Arhive kategorije: Film

The Rebirth of a Nation?

by Osagie K. ObasogieColorlines (Sept / Oct 2007)
September 19th, 2007

300 is arguably the most racially charged movie since D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation. In true post-9/11 form, Zack Snyder's film turns Brown into the new Black; Persians are depicted as bloodthirsty savages thwarted in the Battle of Thermopylae by a small contingent of freedom fighters – with noticeably paler skin – looking to preserve democracy at all costs. This eerily resembles Birth of a Nation, the 1915 epic celebrating the Ku Klux Klan's rise during Reconstruction to defend Southern whites’ dignity and honor against what were then seen as recently liberated Black insurgents. Like Griffith's film, this mixture of race, racism, sex, and violence has been astonishingly profitable: 300 has grossed nearly $500 million worldwide since hitting box offices in March and hundreds of millions more are on the way with its recent DVD release.

In many ways, 300 has already become as much of a cult classic as ‘Birth‘ was in its heyday. Like ‘Birth‘, 300 is likely to be remembered more for its groundbreaking cinematography and technical achievements than its racial overtones. What's interesting, however, is how both films’ critically acclaimed screenplays were brought to life by manipulating skin color; the digitally airbrushed complexion of 300's characters emphasizes, exacerbates, and racializes the Persian/Spartan conflict in a manner not unlike Birth's use of blackface.

In a time of growing unrest between the West and the Middle East, this racialized depiction of freedom, nation, and democracy becomes central to 300's take home message. But closer inspection reveals a subtler, yet similarly troubling idea that has gone largely unnoticed: 300's unapologetic glorification of eugenics.

Within the film's first few minutes, audiences are introduced to a practice presented as key to Sparta's heroic culture: breeding better humans. Every newborn was inspected for health, strength, and vigor; those showing defect or disability were abandoned to die. The film suggests that this rather crude form of eugenics is put in place for military reasons: every Spartan child should either be able to become a soldier or give birth to one.

Initially shocked, audiences are quickly reassured that this is all for the greater good: nation, freedom, and the Spartan family. How else can Sparta defend itself – and inspire modern democracies – unless it reserves scarce resources for the strongest? 300's crafty narration, erotic imagery, and blue-screened dramaturgy give sympathy to these practices. After all, Spartans are brave, noble, and beautiful; the ends here seem to justify the means.

This pro-eugenics trope is magnified by the film's dramatic climax, which implausibly suggests that but for the Spartans’ betrayal by Ephialtes – a physically disabled Spartan hidden from the authorities as a child – the 300 eugenically selected soldiers would have outlasted Xerxes's minions. The impression left in viewers’ minds is that were it not for the failure of Spartan eugenics to catch Ephialtes at birth, King Leonidas might very well have led his outmanned and overmatched army to victory.

Like other readings of the film, this would hardly be noteworthy except for the specific cultural and political contexts in which audiences engage these images, thoughts, and ideas. Just as the West's growing conflicts in the Middle East bring attention to the film's racial commentaries, so too do rapid and unregulated developments in reproductive and genetic technologies – what Slate's Will Saletan calls in a different context “our gentle descent towards eugenics” – heighten sensitivities to 300's portrayal of eugenics as not only morally justifiable, but also sound public policy.

What's noteworthy here is that eugenics is not simply an idea of the past. As we mark the centennial of the world's first eugenics law (Indiana, 1907), reflections on the harms perpetuated in the name of “breeding better people” have yet to produce any meaningful federal legislation to prevent human biotechnologies from being used in a manner that might repeat this shameful history. People today are developing and using embryo-selection procedures to “weed out” babies with disabilities or select their sex. Some scientists are developing technologies that might lead to “designer” children who would suit various social preferences for hair color, skin color, and more. In fact – not unlike what happened in Sparta – other technologies are being researched to enhance humans to fit certain military specifications.

