Tighten your shorts, Pilgrim, and get ready for another episode of “Whitewashing” here at Max, Mike; Movies. Genghis Khan: when you think of him, what do you see? Close your eyes and think of the first Great Khan of the Mongols, a man who created an empire over half the world, a man who is widely acclaimed as one of the most brilliant and brutal masters of war in human history. When you see that mighty Mongol warlord, born to the saddle, master of strategy, whose face do you see? What man could possibly portray such a controversial and influential figure? Well, if you said “John Wayne,” then the creators of “The Conqueror” agree with you and you should all seek serious help. Yes, we’ve got The Duke himself striding across the tumbling tumbleweeds of . . . the Gobi Desert. Sure, why not. This movie . . . hoo boy. Never mind the fact that out of a cast of about 200, there’s only a sprinkling of Asian actors, most of whom have no lines. Never mind that we’ve got people like Agnes Moorehead, William Conrad, and Lee Van Cleef portraying Mongols. Never mind that the Gobi Desert and Mongolia look an awful lot like Utah. Yes, set all that aside: this movie holds the distinction of being responsible for striking down nearly half its cast and crew with cancer. How, you ask? Give a listen and we’ll clue you in! You’ll also get a fascinating historical lesson as to how 13th Century Mongols spoke! No really! I’m absolutely sure that’s what they sounded like! Hollywood wouldn’t lie . . . would they?
Poll question: When watching a movie in a language you don’t know, do you prefer subtitles or that it be dubbed? Subs or Dubs? Leave a comment below!
Just in case you’re feeling too comfortable, we’re hitting you with another episode of “Whitewashing,” the series where two white guys talk about replacing non-white characters with white actors. Sure, we’re qualified for that. But who’s going to stop us? (checks behind door) Oh good, nobody’s here to stop us. So anyway, this week we’re discussing an uncomfortably recent film, the 2017 live-action adaptation of an iconic anime from 1995, “Ghost in the Shell.” Personally, I like my ghosts deep fried with tartar sauce but if you’re the sort who likes them fresh in the shell, I say go for it! Or am I confusing ghosts with oysters? Happens so often . . . I can’t be the only one who makes this mistake . . . No, the classic anime, which inspired such films as the Matrix and many, many others, deals with the complex and fascinating concept of the blurring of the line between human beings and machines. This live-action version? Well, tune in and see. When it was announced that distinctly non-Asian actor Scarlett Johannsson was going to play the lead role, a character who was originally Japanese, there was quite a backlash. Many people were upset. Join us and learn exactly who was upset . . . and more interestingly, who was NOT upset. You may be surprised; I can tell you right now that I certainly was. Give a listen and enjoy our surprised-ness!
Poll question: What was a movie you saw that had a “big twist” that you totally saw coming, or conversely, what is a movie with a “big twist” that totally worked on you?
Welcome, welcome to a brand spanking new series (no, no, this isn’t a series about BDSM; the only one getting spanked around here is Bumpy and that’s with a two by four) which we’re calling “Hooray for White People! Yay! They’re The Best! Who Needs Anyone Else?” Man, that’d generate some interesting comments, wouldn’t it? In all seriousness (or as much seriousness as we get to around here), our new series is called “Whitewashing” and we’re dealing with one of the more uncomfortable topics we’ve tackled: the long, embarrassing, and continuing-to-this-day bad habit that Hollywood has of having white people play people of color, often through the use of truly cringe-worth makeup, bad speech imitations, and more. There’s another particularly insidious variant of whitewashing as well, where stories with characters of rich and varied racial backgrounds are rewritten so that the characters become white. We’ll be dealing with this and other types in the weeks to come, starting with a particularly uncomfortable one for me personally, as I loved this movie growing up: 1961’s “A Majority of One.” Starring Rosalind Russell as a Brooklyn-based Russian Jewish immigrant (because, sure) and Alec Guinness as . . . a Japanese businessman. Yup. Not kidding. Clench your teeth, hold your nose and dive right in with us, won’t you?
Poll question: do you have a favorite location for films to take place? Some country, some city? What place would you like to see featured in films more often?
Like sands through the hourglass, so are the episodes of “Semi-Real People” and this last grain is “Pollock.” Note that this movie is NOT about the tasty fish, as many of us, I mean, many of you might think but rather about the turbulent later life of one of the most famous, if not the most famous, American painters, Jackson Pollock (note: not only are no fish involved but this was NOT the original name of the Jackson Five. I’m sure some of me, I mean, some of you were very confused by this. Happy to clear that up). Jackson Pollock, the man who redefined surrealism and gave rise to the comment heard in many an art gallery: “Huh. My kid could just drip paint on a canvas like that.” Spoiler alert: no, they really couldn’t. Tortured by mental illness, alcoholism, and his desperate need for acceptance of his work, Jackson Pollock may not make for the cheeriest of subjects but he’s certainly not boring. Give a listen and learn the answer to the ancient question: how many surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: two. One to hold the giraffe and the other to fill the bathtub with brightly colored machine parts. Thank you! I’ll be here all week! Try the roast pony!
Poll question: Is there a movie that you think loses impact by being seen on the small screen? Is there a movie you’re really glad you saw in the theater or you wish you had seen there?