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"Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner" Review

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A young Caucasian girl gives her conservative parents the shock of a lifetime by bringing home her fiancée, an African-American, in Stanley Kramer’s 1967 film, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”.

 After a week in Hawaii Joanna Drayton (Katharine Houghton) falls in love with a prestigious Doctor named John Prentice (Sidney Poitier). Joanna and John fall in love and get engaged. John is leaving for Switzerland in the morning and so Joanna and him fly back to San Francisco where Joanna’s parents live to break the news to them that they are engaged and will be leaving for Switzerland together. John is concerned for Joanna’s relationship with her parents and wants to be sure that they don’t have any reservations about the two of them getting married. Much to Joanna’s displeasure, her parents have strong doubts about Joanna marrying an African-American. Throughout the film the tension mounts (at times humorously) as the Drayton’s family friend, Monsignor Ryan, a priest, invites himself and his opinions to the party. They also have the disapproval of the family caretaker, an African American lady who doesn’t believe John’s intentions to be true.  If that wasn’t enough, Joanna invites John’s parents from Los Angeles, despite John’s objections. All of their parents have their doubts that the relation will sustain in the current culture climate. The Drayton’s are not racist; in fact they respect their daughter privately. Mrs. Drayton is especially proud of Joanna for being able to see past color, and believes that she does truly love John. Their concern seems to come primarily from having a more worldly understanding of the times. They don’t want Joanna to have what they believe will be a tougher life by marrying an African-American.  Throughout the film the parents all come to an understanding through dialogues with the entire cast. John is very firm (in my favorite scene) with his father in the study and explains that though he gave life to John, that doesn’t give him the right to control his life, and that it’d take the older generation dying off to really make changes in the world. Mr. Drayton comes around after a beautiful conversation with John’s mother. She questions Mr. Drayton and asks him if he remembers what it was like to be young and in love which after some thought really changes Mr. Drayton’s perspective. The film ends with an emotional speech given by Mr. Drayton giving his blessing.

For filmmaking techniques I felt Kramer’s shots throughout the film was extremely thought out and meaningful. I found Kramer to primarily use a lot of medium shots and close-ups to capture his subjects. In a film like this, heavy on dialogue and reactions this makes sense to me. He made the conscious decision to frame Hepburn and Tracy’s dialogue in the study tight, where we could focus on the words, and the emotions that these characters brought intimately. The scene in the living room before dinner with Hepburn and M. Ryan stood out to me as another great example of the medium shot. They were framed above the waist as Hepburn is pouring Ryan a drink and she slowly breaks down from the events of the day and begins to cry leading Ryan to ask her what’s wrong and then go to have a talk with Tracy. The framing captured Hepburn’s frustration with Tracy, and even the situation itself and also captured a bit of the room with the liquor cabinet, which had a 60’s aspect to it.  The last scene that I really liked was the close-up of Tracy out on the patio as he contemplates the day, the dialogue with John’s mother, as he reflects, this older man being questioned as to whether he’s a burned-out old man who’s lost touch with himself and also whether he’s forgot what it was like to be young and in love. This was a wonderful shot as he looks out to the San Fran skyline having this internal debate, it said so much, even the lighting which captured the sunset while softly lighting Tracy’s face, all worked so perfectly for me. It conveyed so much emotion, and not a word of dialogue was spoken for what felt like forever.

The film was made in 1967 and definitely reflects the times of strong racial prejudice. The dialogue definitely was representative of the 60’s. The Drayton’s reservations about their daughter marrying John because he’s African-American, but also the fact that they were progressive and not completely opposed is indicative of the late 60’s when society started becoming more open to these relationships. The direction is also very 60’s from the art deco, swinging 60’s aspect. One scene that seemed completely out of place but very “60’s” was the dance scene between the butcher delivery boy and the housekeeper’s daughter. It was a funny break-up in the movie, but it reminded me of something you’d see in “Beach Blanket Bingo”. As far as cultural context, Poitier paved the way for African-American actors and actresses going in the 1970’s. I believe this film helped engage people in conversation about race and enabled more work for minorities at the time. There is still a huge disparency of Caucasian to African-American actors but there is definitely progress from 1967. I remember Denzel Washington and Halle Berry thanking Poitier when they became the first African-Americans to win the Oscars a few years ago.

