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Author Topic:   A Black Character . . . in a Woody Allen Movie?!
Billy Hoyle
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posted 03-08-2005 11:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Billy Hoyle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I just saw a trailer for Woody Allen's upcoming flick, Melinda and Melinda. I was floored to see a black face during the trailer! From what I can gather, Chiwetel Ojiofor (who some may have seen in a bit part in Love Actually) plays a New York dentist who's a love interest for Chloe Sevigny's character.

Allen's been infamous throughout his career for his bizarre monochromatic vision of New York and its people. Not only has he not had any black faces, but no Asians, Latins or Arabic either. (Hell, even in Mighty Aphrodite, with its thugs and pimps, everyone was white! It brought to mind Eddie Murphy's line on Saturday Night Live when Ron Howard was explaining that his first movie, Night Shift, was about two pimps, who were white. Murphy: "I don't know whether to hug you or punch you in the mouth.")

So Allen is definitely venturing into new territory here. I'm a moderate Allen fan (loved Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters -- but not much since then). I'd love to see him make this black dentist as multidimensional as his other characters. My fear is that he'll worry too much about being offensive, so the character'll be bland or, worse, exceedingly noble. Characters without an edge to them are never funny, or interesting.

[This message has been edited by Billy Hoyle (edited 03-08-2005).]

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dreamer
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posted 03-08-2005 12:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dreamer   Click Here to Email dreamer     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, the scandalously under-employed Hazelle Goodman played Allen's straight-talkin' "call girl" sidekick in the very good Deconstructing Harry (1997). There was also that terrific '30s-style "mammy" maid in the superb Bullets Over Broadway (1994) who always gave her dizzy employer, played to perfection by Oscar-nominated Jennifer Tilly, the kind of sassy grief unheard of in the actual films of the era.

It's kinda refreshing that Allen, unlike say Tarantino, doesn't believe he knows more about black folks than black folks do. (Spike Lee is guilty of the same with whites.) Allen's been pretty much honest about his generally limited (to movie characters, jazz heroes, ballplayers, hookers, service workers, ...etc.) point of reference in terms of black people.

Dirty Pretty Things' Ejiofor is such a sterling leading man type (in the Poitier upright tradition), and still not too high-priced to hire for a low-budget emsemble film, that I can see him fitting into Allen's universe fairly comfortably. Now if he'd hired Snoop Dogg ....

I don't think Allen's under any obligation (especially at his age) to present a world or set of characters he's unfamiliar with or not particularly interested in. His witty "take" on black folks and discrimination issues does run through all of his films, and its generally been respectful (within its humorous, satiric context). He's certainly been much more comfortable mocking Jews (and WASPS, to some extent), whose cultural peccadilloes he's much more knowledgeable about and clearly always been amused by.

(Of course, personally, he even named his kid "Satchel," after either, take your pick, the great pitcher Satchel Page or Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong. An unfortunate choice, as it turns out. I believe the name was changed by mom Mia later on.)

[This message has been edited by dreamer (edited 03-08-2005).]

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Billy Hoyle
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posted 03-08-2005 01:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Billy Hoyle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by dreamer:
Well, the scandalously under-employed [b]Hazelle Goodman played Allen's straight-talkin' "call girl" sidekick in the very good Deconstructing Harry (1997). There was also that terrfic '30s-style "mammy" maid in the superb Bullets Over Broadway (1994) who always gave her dizzy employer, played to perfection by Oscar-nominated Jennifer Tilly, the kind of sassy grief unheard of in the actual films of the era.

It's kinda refreshing that Allen, unlike say Tarantino, doesn't believe he knows more about black folks than black folks do. (Spike Lee is guilty of the same with whites.) Allen's been pretty much honest about his generally limited (to movie characters, jazz heroes, ballplayers, hookers, service workers, ...etc.) point of reference in terms of black people.

I don't think Allen's under any obligation (especially at his age) to present a world or set of characters he's unfamiliar with or not particularly interested in. His witty "take" on black folks and discrimination issues does run through all of his films, and its generally been respectful (within its humorous, satiric context). He's certainly been much more comfortable mocking Jews (and WASPS, to some extent), whose cultural peccadilloes he's much more knowledgeable about and clearly always been amused by.

