Friday, September 14, 2007

The Pavlovian Nature of "Take My Breath Away", A Question About Race and Kirsten Dunst Movies

This post comes out of a comment that I was writing in a post on Marco's blog that got way too long to just be a comment. The context of this as a comment, in relation to an earlier comment about Fred Thompson*, was my telling Marco that I had finally saw Rambo III based on his suggestion. (Which I covered in more detail here last month.) Marco replied that Rambo III was the ultimate 80's action movie. Though it didn't beat Commando or Red Dawn's right wing propaganda or Top Gun's overt homoeroticism.

It's funny that as a kid, my favorite non-Superman movie was Top Gun. The latent homosticity of Top Gun was completely lost on me. I only knew that whenever "Take My Breath Away" came on, it was time to fast forward until Tom Cruise was riding off on his motorcycle victoriously from fucking Kelly McGillis. This fast forwarding was downright Pavlovian, as when I watched it years and years later, when it was alright to watch a PG-13 sex scene, I fast forwarded as the cheese synthesizers coincided with the wind blowing McGillis' white curtains. To this day I actually have no idea of what really goes on in this scene. I can only assume that it is the single best PG-13 sex scene ever, though I probably will never know for sure.
I've never seen Commando or Red Dawn, as I secretly LOVE these movies, I feel sad to admit it. I was looking up Commando on imdb, and saw that Dan Hedaya** plays the the evil Latin American dictator.
(This is where it becomes ridiculously long for a comment...) It's funny to me how so many actors who clearly aren't Latin play Latin characters in movies. Scarface being the biggest, clearest, most over the top example. And it seems that Hollywood has shifted from it's early ideas on this ("get an Italian to play a Latin, I mean, Italians invented Latin!") to this newer dynamic of getting Arabs to play Latins. (an example would be the guy who plays Farik on Sleeper Cell, ((also of The Mummy)) Oded Fehr.) he's currently playing a Carlos Olivera in the upcoming Resident Evil movie. Clearly, he's not Hispanic, and clearly Olivera is not an Arab name. Is it just because he's brown? So I guess my question is... Is this trend of getting non-Latins to play Latin characters a clear case of racism or a clear case of free trade in a post-globalization world?

*The Fred Thompson comment was pertaining to how Thompson is/was the worst DA they ever had on Law & Order. Steven Hill played that role with true cranky old man virtuosity.
**Pertaining to Dan Hedaya, he was in what was one of the best comedies of the 90's, Dick. If you're unfamiliar with Dick, or maybe doubting me about Dick, I suggest you watch it (for the first time or again) and realize the genius of this movie. Hedaya plays Nixon with such ridiculous jowl shaking paranoia, it transcends parody into absolute realism. Will Ferrel and Bruce McCullouch (of Kids In The Hall fame) play Woodward & Bernstein with cartoonish contempt for eachother, Dave Foley is Haldeman (Kids In The Hall again), and Harry Shearer is G. Gordon Liddy. I could go on and on, but the casting is brilliant, aside from a few 90's comedy cliches, it's hilarious. Right up there with the brilliant and overlooked "Drop Dead Gorgeous".

In the process of getting a picture of Steven Hill as Adam Schiff, I stumbled upon the site of an artist named Brandon Bird. He does pop culture saturated paintings and t-shirts, the one with Lenny Briscoe on it will be ordered and on my person shortly. I would suggest checking out his paintings, I really enjoyed them.


Toothpaste Jones said...

It's-a too much-a pop culture for one blog post! So let's have the first debate of the blog's comments section-- Are Kirsten Dunst and Reese Witherspoon the same person, would anyone notice if one disappeared and the other got more roles as the persnickety cute blonde woman striving against adversity? Not to dismiss either of these actresses, because I certainly wouldn't be posing this question if I didn't have a secret room filled with their movie posters...

Cangrejero said...

This is a great post! I have to run out right now, but I'll have a response here soon!

Cangrejero said...

Not only are Kirsten Dunst and Reese Witherspoon the same person, but they are both Kate Hudson! The three of them will soon become Meg Ryan! You read it here first!

Another version of the mismatched actor/race is the straight guy playing a gay guy. Isn't there a gay actors' union somewhere which should be pissed about this? When some straight guy is in a movie running around and being as effeminate as possible, isn't this the modern equivalent of blackface?

Toothpaste Jones said...

Yeah, the worst part is that playing a gay character is a "brave" move for the straight actor. That "brave" move leads to a lot of Oscar nominations, or Emmy nominations in the case of Will & Grace.

There are plenty of gay actors, just as there are plenty of Latin actors. I wonder if this trend is a part of the odd sort of pandering that Holywood does, where it plays to uptight red state sensibilities. Like "oh, it's a movie about gays! but it's allright, we know where Heath Ledger really lays his pipe."

Cangrejero said...

I think the biggest scam the right wing has pulled on America is the characterization of Hollywood as liberal propagandists. A cursory look at any Hollywood movie will show a force-feeding of the "family values" crap that would make Reagan weep with pride. In Hollywood movies, the only path to responsible adulthood is (straight) marriage and children. Stupidity and ignorance combined with good intentions are the marks of good people and heroes, while intellectuals are (at best) nerds without any common sense and (at worst) evil geniuses who can fuck off and die. Sorry about the ranting.

Toothpaste Jones said...

No, the ranting's good! The characterization of intelectuals is the greatest fraud! We glorify the stupendous idiots! I feel a little like Frank Grimes here, but the stupid get off way too easy!

The other day I rewatched "Seabiscuit", which I love despite all it's overbearing sentimentality. It's like a Ken Burns documentary come to life. Anyway, one scene that's always struck me in that movie was where the young Tobey Maguire was sitting at the dinner table with his family, and they were all having a ball reciting poetry. And how that even struck me as not too fun. But to the general movie going populace this probably struck an even odder chord, because this would be one of the only scenes in a movie in which reading and striving for knowlege is not only portrayed as fun, but as something worthy. That the family gets struck down by the deus ex machina of the Great Depression is a whole 'nother story. In fact, I'm kind of changing my mind about this movie as I type. Anyone who reads in "Seabiscuit" ends up getting their ass handed to them by life. Toby loses his family, his eyesight, his ability to walk. Jeff Bridge's son dies shortly after refusing to go outside in favor of reading.

... so what were we talking about? Kirsten Dunst?