, no more jive talkers, no more gangstas. Let’s have human beings.

    And dude, I have watched Tyler Perry movies.

    And you all are ignoring the whole wtf is up with Obama’s mention in Transformers 2.

    And as a personal aside, as someone who lives in NYC, the young black teens sitting behind me at TF2 said “that shit is racist” when the robot twins did their reading line. My black coworker thinks TF2 was ok but the twins were racist. My black neighbor who hangs out on his stoop and loves comics and sci fi thought TF2 was pretty racist. My half black friend thought it was really racist to have robots in a kids film that depict stereotypes of black men’s voices, slang, and attitiudes and lack of education especially in the year 2009 when Obama is president. And here I am living in America in a major city where the majority of black people are still economically disadvantaged and lack access to healthcare and higher education.

    And one other thing, as far as Kahn’s statements go… Please Joseph, can you explain why you invoke truthiness as a good thing to aspire to as a filmmaker? I thought truthiness was meant to be a satire on the entire dogma of the Bush doctrine, which is namely doing things without knowledge and awareness. Why is aiming for the easy and obvious in advertising a commendable goal in feature filmmaking?

    Also, Ratner is indeed the bigger douche, but Bay needs to stop yelling at people on set cause he thinks that what James Cameron does.

  42. ASAHN I think the implication that Kahn has “sour grapes” is incredibly unfair and unfounded. The dude isn’t just shouting abuse at the film, he isn’t just trash talking it. He’s giving a reasoned opinion and he’s willingly come onto another dude’s blog to respond to other people about his points. If this was just down to jealously the guy would have said it was shit and left it at that, not used up his time to respond politely and reasonably to random internet folk.

    Also, the implication that we’re not calling him out on his points because we’re “dazzled” by him is pretty ridiculous, when this entire blog responses have consisted of posters replying and disagreeing with Kahn. And dude, i love Torque as much as the next Vern blog poster, but Kahn sure ain’t Spielberg or Christoper Nolan or whatever. It’s cool that he’s here responding to posts, but no one is “dazzled” by him to the point they’re not disagreeing with him.

    The rest of your post was great though.

  43. Oh and coincidently they announced the new director for xXx3 today. It’s the guy who directed the football film Invincible, which seems a pretty meh choice for an action film.


  44. ASAHN- “I would say that Peter Jackson’s King Kong has some serious race issues, and Lord of the Rings is really really eurocentric…”
    I’m not going to disagree with you on King Kong (though I have more of a problem with it being boring), but LOTR is eurocentric because Tolkien was supposedly trying to create a mythology for great britain, since it’s something we lost due to all the other cultures that absorbed us into their beliefs and folklore when they conquered us. LOTR is eurocentric because Middle Earth is meant to be a pre-historic (as in mythical, not dinosaurs and cavemen and shit) Europe and is inspired by the folklore and historical stylings of europe, so making most of the characters of european descent makes sense. So I don’t have a problem with that. It’s different though in the case of the above mentioned Last Airbender movie, which is an adaptation of a cartoon series that bases it’s world on asian culture, but casts most of the leads as white, making the most high profile asian-played character a villain, and even then, they cast him with an actor of indian descent rather than someone from further east. Though Dev Patel is a Taekwon Do black belt, so might actually be a fair choice.

  45. remember when the director of TORQUE showed up and said “Fuck politics. Brett’s truly a douche”? that was so awesome.

  46. and just out out of curiosity, has anyone heard an actual black person’s opinion on this? the twins seemed pretty questionable to me, but then no worse really than bad boys, about which i do not recall the same outcry. and if transformers are by default “white”, what would be an acceptable way to include a “black” robot ? shaft-bot? magic negro-bot? big momma’s house-bot? demolitions expert-bot?

  47. Asahn, what exactly were the race issues in Jackson’s Kong? Last I checked, the natives of Skull Island had gray skin and European features. I know of no race that looks like that, so he was obviously trying to sidestep the whole issue by having them come from a lost culture, which fits the plot of the movie. Are you saying that a movie cannot depict any kind of culture, even a fictional one, as savage without being racist? Is there just something inherently racist in the Kong story and/or “lost tribe” stories in general? Or do you think Peter Jackson just has something against gray people?

  48. Also, I think the movie sidesteps the whole “Kong has his pick of dark-skinned beauties but falls for the first blonde he sees” thing in a few subtle ways.

    1. The islanders don’t offer her to Kong simply because being blond makes her more valuable as a sacrifice. They make it clear that her scream is what roused Kong, which is why she must be the one to be sacrificed, rather than one of their own.

    2. Kong likes her not because she’s blond, but because she’s feisty and she stands up to him. None of the islanders—being not only malnourished and beaten down by the harsh environment of Skull Island, but also consigned to their fate as a human sacrifice to a cruel god—would put up a fight, and thus would give Kong no sense of their personality. They would never assert themselves as anything other than food. Besides, later in the movie he finds himself a perfectly serviceable blonde and he throws her away. Clearly, it’s not about hair color; it’s about chemistry.

  49. Thanks for that Joseph, it’s always good to hear someone echoing my suspicions about Mr Ratner. As for Mr Bay, whenever I think about his films, this description from Vern’s BAD BOYS 2 peace initiative pops into my head and makes me giggle.

    “… I can’t just blow up Michael Bay, especially since he would set up a camera that would rotate around the explosion and cut to a closeup of sweat dripping down Josh Hartnett’s shoulders reflected off the back of a Lamborghini made out of cocaine and it would be unclear whether he was in the explosion or not and I would just be confused so it wouldn’t be worth it…”

    I’ve only seen a few Bay films, but I’m curious no-one ever seems to talk about the last one I saw, THE ISLAND, which had a vaguely interesting concept if it weren’t for the overblown chase sequences (i.e. the last two thirds of the film) and the face that the “twist” was revealed in every trailer and poster made for it.

  50. The race comes into it when you get a bunch of greedy white pricks who take something out of it’s native home so they can exploit it for money. ESPECIALLY because in at least the remake, Jack Black is shown creating a cartoonish, juvenile reproduction of the native culture so that the rich white fucks who bought tickets can ‘ooh’ and ‘ahhh’ and talk about how wordly the show was, without any actual knowledge (or attempt to gain any) of the people or creature.

  51. Well, yeah. Every version of the movie is clearly against imperialism. So that’s why I’m asking where the race issues come in.

  52. I thought I just explained that. Again, at least in the remake, it’s not just about going somewhere and taking whatever you want and using it to your own gains, it’s also very much about re-selling an inauthentic, sterilized, childish verison of a culture and people to contribute to both the audience’s self-percieved worldliness and it’s sense of superiority over the natives. It’s the infantilization of a culture in order to downplay the feelings of fear and powerlessness that actual exposure to the people produce.
    —To me, it’s like the way all those comedy shows and movies take aspects of black culture (music and etc.) and turn them into minstrel show style mockery’s of themselves, and then get black artists ot star in it, somehow endorsing the downplaying of black people’s intelligence and role they play in the formation of mass culture.
    —It’s the kind of thing that made Chappelle quit his show, when he decided his audience wasn’t primarily intelligent people who laughed at his show and then used it as a launching pad to discuss race and the roles it plays in the various faces of our country’s mass culture, but was instead primarily being watched by twelve year old cunt suburban kids who watched the show then went around going “I’m Rick James BITCH!” and quoting him when he played a black white supremacist. It was a degredation of his beliefs and work so he said ‘Fuck this” and went to Ohio or wherever he is now. And good for him, having the class and balls to live in anonymity rather then contribute to the downfall of Western civilization and make a bunch of money.

  53. Race and Jackson re LOTR and Kong:

    Well, they are both adaptations. But I don’t think that really excuses everything. LOTR’s blatant Eurocentrism goes beyond merely focusing on everything the white folks are up to – it specifically shows all the non-whites (on the rare occasions they are featured at all – and indeed they may be white actors made up to look “foreign”) racing to join up with the big firey eye because… well just because. In Tolkien everything West and North is GOOD and everything South and East is EVIL. Don’t know how Saruman fits into that but he was fucking Dracula. Not saying PJ should have changed that aspect of the books, but he did change all other sorts of things so apparently it wasn’t important to him. He may have feared the wrath of the purists, so I guess he gets a pass for that one.

    But Kong is some lazy shit. I loved all the stuff with Kong – and really wish he had been bolder as a story teller and – instead of during a bloated 3 hour rehash of the original – had started the film on Skull Island and just told the whole thing from Kong’s perspective (which they are apparently talking about doing – as an animated prequel). He was the only chracter in the whole thing I cared about. The Black sailor and Cabin boy Willie’s love affair should have never made it to the shooting script.

    But I think the whole Grey People thing hurts the film a bit – precisely because you lose the allegory and the power to really criticise what Black et al are up to. By depicting the Islanders as these wretched pseudo-zombie people, the film kind of states that they don’t have a legitimate culture worthy of respect anyway.

    Obviously (as the scene in IG points out) the original Kong is a highly charged movie, racially. To kind of inelegantly side-step the issue as he does, Jackson shows just how uniterested he is in all that stuff.

