Archive for the ‘Ethnic Stereotypes’ Category

Brigadoon

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

This film is worth it just to see 17th century Scottish people prancing around in plaid tights. There’s a great scene involving a bagpiper rumble (although the pipes sound strangely like the woodwind section of a major orchestra…) The songs are delightfully cheesy, second in cheese only to the extremely low-tech sets.

In Aberdeen I used to know
A lass livin’ there and her name was Jo
And every night at ten
I would meet her in the glen.

But now I’ll not meet her again
Especially not in the glen at ten
For now across the green
I’ll go home with Bonnie Jean!

You’ve always wanted to see what happens when a 1950’s sporting gentleman falls for a 1650’s Highland lass! Awa’ wi’ ye tae the video store!

The Wiz

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Funky Fresh, Munchkin Style
Starring: Diana Ross, Nipsy Russell, Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor

This is such an awesome movie; I can’t believe that more people don’t remember it. I have vivid recollections of watching this on Showtime when I was a kid (back then there was a box that sat on the TV, and you had to press a button to get Showtime…) The songs are disturbingly catchy and I can still hum them today. It’s also a blast seeing Michael Jackson with a real nose and everything!

This is a retelling of The Wizard of Oz with an All-Afro-American cast. There’s a buttload of 70’s stars like Diana Ross, Lena Horne, Richard Pryor, and Mabel King. And the greatest surprise of all… this movie was co-written by Cheesemaster Joel Schumacher, responsible for bringing such corny classics as Flatliners, The Lost Boys, Batman Forever, St Elmo’s Fire, and (brace yourself) THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING WOMAN into the world!!! Unbelievable!

I actually thought this movie was a very clever adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s book. The action takes place in a psychedelic, decaying New York– one that’s full of corruption, drugs, and violence. There are some priceless moments of cheese in this masterpiece, such as:

  • When Dorothy gets spit into Oz by the cyclone, she crashes through a huge “OZ” neon sign.
  • The munchkins are actually taggers who get turned into graffiti by the Wicked Witch of the East (Dorothy kills her when the neon sign lands on her.) They do an Alvin Aileyesque street dance number.
  • When Dorothy & Co. encounter the Cowardly Lion outside the Public Library (he’s one of the two stone lions) the signs in the crosswalk say “DON’T EASE.”
  • Our heroes go down into the subway, where they’re attacked by man-eating trashcans and a psychotic panhandler.
  • Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West, sits atop a giant toilet.
  • The Wicked Witch of the West’s evil Flying Monkeys are really a tough biker gang.
  • (I want a giant camera costume like the guy in the Emerald City!)

Our heroes have to “Ease on Down the Road” to the Emerald city, along the way encountering urban perils like drug use, muggers, slavery, and expressionist dance. They also have to endure the Tin Man’s (Nipsy Russell) occasional hysterical outbursts of “Teeny, Teeny!” while projectile tears squirt out of his face. When they eventually make it to the Emerald City, it’s a huge Studio 54-esque discotheque where the partygoers all dress in the same color, changing outfits every time the Great and Powerful Oz decides to change the lights. Every time the lights change, they have to sing a song about how great that color is. Uhm, right! It’s like the band Chic got together with Martha Stewart or something.

Filled with music co-written by Ashford and Simpson, Luther Vandross, and Quincy Jones, this movie is sure to make any self-respecting gen-X-er yearn for his or her childhood. And Diana Ross plays the part of Dorothy to spectacular dramatic effect, have periodic outbursts of face-twisting agony. In the words of my roommate Jed, “That’s why they call her a Diva, darling.” But what’s with that dress? Violet is definitely not her color.

