HULK QUICK THOUGHTS: JOHN SINGLETON DIRECTED ABDUCTION? AND WHAT IS THIS SAYING?

September 20, 2011

HULK JUST FOUND OUT THAT JOHN SINGLETON DIRECTED ABDUCTION LIKE 5 SECONDS AGO.

THIS IS CONFUSING. WHY?

BECAUSE JOHN SINGLETON DIRECTED A WHOLE BUNCH CULTURALLY IMPORTANT FILMS OF THE 90’S, FILMS ON THE SUBJECT MODERN AFRICAN-AMERICANS AND THEIR PLACE IN AMERICAN CULTURE: THE INCREDIBLE BOYZ IN THE HOOD IS THE STANDOUT, BUT EVEN POETIC JUSTICE, HIGHER LEARNING, AND THE PERIOD PIECE ROSEWOOD ARE DRIPPING WITH TOPICALITY. AFTER THAT HE SHIFTED AWAY FROM BEING DIRECTLY TOPICAL TOWARD “BIGGER” MORE GENRE-INCLINED FILMS LIKE SHAFT, BABY BOY, AND THE (WONDERFULLY HOMOEROTIC) 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS. WHILE THEY MIGHT NOT BE AS “IMPORTANT” FILMS AIMING FOR HIGHER-BROW IDEAS, THERE IS STILL A CLEAR PRESENCE OF THE “AFRICAN-AMERICAN VOICE” OR “REPRESENTATION” IN THESE FILMS. HECK, EVEN IN FOUR BROTHERS IT STILL COMES ACROSS.

AND THEN THERE IS ABDUCTION…. ONE OF THESE THINGS IS NOT LIKE THE OTHER.

TO BE VERY,VERY FAIR, HULK HASN’T SEEN IT. BUT BASED ON TRAILERS AND THE FILM’S CLEAR CULTURAL IDENTITY (TEEN ACTION VEHICLE STARING LEAD FROM POPULAR TWEEN GIRL MOVIE SERIES) IT IS CLEAR THAT THE FILM IS ABOUT AS LILY-WHITE AND NOT-CULTURALLY-SIGNIFICANT AS IT GETS (NOTE: HULK CHOSE THE WORDS “LILY-WHITE” KNOWING THE STRONG IMPLICATION OF THE LANGUAGE).

BUT HERE’S HULK’S QUESTION: DOES THIS EVEN MATTER?

HULK HAS HAD A COLUMN IDEA LONG-GESTATING ON THIS VERY SUBJECT, SO HULK GUESS A QUICK EVALUATION THAT POSITS A QUESTION INSTEAD OF AN ANSWER IS WAY BETTER FOR WHAT WE WANT TO DO HERE.

SO WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH JOHN SINGLETON DIRECTING ABDUCTION?

IS HEĀ  SELLING OUT? IS IT THAT IT JUST LOOKS LIKE A TERRIBLE MOVIE? SHOULD HE HAVE TO MAKE THE FILMS WE WANT HIM TO MAKE? IS HE “LETTING DOWN” AFRICAN-AMERICAN CULTURE?

IT’S NOT LIKE RACIAL PROBLEMS HAVE JUST GONE AWAY IN OUR SOCIETY AND WE SHOULD IGNORE THE SUBJECT. IF ANYTHING, THIS “POST-RACIAL” GLOSS OF THE WHOLE SUBJECT IS VERY PROBLEMATIC IN ITS OWN WAY. IT IS THIS REASON (AMONG MANY) THAT HULK STILL ADORES SPIKE LEE BECAUSE ALL HIS FILMS ARE STILL HEAVILY IMBUED WITH THE LANGUAGE AND AESTHETICS OF RACE. EVEN A GREAT HEIST MOVIE LIKE INSIDE MAN HAS ALL THESE WONDERFUL, COMPLEX THINGS TO SAY ABOUT THE CULTURAL MELTING POT OF NEW YORK AND IT DOES IT IN AN ENTERTAINING AND FUNNY WAY.

BUT WHY SHOULD HULK REQUIRE THIS SAME THING OF SINGLETON? AND BY EXTENSION ALL AFRICAN AMERICAN FILMMAKERS?

AWHILE AGO, HULK HAD A GREAT CONVERSATION WITH AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN FRIEND/FILM-MAJOR (AND YES HULK AWARE THAT CALLING SOMEONE THEIR “AFRICAN-AMERICAN FRIEND” IS PATRONIZING, BUT IT’S DIRECTLY RELATED TO THE SUBJECT) ON THE VERY TOPIC OF WHAT HE CALLED “THE CULTURAL DUTY AND RESPONSIBILITY OF A BLACK FILMMAKER” AND SPECIFICALLY IF HE FELT THAT RESPONSIBILITY.

HE DIDN’T AT ALL.

