cloud atlas

Out of the Closet Thrift Stores; Cloud Atlas and Yellowface

I don’t know who started these stores, but Out of the Closet Thrift Stores have me hooked. I heard about them on social media because we don’t have any in the Philadelphia area, and a friend of mine in New Hope who used to live in NYC told me he’s been there before. Through a search on their web site I found the closest store to me is in Brooklyn, and I think this is going to be a destination point one weekend this summer.

You can donate and it helps support the AIDS health care foundation.

Each store offers free confidential HIV testing.

And among other features that include shopping, they have pharmacies, too.

At the very bottom of the web site’s home page it says this:

“Cutting Edge Medicine and Advocacy Regardless of Ability to Pay”

I have friends who are HIV+ and I’m acting POA for one. HIV meds can run into thousands of dollars each month and many people can’t afford them. Obamacare isn’t helping them either…at least not yet. So whenever something like this does come along I think it’s important to get the information out there.

You can check out the main web site here to find out more, or if there is one in your area. I think they are even in Europe now.

Cloud Atlas and Yellowface

Spoiler alert.

I wrote a post in December about the movie, Cloud Atlas, and how they blatantly used yellowface. At the time I hadn’t seen the film, but I did see it last night and I wanted to follow up on the December post.

The Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) came out in protest and they only watched the trailer. The Vice-President of MANAA came out with this statement:

“If, in the making of this complex movie, the creators of Cloud Atlas can make creative leaps in time, place, characters, race and gender, why can’t they also take a creative leap in the casting?”

I also mentioned a few tactless remarks actor Jim Sturgess made on Twitter about playing yellowface.

You have to wonder what’s going on inside HIS head. But I’m not commenting anymore about Sturgess or his tweets, and you can read more at the link I’ve provided above to my original post.

But I did want to say that after watching the film last night on demand, I’m glad I didn’t bother going to see it in a theater where I would have been forced to pay full price. It wasn’t the worst film I’ve ever seen like some critics have suggested, and I did try to find a few redeeming points. But it was one of the longest…I think three hours. I started to fast forward certain scenes around the time I had 70 minutes left, and I didn’t have any problems following the story while fast forwarding, which means it could have been edited differently. (When will some people realize the length of a movie or a book doesn’t mean it’s going to be better? That’s why editing is an art form. I’m starting to think this lack of editing both in books and movies is the true sign of a novice.)

I rarely discuss politics anywhere because I don’t think it’s my job to do that, but I am NOT a right wing conservative, trust me on that. In Cloud Atlas, I think they pretty much covered every single left wing issue Hollywood loves to sensationalize, and they even had two gay characters playing the tired melodramatic suicide storyline in the days of old. In other words, it felt contrived, as if they were pulling issues out of a hat knowing these issues would affect people…or manipulate them. The problem is these things have already been done time and time again. And I would have preferred to watch two gay characters who weren’t cliches. At least they didn’t use and sensationalize the bully angle.

But, there’s really nothing wrong with any cliche if the message is positive throughout the film, however, with all these other things going on in the background…from slavery to gay…for the producers to use yellowface completely blew me away. But more than that, two of Hollywood’s biggest loud mouths are in the film, Tom Hanks and Susan Sarandon. Those two have been spewing their politics for years, and they agreed to be in a film with yellowface? Seriously. Did Sarandon lose her picket signs?

Here’s a link titled, “Did Cloud Atlas’ Yellowface Problem Help to Sink It at the Box Office?”

 It’s official: Cloud Atlas is a flop. At least in the United States. Made for a reported $100 million, the book adaptation barely scratched $10 million in its opening weekend — but some observers say the film could make a tidy profit overseas, where most of its funding came from. Still, it’s hard not to ask: Did the film’s controversial use of “Yellowface” — white actors wearing clumsy makeup to make them Asian — alienate its natural audience Stateside?

Here’s another article at Jezebel that says it all better than I can:

Again, it all comes back to representation. Until there are types of humans other than white men who appear as the leads in pretty much every form of entertainment always, shit like this will be A-OK. I remember in Margaret Cho’s terrific memoir, I’m the One That I Want, she recounts watching white people on TV when she was a kid and waiting to grow up and become white. (That might not/definitely isn’t verbatim as I read the book in 2001 as part of my “Ladies in Comedy” bookclub that lasted for two months.) Reading that was heartbreaking, and it’s not the only time I’ve heard that sentiment. Until more people of color are on our screens playing all the same roles – every lead, every supporting role – now reserved for white people, this shit will continue, and this shit is ugly, lazy, and inexcusable.

