Eminem’s Cypher is a Demonstration of How Much Racism Still Exists

This is going to be a short post because I think the point is a pretty clear one. Let me start by saying, though, that I’m am not criticizing Eminem’s cypher. In fact, I rather enjoyed it. I thought it was powerful, and some of the bars were pretty wicked.

The great tragedy about Eminem’s cypher is that it is a clear indication that a single white man’s voice will continue to be leader than the collective voices of black Americans across the nation. For decades, black rappers have rapped about political issues. They’ve criticized presidents and other politicians. They’ve continued to write passionately about the challenges of racism, disenfranchisement, and police brutality. The music and lyrics have been an outpouring of the emotions of a population that has long suffered overt and covert forms of oppression.

This rap, by black artists, has largely been met with derisive resistance. Despite the popularity of certain artists, there has been a resistance and criticism of their work in equal measure. Despite all this noise, there has been stark attention paid to the political relevance of rap produced by black artists.

Eminem does one political rap, though, and it’s everywhere. I’m glad he did it; I’m glad it was loud and widely publicized. But let’s not forget that it still took a white man to make black voices heard, while the black voices stood silently in the background.

Still Great, Despite Jennifer Lawrence – Review of mother!

Warning Some Spoilers Ahead!

Is it the best movie ever made? No, certainly not. But, is it a risk that pays off and creates a unique piece that is engrossing, confusing, and enlightening at the same time? Yes, definitely. There are a lot of reviews out about this movie, and it seems to have caused a big stir. Generally, it seems like people either hate it vehemently, or absolutely love it. Fortunately, as human beings, we are capable of having balanced reactions to things that don’t have to be on one extreme or the other. So here’s a review from somebody who thought the movie was quite good, but not earth shattering.

The Good

The Symbolism – The movie will tickle your intellectual fancy. If you’re a fan of religious symbolism or allegorical pieces, you’ll enjoy this film. There are plenty of moments that will make you go, “Oh, I know what that is!” and give you a little self gratification at how intelligent and observant you are. There are fun interpretations of Biblical narratives like the story of Cain and Abel, and the birth of the Messiah. The representations are quite obvious and in your face for the most part, so you’d have to be pretty dense or uninformed to miss the big ones. The setting and environment showcase the intricacies of mother earth pretty well too. The disrepair of the home, the bright fields and forest outside, and the isolation of the setting add some striking visual thematic elements. Not only that, the film concludes by showing that love is the seed of all creation, which is a pretty beautiful way to wrap things up. Does God have to repeatedly destroy everything to draw the love out of people because He is never satisfied? Sure, but still, ya know, love is great and what not.

Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Kristen Wiig – Pfeiffer does a remarkable job playing an interpretation of Eve that has her as an invasive house guest who is far too inquisitive. This character also does a great job of pitting Bardem (representing God/the Creator) against Lawrence (mother earth). She is clearly ensconced in vice as well, which adds an additional dimension to the character. Adam and Eve, despite the strict instructions of mother, go to the chamber with the seed of creation (forbidden fruit) and destroy it. After that, they descend into sin, and Pfeiffer does an excellent job incorporating all the different parts of her character into one body. It’s a joy to watch.

Bardem, as usual, delivers a stunning performance. He plays a version of the creator seeking inspiration for his next creation. He becomes the subtle antagonist, putting his creation through recurring terrible ordeals so that he can deliver himself from “writer’s block.”

Kristen Wiig is a nice surprise in the movie. She enters as Bardem’s publisher, spurring on his adoring fans. She adds a nice breath of comic relief just from her presence. It’s a good cameo that I didn’t expect, but which added a welcome reprieve form the otherwise continuous gloom of the film.

The Bad

The Pace – The exposition of the Cain and Abel story, in my opinion, took a bit too long. There were some unnecessarily lengthy sequences that could have been shortened. It’s not a huge deal, but the movie did draw on a little bit in the beginning.