What are you waiting for, a house to fall on you? Ease on down to the video store and rent The Wiz. Do it now! You’ve got to be seen, in Green! You’ve got to be dead, in Red! You’ve got the be rad, in Plaid…

The Shanghai Gesture

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
The Golden Age of Hairdos
Starring: Ona Munson, Walter Huston, Victor Mature, Gene Tierney

What is The Shanghai Gesture? Is that like the Brooklyn Salute? Anyway, this sinful story takes place in Shanghai, the East’s City of Pleasure. Our tale revolves around Mother Gin Sling, an Asiatic Empress of Pleasure (totally played by a white lady, by the way,) who owns Shanghai’s sleaziest, and most decadent casino. In Mother Gin Sling’s casino, fortunes are lost, promises are broken, and damsels are deflowered. Also, hair is done. That is to say, Mother Gin Sling’s hairdo’s are some of the most elaborate known to man. It takes a lot of Yin-Yang to keep Mother supplied with giant curly sparkly things to stick into her hair.

Anyway, Mother Gin Sling’s casino is in peril. A wealthy white businessman wants to buy up all the properties on the block and knock them over. Meanwhile, Mother’s henchman, the playboy Doctor Omar, has picked up Poppy Jones, a mysterious and naive young lady who recently has started frequenting the casino. Soon Poppy is racking up a huge tab at the casino, and her losing streak is unstoppable. But who is she, and where did she get that diamond necklace?

The movie culminates in a dinner party at Mother’s home– thrown in honor of Sir Guy Charteris, the white developer. Sparks fly as Mother fights to save her casino. But what is her mysterious connection to Sir Guy’s past? And what is her even more mysterious connection to Poppy?

A great campy film noir with some gratuitous overacting for good measure.

Darby O’Gill and the Little People

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

What a life! Darby O’Gill traps a leprechaun in his barn, gets drunk with it, plays the fiddle alot, fights a banshee for his daughter’s life (the banshee looks a lot like the ghost costumes your mom used to make out of old sheets) and still finds time to grin in a toothless way now and then. It’s fun to pick on Darby’s fake Irish accent, as well as watch him fiddling wildly out of synch with the music. The lavishly choreographed leprechaun dance numbers are a hoot too. Go rent Brigadoon first, and then, Darby O’Gill, to make all of your Celtic movie-musical fantasies come true.

Far and Away

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman

Everyone’s favorite Scientologist couple, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman star in this drama about impoverished Ireland and the American Dream.

Tom Cruise is Joseph, a small tenant farmer’s son who tries to fight for his rights against the cruel tyrant landlord who turns out to be a nice guy. Joseph and his family represent everything that is stereotypical about the Irish- they love to drink, and sing and live in a small hovel and fight a lot. He gets mixed up with the spirited yet naive daughter of the landlord, Shannon (Kidman), and they go to America, so she can spy on his butt-crack through a hole in her dressing-screen. Joe becomes a prize fighter, where he finds respect, money, and Chief O’Brien, of course. Shannon plucks chickens and learns a little humility. They eventually go West and discover the American Dream, but not before Joe gets resurrected from the dead.

Hairspray

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Ricki Lake, Divine

Here’s a nostalgic look at the sixties that doesn’t involve Tom Hanks.

Long before Ricky Lake was the queen of daytime trash TV, she was the queen of the hop. Here she stars as Tracy Turnblad, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who rises to fame on the “Corny Collins” TV dance show. Tracy jumps around in cute little dresses, sets her hair on juice cans, and models for the “Hefty Hideaway Boutique.”

But when the TV station won’t let her best friend, Penny Pingleton, and her black boyfriend on the show at the same time, Tracy heads up an integrationist movement. Soon she’s being chased by her parents, the police, and a psychologist (director John Waters) who wants to “cure” the girls of their affection towards black folks.

You just can’t go wrong with a movie that has Sonny Bono, Blondie, Pia Zadora, and the guy from the Cars. I really can’t say enough good things about this movie. If you die without seeing this movie, it’s your own damn fault.

The Magic Flute

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Pa pa pa papapapap papapa Papageno!
Starring: Josef Köstlinger, Håkon Hagegård, Ulrik Cold, Irma Urrila

What kind of monsters could sit there and make fun of Mozart’s magnum opus, The Magic Flute? What kind of monsters could rank on the masterpieces of Ingmar Bergman? Scooter and Krustee can! I love Bergman films, and I like a good Mozart opera as much as anyone, but really, operas are about the cheesiest form of entertainment around! Take corny improbable plots and repetitive music, and there you have it!