This was the best film I’ve seen in sometime. I’d like to beak down the acting character by character if I could. I’ve never seen a  Katherine Hepburn, nor a Spencer Tracy film in my life and so to watch these two eat up scenes was a real treat. That may not be the best description as I thought both of the characters were actually very reserved and had sincere, tender moments throughout the film. Hepburn’s interaction with her disapproving, nosy, employee showed real fire from a strong woman, yet she was so soft with her daughter, especially in the scene in Joanna’s room where they’re getting ready for dinner. Hepburn knew when to turn on the emotion, and when to hold back and let Tracy be the strong man that he is. Tracy I really enjoyed. He had a genuine concern for his daughter and I never found him to be prejudice, he was just looking out for his daughter. His scenes with Poitier, when he’s voicing his concerns I thought were restrained when they needed to be, and firm when needed. I loved his interaction in his room with M. Ryan as he’s trying to put on his socks. There’s so much going on in his head and him fumbling with his socks leading to him slamming drawers I thought was a real interesting take on showing his emotions. Joanna was beautiful, sincere, and full of optimism. She was dawn of this new generation who weren’t going to allow their parents ways to influence their thinking, and decisions, she was one of the women who changed America, and made it a better place. Her idealism would come off as insincere in modern society as cynical as we are these days, but she’s a breath of fresh air in this. Sidney Poitier. His choice to be a strong man, while remaining gentle and tender towards everyone was so good. The scene where he talks to his father in the study, the former mailman who thinks his son owes him. This was one of my favorite scenes from a movie in sometime. Poitier delivered his speech to his father with such raw emotion; angry about the way his father has treated him, but so respectful and loving as well. It was brilliant. The last scene that stood out to me was John’s mom and how she was so fed up with the men acting like old-arrogant fools. When she asked Tracy if he remembered what it was like to be young and in love, it melted me. This film was sincere. It had these very difficult issues to deal with and it really took its time to ask important questions. I am very thankful to have watched this one. It was one of the reasons I wanted to take a film class, to expose myself to classics like these.

 

My reaction to the G. Zimmerman verdict

The Sidney Poitier speech from “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” came to my mind after hearing that G. Zimmerman was found not guilty.

Poitier: “You are thirty years older than I am. You and your whole lousy generation believes the way it was for you is the way it’s got to be! And not until your whole generation has lain down and died… will the deadweight of you off our backs!”

We live in a sad society right now, very unfortunate outcome for the Martin family.

"The Grapes of Wraith" film review

 

Set during the Great Depression, The Grapes of Wraith is a film that while rang true for so many that lived through it; it also rings true for our generation as well. The story begins with Tom Joad coming home to Oklahoma after spending a four-year sentence in prison for killing a man in self-defense. Tom comes home to find his town unrecognizable from ravaging storms. The crops have been destroyed everywhere, his childhood home is empty, and his family is nowhere to be found. He learns that the banks have foreclosed every home in his town and his family is planning on traveling west to California, where they believe work is available. The trip is a tough one. The Joads have very little money, a beat-up vehicle that they’re unsure will make the trip, and their family consists of four-older folks (ma & pa, grandma & grandpa), two children, and a pregnant women, to name a few. Along the way they deal with the many struggles including death, hunger, poverty, persecution, and corrupt politics. Through these difficult times they act as a family, and in the best interests of the family. The Joad family makes it to California eventually after dealing with many challenges and begins to work. We are awarded a brief period of time with them where things finally begin to look up, they’ve found full-time work and seem to have found stable housing, but this is taken from the Joads, and us fairly quickly. Tom gets himself involved in trouble again and must flee in order to protect himself, and his family from the authorities. The film ends with Tom saying goodbye to his mother whom he loves very much, to skip town in the middle of the night. 