Jennifer Lawrence – Lawrence is a terrible casting choice for this film, and she delivers a severely underwhelming performance. Her character only seems to show emotion when it’s absolutely required. Otherwise, her performance is dead, inside and out, and rather reminiscent of what she was like in the Hunger Games films. This film demands dynamic and real emotion. Lawrence is supposed to be mother earth reacting to a continuously changing and strenuous environment, yet she manages to capture none of the subtlety of the changing tides, none of the gentle caress of the breezes, or the vigor of earthquakes. Her portrayal of the mother is one dimensional and, quite frankly, amateurish. The only time we really see anything come out of her is when she has to scream or react violently. But any dime a dozen horror movie white girl can scream on camera. And even those scenes fall somewhat dead, with Lawrence failing to convey real visceral anguish.

I don’t necessarily think it’s her fault, though. There are so many actresses who would have been better suited for the role. Not just to fight the whitewashing in Hollywood, but as a genuine casting choice, I think a choice like Rosario Dawson, Lupita Nyong’o, or even Halle Berry would’ve been so much better. Not only are they all far superior actresses to Jennifer Lawrence, but it would’ve been great if God didn’t create only white people.

Overall

The movie is great as a whole. It is an artistic film, and something uniquely engaging. The symbolism is stimulating, and the plot is captivating. Some of the actors deliver exceptional performances that add a lot to the film. You should see it for all those reasons.

Unfortunately, Jennifer Lawrence really makes this film much worse than it should be. It’s tragic that she is the centerpiece of what is an otherwise beautifully conceived piece of art.

For The Horde! – Review of Warcraft

warcraftmovie

I haven’t posted a movie review in ages, but this particular one is definitely warranted because of all the hate the movie is getting online.

I watched the film tonight, and I thought it was fantastic. Then, I went on the internet and drank a big ol’ jug of haterade that was thrown at me from all the reviewers. Most of the criticisms of this film are that it doesn’t really make sense, and that it doesn’t have any of the hallmarks of a blockbuster Hollywood films with similar settings. There’s no quippy humor, no extended intense dialogue, etc…

Here’s the deal folks; the movie was made for Warcraft fans. If you don’t have an understanding of the lore, then most of the film will seem like random plot points without any explanation. The word Stormwind doesn’t mean anything to you? Can’t identify the fishy thing in the pond as a Murloc? Don’t already know what Gul’dan’s motivation is? Then you probably shouldn’t watch the movie. You will be asking yourself too many questions to understand, let alone enjoy, the ridiculously immersive experience that this movie is meant to be. The movie doesn’t engage in what is, in my opinion, the completely unnecessary labor of explaining a tremendous amount of background to make the film appealing to all audiences. It just doesn’t bother. It seems to me that most of the reviewers writing about the movie had a very rudimentary knowledge of the Warcraft universe, if any knowledge at all.

If you are a fan, though, this movie is a must see, not only because it’s great on its own, but because you can totally geek out in anticipation of what will hopefully be many more to come. The visual effects are nothing short of revolutionary, reifying what would otherwise be completely fantastic characters. Everything from the costume design to the glorious aerial shots of Stormwind are near perfection. There are criticisms of the dialogue online, but I thought that was great as well. It lacked all the typical epic fantasy film tropes that we’ve come to expect from Hollywood. This is Warcraft; it should be different. Almost every part of the movie is a remarkable triumph.

I say almost because there are some criticisms to be made. The non-orc actors didn’t have the greatest performances. Fimmel’s and Foster’s performances were both quite underwhelming. I didn’t feel Medivh’s raging internal struggle, and Lothar’s heartbreak at the death of his son seemed pretty half baked. The orcs, though, were excellent. The second criticism, although maybe this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, is that the movie wanted me leaving more. It should’ve been 3 hours and stuffed a lot more delightful Warcraft-ness into the package. I didn’t really want it to end, and my geek taste buds have been left wanting more.

In short, if you’re a fan, don’t believe the negativity you’re reading online, and go watch the movie. If you’re not a fan, don’t bother; chances are you won’t enjoy it anyway.