The only reason I bothered to watch Cloud Atlas in full was to follow up on the original post. And I waited until it came out on demand. (Tony’s still upstairs watching the end…poor thing fell asleep halfway through and he wants to get his money’s worth 🙂 The yellowface issue really did bother me intensely…it’s insulting to the point of painful. I would like to think that we’ve reached a point in our society where these things don’t happen anymore. Evidently that’s not the case. Of course they gave excuses as to why they used yellowface, and some of those excuses aren’t bad at all on the surface. But no matter how you try to twist things around to make them look and sound good the fact remains that it could have been done differently and I wouldn’t even be writing this post. This is one instance where I don’t think anyone can be too politically or socially correct.

There is one scene in Cloud Atlas I did find amusing. There’s a sleazy old publisher who has a rough-neck type of author with a new book out. The book is tanking and the rough-neck author thinks it’s because of a bad review a professional book critic gave him. This rough neck author is so bitter about the bad review he actually carries a copy of the review in his pocket everywhere he goes. And when the bitter rough-neck author is at a party and he runs into the critic who gave him the bad review he does something I didn’t expect. He grabs the reviewer by the neck, drags the reviewer to a balcony, and tosses him off the side. The book reviewer drops hundreds of feet to his death, and there’s even a great scene where the book reviewer’s lifeless, ruined body splats on the sidewalk. They even show you his blood.

Now that’s what I call a badly behaved author, and I can’t help but wonder if the producers were slightly prescient.

If I were a professional film critic I would probably stay away from the producers of Cloud Atlas at parties, especially those parties being held in skyscrapers.

"Cloud Atlas" Directors Behave Badly with Reviewers

The other day I wrote a post about how poorly the producers of the film “Cloud Atlas,” in my opinion, handled scenes that required actor Jim Sturgess to wear “Yellowface.” And it gets even worse. While I was reading about that particular subject I found a few interesting things about how the directors reacted to critical reviews of their film. Evidently, some people in the film industry don’t seem to be held to the same standards as authors.

Here’s a quote from wiki so you can see for yourselves how they reacted when reviews of “Cloud Atlas” were released:

Reaction from the directors
On October 25 (after the premiere at Toronto), Andy Wachowski stated about critics “As soon as they encounter a piece of art they don’t fully understand the first time going through it, they think it’s the fault of the movie or the work of art. They think, ‘It’s a mess [ …] This doesn’t make any sense.’ And they reject it, just out of an almost knee-jerk response to some ambiguity or some gulf between what they expect they should be able to understand, and what they understand.”[27]

In the same interview, Lana Wachowski stated “People will try to will Cloud Atlas to be rejected. They will call it messy, or complicated, or undecided whether it’s trying to say something New Agey-profound or not. And we’re wrestling with the same things that Dickens and Hugo and David Mitchell and Herman Melville were wrestling with. We’re wrestling with those same ideas, and we’re just trying to do it in a more exciting context than conventionally you are allowed to. […] We don’t want to say, ‘We are making this to mean this.’ What we find is that the most interesting art is open to a spectrum of interpretation.”[27][56]

Now that’s vicious WTF-ery if I’ve ever seen it. I honestly can’t even imagine how a new self-published author would be received if they made grand remarks like this, comparing themselves to Dickens and Herman Melville, claiming they know the definition of true art and the critics are all wrong and all they want to do is hurt them.

I’m not saying that authors should start behaving badly like the directors of “Cloud Atlas.” Far from it, so please don’t misinterpret me. I’m only saying the directors of “Cloud Atlas” should start acting like adults, learn to take criticism like big boys and girls, and they should be held to the same standards as authors.

They’re getting paid a lot more than .99 an e-book every time someone buys a movie ticket.

"Cloud Atlas" Directors Behave Badly with Reviewers

The other day I wrote a post about how poorly the producers of the film “Cloud Atlas,” in my opinion, handled scenes that required actor Jim Sturgess to wear “Yellowface.” And it gets even worse. While I was reading about that particular subject I found a few interesting things about how the directors reacted to critical reviews of their film. Evidently, some people in the film industry don’t seem to be held to the same standards as authors.