[This message has been edited by dreamer (edited 03-08-2005).][/B]


Oh yeah, I forgot about Deconstructing Harry -- though it was a very forgettable flick. I never saw Bullets, so I'll take your word as to the quality of the movie and character -- but it's still really telling that, before this year, he's had two black characters over a 30-year directing career (with movies predominantly set in New York), and one of them was a "mammy."

I'm not saying Allen has any obligation to employ black characters. But there's a difference between an obligation and an opportunity, and when a director foregoes an opportunity multiple times, it's significant.

Take Seinfeld as an example. Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David built that sitcom around a group of neurotic Jews in New York, because that's the world they knew best. But the characters didn't exist in a vacuum. Over the course of the show, the main characters interacted with members of the whole spectrum (black, Asian, Arab, gay, lesbian, Christian, Muslim). Now, Seinfeld and David didn't HAVE to do that. Still, given the premise from which they started, it made sense, and the show was better for it.

As to Allen's "witty 'take' on black folks and discrimination issues," I have to no idea what that means. As I said, I'm more a fan of Allen's work from the '70s and '80s. As to those films, which I love, I saw NOTHING even remotely related to black folks or discrimination issues. (Unless you mean that the marginalization of being a Jew in WASP settings can be a metaphor for other types of discrimination. But that's pretty broad. That metaphor could apply to any group.)

Finally, I gotta stick up for my boy Quentin. I've never left a Tarantino movie with the impression that Q presumes to know more about black people than black people do. Rather, I've always come away marveling at his courage in depicting characters who may be authentic in parts and inauthentic in others. Sometimes he misses, but at least he's taking the risk. (Yeah, some folks wince whenever Q's characters pepper "n***a" into their dialogue. Well guess what, if hearing that word from a Q character bothers someone, but hearing it in a Singleton movie doesn't, that person's a hypocrite.)

Tarantino doesn't interweave black and Asian culture in his movies to make people feel good, or to be PC. He's doing it to make better movies. I just wonder how different (better?) Allen's oeuvre would be if he had thought the same way.

[This message has been edited by Billy Hoyle (edited 03-08-2005).]

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Billy Hoyle
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posted 03-08-2005 02:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Billy Hoyle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One other thing: when a director's had 2 major black characters in a 30-year career, and one's a hooker and the other's a mammy (and the white characters are generally highly educated, professional Upper East Siders), you don't have to be Freud to sense some major hang-ups not just based on race, but gender as well.

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dreamer
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posted 03-08-2005 07:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dreamer   Click Here to Email dreamer     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Billy Hoyle:
Oh yeah, I forgot about Deconstructing Harry -- though it was a very forgettable flick.

Actually, one of his recent best, full of some terrific surreal episodes and pointed introspection/self-criticism.

In reality, odds are that white men like him (or his character here) are far more likely to meet black women as hookers, strippers or service personnel than in any other way. Race wasn't presented as an issue in their amusing, refreshingly non-judgemental relationship, but it clearly provided an unspoken source of humor (and gave an effective comic edge) to their engaging, road trip adventure.

quote:
I never saw Bullets, so I'll take your word as to the quality of the movie and character -- but it's still really telling that, before this year, he's had two black characters over a 30-year directing career (with movies predominantly set in New York), and one of them was a "mammy."

He's had more than two black characters over the years (not that he needed to have any) and the "mammy maid" character was a knowing (and accurate) nod to the '30s film stereotype (as the film is set during that period), but without the trademark, shuffling subservience. Quite the opposite.

quote:
I'm not saying Allen has any obligation to employ black characters. But there's a difference between an obligation and an opportunity, and when a director foregoes an opportunity multiple times, it's significant.

I don't know what that "opportunity" was. I'm sure if he needed a black character to tell his story he would use one. Otherwise, why bother? His films aren't made for the masses and he doesn't need to pander (or be "PC") at the expense of his preferred storytelling.

quote:
Take Seinfeld as an example. Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David built that sitcom around a group of neurotic Jews in New York, because that's the world they knew best. But the characters didn't exist in a vacuum. Over the course of the show, the main characters interacted with members of the whole spectrum (black, Asian, Arab, gay, lesbian, Christian, Muslim).

