Amoeblog

Black Cinema Part III - the TV age and beyond

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 15, 2010 12:42pm | Post a Comment
This is the first installment in a three part history of early Black Cinema.
To read Part I, covering the independent Race Movie years of the 1910s and '20s, click here
To read Part II, covering the Hollywood Studio years of the 1930s and '40s, click here



In American silent films, minority roles were almost invariably filled by white actors in exaggerated and offensive make-up. Latinos in silent films usually played greasers and bandits; Asian-Americans usually played waiters, tongs and laundrymen; and blacks usually played bellboys, stable hands, maids or simply "buffoons." Not surprisingly, both Asian-Americans and blacks responded by launching their own alternative silent cinemas. But whereas Asian-American Silent Cinema quickly faltered, silent, black "race movies" flourished. In the 1930s and '40s, Hollywood began to phase out the practice of blackface (while continuing the practice of redface and yellowface) and successfully wooed race movies' sizable and thus profitable audience. By the 1950s, with its enormous budgets and star power, Hollywood had effectively co-opted and destroyed the independent Black Cinema known as race movies. The result was that there were far fewer examples of Black Cinema in the decade. In the years that followed, as TV chipped away at film’s dominance, a few black actors began appearing on the small screen in shows like Beulah (1950-1953) and The Amos 'n Andy Show (1951-1953) which, whilst hardly socially progressive, at least offered more acting opportunities for black actors.

 

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"...And the hangover goes to...!"

Posted by Job O Brother, September 28, 2009 12:59pm | Post a Comment

Hello, Earthlings! I have returned after being ill for the past week. I’m still not at 100%, but can at least sit at my computer without succumbing to vertigo and mistaking my iTunes for an episode of Battlestar Gallactica.

It’s all the fault of the 2009 Emmy Awards. Yes it is! I’ll explain…


The boyfriend and I were (again) invited to attend the HBO Emmy Award after-party. As he considered which of his designer suits to don, I sifted through the post-punk, vintage mess that is my wardrobe, desperately trying to Frankenstein something passable to wear, grateful that most people at industry parties are too self-absorbed to notice me at all.

Once we got there we took our place in line in the underground garage that served as a holding tank for men and women dressed to the nines. (Front entrance was limited to red-carpet types.) Cramped into lines of two and everyone decked-out fancy, it looked as though we were about to be slaughtered in the most glamorous concentration camp ever.

We made it in.


Now, there’s a reason why I love going to the HBO after-party. Normally, I would eschew going to industry parties in favor of getting my fingernails torn out or having bedtimes stories read to me by Carol Channing. The HBO party is an exception to this rule because it is kind of awesome.

First off, the design is always impressive. Every year is themed. This year's theme was less obvious but no less magical. If I had to guess, it was some kind of meshing of the gardens of the Queen of Hearts from Alice’s Adventures Through the Looking Glass, the country of Japan, and vampires. The boyfriend noted that, since True Blood is one of HBO’s successes right now, the latter element makes sense.


As heavily made-up maidens danced with parasols on raised stages to harp and tabla transcriptions of chart-topping 80’s pop songs (Baroque renditions of Bon Jovi, anyone?) the boyfriend and I made our way through the mazes of Godiva chocolate bars and Blackberry-hypnotized publicists to the cocktails.

Which is where our story takes a turn for the worse.

The boyfriend opted to try the specially crafted house cocktail for the night, which was some – and please excuse me but there really is no better word for it – faggy concoction of fruit liqueurs and vodka which ended up tasting like Kool-Aid flavored with batteries, while I played it safe (oh, irony) and ordered a dirty martini.

Next we got in line for the food buffet where I jockeyed for rare slices of filet mignon against Sally Field who, turns out, is quite adept with a steel fork.

Our plates piled high, the boyfriend and I found an empty table near the temporary fountain where the plus-ones of celebrities like to smoke reefers.

Having been naively seduced into selecting food simply because it advertised “…with shaved truffles,” I tried tiny bites of many dishes, sadly learning that no amount of thinly-sliced Tuber melanosporum can save a scallop that’s been sitting on a hot-plate since 1994. What can I say? I’m the most adventurous foodie I know and am willing to give anything a shot, but there’s a reason why puréed broccoli laced with butterscotch and stuffed into candied shrimp with caper and unseeded-cotton sauce is rarely served.

