Sunday, March 26, 2006


I hated Munich. Because of all of the hype about the film I was looking forward to something new, perhaps even something slightly balanced. A very convenient controversy indeed. Zionists saying that Munich is unbalanced in favor of Palestine seems to legitimize the "non-bias" of the film. I had high hopes considering the hullabaloo. Was Zionist criticism of Munich just a ploy, my inner voice asks. Supposedly, Munich actually showed some sensitivity to Palestinian history and to what occurs in Occupied Palestine to this very day, which made pro-Zionists mad. Exactly which part of Munich was sensitive towards Palestine, I don't know. The film should have been titled “Nearly Three Hours of American Zionist Propaganda.”

The synopsis: Terror prone Palestinians force moral, righteous Israeli Jews to lose their humanity since Israelis must use unscrupulous tactics to fight and kill Palestinians.

Storyline: Some crazy multiple necklace wearing, Seventies Afro-sporting, side burned Palestinian terrorists, unorganized and whacky-disco looking as they are, take hostage some buff, brave Israeli Olympians in Munich in 1972. Everyone present dies, and moral and righteous Golda Meier commissions a hit squad to bump off the Palestinians thought to have had a hand in organizing the Munich incident. The clothes and scenery are so authentic to the Seventies that it actually brings you there down the pant leg of a pair of bell bottoms. An Israeli pant leg, not a Palestinian one. There was no cohesive explanation of how or why Palestinians would do such an ugly thing. Something about releasing prisoners whom Israel holds for security reasons, mentioned in a sentence long news clip. No light shed on the Zionist colonization of a land that had already belonged to someone else. Scarce mention of Palestinian refugees and the endless calculated Israeli military aggression.

We meet Avner, a hot looking, muscular, side burn sporting Israeli husband and father, and watch him and his hit squad pals lose their humanity and sanity as they compromise their Jewish moral values by being circumstantially forced to kill some shady Palestinians. Among the shady Palestinians are a well-spoken professor, a bitter to be in exile bourgeois dad, and a chatty, red-checked headdress and disco-suit wearing man who gabs with strangers on hotel balconies. All of these Palestinians give the impression that they are thoroughly intelligent and likeable guys. But of course, you can’t trust a Palestinian since even those in sheep’s clothing are wolves. These sophisticated, articulate, seemingly normal men are all secretly involved in terrorism. The message is less than subtle. The film is balanced only by the fact that one of the Israeli hit squad members has a little Afro-puff, too.

Throughout the film we get huge doses of Zionist propaganda: Palestine didn’t exist as a nation state before Israel was created. Palestine is just a bunch of olive trees in rocky soil so why do Palestinians want their land back so badly? Just give it up, you sods! Why don’t other Arab nations absorb the Palestinian people? Other Arabs don’t give a crap about Palestine and they only care about Israel because they hate Jews so much. Palestinians want to see Israel destroyed. Jews need a homeland. Jews need a homeland even more because of the Holocaust. Palestinian resistance to Israel has parallels to what happened to Jews during the Holocaust. Even Europe hated its Jews, so Israel is the only answer to keeping Jews safe. Jews outside of Israel are homeless Jews. Palestinians are fighting for Palestine because of some illegitimate esoteric notion of homeland, when it is Jews who really need a homeland in Israel. The Israeli government is ultimately good and hates having its arm twisted into the dirty job of occupation, expulsion, oppression, and murder of Palestinians. Palestinians are terrorists. Israel is likeable; Israelis are recognizably Western and good. Palestine is abhorrent; Palestinians are distastefully foreign and bad.