Good grief. Bad example. The few black characters on that show came quite late in the game (while Asians were mostly restauranters) and the lone major one was a fairly egregious stereotype (of Johnny Cochran). Great show nonetheless, with a particular New York viewpoint. Certainly not intended to be an all-inclusive documentary.

quote:
Now, Seinfeld and David didn't HAVE to do that. Still, given the premise from which they started, it made sense, and the show was better for it.

Geez, David's Curb Your Enthusiasm couldn't be more bigoted or stereotypical towards it black (and ethnic) characters, totally reflecting his own character's narrow personal viewpoint. Which is fine. But if just putting blacks on your show, and then mocking them, is preferable to staying within familiar bounds. Well, no thanks.

Woody Allen has never treated black characters (or referred to blacks) in a particularly negative way. They've simply not been integral to the stories he's told. So what? He's not a "monument to justice" (to quote Nic Cage in Moonstruck).

He's also certainly had other ethnic characters appear in his films, when appropriate.

quote:
As to Allen's "witty 'take' on black folks and discrimination issues," I have to no idea what that means.

He's often made note of racism against blacks when making his pointed jabs at bigotry in general. Not that he had to.

quote:
As I said, I'm more a fan of Allen's work from the '70s and '80s. As to those films, which I love, I saw NOTHING even remotely related to black folks or discrimination issues.

Well, since those issues had nothing to do with his life, I would hope not (at least explicitly). But he has referenced black performers and artists in ways that clearly get the point across, if you're paying attention.

quote:
(Unless you mean that the marginalization of being a Jew in WASP settings can be a metaphor for other types of discrimination. But that's pretty broad. That metaphor could apply to any group.)

That notion is perfectly valid in its universal application (and particularly to American blacks who have a shared history with Jews). It's hardly just a metaphor. It's pretty straightforward. His consistent thematic presentation of WASP culture as bigoted and clueless, on certain levels, has probably been more effective than Spike Lee's attempts at the same.

quote:
Finally, I gotta stick up for my boy Quentin. I've never left a Tarantino movie with the impression that Q presumes to know more about black people than black people do.

Well, apart from the fact that all of his representations on screen of blacks are obviously influenced more from movies than real life, the fact is, ... he explicitly said so. Even said he knows (and understands) more about blacks than Spike Lee does. I guess that's because he's seen Coffy a few dozen times.

I like Quentin (and much of most of his films). But he's a delusional, arrogant sh*thead.


quote:
Rather, I've always come away marveling at his courage in depicting characters who may be authentic in parts and inauthentic in others.

Well, that's really interesting, given that virtually 100% of his major black characters have been criminals or low-lifes (which you seem to respect as his bold depiction of "realism") and yet you have a beef with Woody for presenting his brand of personal reality, which includes a far more humanized (and humor-ized), less exaggerated or one-sided view of blacks. He comments on racism and stereotyping. Quentin embraces it as a genre.

quote:
Tarantino doesn't interweave black and Asian culture in his movies to make people feel good, or to be PC. He's doing it to make better movies.

No, he does it because blaxploitation and kung fu flicks gave him a "woody" as a young man. It's not because he gives a hoot about blacks or Asians (as "real," not just movie-archtype, people). Otherwise he'd present them as something other than cartoons.

quote:
I just wonder how different (better?) Allen's oeuvre would be if he had thought the same way.

Thankfully, Allen's stuck to what he knows best. His oeuvre is just fine. Tarantino has a long way to go to match it. One day he may even make a movie about something other than other movies, maybe even involving real people. Don't think he needs to though. He should just keep doing what he does best (in any way he deems appropriate), ... as should Woody.

[This message has been edited by dreamer (edited 03-08-2005).]

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Billy Hoyle
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posted 03-08-2005 09:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Billy Hoyle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
(1) Woody can make flicks about upper-class white folks shopping at Zabar's and having brunch at Elaine's until he croaks, and that'd be fine. I just question whether his place in the pantheon of great living filmmakers isn't diminished by confining himself to such a narrow perspective.

Scorsese could've made movies about Italian mobsters forever, and no one would've said boo. But he's tested himself with tales that, culturally speaking, could've come from another planet: Age of Innocence, Kundun, The Aviator.