Nothing is Off Limits in Comedy, and Here’s Why

In the face of Ferguson, a newly awoken fervor in feminism, and other social and political goings on in this country, I think it’s important to talk about our capacity as human beings to laugh at everything that happens to us and around us. I’d like to take a moment to talk about why comedy is important to us as people and as a society, and why no subject, no matter how offensive or painful you may find it, is off limits to be the subject matter of a joke.

I’d like to begin by inviting a cogent explanation for why certain topics should be taboo. I’ve asked many people, and the response has always ultimately boiled down to certain subjects being offensive. Offense is not a unique attribute to subjects when they’re used in comedy. Political criticism is offensive to those receiving it. If you don’t believe me, just watch one day of Fox News coverage. Discussing racism in its truest forms can be offensive to many members of the white majority….or even racists. If offensiveness of a subject is the metric for what can and cannot be openly discussed, then our conversations would devolve into nothingness, and in fact, they’re beginning to do just that. The discourses prevalent in the public media are evidence of that.

We live in an age in which political correctness is given undue value. Political correctness does nothing to advance our understanding and respect of one another. It just makes us feel like we’re doing something good. If you don’t use the word gay inappropriately but are still slightly homophobic, your language adjustment means nothing. Political correctness is the carpet under which we sweep real issues and feelings. It is the most widely used lubricant for the ever increasing moral masturbation that exists in today’s world. Tolerance and respect are only practiced in their true forms if one understands and accepts another belief system as acceptable. Otherwise, they are no different than the weakest forms of moral relativism.

So what about comedy makes it all inclusive? Comedy is unique and uniquely powerful. Unlike any other form of human discourse, comedy has the ability to expose the social and psychological ailments that plague society because it strikes at a uniquely human experience of humor. No other animal on the planet has the capacity to elevate comedy to the level humans do. No other animal can make fun of itself, or other members of its community, using language. No other animal can cognitively assess the ironic contradictions that typify its existence and communicate them. And yet, we continuously seek to stifle this fundamental part of our being.

Richard Pryor, Tracy Morgan, Eddie Murphy, Dave Chappelle, and Robin Williams are just a few comedians who consistently pushed the envelope of what could be considered comedy. Because they pushed these boundaries, they remain icons not only of comedy but of social attitudes. The remain figures who were unafraid to take a real look at the reality that surrounded them and all the absurdities of that reality. They were, and live on to be, artists who examined racism, mental health, sexuality, and other prevalent issues when others were shying away from having conversations about them.

Nothing is off limits in comedy, nor should it be. This doesn’t mean that you have to find it funny. What you must do, however, is recognize the incredibly powerful and fundamentally human nature of comedy and respect its infinite bounds. Political correctness and limiting humor are destructive forces. They shield us from the pain we must experience to truly understand the terrible things we perpetuate so that something can be done about them. Humor brings us closer to ourselves, and the only reason you would limit that, is if you’re afraid to learn who you really are.

“Yeah Buddy!” – A Psychological Analysis of the Cast of Jersey Shore

Jersey Shore

I love Jersey Shore. It is an absolutely terrible show, but it is unendingly hilarious, and the characters absolutely fascinate me. I’m one of those people that likes to look beyond the surface and check out what’s really going on. Today is the season finale of this season, so I decided to share my thoughts about the people on the show. This post contains my opinion on some of the inner workings of the members of the hit television phenomenon, Jersey Shore.

1. Mike “The Situation”  – Mike is obviously the Loki of the group. That being said, he also seems to be the most insecure man in the bunch. He constantly causes ruckus: telling lies about people, sharing secrets he shouldn’t, etc… He has a drive to create drama and trouble no matter the repercussions. In my estimation, he has a conflict within himself that he is trying to find resolution for. Maybe he had a terrible relationship with his mother, or maybe he had an ex-girlfriend that broke his heart. Maybe he has unresolved feelings for Snooki; at least that’s what the show would like you to believe. On some level, the situation isn’t under control. Something continually nags at him to be fixed, and that nagging translates to all kinds of conflicting situations in his life. This leads him to be dishonest and hurt the people around him. It may even be that he is unintentionally trying to recreate the conflict scenario that is causing him so much pain to begin with. He constantly needs attention, but he doesn’t understand why, and he feels lonely when he doesn’t get it. Yet, he refuses to accept the reality that his own actions are what alienate people and cause him to be alone in the first place.

