Controversy in Neverland

There has been an upward trend in Hollywood recently, with studios jumping in on live action remakes of beloved Disney films. Two years ago, we saw Snow White and the Huntsman and Mirror Mirror, and this year Maleficent will make it to the big screen. It’s the same-same but different formula; films taking a classic tale, but twisting it in such a way that challenges our understanding of a children’s fairytale.

The boy in the tights is back! (SOURCE: Dandelion Moms website

The boy in the tights is back! (SOURCE: Dandelion Moms website)

And that’s exactly the case in the latest Warner Bros. project, Pan, to be directed by British filmmaker Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice, Anna Karenina). Pan is being billed as the Peter Pan origins film, telling the story of an orphan boy who is spirited away to the magical Neverland where he takes on grand adventures that shape him into the hero we know as Peter Pan. It was all good and done. The film is slated for a 2015 release, and initial reactions were positive. Hugh Jackman (X-Men franchise) and Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy) had signed on as Blackbeard and Captain Hook respectively. People were excited. But then it all came crashing down when it was announced Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon TattooHer) had landed the role of Tiger Lily.

Rooney Mara, a white actress, landing the role of Tiger Lily, a Native American character.

Apparently, Warner Bros’ “new take” on Peter Pan involves the whitewashing of people of colour.

This is simply not okay. Casting a Caucasian actress in an Indigenous role is at its core, wrong. For centuries, Indigenous people have faced oppression from settlers and have worked hard to gain respect for their customs and traditions, to try and reestablish their equality, only now to have it, for lack of a better phrase, thrown back in their face. It’s a clear indicator of Hollywood’s obsession with entertainment over authenticity, history, and discrimination.

For once, Warner Bros. Studios had an opportunity to be the bigger person. Native American actors and actresses are alarmingly underrepresented in Hollywood. This was a chance for the studio to elevate a Native American actress to a high-profile, top billing project and gain positive publicity for doing so. Instead, the studio is facing severe backlash from critics and the public, and what started out as a promising profitable box office release could now end up as a box office bomb. In fact, there’s an online petition calling for a recasting of Tiger Lily with over 10,000 signatures already.

It might be argued, “it’s only a movie – a fantasy movie – and filmmakers can do whatever they like…how much harm can this do, really?” A lot, actually. Think about the audience demographic the film is being targeted at – children. Films are a mirror of our society and reflect our changing cultural landscape. How can children stand to learn about the progress of multiracial equality in schools if such education is not repeated in popular culture? Watching this film will simply sends children the message that people of colour and the cultures don’t matter, and that their role models should be white. Ultimately, this will feed into the ever damaging cycle of bullying, body image, and low self-esteem.

Look, I don’t have anything against Rooney Mara. I don’t doubt her talents. In fact, she is one of the industry’s most refined actresses. In Her, she perfectly showcased the entire range of the emotional scale by body language alone. But it is not enough of a reason to justify her in the role of Tiger Lily. By accepting the role, she has symbolically okay-ed the cultural appropriation of Indigenous (and by extension, other ethnic) cultures. Jump ahead to the filming. Think about the sensitivities of a white person dressed in a Native American outfit. It is highly disrespectful. Mara has no understandings of Indigenous cultures and the struggles they faced, and continue to face, by colonisation in wider society. In fact, it is offensive for Mara to even have accepted this role, let alone audition for it.

When pressed for a comment, Warner Bros. wrote “Wright is planning to create a world that [is] very international and multi-racial, effectively challenging audiences’ preconceived notions of Neverland and reimagining the environment.” Sure. So that’s why French actress Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Colour) was also in consideration for Tiger Lily. Oh wait, no, she isn’t Native American either! Alright, so maybe what Warner Bros. meant by “international and multi-racial” extends to the lead cast. Maybe by casting a Caucasian in a Native American role, Wright hired a non-Caucasian for a Caucasian role. Nope. It’s an all white lead cast – Jackman, Hedlund, Mara, Amanda Seyfried (Mary), and Levi Miller (Peter Pan).

As the A.V. Club writes, it becomes clear now that Wright’s claim of diversity lies in those actors and actresses who won’t be billed above the title. That is, all the “multi-racial” cast members have been relegated to supporting roles, not stars. I’m not sure what dictionaries Warner Bros. and Wright have in their collection, but “diversity” in my books is the even representation of all persons across all positions in play.

If one was going to “challenge [the] preconceived notions of Neverland” by having Tiger Lily represented as a Caucasian race, it would only be fair to completely reverse the representation by having the normally Caucasian characters played by actors of colour. Only then would this film have some hint of balance, and actually challenge our preconceived notions of Neverland. Because right now, Pan is proving to be far from spectacular.

