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Entries in ethan peterson (65)

Tuesday
Feb202018

In Which We Mime The Motions Of The Jungle Cat

The Words That We Know

by ETHAN PETERSON

Black Panther
dir. Ryan Coogler
Forever

If the aggressively mediocre Ryan Coogler had not at one point found Michael B. Jordan, is it too harsh to say all would have been lost? Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) is a most unusual Marvel villain in that he is not strictly speaking a villain at all. This is not a novel concept, since was Judas all that bad considering? But Killmonger is way better than Judas in almost every way.

Last week, a student at Christ the King high school in Queens wasn't allowed to wear a jersey with his birth name on it. His birth name is Malcolm Xavier Combs. Was he also named after P. Diddy? Time will tell on that one, but white administrators at Christ the King were evidently not enthused by the controversial career of the civil rights leader.

According to National Action Network crisis director the Rev. Kevin McCall, school administrators actually ranked different black leaders as appropriate or inappropriate.

While former President Barack Obama and civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. received a thumbs-up, Malcolm X and the Rev. Al Sharpton both were given a thumbs down.

I guess some people have a long memory about the whole Tawana Brawley thing. But I can't blame Al for that - how was he supposed to know a fifteen year old was lying? Getting even more short shrift in this tawdry affair is Malcolm X himself, the man who was born Malcolm Little. Everyone who has read The Autobiography of Malcolm X knows that Mr. X was a very fine Mr. X, maybe the best Mr. X except for Mr. X.

Malcolm dealt with some struggles. He grew up in a pervasively racist society. There was no such thing as rap. LeBron was just semen in a man brewery. Michael B. Jordan's mother was living comfortably. Malcolm X was not. For what he endured, he should never be villified. Plus as I recall he had exactly the right amount of anti-Semitism a human being is capable of ignoring, pretending it doesn't exist.

Anyway, there is a lot of time to sit and think during Black Panther. I don't personally (and this is not a view I extend to any of you) feel that a white character created, some might say, to take commercial advantage off a militant movement of African-Americans of tremendous historical and academic importance, is something that should be supported. I heard Harrison Barnes, a small forward on the Dallas Mavericks, took an entire theater of boys to see Black Panther in Texas. That sounds like a tedious afternoon.

My heart goes out to the family of Malcolm Xavier Combs. It is great that Ryan Coogler can just make these weird African epics now but I have a lot better ideas for stories he can work on. You see, my concepts for Ryan Coogler's career involve actual African-American authors, and yet box office success is assured because of the three most important words in Ryan Coogler and my life: Michael B. Jordan. These are the words that we know.

Just in general here is a list of characters I would love to see Michael B. Jordan play. (I would like to see Chadwick Boseman work in local theater.)

- Jesus

- Hamlet

- Fortinbras

- protagonist in a remake of Big

- David Ben-Gurion

- Richard Wright

- a remake of Marshall but without Chadwick Boseman and only Michael B. Jordan

- Michael Jordan (too on the nose?)

- Lacan

- Deleuze and Guattari in the same movie

I think you get the idea. Black Panther features a fictional African nation. But there were great nations made of African individuals that you don't even have to make up!

Anyway, it is sad what they did to Killmonger, but it is also great for those of us who imagine that something besides a safe action movie could be produced from that enduring historical culture. Then again, lowering your expectations leads to unhappiness in the long term.

Malcolm X was a great American purely because of what he overcame. He was an inspiration to so many people, and he probably wasn't that bad of a guy.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.

Sunday
Feb182018

In Which We Resleeve Ourselves Into Something More Familiar

Important Men

by ETHAN PETERSON

Altered Carbon
creator Laeta Kalogridis
Netflix

In this future story from novelist Richard K. Morgan, we are thrust into a world where anyone can look however they want. That James Purefoy wants to look like James Purefoy makes sense on its face, but who would want to look like Joel Kinnaman? Joel Kinnaman looks like the "before" picture in one of those old advertisements in Archie comics, the shrimp who would get beat up at the beach or a dinner party (see below). Kinnaman explains fairly early on that he is an Envoy, which is some kind of soldier. The basic point we are meant to get across about this individual is this: he has a rich and storied history, and could tell you things of which you are probably unaware.

Instead of doing so, Kinnaman's version of Takeshi Kovacs is only interesting when he is thinking about killing himself. It would have been an important moment to have a suicidal main character if I already didn't want to cut myself when I saw Matt Damon's goofy face.

It was a mistake to cast Joel Kinnaman in this role for so many reasons:

1) He admits he has never brushed his teeth.

2) His cloying overacting may have singlehandedly torpedoed House of Cards in retrospect, sparking a sexual harassment revolution.

3) The only time he ever had chemistry with a co-star was in The Killing, and that co-star was ostensibly a corpse,

4) His penis is shaped like a soda can and from some angles cannot be viewed by the human eye.

5) His transparent overtraining to look like a soldier (what a fucking Christian Bale wannabe) makes him have the practical dimensions of the star of Where's Waldo,

6) He is Asian when he dies in the show's opening scene, and when he wakes up, he's Joel Kinnaman. We lost so much just right there.

There comes a point in your life when you realize you're dating yourself. In real life, the Swedish-born Kinnaman is married to a tattoo artist. Her skin resembles a sheet of paper that's been written over too many times.

