Why Black People Use The ‘N’ Word

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I recently read a very touching book by author John Green called The Fault In Our Stars. The story follows a young girl and a group of friends in their struggle, living but with Cancer. Needless to say the book was very moving. Among the many brilliant subtleties, I noticed the author’s efforts in the Cancer stricken characters adopting a sort of trivialisation of their plight and often humour was used to tackle the very serious issue. One example of this, when one character spoke of another character not really being coordinated enough to drive but having been given a driving licence anyway, they called it a ‘Cancer perk’. And the same character, insisting on having an unlit cigarette between his lips most of the time, explains that it is symbolic – to take ownership of the thing that threatens him.

I found this very intriguing and somehow noticed the similarities between this and other issues (in no way saying they are the same thing). Though a well person couldn’t, a person dealing with Cancer may trivialise their illness and the idea of death. They may make jokes about their or a friend’s symptoms and in some ways it could possibly bring solidarity between them, reinforcing that they recognise the group the world now sees them in, but their joke at the illness’ expense separates them from it as free will having individuals.

This quite natural attitude towards opression strikes me as the same as when the first free black men and women continued to use the ‘N’ word to one another, even away from the former slave masters. It’s something that identifies you and your fellow struggler, almost a nod to express you understanding your common circumstance. Over time it’s been blurred and is sometimes used as this odd term of endearment, sometimes as an insult, sometimes as an unintentional derogatory term by another black person. The problem with it being used at all is that when misunderstood it can serve as a negative affirmation, “This is what I am and all I am.”

I suppose the ‘N’ word is very similar to the book’s unlit cigarette, by having it on your lips you have some control over its power but you must remember to explain to everyone why it is unlit and why only you can own it.

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Film Review – Elysium

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If you’re thinking that extremely versatile Matt Damon bringing another action film, but this time in a cool futuristic setting with a utopia-like residential spacestation all sounds like a great premise for a film you’d be completely right. If you’re thinking it actually makes a good film, in this case, you’d be wrong.

Sadly it seems like the film’s producers either forgot about these assets or simply thought they were enough and stopped trying with the rest. Damon’s character Max, is a hard working, rehabilitated criminal who lives in one of Earth’s slums, some bad things happen to him and the only way to fix it is for him to break into the home of the privileged – the luxury space outpost, Elysium. As things aren’t going his way, desperate measure are taken and action ensues. If you think that’s a blunt summary, then you’ll think it’s a blunt film – and that’s the issue.

With action movies you don’t mind if the story is a bit weak as long as you sympathise with the main character and the scenes are tense. This ‘paint by numbers’ lead-up to action leaves you distanced from the characters and not really caring if they survive. An example of this, Max finds a love interest in a hospital, instead of showing their relationship build, the Director decides the two already know each other from childhood and that they’ll meet one more time, briefly, before she goes on to tick the film’s ‘helpless female to give the hero a cause’ box.

At least we have the action scenes, or do we? If you’re directing a fight scene you might ask your actors to train for months on end, raising their fitness and perfecting the routine for maximum reality and effect. Though, an alternative would be to get the fight scenes nearly ready and treat them post-production with a lovely ‘shaky camera’ effect. The plus side is that the scenes look very lively and give the feeling of chaos, the down side is that the viewer can’t see anything useful. Quite a few directors take the latter approach but this case is quite odd as we know Jason Bourne, I mean, Matt Damon is so handy with his fists on screen.

If you look through the blurred screen, there are a few positives to be found, Jodie Foster plays the ambitious governer of Elysium, and delivers the character with an ice cold edge. Also, Sharlto Copley (that guy from District 9) is an animalistic mercinary and though he’s a bit one dimensional he’s still good fun.

4/10

An okay watch when in the mood for some mindless action but you may find yourself scrolling Facebook or Twitter at the same time.

See the movie’s trailer here

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Movie Review – Iron Man 3

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A fearful looking Iron Man

I’m annoyed at myself for getting excited at various parts in this film. All things considered it’s a poor take on the Iron Man series but you can still easily be seduced when watching this Avenger’s wittily commentated action scenes. The whole experience is something like a meal from Mcdonalds; walking past the window you’re drawn in by the provocative pictures and what you get for your money is fast and comes with the exact list of extras you’d expect. Only ten minutes later you start to feel like you should have chosen something more substantial.