FRIEND: “Hulk. I love Spike Lee. But I don’t think that’s what Spike Lee was arguing that everyone should be making these films about the cultural state of Black America. That’s what he was interested in and that’s what he’s amazing at. But for what he might want for me? Or more importantly, what I want for me? I want to make WOLVERINE (this was way before even X2). I love genre stuff. I want to make, and be allowed to make films that I love that have nothing to do with the fact that I’m black. And if they do have to do have that affectation? It will just be a natural thing because of my life and perspective. It won’t be overt.”

MEANING JOHN SINGLETON SHOULD HAVE EVERY FUCKING RIGHT IN THE WORLD TO MAKE ABDUCTION AND EVERYTHING IT MAY COUNTER-INTUITIVELY REPRESENT. IT’S AS SIMPLE AS “HE SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT BECAUSE HE IS A GOOD DIRECTOR.”

THERE IS A WAY THAT THIS IS ALL OBVIOUS, BUT IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE JUST HOW OFTEN THIS OBVIOUSNESS DOES NOT COME TO FRUITION. PARTIALLY BECAUSE THE IMPLIED SOLUTION IS THAT THERE SHOULD BE LARGE GROUPS OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN FILMMAKERS MAKING BIG BUDGET HOLLYWOOD FARE, AND JUST AS MANY MAKING PROVOCATIVE FILMS ABOUT RACE… AND RIGHT NOW THERE IS NEITHER. THUS WE LOOK TO PEOPLE LIKE SINGLETON AND LEE TO SOMEHOW SATISFY BOTH RESPONSIBILITIES AT ONCE.

THE “SHOULD BE” CUTS TO THE HEART OF A YOUNG AFRICAN-AMERICAN FILMMAKER BOTH WAYS: AS ODDLY DANGEROUS AS GLOSSING OVER RACIAL TOPICALITY IN THE NAME OF “POST-RACIAL” SOCIETY IS, YOU RUN THE EQUALLY DANGEROUS POSSIBILITY OF CONFINING THEM TO FEEL DUTY BOUND TO “TALK” RACE.

IT’S A PARADOX. WHAT DO YOU ALL THINK?

PERHAPS HULK’S BIGGEST/ONLY POINT IS THAT IF YOU LEAVE IT TO WHITE PEOPLE TO MAKE FILMS ABOUT RACE THEN WE GET PAUL HAGGIS’S CRASH.

YOUR MOVE SOCIETY!

About these ads

8 Responses to “HULK QUICK THOUGHTS: JOHN SINGLETON DIRECTED ABDUCTION? AND WHAT IS THIS SAYING?”

  1. Bevin said

    It’s a sticky question and one I don’t feel super qualified to answer since I grew up white in a small white town, but it’s a topic that interests me. Making intelligent movies that deal with race requires a degree of experience and/or real, soul-searching thought on it and frankly it’s something that’s hard to do for white film makers because it’s something we just don’t have to think about on a daily basis. We can read up about it and try to be conscious about it but unless we go live someplace where the majority race isn’t white for a while, we won’t know what it’s like to really be conscious of it that way.

    Since the majority of Hollywood filmmakers are white, this leads to either a lack of films dealing with race at all or… “Crash.” We can swear up and down about how post-racial we all are now but having a predominantly white voice and perspective coming out of one of the most prolific and far-reaching industries of entertainment in the world– of a melting pot society, no less– is a problem. Then the few non-white voices out there are left in the token position, having to represent their entire group (whichever one they may be classified in in a given circumstance) when maybe some of them just want to do the same sorts of things most white directors are doing.

    Either one is valid, and I don’t want to say that white people can’t make movies about race, either, but it’s a topic we don’t really have a lot of honest, intelligent discussion about as a society. It’s intimidating to be in a class about non-white culture and have the two or three white students get very defensive when asked if they think they might have misconceptions about the culture they’re going to study. We can’t even have a conversation about it because we haven’t learned the difference between “you are a racist” and “that thing you said was racist,” let alone the difference between being racist and prejudiced or how we even define race in the first place. These are important conversations that most of us don’t really have so how can we expect to see these movies in wide distribution if nobody want to talk about the issues that will inevitably come up in them? Who’s going to green-light the movie that’s going to make the white audience mad or uncomfortable?

    So it seems like the few non-white directors we do have are expected to have the conversation for us and we’re back to the tokenism, with the few minorities being expected to represent the aspects of their “group” that aren’t represented by the majority. And while I think it’s really important for non-majority voices to be heard and for everyone to have this conversation– because it is an “everyone” set of issues– it isn’t fair to limit them to just these stories either. More non-white directors in general would probably be helpful for this but also an effort on the part of the white audience and filmmakers to take the issues seriously and really think about them critically so we can stop with the knee-jerk white guilt/ defensive “I’m not racist!” stuff and actually make room for other conversations and other perspectives and stories. It’s probably more complex than that but I can’t see how it could hurt, I guess.