Kinnaman's main antagonist is a Latina police officer named Kristin (Martha Higareda). Kristin is pretty tiny, and the two have so many scenes together that it is very awkward to see them both in the same frame. Perhaps wisely, creator Laeta Kalogridis puts as much focus on the surrounding mise-en-scene as she can. (She even refers to it as mise-en-scene.) The future, in Morgan's imagining, is basically like now except some people can live forever if they have enough money. What they are really paying for is for a version of themselves to be hosted on satellite and beamed back into a new cortical stack should they be murdered.

This has in fact happened to Mr. Bancroft (The slovenly James Purefoy, who has the biggest mole imaginable, gross, disgusting). He wants Kovacs to solve the murder, but despite his ample resources and connections within the resleeving industry, he cannot find an Asian body for his private detective to inhabit. That this is racist is indisputable, so Altered Carbon papers over it with a bunch of roles for African-Americans in which they play second bananas or omnipotent, advisory god figures.

If you think I'm trying to discourage you from watching Altered Carbon, think again. There may in fact be a future, or even a present where someone would want to look like Joel Kinnaman - all gangly and soda-canesque. I'm pretty sure Kinnaman has ruined everything he has ever been in. I don't even remember who he was in Suicide Squad, which is probably for the best.

The worst part of his casting is that Altered Carbon would basically be John Wick if Keanu Reeves would do television. In any case, an actual actor was required for the role.

Ethan Peterson is the senior contributor to This Recording.

Monday
Feb122018

In Which We Could Not Be This Married If We Tried

Our Home in Aspen

by ETHAN PETERSON

Fifty Shades Freed
dir. James Foley
105 minutes

Sex during the honeymoon. At the beginning of Fifty Shades Freed, Christian (Jamie Dornan) and Ana (Dakota Johnson) are married in a lovely ceremony. The resulting honeymoon is incredibly tame. At one point, Christian chains Ana's arms to her legs, but he never really goes anywhere after he secures her. He just performs cunnilingus for a bit and I guess she can't move, but why would she have to or want to? Later, Ana is punished by her husband for disobeying her, and she is angry that he brought their dispute into the bedroom. She does not scream, "Never go to bed angry!" but it might as well be the subtitle of this inoffensive film.

Previously, Christian Grey was something of a maniac who acted extremely rashly and would use the excuse of a troubled childhood to explain the various trials he put Ana and others such as his brother Eliot (Luke Grimes) through. As a married man, Christian has mellowed. He is very protective of his new wife, and she feels much the same. When a lively blonde architect (Arielle Kebbel) flirts with him, Ana attacks like a mealy-mouthed tiger. She is so brave we forgive the fact that her teeth look horrendous.

Methods of birth control. Although Ana tells Christian that she is taking the depo-provera shot to prevent his demon spawn from incubating within her, she actually "forgets" to take her shot. She never admits to this passive-aggressive dereliction of duty, but perhaps she can think of no other way to convince her husband to bear her the children she feels she deserves. The Depo shot is about 99 percent effective; that is, one out of every hundred times a baby will be born who is unexpected and possibly even unwanted.

Later - much later - we see Ana and Christian's daughter. Both parents are happy in the glow of their child. The implication is that even though the conception of the child was a mistake, the result is a happy one. I try to apply this basic philosophy to all the unintended consequences in my life, but it does not tell us what is probably more important - how to react to the things we chose for ourselves.

A marriage's rules. Ana's friend Kate (Eloise Mumford) is in an unhappy relationship with Christian's brother. When he proposes to her, she happily accepts, except it escapes no one's notice that he is doing such a thing in an Aspen nightclub. Onlookers don't know whether to applaud or cry. Christian's Aspen home is configured much like his other living spaces, featuring large open rooms complemented by small kitchens. He does not prize the excess of a large kitchen because in all his time spent learning how to control women, he never figured out how to manage a stove.

When Ana goes out to a bar and has a few drinks with Kate, Christian is incensed. "Keep the martinis coming," Kate tells their server, and Ana explains that "Christian will be so mad" and "I'm going to get in so much trouble." Kate never responds by saying, "Do you think this is maybe an unhealthy marriage if you can't go out for one night without having the fetish of the month (were those butt plugs?) foisted upon you?" Ana just sips her martini and returns home an hour later, where she is almost killed by one of Christian's disgruntled employees.

Cooking a marital stew. Christian senses that Ana is uncomfortable in this apartment where she was almost murdered. Fortunately, he has begun making plans for a home where they can both be completely comfortable. It looks something like a haunted house, so understandably Christian hires an architect to tear the entire thing down. Ana is grief-stricken at this thought - you see, she likes authentic things that retain their own charm as ages pass. In other words, she is attracted to someone who is not like her.

Instead of differentiating herself from her husband, the newly-named Ana Grey seeks to become more like him - mysterious, at times even beguilingly aggressive, but with a warm and chewy center. As the most phenomenal soundtrack plays, including an ironic song by Sia, the two fight over whether or not she should use his name in her professional life. Even though she works as a fiction editor at her husband's publishing company, Ana's friends and coworkers keep emphasizing that she has attained her position entirely through merit. 

Like most caricatures, Christian and Ana Grey never do anything wrong, or contemplate something we would not do ourselves. In one scene, Ana finds a loaded gun her husband has left in a drawer. (The drawer was evidently not child-proofed.) She walks into the next room and asks him why he has it. I was stunned by this, since if I found a loaded gun in my husband's drawer I would never tell a soul. But he just calmly tells her to get rid of it. 

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.