The story of the Joad family and those living in Oklahoma is told not in a first-person narrative, but more from a journey narrative.  I believe this is indicative of the time-period when people and films were less self-centered/star-driven, and more focused on telling a well-rounded story utilizing the entire cast. We see this world not through the eyes of Tom, but through the Joad family. Each family member has a different story and a different perspective. John Ford does an excellent job sharing the stories equally. The amount of time in which they embark on their journey isn’t clear, but I would think it must’ve taken the family some time to make it in their old jalopy from Oklahoma to California. The audience narrative is also evident for me as I felt very “in” the film, involved with each decision made, and nervous for the well-being of the characters. For as old as this film is, it does a fantastic job with the sets, and the acting. It does resemble more of a dramatic play, but that’s expected when Ford’s trying to keep the source material (a novel) in tact. Stylistically, the realism of the film made for a very intense journey.  The camera seemed very steady throughout the film, focusing on the dialogue, more than the action. The one scene that really captured my attention was when the Joads are going through the shady camp run by the businessmen. The Joads car is going through the stream of poor families who are yelling, and showing their disgust, not wanting another family to take food off of their tables at this camp.  This was an interesting choice of direction for me. The camera seemed to be mounted on a trolley or something, but the effect was made to look like it was attached to the car and that we were in the car. This first-person perspective of the angry people that the Joads were about to join in this camp made me very tense as if I were entering this camp as well. The lighting was fine for me. Cool choices in how some of the actions scenes were darker and then dialogue was lighter at times. I streamed the film off of Netflix and found the picture to be a bit muddy on my hi-def television. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on at times in certain scenes like underneath the bridge during the fight in which the former preacher was killed.

It was easy for me after watching Grapes to see how a story like this could be translated to reflect the current era. The 9/11 tragedies, and the collapse of the housing market along with the Hurricane in New Orleans have put our country in another recession, the largest since the Great Depression shown in Grapes. Even more recently the tornados in Oklahoma and their effects on families are just as relevant now, as they were in the 1930’s. There are folks that are going through these same struggles stricken with poverty, unable to provide for their family with no place to go, and no relief on the way. We’ve seen this in a few films over the last decade, “The Company Man”; starring Ben Affleck is a perfect example of a film based on many similar themes as Grapes. The difference in Company was that instead of the depression, Affleck was dealing with being downsized due to the recession. These films resonate with us during difficult times because they’re so easily relatable. So many of us have either experienced firsthand, or through friends or family members, the struggles that our grandparents and great-grandparents went through decades ago. While the production, direction, acting, and budgets may have improved over the years, the themes are still as culturally relevant as they were when the Grapes of Wraith was released.

I didn’t expect to enjoy the film as much as I did. The description and cover art made me a bit nervous going into it. While I respect older films, they’re very hit-or-miss for me. Going into this with reservations, the film really impacted me. I thought Fonda’s performance especially was moving. I really loved the line by the former preacher, “Maybe there ain’t no sin, and there ain’t no virtue, there’s just what people does.” I thought that exemplified Fonda’s Tom Jord. He’s this tough young man, but he’s not unlovable. He stood up for what’s right and looked out for his friends and family’s well being, no matter what the cost. He wasn’t a bad man, he wasn’t a good man, he just was. While watching the film even as dated as it was stylistically, I never felt like I was taken out of the film by its choices. It was very engaging. At times I was nervous for the family and for Tom, I was angry at the way they were treated by the corrupt law officials, and I was genuinely concerned on whether or not the Jords would make it to Oklahoma safely. I found the Grapes of Wraith to be an excellent film that opened my eyes and mind to the Hollywood classics.

  

 

This was a project I had to do for class on short notice with my busy schedule. A PSA on something regarding sexual health that I am passionate about. I chose to do an anti-LGBT bullying PSA. Please share if you think it will help.