I went into this movie thinking, what can I say about it? It’s the filming of a staged production of the Magic Flute. But it also has that special Bergman touch. For example, during the overture, the camera focuses on a little red haired girl in the audience. She’s staring at some point ahead; we think it’s the stage. She doesn’t fidget or squirm. She sits perfectly still. We see a lot of this little audience member throughout the film. We get to memorize every hair on her head, every pore on her angelic little face and every innocent minute facial gesture on her face as she absorbs this opera. She doesn’t want to be at home playing with Barbies, torturing her little sister or watching TV. She likes opera! Maybe it’s Swedish thing.

Just as we think the overture is coming to a close, surprise, there’s more! There’s that darn little red haired girl again! But then we get to see more people in the audience. The audience is actually a gathering of the United Nations– it’s full men in afros, and women with bindis. There are people from every corner of the globe there! Mozart can unite these diverse people as they sit and stare at this cheese fest …in Swedish no less! (it was translated from its original Italian or German or whatever into Swedish.)

Our opera opens with Tamino, our hero, trying to slay a dragon Unfortunately, he’s very un-heroically getting his butt whooped. He sings a song asking God to save him from this dragon. Three young maidens come along and flog the dragon to death with a stick, while Tamino lies there unconscious. It turns out that the maidens were working for the Queen of the Night, who wants to enlist brave Tamino’s help in rescuing her daughter who was abducted by the powerful Sarastro.

Tamino runs into Papageno, whose main occupation is to be jolly, chase women, play the pan pipes and catch birds. They team up and set off to rescue the princess. The three maidens give them a magic flute and a set of magic bells to help them conquer whatever hardships they encounter. Tamino and Papageno split up to look for the princess.

Papageno finds Pamina, the princess, and rescues her from the evil clutches of The Moor. I didn’t recognize him as being such, seeing as he was played by a regular white guy, but whatever. Pamina rejoices at being freed from the Moor, and falls in love with Tamino, even though he didn’t really do anything. Three little blonde haired boys that look like Hanson keep appearing in a hot air balloon and sing pep talks at them but also don’t divulge any useful information that would help them achieve their goals.

Eventually we realize that Sarastro is actually a nice benevolent guy who’s in charge of a cult of super holy people who revere him as a god. It’s actually the Queen of Night who’s bad. And Sarastro is Pamina’s father! The Queen is annoyed at him, and commands Pamina to kill her father. Torn between loyalty to each parent, Pamina sings about the woes of being in the center of a messy custody battle. Sarastro invites Tamino to become the next cult leader after he retires. Tamino first must endure walking through a cave filled with fire and weird naked demons doing interpretive dances inside. He triumphs over this task by playing the magic flute, and thus the fire doesn’t touch him. Sounds like cheating to me! I mean, all of the other cult members survived this ordeal without the use of magic or woodwind instruments! Bur anyway, the Hanson boys in the balloon appear again and everyone lives happily ever after. And then we see that little red haired girl again…

Hans Christian Andersen

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
I’ll bet you never thought one man’s thumb could provide so much entertainment
Starring: Danny Kaye, Farley Granger, Zizi Jeanmaire, Joseph Walsh

This is the story of Hans Christian Andersen (Danny Kaye), as he keeps singing to us (“I’m Hans Christian Andersen” is guaranteed to get stuck in your head for weeks). Hans is the village cobbler in a town so provincial, kites fly themselves. Hans delights the village children with his stories and songs so much they habitually ditch school to hang out with him and his self-flying kites. Unfortunately, the village parents are pretty irritated with this whole arrangement, and plan to force Hans and Peter, his young apprentice, out of town. Luckily Peter catches wind of this plan and is able to make Hans move to Wonderful Wonderful Copenhagen, Lovely old Girl of the Sea, before the crowd runs him out of town.

After many more songs and dance numbers, Hans gets thrown in jail for defiling a statue, and then gets a job to make a pair of ballet shoes for a whiny high-maintenance French ballerina named Doro (Jeanmaire) who is married to a harried perfectionist (Granger). Of course Hans falls in love with Doro. Anyway, Hans’s obsession with this prima donna causes there to be lots of ballet musical numbers– don’t miss Hans’s and Doro’s fantasy ballet wedding! Doro’s anti-gravitational see-through tutu wedding dress is extremely impressive!