We need to take a moment to remember that this is 2014. Why are are studios like Warner Bros. using outdated media representations of persons of colour? Why do we still live in a world where Hollywood deems it okay to perpetuate racism, even if in its subtlest forms? Frankly, these are questions we shouldn’t even be asking.

– by Nicole Lam

Review: The Other Woman

With all this free time on my hands on the long Easter weekend, I was glad to see that the movies were still open. Even better? The Other Woman was showing; a movie that I had actually wanted to see, which is saying a lot considering I’m not a big movie person. I’d rather just wait til it’s on Foxtel or DVD or something.

Headed by a star cast including Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann, I was expecting big things from this movie. And I wasn’t disappointed.

These three bombshells (and Nicki Minaj) made quite the trio (and Nicki Minaj). (CREDIT: Team Minaj Twitter page)

These three bombshells (and Nicki Minaj) made quite the trio (and Nicki Minaj). (CREDIT: Team Minaj Twitter page)

The Other Woman details the unfaithful life of Mark King, who is stringing along a number of women, including wife Kate, lawyer Carly, and young busty bombshell Amber. The unusual circumstances brings the three women together and, instead of getting mad, they decide to get even. Claws are out, Mark. Oh and somewhere along the way, Kate’s hot brother played by Taylor Kinney is thrown in.

I thought this movie did what it set out to – make people hysterically laugh. Not only was I in fits of laughter but the entire movie theatre (which was pretty packed, IMSAHO) were in fits of laughter. To borrow a wrestling term, the comedy “spots” in the movie were fantastic and on point. The film had that edgy sense of humour to it, where it was almost borderline too far but it never went that step further that it became inappropriate. While the main catty parts of the film came at the second half of the movie, the film’s humour was placed squarely on the shoulders of one character – Kate, played by Leslie Mann.

Leslie Mann played her character to perfection. The chatty, too-comfortable wife whose beauty is barely highlighted was made very evident in the first couple of minutes Mann’s face was on screen. Mann’s acting was on par, and I would go as far to say that if she wasn’t in this movie, it wouldn’t have been good. The character of Kate was practically made for Mann and she owned it. Cameron Diaz’s performance in the movie was acceptable; it was good but not crash hot that I have any particular comment on it. Kate Upton, God bless her little soul, wasn’t too good in the movie. She’s got a great rack and a pretty face but, like, I felt nothing from her. The star of the trio was, without a doubt, Leslie Mann. I didn’t get the point of having Nicki Minaj in the movie besides “OMG it’s Nicki Minaj”, and she wasn’t too believable as an actress either.

The storyline was very chick flick-esque with a somewhat predictable ending. Without giving too much away, I knew where Kate, Carly and Amber were all going to end up by halfway through the movie. The methods of revenge the ladies used, however, kept me laughing, and the acting on behalf of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (who played the cheating, rotten bastard) made it all the more glorious to watch. As an audience member, I felt satisfied every time he… well, I won’t spoil too much. One thing I was quite skeptical on was the fact that all three women just became friends without even having a single catfight. In reality, women in this situation would have been very bitter towards each other and it would’ve taken a lot more than one D&M to get in the same book, let alone same page.

Oh, and did I mention Taylor Kinney was in this movie?

Solst-o-meter
Storyline:
7/10
Casting and acting: 8/10
Experience: 8.5/10
Overall: 7.5/10

I would definitely recommend this one to both ladies and gentlemen. It’s a light-hearted, fun movie that all will enjoy. The ladies have Taylor Kinney and the guys have Kate Upton. It’s pretty much a win-win. You will be rolling around laughing when this one is done.

– by Noah La’ulu

Review: Divergent

Firstly, I’d like to make a quick shout out to my brother William who turned 23 on Friday! As tradition suggests, we had to do whatever he wanted, and that included watching the movie adaptation of Divergentfeaturing my not so favourite actress, Shailene Woodley. I’m sorry but her character on Secret Life was irritating. #justsaying

Divergent was originally a novel written by Veronica Roth. (SOURCE: Naud/'s Flickr photostream)

Divergent was originally a novel written by Veronica Roth. (SOURCE: Naud/’s Flickr photostream)

Divergent tells the story of a post-war America that has a very specific but detailed way of living: inside their gated, unharmed-by-war community, the people live in five different factions: Abnegation, for those who are selfless; Erudite, for the brainy; Amity, for the peaceful hippies; Candor, for the sometimes-brutally honest; and Dauntless, for the brave and reckless. If you are not fortunate enough to fit in a faction, you are deemed “factionless”, which basically means you are dirty and homeless.