Here’s a quote from wiki so you can see for yourselves how they reacted when reviews of “Cloud Atlas” were released:

Reaction from the directors
On October 25 (after the premiere at Toronto), Andy Wachowski stated about critics “As soon as they encounter a piece of art they don’t fully understand the first time going through it, they think it’s the fault of the movie or the work of art. They think, ‘It’s a mess [ …] This doesn’t make any sense.’ And they reject it, just out of an almost knee-jerk response to some ambiguity or some gulf between what they expect they should be able to understand, and what they understand.”[27]

In the same interview, Lana Wachowski stated “People will try to will Cloud Atlas to be rejected. They will call it messy, or complicated, or undecided whether it’s trying to say something New Agey-profound or not. And we’re wrestling with the same things that Dickens and Hugo and David Mitchell and Herman Melville were wrestling with. We’re wrestling with those same ideas, and we’re just trying to do it in a more exciting context than conventionally you are allowed to. […] We don’t want to say, ‘We are making this to mean this.’ What we find is that the most interesting art is open to a spectrum of interpretation.”[27][56]

Now that’s vicious WTF-ery if I’ve ever seen it. I honestly can’t even imagine how a new self-published author would be received if they made grand remarks like this, comparing themselves to Dickens and Herman Melville, claiming they know the definition of true art and the critics are all wrong and all they want to do is hurt them.

I’m not saying that authors should start behaving badly like the directors of “Cloud Atlas.” Far from it, so please don’t misinterpret me. I’m only saying the directors of “Cloud Atlas” should start acting like adults, learn to take criticism like big boys and girls, and they should be held to the same standards as authors.

They’re getting paid a lot more than .99 an e-book every time someone buys a movie ticket.

Should Jim Sturgess Have Played "Yellowface" in "Cloud Atlas?"

When I first read about actor Jim Sturgess playing “yellowface” in the film, “Cloud Atlas,” I was reminded of something that happened my freshman year in college. I’d signed up for two theater electives, one was “The History of Film,” the other, “Theatrical Make Up.” I was very excited because both classes were being taught by a professor, Harvey Flaxman, who had important commercial credits as the writer and producer of the cult classic film, “Grizzly.”

In THoF class I was shocked to learn that old Hollywood used American or British actors to play all Asian parts in all films by making them up in “yellowface.” In the TMU class I learned how they did this in films. I won’t go into detail about this because I find it too insulting. And I have to admit that I was just as shocked to read recently that actor Jim Sturgess was playing a scene in yellowface in the film “Cloud Atlas.”

To be fair, there’s more to the story. “Cloud Atlas” is a film based on a novel by, David Mitchell, and it’s considered one of the most expensive, ambitious indie films ever produced. From what I gather, it’s a sci-fi genre film that covers various time periods, including scenes in the future. I also gather that Jim Sturgess plays multiple parts in the film and the yellowface scenes take place in a futuristic society. According to wiki:

The actors who were “made to appear Asian” play members of a new ethnicity in the future, referred to as the “pure breds,”[61] and were not necessarily supposed to resemble real Asian people.

But they still made them up in yellowface. The Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) came out in protest and they only watched the trailer. The Vice-President of MANAA came out with this statement:

“If, in the making of this complex movie, the creators of Cloud Atlas can make creative leaps in time, place, characters, race and gender, why can’t they also take a creative leap in the casting?”

Frankly, I agree with this. It could have been done. As a fiction writer I know for a fact that anything can be done if it’s done right. And yet the producers of this film decided to use yellowface instead. Can you imagine how the film “The Help” would have been received if they’d used white actors in blackface to play African American characters? So I don’t see why Asian Americans didn’t get the same consideration with “Cloud Atlas.” As a side note, one I think is important acknowledge, two of Hollywood’s most liberal big mouths of all time, Tom Hanks and Susan Sarandon, star in this film with Sturgess. I didn’t hear THEM coming out in protest about the yellowface insult to Asian Americans. So I think that shows another example of celebrity fail, how insincere these celebrities really are, and it reinforces that my favorite scene of all time with big mouth Susan Sarandon was in the TV show, “The Big C,” where she got whacked by a bus and flattened like a pancake…pardon the bad simile.

Even more interesting was the way actor Jim Sturgess responded on Twitter. According to an article in Racebending.com titled, “Jim Sturgess is a Tool,” Sturgess said this:

 In that same article it says this:

Jim could be a perfectly nice guy. He could be kind to his friends, he probably loves his family. He probably makes other jokes that people think are funny and don’t hurt anyone at all.