  54. Spider-Man 3 is racist too! As soon as he gets the BLACK suit, he becomes EVIL! That’s pretty obvious, IMO.

    (Or in other words: Sometimes is a fantasy movie just a fantasy movie.)

  55. Brendan: I’m a bit confused as to whether or not you’re criticizing the movie or just observing its themes. Because I think by having the minstrel show at the end it really is satirizing the notion of “exoticism” and how it trivializes both the natural world and foreign cultures. I don’t think you can accuse Kong ’05 of doing that, since the villain is a Western opportunist who destroys the thing he seeks to exploit. Are we actually agreeing with each other but I’m just missing it?

    Telf: I think you’re right that Jackson has no interest in the racial angle of the story. He cares about Kong and dinosaurs and that’s it. Perhaps it was clumsy of him to make the natives pseudo-zombies as a way of not dealing with the race issues, but I do think it fits the world he’s created for the movie. These are people who live on a sinking island inhabited by monsters. Where once they had fortresses, they are now living on the very crust of the island, subsisting on scavenged shellfish and hoping that their desperate sacrifices will keep the monsters at bay. It’s a doomed culture, driven to hysteria and savagery by its environment. I don’t think it’s fair to criticize Jackson for not showing them in a more positive light, since that would discredit the power of the island. This is clearly no place for people, as the state of the islanders proves.

  56. “Well, they are both adaptations. But I don’t think that really excuses everything. LOTR’s blatant Eurocentrism goes beyond merely focusing on everything the white folks are up to – it specifically shows all the non-whites (on the rare occasions they are featured at all – and indeed they may be white actors made up to look “foreign”) racing to join up with the big firey eye because… well just because. In Tolkien everything West and North is GOOD and everything South and East is EVIL. Don’t know how Saruman fits into that but he was fucking Dracula.”
    Weren’t a lot of those just mercenaries and not officially representing where they came from?
    And there’s plenty of examples in the story of evil white dudes. Saruman of course, who employs a buch of white wildmen from the hills to go attack Gondor. Then there’s Wormtongue selling out his king. The Ringwraiths are all corrupted white kings too, and Theoden was nuts. And Isildur of course started all this shit when he couldn’t let the ring go.

  57. Majestyk–We are 100% in agreement with each other. I was just explaining what I thought the themes were (although it was only by writing them down that I realized I thought that, if that makes any sense). Jackson was obviously bringing those themes to the forefront of his movie, and in some ways satirizing the original film. If you ask me, the themes of exploitation and imperialism of the original are mostly accidental and weren’t planned by the filmmakers. They were just trying to make a fun adventure movie.

  58. I will admit that it was Kahn’s twitter feed that brought me to his blog, and what he’s written about District 9 was over the top, and his thoughts about his perception of racism seemed to grow over time.


    I also think that yes it’s nice he’s being smart and respectful about it, but to consider Transformers 2 a superior take on race is really, really ridiculous. I don’t see Kahn, a Korean, blogging about The Goods or being outraged by its jokes inciting a racially motivated beating.

    An original sci fi action film that isn’t a sequel, adaptation, or remake was released by a major studio to success and acclaim and it is challenging, thought provoking, and outrageously adult. How Kahn could think that’s a bad thing is beyond me.

  59. the article you linked to is a fascinating peaking into the mind of some one with shit taste in film.

    So that’s what it’s like to mistake shit for gold… Interesting

  60. And I’ll follow up my somewhat snide / dismissive comment by saying that I think we all appreciate Mr. Kahn showing up here to carry on the discussion. I just can’t believe you favorably compared Bay to Fincher.

  61. I don’t know if I’m dazzled by Joseph Kahn (although the Knights of Cydonia video IS pretty sweet) but, I find myself kind of agreeing with his take.

    My reading of the twins in Transformers 2 is that they’re, basically, children trying to imitate pop culture “Gangsta” stereotypes. It’s sort of insensitive and offensive in the same way that a lot the story lines and characters in professional wrestling are…but, I don’t think it’s really racist. Bay has a sensibility that seems to be very “shock jock”, but, then again, so do most of the contributors to AICN.

    The “prawns” however, really ARE violent and fucking dumb. They’re so dumb that they can’t figure out that they could wipe out the cat-food selling Nigerian gangsters in about three seconds. I guess I don’t buy the argument that the documentary we’re watching is supposed to be unreliable when it comes to the aliens, since nothing else in the pseudo-documentary is meant ironically. It seems more like a progressive PBS/NPR style production and the movie itself clearly wants us to side with the talking heads who make up the bulk of it.

  62. Vern – I tried developing Transformers back in 1999. I actually got Hasbro on board, at least to the idea of it, and took it to Sony where I got shut down. But in the meeting I did campaign Amy Pascal to hire Sam Raimi on as the Spider-Man director. She owes me one billion dollars. Years later Tom De Santos and Don Murphy had the property and I met with them to discuss it, and Tom basically waxed on about some really lame kiddie version of the movie in his head. Starring 12 year olds. He also claimed he directed all the action in X-men 2. So that was the end of that little adventure for me.

    As to XX3 my agent sent me the script but I only read ten pages and gave up. Whatever Torque was, I genuinely fought hard to make it that way, and the XXX franchise made my guts hurt thinking about what I’d be walking into.

    Hunter – glad you learned about Sushi. The studio and I always considered Torque an important educational film, first and foremost.

    Travis – sequel would go like this. The bad cop gets unfrozen from cyrogenic sleep, and it’s year 3,000. Flying bikes. Explosions. Etc. This time R rating.

    Darth – Script? The script was being faxed to me every morning in pieces, I shit you not. The best stuff was all improvised.

    Asahn – not really sure what you want me to say?

    Goodbadgroovy – you are right. You guys barely agree with me on anything haha. Really, the one being dazzled is me, at the sharp level of thought here as opposed to other boards.

    Rusty James – I always felt that appreciating things in a more skewed perspective keeps me more creative. Afterall, if I like what everyone else likes and think about it in the exact same way, what do I really have to contribute or say as an artist? That’s why I like people like Vern who can flip the box over. And yeah, I probably have shitty taste in movies. I’ve lost getting laid cuz of it. Seriously.

    WS – what can I say? Finally someone who sees things my way! So rare. Let’s sign you to a music video directing contract asap haha!

    And guys, stop calling me Mr. Kahn. You are making me feel old as fuck!

  63. Come to think of it, are you the same Joseph Kahn who was attached to a NEUROMANCER adaptation a few years back?


  64. Mr. Kah…Joseph – two more questions and I swear i’ll leave you alone – as a fellow Asian, what are your thoughts on Joel Grey in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins? My friends think it’s really inconsistent that I hate Mickey Rooney in Asian-face in Tiffany’s but I let Grey have a pass. My defense has always been that since Chiun is the fucking MAN, and he’s a positive portrayal, I didn’t mind so much. Which nobody seems to understand. Sure, it’s a “I’m just glad he wasn’t a bucktoothed caricature, so I’ll take what I can get” reaction, which may be somewhat defeatist in nature -just wondering your take on it.

    And also, it seems you’ve done a video with everyone except Miley Cyrus. Would you work with her after the whole slant-eye picture debacle? I think she’s yet another example of “not really racist but racist-lite” category that I would lump Ratner and Bay into.

  65. Mr M, Stu & Brendan.
    I’m not really criticizing PJ for those things I described. It was more to illustrate that he probably isn’t really thinking about those things as a filmatist. And I totally agree with Mr M’s point that the tribal folk in KK fit with the world of the film.
    With LOTR, yes you see white people join Sauron – but they are the evil white people. The only darker people you ever see in the film are the ones who side with Sauron – hence we can assume they are evil too. We aren’t really given any other motivation for them. And why should we? It’s supposed to be a fun, simplistic, manichean fantasy world. I certainly wouldn’t want them bogged down with endless politically correct context/motivation building.

    Again, my point wasn’t so much that PJ is racially suspect or anything like that – just that he places his focus/energies elsewhere and leaves some of his work open to (essentially nit-picky) crticisms.

  66. For all you guys who are sort of ironically amused at the idea of talking film theory with the dude who made Torque, go watch some of his music videos. Kahn is one of the guys who consistently makes new and interesting work. Yeah, he makes “booty videos” too, but even those are a cut above. Look at “Always” for Blink 182. “Toxic” for Britney Spears. “Knights of Cydonia” for Muse. “Waking up in Vegas” for Katy Perry. All of his great pop art work that in large part defined Eminem.

    You guys can giggle, but in my mind, Kahn is sort of like Kenneth Anger.*

    *This would sound very sycophantic if anyone besides me knew who Anger was…

  67. And don’t forget “Get Yourself High” from The Chemical Brothers!

  68. You must have us confused with another sight. We like Torque around here.

  69. yeah wtf. i love love loved TORQUE and destiny child’s “say my name” clip is one of all time faves. i couldn’t be any more excited if Seagal himself showed up.

  70. Okay, re-reading my 2 posts here, they definitely seem on the sycophantic side, even if I did make a joke about being one. Perhaps the guy talking about us being “Dazzled” by Kahn was right…at least in regards to me.