Meanwhile, Peter the apprentice gets jealous of Hans’s affection for Doro and plots to put a stop to his fawning for her. Unfortunately, because Peter is an insufferable passive aggressive, he doesn’t let on what his problem is, and spends the second half of the film acting mysteriously bitchy. Hans writes the ballet “The Little Mermaid” for Doro and we get to see the entire ballet performed. You really get your money’s worth out of this film! you get a musical and a ballet for the price of one!

Basically the point of this story is that Hans is childlike himself, which is how he is able to tell such great stories. Unfortunately, it causes him to act retarded, which is why people are always making fun of him. However, whenever there is a small child around, Hans is able to turn a frown upside down with his stories. For example, when he is in jail, he looks out of the barred window, and sees a little girl playing in the nice garden outside the jail (aren’t all jails this nicely landscaped?). He paints a face on his thumb and proceeds to sing her a story about “Thumbelina.” The little girl stares transfixed at his thumb for the duration of the song. How many kids could you pull that stunt off on today!

Then there’s another classic moment when Hans takes aside a little bald boy whom all the other kids pick on. He tells him the story of the Ugly Duckling. He doesn’t mince words at describing how ugly the duckling is, and how much all of the other ducks hate it. Personally, if someone had told me this story when kids picked on me in grade school, I probably would have slugged them, since it is implied that I would have to grow up before people would stop picking on me. However, I’m grown-up, and people still pick on me…maybe I’ll reach swanhood sometime in my 30s. Let’s hope the bald kid had better luck!

Koroshi

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Honorabur Seeclet Agent Man brow up mountain-san of Evil!
Starring: Patrick McGoohan

Ah so! Ancient cult of Death velly evil! This movie velly cheesy! Secret Agent man Mr. Drake save Japanese fishing village by browing up secret mountain lair of evil!

The movie begins with a crowded Tokyo street. We see a woman run into her apartment building. When she gets inside, she runs to a pot of flowers. But this is no ordinary pot of flowers! The red rose contains an antenna! The pot has hidden buttons and switches! one of the other flowers has a microphone. Secret Agent Nakamura reporting! Tragically, however, before she can finish her report, one of the flowers belches forth a nerve toxin, and she collapses on the floor.

Enter Mizzah Drake-san (McGoohan.) The British Government are hot on the trail of a secret sect in Japan, a revival of an ancient Death-worshipping cult. It’s never explained why this particular cult poses a risk to international security, but that’s OK. Mr. Drake must nonetheless infiltrate and destroy this cult. And he must do it… secretly!

Mr Drake impersonates “Sharp,” a British electronics genius who is selling secret radio-wave decoding technology to the Kiroshi cult. He has very few leads, so he has to navigate a complex path of informers and secret handshakes to get where he’s going. There’s a fragment of a puzzle, and a weird lady who hangs out all day in a bar working on a perpetually incomplete puzzle. When the pieces are assembled, it’s yet another clue! Now Drake must go to an island somewhere and have a long, drawn-out conversation with a weird English guy who has an annoying way of speaking… THIS leads him to the “Murdered Island,” for generations the home of pearl fishermen. When an ancient prophesy (involving the deaths of the heads of three pearl-diving families) is fulfilled, the islanders all leave for the mainland, where they have very little income. It’s all because the Koroshi cult have chosen this particular island, and its hollow volcano, to set up their base of super-secret death-worshipping espionage stuff.

Exhausted yet? Yes, a single five minutes of Koroshi has more plot twists that any James Bond film. Partially, it’s because Koroshi was originally planned as the first four episodes of the British TV show, “Danger Man,” before Patrick McGoohan quit the show to do “The Prisoner.” In fact, Patrick McGoohan was approached about playing James Bond… twice!

Anyway, back to our story. Now Drake must infiltrate the Evil Mountain and save the Japanese fishermen! Will he do it in time? Or, will he be blown to bits by the cult leader’s personal desktop machine gun?

