Matt Belinkie, Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and John Perich overthink The Expendables 2 and commemorate the birthday of Jonathan Ke Quan, aka “Short Round” from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Brechtian analysis and roundhouse kicks abound.[audio:http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/traffic.libsyn.com/mwrather/otip216.mp3]
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I wanted to talk about this on the podcast but didn’t get the chance to: Billy the Kid, when talking about his experience in Afghanistan, casually refers to the Taliban as “Hajji.” I always thought this was a racial slur of a fairly high order and was kind of shocked to hear it.
FWIW, this Wikipedia article compares the use of “Hajji” to that of “gook” in the Vietnam War. I guess it’s one thing if it’s mostly confined to the theater of war and describing your enemies, but I seem to recall that “Hajji” is used in the United States (and possibly other anglophone countries) to refer to people of Middle Eastern/South Asian origin and imply that they’re in league with Islamic terrorists.
So….was this a hugely insensitive moment, or is this just Lee’s Overthinking of Identity Politics at play?
I can’t comment on the sensitivity, but I do know that it’s a common term among American armed services personnel who’ve served in Iraq or Afghanistan. So whether it’s offensive or not, it’s not outlandish to portray a veteran saying it.
In reference to the Jonny Quest character?
There’s an interesting discussion on the topic in the discussion section of the aforementioned Wikipedia article:
Haven’t heard this episode yet, but I’m hoping it gives a primer on Brechtian Alienation. How can I tell when an author/artist uses it intentionally and effectively (the sets in Dogville seem like an effective use) or ineffectively? I can’t tell if the stilted hard-boiled detective dialog throughout “Brick” is a silly conceit that makes it all annoying and implausible (as my gut tells me), or a brilliant Brechtian technique. Or both?
Briefly: Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt (“distancing effect”) was a conscious stylistic technique that Brecht used to take people out of the immersion that happens in theatre. He didn’t want audiences to emotionally invest with the characters and experience catharsis. He wanted audiences to constantly, well, overthink what they were watching. He did this because, as a Marxist, he wanted his plays to be tools of furthering the revolution that Marxism demands.
There’s no set list of distancing techniques that Brecht’s vision of theatre allows. Really, anything that breaks the fourth wall is okay.
Thanks for the explanation. When I see a movie that flips over the handlebars of its bicycle, I can’t tell if they’re being more like Brecht or Pee Wee Herman when they say, “I meant to do that!”
I just wanted to correct something I said on the podcast. In my story about the awesomeness of country singer/action star Kris Kristofferson, I said that after his Rhodes Scholarship and stint in the army, he landed a helicopter on WIllie Nelson’s lawn to deliver a demo tape. It was ACTUALLY Johnny Cash’s lawn, which is MORE AWESOME.
Also, it occurred to me that in Stallone’s first big hit, Rocky, much is made of the idea that Rocky is sort of over-the-hill for a boxer (he’s 30) and therefore even more of an underdog. So from the very start, Stallone was always sort of grizzled. Rambo is a decorated VETERAN, not some fresh-faced kid. He’s been playing the same part forever, but I am perfectly willing to pay $12 to watch him do that for many years to come.
I would love to have expandeable 3 to have Michael Biehn
… you know, for all the bitching I did about everyone getting three entries, our forgetting Biehn is pretty inexcusable.
The person I want to watch on Netflix in Expendables 3 is former football player and occasional actor Brian Bosworth. If you haven’t seen the movie Stone Cold, his feature film debut, then you quite possibly haven’t seen a motorcycle fly into a helicopter in midair and then explode. It’s a bit like Pointe Break except Keanu Reeves is played by Brian Bosworth and Patrick Swayze is played by Lance Henriksen (Expendibles 3 reunion!). It’s awesome.
Stone Cold also has a Komodo dragon, inappropriately revealing underwear, and immaculate mullets. See this movie.
I am a HUGE One Man’s Justice / One Tough Bastard / North’s War fan – Brian Bosworth always has a home on my Expendables fantasy team!
Oh and I second Michael Biehn!
OK, having totally failed to make it to the London meet because of work I’m putting this here:
You were right first time when you thought that Vilain is actually a reference to the French symbolist poet Paul Verlaine. Stallone joked about it in an interview on the BBC’s Film Programme on Radio 4. The point is that Verlain was closely associated with the young poet Arthur Rimbaud (which I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, is pronounced ræmˈboʊ, or “Rambo”).
It’s quite a good interview, Stallone and Arnie are pretty open about the politics of The Expendables phenomenon. Worth a listen if you’re still in the UK or have access to a proxy: http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/radio4/film/film_20120816-1630a.mp3
One other thing: is it fair to say that all of the Expendables are from the previous generation of action heros? Does the presence of Mr J. Statham, who is very much still an active action actor not throw a spanner in the works? I know he’s not all that young but he’s clearly of a more modern generation than some of the other Expendables.
Anyway, keep up the good work. Hope the meet up was fun.
Really! Wow. Can’t believe we got it right!
Sometimes it takes a couple of moments to remember that Stallone is an Oscar winning writer and an avid abstract-expressionist painter. For some reason it doesn’t naturally compute that a man who gets thrills out of picking things up and putting them down again should also like a bit of brain food once in a while.
But what about Statham!?
Statham always seems to me analogous to the footballer Joey Barton. An insane violence machine professionally, but into Nietzsche and Orwell and messing with people’s expectations http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joey_Barton#Personal_life
I have no idea why, I know very little about the Stathe. Checking Wikipedia shows he went to a grammar school, which will obviously bias me towards him.
Past, present, and future of action movies.
Past: In high school, I used to announce that Jean Claude Van Damme was my favorite actor, and I have seen all of his movies up to and including Timecop.
Present: I haven’t seen either Expendables film because unless they’re directed by Paul Verhoeven, I find those kinds of action movies unbearably cheezy. Unless they’re well-considered superhero movies.
Future: I hope every actor from this series is waxed up in a museum forever, and that interesting movies which question the masculine dominance model (like Hanna and Haywire) or take action cinematography and story-telling in a new direction (like Drive) become the new standard of the action genre.
“What do you guys think about the role of women in this movie? I feel like our audience needs us to talk about this. What do you think about what this movie says about gender?”
One of the many reasons I love Fenzel. :)