Basically, this is more of the same ole' same ole’ message that Zionists have been propagating for decades. Unfortunately since average American audiences never get an alternative message to this one, Munich is just reinforcement propaganda. Note that the film, which has been called “balanced,” only gives one line snippets and sound bytes from the Palestinian perspective, but gives hours of Israeli propaganda. Where-oh- where was the Palestinian side of the story in this movie? If this film were truly balanced it would have also addressed the story of Palestine from a Palestinian perspective and perhaps shown more than a single clip of the Arab land. Aside from a couple of scenes of the Palestinian reaction to the hostage crisis in Munich at the beginning of the film, and the men assassinated by the Israeli hit squad, there are NO Palestinians in the entire film. But the film was supposedly lauded as being balanced? Wait, there was a Palestinian perspective. One of the assassinated Palestinian guys, the only hot looking Afro-free one, is used as a manipulative tool. He, the film’s Palestinian voice, is used to reiterate the same ole’ same ole’ message of Zionist propaganda mentioned above. I know there aren’t a lot of good cash making roles for Arab dudes in Hollywood, even cute dudes like the one who played that character. But Arab dudes in Hollywood, how can you accept such roles and further the Zionist cause? Where the heck are your ethics?

Speaking of ethics, according to Munich, only Israelis really have them, and Avner struggles with losing his. Near to the end of the film there is this really grotesque sex scene that should have been edited out. Basically, Avner is bombarded with images of what must have happened in Munich at the Olympics while going at it with his spouse. The scene was icky, eeewh, gross, bleh, disgusting, simulation of rape-like, and just plain weird. It was supposed to symbolize how Avner has lost his ability to connect with his wife and family due to his experience as an assassin. This was the toll of the conflict on his personal life. Instead it made me as a female audience member feel really uncomfortable.

Anyhow, the plot of the film Munich is tired and trite. Yep, WE KNOW! War is bad. People who experience the violence of wars and conflicts get messed up in the brain. Good people suffer and lose their scruples. That is not a new story or a new movie plot. (The horror, the horror…) The lack of genuine sensitivity towards the Palestinian side of this particular conflict is not new either. Nor was any of the Zionist propaganda. Basically, it was just more of the same ole’ crapola.

Originally Published at LuckyFatima

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Lady Vengeance

Dark is an overused adjective in film reviewing, a lazy way of describing any film where the protagonists do not smile much and the weather is bad.

Yet dark is still the primary adjective in describing this, the third film in Chan-Wook Park's Vengeance trilogy. The subject of this part deals with the aftermath of the kidnappping and murder of a young boy and the plan for revenge by the woman wrongly imprisioned for the crime. Yeong-ae Lee produces a truly mesmerising performance in the main role. She is able to portray Geum-ja Lee as conflicted character plotting for revenge, yet ultimately striving for redemption, finding the former far easier to achieve than the latter.

It is to be hoped that this film is never the subject of a Holywood remake (although, Old Boy, the second film in the trilogy has been remade in Bollywood), as sadly it would probably be converted into a bland thriller and the complex lead character whittled into a cypher.

So much thought as gone into this film, from the opening titles onwards. Each shot feels carefully composed with visuals that will be remembered long after the film has finished. It is not an easy film to watch, but a memorable one, nonetheless.

Content: Some very strong scenes of violence and a sexual nature.

Monday, March 13, 2006


There is something metronomic about Syriana. A heady mix of corporate corruption, arms dealing and international relations, this film is very evenly, in fact rather slowly paced, yet never dull.

It's an ensemble piece and there are many strands to the plot, not all of which can be appreciated in a first viewing. George Clooney, looking ten days since showering and ten months from a heart attack, won an Oscar for his role, yet all the acting is of an equally high quality so he doesn't particularly stand out. There is a tautness to the script, no words are wasted and characters manage to convey a great deal in very few sentences.

The cinematography in this film is excellent, eschewing gloss for a gritty feel. You can almost smell what is happening on screen and the imaginative shot work makes the film more involving still.

The issues in this film feel very up to the minute (Iran features heavily) and are discussed in a fairly even handed manner.

However, the plot line involving Muslims is sadly stereotypical and feels like an unnecessary plot device, jarring with the realpolitick tone of the rest of the film.