    • FILMCRITHULK said

      HULK ALSO HAVE NO IDEA HOW HULK GOT THROUGH THIS CONVERSATION WITHOUT MENTIONING DAVID SIMON AND THE WIRE.

      • Bevin said

        That’s been on my Netflix queue for about two years but I keep hoping they’ll put it on instant watch because I’m really lazy about watching TV shows on the disks. I should get over that so I can finally understand half the conversations about TV people have around me. Plus watch some really good TV.

        Also, I sometimes (frequently) talk about stuff I don’t know much about and in the process shove my foot in my mouth. If I say something stupid/offensive/ignorant, I don’t mean to be. I’m just tired of never having this conversation and have decided to learn this stuff the hard way in a semi-conscious fashion instead of being stupid without realizing it. So, sorry if I’m being ignorant all over your comments section, or missing the point or generally being a nuisance. I guess right now I feel it’s better to be a dumbass on the internet than in real life.

  2. FILMCRITHULK said

    NO NO NO. MISUNDERSTANDING. THERE NO IGNORANCE ON YOUR PART WHATSOEVER. HULK DELIGHTED BY YOUR PARTICIPATION AND COMMENTS.

    THERE IS THERE WEIRD DICHOTOMY WHERE PEOPLE ARE AFRAID TO PARTICIPATE IN THINGS FOR FEAR OF “NOT KNOWING ENOUGH” WHICH IS WHY, FOR EXAMPLE, SO MANY PEOPLE ARE AFRAID TO SPEAK UP IN CLASS. THE KEY TO ALL PARTICIPATION IS SIMPLY RESPECT. IF YOU CAN RESPECT THE PEOPLE YOU TALKING WITH, IT NOT MATTER WHAT YOU/THEY SAYING AND CHANCES ARE THE DIALOGUE WILL ACTUALLY GET SOMEWHERE.

    NO RESPECT? NO MATTER HOW INTELLIGENT IT GETS IT’S STILL WHOLLY COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE.

    EVIDENCE? JUST ABOUT THE ENTIRE POLITICAL DEBATE.

  3. I don’t think that there’s anything ‘wrong’ with Singleton directing ABDUCTION, just as long as it’s not a shitty film. However, ‘shitty’ seems to be synonymous with ‘money-maker’ nowadays…

    I don’t think that every filmmaker of color (black, brown, yellow or otherwise) wants to JUST make films on that subject, at the expense of anything else… it just so happens that it is a HUGE part of our culture that is impossible to ignore, if you grew up as a person of color in this country. There’s not the luxury to be able to overlook or ignore it or romanticize it, as the Caucasian populace tend to do.

    When the large Hollywood films address it, you end up with CRASH (Haggis) or THE HELP. Smaller films can take it on more directly, but they fly in under the radar, or get criticized for being “preachy”… or they’re barely seen at all (witness Wendell Harris’ excellent CHAMELEON STREET or the work of Kevin Willmott (C.S.A., THE ONLY GOOD INDIAN).

  4. Hi Hulk, good questions you pose, which I will not try to answer.

    My question would be, is it enough to be a working director, or did Singleton squander what I thought was a pretty promising start? I was thinking about this the other day, though, when they started showing the Abduction trailers on TV. How did he go from an Oscar nominated director to Tyler Lautner?

    It also makes me think this: maybe Boyz n the Hood really isn’t that big of a statement or that good of a movie. I thought the questions he posed in Higher Learning were more interesting, as was most of Rosewood. I liked Four Brothers and Shaft, too.

    Baby Boy was a joke, except for the froggy style scene with Ving Rames. Poetic Justice was deeply flawed, although ambitious. And 2fast was okay, but only when Tyrese was eating or yelling his dialogue.

    Also, I worked as an intern with a Portland film critic who absolutely hated Singleton, called him to most overrated director working. He was riding the coat tails of Boy n the Hood, he said, which was not at all about race or the struggles of South Central Los Angeles, but instead a blatant attempt to package an “urban experience”, focusing mostly on soundtrack sales. The film critic was black, if that makes a difference.

    I like Boyz n the Hood though. Can quote most of it.

    Here’s a better question: what in the wide world of sports happened to Cuba Gooding Jr.? Man oh man.

  5. [...] SINGLTON DIRECTED ABDUCTION? AND WHAT IS THIS [...]

  6. goldenboy62 said

    While I think that films with well rounded Black protagonists in non-stereotypical “non-black” films is probably only going to happen if a Black director decides to do it (yeah I want my Black Panther movie!) I don’t see too many inclined to do it. The Hughes Brothers are the only Black directors I can think of that have done “non black” genre films more than once.

    Typical movies that happen to touch upon race are so heavy handed that they come off more melodramatic than the worst soap opera still playing. And these type of films seem to be the calling card of every “American” Black director I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if this is because Hollywood is ignoring those out of the box screenplays that feature a different take from the norm, or that those films either aren’t being written by, or offered to Black directors on a regular basis.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 828 other followers

%d bloggers like this: