Monday, November 17, 2008

Quantum of what? Solace?

Somebody shoot Marc Forster, he ruined the franchise.

Never in the history of the franchise has such a soulless exercise been produced. QoS sets out to dismantle everything that Martin Campbell and his team of writers did with Casino Royale, arguably the best in the franchise.

WFT they were thinking hiring someone with no respect for the character? I'll never know, the grosses point out the opposite.

QoS is a Bourne movie with Bond's name only. It is executed with the same flurry of sensory assault devoid of plot, and that's not what Bond movies are. Bond is not a trend, Bond's the standard.

The shoulder to blame are the characters above. The editor is not so behind either. The post below answers all those questions.

For an example of what this film has to offer, look at this scene:


The death of Mathis.

Bond just puts him a FKING garbage can! That's it, next scene. The proceedings here feel like the filmmakers don't care for the character, and none of the emotional pull that Bond went through in CR is present here.

For a friend that went out for Bond, the writers sure could've used a better exit for him. The fact that Bond is wreckless is established, but it feels shallow and incomplete.

Word to Bond producers: Next time, don't make a release date. Make a movie. Do NOT hire art school directors who don't care about the material, and put the money on the screen. I didn't see it.

How can you be fair when filmmakers don't care? you just can't.

Quantum of Solace is in theaters now. Sit a few rows back unless you enjoy vomits.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Action is NOT incoherency.

The modern action movie has taught us one thing: coherency is an afterthought to chaos.

The cinema of Michael Bay and Jason Bourne have trained modern movie audiences on shaky cam, fast cuts, and multiple angles to compensate for the precision that used to be hallmarks of good action movies. Movie makers think that more and more means better and better, when audiences are trained to accept whatever you feed them they can appreciate when they can tell what they're seeing. It's all about the grosses, quality be damned.

The action genre has been taken over by frenetic editing, a formula that I never understood how it took off. Editors embraced this by cutting action sequences as chaotic and frenetic as possible at the expense of coherency. Second unit directors point and shoot, what technicians and stunt people work hard to stage. It is modern film editing that's robbed us from the ability to appreciate all the hard work that goes on making these films. Too many crashes, too many explosions, too many angles.

What a better way to contrast the changes than in the new Bond film with it's predecessor, Casino Royale.

Quantum of Solace, Directed by Marc Forster, replicates the trend to dizzying heights, resulting in action sequences that lose track of Bond, as well as what he's doing.

Actually, the whole movie is like that.

One of the things that made the Bond films the standard is it's innovation on the action scenes. The stunts of those films are still some of the best ever captured on film, you can pop those movies in and still be amazed at what they did because it was real. Until the early 2000's, Bond films relied on stunts to carry the day.
The editing back then sold us on these incredible feats, and Bond (more correctly his stuntman) was always the focus of the action. Casino Royale, Directed by Martin Campbell, took the series to greater heights by concentrating on character while still retaining the qualities that make a Bond film special. You could actually tell what was happening and where invested in the characters, every action scene was heightened by the character moments that followed:

It's an example of how to treat this franchise. While I like Marc Forster for his versatility, his movies are tedious to sit through. The man has done every kind of movie imaginable, from Monster's Ball to Stranger than fiction. His lack of respect for Bond is evident on every frame of Quantum of Solace, and that's lamentable.

It is disappointing by the standards set by it's predecessor.

Problem #1:

By hiring the second unit guy from the Bourne movies, the Filmmakers went in the other direction and made the action an incoherent mess. Now Bond is just like any sub par action hero, distinguished only by the name and exotic locations.