Also, it is unfortunate that the very cheap cliche of having the Athan play as the opening soundtrack was utilised. The use of the call to prayer as signifier of film-set-in-Middle-East by the American fim industry is both lazy and offensive.

Unfortunately the simple truth is, if as Muslims we want to be portrayed accurately in films, we are going to have to make these films ourselves.

Content:Strong language, some graphic violence.

Failure to Launch

Failure to Launch is Hollywood’s latest attempt at a romantic comedy, starring big box office draws Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker. McConaughey plays a charismatic 35-year-old son perfectly content to live with his parents indefinitely, but his parents want him to move out on his own. They hire Sarah Jessica Parker’s character to pretend to date their son in a tried-and-true scheme to get him to move out. But, as can be expected in a romantic comedy, girl falls for guy, guy gets upset at being conned, guy turns out to have reasons for staying at home girl didn’t know about that cause her plan to fail, and guy ultimately forgives girl and they hook up. In the mean time there is a lot of ridiculous comedy involving animal bites, paint guns, etc.

If you’re willing to just have a good time and ignore some inane dialogue and monumentally unfounded jumps in plot and character development, you can have a lot of fun watching this movie.

There is little to redeem this movie when looking at it from a Muslim ethical standpoint. Rampant fornication and deceit are central to the plot and character development – the whole story is based on these two things, because apparently Hollywood finds such things necessary for romance and humor.


Millions is a British film that tells the story of a two young brothers who move to a new residence with their dad after the death of their mom. One day, the youngest brother, playing outside, is struck by a bag full of more than 200,000 British pounds in currency.

Convinced that the money came from God, he sets out to try to find ways to help the poor, while his brother attempts to find more practical uses for the money and keep his sibling out of trouble.

They have only a week to use the money because the changeover to Euros is at hand and soon any old currency will be worthless if not turned in for Euros. The money turns out to have a shady source that means danger for the boys and ethical challenges for the family over how to deal with the money.

With an ambiguous ending, this film won’t knock your socks off but it is a cute story that opens the question of what is one’s moral responsibility in dealing with found money.

This could be a nice movie for a young Muslim family to watch together. In terms of potentially objectionable content, the widower father finds a new potential girlfriend and sleeps with her, but nothing is shown.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is based on a novel that tells the classic teen girl coming-of-age story. Four girls, friends their whole lives, are about to spend their first summer apart at age 16. They find a pair of jeans that magically fits all of them even though they are different sizes. They decide that while they are apart, they will share the pants, each wearing them for a week and sending them on to the next person with a letter about what happened while wearing them.

This is the vehicle for telling the stories of what happens to each during the summer. One girl visits her grandparents in Greece and experiences forbidden love that helps her to come out of her shell. Another girl aggressively stalks a young soccer coach at soccer camp until he becomes her first, after which she is left feeling empty, realizing that sleeping around cannot replace the love of her dead mother. A third girl finds a terminally-ill 12-year-old neighbor attached to her as she works on a film project. The friendship gives her a less cynical perspective of the world. Finally, the fourth girl goes to visit her dad to find out he is remarrying into an instant family and she struggles with his ability to parent kids that aren’t his while he was never able to be there for her while she was growing up.

This movie has nothing to offer a Muslim audience. The stories of the girls with the film project and the girl trying to come to terms with her dad’s new relationships would have made a fine movie. But the addition of the other two stories ruins the appeal because they turn the movie into a teen dating and fornication movie. While the movie does not show a lot visually nor does it glorify premarital sex, it regards it as par for the course as part of the coming-of-age of a teenage girl.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Lucky Number Slevin

Starring: Josh Hartnett, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley, Bruce Willis and Lucy Liu

This film tries very hard to be more than a Saturday popcorn-standard thriller. Quality cast, lots of snazzy camera work and a script laden with pop-culture references, the latter being what passes for wit in our media-saturated age.