(Source: youtube.com)

This video spoke to me because I believe change starts at the top and trickles down. As a veteran I know first hand how bigoted and close-minded people in the service can be. There is still so much racism and bigotry throughout the country and this is displayed first-hand when serving. Soldiers/Sailors use terms like “That’s gay”, call each other “homo’s” or “fag’s”, and honestly I’m not sure that they understand the weight behind those words, or the hate that comes from them. It’s a learned behavior/culture, taught by our parents, taught by the media, putting down homosexuals as less of a person and it has to stop. For my years spent in the service I believe I was part of the problem. I used derogatory terms without really thinking about what it was I was saying, or the pain that those words cause. In the service we use those terms as jokes, as a means of bonding, to prove our alpha-male statuses and it’s wrong. It didn’t really click-in with me until after I returned home how awful that language was and how hurtful, and counter-productive it was to our society. I’ve never believed that homosexuals were lesser, and yet I used those terms to try and fit in, and I still regret it. 

 

To change the way we think starts with us adults. We have to teach the younger generation that everyone is equal. It starts with education in our schools, in our military, in our society. We have to get the message across that everyone deserves to be treated equal, that no one should be looked at different, and that all should be loved equally as humans. We’re making progress, so much more in the last few years passing laws to allow same-sex marriages, and equal rights for domestic partnerships, but that’s not enough. Our president has done a great job so far by campaigning for equal rights and same-sex marriage over the last four years and hopefully in these next four years, can push even more states to help recognize equal rights for all.

 

I feel proud of our nation for waking up in recent years and taking action through campaigns like www.itgetsbetter.org, but it’s still not enough. We can’t allow our children to be bullied, to feel different for whom they are attracted to, or whom they identify with. It takes every one of us to hold each other accountable for their words, and more importantly their actions. If you see someone getting bullied or you hear derogatory terms towards homosexuals being used, say something, get involved. If you’re not part of the solution…

(Source: youtube.com)

Dennis Haskins aka Mr. Belding should host Saturday Night Live!


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Dennis Haskins has been a television actor for over for over thirty years, entertaining people with roles in such hits as The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1984), Magnum P.I. (1986), The Twilight Zone (1987), Mad Men (2012), and most recently How I Met Your Mother (2012). His comedic skills are unmatched, and those skills were showcased in Mr. Haskins’ most famous role, Principal Richard Belding, in NBC’s Saved by the Bell (1989-1993), and Saved by the Bell: The New Class (1993-2000).


In two-hundred plus episodes over those eleven years spent at Bayside High-School, Haskins blend of comedy and heart-warming dramatic acting, made him a cult icon to a generation of young adults.

It got me thinking, why has Dennis Haskins never been asked to host Saturday Night Live? Why in the nineteen years since Haskins’ started on Saved by the Bell, has he not had his chance to shine on Saturday night, in New York City at Studio 8H? In the words of Principal Belding “Hey, hey, hey, what is going on here?” 

So I tweeted Mr. Haskins (@mrbelding) and got this response from him. Sounds like he’s  up for the challenge!

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Let’s show the world how much we love Mr. Haskins, and how we’d love to see him host one of America’s longest standing comedy shows through this petition! 

Click the box below, sign your name, and leave a comment if you’d like. Let SNL creator Lorne Michaels know how much you’d love to see Dennis Haskins up there displaying his unique comedic skills under the bright lights of Saturday Night Live.

(Source: ipetitions.com)

Either you’re part of the problem, or you’re part of the solution. The reason I support Macklemore as much as I do is because he’s part of the solution. He’s a heterosexual, pop-culture figure head with a positive message that he’s trying to spread through the power of hip-hop. It is our choice as to wether we will accept the message that he and so many others are trying to push right now, progression as a society. It is not a sin to be gay. It is not a choice to be gay. Homosexuals should have every right that you and I have. Seattlites,  please vote to approve Referendum 74 on the November 6th general election. If you have any questions, I strongly encourage you to do some research, starting with the Washington United for Marriage website. Please be part of the solution. 

(Source: washingtonunitedformarriage.org)

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