Same with Ang Lee. He went from quiet family dramas about middle-class Hong Kong families (Eat Drink Man Woman) to the American Civil War (Ride with the Devil) to wealthy WASPs in the Connecticut suburbs(The Ice Storm) to the Incredible goliath in the stretchable purple pants.

(The Hughes Brothers are the only black directors I can think of who've tried to broaden their horizons this way, with From Hell.)

Isn't this how directors truly prove their mettle?

(2) I don't believe Tarantino has ever said he knows all black people better than they know themselves. (If anyone can point me to a link, please do so.)

If he said that he knows black people better than Spike specifically, I would find that a dubious claim, but not one impossible to defend. (Did you see She Hate Me? What planet were THOSE characters from?)

But whose characters are "more real" is beside the point. Who cares? Whether there's ever been a gangster in the history of L.A. remotely like Jules from Pulp Fiction is meaningless. As long as that character wields a power both intellectual and visceral, then his existence is successful. Movies, like all art forms, don't have to mirror the real world; they only have to make us reevaluate how we see that world.

Tarantino's black thugs have very little basis in reality (a shame, really; if more criminals were like Jules, the world would be a more interesting place). Neither do John Grisham's incorruptible lawyers, Picasso's portraits or Spike Lee's female characters (who predominantly seem to be of a certain complexion and hair texture, but that's another story . . .). But if we walk away thinking and feeling differently, that disconnect from reality doesn't devalue the experience.

Taking this back to Woody, he's pretty much exhausted the colors on his palette. Maybe he realizes his sameness of approach has weakened his ability to reach audiences. That may explain this new Ejiofor character in Melinda and Melinda. Again, this black dentist may exist in a total parallel universe from every black person in the world. He could even punctuate his sentences with Yiddish exclamations (hey, that's not a bad idea). But if Woody, through that character, makes me laugh or tugs at my heart as Ejiofor falls for Chloe Sevigny, it'll be mission accomplished.

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Billy Hoyle
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posted 03-08-2005 09:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Billy Hoyle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
And Larry David's nonwhite characters on Curb Your Enthusiasm are hysterical. Especially the clueless gangsta rapper, Crazee Eyez Killah. That episode was one of the most searing, truthful satires of hip hop I've ever seen. And it all sprang from the brain of middle-aged, Jewish Larry David.

If David can do it, why not Woody?

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dreamer
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posted 03-08-2005 11:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dreamer   Click Here to Email dreamer     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Billy Hoyle:
And Larry David's nonwhite characters on Curb Your Enthusiasm are hysterical.

Really? The loud, obnoxious, man-hungry, recurring character that Wanda Sykes plays and a lame, badly-dated, stereotypical (white man's version) of a gangsta rapper? I thought that was one of his worst episodes. He's another one who should stick with what he knows.

quote:
If David can do it, why not Woody?

Why should Woody Allen direct/write films that you want (or that mimic Larry David, who was mediocre in film, by the way) rather than just do what he wants, at which he's been inordinately successful? That's kinda nutty. The last thing I need to see is Allen taking on gangsta rap or trying to be "trendy." Ridiculous.


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dreamer
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posted 03-08-2005 11:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dreamer   Click Here to Email dreamer     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Billy Hoyle:
(1) Woody can make flicks about upper-class white folks shopping at Zabar's and having brunch at Elaine's until he croaks, and that'd be fine. I just question whether his place in the pantheon of great living filmmakers isn't diminished by confining himself to such a narrow perspective.

First of all, that's hardly true. His film characters have been far more diverse than Tarantino's criminals. Only a handful of Allen's films have focused solely on Upper East Side Jews like himself. Secondly, he knows his limitations. He's obviously more writer than director. Sweeping historical dramas are there for the mocking (see his Love and Death) and not for the making.

quote:
Scorsese could've made movies about Italian mobsters forever ....

He probably should've, but good material on that subject matter is limited and it's always tempting for a pure "director" to attempt other things.

quote:
But he's tested himself with tales that, culturally speaking, could've come from another planet: Age of Innocence, Kundun, The Aviator.