However, the key to any good thriller is the plot and this film is equipped with plot holes you could drive a van through without scratching the paintwork. The characters, while laden with quirks, Ben Kinglsey, for example is a Rabbi/Gangster boss, fail to convince and therefore do not engage the viewer.

It is against the (Hollywood) law to have a pretty person like Josh Hartnett in a film without giving him a love interest and this role falls to Lucy Liu who is here to do little more than provide a partner for the requisite make out scene.

Hartnett does the inscrutable/wooden thing well in order to try to conceal the twist, but you will have guessed what has happened long before the exposition speech.

That's the real problem here. A true thriller is a deft work of trickery, dazzling the viewer but not letting them in on the secret until the right moment. This film is too burdened with stale plot devices such as the eccentric gangster, key traumatic childhood event and random romance to ever achieve the necessary fleetness of foot.

Content: Contains strong language, violence, scenes of a sexual nature and Josh Hartnett in a towel for very long periods of time.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Crash Wins Best Picture: Re-examining Crash

As I reside overseas, I watch Oprah on MBC 4 (a Saudi based TV channel) whenever I get a chance. MBC shows the previous season’s Oprahs, so they are always a little behind. I happened to catch the episode in which Oprah featured the cast of the movie Crash. Crash deals with underlying racism and prejudice in American society, and she and the cast of the film discussed those issues. She also had regular people come and confess to prejudiced behavior. I think that Crash was a good movie because in our era of political correctness, racial issues get swept under the rug with an everything-is-fine smile. Still, I felt that the movie had a lot of painful-to-watch contrived dialogue. Crash dealt with the white/black issue well, and even threw in a positive Mexican American character for good measure. Positive Mexican American characters are a rarity in Hollywood, but this character had a lot of dialogue that would definitely fall into the contrived category. Personally I was very critical of the way that the Asian and Middle Eastern characters were portrayed. Though the black and white characters had a lot of depth, the Korean and Persian characters were practically cartoons. Due to grueling, decades long work by certain minority advocacy groups, it is rare though not impossible to find the same deeply offensive portrayals of former times. People from ethnic groups which have a long history of activism against negative media images, like Jewish and African American groups, are examples of this. However, as Asian and Middle Eastern Americans weren’t a significant population in North America until after the 1970s, these groups have a shorter history in the country and lack the power and organizational clout of groups who have a longer established history in the US. Therefore, it is rare to hear loud voices standing up to negative and stereotyped images of South and East Asians and Middle Easterners. Also, the broader public is less sensitive to stereotyped images of people from these groups and probably don’t even recognize them as problematic or offensive. In Crash, the main Iranian character was an overly emotional Middle Eastern man, a confused foreigner who acts on instinct and feelings rather than on logic. Anyone who has studied Orientalist portrayals of Middle Easterners will recognize this character right away, for he pops up in both news and entertainment media from time to time. He is the same Iranian man from The House of Sand and Fog, and the same angry, emotive Arab crying or beating his chest on the nightly news. The Korean characters were typical “inscrutable Asians.” One was involved in organized crime (human trafficking), hence he was the Asian gangster who shows up in primetime cop shows along with the greasy haired Colombian drug lord, the unscrupulous Jewish diamond dealer, the irrational Arab terrorist, or the swaggering black male gangsta---come on, you know you have seen these guys from Miami Vice to CSI. The woman was the Dragon Lady. She was a shrewd bitch packed in a miniature frame, but screaming in a loud, choppily accented voice. She is another cartoon from the Canon of Oriental Females of Hollywood, along with the sexy massage parlor prostitute or the Good Earth farmer’s dutiful wife. Anyway, the movie Crash got people talking about the race issue again, which is a good thing. But I just wish that the non-black and non-white roles had more depth because America is not just black and white. The Oprah episode wasn’t earth shattering, but I think having regular people come and confess their prejudices was constructive because it fosters self-examination. We all try our best to be tolerant and open-minded, but it is hard to get away from internalized racist ideas. I was raised in an environment in which open prejudice towards more visible minorities like African Americans or Jews or Latinos (Latinos are very visible in Texas, my home state, anyway) was not tolerated at all. Note the emphasis on open, because we really do have a long way to go. However, being a Muslim has made me scrutinize in depth the history of stereotyped images of Muslims and Arabs, as well as other less visible minorities. Just like everyone else, I grew up with childhood movies and bed time stories about Aladdin and Sheherezadeh, and pantalooned harem girl tales. I had heard of fat, oil-rich sheikhs. I had seen Not Without My Daughter, and the day time talk shows in which white women came on TV and talked about being abused by daft, backward Middle Easterners. At the time I was exposed to those things, I was a child and I was not a Muslim. So, I too was implicitly raised to be prejudiced against Muslims. ALL Americans and Westerners are exposed to these images and have been since the Reconquista and the Crusades, they just don’t recognize these images as racist or offensive and accept them as part of everyday life. That sounds like a very strange statement unless you show parallels between Orientalist portrayals of Muslims and older portrayals of say, blacks or Jews. A story about a tar baby is just as damaging as story about a fantasy harem slave girl. A Mammy Doll is just as bad as a Genie in a Bottle. The wide spread European myth of old that Jews used the blood of Christian children in their Passover rituals is just as offensive and damaging as today's myth that Muslims are naturally violent and bloodthirsty and long to kill "infidels" due to our religion. All of these images otherize and demonize. They separate the us and them, making the “them” exotic and sub-human. The “them” are easy to discriminate against and in worst case scenarios, easier to wipe off of the face of the earth if they are thought of in exotic and less than human terms. These ugly things should be stamped out of our culture if we truly believe in tolerance and equality as American ideals. Unfortunately, Crash wasn’t as kind to some minority characters as it was to others, though based on the apparent message of the movie, it should have been. I’d like to share this to the writers of Crash. Think they’ll ever stop by this blog??? :)

An earlier version of this review appeared at luckyfatima.

Friday, March 03, 2006


Summary from
Little Red Riding Hood: A classic story, but there's more to every tale than meets the eye. In this retelling of the fable, the story begins at the end of the tale and winds its way back. Chief Grizzly (Xzibit) and Detective Bill Stork (Anthony Anderson) investigate a domestic disturbance at Granny's (Glenn Close) cottage, involving a karate kicking Red Riding Hood (Anne Hathaway), a sarcastic wolf (Patrick Warburton) and an oafish woodsman (Jim Belushi). The charges are many: breaking and entering, disturbing the peace, intent to eat, wielding an axe without a license, but these unusual suspects have a tale to tell first.

General commentary:

Rating: PG

This is a twist on the Brother’s Grimm fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood. When Red arrives home and finds the Wolf in Granny’s place, a few strange things happen and then officials arrive to investigate the crime scene. Red, the Wolf, Granny, and the Woodsman each tell their story from their own perspectives and provide humorous, creative twists to the plot.

This is a creative movie. It seems to try a little too hard to be hip or cool, kind of like Kill Bill. I found the story occasionally funny and intellectually enjoyed the creativity of the plot. My elementary-aged nieces and nephew thought it would be boring but they generally liked it, especially the spastic squirrel and the yodeling billy goat.

I would recommend catching it on DVD.

Content commentary:

Language: Sarcasm and attitude for character development and humor.

Violence: Minor cartoon violence. Suggestions of evil (plots to take over the world, etc.)

Relationships: Benign relationships.

Other: none

Chronicles of Narnia: Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe

Summary from

Based on the classic novel by CS Lewis, four London children are sent to a professor's country home for protection during World War II. There they find a magical wardrobe which leads to a mystical land called Narnia, that is being ruled by an evil witch. The land is being kept in a perpetual winter by the evil White Witch, Jadis, who turns anyone who doesn't obey her into stone. The children join Aslan and the animals loyal to him in an attempt to vanquish Jadis. To defeat the Witch, they must wage a great battle between good and evil.

