The Cat and the Coup

This was a beautiful offering and an interesting way of encouraging engagement with historical events.

The graphics and interactions are symbolic.  I experienced this as more of an interactive text with an element of ‘game’ to make more of a connection than just reading/watching might.

The animation style is very friendly, for want of a better word – it feels real because it’s not trying to be realistic; it’s a collage in exactly the same way the story is a collage.  I love it when the medium of storytelling matching the storytelling.

The story itself was well out of my sphere of awareness, being not American, not Iranian, not British, and not born until the 80s, so I probably missed a lot more depressing references.  My main reaction to the actual content, historical and real, was “huh, well, typical” in relation to the US/Britain, with the game-structure/text-structure meaning any empathy I felt was for Mossadegh, knowing nothing else of his term of service than what the game showed.

This was in beta only; will be interested to see if the format develops into a more complex textual unwrapping of history.  It’s a very innovative format in any case.


The Help

Overly simplified.  The “bad” white woman and “good” white woman characters are almost more stereotyped than the black women.  The starting framing of Skeeter and Hilly looked like it had far more potential; what do you do when your whole society, your best friend, your whole structure is racist.  In the end, it just ended up being a dumb portrayal of “only morally deficit people are racist”, which makes for a simpler, cleaner storytelling path but not much about racism and class/economic slavery linked to race persisting in the US.

Shadowy male figures in the background casually perpetuating violence upon women of all races.  Unchallenged through the course of the film; white women trying to please casually racist men become more violently racist than the men.  Black women trying to keep their families alive and find better futures for their kids, locked into domestic slavery under white women by the demands and general uselessness of alcoholic black men stereotypes.

Overall, the simplification was just as depressing as the content.  There were glimmers of interest in a few statements/connections.  “My momma was a maid.  My Grandmother was a house slave.”  And we are shown how Aibileen’s generation’s children become university students, lawyers, doctors, presidents.

For a movie about such a teetering cusp era in US history, the story and storytelling felt like it was still locked in the 50s.

Django Unchained

Better than I thought it would be.  Although the random addition of Australians made no sense.

It had an interesting development of mutual respect between the two leads.  A solid story although it felt like the pacing dragged – lots of setup for the final confrontation but seemed to take forever to get there.  The premise for the last setup was also flawed.  If they actually had up to $12k cash in hand, why wouldn’t the German have simply approached Candie, said he knew Candie had a German speaking slave that he wanted to buy, and was willing to pay more than she was worth because she was the only German speaking slave he had heard of in all his time in America and he really wanted to speak his mothertongue again?  But of course that would have been far too simple, they had to try to scam Broomhilde’s purchase instead.

Still, I liked the two leads and was interested enough to keep watching.

Neither a positive or a negative, everyone was a recognisable caricature and seemingly a repeat of past QT caricatures.  There was an uncomplicated (and hence annoying) divide between white American sadists and noble black victims (and the enlightened European).  The trouble is, I’m not American and this history (and related film genres of blaxploitation etc) are very distant to me.  I kept feeling like this plot, this story, the struggles of these characters (including the German’s last stand for decency, even considering his brutal profession) teetered right on the edge of being a deeply different story of longlasting value — if only the QT trademarks were toned down.  A setup in which QT could have done something different, not more of the same.

Except it turns out that making the film meaningful was the opposite of what QT wanted to do: “…movies that deal with America’s horrible past with slavery and stuff but do them like spaghetti westerns, not like big issue movies. I want to do them like they’re genre films, but they deal with everything that America has never dealt with because it’s ashamed of it, and other countries don’t really deal with because they don’t feel they have the right to.”[4]

But the whole subject of the plot is a big issue, so how do you represent it as a non-issue?  Apparently by lacing the imagery with caricatures and ceaseless genre film references, which is an entire weird pastiche which really felt in conflict with Django’s story, which has a really raw truth to it which should have taken centre stage.

I also kept thinking how this film would have played out if made in the 1930s or 1950s with oldschool Hollywood star types.