The Magnificent Seven vs. The Historical Negationism of Westerns

Yesterday marked the North American premiere of The Magnificent Seven, a movie that I’ve been looking forward to ever since I saw the trailer some months back. The reason for that is far more simple than you might have guessed: I’m a sucker for Westerns. A large part of that can probably be traced back to my playthrough of Red Dead Redemption back in college-

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-but even before that there had always been something appealing about the clink of spurs, the arid desert heat, and towns that weren’t big enough for two particular individuals. That being said, I did with The Magnificent Seven what I do with everything I’m excited about, which is research it obsessively.

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Eventually my search led me to a thread in /r/movies sharing the new poster for the film, which you can see on the right. Clicking on the image should help you get a better look at the titular cast of characters, and reveal an additional reason for my interest you might have expected me to be more upfront about.

Of the seven men four are people of colour.

Denzel Washington, emphasized by the number that outlines him, is bounty hunter Sam Chisholm and leader of the group. On his far right is Martin Sensmeier, of First Nations descent, playing Comanche warrior Red Harvest. Skipping past Chris Pratt on his left are Byung-hun Lee as assassin Billy Rocks and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Vasquez, a Mexican outlaw.

Now if there’s anything enthusiasm likes it’s company, and as I scrolled down through the thread seeing if anyone else shared my excitement for the film I came across this comment:

multicultural7 Continue reading

In Ophelia‘s Seat: A Q&A with Ali Mueller About Her Interview

opheliaposterThis is the second of two interviews I was able to conduct with the cast and crew of the short film Ophelia. On Friday, when it premiered at this year’s LA Shorts Fest, I published a review, and just yesterday I was able to share a Q&A with director Andrew Garland.

Playing the eponymous character herself is Ali Mueller. In addition to starring in such programs as ABC’s All My Children and films like STARZ movie Category 5, Mueller is also hard at work creating her own film and television content. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram as @alimueller1.


alimuellerWhat did you want to be when you were seven-years-old?

I wanted to be a horse show jumper, a tennis player, an actress, a lawyer and a princess. Four out of five have come true in some shape or form but when I really look at what I wanted to be, it was a performer. A storyteller, expressing my feelings unapologetically.

What was the strangest question you’ve ever been asked in a job interview?

I did a commercial audition once where they asked me to sing “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Now I wouldn’t exactly call myself a singer, but I did know and love the song, despite being notorious for making up my own lyrics rather than ever learning the proper ones. And “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a seriously big song. So I got almost halfway and they stopped me. Didn’t hear back from them.

Do you have any strategies when it comes to interviewing for a job [or auditioning for a role]? [How do you deal with pressure?]

Honestly, rehearsing. Being really prepared, so much so that I’m excited to go in and play and do my work. Also being open to whatever the moment brings. Nerves are actually alright, because you can use them as an internal energy to fuel what you’re going after. Continue reading

In Ophelia‘s Seat: Anthony Garland Explains the Film’s Name, Length, and Even Its Genre

opheliaposterThis past Friday the short film Ophelia
began screening at the 2016 LA Shorts Fest. The piece touches on fear, expectation, pressure, and ambition through a the first few minutes of a job interview with the title character. I was able to view and review the film for myself not too long ago.

Answering a few questions himself is Anthony Garland, the director. Garland has acted in a number of small film and television roles, and assisted other directors in filming such music videos as Lana Del Ray’s “Summertime Sadness”.


garlandWhat did you want to be when you were seven-years-old?

THAT question! … A superhero. Super strength and invulnerability would be preferable but I definitely had to be able to fly. I was obviously past the age where you know that powers don’t exist, but I remember being pretty sure that I’d be the exception. I grew up reading comics before the characters had this cinematic renaissance; that was really my education in storytelling, art direction and frame composition.

What was the strangest question you’ve ever been asked in a job interview?

I’ve actually been relatively safe in interviews and auditions thus far… I feel like I’m the one asking the strange questions a lot of the time, but that’s deliberate! Just the nature of status and hierarchy, we forget that we’re all just individuals, regardless of position, and a job interview is as much for you as it is for the people that might hire you; so questions, however wacky, are a good way to set up a back and forth rather than sitting through an interrogation, which is what most bad interviews feel like.

Do you have any strategies when it comes to interviewing for a job [or auditioning for a role]? [How do you deal with pressure?]

Sure, and maybe this comes from having a background in acting, but so long as the focus is on something external, like engaging with the person opposite you by asking those questions, or really taking them in, then there’s no space to be self conscious. Continue reading

Ophelia: A Short Film Review

opheliaposterIn a world fraught with fears there are few experiences as anxiety-inducing as job interviews. While a failed date resolves in an extended period of loneliness a botched interview affects your very livelihood. In its first few moments Ophelia opens up with the titular character cautiously entering a derelict hallway, the sounds of her heels punctuating each step towards a room of other applicants.

