Laissez-Faire | In Love & Free Trade

White man pretending to be black pretending not to be white
August 15, 2008, 11:36 pm
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tropic thunder

Courtesy of Beyond Hollywood


Not to mention that it’s Robert Downey, Jr. sporting blackface in the controversial ‘Nam satire, “Tropic Thunder”. In his defense, Esquire recently published an article explaining why Downey, Jr. (and only Downey, Jr.) can pull off blackface.

How does Downey pull it off? Singular talent. The Oscar-nominated actor has spent his career perfecting humor and pathos in equal measure. Which means that when, in Tropic Thunder, he plays a dead-serious Australian Method actor who insists on taking a role originally written for a black man, what ends up parodied is the self-seriousness of Method acting and the Vietnam-movie trope of the chitlins-chewing Negro grunt. Blackface isn’t the subject; it’s the vessel.

Speaking of blackface, I once teasingly asked one of my girlfriends, who is Jamaican, about the extent to which blackface is really offensive. The running analogy goes – if you’re impersonating MC Hammer for Halloween, impersonate the pants NOT the skin color. “But why not?” I ask. “What about accuracy?” I persist. To which my friend responds, “How would you feel if someone went around and made Asian eye-slit jokes?” Enough said. Still, I’d be curious to see someone impersonate my almond eyes – like the wartime comic strips about China. Technically, it would be Thailand in this case. But, like, who cares ’cause we know all Asians look the same.

Batman Carves Economic Niche in Film (& Villain) History

the dark knight

Just how much did “The Dark Knight” gross at the box office this weekend? $158.4 million (CN Portfolio)

But compared to previous versions, Batman is earning less over time. In fact, the first Batman film in 1989, starring Michael Keaton, grossed about $436.4 million.

Gallery: Best & Worst Batman Villains (
Best: The Joker, of course, but Danny DeVito as The Penguin was grim – both sad and gothically disturbing: that funeral, those dark circles, him hitting on Catwoman. Cringe.

Lou Reed Doc Screens at Film Forum

Lou Reed

BERLIN captures Lou Reed’s precious first-ever performance at Brooklyn’s St. Ann Warehouse. The film will screen at Film Forum this Monday, July 28th with a Q&A to follow.

Bob Dylan had “Blood on the Tracks”, Reed had “Berlin”. Both albums were perhaps the darkest of either artists’ chapters. For Reed, “Berlin” flopped commercially and was not performed live for 33 years. And the best part is the film is directed by renowned painter, Julian Schnabel (“The Diving Bell & the Butterfly”). I came across a portrait of a younger-looking Schnabel, among Jackson Pollock and Basquiat during their heyday, one Saturday afternoon while perusing the galleries in Chelsea. I did a double-take but was certain it was the Schnabulous Schnabel.

“Don’t Kiss Me Goodbye” (Ultra Orange & Emmanuelle) in “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”

tonight’s the knight

heath ledger as joker

Walking past the Union Square theatre yesterday, I noticed a queue extending around the building. The people were among blue police barricades for what looked like a silent protest. Turns out kids were just waiting to get tickets for “The Dark Knight”, which opens today. R.I.P., Heath.

*Paul Rudd at McCarren *

paul rudd

Last night, The L Magazine screened “Wet Hot American Summer” for its Summerscreen series at McCarren Pool. In attendance to introduce the film were Joe Lo Truglio, Michael Showalter and, yes, Paul Rudd. I’m bummed that I had obligations and couldn’t make the event. Luckily, my friend Adam Au was there to capture it all.

*However (however), I did spot Paul Rudd with the director of “The Shape of Things” in my college town a while back. Rudd had attended The University of Kansas in Lawrence for a year.

Human Rights Watch International Film Festival ’08
June 25, 2008, 2:38 pm
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Revisiting Lincoln Center within the past week has been educational in ways, short of real experience, reaffirms the evocative power of film. The sheer enormity of suffering throughout the world is unfathomable, yet life goes on and as it continues, fleshes away some of history’s bloody spatter. Although the naivete of new generations demonstrates humankind’s resiliency to history’s tragedies, it’s important to not forget those historic lessons, lest they happen again.

“Traces of the Trade” – a member of a prominent family in New England traces her roots back to largest slave trade in history.

“A Promise to the Dead” – former cultural advisor to Chile’s President Allende recounts his experiences during the holocaustic revolution of September 11, 1973.

Regrettably, I didn’t get a chance to see “China’s Stolen Children” – about child-trafficking in China and the difficult circumstances created by the country’s one-child policy.

However, looking forward to catching “Letter to Anna” as the festival closes this Thursday. The film is about the organized murder of Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door.

Human Rights Watch International Film Festival website

Documentary Chronicles Red Hook IKEA Controversy
June 20, 2008, 5:12 pm
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Stay tuned for screenings throughout the summer and fall. Visit the film’s website for more info.