Why, Hollywood, Why?

December 20, 2009

Last night I went to the movies and, as is now par for the course, was bombarded by commercials for twenty-five minutes prior to the screening. By the time the previews started, I would’ve gladly watched almost anything that didn’t scream at me to shop at Wal-Mart or switch my “3G network”—whatever that is—and I largely held back judgment on the films being advertised. But then I saw this.

A lot of folks on the internets are mad at Chris Rock for remaking what they consider a “great British comedy,” but with all due respect, those people are idiots. 2007’s Death At a Funeral was less a true British comedy than a labored American facsimile, directed by Frank Oz with all the subtlety of an anvil to the head. Largely ignored in the States and trashed in the UK, the film faded away soon after its release, and with good reason. Alas, someone must’ve decided the original was too sophisticated for American audiences (particularly African Americans) and has remade the film a mere three years after its release. With a star-studded black cast, yes, but also with what appears to be an otherwise identical script and story, down to the title and the casting of Peter Dinklage as a blackmailing gay midget (what, was Tony Cox not available?)

My question is, why? The first Death At a Funeral may not have done well with black audiences, but then it didn’t do too well with the rest of us either, and besides, anyone who didn’t see it the first time is undoubtedly better off. Why punish black audiences for being wise enough to steer clear of a shitty film in the first place? And why remake a movie, black or otherwise, that recieved poor reviews, did poor box office numbers, and is still relatively fresh in the minds of moviegoers?

I wish I’d asked Danny Glover these questions when I ran into him at Fort Funston last year. Not wanting to disturb the veteran thespian, I merely nodded and let him pass. After Death At A Funeral hits theatres, he may want to stay inside for a while.

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Princeton in the House

December 11, 2009

In the world of professional intellectuals, Cornel West is in a class all his own. Whenever you get a chance to hear him speak, you owe it to yourself to pay attention, as the Princeton professor always drops knowledge, humor, and compassion in equal parts. That, and he has one of the baddest haircuts in academia. Anyway, I was lucky enough to catch Dr. West on the radio today, when he called in to the Tavis Smiley show to chat about the spirit of Christmas and his favorite holiday music. During the discussion, West againĀ  illustrated what makes him an American treasure when he cited Charlie Wilson’s “There Goes My Baby” as his favorite song of the year. Pretty bold choice for a nearing-sixty public intellectual, I’d say, and pretty in-line with West’s usual M.O. The man can talk jazz, philosophy, and Chekhov (or “Brother Anton,” as West calls him) as well as any brain, but he’s no more immune than the rest of us to a perfect pop ballad (His favorite song in 2003: “Step in the Name of Love!”) Anyway, Smiley went on to reveal that “There Goes My Baby” is also Stevie Wonder’s favorite song of ’09, so of course the first thing I did when I got home was look the song up, having never once heard it on the radio or otherwise. It must have blown up on adult contemporary R&B stations (which I often forget to listen to), rather than the urban hip-hop/R&B joints intent on assaulting my ears with multiple, unlistenable Trey Songz singles. I suppose since Wilson is in his fifties and unkown to many young listeners, stations like the Bay’s KMEL have no use for him, since their target audience apparently consists of children thirteen-and-under. Sure, Wilson has guested on some relatively recent hip-hop hits, but in today’s amnesiac climate Snoop’s Rhythm and Gangsta might as well be LL’s Radio. I tell you, being a music fan just gets harder by the day.

Charlie Wilson’s Uncle Charlie is in stores now. If this track is at all representative of the album as a whole, I might just have to pick that up. Thanks, Dr. West.