Rourke and Eastwood

Last night after G Lo and part of So. Park I switched over and caught Mickey Rourke on Jimmy Kimmel and I found myself smiling throughout the whole interview. I grew up with Mickey Rourke. One of my first girlfriends brought over a video and said we need to watch this. It was "9 1/2 Weeks" and for the next few girlfriends after that one it was required viewing. Then came "Angel Heart" and "Barfly." I then looked back at his earlier work and saw how this bad ass developed. "The Wrestler" his latest film is lyrical.

Rourke is in top physical form for a man who lived the wild life he did and is well into his 50s. He plays a pro-wrestler, 20 years past his prime. He lives in a trailer, works in an ACME market, uses a hearing aid, and puts on wrestling shows at Veterans of Foreign Wars halls. On his days off he lusts after a stripper played by the incredibly fine Marisa Tomei. After a particularly bloody and violent match, he has a heart attack which makes him see his mortality and forces him to reach out to his estranged daughter, who is rightfully very angry with daddy.

The film begins by shooting Rourke's character Randy 'The Ram' Robinson from an over the shoulder shot, giving it an almost documentary feel. The trick is used throughout the film to keep us at arms length from this caricature of man. Before we know it the film eases into a full on family drama / love story with Rourke as our flawless guide. The Ram can be a bit of 'tard but it is part of his charm as well as his weakness. All along the feelings that The Ram has to change, he deserves better, he has paid for his mistakes, he needs to be forgiven, he needs real love now are presented to us. We don't know his fate. He could just as easily walk off into the sunset with his daughter and stripper girlfriend, than crash his van and die while driving to one last wrestling match. We are cheering for him but know life is not always easy. Every dog has his day, and this dog had his days.

Rourke is doing the media rounds now that he won a Golden Globe, and I really hope he wins the Oscar. He is the type of movie star that are fewer these days. He has real talent, not just box office draw.

A week before I saw "The Wrestler" I saw a somewhat similar movie that is just as good "Gran Torino." Directed and starring another true movie star Clint Eastwood, "Gran Torino" is a slice of old Hollywood. I don't think I need to state how much I like Eastwood's Westerns and his directing. I believe I've mentioned his works here before.

When we hear Eastwood's character spew out his racial slurs, you don't know if its cute because he is an old man whose generation will all soon be gone or if its just plain ole angry white man crap. These other blog reviews say pretty much what I feel and you should check them out for a summary of what the film is about if you don't. I want focus on how Eastwood's film is similar to "The Wrestler."

Both films show the end of a man's life and the end of an era. The world changes and for the characters in both films the present and future looks like alien territory. When The Ram says "The 90's sucked" and when Eastwood realizes he has more in common with Hmong immigrants, with their old school ways, than with his own kids, both men signal that they are done living and are only surviving. They don't understand the new. They know they need to reinvent themselves but don't know how, or won't be allowed to change, or lack the energy to change. Much like in The Atlantic's "The End of White America?" by Hua Hsu (reviewed below) these white men are stuck in a moment where they are not on top and none of us know what will happen with them.

The flawed heroes of both films are only flawed because of the times we are living in. In an earlier era they would be seen just as heroes living out the last days of glorious lives. Today with our PC eyes and ears, we can see how change is good and that being a dick gets you nowhere fast.

I loved both films and plan on watching them both again and maybe again and again. They are good stories, full of rich characters, good acting and make me think that there is hope for us all. We can all change, we can break cycles within ourselves, even if we can't change the world and we can go out balls to the wall and do some good for the fans or just our neighbors. I don't want to spoil either film, so if you get it good. If not go see them.


The End of White America

According to Census data, about 50% of Latinos identify themselves as white. How one identifies themselves is shaped by tons of factors both personal and social. This is why some first generation, de-indianized immigrants check off 'white' in the Census when they get the chance. Claiming white was a step closer to being a real American, even if in reality your brown skin and almond eyes signaled non-white and thus non "American."

This is all changing according to The Atlantic's "The End of White America?" by Hua Hsu. In the article Hsu looks at how white is and will be perceived in this new era of Obama-landia. He is very good at identifing the 'real' America of McCain/Palin, who love their NASCAR and how they are a shrinking population; the white America that is reacting in blogs such as Stuff White People Like and how they suffer for being white and need to beat us to the punch line about their idiosyncracies; and mentions how studying whitness in universities is signaling a fear of what it really means to be white in a world that is more and more non-white and the result is whites hating being white. Hip Hop is given a lot of credit for helping to create this world where non-whites can move on up. Diversity and multi-culturalism is examined as well in the usual form of how will we sell junk to people who are not white.

My initial reaction to the article was that it was good, but ofcourse typical in maintaining the black / white paradgimn of looking at the world. Hsu does good research but misses the fact that Latinos have been the majority in 7 of the 10 biggest US cities since the last Census. Those numbers will have increased and will continue to change the US more than hip hop and a black looking but white by culture president. The fear, debates, distribution of resources and legislation that often punishes Latinos are at the center of what is America today. Since 9/11 Brown has been the new Black.

