The King of Kong vs. The Terminator

Has any documentary ever been spoofed like this, or ever become such a pop-culture reference point like this, before?
Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly. (Hat tip to Anne Thompson.)

Andrew Stanton confirms John Carter of Mars

The Pixar Blog reports that Andrew Stanton, director of Finding Nemo (2003) and the upcoming WALL-E, confirmed today at a junket for the latter film that he is currently developing an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars, as has been rumoured for several months now.

You Don’t Mess with the Zohan — the review’s up!

My review of You Don’t Mess with the Zohan is now up at CT Movies.

There are several points I toyed with making in this review but never got around to, either for word-count reasons or because my writing just got into a certain groove and I didn’t feel I could shoehorn them in. These include:

The sheer abundance of hummus.

The fact that Zohan has posters of KISS frontman Gene Simmons, who was born in Israel, and eyepatched Israeli general Moshe Dayan on his bedroom wall — which neatly sums up the film’s proudly political yet frivolously hedonistic spirit.

The parallels with Steven Spielberg’s Munich (2005), which likewise revolves around an Israeli who kicks ass but gives it all up for a life of obscurity in New York.

The fact that this, like Munich, is a film about a Jew who kicks ass, and thus might be the sort of film that would please the Seth Rogen character in Knocked Up (2007) — which, incidentally, was written and directed by Judd Apatow, who also co-wrote Zohan.

The way this film’s reversal of all stereotypes except for the evil rich white man and the evil poor white redneck parallels a similar double standard in Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.

The multiple celebrity cameos.

The way this film is yet one more example of how the cast members of the original Star Trek (1966-1969) have devolved into parodies of themselves, such that they could probably never play those characters again without getting sucked into a fair bit of ironic nudge-nudge wink-wink self-referential humour. (I could go into more detail about that, but I don’t want to spoil the joke.)

The fact that Emmanuelle Chriqui, the actress who plays the Palestinian love interest to Adam Sandler’s Israeli super-agent, is apparently not Arabic herself but is, rather, the daughter of “Jewish French Moroccan immigrants of Sephardic Moroccan descent”.

And probably some other stuff that I don’t remember at the moment.

For more insights, if that’s the word, into the film and the way it fits into its cultural moment, see the New York Times . . .

Mr. Badreya said that the comedy in “Zohan” was not quite evenly divided between ridiculing Arabs and ridiculing Jews. “The jokes are not 50-50,” he said. “It’s 70-30. Which is great. We haven’t had 30 for a long time. We’ve been getting zero. So it’s good.”

. . . and Variety:

Since the 1970s, most “Saturday Night Live” alumni with film careers have made spoofs of sex, sports, schools and spies, but left the topical laffs to TV’s sketch comedies. In contrast, Sandler tackled gay marriage in his “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” and, as an actor for hire, made films about immigration (“Spanglish”) and Sept. 11 (“Reign Over Me“). OK, not exactly the definitive word on these issues, but he’s making films about something.

Indeed he is, and this is why I find it impossible to dismiss Sandler out of hand as easily as I would often like to do.

And now for a rare political comment.

I tend not to get too political here, but this comment from Ezra Klein, via Ross Douthat, seems worthy of mention here:

Towards the end of the 1967 movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” Dr. John Wane Prentice, played by Sydney Poitier, sits down with his fiance’s white father, played by Spencer Tracy. “Have you given any thought to the problems your children will have?” Tracy asks. “Yes, and they’ll have some…[But] Joey feels that all of our children will be President of the United States,” replies Poitier. “How do you feel about that?” asks Tracy, looking skeptically at the black man in front of him. “I’d settle for Secretary of State,” Poitier laughs.

Written in the late-1960s, the exchange was, indeed, laughable. The Civil Rights Act had been passed three years prior. Two years before, the Watts riots had broken out, killing 35. Martin Luther King Jr. would be assassinated a year later. But here we are, almost exactly 40 years after theatergoers heard that exchange. The last two Secretaries of State were African-American and, as of tonight, the next president may well be a black man. John Prentice’s children would probably still be in their late-30s. They could still grow up to be cabinet officials or even presidents, but they would not necessarily be trailblazers. . . .