Problem #2:

The scenes are edited by a Blender. Forster's editor, Matt Chesse (no pun intended) excels at a different kind of movie. Here his edits ruin the flow of the movie by allowing a typical shot to last less than a second. Here is a link to an article on the guy:

The film's car chase is an example of what not to do in editing. The sequence opens the film, mere minutes after the end of Casino Royale...with Bond on the run by a rogue organization. We can't tell what is happening, the movie just starts on the chase. There's relentless driving, good stunt work, and no suspense because the scene has no...buildup. No sense of geography. At least the way it's edited. This is why it's not always a good idea to bring someone's editor if you're an art house guy. Not every editor can cut action, and vice versa. Lee Smith, Nolan's editor on Dark Knight, accomplished an incredible feat of maintaining the action sequences coherent while never losing track of the characters, AND the film was 142 minutes yet felt faster than this piece of turd. Now, that's good editing.

Parting thoughts

When something goes right, something goes horribly wrong. The Bourne movies have FKed up action movies in general. That's what everybody's doing, and forgotten that showing something from 16 different angles is not as satisfying as seeing how dangerous it is, if we can't tell what we're seeing.

I do not like it, and don’t think it’s good directing. Blame it on movie trailers, blame it on our ability to sustain interest. The movies do not improve, and people watch what you feed them. While action sequences have gotten more grand and sophisticated (don't get me started on CGI)...filmmakers have lost track of what keeps an audience engaged: Suspense. Our ability to appreciate it has not, witness the success of Casino Royale. 564 million worldwide on a 105 million budget.

Shaky cam and incoherent editing is not action, it's not movement, it's not exciting, and its not good film making.

Perhaps the Bond filmmakers will realize this and remedy the headache.

Martin Campbell, come to the rescue.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The complexities of race in a caribean country.

I am a Dominican. Born and raised in the Dominican Republic. Although I embraced America as my adopted hometown, Santo Domingo is where my soul was cultivated, and where I came of age.

The 80's where are prosperous time for any child growing up outside of a third world country, for the world was presented by the thick haze of optimism and the coolness of Mtv. I grew up with a television, and witnessed the birth of imagination every time I pressed that button. It was predominately white people on TV, while surrounded by people that most definately where not white, they where Dominican.

The politics (shall we say realities) of race where not in my sights during the Reagan and Beverly Hills Cop II years, for playing with WWF action figures and Transformers where the norm for any kid like me. The topic has resurfaced with urgency, now that distance and a good twenty years has enabled me to pass it by.

Dominicans, unlike ethnic puerto ricans, suffer from a transplanted set of conflicting values. Historically, we tend to be darker than our Puerto Rican neighbors. The racist mentality that still stains the country is a decease that runs across every social cycle, from rich to poor to poorest. It's stupid is as stupid does. Amnesty international conducted a report which brings discrimination center stage, with alarming findings. The country's history with neighbor Haiti has been a fractured one, with the racist mentality caused by this fracture still among most Dominican citizens.

According to the findings, deportations, "discrimination on grounds of ethnic origin, language and nationality, are a reality for many Haitian migrant workers and Dominicans of Haitian descent living in the Dominican Republic. Victims whose cases have come to the attention of Amnesty International are predominantly irregular and undocumented migrant workers, but also include Dominican nationals of Haitian
descent, including children".

This is alarming, specially considering the moral fabric that governs the Dominican mentality. Many a voice view Haitian people as second class citizens, people who are less than human. I've heard this echoed around from here all the way there, and it reminds of how conflicted we are as a nation. American influence has surely clouded our ethnic pride, for hordes of Dominican women (typically darker skinned ones) cosmetisize their appearance to their white counterparts, similar to how Black women tend to dress nowaways. This is not the root of the problem, for it's cosmetic, bloodline ignorance is to blame. I'm fairly medium complexion myself, and when I returned to the country after a 17 year absence my conscience was filled, my memories remained but reality confirmed times have changed. I recall walking into a club meeting all the requirements (you think clubs here are strict, think again) only to be turned down more than once while my lighter skin friends where welcomed and white tourists paraded about. Witnessing this ridiculous display caused me to reconsider what I had grown up beleiving, that Dominicans are racist the same way the black community feels about Gay people: denial. Denial of one's truth is denial of one's being, and the anti Haitian, anti dark skin sentiment was a harsh reminder of a country filled with a false sense of identity.

