Category Archives: Movies

Movie Review: Borat Learnings Make For a Just 21st Century

The 2006 satirical comedy Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Gloriuos Nation of Kazakhstan  is a film by Larry Charles, whose main character Borat, is played by Sacha Baron Cohen.

Borat, a stranger in America, is forced to hitch-hike after a disagreement with the producer of his documentary. Borat plot revolves around his learning trip to America where Borat is to utilize his skills as a TV presenter to create a documentary that would be used to educate the people of Kazakhstan.

Borat Cultural Learnings Lesson 1: Contemporary Western Culture is a Hyper Sexualized Society With Women Objectified in Movies for Box Office Sales

In this hitchhiking scene Borat , now derailed from his task of shooting the documentary, is walking along the highway to California in pursuit of his Tv crush.

Borat’s pursuit of Baywatch’s voluptuous Pamela Anderson Sacha revives several important debates. It is our hope that the 21st century will be the age where these pertinent issues of human dignity will be put to rest:

First: The over-sexualization and objectification of women in film by Hollywood. A 2011 study by USC Annenberg researchers found that Hollywood is hooked on these two shame that are responsible for body shame and appearance anxiety. Blockbuster movies like Transformers 2 (PG-13) , Harry Porter and the Half Blood Prince (PG) , The Twilight Saga New Moon (PG-13) , Up (PG) and The Hangover (R) were found culpable in this study.

Borat Cultural Learnings Lesson 2 : Here Comes Brexit and President Donald Trump (Update 29/03/17)

In this hunt for Pamela Anderson, Borat gets a ride from sorority boys on their own trip across the America. In the ensuing drunken conversation, one of the sorority boys (a white well heeled male) laments how in America, minorities have more rights than “us”.

Second:Once again Sacha does well in crafting the character as well to do,spoilt and in every sense stereotypical (in dressing, accent, pattern of speech and physical attributes) white male. Of course this isn’t the first instance where Hollywood fits the bill in it’s role in the fabled military-industrial complex narrative by conspiracy theorists. Hollywood is seen as the pacifier who softens the people in preparation of an eventuality drawn up by some powerful secret societies. Neither will it be last. What we should fight for is for the 21st century to be the age where humans overcome race, reconcile and find understanding.

The 21st Century will be an age Remembered for how it Treated LGBT

Still keeping with lessons from Hollywood, we step out of the silver screen to the golden stage where immortality is bestowed upon movie stars whose works anyway are still inviolable.

We are talking about the Oscars and how Uganda found itself in an awkward place doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Here it goes. By design or fate, Uganda’s parliament under the exuberant urging of the country’s executive passed what many have described as a backward anti-gay law.

the tattared look of this special edition Nile Special beer bottle label tells the story of uganda which 50 years on from independence is worn down by a sruggle within itself over gay rights just as it did during the Kingdom of Baganda when missionaries arrived
Special Edition of Nile Special beer celebrating 50 years of independence

Following  condemnation form human rights groups within and without, sanctions targeting Uganda’s aid flows were installed. Then in another show of Hollywood’s soft power, and as if to further slight Uganda’s actions, barely a week after President Museveni’s accent of the bill into law, an icon of the LGBT community, Ellen DeGeneres hosted the most visible event outside the Super Bowl XLVIII and the ongoing Oscar Pistorius trial.

In the 14th year of the 21st century not only did an openly gay person host  The 20th Edition of the Oscars but broke the internet (twitter) while at it.

Third:Interesting to note, I think, is the raging debate on sexual orientation that the sanctions on Uganda following the anti-same sex law has brought to fore in Africa. Aside from the usual nature vs nurture chasm, there is concern that vulnerable groups- people living with HIV/AIDS, socially disadvantaged women, men and children-are likely to bear the brunt.

The New World Order: Who To Lead Us?

Consider this: The post World War 2 New World order sought to entrench and protect for prosperity, a cause best summed in the recently celebrated Zero Discrimination Day, which as stated on the official UNAIDS website is

a call to people everywhere to promote and celebrate everyone’s right to live a full life with dignity—no matter what they look like, where they come from or whom they love.

When stripped to its bare essentials, these ongoing efforts towards the blanket achievement of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,the central tenet of the post WWII new world order, at the very basic level entails protecting the rights of the most vulnerable group in any society. The assumption here is that if and when the weakest are safe, the rights of the rest are guaranteed.

However, rights and the law are not obdurate notions. They are the poor-cousins of pious morals. Is it is with your family and mine, it often gets murky during family reunions when the cousins, the law, rights and morals,  meet.

Sadly though, invariably these family reunions get more than just dirty, they get ugly. When it does as in this LGBT debate, or immigration or racial tensions, who/what  do we look upon to settle matters? Who draws the lines delineating where the shades of grey turn white or black?

Whoever holds this moral authority is the quagmire of the 21st century.

86th Academy Awards Lessons For The 21st Century

The centerpiece event of the entertainment industry calendar year just went down. The champagne is still popping, Lupita Nyong’o still is trending- as she has been for the better part of the year and Twitter has recovered from that Ellen DeGeneres blow. From us, it is an unreserved congratulations to all the deserved winners from the 86th Academy awards.

Chinua Achebe Quote in Things Fall Apart: “He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.”

Did you see that coming? By some out-of this-world happening, all movie critics are in agreement that whoever won on the night, The 86th Academy Awards, irrevocably deserved to! Well, is this ground for the conspiracy theorists to practice their art? Possibly. But for now, all conspiracy theorists are probably occupied by the disappearance of Malaysia Airline flight 370.

Nonetheless,even if the theorists were to attack in droves, there’s some shine about this 2014 Oscars that whatever the haters say, can’t be gleamed off. So what exactly is this glitter? Put it another way: what is to remember about the 86th Academy Awards?

We live in a World…

Well, everything. To borrow one of Arsene Wenger, favorite phrases: “we live in a world”…… We live in a world where memory is a species wide problem. A world where anything more than 160 characters or a few bytes of video is often too much a bother.

The rising prevalence of this rare case of a pandemic of ADHD complicated by chronic, global-antero-retrograde amnesia (just invented a new disease for DSM VI) is not unique to the 21st century as history will tell us, but rather an enticing challenge to some of us who are determined to correct this anomaly by word, deed, craft and cold evidence.

Anyone who ascribes to some ideals of distributive justice ought loud these earnest efforts. Consider this: too many bad things, despicable shameful things are the building blocks of the very bedrock upon which humanity stands today: Wars, poverty, slavery the list goes on. Social commentators say part of the problem that feeds this revisionism has been the proliferation of media peddling mostly garbage.

In this murk of misinformation and outright lies, it escapes our attention that Syria has been at war for three years now, so that generations of humanity from womb to tomb know no better than the despair of war. You’ll agree with me that the word is replete with such sorry examples. Yet, it shouldn’t be that way as humanity has never been better equipped, better resource, to deal with challenges that face us.


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Shame of the 21st century in slavery

Fear not 21st century citizen. Because once every 50 years, comes along Polly who unlike in the movie puts up a convincing show. Serving up a piece that charms the world, making piss of all the voraciously peddled non-issues, bringing to light issues real enough to effect global change.

Though virtually all the victors in the 86th Academy Awards bear this quality, in this commentary, we confine our critique to seminal moments about the star of the night , 12 years a slave, that define, explain, characterize and attempt to embody life in the 21st century.In this mold, the 86th Academy Award shall be remembered as The Oscars that gave us the excellent work that is the 2014 Best Picture Winner.

As if on cue, though probably unrelated, Caribbean Nations — countries that were carved purposely for the facilitation of salve trade – – have been building consensus on adopting a plan seeking slave trade reparations from their European slave masters: the likes of Britain, France and the Netherlands.

The reparations are intended to advance these countries by enabling them leap-acquire 21st century technology, in an attempt to leverage the socioeconomic losses suffered by generations upon generations. Losses in dignity suffered at the gain of the slave masters, as occasioned by the slave trade powered agrarian and industrial revolutions which formed the basis of subsequent economic revolutions.

As the acclaimed CNN Freedom Project illustrates, in the 21st century, slavery remains real. A commentator on a past episode of  Inside Story  on Aljazeera, put it best:

Slavery Was Not Abolished, It Was Regulated

Critics punching holes into the likely success of the calls for reparation for slavery lend credence to their skepticism by pointing out that a century after slavery was said to have been abolished, not one of the perpetrators has offered to the victims an official apology.

Mind you, an apology that costs nothing!

Beyond the artistic power of the film as a voice of the forgotten, the 86th Academy Awards served to amplify their cry. A cry exemplified by 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen’s- -the first black director to be feted by the Academy Awards- – acceptance speech. Part of which read:

Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live. This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup. I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery, and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today

Steve McQueen

Know. Own. Be. Live the African Century. Everyday Tips on Life, Style, Entrepreneurship and Careers for the 21st Century African


12 Years A Slave: A Kenyan Perspective.

I follow a peculiar method to watching movies. Admittedly, it has every sense of voyeurism, a rabid adventure about it. I tend to be indifferent to the blockbuster hype. This means that all the YouTube trailers, the television ad spots screaming “IN CINEMAS NOW!” or the latest box office rankings in my inbox are just but constituent of the collage of the information: the numerous flashing lights of the 21st Century. This method me to 12 Years A Slave, therefore, kindly allow my indulgence.

Instead, I scour through obscure movie buffs and cult-culture websites seeking to join the most low-key “I-have-watched-that-too” bandwagon. Sometimes I take up recommendations from friends on which movies to watch. A confession here: the most recent mainstream movie I have watched is Olympus Has Fallen.

Opening this closet further: aside from live sports, news and business channels, my favorite channel on satellite television happens to be TCM. Most of the time though, I’d rather re-watch old favorites like Machete, Borat and the like. You get a sense. Don’t you? Moreover, I admit that it comes a time when a man must change his ways or his ways bend him.

So when one of the most grounded people I know, dropped a random Facebook update status – the poem in prose at the start of this post – inspired by a movie, it got me thinking: ” Wow! What a movie review that is. I’ve got to watch 12 years a slave. !” 

Nonetheless, having broken from tradition, I wasn’t too keen to give up my pre-movie watching ritual that I love to call : The priming. The priming includes: watching the YouTube movie trailer; Googling up the cast, director, movie caster, screen writer and even the business behind the movie such as the studios that made the movie. Basically, a self tailored back stage pass.

Back Stage: What I came to Know About 12 Years a Slave

From writeups about Lupita Nyong’o to tit-bits about Kenya’s nascent film indurstry: Riverwood, my digging up opened up a world rich with superlatives. Satirical at times, paradoxical at most, thoughtful always, but all the same superlatives hyping 12 years a slave with all the pomp.

Having now watched and re-watched 12 years a slave, I now appreciate that the hype is/was not all hot air. By all accounts, 12 years a slave is a sad movie. Not tear jerking sad, but unsettling, heart wrenching sad. But for all sadness of the plot, and the realization that the movie is a dramatization of events that happened in real life, there still is reason to celebrate.

Of Africa and Her Feted Children

Africa and her feted children, some story that is. Lets consider this particular tale of how unrelenting accolades made Lupita Nyong’o the newest star off Holywood’s production-line. While at it, let us also appreciate how the media frenzy around 12 years a slave aided the percolation of the subliminal messages of prior – equally well done – thought provoking productions such as 500 Years Later, to burrow into the consciousness of mainstream psyche

I tell you, such unintended spin-offs are the countenance of the beauty of life in the 21st century.

It then gets all interesting when coincidences, such as the trivial realization that the film company that made 12 years a slave, River Road Entertainment, shares a name with Kenya’s nascent answer to Nollywood in Riverwood .The name Riverwood arises from corruption of the name of a street in downtown Nairobi, River Road.

River road is traditionally home to the indigenous run shops, modern day versions of Dukawallas ran by Asians in Peri-colonial Nairobi, that stocked pretty much everything and were frequented by locals. Today, River Road is an euphemism for anything- goes-black market where you can find anything from bootleg designer perfumes to love and non-electric, 70’s style clipper barber shops.


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It Takes a Village To Make a Star

Could as well be an indication of those  times more seldom than that sacred happening, when the stars over Hollywood align, allowing for the screen writer to meet the perfect partner in form of an in-sync movie director; who in turn, blood and sweat brings out the best in the actor picked by the eye, nose, tentacles and guts of the casting director.

An actor whose persona is radiantly sublime in the costume director’s pieces and whose halo illuminates yet melts into the canvas painted by the cinematographer. Little wonder then, that Lupita Nyong’o, in all her Mary- mother-esque grace, thanked all these forgotten people on receipt of her award  at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) for female actor in a supporting role playing Patsey in 12 years a slave. Hollywood gossip has it that the Kenyan born, Yale trained  is the elect Oscar award elect recipient.

Afrosinema

Now, scratch all that. I talk of trivial coincidental moments that signal more than the above described eureka moment in Hollywood (that is customarily denoted by the phrase:” It’s a movie! “) Consider this: Somewhere about the mid 10’s of this century, Kenya’s nascent film industry was awaken from it’s deep slumber by the colonization of Kenyan living rooms by Nollywood and other West African Pidgin English riddled productions.

Kenyans being a proud people reacted to type as nations do whenever there is an a front to culture by an ‘alien’ way of life. First they huddled in their living rooms whispering among themselves, pointing and dishing out the ‘eye treatment’. Given that these Afrosinema flicks were cheaper productions that offered a viewership pulling alternative to recycled Hollywood flicks and Mexican soap operas, to the profit chasing multitude of  to the free to air television stations, the simple ‘eye’ didn’t chase the Nigerians and Ghanaians away.

Nonetheless, not to be easily put down, in a change of tact, the Kenyans were soon laughing, laughing and pointing fingers and giving the eye at the hysterical English of West Africans (most having selectively forgotten the strain that their own mother tongue placed on their articulation of the Queens language).

However, the Naija movies were still there, getting massive airplay as more free to air stations joined the bandwagon, and the screening times shifted from 11 pm and 2 am to 11 am , 2 pm and later on as early as 9 am.

Superstars

Not ones to miss out on popular culture, the diabolical fm stations were soon in it. There was even a spattering of Nigerian? comical co-hosts of the sex ridden morning drive shows. And then they stopped laughing. Why? Because they were busy following the show on Tv and listening to P-square and Dbanj on their car radios. The artistic scene in Kenya, and I believe most of East Africa, was shaken to the core. The conformists chose to cooperate, churning out collaborations with nondescript Nigerian artists.

A few West African acts found their way into entertainment spots with headlining concert debuts. Visiting Nigerian/ west African brothers had their way, literally, with Nairobi women. The most prominent of these tales being that of the public spat between a Nigerian pseudo-businessman and Kenyan gold digger (for lack of a better description). By the time a superstar Kenyan gospel music star got hitched to an elderly evangelist broda, Kenya’s domestic revolution was long complete.

Riverwood’s Spurts of Life

I have labelled it the domestic revolution as during the laughing and pointing phase, a common refrain was that Nollywood films were for the fodder of the ‘house slave’ types of post-colonial, emerging middle class Kenya. The mboches: the semi-educated, paid below minimum wage housemaids.

Now even the Kenyan government had read the script and had established feeble attempts at supporting the nascent Kenyan film industry. At some point, filming equipment imports were zero rated, special government bank rolled film grants were made available, free to air stations were to comply to legislation that mandated a larger quota of prime time spots be reserved for local productions etc

Hell, even semantics came into play with calls for dropping the ‘derogatory’ term ‘local’ for homegrown. The most curious neologism though was in the fashion of Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood, the insistence of christening the Kenyan scene Riverwood.

An uninspiring choice informed by the spattering of backstreet (re)productions that range from Jay-Z Magna Carta to 12 Years a Slave, to the government banned The Wolf of Wall Street to Toyo(d)ta. spare parts to Havard- all the way to Indian Universities- certificates of graduation; that are believed to be available at the right price in the streets that border River road in downtown Nairobi, yonder to the Nairobi river.

Long List of Hollywood Greats

However, the same cannot be said of the co-producing company of 12 years a slave, River Road Entertainment who seem to have a knack for society stirring productions. Notable among their screen rolls in the Oscar winner BrokeBack Mountain .If Lupita Nyong’o isn’t up for an Oscar, then the director Steve Mcqueen is. Consider this : On the official facebook page for 500 Years Later, I once chanced upon an interesting quote that informs my convictions:

A professional director will direct any film given with ease. They will do a film about slavery–if paid, with the same ease at which they would do a film about the glory of conquest. So a film does not always mirror the politics of the filmmaker. Our films, however, are our politics.

Privilege?

If the above quote explains the genius of Steve Mcqeen, Lupita Nyongo’s case is more curious. The daughter of a prominent Kenyan politician, her depiction of the role when interrogated, ought be a matter of conjecture. No need to elucidate the nature of African politics here, but it does bring to question the common maxim that great actors and actresses are empowered to their exploits by drawing on their life experiences to depict, if at all powerfully, their characters.

A controversial note is the mention that a peer shared with me while we engaged on talk along these lines. An unapologetic Afrocentric, he is of the conviction that all African politicians, present and past, inclusive of the great Mandela, have a bearing of ‘house slaves’ about them. Harsh? Well, as the concluding line of the treatise that prologues this editor’s note quips: ” Yes, they stopped selling the black man or so we believe, but has the black man stopped himself from being bought?

12 Years a Slave: A Poem

Children were torn from their mothers arms, 
Husband watched as the wife of their youth was raped,
Flesh was ripped from their backs with whips meant for horses,

Souls were crashed, hearts made to despair…
But it is not the tattoos of whips,
or the cry of the mother,
or the agony of the husband that made my eyes wet when I watched 12 year of slave,

Seeing hope burning out like a lamp running out of oil,
yet the dawn still miles away,
Seeing the heart struggle to beat fighting to pump energy and life into bodies so worn out from pain and tire,
Looking into their eyes and watching the basic instinct of survival fading away two centuries later I ask myself….
Yes, they stopped selling the black man or so we believe, but has the black man stopped himself from being bought

ABOUT THE POET

I don’t think she sees herself as one, but some injustices seem to get the poet out of Kagwira Riungu Like this random Facebook Post. We pray that one day she’ll pick up the pen for good. For now we appreciate her as a scientist by nurture, and a born nature lover. She is a mother who’s actively involved in caring for the environment. I know her as an avid tree planter. By trade, a molder of young minds. A sister, friend, doting aunt, a believer in the common good


Know. Own. Be. Live the African Century. Everyday Tips on Life, Style, Entrepreneurship and Careers for the 21st Century African


Machete, Danny Trejo’s First Lead Role, The Movie Review

Lindsay Lohan in her birth-suit, Lindsay in a nun robe, Lindsay drinks what she preaches. Danny Trejo at his best. Robert De Nero with another effortless trademark convincing performance. Illegal immigration and drugs trade. Mexico, the border and USA. Nudity, beauty, kicks and blasts; is Machete. But, even this list barely begins to tell the story. WARNING: Contains spoilers!

The only fault I find in Machete is with its R rating. Don’t get me wrong, I am not some social pest on a mission to injure tender minds. However, am inclined to the idea that in Machete, boobs, strong language, blasts and nudity only spice what by other accords is already a powerful visual piece.

In being Restricted audience, Machete’s powerful message is kept away from a generation who through it, their awareness of the world they live in would have been enriched, thus raising hopes on solutions to grave humanity robbing issues that border on people exploitation. This is why I vouch for the shock value of Machete as artistic. No different from the nudes of ancient Greeks, middle ages and Renaissance period.