But he’s a tool in a direct sense, because through some combination of talent, hard work, and luck, he has become the go-to Hollywood guy to play Asian men. Before someone thinks to call John Cho, Dante Basco, Kunal Nayyar, or Archie Kao, Jim gets the first speed dial. Whether it’s replacing a real-life Asian American with a white guy or showing that Asian folks are really just reincarnated white dudes with awful prosthetic slant-eyes, Sturgess is your man.

I recommend reading the entire article in full. A few other insulted bloggers talked about it, and if you search for it you’ll find a few things, but the film was released and it all died down fast. And millions of Asian Americans were not only insulted, but dismissed and ignored. I have to admit that I really tried to remain objective while writing this post, but as you can see that’s not possible. I still can’t help remembering how sick I felt when I found out as a freshman in college that’s what Hollywood was doing to Asian Americans way back then.

It also reminds me of the way LGBT Americans are portrayed in films and on television. It seems that for some reason the most liberal of them all wind up insulting all people LGBT at one time or another. And let’s face it, we all know there’s nothing some people won’t do for a buck. At this point in my life, there isn’t enough money anyone could pay me to play yellowface, blackface, pinkface or even fucking pinkberry…I’m still trying to figure out what brand of WTF-ery Sturgess is talking about in that tweet…but it’s evident Sturgess didn’t feel the same way I do and he took his money and ran.

I actually wouldn’t be surprised to see a gay themed film with Jim Sturgess playing an offensive gay stereotype. I’m sure if they paid him enough he’d jump at the chance. I’m also sure he’d let the world know he’s NOT gay, and he would be vocal about it. They all do that. For that matter, Sarandon might do it too, because this film, “Cloud Atlas,” seems to be associated with insults to everyone. Another actor in “Coud Atlas,” Ben Whishaw, who plays a bisexual in the film states this in wiki:

Whishaw guards his personal life, having stated: “As an actor, you have total rights to privacy and mystery, whatever your sexuality, whatever you do. I don’t see why that has to be something you discuss openly because you do something in the public eye. I have no understanding of why we turn actors into celebrities.”

So here’s more WTF-ery coming from an entitled actor. And I don’t agree with him at all. As an actor you choose to become a public figure and when you do that it’s a conscious choice and you lose the same privacy and mystery people who are not in the public eye have. Plain and simple. Being that Mr. Whishaw has no understanding of this I figured I’d clear things up for him. And not all actors are in the public eye. Most are either struggling to get by on the road, or they can’t make a living as an actor at all. It’s a trade off, like everything else in life. You get to make a lot of money and get a lot of attention but you have to sacrifice certain things to do that. But I think what really bothers me the most about Whishaw’s comment is that like so many other self-loathing people who could make a difference, he chooses to ignore his sexuality altogether. And I don’t think being gay is just about sex, far from it. I think being gay encompasses a lot more than that. If Mr. Whishaw is gay and he’s not willing to admit it I can’t help feeling he might think there’s something wrong with being openly gay and out in public. I can understand going blank and not saying anything. I do believe coming out is a personal choice and no one should be forced into it. But saying stupid things like what Whishaw said makes the rest of us look as if we’re doing something wrong because we are open about being gay. And I don’t like that, Mr. Whishaw.

I don’t want to get into the issues revolving around gay actors playing straight parts and straight actors playing gay parts. I’m not even sure how I feel about that right now, and that would be another long post. Sometimes I think this falls into the category of it all depends on how it’s done. I do think Matt Bomer would be a great Christian Grey if he was offered the part (which I don’t think will happen). But in the same respect, when “Brokeback Mountain” was released I felt insulted that two straight men were chosen to play the leads. And that’s because it always seems to be the way it goes all the time. And then you have to listen to them tell the world they aren’t gay when they hit the talk show circuit…blah, blah, blah. I often wonder how many openly gay men audition for these parts and are turned down.

But I don’t think the issue about yellowface is all that complicated. Just don’t do it and the problem goes away. Just hire Asian actors to play Asian parts the same way they hire African Americans to play African American parts and that would put an end to one more thing that insults, sensationalizes, and diminishes people. There’s also something called Artistic License that could have been used in “Cloud Atlas” and yellowface could have been avoided altogether.