2. Ronnie – Ronnie is from the Bronx, but he’s not a typical Bronx macho man. I suspect that he was never a social leader in high school or after. He was likely the “third wheel” for a good amount of the social interactions in his life, or the one bro who never really fit in with the rest. He is big, but his confidence doesn’t match his stature. Ronnie is probably the happiest in the group, even though it may not seem like it because of his constant fighting with Sammi and his recent altercation with Mike. He is just happy to have found people in his life that he can consistently call his “friends.” He clings to Sammi because she is the first girl in his life who has treated him as her first choice and has shown a willingness to devote herself to him. He is probably not in love with Sammi, but rather in love with being in love. All this is demonstrated by his tendency to “swack” his fellow cast mates and his over the top dance moves at every club he ever goes to. Ronnie is finally in with the cool crowd, has a hot girlfriend, and is very content with it all. Although, he was only recently included in MVP to form MR. VP.

3. Vinny – Vinny is a family man. He feels a void in his life, and he can’t fill it with partying, drinking, or having lots of shallow sex. If you notice, Vinny is the one guy who is never shown consistently bringing home a girl to get it in. He won’t turn down a smush opportunity when it’s presented to him, but he doesn’t actively try to game women on the regular. He is an old fashioned romantic in the end. Vinny loves his mother, and he misses his life at home on Staten Island. He wants the comforts of a family life, and he is yearning for a quality woman to settle down with. That being said, he is surprisingly accepting. He is not judgmental of the other members of the house, and he’s always available to lend a nurturing word. He tries to recreate a strong family vibe among his house mates, and he becomes very disappointed when he fails. This is the reason Ronnie and Sam’s fights bother him more than they bother the others. He is genuinely affected by them because those conflicts are a direct threat to that family comfort he so ardently desires.

4. Pauly D. – Pauly is obsessive and meticulous. He is from Rhode Island, and probably comes from a wealthy background. He has never really had to deal with a great degree of responsibility in his life, though that is not unique to him. He focuses a disgusting amount of attention on his appearance, and that is likely because he needs something to devote his time to. He is not intelligent or capable enough to do anything outside of the club domain, so he focuses on his appearance and being a DJ. He is unambitious, and his lack of movement will catch up to him sooner or later. Though he is content with where he is at now, I suspect he will become bored with his life fairly soon and seek other avenues to channel his energies. Things have likely just fallen in his lap throughout his life, and he doesn’t really know what it is to earn something. Pauly will probably learn this lesson quickly and harshly.

5. Jenni “JWOWW” – Jenni is the most “normal” person on the show, though I hate using the word normal. She realizes how stupid the show is, and she realizes that the entire country is laughing at them. She doesn’t really care though. She’s in it for the money. She is getting paid lots of money for putting up with a group of ignorant irresponsible people, and she doesn’t really mind. She probably just does whatever the producers tell her too, and that’s likely the reason she has become the “big sister” on the show, regularly taking care of Snooki and defusing other conflicts in the house. Not to mention, she provides great eye candy with her giant chest. She is not a shallow person, and she isn’t fickle either. She knows what she wants out of life, and she knows how to take advantage of situations to achieve her goals. She appears to care about Snooki and other members of the house, though I suspect she cares a lot less than the show demonstrates.