As a result of the conceptually intriguing but ultimately unpalatable food, I ate next to nothing while continuing on with my second dirty martini of the evening, finding new appreciation for the delicious simplicity of a green olive.

You can see where this is going, right?

The boyfriend and I went on a walkabout, thrilling in brushing against a gorgeous and scowling Shirley MacLaine, or laughing with our friend Clark, who was a deer-in-headlights, being some eight yards from his celebrity crush, Sigourney Weaver, or appreciating David Cross giving the right-away to whomever in the thick people traffic as he held two drinks, dressed less for the Emmys and more for Tuesday night poker with the guys.

Amidst all this celebrity sighting, I made occasional stops at any of the plentiful open bars to order a new dirty martini until, without realizing it, I had consumed five of them.



Now, if you were to take the amount of booze in five martinis and put it into one glass and told me to drink it, I’d tell you you’re out of your [word that makes baby Jesus cry] mind, but apparently if you split that same alcohol into five separate, cone-shaped bowls placed upon stems above flat bases – hey, ho, let’s go!

I don’t remember leaving the party. I don’t remember getting home. I don’t remember carrying my cat around the house and showing him the tops of doors and explaining to the boyfriend, “He likes to see the tops of doors!” I don’t remember insisting on watching a documentary on Harriet Tubman, only to pass out on the sofa five minutes into it. I don’t remember the boyfriend having to literally push me up the stairs while I complained “Push harder! Faster!” I don’t remember sitting in front of the toilet and listening to Boudewijn de Groot


…and I don’t remember filling the toilet with slightly digested, dirty martinis with shaved truffles. I don’t remember being tucked into bed by my patient boyfriend and I don’t remember my last words being a whiny complaint that “people don’t use puppets to their full advantage… puppets could be so cool…!”

I don’t remember these things, but they happened, and I heard all about them the next afternoon when I woke-up.


Having obliterated my immune system with a flood of dry vermouth, it’s unsurprising that I caught a cold. And let me tell you kids, having a cold in the middle of an L.A. heat-wave is a stupid and gross affair. It’s not easy when your stomach wants chicken soup and all you can manage is a Diet Coke. I even called in sick that Thursday, so those of you who came to Amoeba Music Hollywood that day, hoping for helpful suggestions on which soundtracks would be best for your step-daughter’s bat mitzvah, I apologize.

It had been 15 years since I drank so much I puked, when my dear friend Sadie looked after me and made sure I didn’t die like Jimi Hendrix, a kindness for which I thanked her by drunkenly punching her face as she laid me to bed. (I will be apologizing to Sadie for the rest of my life for that.) Hopefully it will be at least that much time before I re-learn how un-sexy a thing it is to get alcohol poisoning.

Anyway, that’s the sordid truth behind my failure to blog the last week. But I’m back, I’m sober, and ready for more Amoeblog. Thank the gods.

Asteroids in animation, games, movies & television

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 30, 2009 04:26pm | Post a Comment
Asteroids have capitivated the imagination ever since rocks first looked into the heavens and asked, "Are we alone?" The entertainment industry has shown asteroid fields to be a place to hone your space navigation skills and target shooting and rogue asteroids as hell-bent on destroying humankind. As far as threats go, to me the gigantic, silent, soulless killing machines arouse a similar fear to that inspired by sharks. And now, as announced in the Hollywood Reporter earlier this month, Universal has acquired the rights to the classic Atari game and plans on adapting it into film. Matt Lopez (Race to Witch Mountain and Bedtime Stories) pitched the idea and found himself at the center of a bidding war between four studios. From Wing Commander and Double Dragon to House of the Dead and Hitman, films adapted from video games are generally quite good.


Although the chart above shows the existence of many real life asteroids, the entertainment industry almost always portrays fictional or just un-named space rocks.
 
ASTEROIDS IN COMPUTER & VIDEO GAMES

     
Final Fantasy IV   

The aformentioned Asteroids is the best known example of a game focusing on asteroids. Descent, The Dig, Final Fantasy IV, Homeworld, Millenium 2.2 and The Orion Conspiracy all feature un-named or fictional asteroids to various degrees.

