Tag Archives: CGI

My Problem With Ghost in the Shell (In A Nutshell)

I don’t think there’s anyone here who’s unfamiliar with the term “whitewashing” at this point.

It’s been a frequent topic of conversation here on Culture War Reporters, and while certainly not a new issue, it has been gaining wider and wider attention in recent years…

Most recently, the problem reared its ugly head in the form of Scarlett Johannson being cast in the live-action remake of anime classic Ghost In A Shell. Once again we’re seeing a traditionally non-white (in this specific case, Japanese) role being given to a white actor out of fear that audiences won’t watch movies with non-white leads. And if that were the only issue, I might have stuck with my usually political tirades and left this topic alone. But in the past few days, a shocking development has emerged in the story. Allegations have surfaced that the remake’s producers (and I quote) “Tested Visual Effects That Would Make White Actors Appear Asian“.

Or, as my best friend and this blog’s editor recently put it on Facebook:

“We think so little of you that we’d consider changing a White person’s appearance before entertaining the thought of casting an actual Asian.”

So yeah, I’m feeling compelled to write about this…


And let me tell you what really convinced me to submit the following rant. Continue reading

In The Force Awakens White Women get Representation, but Black Women get CGI

I loved Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I loved it so much that the first thing I thought about doing when I walked out of the theatre was hash out everything that this Star Wars reboot had done right.

Like including legitimately humorous dialogue rather than slapstick CGI sidekicks.

Unfortunately, everyone on the blogosphere had already come to the same conclusion long before I was back from my Christmas break. Still, I couldn’t stop thinking about the film, or reading articles about it. So I’ve decided to write about one of the few things that bothered me about the film, rather than many aspects of the film that I loved.

If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you probably already know that we at CWR were excited to hear about the diversity of casting in The Force Awakens.

I was especially excited when I heard that Lupita Nyong’o had been cast. Ever since she won best supporting actress for 12 Years a Slave and was declared the most beautiful person of 2014 by People magazine, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for Nyong’o. After witnessing her sudden rise to fame, I was curious to see if she would continue to find roles in major films, or if she would slowly be pushed out of Hollywood because of her dark skin. As Gregg Kilday explains in his article about Nyong’o, few black actresses have ever managed to secure a spot as a permanent Hollywood heavyweight:

While the stage would appear to be set for [Nyong’o] to ascend to the A-list — just as Jennifer Lawrence did after her best actress win for Silver Linings Playbook last year — it’s not that simple. For while there have been a handful of African-American actors, from Sidney Poitier to Eddie MurphyDenzel Washington and Will Smith, who have reached that status, there’s never been a black actress who has become the equivalent of a Julia Roberts or Angelina Jolie. Whoopi Goldberg came closest, following her best actress Oscar nomination for 1985’s The Color Purple and supporting actress win for 1990’s Ghost, but despite an occasional hit like 1992’s Sister Act, she didn’t maintain that momentum. Hollywood also flirted with Angela Bassett, Thandie Newton, Halle Berry and, most recently, Mandela‘s Naomie Harris, without ushering any of them into its very top tier.

It seems like a habit for major blockbuster films to tick off their diversity checklist by casting a white woman and/or a black man. Meanwhile, actors from other minority groups, especially women of colour, get overlooked because all the non-white, male roles have already been taken. As Evan pointed out in his post about the Martian and racebending, this seems to be the impulse, even when it means casting a white women to play a Korean- American character and a black man to play an Asian- Indian character. Continue reading

The Golden Age of Television

Readers, yours truly is not a person to whom the positives of life are either readily apparent or understandable, but even someone as typically dour as myself can’t deny that we are living in a golden age of television.

It’s he-re…

Now I’m not exactly sure why that is- why all of a sudden we seem to have had a jump in quality and quantity of shows. An age thing, perhaps? I considered that, but as much as we could argue that we simply prefer the television shows we had when we were in our 20s, I don’t think my generation is alone in the belief that TV is better now than it was a decade ago.

Let’s try to figure out why. Continue reading

From Puppetry to Pod Races

I love alliteration. It’s short, it’s snappy, and it has a lot of mental sticking power. I’ve used it in the title of my interview with the Batgirl of San Diego, and when I named my self-indulgent essay comparing StarCraft and Barbara Kingsolver’s literature. This time around, I find it appropriate to utilize this literary technique in bringing attention to Star Wars.

It’s not news to the movie fan or the Star Wars fanatic that there have been quite a few changes made in the rereleases of the classic films, old content packaged in a new format. A few of the alterations seem pretty logical [the Rebels’ computers are looking pretty dated when compared to the holograms of the prequel trilogy], while others are downright upsetting [replacing Sebastian Shaw with Hayden Christensen in the Jedi ghost scene]. With Blu-ray being the new format on the block, a new change has been announced for the rerelease of The Phantom Menace.

Episode I can be remembered as the last of the Star Wars films to feature the diminutive Master Yoda using puppetry. There are no backflips or lightsabre fights with bearded Sith lords that nobody likes, just a short green alien with a penchant for reversing the order of his sentences, sitting down. After The Phantom Menace CGI was used to render the Jedi Grand Master.

On the left, Yoda as he appeared in 2009. On the right, Yoda on Blu-ray.

While this alteration causes the first of the prequels to fit in with the following two films, what it loses is a bit of its connection with the original trilogy. Yoda was voiced by Frank Oz, but he was also controlled by the man, who acted as a puppeteer for the first four films. While he’s certainly more expressive, he lacks a lot of the signature movements that once characterized him.

But what does this say about film? Green screens are being used more than ever before, forcing actors to show fear, confusion, and even awe while standing in front of immense emerald sheets. While technology has been moving ever forward in delivering realistic CGI, it’s apparent that it still has a way to go.

Consider the animatronic dinosaurs in Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. Created in the early 90s,  it featured creatures that looked real because they were. They had actual size and weight and texture and you could have touched them if you were there. Compare Neytiri from James Cameron’s Avatar with Ron Perlman as Hellboy from the eponymous film. The difference from the left to the right is that of computer generated imagery to simple prosthetics and makeup.

In an age when CGI seems to be taking over it’s always a pleasant surprise to see the more traditional techniques, be they puppetry or prosthetics, to help suspend the audience’s disbelief. When Hollywood’s pumping out real-world-meets-animated-characters films like The Smurfs, we can all thank God for Jason Segel.