This is, indeed, a transition worth noting — and even celebrating, as far as it goes. I happen to think that both Obama and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner are vastly over-rated, and have earned their reputations largely because white liberals feel a need to make a point, considerations of political and artistic merit be damned. But the parallel Klein draws between the 40-year-old dialogue and the political reality of the last seven years is definitely interesting.

That said, I cannot help but wonder if all the editors who came up with “Obama makes history” headlines last night would have done the same for Clinton if a couple hundred delegates had gone her way instead of the other way. The first female presidential nominee would be just as historical as the first black presidential nominee, would it not? And I wonder what films people might have invoked if Clinton had come out on top.

It is also interesting to consider that both Poitier and Obama are the children of British subjects — Poitier’s parents came from the Bahamas, Obama’s father came from Kenya — and thus, unless I’m missing something, neither of them is descended from, say, the slaves that were liberated by the American Civil War. (For that matter, Colin Powell, the second-to-last Secretary of State, was the son of Jamaican immigrants, so his parents were British subjects too.) So depending on what Dr. John Wade Prentice’s own background was, it might still be possible for his children to blaze a trail or two.

And for what it’s worth, this certainly isn’t the first time someone has made some sort of connection between Sidney Poitier and Barack Obama. See here, here and here, for starters.

Newsbites: The biblical themes edition!

Just catching up on a few items I’ve had sitting around for a while, plus one new item that surfaced today.

1. Carolyn Arends has written an article for CT Movies on Magdalena: Released from Shame, the latest film to mix brand-new, demographically-targeted footage with footage from the Campus Crusade for Christ movie Jesus (1979). The interesting thing about this film — unlike, say, The Story of Jesus for Children (2000) — is that the new footage features at least one character who was also part of the original film, but presumably played by a different actor. So is the character played by two different women in the new film? Did they re-shoot any of the older scenes? Did they digitally insert the new actress into the older scenes? I am curious, especially in light of the article’s description of how the filmmakers tried to insert new footage of Jesus into the film.

2. Speaking of movies that fictionalize and recontextualize stories from the Bible, Books & Culture has an article looking at how Evan Almighty (2007) functions within the “ancient tradition of Ark midrash” because it is “an appropriation of the flood story that reflects the needs and contexts of its readers.” In related news, Carolyn Arends has another item up at Christianity Today in which she springs off a scene in Evan Almighty to muse on the relationship between God’s wrath and God’s love.

3. Variety has a review of El cant dels ocells, AKA Birdsong, a Spanish film that played at Cannes a couple weeks ago:

Patience was no doubt required of the Three Wise Men as they made their way toward Bethlehem, and the same will be required of auds who seek out “Birdsong,” Albert Serra’s minimalist reinterpretation of the Magi’s journey. Hushed, contemplative but often quite droll experiment offers beautifully sculpted images on a black-and-white canvas across its sometimes hypnotic, sometimes tedious runtime. . . .

Three robed men (all played by thesps with the first name Lluis) tread very, very slowly across a craggy landscape, bickering comically over how they should proceed in their search for the Christ Child. Grounded in desert dunes and rocky ruins, pic reps a profound attempt to locate the spiritual within the material. . . .

This reminds me, I have wanted to see Ermanno Olmi’s Cammina, cammina (1982), which also concerns the journey of the Magi, for some time, but none of the local video stores seem to have it.

4. Variety reports that NBC likes what it has seen of the pilot episode for Kings, Michael Green’s modernized take on the rivalry between Saul and David, and has picked it up as a series, starring Ian McShane and Christopher Egan.

What is so funny about these images?

After obsessing over The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep for the past few weeks, my daughter has developed an interest in Davey and Goliath — and for some reason she laughs every single time the logo at the beginning and end of each episode dissolves from the image on the left to the image on the right. Does anyone with a better understanding of child psychology than I have a clue why my two-year-old daughter might find this segue so funny?

My son has begun to laugh at this sequence, too, though I suspect he’s just imitating his twin sister; a few seconds ago, he found it funny even though he wasn’t even looking at the screen, he just heard the music and looked at his sister and laughed in her direction.