6. Sammi “Sweetheart” – To me, Sammi is the most uninteresting of the house mates. She is a typical modern girl. She is somewhat intelligent, probably has a bachelor’s degree, or if not, is working on one. She will likely lead an average middle class life, working in an office somewhere. She enjoys partying and going out, but she isn’t a “partier,” so to speak. She probably keeps in touch with her family, and she has a tendency to over-dramatize her relationships, turning them into something they aren’t. I’m not quite sure about precisely how invested she is in Ronnie, but I am hesitant to say that she is actually completely in love with him, especially since her feelings really come out in full force only when she is drunk. There really isn’t much else to say about Sammi.

7. Snooki – I absolutely hate Snooki. She is an unattractive, stupid, spoiled little brat. She is the textbook definition of daddy’s little girl who was never disciplined and got whatever she asked for if she just cried a little. She has no tact and no class because she has never had any responsibility in her life. She is sloppy, regularly revealing herself in public environments and becoming uncontrollably inebriated even more regularly. She misses her daddy, and hates feeling helpless, which is why she becomes so broken after losing Jionni and after hitting a police officer’s vehicle in Italy. She doesn’t know anything about anything, and the last time she probably read a book was elementary school. She sometimes slips into insecurity, worrying about how people perceive her, but she eventually recovers and gets lost in living her life. This recovery usually happens through the consumption of a large amount of alcohol. Recently, Snooki has become antagonistic toward her house mates because they try to take care of her at every turn. What she doesn’t realize is that her own actions precipitate this desire in her house mates. Daddy has taken care of everything for her throughout her life, and she is incapable to doing things on her own. So, her house mates need to step in to take of the little girl.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say about that. I’m looking forward to the season finale tonight; it should be a good one.

Movie Night – Super 8

I was all kinds of excited for this movie. Spielberg and Abrams on the same project? That has epic written all over it. I didn’t expect the film to be Oscar-worthy or anything, but I did expect it to be entertaining and captivating. I didn’t expect to be bored, and I expected it to live up to the hype.

The movie was almost exactly what I expected. It was suspenseful, funny in the right ways at the right moments, and full of action. It had a young teenage romance to add a something little extra to it as well. Super 8 features a group of young friends filming a movie to enter into a film contest. One night they are at the train tracks filming when a train crashes and chaos ensues. The train crash is followed by the disappearances of people’s belongings and beloved pets, along with the disappearances of several people as well.

I won’t give away anything else, but I will say that the movie is worth watching. Though there are no crazy plot twists, and most of it is pretty expected and straight forward, it is definitely a good popcorn movie. The acting is good, particularly by the main character, and the character development of the children is adorable, and it feels very real. The film isn’t sophisticated, but most should be able to relate to it, except for the whole train crash and otherworldly creature thing.

One last note, if you’re a fan of Stephen King, as I am, you should love this movie. It has King written all over it, and the film is very reminiscent of a plot line that the famous author would develop.

Love Bites – The Best Show About All Things “Relationshippy”

Love Bites (NBC)I don’t like a lot of modern shows that address issues about relationships, sexuality, and such things. Most of them are inaccurate or they dramatize real issues in a way that gives people a false representation of reality. Shows like Glee, Secret Life of the American Teenager, and even Grey’s Anatomy pretend like they have a grasp on what it means to interact with people in a real and complicated way (I will grant that some shows are better quality than others). While such shows can be entertaining and appeal to large audiences, they do a great disservice to the American public. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy such television shows. They are entertaining and fun to watch, but it troubles me that there are a lot of people with whom these shows resonate emotionally, when they really shouldn’t. They are usually, if not always, biased and shallow, and they are designed and written to sell. Again, there is nothing really wrong with that because the purpose of these television programs is to entertain.

I have been hard pressed, however, to find a program that is both entertaining and sophisticated when dealing with these issues. Finally, NBC has managed to put on the air a show that I think is nearly perfect in its approach to relationships. Love Bites is a new program that airs Thursday nights on USA, and it offers a refreshing a witty approach to the complicated interactions with others we all face in our lives. It is witty and charming, not unlike the films Love Actually and Valentine’s Day. It pans out in segments, focusing on different types of relationships, interactions, and people. It addresses issue like homosexuality, sex, and commitment, among many others. Granted, it has only aired two episodes, but I am already in love with it. It does not sacrifice accuracy and in depth commentary for entertainment and cheaply written lines. The acting is surprisingly good, and the writing is fresh and colorful. It is exactly what I’ve been looking for in a TV show about all things “relationshippy,” and I sincerely advise everyone to check it out.