    I love the music video when it’s done well, Kahn makes my list of 10 or so guys who I think are worth watching. I sorta geeked out because I rarely get a chance to discuss music videos in an analytical sense with anyone, much less one of my favorite purveyors of commercial art.

    In any case Kahn’s short film work is up there with David Fincher, Michel Gondry, Jonas Åkerlund, Mark Romanek, Chris Milk, Spike Jonze, Hype Williams, Chris Cunningham, and some other folks, the name of whom google has failed to help me find.

  71. Thanks for the heads up on that Kenneth Anger comparison piece, “A”. These last 24 hours have been weird…I’ve heard coherent arguments for by Michael Bay is better than Neil Blomkamp and why Brett Ratner is better than Mark Romanek.

  72. Wait? Joseph Khan did the video for “Knights of Cedonia”? You are acquitted for life, sir.

    I didn’t like Torque. Is that ok to say around here?

  73. You don’t…like…Torque?! Seize the infidel! Burn him!

  74. joining the discussion a bit late… skimmed the comments but hope I didnt miss someone saying this already…

    Just think its worth a mention that doing something like BAD BOYS doesn’t necessarily qualify Bay as a humanitarian in my book. Black entertainers have always been a bankable commodity, and there have always been major power players who have been willing to give them their chance, as long as they stayed in their place. Which is to say, they didnt challenge your preconceived ideas about what to expect from them. Now, those guys casting Lincoln Perry and booking Louis Armstrong probably liked them pretty well and were pleased to have them around. But they were still racists.

    I’m sure Bay is against the KKK and everything. But I also think through his films you get a pretty good idea of how he wants to portray other races, in particular African-Americans. I mean its not just one film, its just that this one went all out on stereotypes way after just about everyone else learned to tone it down a little. Racism is not just about acrimonious feelings towards other races; its also about the ways in which we can unintentionally demean and undermine with stereotypes even when we’re being friendly.

    BTW, if you’re still reading Mr Kahn, I have to say my friends are all engineers, and they still get a blissful smile on their faces whenever reminded that there exists a movie somewhere in the world called “TORQUE”. Not to mention that its pretty damn ass kicking crazy,

  75. Nice post Mr S.

  76. The discussion of the racial politics of the original King Kong was my favorite part of Inglorious Basterds and I still think there are issues in the remake. The fear of miscegnation, the strong black man in chains, etc. and the portrayal of the islanders struck me (a white man) as racist. as for LOTR alot of that is too present in the source material

    i loved District 9 and really feel no desire to see Transformers. I was troubled by the portrayal of the black warlord but it does have its basis in reality (eating albinos) and it is a perfect parallell to MNU

    but District 9 seems to conciously invite and engage with these issues. it takes a stand, even if its a bit muddled. i get the sense that Transformers really didn’t give a fuck

  77. Mr. Kahn,

    I don’t expect you to say anything. I was pointing out to everyone else that despite the fact you directed Torque and a Muse video, you said that Michael Bay is a brave soul for his visionary and risky portrayal of black people, and the inroads he made with the first Bad Boys, a movie produced by the relatively unknown producing team of Bruckheimer and Simpson, and at the time Will Smith had barely just become a rap star and the star of one of the most successful sitcoms of the 90s, and Martin Lawrence had merely become the leading black stand up comic in the US. If not for Bay’s courage, whither the cinema?

    Also I wanted to mention to everyone that District 9 deserves more than a knee jerk conditioned response based upon stereotypes defined by skin color.

    I do wish you’d qualify why you think going for the broadest most stereotypical stroke is worthy of praise outside the realm of commercials.

    Earnestly however I am glad you weren’t injured today. Still check out the doctor for your neck, especially as you also shoot.

  78. Jacks Lack of Motivation

    August 26th, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    It may be more of a sideline than the whole black culture issue but I’ve noticed a certain tendency in Bay’s movies (mostly the first Bad Boys and Transformers) to set up Indian stereotypes for laughs, too. Maybe because over here racism against people from India or Pakistan is a bigger issue and in the US there are mainly other groups taking shit from idiots, I don’t know, but the comedy convenience store clerks and IT helpline guys bug me somewhat.

    Tolkien is a difficult one. As has been said he was deliberately creating a myth for Britain dating back some fifteen hundred years so it’s fair to say there would be mostly white dudes, but I get uncomfortable when he describes trolls as like ‘giant black men with lolling red tongues’ (a paraphrase, no book to hand). That said, the key phrase of the whole 1100 page behemoth is “Many who live deserve death, and many who die deserve life; can you give it to them?” (okay that one I mostly know, yes I’m a geek) so I’d like to credit the author with more humanity than some racist readings of the book would suggest.

    But I haven’t seen Torque yet. I’m sorry, I’m working on it.

  79. Jam – yes. Still on it. Still actively developing.

    Neal – the question is if a positive portrayal of a race can justify a non race actor playing it? Clearly, to actors, the answer is yes. This will probably anger other Asians, but in theory, I don’t think it’s an unbreakable law. On a certain level, if done with intelligence, it can be quite progressive for both the performer and the audience. I just watched Jude Law’s Hamlet in the London theatre and the roles of Ophelia and Rosencranz was played by black actors, and those characters were most certainly white. Pretty cool.

    Miley. Sigh. What white people just don’t understand is that chink eye is a nonverbal way of saying “nigger” to Asians. It’s a very different kind of joke. You are literally telling Asians they are laughably ugly because of their eyes are strange, and if a “normal” person stretched their face out then they can approximate the way Asians really are. It’s a white person attacking the darkness of an African American’s skin or the size of a Jewish person’s nose. But Miley’s a kid, and kids make mistakes. It’s questionable parenting, really. Billy Ray should beat her ass, and I’d make a music video out of it.

    Hunter – love the list of vid directors you listed. You have great taste, so thanks for putting me in there. However, I will say this about “A”s link to Kenneth Anger. Those youtube guys are completely overstating his influence on videos, especially hip hop. Maybe Tarsem would reference him, but even the clip they showed of Romanek’s NIN was specious. Rom was clearly ripping off Joel Peter Witkin, and match cutting to a crucifix pose is cheap. Every rock star wants to be Jesus. They might as well cut to every 30 seconds of a Creed concert. And the kicker is they put a whole lot of effort in extrapolating Angerisms in Brett Ratner’s “Triumph” video. Well I was the cinematographer, editor, and embarassingly shitty visual effects designer of that video. No Kenneth Anger anywhere near that production. Ganja yes.

    Lawrence – word.

    Mr. S – a very well thought out argument. I really don’t have any come back. Solid, and something to think about. Fuck you.

    Asahn – I still don’t know what to say. The way you frame your questions with hyperbolic interpretations of what I write makes it very difficult for me to respond efficiently. I’m really not trying to be rude, but I’m not really into rehashing old points. My positions are already in the essays for you. Thanks for the concern on my car wreck though. It was pretty dicey.

  80. I’ve seen District 9 twice, I enjoyed it as a good pulpy sci-fi movie, but reading the responses to it (“refreshingly adult!”) feels a little surreal, it’s a little like if everybody went nuts over “Outlander” and started calling it a devastating treatise on western imperialism.

  81. Thank you Joseph for expressing in words what I’ve felt my whole life but couldn’t quite express. It really is painful to deal with “funny ha ha” racism almost every day, and then to be told that it’s just harmless humor, you should lighten up, etc… I’m going to have to shamelessly rip off what you said next time someone calls me the PC Police or tells me to get over it.

    Plus “Billy Ray should beat her ass, and I’d make a music video out of it” may possibly be the line of the century.

  82. “I bomb atomically,
    Socrates’ philosophies
    and hypothesese
    can’t define how I be droppin these

    I think that’s one of the best hip hop songs of the ’90s. All the Wu Tang lyricists in top form (although ODB doesn’t get a verse). I think it’s Masta Killa’s best verse ever.

    The video is cheesy but I love it too, so good job. And that would be funny if Ratner was into Kenneth Anger.

  83. Wow, this is officially the best comment board I have ever seen. Intelligent discussions of race, ethnicity, and film theory, with a filmmaker, and people who know obscure queer themed short films from decades ago.

    Vern, thank you.

  84. Joseph,

    You created a blog allowing us to comment. Please don’t start removing comments just because someone disagrees with your viewpoints on D9 and TF2.



  85. Aw come on Joseph, don’t wuss out. I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to interperet what you’re saying is that broad stereotypical strokes which depict humans based upon what could be considered harmlessly racist attitudes (because they define an Other based upon foreknowledge) is innocent fun. Remember the asian couple in the cab at the start of Armageddon? I’ve got to challenge you on this cause yes it’s fun to take a divergent angle, but as one of the few filmmakers of note who is not white, I hope you’d think in more complex ways about depictions of race. You’ve gone out of your way to laud Bay where he clearly made a misstep.