Take as an example the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), the U.S. Department of Defense bureau responsible for developing military technologies. It has become increasingly interested in funding research into human enhancement that can build better soldiers, which Wired describes as an effort “to let [soldiers] run harder and longer, operate without sleep, overcome deadly injury, and tap the potential of their unconscious minds.” Though these techniques would be aimed at young adults rather than at embryos or newborns, they are closely related to eugenics in that they embrace a similar belief that we can and should design individuals to suit social and political ends. And, as in ancient Sparta, national security and militarism can become easily intertwined with these conversations.

If enhancing today's soldiers is already on the table, are we also headed toward a truly eugenic militarism that starts from scratch and uses reproductive and genetic technologies to select, design, or engineer “freedom fighters”? What would this rebirth of a nation – through enhancement, eugenics, or otherwise – mean for our country's social, political, and military future?

If it wasn't already clear that reproductive and genetic technologies could presage a new eugenics, 300's blockbuster message should draw attention to this as much as it might foreshadow ongoing conflict in the Middle East. A disturbing number of scientists, fertility specialists, biomedical researchers, and others are pushing a market-based eugenics founded on parents’ private choices. Yet throwback eugenics based on Spartan-like freedom and democracy could also be around the corner. Only better oversight and clear regulation of human biotechnologies – as we see in Canada and the United Kingdom – can help us navigate these impending challenges. Otherwise, to paraphrase King Leonidas, we may very well end up dining in hell.

Osagie K. Obasogie directs the project on Bioethics, Law, and Society at the Center for Genetics and Society in Oakland, CA. He also regularly contributes to the blog Biopolitical Times, where an earlier version of this essay appeared.


What Went Wrong With… And What Is Wrong With… Frank Miller?

Caricature of Frank Miller
by What Went Wrong With
May 25, 2013

Graphic Novels along with Comic Books have and always will be targeted toward a certain section of society.
A section that has no attention span for real literature, has misconceptions about real art, and is a lover of prejudice, violence, and patriotism.
These nerds and shut-ins who neither have the guts nor the constitution for real-life events or situations, have been facilitating the creation and consumption of numerous poorly written, badly drawn Graphic “Novels” for many years.

The biggest, most inartistic twat in this circle of crap graphics; is Frank Miller.
A Freddy Kruger looking motherfucker, who has made a career by illustrating the most banal piles of shit to ever grace paper, and who seems to insert the corniest, most dumbed-down dialogue into as many speech bubbles as possible as if he was channelling an illiterate, mentally-challenged spirit.
Because of the amount of “fans” he has gathered over the years, Hollywood has over the past decade or so optioned most of his work and allowed many of his trashy “novels” to become celluloid. The word “Fans”, which translates into “buyers” to any Hollywood executive, is the reason why we are subjected to live-action versions of his talent-less, tree-destroying hate-fests.

Wannabe hip directors like Robert Rodriguez and Zack Snyder have given these tales of racism, sexism, misogyny, and homophobia a greater audience.
The fact that these two directors are minorities, as are many of the actors in these films, just goes to show how ignorant and blind this new breed of Hollywood sell-outs really are.
Take a look at any Frank Miller comic, and if you ignore the same-same monotony of his illustrations, you can bear witness to blatant hatemongering and propaganda.
I cannot be bothered to go through this prick’s entire bibliography, but a quick glance at his works pretty much ticks off every category in a list of hatred.
300 was racist, homophobic, prejudice, and historically inaccurate. Sin City was misogynistic and sexist.
And Holy Terror was the most xenophobic, racist, prejudice, Islamophobic bullshit known to man.