ASTEROIDS IN ANIMATION

   

Danny Phantom's "Phantom Planet,Futurama's "Love & Rocket," and the anime Metal Armor Dragonar (Kikō Senki Doragunā) have all got some asteroids in 'em too.

ASTEROIDS ON TELEVISION


           

In "The Wandering Asteroid" espisode of Space Patrol, the crew must destroy an asteroid on a collision course. On Star Trek's "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky," a group of aliens live on a spacecraft disguised as an asteroid. On Buck Rogers's “The Golden Man,” in the name of accuracy one of the crew at least points out the dense field is the densest he's seen. Red Dwarf features several references to asteroid mines, which are also mentioned on Battlestar Galactica's “Scar.” Although often described as a documentary, the BBC's depiction of a near catastrophe by the Pegasus spacecraft in Space Odyssey - Voyage To The Planets never actually happened. Stargate SG-1’s “Failsafe” features the common "Asteroid on a collision course" theme.  
 
ASTEROIDS IN MOVIES


             

In 2001 - A Space Odyssey, realistic asteroids are seen as Discovery One approaches Jupiter. The Green Slime, also from 1968, was slightly more fanciful. Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back followed Atari's depiction of asteroids as densely flying in all directions, randomly exploding and providing navigational challenges for space pilots. In Revenge of the Sith, Luke and Leia are born on an asteroid colony. In 1979, Ronald Neame had a go at the fadingly popular disaster genre with Meteor, which was about an asteroid, despite the title. Though nearly universally reviled, it was practically remade by the campily enjoyable Deep Impact and the truly inept, J.J. Abrams-penned Armageddon. A year earlier, Starship Troopers had featured aliens wiping out Buenos Aires with an asteroid weapon.


REAL ASTEROIDS IN FICTION

Although un-named, un-specified or otherwise imagined asteroids appear far more often on the screen than their real counterparts, the real-deal-asteroid-fields have nonetheless made appearances here and there.

Ceres, a dwarf planet located within the asteroid belt, is the subject of a separate blog.

 

Pallas was the second asteroid to be discovered, in 1802, by a German. It's named after Pallas Athena. One of the largest asteroids in the belt, it may contain 7% of its total mass. In “The Shrinking Spaceman” episode of Space Patrol (1962), there is a sonar beam transmitter located there.

asteroid 1997

Eros
was discovered in 1898 and was the first Near Earth Asteroid discovered. It's believed to be even more massive than the impactor that created the Chicxulub Crater in the Yucatán that wiped out the dinosaurs and led to the evolution of the Voth (as seen on Star Trek - Voyager). Eros was featured in the 1997 TV movie Asteroid.

   

Juno is named after Juno, "the one unique," the wife of Jupiter. It was originally considered a planet but is too small, although it may contain 1% of the entire mass of the asteroid belt. In Mobile Suit Gundam, it's relocated to Earth's orbit and renamed Luna².
 

Hygiea is named after the goddess of cleanliness, health and sanitation in the Greek religion. It's the fourth largest object in the asteroid belt and was discovered in 1849 by an Italian. It has thus far provided the setting of no known films, games, TV shows, &c. Hopefully it'll show up in Asteroids.

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(어떤 점에서 우리는 새우와 꿈을 읽어 보시기 바랍니다.)

Posted by Job O Brother, June 23, 2009 11:06am | Post a Comment

This should be enough to get me season 2 of Lost on Blu-Ray...

The first thing my boyfriend told me upon awakening this morning was this:

“I dreamed that… there was an Amoeba that sold shrimp. Like, instead of a music store, it was a place where you could go and sell your used shrimp and… they’d re-sell it to places like Iraq. Saddam was actually buying the shrimp, so I guess he was still alive. I got good money for it, too. Like, $112.40.”

Okay – there’s a lot to love about this dream, and needless to say I started my day with laughter, but I think my favorite element is not that Saddam was alive again and personally brokering shellfish trade with my favorite record store, or even that the concept of “used shrimp” is so utterly disgusting as to be hilarious, but the fact that, in his dream, my boyfriend received and remembered such a distinct trade quote: $112.40. Not bad for a bag of second-hand, decapod crustaceans, no?