    I do have respect for Bay, as I do for anyone who pushes that many setups a day with true practical gags and every shot could be stuck in a wood frame. I don’t think he’s what you could call racist in a way that’s fuelled by hatred for other races… But to me bits of his films reek of the same ignorance that defines America’s insitutionalized, casual racism. Just as his fetishization and exploitation of the military comes from an ignorant one dimensional view of the world. Until we all start seeing each other as human beings in all dimensions, we’re fucked. Working in the entertainment industry it’s easy to feel that black Americans have gained some parity. It just doesn’t hold true outside there.

  86. I think we can all agree that Brett Ratner is a complete dick – but goddam it if directing “Triumph” doesn’t move him up the scale from “total fucking douche” to just “fucking douche”. Awesome video and awesome track. But to say its Masta Killa’s best rhyme Vern?? Over Da Mystery Of Chessboxin??
    “movin on a nigga with the speed of a centipede
    surely it was Inspectah Deck’s best verse?? I mean, no worries if we differ on this issue, I’m still gonna keep reading the site and everything, this won’t be a deal breaker.

  87. Old School Pop Quiz: What color was the cassette of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx?

  88. Steve – you are sadly rightl. I am going to have to leave you guys for now because I just got a shitload of work to do. I’ve had an hour and a half of sleep in the last two days. But I really enjoyed talking with all of you. I can’t lie, it’s fantastic to hear so many people like Torque. I am emotionally connect deeply to my work and when Torque nit a brick at the box office, I got suckerpunched in the dick. So thanks for the aspirin. And I have absolutely loved reading all your interesting thoughts on my crazy, I guess, contrarian ideas. Everyone who loves movies is a filmmaker deep inside, I feel like I spoke with some great filmmakers.

    So wrapping up whatever I can here before I go back to work:

    Back on the Michael Bay as a closet racist thing, remember he had Cuba Gooding, Jr. play an unquestionably solid African American hero in Pearl Harbor. His cinematic view of the world is a comedic melting pot, and all the stereotypes fit within the rules of his comedic view. He’s the giving-you-shit guy. If he makes fun of you, he likes you. Met Bay several times, don’t see a racist in his character at all. Man, calling someone a racist is horrible. Careful where you aim that gun.

    Vern, I work in urban/hip hop culture a lot over the last 17 years and I’m simply in no place to make a judgement on whether Smith and Lawrence should be ashamed to use the “N” word. It’s just not my place to look down on that. I truly don’t have the insight and the personal experience of what it means to them. Please consider that.

    District 9: just didn’t like it. The muddled politics distracted from the entertainment value for me. I had just come back South Africa six months ago and saw some disturbing behaviour and attitudes that simply wouldn’t fly here in the States. South African whites are conflicted about Apartheid to this day, and in a more prevelant mainstream way than an American would realize. I think filmmakers’ politics always come out through their movies. Muddling and equivocating Apartheid with Zimbambwan refugees is a very typical S.A. white perspective: a look-at-how-savage-they-are thing/not that easy to hand over govmn’t thing. Kind of a half assed progressive statement that isn’t that progressive by our standard at all. Pandering at best. Muddled to Americans, clear to Africans.

    On the entertainent level, sounds strange but I’m just not blown away by VFX movies. I deal with VFX every fucking day. It’s like a porn star getting another blow job. You need to bring the anal beads. I admitedly was bored to shit on Lord of the Rings, so you guys can peg another one in the Kahn-has-bad-taste hat. My favorite movie this summer was Star Trek, but that’s cuz I fucking love Star Trek. Really, movies kind of suck right now. I see way too much studio exec auteurism and greedy fx companies charging $10,000 a second for amateur hour. If I was 17 today with the type of stuff out in theaters, I’d probably have picked a different career. Nothing beats sci fi from 1980-1984, that’s the reason I do it.

    Fight of the Conchords is better than every movie out today, unless Spielberg gets horny.

    Advertising language versus film language. Same thing. I study films religiously, few people study vids and ads. Shame, cuz there’s a lot of poetics of filmmaking being built that hasn’t been scratched in films yet. It’s not a matter of ads are shallow. Doesn’t matter if you play in a park or a stadium, the fundamentals of b-ball are the same, and same for visual film art. It’s all about the poetics of how to derive meaning from elements of graphic filmmaking. How one applies it is up to their life experiences. Has nothing to do with the length of time of the medium, but the length of time of your growth as a human being.

    James Cameron was a truck driver.

    It’s the one kneejerk reaction that fanboys and studio execs with business degrees seem to agree on: visual filmmaking is MTV bullshit. So do you want all your movies to be shakey cam movies that a studio shoots with ten cameras and then just chops up at the discretion of a coked out producer and a research group in Pasadena? You know what I like about Pasadena? Nothing. But those viewers decide the future of movies because that’s as far producers and executives want to drive from their homes in Malibu to get an opinion.

    Brett Ratner is a douche. I’ll probably get sued or banned somehow, but whatevs.

    Asahn, you are one angry asian brother. The world is a nicer place than you think it is.

    OK everyone, it was great talking with all of you. Thanks for the kind words and intelligent conversation. And…Armond White rocks. Really. See ya.


  89. Mr. Subtly wrote: “Racism is not just about acrimonious feelings towards other races; its also about the ways in which we can unintentionally demean and undermine with stereotypes even when we’re being friendly.”

    On that level, District 9 is still more suspect to me than Transformers 2. I’m sure the makers of District 9 intended to be good white liberals, but if you’re telling a story in which you make obvious allegorical comparisons to real world events – in which you pretty much yell “THIS IS ABOUT RACISM!” – and then you depict the “other” as being retarded, violent, thieving, physically repugnant, and breeding like roaches (except for one of them who is miraculously smart); that strikes me as being closer to actual acrimonious feelings.

    The twins in Transformers 2, I will defend as a concept, but not so much aesthetically because that’s the point where I think that they don’t work (if they were actually funny, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation). Regardless of race, Every peripheral character in the Transformers movies (except the military guys) is kind of played at the same level: for cartoonish comic relief – the parents, the computer nerds, the frat boys, the professor, etc.. (Those movies don’t take place in reality, they exist in a kind of cartoon pop world.) So, the twins aren’t completely out of place. Now, the whole vibe of the twins is not that they’re “gangstas”; they’re pretending to be “gangstas”, and that’s why – to get pretentious -their existence can be seen as a comment on “gangsta” stereotypes put out in pop culture. Granted, it’s not a very well-thought-out or articulated comment, which is another reason we’re having this conversation.

    If the Transformers movies are about anything other than robots beating the living shit out of each other, they’re about how human beings engage with pop culture. The one scene in Transformers 2 that aspires to and actually attains depth involves Bumblebee communicating with Sam by using clips from Forrest Gump. In many ways, this scene is actually more astute about how people use pop culture then anything Tarantino’s ever done (except for, maybe, Jackie Brown). The twins are there because hip hop culture is a huge part of pop culture and Bay probably wanted to include it.

    Now, did Bay fuck up? Yeah.

    Should we brand every film-maker who fucks up when it comes to portraying aspects of another race with a scarlet “R” for racist? I don’t think so.

  90. ws – beautifully put re: bumblebee speaking in tom hanks clips. i felt like such a dumbass for finding that quite moving.

  91. Goddammit, Joseph Kahn, you truly are the man.

    Come back and say hi sometime. It has been a pleasure.

  92. For the record, though, I disagree about the twins. I get that Michael Bay likes to portray everyone as an abrasive stereotype, but for me that garbage is over the line. Clearly Michael Bay has been cool to Joseph at some point, but I’ve met a number of people who worked with Bay who wouldn’t set foot on his set again no matter how much money he threw at them.

    Here’s a Bay anecdote that was relayed to me which I think says a bit about his character, such as it is: Legend has it that in the early 2000’s or so, the garbage disposal broke down in the kitchen of Bay’s offices. A repairman was called in to fix it, he looked it over and said it would cost $80 to fix. Bay, whose bank account hovered somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 million dollars, had this response: “EIGHTY BUCKS?! WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO FUCK ME ON THIS? I COULD FIX THIS THING MYSELF FOR TEN DOLLARS! GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!” And he threw the guy out. The garbage disposal remained unfixed for six months.

    One can imagine how this sort of behavior could grow tiresome.

  93. If Kahn ever posts here again, I have one more good fastball to fire at the Bay-progressive line I would like to hear his response.

    If Bay, if for better or for worse (mostly worse) with his goddamn brand-name clout with the stupid demographics, wanted to be truely progressive…..why not have a gay action hero?

    With his popularity with the white trash populace, he could have gotten away with it, with orange fireballs and American flag behind this sausage smoker blowing shit up and saying stupid one-liners.

    And also, he would have full bragging rights. And he would be right.

  94. Harker – I’m sure Bay is an asshole (just listen to his commentaries), but I hate to play on that card as a reason why he’s a hack.

    Fincher, Cameron, and others have not-so-nice reps as shitheads at times (mostly on the set), and well some of you might have heard tales of Spielberg in his hey day selling out people, stabbing them in the back as quick as an eye blink. His involvement with the TWILIGHT ZONE disaster, none the less.

    So yeah, dickery is a double-edge sword. And both are sharp!

    As for you saying Kahn is being too political with Bay…well, why not? Look at Troy Duffy.