Those particular choices of subject matter were made for various reasons and aren't relevant to anyone else's. Allen's budgets don't allow for such experimentation, nor is he interested. Why should he be? Scorsese has never made (nevermind written, directed and acted in) films as diverse as Interiors, Bananas, Sleeper, Everyone Says I Love You, Zelig, Manhattan, Stardust Memories, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, Radio Days, Broadway Danny Rose, Crimes and Misdemeanors and Sweet and Lowdown either (just to name a few).

quote:
Same with Ang Lee. He went from quiet family dramas about middle-class Hong Kong families (Eat Drink Man Woman) to the American Civil War (Ride with the Devil) to wealthy WASPs in the Connecticut suburbs(The Ice Storm) to the Incredible goliath in the stretchable purple pants.

He's a "director for hire." Not a writer of his own material. Naturally he'll grab any good project that's availible. Why not? He needs to work. Neither is Scorsese a writer. Big difference. Allen directs his own stuff and writes in a variety of idioms, from comedy to farce to mock documentary to drama to musicals. He's master of his domain.

quote:
Isn't this how directors truly prove their mettle?

Not really. All depends on what you wanna do and what opportunities are out there for you. Directors who can't write (and can get huge budgets for directing "commercial" films) are a different breed from Allen (who also acts in his films!). They have different standards and expectations.

quote:
(2) I don't believe Tarantino has ever said he knows all black people better than they know themselves. (If anyone can point me to a link, please do so.)

Check out the Baadasss Cinema documentary for his "knowledge of black people" quote. (And his quotes during the Jackie Brown controversy about Spike Lee.)

quote:
As long as that character wields a power both intellectual and visceral, then his existence is successful. Movies, like all art forms, don't have to mirror the real world; they only have to make us reevaluate how we see that world.

Fine. Then give Woody Allen the same creative license to fashion the world in any way he wants (either with, or without, similarly dubious black characters/stereotypes).

quote:
Tarantino's black thugs have very little basis in reality (a shame, really; if more criminals were like Jules, the world would be a more interesting place).

"Jules" is no greater a character than "Zelig" or "Alvy Singer." But writing poetic criminal characters can be quite limiting too.

quote:
Neither do John Grisham's incorruptible lawyers, Picasso's portraits or Spike Lee's female characters (who predominantly seem to be of a certain complexion and hair texture, but that's another story . . .). But if we walk away thinking and feeling differently, that disconnect from reality doesn't devalue the experience.

That doesn't address Tarantino's one-note portrayal of blacks as all criminals (save for a faceless black wife who marries a racist, criminal-hording white guy who looks a lot like Tarantino). No blacks at all in Reservoir Dogs and only one (a murderess) in the Kill Bills, yet basically all thugs in Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown. Can't forget the racial stuff in True Romance either. Another film without blacks but with lots of "black" in it. What kind of universe of black people does he live in and want to portray to his loyal, widespread audience? Allen's non-portrayal can hardly be considered worse.

quote:
Taking this back to Woody, he's pretty much exhausted the colors on his palette. Maybe he realizes his sameness of approach has weakened his ability to reach audiences.

Of course, you're not paying attention. His YEARLY films are all quite different (though not all good). Maybe not particularly popular, but clearly all over the map. Folks may be tired of his "trademark style" of writing, but I doubt that he'll run out of ideas any time soon. Unlike Tarantino, he writes constantly.

quote:
That may explain this new Ejiofor character in Melinda and Melinda. Again, this black dentist may exist in a total parallel universe from every black person in the world. He could even punctuate his sentences with Yiddish exclamations (hey, that's not a bad idea).

Writing an "ethnic" doctor character who gets into a complicated relationship with a white (WASP) patient is hardly a stretch for someone who's been creating similar morally-distressed characters (on film, in stand-up and in short fiction) for some 50 years now. He just happened to make the doctor "black" this time and cast a cool up-and-coming actor.

[This message has been edited by dreamer (edited 03-09-2005).]

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Billy Hoyle
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posted 03-09-2005 10:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Billy Hoyle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
(1) Ang Lee is hardly a "director for hire." He has writing credits for half the movies he's directed (e.g., Eat Drink man Woman, The Wedding Banquet).