A Night At The Movies: Kung Fu Panda 2 and The Hangover 2

Last night I went to Regal Cinemas at Severance Town Center with a good buddy of mine to watch the sequels to Kung Fu Panda and The Hangover, two of my favorite movies. I was expecting a night filled with laughter and hilarity, but these films exceeded all my expectations. It is rare that a sequel even matches the quality of the original, but in my opinion, both of these sequels exceeded the quality of their predecessors. I warn you, there are some spoilers in my commentary, so you may not want to read it if you haven’t seen the movies.

The first Kung Fu Panda is my favorite modern animated film (nothing will ever beat the classic Lion King). I enjoyed it because of its sophisticated philosophical content. It commented on identity issues which are relevant to most in some way or another. The voice acting and animation did a perfect job of conveying the precise emotions that we all feel when dealing with our parents, hopes and dreams, and those we admire. I feared that the second release would sacrifice this intricate emotional commentary in favor of humor and entertainment, which sequels tend to do because they are produced hastily and designed largely to make money. Kung Fu Panda 2 did add a great deal of humor and entertainment, though not at the sacrifice of everything I loved about the original film. The movie shows Po facing a new villain, Shen the Peacock. Shen was exiled from his childhood home by his parents, the peacock rulers of the kingdom, the kingdom to which Shen was heir. He has spent his life building a devastating weapon which will allow him, with his army of wolves serving him, to take back his throne and conquer the world. A soothsayer (an old sassy goat) had predicted that Shen will be defeated by a warrior of black and white, and so Shen had decided to attack and exterminate all the pandas. This plot line leads us to discover Po’s true origins because, shockingly enough, the goose is not his real father. The movie is action packed and hilarious. Not only that, Shen’s emotional construct is intricate and complicated, and it is revealed through great animation and voice acting. Po’s identity issues are devoted the same attention. Also, the movie isn’t terribly predictable or cliche. In fact, the ending was incredible and completely unexpected. I won’t tell you what happened, but it’s pretty clear that there will be a third film. The only criticism I have is that some of the new characters seemed forced, and did not have an adequate back story. This left a few holes in the plot which made it feel a bit incomplete. Aside from that, however, the movie was superb.

On to The Hangover 2. Absurdly funny is perhaps the most appropriate way to describe this movie. I can safely say it is the funniest movie I have ever seen, even more so than the first. The movie makes it perfectly clear from the beginning that the viewer is in for something unbelievably ridiculous. This movie finds “the wolfpack” journeying to Thailand for Stu’s wedding to a really hot Thai girl. The typical family issue of the asshole stepfather is present, but some brilliant writing makes it vibrant and different. Stu’s bride’s little brother, Teddy, is the new character of focus in the film. He is a 16 year old Stanford pre-med student, and Alan immediately takes a dislike to him, fearing that he may change the wolfpack forever. Alan makes a plan to spike a bag of marshmallows with muscle relaxant and ADHD medication and give them to Teddy, thereby knocking him out. Unfortunately,  two bags of marshmallows get switched, and the group of friends find themselves waking up in a shady hotel in Bangkok, completely unaware of what happened the night before. Teddy is missing, and his severed finger is found in a bowl of water in the room, along with a monkey wearing a vest. The rest of the film includes the monkey giving Mr. Chou oral sex, Phil getting shot, Stu having sex with a Thai transvestite, and much much more. I cannot say anything bad about this movie. It is unerringly creative and unpredictable in its story line. Every twist is unexpected, and every moment throughout the film is gut wrenchingly funny. If you don’t think this movie is funny, something is clearly wrong with you. Enough said.