    You know, that guy who made BOONDOCK SAINTS. A cult hit. which I don’t like, but none the less the sort of thing one would think would get Duffy other film work. Right? Wrong. As that terrific documentary OVERNIGHT showed, Duffy basically fucked himself by pointlessly being a dick, pissing everyone off. Hell his new movie is finally out later this year…and its a friggin sequel to SAINTS. And SAINTS came out what, a decade ago?

    Also, dont forget Bay hanging with Spielberg at the moment. Why pointlessly burn that bridge too?

    Though I guess its funny that nobody truely does respect Ratner. He’s the contemporary Richard Lester.

  95. How did Boondock Saints get to be such a big thing anyway? It was practically DTV

  96. RRA – Yeah, I’ll admit that the garbage disposal story is completely irrelevant to any debate on Bay’s legitimacy as a filmmaker, I just thought it was funny and decided to share. And I have a huge double-standard in place for filmmakers who are dicks on the set but produce movies that I like. If Cameron had to scream his head off to get T2 made properly, I respect him for it. The people who got bitched out are now proud as shit to have that film on their resume. Also the fact that Spielberg and Bay are buddies now makes me respect Spielberg less, not Bay more.

    Also, I wasn’t trying to imply that Kahn was being political. He clearly has no problem calling someone out if he considers them a douche. If he were being political he would have politely declined to comment, rather than coming down and taking the time to explain himself on a message board that I’m sure Michael Bay does not read. Like I said, clearly Bay was cool to Joseph at some point in the past, and he wants to stick up for a contemporary of his who he feels is being unfairly attacked. Cool with me. I just wanted to point out that if you have dinner with someone who is kind to you but rude to the waiter, they are probably not a very nice person.

    I hadn’t heard that Duffy was making a sequel to Boondock Saints, though. Holy shit, that flies right to the top of my list of movies I don’t want to see. Here’s hoping that it brings about a sequel to Overnight. I can watch that egomaniacal windbag rant all day and night. That shit never gets old.


  97. RRA – Yeah, I’ll admit that the garbage disposal story is completely irrelevant to any debate on Bay’s legitimacy as a filmmaker, I just thought it was funny and decided to share. And I have a huge double-standard in place for filmmakers who are dicks on the set but produce movies that I like. If Cameron had to scream his head off to get T2 made properly, I respect him for it. The people who got bitched out are now proud as shit to have that film on their resume.

    Also, I wasn’t trying to imply that Kahn was being political. He clearly has no problem calling someone out if he considers them a douche. If he were being political he would have politely declined to comment, rather than coming down and taking the time to explain himself on a message board that I’m sure Michael Bay does not read. Like I said, clearly Bay was cool to Joseph at some point in the past, and he wants to stick up for a contemporary of his who he feels is being unfairly attacked. Cool with me. I just wanted to point out that if you have dinner with someone who is kind to you but rude to the waiter, they are probably not a very nice person.

    I hadn’t heard that Duffy was making a sequel to Boondock Saints, though. Holy shit, that flies right to the top of my list of movies I don’t want to see. Here’s hoping that it brings about a sequel to Overnight. I can watch that egomaniacal windbag rant all day and night. That shit never gets old.


  98. Because BS’s comments on Irish culture and heritage speaks to people of Irish descent who take pride in their heritage. Because the film’s comments on the feelings of rage and helplessness when faced with the inexorable spread of crime taps into something rooted into the brains of many urbanites. Because Willem Defoe is a beloved actor who has a strong following and he delivered a great, odd performance that differentiates his character from every other “Genius cop on the trail” that shows up in every movie. Because it’s actually a pretty cool movie.

  99. Last words Kahn,

    First of all, yeah I’m angry, I saw Transformers 2 in IMAX, that shit was expensive.

    Second of all, actually, I think the world is better than the world depicted by Michael Bay. Where people are not stereotypes but human beings, lovely with flaws and all.

    But if you think there isn’t still institutionalized racism in this country, that’s just ignorant. I also wouldn’t call Bay a racist, but his work has problematic racial attitudes. But that’s the arguing over language that’s doing us all a disservice and a problem at the other end of extreme – P.C. has led to be unable to address race honestly and openly, and a lot of racist attitudes are so suppressed most people never self examine them.

    It sounds like you’re projecting your experience of S Africa onto District 9, interestingly. The South Africans I’ve come to know (both black and white) presented me with a much more complicated view of things. But again, District 9 challenges that by presenting you with trustworthy academics and documentary footage that portrays a layer of truth that the film later without – telegraphing – challenges.

    I do believe however that the insidious things embedded in pop must be challenged seriously because it’s the common currency of the American subconscious. You cast young black men over and over as criminals in movies, you’re gonna embed a trope in that there great hivemind. Isn’t that Armond White’s goal?

    In fact, you’re saying that your experience of South Africans is that they persist in believing on some fundamentally unconscious level that black people are a stereotype they have. Which is just as problematic here.

    Anyway dude, you’re real busy, thanks for the discourse, but seriously man don’t dodge the hard questions.

  100. Boondock Saints goes up in my list of the top five movies that just fucking piss me off, along with Funny Games (original), Last Days of Disco, Terminator Salvation, and Pay It Forward.

  101. ASAHN – right on about the media’s coverage through its reports and testimonials at the beginning versus the true plight of the aliens and its representation through the characters of Christopher and his son. Subversive indeed.

    Joseph, sounds like you need a holiday already… Get some rest and look forward to seeing more from you (online and on the big screen).

  102. Harker – And another Michael Bay asshole tale: Before he became Baynito Michaelini, he tried to prove that somehow John Frankenheimer was his father. That’s right, the director of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, BLACK SUNDAY, RONIN, and other good movies…

    DNA say Bay is wrong, but he claims the test was faulty.

    Honestly, I don’t see the talent resemblance.

  103. I’m usually a total lurker here, but I just have to say I’d never heard of Joseph Kahn or Torque (although I’m sure I’ve read Vern’s review at some point) but I’m gonna go out and rent it tonight because he seems like the kinda bloke who SHOULD be making more movies. In other words, not an asshole. Not the most insightful comment, but wanted to say it anyway!

  104. oxdr – good move bud. see it on the biggest screen you can.

  105. ws — I tend to think of DISTRICT 9 as less directly allegorical than it would initially appear. In fact, I was kind of worried when I first saw it that it WOULD just be a direct allegory, and would have all the weird issues you point out. But I think actually the message is more that even in a world where people should have learned a lesson about doing this sort of thing, they’re perfectly capable of doing the whole thing again if there’s enough difference that they can fail to see the similarities.

    I think DISTRICT 9 is about WHY people become racist, which is that their lack of understanding pushes them towards segregation, which creates a divided society and breeds exactly the sorts of problems we see with the “Prawns” in the movie. Its smart because it gives you only so much information, and at first kind of lets you understand WHY people feel this way. Then, it undermines that by letting you see the story from Mr. Johnson’s perspective. My feeling was that they were ALL intellegent like Christopher, its just that they have a different way of thinking about their society which humans never really cared to understand, and as a result viewed them as inferior. It would be kind of pointless, all this time later, to make a film that just said “Aparthaid was bad.” My take on DISTRICT 9 is that it endeavours to show us how the stupid thinking that lead to that situation in the first place is still intact, and ready fro the next group that people fear and don’t understand and want to isolate and blame their problems on.

    As for Bay, you’re right, obvously, that all his characters are shallow, vapid, and broad. But come on, there’s a big difference between having a nerd stereotype and a racial stereotype, and Bay’s the only major director working today who just seems to keep making his racial stereotypes MORE over-the-top. That doesn’t mean he wants to kill all black people or anything, of course. There are different kinds of racism, which range from overt hatred (“I hate black people”)to indifferent institutionalized racism (” I don’t care one way or another but I’m not going to hire one because my clients might hate them”). Bay’s movies (who cares about the man himself?) seem to put forward a very clear message about what black people are like (and, gay people and asian people and other groups too) which is right in line with most of the most negative assumptions people make. He may even like his stereotypes — in fact, I think he probably does. But that doesn’t change what they are and the damage they can do. I don’t think his movies are intended as a meta level commentary on what pop culture teaches us about stereotypes and the kind of world that would exist if it were really true, because fuck, its his whole filmography. If that were true it might be mildly interesting, but anyway its all too poorly executed to work either way, and I think its kind of a big assumption to think that Bay is some kind of American Paul Verhoven (ie, completely deadpan social satire which aims to show us the absurdity of our assumptions by taking them waaay over the line and then never mentioning it directly).

  106. sorry for the big chunk of text, btw. And as usual, no offense intended, just trying to clarify my point.

  107. Joseph – if you happen to read this, I hear what you’re saying about not being able to say whether or not it’s right for Will Smith to use “the n-word.” I agree, it’s not my place to say either, I just thought that was a good example of a pattern of degrading portrayals in every Michael Bay movie so far. To me it seems kind of significant that Will Smith, who was so proud of not even cursing in his music, would be willing to do that for Bay. Of course, he’s playing a character who’s playing a character.