(2) The implication that directors who don't write their own material are just looking to go "big budget" and "commercial" is disingenuous. Lee's Ice Storm was an edgy family drama, no CGI or explosions in sight. And Scorsese took on Last Temptation of Christ (back in the pre-Passion days) when religious period pieces were considered box-office poison.

(3) Why does Allen get a pass on limited subject matter just because he writes his own screenplays? Has he ever heard of a library? Or research? It's not like James Cameron was born knowing what the steerage section of the Titanic looked like. It was something he didn't know so he made an effort to learn about it.

One of our great underrated writer/directors is David Mamet. And though Mamet clearly has a spot in his heart for seamy con men (Spanish Prisoner), he's also ventured into the world of turn-of-the-century British high society (The Winslow Boy) and screwball farce (State and Main). All on modest budgets, I might add.

(4) As to the offensiveness of Tarantino's (and David's) black characters, I guess we just disagree.

Though you raise an interesting philosphical question as to what's preferable: A body of work that ignores black people altogether or one that portrays them offensively (again, I don't think Tarantino does this but, for the sake of argument, let's say he did).

I don't know the answer to that. The one thing I've noted when I speak to older generations of nonwhite folks, I've found that they often express a fondness for nonwhite characters of olden days, no matter how offensive (e.g., Amos and Andy, Stepin Fetchit, Charlie Chan, various "mammy" characters, etc.). The sentiment I've heard is generally, Yes, we were not portrayed in the best light, but at least we could see ourselves in some form -- and that counted for something.

I'm not sure I would feel the same way. I have to ponder that. I guess we're lucky we don't have to make that choice.

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dreamer
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posted 03-09-2005 02:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dreamer   Click Here to Email dreamer     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Billy Hoyle:
(1) Ang Lee is hardly a "director for hire." He has writing credits for half the movies he's directed (e.g., Eat Drink man Woman, The Wedding Banquet).

And those were his "Woody Allen" films which got him in the door. Obviously, he's not married to the idea of directing his own stuff and remaining fairly obscure. He's deemed his writing as less important than his directing. That's his perogative. Allen is the opposite. He's a writer first.

quote:
(2) The implication that directors who don't write their own material are just looking to go "big budget" and "commercial" is disingenuous.

No, but they are more open to that "commercial" opportunity (and have more choices availible) than someone who is devoted to only getting his own material on-screen.

quote:
Lee's Ice Storm was an edgy family drama, no CGI or explosions in sight. And Scorsese took on Last Temptation of Christ (back in the pre-Passion days) when religious period pieces were considered box-office poison.

Not sure what the point is there. Neither film was written by the director so the opportunity wasn't self-created. It's much easier to expand your "director's palette" when you don't have to come up with the ideas and script yourself. Whether a film succeeds or not is a different matter. This is just about what kinds of choices are availible to different types of directors and how writer/director/actors have a different goal in mind in terms of their projects. It's like comparing apples to oranges.

quote:
(3) Why does Allen get a pass on limited subject matter just because he writes his own screenplays? Has he ever heard of a library? Or research? It's not like James Cameron was born knowing what the steerage section of the Titanic looked like. It was something he didn't know so he made an effort to learn about it.

His subject matter actually isn't limited, and where does it say that a director has to handle all sorts of subject matter that doesn't interest him? James Cameron is about as limited a director as there is. He couldn't direct (let alone write and act in) a relationship comedy, drama or musical if his life depended on it!! Why doesn't he learn how to do those kind of films (or anything else). Instead he's still out there swimming around. (Of course, he doesn't have to. He's got his niche and he's welcome to it).

quote:
One of our great underrated writer/directors is David Mamet. And though Mamet clearly has a spot in his heart for seamy con men (Spanish Prisoner), he's also ventured into the world of turn-of-the-century British high society (The Winslow Boy) and screwball farce (State and Main). All on modest budgets, I might add.

LOL. C'mon now. Mamet is an extremely limited film director and repetitive writer, better suited for the stage. His films, regardless of setting, all sound and look alike. Which is fine. I like his offbeat, literate sensibility, but Allen's work is far broader in scope and he's done so much more of it.

quote:
(4) As to the offensiveness of Tarantino's (and David's) black characters, I guess we just disagree.