The film follows a young lady named Beatrice (later named “Tris”, as if that was a good idea), who was born in and lives with her family in Abnegation. Once people hit a certain age or stage of life, they are tested to see which faction they most fit, although they are given the choice to choose their own faction regardless of the test. Beatrice goes to get her test… uh oh. She fits all of them. She is a “Divergent”, which is basically a free-spirited rebel. Just to put things into perspective, being a Divergent is like being wrapped in raw meat and thrown into the Pacific Ocean.

My first observation of this movie was that it was very hard to follow. As soon as you are thrust into the movie, there are lots of facts and information thrown on you and it is your job as an observer to keep up. If you can’t keep up, tough titties! The movie goes on with or without your understanding. That, to me, was a very defining factor in my eventual disliking of the film.

The story of the film is very unique, and that’s a positive and a negative in its own right. It was an interesting way to tell a post-war America besides the usual “everyone is under arrest and some youthful rebel escapes and kills everyone”. In saying that, it was difficult for those unaware of the original story to follow. I thought the test was like the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter and you had no say in which faction you join, until Beatrice’s parents were crying and she was being dragged away.

The acting, for all intents and purposes, was okay, possibly saved only by my fair lady Kate Winslet (subtle shout out to Miss Benedicte Earl). As much as I don’t like her, Shailene Woodley is a decent actress. She is easy to believe as her character and she doesn’t have Kirsten Dunst face (a face that has no emotion whatsoever). Theo James, who was an unknown to me until this movie, looked as if he was trying too hard in my sweet and humble opinion. He’d be trying to act really hard and tough and scary but then would duckface his lips. It was quite funny to watch. Oh, and Jai Courtney was Eric was phenom. Mr. Courtney has found himself a new fan.

I get that the producers had a lot of content to fit in the film so not to disappoint the book fans, but man Divergent is one long ass movie. If my phone wasn’t dead in the cinema, I would have been constantly checking the time. As a plus, however, there was some humour thrown into the film that I found quite refreshing from all the serious faction stuff.

Solst-o-meter
Storyline:
6/10
Casting and acting:
6/10
Experience: 5/10
Overall:
6/10

I think if I had read the novel before watching the movie, I would have enjoyed it more, but the intensity of the film was too much for me to personally take in. The intent was there to deliver an excellent movie, but to me, it flopped pretty badly. I would recommend watching it, but maybe later when it’s out on TV or something.

– by Noah La’ulu

I’ve Given Up On M.Night Shyamalan

I want to take a little time to recall some brilliant films. Do you remember a movie about a child who could see and talk to dead people? I do, and I remember it being full of genuinely frightening moments and an atomic bomb of a story twist; this was The Sixth Sense, directed by M.Night Shyamalan only fifteen years ago.

This is what everyone looked like watching it, don't lie.

This is what everyone looked like watching it, don’t lie.

I also fondly recall watching Unbreakable for the first time, which also contained a mind-shattering twist and a damn good cast of actors; again, Shyamalan is responsible for creating this cult film.

Badass

Badass

And here is where the problem comes to light; can you recall a film about trees who make people suicidal? If you can’t, pat yourself on the back, you really saved yourself time and sanity. The Happening was also the work of Shyamalan, the same guy who created instant classics and then went on to produce pieces of actual poop.

OH GOD, WHY TREES, WHY?

OH GOD, WHY TREES, WHY?

I have tried to keep calm in the face of such terrible film making, telling myself that it’s okay. Maybe he’s a one trick pony and theres only so long he can make twist endings work, maybe his first few movies were some sort of fluke, a moment of his insanity that happened to work. I did this over and over: with films like The Village, and Lady in the Water. But god dammit if I’m not tired of trying so hard. Not after what he did, not after making The Last Airbender.

One of the best television shows

One of the best television shows

One of the worst things in my life (Sorry, kid)

One of the worst things in my life (Sorry, kid)

Shyamalan, if you’re out there and somehow reading this obscure article: WHAT THE FUCK, MAN? You don’t do that. You just can’t take a wonderfully-written, highly-praised, beautifully-animated television show, take all the good things out of it, and drop it on the big screen. I wanted to stick by you, even through the awkwardly directed acting and plot holes, because although I’m always disappointed by you, your films always seem to have an interesting premise. But no, you really fucked up this time.

But even amidst that awfulness there seemed to be a silver lining; this film was so bad that there was no way he would ever direct again. Then came After Earth (vomiting sound), and now he is in the mix to produce three different television programmes, and heres hoping that he just stays as the producer.

Smug bastard

Smug bastard

The purpose of this article was to mostly rant, but also to voice my genuine concerns. Why does this man keep making films? Who keeps giving him the work? And more importantly, how do we stop it? This is coming from someone who really loved the film Signs. In all seriousness, that movie planted the seed for my phobia of extraterrestrials, and any person that can induce that has some amazing power. But I think that power has been abused and needs to be taken away.

by Josefina Huq