    And again, I think all of us have specifically said we’re not calling him a racist, but to be honest my theory is that he’s too fuckin dumb to know that he’s constantly degrading minorities and gays. He just thinks that’s how you make jokes. He also has some funny ideas about how you edit an action scene.

    Anyway thanks for commenting, it’s been a great discussion and feel free to show up even when I’m not rebutting you. And I hope you keep blogging when you have time.

    Personally I think Joseph and Asahn are both looking deep into DISTRICT 9, both coming from more knowledge of South African culture than I have. I agree with Asahn’s interpretation much more but I think it’s a movie that invites this kind of analysis and that’s a sign that it’s good or at least ambitious movie.

    My favorite Michael Bay story is the one where he supposedly took a meeting to direct PHONE BOOTH, sat down at the table and said, “Okay. So how do we get this guy out of the phone booth?”

    Also I like the one where he complained that the budget for PEARL HARBOR was much too small and said, “Don’t they understand? This is HISTORY!”

    And furthermore I like the one where he accepted the MTV Movie Award for best action sequence for the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

    Anyway, thanks everybody and I think we have conclusively proved that it was a good idea for me to have comments on my websight.

  108. Finally saw Torque the other day.

    After the mini-Charlie’s Angels discussion I decided to give it a shot. Then I pushed it off and then the director came on here and actually responded to something I asked so I figured it was time.

    Well I liked it a whole lot more than either Charlie’s Angels that’s for sure. It was over-the-top silly but the kind I like. It didn’t constantly mug and wink at the camera like the Angels did, that drove me up the damned wall. Plus it had awesomely horrible one-liners. I also had more fun with it than I did any four of the Furious pictures.
    I surprisingly didn’t hate it.
    -note to studio marketing home video person you can feel free to put my last sentence on the blu-ray box or something!

    That said I found it a bit tiring after a while, even though it was mercifully short (something Bay and every other blockbuster filmmaker working today should try to do). The consistent ‘purposely over-the-top’ tone just dulled me after a while and the constant barrage of product placement didn’t help.

    What I’m trying to say is, it’s no On Deadly Ground.

    -in before people saying I’m being too nice to it because of a personal encounter with the director.
    –in before people saying I’m being too rough on it because I want to show that I’m not blinded by celebrity or I’m just pissy because I disagree with his thoughts on two particular features.

  109. Now if only we could get Bay himself on these talkbacks for him to discuss cinema with vern…

  110. Hey Joseph,

    I remember renting Torque when it first came out and being enthralled with every ridiculous second of it. I don’t mean that as a slight either, when it comes to that kind of material the only approach worth taking (though it seldom is) is to go all out, balls to the wall. Thats fucking TORQUE. Girl fight. On motorcycles. Thank you.

    Also, after reading all this I went out to rent Torque since I haven’t seen it in a few years, but not one fucking Blockbuster carried it. You need to bitchslap that stupid chain. I guess I’ll put it on my Netflix queue. I wonder if its out on BluRay yet…cause that would be super.

  111. Hey Joseph,

    I remember renting Torque when it first came out and being enthralled with every ridiculous second of it. I don’t mean that as a slight either, when it comes to that kind of material the only approach worth taking (though it seldom is) is to go all out, balls to the wall. Thats fucking TORQUE. Girls fight. With motorcycles. Thank you.

    Also, after reading all this I went out to rent Torque since I haven’t seen it in a few years, but not one fucking Blockbuster carried it. You need to bitchslap that stupid chain. I guess I’ll put it on my Netflix queue. I wonder if its out on BluRay yet…cause that would be super.

  112. I almost forgot the most important part – Masta Killa! Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have said “Triumph” is his best verse ever, but that verse blows me away. It’s so subtle. Everyone else is stomping through very successfully, bombing atomically or whatever. Then Masta’s verse comes on and he just sounds so calm and collected. It wasn’t until I listened to it over and over again that I really thought about what he was saying.

    First of all, “The track renders helpless and suffers from multiple stab wounds and leaks sounds that’s heard ninety-three million miles away…” I mean, that’s a hell of an opening sentence. And he’s describing this “gathering of the masses that come to pay respects to the Wu-Tang Clan,” where’s he’s on stage overseeing the whole thing, and “light is provided by sparks of energy from the mind that travels in rhyme form” (!) He’s basically saying that ideas form in his mind, become rhymes and “give sight to the blind,” but that “the dumb are mostly intrigued by the drum…” Which of course would be me the first hundred times I listened to the song and it’s thundering BAAAAHM. BOHM BOHM. (“what, ya’ll thought you wasn’t gonna see me?” etc.).

    I think we all agree that it is a great song and that it is cool if Joseph Kahn did the effects for that part where Method Man turns into Ghost Rider for a second.

  113. given Bay’s apparent confusion over what a robot is, I doubt he fares much better with computers….

  114. Mr. Subtlety,

    I’m totally offended by your well-reasoned, thoughtful response to my half-assed ramblings.

    I read District 9 differently than you. My take on Christopher Johnson and the rest of the “prawns” is that the psuedo doc is right and the “prawns” (can’t remember the actual name of the aliens) are a thoughtless worker class, whereas Christopher Johnson is part of the leadership class who was either spawned while on earth, or was somehow mistakenly relegated to worker status, which makes him and his son the only smart “prawns”. The rest of the aliens we see, even outside of the documentary frame work, seemed more like animals who were completely indifferent to their own lives and the lives of others.

    Ok, Re: “Meta-level commentary…It’s a big assumption to claim that Michael Bay is Paul Verhoeven.” etc…You’re right, which is why I’m glad I never claimed that. (I would never claim that there was anything medicinal about Michael Bay’s movies…or Paul Verhoeven’s either). I said it was a “comment”, and not a particularly well-thought out or deep one. I think it’s a running joke about two characters who are trying to live their idea of the “thug life” (that they’ve absorbed from pop culture) and are constantly failing at it. Now, it is a shit joke; it doesn’t work. But, I think that there IS a difference between a racist stereotype and shit joke that ends up looking like a racist stereotype (I don’t remember the scene in Bad Boys 2 well enough to say anything about it).

    As far as Bay’s filmography is concerned, I can’t really comment because I don’t remember much about any Bay movie pre-Bad Boys 2. But, if Will Smith and Martin Lawerence are supposed to be negative stereotypes, I guess I don’t see it. Tyrese Gibson in Transformers and Djimou Hudson in The Island seemed to come off pretty well. I don’t remember Michael Clark Duncan being demeaned.

  115. vern- as an experiment, you should try watching a michael bay action sequence at maybe 1/2 speed. chaotic as they may seem, bay’s action scenes _can_ be followed, at least in TF2; not only comprehensible, they are coherent and the visual scheme and editing rhythms are clearly thought out and are enthrallingly, fluidly kinetic.

    watching TF2 for a second time i was amazed that while i had previously found it a clusterfuck, there was actually some awe-inspiring, gorgeous stuff in it. there’s shit everywhere doing a hundred things at once but it works, if you can teach yourself to watch it.

    for those who haven’t seen it, there a short sequence where megatron’s corpse in on an ocean floor, and the bad robots find him and resurrect his ass, and he sort of zooms out of the sea and takes out a submarine and then is flying though space. in a shot that flashes by way, way too quickly, we glimpse the megatron flying past a planet, and it’s this efx shot with a couple of planets and gas clouds and megatorn flying through and it is simply astounding how beautiful it is. it’s humbling. and it laid my ass out cold. it was actually on par with the mushroom cloud in indie and the crystal skulls, that’s how powerful i found that image and the sequence around it. bay has so many deficiencies but we all know what they are, but is our constantly carping denying us some pretty amazing moments at the movies. the answer is yes of course i mean come on.

    yeah i know i shouldn’t post high, fuckers.

  116. Sounds great. I’m sure the storyboards, pre-viz stills and keyframes are perfect works of art as well. Too bad a movie is 24 of those still-frames per second.

    If a filmmaker can’t visually tell a story at the speed his medium and his audience operate that filmmaker has failed.

  117. ws – reading Blomkamp’s interview posted in the DISTRICT 9, he definitely does say that the aliens have a kind of heirarchical society, which stalls out without the leadership (presumably of some kind of queen). That doesn’t necessarily make the non-Johnson aliens stupid or indifferent to life though. They’re obviously of human intellegence – look, they talk, they build houses, they make trades.

    The fact that they seem shiftless and stupid is one of the reasons it’s so easy for the humans to treat them this way, which is exactly what the Affrikaners complained about their own oppressed people. Indeed, they, like many oppressed groups with nothing to do and no where to go, did indeed live in squalor, lack much formal education, and seem lazy and criminal. But the reason is not their intellegence — its simply because their situation gives them no where to go and nothing to do. If they were all articulate and polite like Christopher, it would be hard to justify putting them into these conditions. But if we judge them to be somehow beneath us, its scarily easy to degrade a people in the manner depicted in the movie. Christopher, I think, is not supposed to be some kind of new class, but rather a remarkable individual who is able to rise above his circumstance in a way most people can’t, and is trying to build his people back up to where they can realize their potential.

    It is certainly possible to interpret Blomkamp’s portrayal of the aliens as confirming all the worst things people think and say about oppressed groups (not just Black South Africans, btw, but illegal immigrants, the homeless, the poor, etc). I think, though, that he’s trying to make us understand how easy it is to let this mentality settle in by first giving us a reason to believe all our worst inclinations about a group (which goes back to the Media thing Vern eloquently talked about in his review) and then showing us that despite appearances, our assumptions were wrong and colored by own own predjucides and our perspective and values. And because we do see that not all prawns are model citizens and paragons of virtue like Christopher, it also dares us to ask if they deserve to be discriminated against anyway (Richard Wright wrote “Native Son” to attack the kind of fable saintly Christopher Johnson gives us and force us to confront the worst possible outcome of discrimination and decide if we still think its so bad). I think the unspoken suggestion to the movie is that when we make value judgments about groups and decide what they “deserve,” we are always in the wrong. Culture is always more complicated than it appears, and it is at the very heart of racism that we assume we can understand the totality of a person or a people based on their race. I THINK that’s the movie’s point. But as you say, whenever you trot out and show people all the stereotypes, you walk a fine line between criticizing them and endorsing them through your portrayal of what is real. (continued in post # 2)

  118. Which brings this novel of a post to Bay and the twins. I do see your point, and again, if it was just this one thing, I could forgive it. After all, I forgave Lucas, even though Jar Jar has a lot of the same problems and, in fact, doesn’t even have the same meta joke that the twins may or may not have.

    I’m still not entirely convinced that they are a commentary (or joke) about how Robots from space would construct a “gangsta” persona rather than simply two characters who are supposed to make us laugh because they ARE stereotypical gangsters, but I can’t argue that your interpretation is a plausible one.

    Still, I’m not really inclined to give Bay the benefit of the doubt because of everything else. I mean as Vern said, come on, look at their faces. That’s not part of any joke on their assimilation of Earth culture, those are their actual faces. And they would really truely not look out of place on KKK cartoons.

    As for the rest of his filmography, Bay obeys closely the three basic roles for black men. All three are presented pretty positively most of the time; its not that they’re necessarily hate-filled or demeaning, its that they’re broad stereotypes which are presented as both correct and fairly all-inclusive in Bay-world (and in Hollywood in general, to be fair. Bay just has the most spectacular record of creating appallingly blatant stereotypes where most directors either don’t cast a lot of black people or change things up a bit from time to time). Virtually every black person ever put on screen by Bay falls into one of the three big catagories – powerful but childlike or animalistic (“Bad Boys” and M Clarke Duncan — they have brute strength but are either childlike innocents or passionate volcanoes unable to control their emotions) “magic negros” (can’t think of any Bay examples, but these are usually older black men or women who serve as sources of wisdom and inspiration but have no independent character) or emasculated wimps, a parody of the hyper-masculinity which is the other side of the coin (Anthony Anderson in Transformers is the most blatant example, the twins are another with every other imaginable stereotype added on. Dave Chappelle was worried he was falling into this trap when the Comedy Central suits asked him to cross-dress for his show.)

    There may be a few black people in Bay’s films who don’t fall into this pattern (haven’t seen “Pearl Harbor” — Gooding Jr sounds kind of magic to me but I dont know for sure) and of course, he’s not a writer himself. But look back, and you’ll see that character after character is built on shameless stereotyping. If a few black actors made it through with some dignity, good for them, but it doesn’t really change my mind about Bay. If your characters are only stereotypes 90% of the time, that’s still fucking indefensible and you could hardly ask for a clearer pattern.

    I mean, its kind of hard to miss, really, and then the twins being just about every negative stereotype ever is just the most over-the-top example yet (I predict that in part III we’ll find out they have far, abrasive, domineering wives). Again, I dont think Bay hates black people, but his films anyway are filled with racist assumptions about who black people are and who they are not. He LIKES these guys, he even respects them. But what he likes and respects is a parody of black culture and black people, not the real thing.

    And that’s what shows up in his movies, time and time again. The most basic possible stereotypes, often presented positively, but saddening in what they leave out. Positive stereotypes are still destructive and limiting (just ask the Asians out there) and when they’re wholly racial stereotypes, the problem is compounded by our years of history using stereotypes as a propaganda tool to justify exploitation and discrimination. So not only is it pretty painful and tone-deaf, but the inclination of a lot of folks is to believe it — they’ve been taught to most of their lives through media just like Bay’s.

    I don’t know the man, so I will reserve any judgement about his character and his reasons. But I do think his films deserve to be called racist and harmful (also “appalling”, “a cacaphonous bore” and “mind-numbing excrutiation”).

    Sorry bout the monster posts, and again, i appreciate being able to have a civilized disussion like this with you. Would that all Americans had the chance to discuss the big issues in a venue as classy as this one.

  119. Jareth Cutestory

    August 28th, 2009 at 9:00 am

    geoffreyjar – I’ve begun to think of Vern’s online activities as a kind of badass Field of Dreams:
    he builds it and they come. Not every critic is able to draw Bruce Willis into an online forum to
    defend his movie.

    Maybe one day the power of Vern will compell Bay to join the fray, but, given Bay’s questionable
    film vocabulary, I’m not inclined to think that his verbal skills will be any better.

  120. Mr. Subtlety,

    No problem on the monster posts. You’re making some good points. But, just to be pedantic, nitpicky and a douche, I’m pretty sure the Dave Chappelle cross-dressing story happened on the set of Blue Streak (I could be wrong though).

    I’d like to reiterate that I am on record as liking District 9. I think it’s a decent movie. I’ve seen it twice. But I don’t think it’s nearly as thoughtful or relevant as its fans are claiming. I like your interpretation, I just disagree with it. District – 9 reminded me a lot of Bong Joon Ho’s The Host, a movie that got tons of praise for being deep and meaningful, but, to me, seemed like it was all over the map. (To digress for a second, D9 also reminded me of this really great, under-rated, nearly forgotten Jack Nicholson movie called The Border, which has less monsters and ray guns, but better film-making)

    I have to disagree with you when you say that if we judge the prawns to be beneath us, it becomes scarily easy to degrade people in the manner of the movie. The prawns are fictional characters, not real, who are being presented in a certain way by film-makers who are fallible human beings. I mean, we like Christopher Johnson, but, considering what the movie shows us, you really have to do an awful lot of subtextual work to see the other prawns as intelligent.

    Re: Stereotypes…

    We could get into a pretty crazy discussion about the differences between a stereotype, a cliché, and a comedic character. But, it would probably descend into minutia and I don’t have the energy for it. I won’t even try to defend the design aspect of the twins (I wonder, when they were making the movie, did nobody object to that shit?). I have a great idea though…why don’t the film-makers take some of those profits and “fix it” for the DVD? Why not go in digitally, alter the designs to something better, hire two new voice actors, hire some talented writers to write wittier dialogue…and then just say, “We fucked up. It didn’t come out how we intended it. This versions better and cooler.”? Maybe, in the future there would even be bootleg versions of “Transformers 2: the Skidz and Mudflap Cut” and it would become a cult item like Song of South…Oh well, I can dream.

  121. The Host is deep and meaningful, but in very specific ways in regards to the political history of S Korea that didn’t necessarily easily translate across cultures.

  122. THE HOST was a lot of fun (that last minute in the hut are quietly beautiful) but MEMORIES OF MURDER was a hell of an act to follow. One of the best serial killer movies I’ve ever seen.

  123. ws, you leave Transformers 2 alone. It’s perfect how it is. If it were any better, it would be a lot worse.

  124. ws — Saw Chappelle tell the story on …um… Opera, when he was talking about why he walked away from his Com. Central contract, and I assumed he was talking about the show (but maybe he wasn’t. that’s the idea I got anyway).

    As for D9, yeah, I guess you can interpret it how you want based on how subtle layered Blompkamp made the movie. Is it partly a commentary on media construction of collective reality (as Vern and I think it is) in which case, the prawns seem stupid because he’s showing us the kind of mediated exposure people have to them; or, is does the movie simply not really think too much of (most) of the prawns and hence offer a troublingly paternalistic moral (we should be nice to them even though they’re a little thick)? There’s enough evidence here of Blompkamp’s nuanced take on the subject that I’m convinced there’s a meta level commentary (which also explains why the fakeumentary was more than a useful tool for exposition and more a necessary component to telling the story). But If you’re not, I can certainly respect that too. I mean, if that subtext is there, it is certainly never addressed in the actual story or dialogue – I call it a refreshing nerve not to insult our intellegence, but you could just as easily see it as proof they didn’t think about this stuff :)

    As for Bay and the twins, huh. Its actually an interesting idea you have there that I’m not quite sure how to respond to. I guess if they actually did say that and change things up, I’d have to give them some respect for doing the right thing, but I’d secretly be bummed that they turned a true abomination of a film into a merely awful one.

    But it actually raises an interesting question about how and if we have an obligation to go back and “fix” the mistakes of the past. We now have the tools to go back and get rid of Mickey Rooney’s “Yellowface” in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S, for instance. Should we do it? Is it better to go back and make history more accessible or better to leave it as it is and allow ourselves to be reminded of just how crazy we were back then (er, and sometimes still are).