Machete is Mexico, Immigration & The American Border 101 for Dummies

Some while back, I had the rare opportunity to watch and met the director of a Mexican movie depicting the genesis of a long-standing issue that still remains one of America’s closet issues: immigration & the mexico border. This way,way before The Simpsons predicted the presidency of Donald Trump, let alone his incumbency. As Santara (played by the ravishing Jessica Alba) in Machete quips,

We didn’t cross the border. The border crossed us

The other day,  I admit that am a tad snail paced at catching up with movies as it was a September 3rd 2010 release, I had the chance to digest the same issue, this time less documentary like, in the mold of a cartoon – comic like – action hero $10,000,000 budget movie. Machete is brilliantly scripted and directed for a B movie, managing to covey what has otherwise been hushed in loud tones.

Through the almost limitless artistic freedom of movie making in the 21st Century, thanks to magic of  technology, the directors Ethan Maniquis and Robert Rodriguez-the latter who happens to have also co-scripted the movie with Alvaro Rodriguez-offer a satirical, bordering on the comical, perspective on issues surrounding Mexico-USA relations.


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Border politics

There is Senator John MacLaughlin (Robert Di Nero) – one of the key protagonists in the movie – whose controversial ‘return to Mexico campaign’ forms the nidus of his robust stance on  illegal immigration. Jessica Alba plays an immigration Police Officer, ICE agent Sartana Rivera. Her performance is one to relish lest the artistic depiction of the female form. However, Lindsay Lohan steals the thunder. She is in her element in this movie: Pop culture, Skin, Drink, and Forbidden.

Through clever movie making like depictions of the Senator MacLaughlin’s campaign advertisements,  the directors lay the bed for modern ongoing debates on immigration laws, drug trade and what the International Labor Organization might label as modern slavery – mega corporations whose meager pay for labor washes off the thick make up on the face of employment revealing the underlying ugly countenance of  forced labor. Not forgetting the ugly face of globalization , read NAFTA, which exposes workers to early retirement.

Through characters depicting commonly held stereotypes of Mexicans living in America, and the strategic and liberal use of such derogatory labels like dish washers, maids and bean eaters, this cleverly scripted movie brings key political debates to Hollywood.

You ever noticed how you let a Mexican into your house just because he’s got gardening tools? No questions asked, you just let him right in. Could have a chainsaw, you know, a machete…

Booth’s Bodyguard

The legendary She is embodied by resistance fighter Luz played by Michelle Rodriguez.-if you ever wanted to see Michelle Rodriguez in a black action figure leather body suit, eye patch, holding a big gun and kicking ass, Machete is the movie for you. In what reminds of the days of  Zoro, Machete Cortez is a Federale whose confidants turned Judas and in a drug deal gone bad the result of which was his wife and child are murdered by drug lord Torrez.

Torrez is vintage Steven Seagal: Macho, sword wielding, flamboyant living westernized version of Samurai, with a smashing oriental girl by the side. Machete Coetez played by none else but one of  silver screen’s top of the game bad boys Danny Frejo, is a different deal all together.

The plot centers around Machete who is contracted to assassinate Senator MacLauhglin by some big shadowy business types. It turns out that the job was a plot to lure Machete to his own assassination. A marksman manages to almost fatally hit Machete as he himself prepares to take his shot on the wadding duck- Senator MacLaughlin.

What follows next has revenge as the surrogate motive. Machete’s quest to get back at the bad guys sparks a Bouazizi Mohamed like reaction that spread like ink on blot paper across the Arab world-as old political establishments are shaken by the foundation by wave after wave of unrelenting street protests.

Machete Don’t Text

The hidden gem in Machete, I find, is the directors  use of internet in particular and information technology in general, to set the time of the evolving events – The 21st Century. For instance, in the movie, calls are made over laptops Skype style. Yet, Machete  still feels like thumbing through a Comic book only that this time  the characters are flesh and blood rather than caricatures. Take the case of one of the longer action scenes towards the end-where Luz reappears – in what I consider to be one of the scenes in the movie.

Look out for the role that Machete’s brother Padre Benito del Toro Cheech Marin:A case of art being used to spur philosophical discussions on key societal elements. Machete: Biker culture, machetes, assassins and more, all rolled into 105 minutes of what is otherwise a well articulated sociopolitical debate


Know. Own. Be. Live the African Century. Everyday Tips on Life, Style, Entrepreneurship and Careers for the 21st Century African