General commentary:

Rating: PG

All of the Chronicles of Narnia books are somewhat allegorical for various aspects of Christian theology. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe presents the lion Aslan as allegorical for Jesus and proceeds to tell a passion play of the sacrifice and resurrection of Aslan. The story is told through the eyes of the children who are rather comparable to disciples.

People not aware of C.S. Lewis as well as most children would likely watch the films as fantasy without any awareness of the allegory. Neither the books nor the movie present as proselytizing so in that aspect I don't think it would be objectionable to a Muslim audience, and can be enjoyed as simply decent story-telling with the possibility for some moral or philosophical lessons.

I found the movie worth watching in the theater and visually beautiful, but the over-all product didn’t knock my socks off.

Content commentary:

Language: I don’t remember any particularly objectionable language in this film, but there was some strong language in the context of evil and violence.

Violence: Violence in this movie includes cruelty, torture, murder, and warfare. Although fanciful due to the nature of the imaginary creatures sometimes involved, the violence is realistic and can be frightening at times.

Relationships: Sexual suggestion between adult and child could possibly be inferred although it could be interpreted in other ways.

Other: none

The Pink Panther

Summary from
Steve Martin re-imagines the role of Inspector Clouseau, a man whose deductive powers are limited, whose command of the language is hideous and whose investigative approach is downright dangerous. But somehow - in spite of himself - he always gets his man. In this remake a world famous soccer coach has just lead the French team to victory over Team China. Surrounded by grateful fans and an international pop star, the coach is killed by a poison dart. In the ensuing panic a priceless ring, "The Pink Panther," mysteriously disappears. Clouseau and his new assistant are saddled with the case, which leads them around the world to New York City and a maze of suspects, thugs, bandits and secret agents. Co-stars Kevin Kline, Beyonce Knowles and Jean Reno.

General commentary:

Rating: PG

If you enjoyed the original Pink Panther movies or if you like slapstick comedy then you will enjoy this film. Clouseau is a well-intentioned but dim-witted character trying to catch a murderer. Personally, I would recommend it as worth seeing in the theater or DVD.

Content commentary:

Language: I don’t remember any particularly objectionable language in this film.

Violence: Violence in this movie includes use of guns, commission of crimes, murder, etc., but it is unrealistic and humorously portrayed.

Relationships: Heavy sexual innuendo and sexual slapstick humor takes place in Pink Panther.

Other: Alcohol consumption occurs in the film but it is a detail and not a significant part of the story.

Eight Below

The film tells the story of a scientific expedition that leaves behind their team of beloved sled dogs in Antarctica. During the winter, the dogs must struggle for survival alone. This is VERY loosely based on the true story of a 1957 Japanese team to Antarctica that had to leave behind a sled dog team. Rating: PG

General commentary:

This movie is way too long for what it is. It is a solid two hours and many of the scenes are too drawn out. This isn’t a feel-good happy kids movie, either. Many of the scenes are written and carried out to make the audience cry. There are some happy scenes and cute scenes but the overall tone of the movie communicated to me was one of despair and sadness. It was not a terrible movie, but if you want to see it I would recommend waiting until it hits the dollar theaters, DVD, or cable television.

Content commentary:

Language: I don’t remember any particularly objectionable language in this film.

Violence: There is no human violence in this movie. There are, however, some scenes of death and injury to animals through accident or attacks of other animals, etc.

Relationships: There are some references to dating relationships in this movie and casual kissing, holding hands, etc., between dating couples.

Other: Obviously this is a movie about dogs. People have contact with the dogs and get najis from certain contact with the dogs. I don’t think that is a problem but I suppose some people might want to know……