    I’m inclined to think that people are savvy enough to have these things around and learn good lessons from them — and I think meddling with the past could have a more negative impact on how we view our history than our present. Since TRANS2 just came out, its a bit of a different story; I guess it wouldn’t be a big deal for them to go back and redo it, especially if they said what you did; that they genuinely somehow managed not to see what they were doing and now feel bad about it. More important than actually changing content, though, is to look at these things and think about what they mean and why they happen, so that in the future people can have some perspective on why they don’t WANT this kind of crap in their movies.

    I mean, the reason we have Political Corretness is not to enforce the “PC rules” but to help people be more empathetic and to see other perspectives. So in a way, now that the twins are out in the world, I think its far more important to use them as a springboard for conversation than to censor them. If we just went back and whitewashed over all the ugliness of the past, I’m not sure we really learn lessons that will help us in the future.

    So thats my spiel.

  125. Hello folks!

    very late on this but i have to say/ask…

    Well said Asahn!

    but can i query you on this “but as one of the few filmmakers of note who is not white” ……was there a cheeky wink there in the subtext? there was wasn’t there ……of course there was …..silly me for asking.


  126. About D9:

    I don’t think the movie has to ONE theme or that it has to subscribe to one theme either, neither to pick from this or that and to focus ONLY on it’s development. (While it did) If the director wanted to make a movie specifically about either Apartheid or African refugees, he would’ve made a movie about either or both of them and linked them.

    The theme that it did develop, as he seemed to have missed, is how human society tends to behave in the faces of Aliens and how if taken to extremes this can result negative.

    Alien as in:
    Owning political allegiance to another country or government; foreign: alien residents./ Belonging to, characteristic of, or constituting another and very different place, society, or person; strange./ Dissimilar, inconsistent, or opposed, as in nature: emotions alien to her temperament./ noncitizen/ A person from another and very different family, people or place./ A person who is not included in a group; an outsider./ (Ecology)An organism, that occurs in or is naturalized in a region to which is not native.

    Funny thing is, this time the aliens are what most people think of when they hear the world alien: A creature from outer space. But it’s a metaphor of all the definitions possible of alien. And of course, it’s about alienation. And empathy.

    I depicts human behavior. Aliens are not specific of one culture, just as slums are not specific to South Africa. You find them as far as China, India, and even in America…

    I think Kahn’s sorry attempt at a critique is off and close-minded. It’s as if the director made a movie of Rainbows and he wants him to focus on the color Purple. I don’t see the over-the-top evilness he spoke about either (unless he was commenting on the cannibalistic religious approach?) These kind of things and off-group behavior happen a lot in Third World countries, and I live in one…so I know firsthand. Again you he focuses on Black, and it can be any Color/Race/Sexual Orientation/Gender, etc.

    He also didn’t do his research either. http://www.mnuspreadslies.com/

    He didn’t know why are the aliens behaving violently, that they are forced into labor, that their population is controlled by enforced laws, they can’t even be absent from work at MNU facilities, they are tagged (if you noticed) and the regulations of these tags are quite similar to Nazi-Holocaust ones… He didn’t even know that they have both sexes (the Nigerian prostitution was a media scam, they didn’t need to have sex with other species). Christopher writes in his blog (this is all extra supplement to the film :) ) that they are sentient creatures who aren’t being given the opportunity; they aren’t even allowed to eat in the same places humans eat and are victims of all sort of prejudices from smell, to sound etc. It’s actually the humans who aren’t letting them go home in order to get hold of their alien technology… if they had access to the ship, Christopher would’ve been able to gather the fuel require to restart the engines…

    I just think that the movie went over his head.

    And he is calling out on ‘Black-racist’ (maybe he wants to get the next hip-hop 15-min star to hire him to do the music video) when in fact D9 calls THE WHOLE HUMAN RACE racist.

    the extra info is here:

    and on the opposite site, which you will find links in this one anyway.

    The director is pulling a bit of Donnie Darko. ;) (I don’t like Darko though!)

  127. Oz – thanks for the link. Ordinarily I am annoyed by a director adding extracurricular shit to a movie, but I guess here it’s OK, since it gives you a clue how he’s thinking about the aliens, and you don’t NEED to know it to enjoy/understand the thing.

    I’m glad all that shit wasn’t in the movie, though; the way the movie plays makes it ambiguous enough that although you can see that the fakeumentary is wrong about some things, you can’t really say for sure it’s wrong about everything (No prostitutes? Dang.). You can extrapolate your own reasons why the aliens act the way they do or just assume they humans can’t understand why they’re acting the way they are. And maybe most importantly, the ambiguity legitimately asks the viewer if they think the alien’s treatment might be justified under certain conditions. What if they really were banging earth chicks and living shiftless, lazy lives while rooting in filth, as the media claims? Does that mean apartheid would be justified? The ambiguity also makes it much easier to see, as you point out, that the “Aliens” are a metaphor for all “others” not just oppressed African groups. The more specific you get, and the more obvious you make it that the humans are just selfish bullies, the less salient this point becomes. I mean, duh, if the humans have basically kidnapped them and forced them into slave labor, the moral is so obvious its kind of boring. If all you see in the movie are the little glimpse into the situation that Wickus gets, then things get a little more nebulous and you’re forced to really ask yourself what about this situation is wrong and how it ended up this way.

    I find it very interesting to find out what Blomkamp was thinking, but I’m glad he kept it out of the movie and when I go back to watch it I probably won’t consider it cannon. You know, like how George Lucas says Han was living on Wookie-world while Yoda was there, but until I actually see it on screen I refuse to consider something so stupid actual cannon. Usually your best bet is leaving things a little mysterious –which the movie does a great job of– while still providing enough information that you can mull it over and come to some kind of conclusion. BTW, this is also why I’m really hoping they don’t do a sequel where they just spell everything out for you.

  128. I’ have to admit I was touched by the movie a lot. And the person I went to see it with saw that I was crying a bit… and couldn’t figure out why. And I was like “didn’t you get it?”.

    I went to see the movie without even knowing what it was about, hadn’t seen any trailers, nothing. Just the poster with the ship, which lead me to have “another spaceship movie… ah well… beat watching tv at home at the moment”. And I ended up pleasantly surprised.

    Then I kept discussing the movie and I was questioned about the loose ends. But I had deducted the same conclusions I later confirmed during the movie.

    The key elements to me were: Why aren’t they using the weapons to fight back?, and Wikus has to practically order Christopher to use the gun against humans. Why don’t they have access to the ship and they have to scavenge for ship materials to distill fuel? When Christopher saw his dead friend at the laboratory MNU facility and was heartbroken… the intelligence displayed by his/her son. The whole turn of perspective when Wikus escapes death from the facility- when it stopped being a filmed documentary- this also blends in a bit when you first encounter the character of Christopher, the little one, and the friend that dies- The prostitution thing was/is probably a sham since I doubt they would have any use for human sex, and considering they have their particular reproductive system… (I was also staring like “um how do they fuck then?”. Then I disregarded the in-film gossip when they published the fake photoshoped photos of Wikus having “sex”. Little clues here and there… that you won’t catch if you aren’t paying too much attention.

    Then I came home to research on the film and surfed the official site and Christopher blog and … got even more depressed LOL

    I think the movie is cleverly done in every way. And yes, I would be reacting very violently to humans too, given the conditions they are forcing the aliens to live in in which they don’t even have potable water and electricity, etc. It’s worse than the middle ages…

    It’s fun, you will get whatever you can get from it depending on your maturity and capacity too… and intellectual level and empathy. Some got loads of fun with weird looking aliens and mecha-warrior suits, and mutating and laser beams; and others got the whole Human-rights discourse, even a slight reference to Kafka, and the critique to discrimination due to alien status (see definition of alien above).

    It musn’t be underrated because it came in the guise of a scifi movie :) it’s quite deeper than just that.

  129. Agree completely. I personally think the thing is pretty damn near flawless. And one of the things I love about it is that its not going to just spell everything out for you. It leaves it to the viewer to read between the lines and decide what he or she thinks.

    Again, thats why the supplemental material was rightly left out of the final movie.

    What I worry about now is a sequel. Even a pretty good sequel just seems kind of needless. Like the PHANTASM or MATRIX sequels… you can argue about their merits all you want, but the problem at the end of the day is that they just tell you more about something best left mysterious. Adding more information doesn’t make it more interesting, it just kills tha magic. STAR WARS prequels and everything. The story is complete as it is. All you can do is make it bigger and more explicit.

    That’s why I’m starting the DON’T BE DON CORSCARELLI movement. They guy’s freakin awesome, but in-between original classics, he’s wasted decades making unnecessary sequels and now he seems to just want to keep doing it (with more BUBBA HO-TEPS). Dude, its fine the way it is! Come up with another new idea for God’s sake, every time you do our asses get rocked.

  130. Hi, the whole thing is going fine here and ofcourse every one is sharing facts, that’s truly
    excellent, keep up writing.

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