This is a funny, racist movie with lots of slanty-eyed bit characters and silly accents. There’s also a Kabuki version of Hamlet which helps us understand the “poetry of Death.” Hi- tech gadgetry and secret agentry abounds. In fact, as the double- agent taxi driver slurs, “I am een your service… your seclet service.” The plot also merits a high cheese rating, since you’re never quite sure what’s going on. Fortunately for us, they spread the camp extra-thick on this one.

Sheena

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Tanya Roberts, Ted Wass

When the sacred mountain rumbles, a golden she-goddess will take over, or something like that. Anyway, that she-goddess turned out to be Sheena, a little girl whose archaeologist parents got wiped out by the rumbling mountain. They were investigating why, when you buried people in sand up to their necks in the region, their cancer got cured. Anyway, their little brown-eyed daughter Janet became the blue-eyed Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. (incidentally, Sheena is Scottish Gaelic for Janet, so perhaps this generic African tribe who adopted her was actually a lost tribe of Gaels)

Thus queened, Sheena had the power to call animals by making a fist and pressing it to her forehead and intently gazing skyward. She also had the authority to wear a skimpy fur bikini, rather than the traditional sari-like garb of the tribe. Luckily, she retained some of her English language, although her ability to form contractions, like “don’t”, “can’t” and “won’t” was lost to her vocabulary.

Sheena meets up with Vic Casey (Wass, best known as Danny on Soap), a journalist from the US. They have an adventure, trying to thwart bad guys who want to exploit the sacred rumbling mountain for its titanium deposits. On the way, Vic Casey discovers the secret of natural hair care:

Vic Casey: Your hair smells fantastic! What did you use to wash it?
Sheena, QotJ: Zam zam berries. What else would a woman use?

Sheena also gains cultural insight from the encounter. She learns the secret of kissing,. “Mouths were made for eating. Why did you touch yours to mine?” she demands of Vic Casey. Apparently, even though the villagers who adopted Sheena are extremely generous and kind, (as shown by Sheena’s description of their reception of Vic Casey: “You will be made welcome in Zakuro. [The head man’s] locust bean cakes will be your locust been cakes. His fermented buffalo milk will be your fermented buffalo milk…”) kissing is a phenomenon which apparently doesn’t exist in her sheltered village.

Later on, Vic Casey is healed by the sacred mountain’s dirt. When he discovers its healing properties, he is extremely excited at the prospect of curing world cancer. However, in the end, Vic decides to let the discovery go unnoticed, as he wants Sheena’s village to remain as pristine and untouched as it always has been. Now come on, what’s more important? Healing worldwide disease, or letting a handful of natives with bad accents who hold conferences with elephants and ride horses painted to look like zebras keep up their inefficient hunter/gatherer lifestyle? Whatever your choice, Vic Casey was only thinking of his love for Sheena, and how he didn’t want the world to “adore [her] to death” or to “put stiff hides on [her] feet.”

I’m probably making way too much out of this movie. However. I was impressed by the usage of the “stop, drop, and roll” technique by a character who caught himself on fire. Usually in films and television, the second a person is engulfed in flames, it’s his or her cue to run around, wildly thrashing his or her arms. Let this be an important safety lesson to the people of the world.

The Three Lives of Thomasina

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Karen Dotrice, Matthew Garber, Patrick McGoohan

Have you ever wondered where Scottish cats go when they die? This movie provides answers to all of your feline afterlife questions. I won’t give the secret away, but it involves giant statues and glittering showers of gold sparkles. Besides probing into the life and death of cats, this film is a heartwarming tale of a little girl’s love for her big orange cat. It takes place in a small village in Scotland, where little Mary’s father, the local vet, goes around euthanizing the villagers’ pets. Things change when he gives the same treatment to Mary’s beloved Thomasina. There’s a singing witch involved, as well as a circus, and a bagpiping boy. Oh, and yes, the movie ends with a wedding. This is high on my list of favorite movies set in Scotland, right after Trainspotting, Breaking the Waves, and Brigadoon.