It seems like quite a departure from the other Iron Man and Avenger movies and the film’s creators haven’t stayed true to the source material. Tony Stark, by nature is bursting with confidence and self worth. This is usually shown with his well timed sarcastic comments throughout the series of films and with Downey Jnr delivering them so well, it’s helped make the films so popular. So what confuses me is that it seems so obviously unnatural for Stark to begin suffering from debilitating panic attacks. The ‘hero has to overcome his demons’ idea has been passed from Bond, in ‘Skyfall’, to Tony Stark, and in each case it’s completely out of character. In the same way Bond shouldn’t start feeling sorry for himself and forget to bed women, Tony Stark should remain full of himself and ready to battle at all times.

On the other side of the war, Mandarin, who poses in the film’s trailers as a seriously intimidating antagonist, is hugely underwhelming – especially if, like me, you’ve seen numerous Marvel comics and cartoons and expected one of the Marvel universe’s most infamous villains to cause mayhem. To say any more may spoil it, but you shouldn’t expect much from him. Inconsistency is also an issue in that the essential iron suits seem so easily broken and torn to pieces at times, to create a sense of danger, but then when the plot suits they’re almost indestructible.

CGI suits and explosions are what this film is all about and the final fight scene has no shortage. It’s action on top of action and any fan of the iron-clad genius won’t help but to get excited at the sight of Stark’s next gadget or inventive way of using the arsenal.

In keeping with the rest of the film the ending seems questionable too, but it’s safe to guess it has no real meaning and is just a dramatic way to close the show. This is one of those films you have to watch as ‘it’s the latest Iron Man film’ and you’ll probably enjoy it, just have a more substantial movie to consume nearby.

5/10 You’ll enjoy it, then soon forget about it.

See the the Iron Man 3 trailer here

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Movie Review – Brothers

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This film is responsible for making me burn my rice and gravy! It’s a pretty odd statement I know, so I’ll start at the beginning. Still disillusioned that he played Spiderman I really wasn’t a Tobey Maguire fan. Someone who looks like they couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag doesn’t seem fitting for a superhero, and likewise an authoritative Marine Captain, as he plays in ‘Brothers’. So I pressed play on my laptop, less than excited about this barely talked about film, and began to cook my dinner. Somewhere in between putting the rice on and putting the frozen veg’ on, I lost track of cooking and became completely drawn in as this gem of a story began its very personal journey. It’s fair to say that the name of this movie doesn’t really describe the premise very well – skirting around the relationship between two brothers, this story seems much more about what war does to officers and their families in every day life.

Tobey’s character, Sam Cahill, goes to war, leaving his wife at home with his two daughters. After a serious helicopter crash, Sam is believed to be dead but has actually been captured by a group of rogue terrorists. Dealing with his absence, Sam’s brother Tommy, played by ladies’ man Jake Gyllenhaal, spends more and more time with the Captain’s wife and family (Mrs C is played by the beautiful Natalie Portman after all). This is all until Sam is found by fellow Marine officers and returned home, and the story truly starts.

I won’t do the movie any justice by attempting to explain the detail but it’s safe to say that Sam has seriously been affected by what’s gone on. This is where all the great acting comes in to play. Actress Bailee Madison is surely one to watch; at such a young age she plays a daughter distanced from her father, perfectly. At least from what I’ve seen, she’s outperformed others her age in the last few years. Maguire, on the other hand, uses this last stretch of the film to show exactly how he earned this part. His everyday guy looks – especially compared to Gyllenhaal’s – seem to help him show you how the everyday guy can be tipped over the edge.

This is a gem of a film, one that everyone should watch when in a reflective mood. It’s best enjoyed as a complete surprise, when no one has told you what a moving tale it is…

Side note:
My suspicious nature tells me that the film producers knew a film openly named ‘How war will ruin your daily life’, or similar would upset a few people.

6/10

You can click to view the film trailer, here

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