Even in real life, Miller with his pointless rants toward left-wing, tolerant sections of society, such as the Occupy Wall Street movement, proves that this cunt is a hate-filled, hate-preaching, has-been.
The days of a fictional Captain America punching a two-dimensional Hitler have not faded away. A pussy like Frank Miller has regurgitated everything abhorrent about comics and brought them to a modern day mainstream audience. Miller, who has made it his life’s work to imagine the defeat of an enemy, rather than physically fight against it, is the very person that the right-wing pro-war Conservatives hate. A fucking puny nerd who is too scared to join the Military is the exact opposite of the crowd he is trying so hard to fit into.
The day he decides to practice what he preaches, and “fight” the supposed enemy, the staggering reality would dawn on him.
Talking shit is much easier than doing shit, and in this real three dimensional physical world, Frank Miller’s withered, skinny-arse frame wouldn’t even survive the journey to the Middle East, let alone the actual combat.
Although I think many people would rejoice if he got his decrepit arse blown off the fucking map.

Miller Time Is Over.

via What Went Wrong With… And What Is Wrong With… Frank Miller?.

via What Went Wrong With… And What Is Wrong With… Frank Miller?.

Frank Miller, Fascist Mouthpiece, Is a Cranky Old Hack

Frank Miller, Fascist Mouthpiece, Is a Cranky Old Hack
by Edwin Turner

A few years ago on this blog, I re-evaluated some of Frank Miller’s work, set against his fervent, blind support of the Bush wars. Today, I read a vitriolic rant by Miller, posted at his blog, where he offers the following clumsy thesis—

The “Occupy” movement, whether displaying itself on Wall Street or in the streets of Oakland (which has, with unspeakable cowardice, embraced it) is anything but an exercise of our blessed First Amendment. “Occupy” is nothing but a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists, an unruly mob, fed by Woodstock-era nostalgia and putrid false righteousness. These clowns can do nothing but harm America.

Miller offers no evidence about how or why the OWS protesters will “harm America,” nor does he support his claim that the protests are “anything but an exercise of our blessed First Amendment.” Honestly, I can’t even tell if Miller is being sarcastic when he writes “blessed” to describe the First Amendment, which clearly states that the citizens of this country have a right to assemble. Most Americans support the OWS movement, or at least the spirit of the movement, even if they do not agree with all of the tactics or, um, fashion sense and personal hygiene habits of the group. But Miller, furious reactionary that he is, does not bother once to consider a single idea put forth by OWS. He cannot see past the personal attire and fashion sense of some of the protesters, writing that the movement is nothing “more than an ugly fashion statement by a bunch of iPhone, iPad wielding spoiled brats who should stop getting in the way of working people and find jobs for themselves.” Those kids with their iPhones!

In a baffling move of obscure non-logic, Miller then connects OWS to his “enemies,” those nefarious (if nebulous) forces “al-Qaeda and Islamicism.” The piece ends with this disingenuous call to action—

In the name of decency, go home to your parents, you losers. Go back to your mommas’ basements and play with your Lords Of Warcraft. Or better yet, enlist for the real thing. Maybe our military could whip some of you into shape.

Miller of course never served in any branch of the armed forces. He also has never heard of/chooses to ignore clear evidence that veterans are part of this movement, including Scott Olsen, who was badly injured by police in Oakland.

Since Frank is so frank, let’s all be frank: Frank Miller is a tedious, ill-informed, rage-choked hack who hasn’t produced a great work in over two decades.

Even worse, he’s a fascist.

Miller’s early work in the 1980s repeatedly pointed toward the essential conflict of individual versus society; his heroes and anti-heroes constantly found themselves squaring off against corrupt totalitarian systems that sought to silence dissent and curtail civil liberties. As Miller’s career fumbled along, he increasingly endorsed the underlying fascistic elements present in his vigilante heroes, a fascism wed to an image of the hero as a man whose uncompromising ideals—and uncomplicated misunderstandings of a complex world—inevitably lead to brutal violence. See, for example, Miller’s most recent effort, Holy Terror, an extremely poorly received piece of anti-Muslim propaganda, which was poorly received by comic book audiences not entirely because of its content, but also because of its poor execution. (For a detailed and insightful take-down of Miller’s pulp trash, read Spencer Ackerman’s review in Wired).