Given the inherently terrifying nature of the event his piece depicts, director Anthony Garland fittingly chose to shoot the film like a horror movie. There’s a constant air of tension, which succeeds due to it never growing too overbearing. Ophelia‘s most unsettling moments might have been flashier and more overt in other hands, but there’s an admirable amount of restraint that extends from the cut from shot to shot [Garland also edited the film] to the sound direction.

As for the interview itself, the theme appears to grapple with the director’s chosen genre. If job interviews, like horror films, are frightening then how do we address and manage that fear? Continue reading

Don’t Call the Shooter “Crazy”: Toxic Masculinity, Mental Illness Stigma, and the Red-Herring’s of Mass Shootings

Our country has a serious gun epidemic.

We’re all aware of it, and it seems that almost weekly now we’re presented with yet another account of a mass shooter wreaking havoc among innocent civilians. We talk about gun control. We talk about mental illness. We talk about religious extremism. But we always seem to skirt around the underlying issue. By doing so we often cause harm to more innocent lives.

There’re so many “red herring” distractions to mass shootings, but the real issue lies much deeper in our society. Through our language, the media, our laws, and our acceptance of gendered norms, we manage to allow these massacres to continue and instead place undue pressure on mental illness. Sufferers of mental illness are often the target, although statistics show they are rarely violent people. The issue lies elsewhere: within toxic masculinity and the need to seek control.

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Another Mass Shooting, Always One Group to Blame

Mental illness is commonly brought up after a mass shooting. News anchors will emphasize the importance of mental illness awareness, and will suggest laws to evaluate the mental stability of gun owners. It’s an easy target to paint: those that kill others must be crazy.

The word “crazy” is used so loosely in our society, but it’s with this type of language that we perpetuate the stigma around mental illness. Entertainment and television were large perpetrators of spreading harmful stereotypes for a long time, but that is slowly changing in fictional media. News-centered media is still behind the times, however.

It’s taken us a long time to get where we are today in mental illness treatment and care. According to Bradley University’s research about 18% of the American population admits to suffering from some sort of mental illness. Of those 43.6 million people, only 6.7 million sought and received treatment for their varying ailments. Those who did seek treatment found that it was extremely beneficial, but still only a fraction of those suffering seek out the help they need.

Language and negative connotation are one of the main reasons people avoid seeking help. Despite that fact that only 3-5% of violent acts are committed by sufferers of mental illness, the issue is always brought up around cases of murder and shootings. The mental health of the shooter is put into question, and the media is quick to jump on the blame train; to distance themselves from the “crazy” or “unstable” population.

“We aren’t responsible for this, because we’re not insane.” Continue reading

Why I’m Thankful I Had the Opportunity to Write For CWR and Why I’m Stepping Down Now

A little over three years ago, a close childhood friend contacted me because their cousin (Evan) was looking for another writer to become a regular contributor on a blog called Culture War Reporters. I jumped at the chance and, after a very serious interview with Evan and Gordon, became a regular contributor here at CWR.

I’m feeling more than a little nostalgic rereading some of those early posts and conversations with my co-writers. It’s even making me question my decision to stop writing for the blog. Despite my second thoughts and feelings of nostalgia, I’ve considered stepping down for some time now, and I’d like to share a few reasons why I feel the time is right.

1. I haven’t been dedicating the time needed to create quality posts

When I first started writing for CWR, I was so excited and nervous about my first blogging opportunity that I would write my post early in the week and return to them throughout the week to do more editing. Luckily, I was also a full-time student, so I was already spending several hours a day at my computer screen writing. It was a welcome break to stop working on homework and spend a few hours writing about whatever topic I was particularly interested in that week.

This year my schedule began to shift. I was only in school part-time and began balancing several other jobs on the side. While I still enjoyed taking time to write for CWR, I was spending much less time at my laptop and it took a conscious effort to remember to get my posts up on time. The week would often slip by and I’d wind up writing last minute, which inevitably meant lower quality writing and less time spent researching my topic. I’ve come to realize that writing just hasn’t been on the top of my priority list, and, consequently, I haven’t produced the quality of content I want to put out into the world.

2. Other passions are drawing my attention

I’ve always loved to write, and I suspect that I always will. But lately, I haven’t felt nearly as passionate about writing as I’ve felt about some of my other interests. This summer I’ve had several opportunities to teach programs or courses that took up a large portion of my time. This September, I’m going to be starting the teaching post-degree program. As I feel myself getting more and more excited about this new career direction, I can also imagine myself spending less and less time writing (especially while I continue to work on the side). Rather than produce lower quality content, I’d rather take time off from blogging until I once again feel passionate enough about my writing to spend the time needed to produce quality content. Continue reading

The French War On Religious Freedom

France has long held a ban on overt expressions of religion in public, being one of the first European countries to have banned full face covering in public in 2010. While similar laws have gained traction in neighboring countries, following the tragic Bastille Day massacre in Cannes a number of French coastal towns have passed ordinances banning the “burkini”, a swimsuit for conservative Muslim women.

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No, not that one. That’s a wet suit.

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No, that’s also a wet suit.

Muslim Lifesavers Unveil The 'Burqini'

There we go.

But I’m guessing you can see the problem already. Continue reading