Perceptions of what an American is will change. Hsu wrote how advertising companies herded consumers to the middle, which was white. And that was as we know wrong. What are they now proposing? Will the new center be some 'beige' non identifiable, mestizo, with more whiter features than blacker or browner features? Will that be accurate? As manufactured as the fading white mainstream, will the new multi culti mainstream be as manufactured and false? Will it leave out the jalape~o, the chicharones and banda music? Will Latinos still check off 'white' when white is a minority?

I have little hope. Just turn your t.v. to a Spanish language station. The faces are all white despite having vast Indian and mestizo majorities in all those countries. Obama may be the first step, but we got hundreds of years of slavery and mind f*&^s to get over bending over for whitey.

(for another review of this article go here, thanks Roker)


The Brown Hands of Gentrification

I haven't been blogging much, nor reading blogs as much as before because there has been this conversation in my head and with my peeps about what are we really doing with the blogs and most recently a new magazine/newspaper called Brooklyn and Boyle.

The conversation basically goes like this: What is our point in writing about Boyle Hts or our Eastside in general? To counter the false hipster Eastside? To tell people to come and visit/gentrify/move into our areas because we live here, we can write blogs, went to school and so now it is safe?

It really got me thinking that we are helping to gentrify and alter the fabric of our communities. Ooops there is the buzz word "community."

We live in this community, it has been here before us and we came to be a part of it.

Many have begun to write and think that we need to create a community because it's not here. Only when there are others who write, went to school, like the same art and music and we take up a space and hang out will we have a community. How colonizer is that???!!!

Some of the spaces are like forts, art outposts, so to say where the natives aren't welcome, kept out by big gates or overpriced beer I can get for $2 next door.

I read in the first Brooklyn and Boyle a piece by a woman saying to come 'discover' Boyle Hts. WTF??? DISCOVER!!! We have been here, just cuz you just got here we are discovered? How colonizer is that?

We seem to have a lot of colonizer thinking in us. I know I do.

Even Luis Rodriguez's piece in the same issue struck me as an Ethno tourist map. I love Luis Rodriguez but when you write about a living and breathing place in the past tense as if people can now feel safe and its ok to go there because he was there, it felt like yuck.

BH has been here doing fine without the art spaces, the galleries, the cafes, the hipster-o newspapers, as a community for Raza who work, raise kids, have parties on the weekends, eat at the great restaurants and go to the beautiful parks. Why do we feel we need to let the world know we are here? Do we need their approval? Are we lacking tourist dollars?

I'm at home here. I don't tell peeps what is in my kitchen, the art I have up, the people that visit me. Well maybe in a way that is what this blog has been.

I'm thinking instead of selling our area to fit into some idea of community, what we as writers from areas like BH need to do is start telling the world how we see the world around us. No one ever asks us what we think about Palestine's fight; Obama-landia, or right wing Christians. No one ever asked us if it was now safe to come and visit our home, yet we can't stop selling it.

(I'm going to visit some exotic area like Reseda and write about the cool stuff I discovered like the Vietnamese Vegan Pho spot on Sherman Way and how straight their streets are.)

I guess I'm repenting for writing in this blog about Al and Bea's and other spots I love around here, they are doing just fine without my pimping them.

The other day I went to a spot and the owner's son was chatting with me. I told him about the changes that are coming due to the trains and gentrification. He didn't even blink. He just looked around at his packed restaurant full of families with kids, viejitos and mariachis taking a break and said, "I'm not worried about it. We got our regulars."

Indeed maybe us writers/artists/community builders (more like blind to community) are making this bigger than it needs to be. The regulars will be here, all visitors will come and eventually go.

As Anzaldua wrote: "This land was Mexican once, Indian always and will be again." I guess I can say this land was/is colonized Chuppy once, Raza always and will be again.


Che movie review

I went to see the new Soderbergh "Che" movie at the Nuart, all 5 hours of it with a 20 minute intermission. It is two films, part one is about Che meeting Castro and the fight for Cuba for los Cubanos and part two is about Che attempting to assist rallying peeps in Bolivia to make Bolivia for Bolivians.
The pacing of the film might lose some peeps unfamiliar with the history as it jumps from pre revolution, to fighting in the mountains, to Che's NYC visit to the U.N. Aside from some corny cameos from Lou Diamond Philips and Matt Damon, the film runs with a smooth intensity equal to Guevara's speeches. Actually LDP fits his role very well as an all talk wishy washy communist leader that double crosses. Damon has a quick scene as a German priest. Ofcourse this is Del Toro's show and he keeps all eyes on him, except when Demian Bichir's Castro is in the scene or nearby, but that is how it seems it was. Castro was the MAN, the leader, etc. and so when he came around he was the center. Soderbergh helps you feel the stress, dissapointment, achievement, pride, loss and gains, pain and stench of living a revolutionary life in the mountains trying to get peasants on your side of a fight that they know is for their own good, but may be either too afraid to join or have no other choice but to join. Each scene says something, no shot is taken without having a tale to tell. The film moves and breathes as the life of Che, with beauty, class, asthma attacks, patience, detail, a faith in mankind and ofcourse love. When the two films come out later this year (very soon), part one will definately be welcomed as it has the Hollywood ending of liberating Cuba for Cubanos, the second film will be a hard sell since it seems obvious from the start that the Bolivians were not ready to fight and we all know Che will die in the end. I recommend you go see the two parts together while you still can.