This was just after we’d been woken by our iHome. For our alarm, I have a playlist filled with classical music pieces specifically selected as the least traumatic way to start the day. One of the best is this little gem…


If I had to name my top five favorite composers of all time, Claude Debussy would be one of them. If you thought the above piece was lovely, I cannot recommend his other chamber works enough. I mean, I love everything he wrote – but his chamber pieces are what really kill me dead. Come on in to Amoeba Music Hollywood sometime and I’ll hook you up. Your life will be so much the dreamier for it.


Claude Debussy
(What he lacked in normal shaped head he made up for in lovely tunes.)

In other news, I have finally finished writing my spec script and am preparing to enter it into a couple writer’s programs. Fingers crossed. Some of you may remember me mentioning this, and that the TV show I chose to base my script on was It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.

I love this show – enough that I’m always startled when I discover how many people still remain unaware of it. Perhaps because, in LA, we are inundated with billboards for it.

Because I am such a blockhead, I just now went on YouTube in search of clips of the aforementioned show to share with you, obviously forgetting that I already put myself through this. So, I am once again faced with offering you an alternative diversion...

Happy نوروز (Nowruz)

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 20, 2009 08:26am | Post a Comment
HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Today, for most observers (but tomorrow for others), is Persian New Year, variously and roughly anglicized as Navrus (Tajikistan), Nawroz (Afghanistan), Nevruz Day (Albania), Nooruz (Iran), Nov Ruz Bairam (Kyrgyzstan), Nauryz Meyrami (Kazakhstan) and Novruz Bayram (Azerbaijan). As with the Lunar New Year, which is often referred to in the media as the "Chinese New Year" (unintentionally marginalizing Koreans, Taiwanese and Vietnamese, who also celebrate the Lunar New Year), Nowroz is often referred to as the Iranian or Persian New Year. In President Obama's Nowruz address, he didn't make that mistake, although he did turn it into a fairly contrived address to the Islamic Republic.


Maz Jorbani on Axis of Evil Comedy Tour

IRAN VS PERSIA

Iran, though related to Persia, is not the same thing. The word Iran comes from Aryānām, literally, "Land of the Aryans." Other Aryan people (who also celebrate Nowruz) include Baloch, Kurds, Lurs, Ossettians, Pashtuns and Zazas. Thus, Nowruz is widely celebrated (in addition to the places already named) in Balochistan, Bosnia, the Caucasus, the Crimea, Iraq, Kashmir, Kosovo, Kuwait, Lebanon, Macedonia, Syria, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The term "Iranian," in contrast to "Persian," includes all people descended from Iran who are just as fully Iranian (at least on paper, though not necessarily in practice) such as Arabs, Armenians, Georgians, Jews and Kazakhs, who are probably less likely to celebrate Nowruz. Though most of Nowruz's celebrants practice Islam, its origins go back much further and the day is especially important to Zoroastrians, as well as Alawites, Alevis, Bahá'í, Ismailis, and other Central Asian people of various faiths. 

   


TEHRANGELES IN FILM, TV AND REALITY

Los Angeles is home to the largest group of Iranians outside of Iran, who make up large percentages of the populace of Woodland Hills and Encino and especially Tehrangeles (centered on Westwood Blvd between Pico and UCLA) and Beverly Hills. In fact, Beverly Hills High, with a 40% Persian student body, inspired the creators of 90210 to create a (lone) Persian character on the show, Navid Shirazi (played by 28-year-old Germanic/Latino actor Michael Mateus Steger). Before that, Clueless was probably the first film to acknowledge the presence of a large Persian populace on the west side. The film alluded to the "Persian mafia" who, it's explained one "can't hang with... unless you own a BMW or Mercedes Benz and a cellular phone," which at the time of its making in 1995, was much less common. Less insightful, but no less hilarious, was 2005's Crash, which made laughable attempts to address inter-ethnic relationships in an unrecognizable Los Angeles, with uninentionally side-splitting results.



NOWRUZ 2009/1388


I'm sure there's lots of stuff going on around Los Angeles, like this party, or you could go to a Persian restaurant. The best Nowruz film is Jafar Panahi's debut, the Abbas Kiarostami-penned The White Balloon (بادکنک سفيد), which long ago passed through Amoeba's doors on VCD. It's one of the best. Happy new year.

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