Miller is a reactionary crank, a regressive thinker who is terrorized by the idea that the America “he knows” is no longer the homogeneous ideal that it once was. Of course, America was never an idealized homogeneous space, but that doesn’t matter. That’s what fantasy is for. And Miller is a professional fantasist. His derangement evinces not just in his reactionary vitriol toward the OWS protesters, but also in his apparent fear of the technology that these “iPhone, iPad wielding spoiled brats” use to disseminate their message.

Take note that never once in his screed does Miller attempt to paraphrase, analyze, refute, address, or otherwise actually engage that message. Presumably he can’t; he can’t hear it. Like one of the flat characters in his comics, perhaps Miller’s own interior monologue edges out all other voices, reinforcing his own paranoid delusions that “others” are lurking in the shadows, ready to take away the precious freedoms and ideals that only he can understand and value.

One is tempted to point out that Ezra Pound, G.B. Shaw, and Virginia Woolf, among other modernists, supported fascism, that Heidegger was a member of the Nazi party, and yet these artists and thinkers maintain a canonical place to this day in their respective fields. Will history be so kind to Miller? This is an earnest question. Certainly The Dark Knight Returns is a singular work in the superhero comics genre. But works like Holy Terror will do little to preserve the reputation of the man behind the Robocop sequels and The Spirit movie. Great art will survive the straining force of history, but I do not think that Miller is a great artist. He’s just a loud, angry cartoonist with ugly, unfounded, illogical opinions—and I think that that is what history will show.

via Frank Miller, Fascist Mouthpiece, Is a Cranky Old Hack.

Frank Miller Reconsidered

Frank Miller Reconsidered
by Edwin Turner

During a horrible illness I suffered the other week, I turned to the only thing that I can digest when I’m really, really sick–comic books. I randomly chose to reread Frank Miller’s classic re-imagining of Batman, 1986‘s The Dark Knight Returns. I’ve read this comic–or “graphic novel,” if you want to sound like an asshole who’s afraid of being seen reading comic books–at least a dozen times now, I’d guess, but the last time I’d read it was after its sequel The Dark Knight Strikes Again came out in 2001.

he Dark Knight Returns didn’t disappoint; it never does. Set in a future with a very old Bruce Wayne, the story figures Gotham City as an urban dystopia, chaotic with child-gangs running rampant. The superheroes that once policed the world–including Superman–have been forced to retire by the government. The anarchy in the city prompts The Batman to return. The Joker revives his old crime career. The Soviets invade a Caribbean island. Superman and Batman fight. Batman leads a youth revolution. It’s really fucking spectacular, grim, violent, and funny–the book works at all times to satire the media-obsessed materialism of the 80s. Great stuff.

I don’t own the sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, which says a lot. The story’s not great; in fact, it’s highly forgettable. The plot overreaches, eschewing the essentially frail humanity of The Batman–always the character’s most interesting facet–in favor for a plot stuffed with too many of the truly extra-human characters of the DC universe. Superman, Brainiac, and Captain Marvel are just too hyperbolic to serve as effective foils for gritty Batman. Fifteen years later, Miller’s sequel overshoots, taking Batman from the underground, from the streets, and up into the air, where he just doesn’t belong.

The Dark Knight Strikes Again also came out after Frank Miller had had tremendous success with his Sin City series, published by Dark Horse. I remember when the first Sin City comics came out: I was really disappointed. The artwork was fantastic–a new level of excellence for Miller, whose Jack Kirby-influenced lines always managed to convey energy, tension, and action. Sin City looked like no comic before it that I can think of, a chiaroscuro film noir that rippled and moved. Unfortunately, the story was basic at best and flat and one-dimensional at worst. Without thematic depth or any measure of subtlety, the Sin City stories are aesthetically pleasing but hardly essential.