Just seems odd that Allen's non-characters "offend" you more than Tarantino's ever-present ones do. Seems like your attention is focused in the wrong place (for some reason). It's just a point of reference. I personally wouldn't go out of my way to rant about Tarantino's black characters as he has every right to present them as he wishes for whatever effect he desires. An easy negative case can be made about them (as I did) based on your standards in dealing with Allen, but that's not really of interest to me.

It's just odd that one can get worked up over the mild Allen and be blind to the blatant Tarantino. Seems like it's always about who you "like" more (for whatever reason) in these things, rather than based on a cogent analysis of the availible data.

I'm fine with both (white) directors and understand their distnct points-of-view, though Tarantino's is certainly far more troubling if you want to start drawing these sorts of psycho-analytical conclusions about the racial motivations of certain well-known writer/directors.

It really seems like a case of selective outrage. My guess is that if Allen was less critically successful then certain folks wouldn't be as upset by his lack of black characters. I think there's a feeling of "how dare he make so many supposedly-good movies and not have blacks in them?!!"

The concern by some seems to be that maybe he's being over-praised because his films lack blacks. That notion seems to be cut from the same cloth as the absurd one that has folks believing that Halle Berry won an Oscar only because she had a sex scene with a white guy in the movie. It's a form of racial paranoia that's troubling, cheesy and unsubstantiated. It ignores, as I tried to point out, the more obvious racist undercurrents in other folks' work (like Tarantino's) seemingly only because that work is better-liked on a visceral level and clearly more accessible in subject matter to minorities than Allen's apparently is. Just doesn't make much sense in terms of logic and true comparative analysis of what's actually on-screen.

Your earlier "Yiddish" reference also strikes me as rather curious since Woody's films don't feature Yiddish, and if one or two has somewhere, it's only to be mocked. He doesn't have much respect for Jewish culture and traditions, yet his Jewishness seems to be at the forefront of your complaint (and humor). So I have to wonder if there's a certain amount of real (or subliminal) bigotry involved in your resentment over his casting policies and your too-casual dismissal of his unique, long, and often-great body of work (as a rare multi-tasker).


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Billy Hoyle
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posted 03-09-2005 05:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Billy Hoyle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
C'mon, Dreamer, ad hominem attacks? We're just a couple kids talkin' movies. No need to get personal because everyone isn't cowed by your condescension. I expect better of you.

My questioning of Allen's casting choices doesn't make me an anti-Semite anymore than my enjoyment of Tarantino's work makes me a racist. (BTW, be careful about assumptions you make on an anonymous message board. I could be a middle-aged Jewish Upper East Sider, for all you know.)

My "Yiddish" comment was meant only to offer an example of how Allen could present a black character in a way that has little connection to the "real world" and yet still create an interesting character. If you want to attribute subliminal bigotry to an innocent remark like that, then methinks thou doth protest a bit too much. (And there was more than a little Yiddish sprinkled throughout Allen's flicks, e.g., Radio Days. Terms like "matzoh" and "shmear" have become part of the New York vernacular, for Jews and non-Jews alike.)

Your assert that "the more obvious racist undercurrents in other folks' work (like Tarantino's) [is tolerated] seemingly only because that work is better-liked on a visceral level and clearly more accessible in subject matter to minorities than Allen's apparently is. Just doesn't make much sense in terms of logic and true comparative analysis of what's actually on-screen."

Two things on that. One, this is an example of your haughtiness. The implication is that minorities find Tarantino "more accessible" because he's somehow less intellectual (i.e., more "visceral") than Allen. That's both insulting and untrue. (Who's the self-hating racist now?) Two, you're confusing logic with value judgment. Movies are artistic expressions and are therefore immune to purely quantifiable "comparative analysis." You say it's better to see no black faces at all than see black faces displayed in a questionable light. I disagree. But there are no "data" to support one postulate over the other.

I may have missed it but have you railed against the litany of black directors who seem focused on the world of "n***a"-spouting gangsters and philanderers? Or is it okay when black directors do it but not white ones? And if you subscribe to that old double standard, I've lost what little hope I had left for you.

[This message has been edited by Billy Hoyle (edited 03-09-2005).]

[This message has been edited by Billy Hoyle (edited 03-09-2005).]

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