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.