When 300 came out as a film last year, I took the time to read it–at Barnes & Nobles. Again, the book, especially in its oversized format, is visually striking, but where the old Frank Miller–the guy who created Elektra and made Wolverine the coolest mutant in the world–would’ve just drawn a great story, the late nineties Miller forces the drama down the reader’s throats. On virtually every page, 300‘s narrator tells you how you should feel about what’s going on in the story; the book is probably better without any lettering at all.

Although 300 was published in 1998, as criticism of the film has shown, its themes of patriarchal violence, unabashed militarism, and outright xenophobia are amazingly prescient to America’s post 9/11 ideology (my biggest criticism is undoubtedly the film’s depictions of idealized bodies contrasted with the extreme vilification of any “othered” bodies: this is a film that hates the differently-abled at all turns). Frank Miller has been something of a spokesman for this gung-ho mentality. Consider his September 11th, 2006 contribution to NPR’s “This I Believe” series, in which he blandly recapitulates the Bush administration’s “with us or against us” (in being against them) ethos; in an interview (again on NPR) a few months later he rails the “Bush-hating” “spoiled brats” who are not on board with the Iraq war. For such comments, Miller’s become something of a hero among right-wing bloggers, and his work has been reinterpreted within this light.

I wouldn’t hold this against Miller if his work held up, but I’m not sure that it does. He hasn’t produced anything that could touch The Dark Knight Returns in the twenty-plus years since its publication, and his recent announcement that he is writing Holy Terror, Batman! a self-described “piece of propaganda” in which “Batman kicks al Qaeda’s ass” is a truly lamentable decision (even Stan Lee, of all people, described the idea as “corny” and out of touch). Miller’s aim to write a piece of “propaganda” seems dead on, actually. Divorce “propaganda” from whatever politics it’s meant to convey, for a moment, and you have exactly the kind of work Millers’ been producing for quite some time now: thoroughly one-dimensional, brutishly simple pulp that hides its vacuity under a thick veneer of stylized violence.

To come back to where this long post started: after I finished The Dark Knight Returns, I reread Ronin, Miller’s 1983 tale of a masterless samurai lost in an apocalyptic future New York. The story explores dystopic race relations, emerging technologies, telekinesis, and bioethics. There’s also a demon. Ronin is cyberpunk on par with the best of William Gibson, and certainly the best thing Miller ever produced–and possibly the most overlooked. Apparently, a film version of Ronin is planned for release in 2009, which will undoubtedly lead to future confusion connected to Frankenheimer’s 1998 car-chase opus (also titled Ronin). Miller, however, seems to have no major hand in the movie–he’s too busy adapting and directing Will Eisner’s classic strip The Spirit for a 2009 movie release. The Spirit is fantastic source material, and Samuel “I Will Act in Your Movie For Money” Jackson is playing the villain, The Octopus, so it might be good. Then again, Miller is the screenwriter responsible for both Robocop 2 and 3, movies that completely missed the tone of Verhoeven’s satirical original. And whether or not Miller’s future movies–including sequels to Sin City–are any good, the gritty and grimy tone that he established in series like Daredevil and the original Wolverine book, as well as his groundbreaking revisioning of Batman led to a new seriousness and depth to an art form that had too-long been relegated to the margins of literature. And that’s a good thing.

via Frank Miller Reconsidered.

Watch the First Teaser Trailer for Christopher Nolan's ‘Interstellar’

Watch the First Teaser Trailer for Christopher Nolan’s ‘Interstellar’
December 14, 2013 | 08:44AM PT
Variety Staff

Paramount and Warner Bros. have released the first teaser trailer for the next movie from Christopher Nolan, “Interstellar.”
The trailer offers little in the way of information on the plot and just features a voiceover from Matthew McConaughey.
Film stars McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, Wes Bentley, Bill Irwin, Mackenzie Foy, Topher Grace and David Gyasi.

“Interstellar” is set to be released Nov. 7, 2014.