Being dark in Dominican Republic will call you a "negro", or "prieto". It's not as harsh sounding as "Negro" or American counterpart. Context is key here. I've been called Moreno before, as a term of affection. This is something any outsider finds hard to grasp, and it's the local culture that represents the true voice of the people.

The Amnesty article woke me up, shook me, for what it says speaks volumes about how fucked up the state of things are in times like these, times that need integration. We have a black president here, try explaining diversity to a country where identity is still at a crossroads. Haitian migrant workers are denied the rights and protection of ordinary citizens, and even if you where born Dominican and are from Haitian descent people are denied a Dominican "Cedula" (green card). This is astonishing. Dominicans, like our Latin counterparts, are comprised of every ethnicity. Black Dominicans, Brown Dominicans, light, ultra dark, Asian, white, all categories exist, thanks to the gift of a diverse set of people. Exclusion of our neighbors threatens to intensify the brigade, and further escalate tensions. Violence has already resulted, with lynchings reported as recent as 2006.

No isolated incident can destroy the spirit of the Dominican people, it will always be one of singular conviction over what's right or wrong. The case of ethnic confusion is a matter of debate among nationals, one that people far removed from the nucleus can observe.

I come from an ethnically diverse family myself, where my nucleus, my Granddad, was as dark as the beauty of confronting light while my grandmother was as light as early morning sunshine. Both produced my mother, while my father was a brown skin dominican man of middle eastern descent.

Just as the testament of unity seems to be coming true, I offer an glimpse at the kind of people that represent my great country, what a better way to show it than when I first had my Mtv?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Barack Obama is our new president: A review.

Last night was the most historic night on our nation's recent history. The people spoke with their votes and elected Barack Obama as our new president.

The collective feeling in our country was something I've never experienced, an excitement where race is no longer the matter, and people joined together for the same cause: change. The enormity of the task ahead put unimaginable pressure of Obama, whom many people look at as a savior. A heir to the dreams of such great leaders like Dr King.

It's a moment to be proud, I shall say that I am proud to be an american. This is possible, and more than me feel great already. Like a burden lifted from the negativity and cynical air breathed due to Bush's policies. In more ways than one, this is a victory of hope. Let's all work on making it better.

Then my second half wants to join in and add his collective consciousness. This is a double edged sword, for Obama winning changes the rules among race relations in this country...and opens up new ones yet to be written.

It is within my conscious to state that the majority of blacks whom are uninformed with politics voted for Obama simply because he is black. This raises ethno political issues that come with such history being written. I live in the mecca of Harlem, a neighborhood seen changed by gentrification and split in two by a lack of integration.

What I saw yesterday was not what I just said, it was everyone joined at the hip embraced for the same voice. This is the moment that restored hope and voice that the perils of the 20th century have been lessons learned, now abolished by a new beginning.

I certainly believe white people's self entitlement will change, for they have no reason to widen the gap anymore that Obama being president signals the great thing that makes this nation prosper: Diversity. Every citizen of the united states should be proud of this, for it is what America can be at it's best. He is simply the best candidate for the job, who happens to be black.

Which bring my next point: self entitlement rolling it's ugly head.

Like I said, I still think blacks voted for the Obvious, and to me that is important. Obama could fuck up on his job and people will still love him because of his skin color, but it's black people the ones that need some catching up to do now that the playing field is no longer on the short end of the stick. That self defeating way of thinking that cripples many promising minds shall cease to abolish. I hope his message empowers people to escape the narrow mindedness that perverses this sector of the audience, to escape their entrapment and onto a path of equality, the way Dr King once wished. Every ethnicity has their fuck ups, the black community knows this.
Systematically, socially, and economically, this persecution is the ugly head that rears the reality of where a community stands, and where it will lead by leadership.

Obama is the man that changes this, for his victory spells the consciousness that our nation must and will change. Abolish proposition 8 and we're on our way. Back to life, it feels a collective high.

God bless Obama, god bless America. His victory signals how far we've come, and how open our future can become. The change has already begun. The truth it is evident.