movies Archives - The Jose Vilson


Short Notes: Somewhere In The Middle

by Jose Vilson on January 20, 2008

in Short Notes

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air family

A few notes of interest:

1. Yes, I cleaned up around here. Click refresh, and tell me what happens to that header. Do it a good 7 more and you’ll get your wishes granted ;-).

2. The oddest thing happened on Friday. One minute, my Feedburner says I have 83-93 readers, and the next, I have 299! Sick. What’s more, it goes back down the next day. Weird.

3. Yes, it’s my birthday on Thursday. Fun.

4. Memes that highlight the differences between men and women / Blacks, Whites, Asians, Latinos, etc. / rich and poor in a defensive and divisive way bore me to tears these days. I used to be enthralled by them when I was younger because I was able to contrast my unsophisticated observations about those differences and the ill-conceived notions of roles different people take in those stereotypes. While I agree that some stereotypes come from real research, I’m more ready to believe that those lists along with hack comedians and delusional, angry people make these lists up to reinforce divisions amongst the sexes, races, and classes when we’re really all people.

5. Cloverfield had an awesome preview, but it was an awesomely bad movie. Great effects, and snide social commentary that in some ways, I found interesting, but that ending was abrupt as all hell. Rather than make us think for a second, it made us think to leave. People in the audience laughed about as much as they were scared and grossed out. I wouldn’t watch it again, and I want some of my money back, but if you do watch, prepare for the worst.

6. Yesterday was my boy Omar’s birthday, and whenever we all get together, it’s just a mess of historic proportions. We went to Carmine’s, a popular Italian restaurant on the Upper West Side with family-style dining. Anyways, Kenny, one of the realest dudes and resident ALM (Angry Latino Man), Mike, my homegirl’s boyfriend, and Omar had a heated discussion (some in the restaurant might have called it an argument, but that’s besides the point). Every so often, I’ll interject with an off-beat joke here and there, but last night, I was more good for a hearty, body-aching laugh.

As I’m observing them, I notice that, on their side of the table, Kenny’s sitting on the left, Mike’s on the right, and Omar’s at front and center of the table, appropriate if not ironic. At first, it was pleasant enough, with each side making their points, but then it got really intense, curses being flung across the table and the rest of us caught in the crossfire. I’m all for political conversation, and all the participants brought up awesome points from their side. Yet, what struck me the most was how, after all of that, they’re still friends.

Of course, I was more on Kenny’s side of the argument, even if I was sitting on Mike and Omar’s side of the table. After all, how can anyone at the table argue against poor people when we were all the sons and daughters of immigrants or poor people? We were all the privileged offspring of people who had just enough of the essentials, and for many of our relatives and neighbors, they weren’t lucky or privileged enough to receive a college education and live on a a much better income than minimum wage. It’s easy to dismiss that when we’ve never had to experience that for ourselves.

Not to say that our fathers were anything like Phillip Banks (of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fame), but we sometimes get the Carlton and Hillary effect, where the parents consciously protect their children from knowing about those struggles or the children live incongruously from that reality, concentrating solely on case study of self rather than percentage. Will, the hoodlum he is, often reminded them of the position they’re in and from whence they came, which is why Ashley, the most liberal of the three Banks offspring, turns out the way she does. She was still rich, but she got a better sense of what came before her, and that’s important.

But I’m a socialist by nature, so I’m inclined to this opinion, and I’ve already written my stance on all of those matters, but my opinion doesn’t dismiss their contributions to their families or their people. After all, we still shared our personal lives with each other, and ate from the same dishes. There’s still, inevitably, common threads of human decency that run through all of us at that table, and somewhere in between all of our arguments lied the solution: a huge plate of ice cream with all the fixings. We all sat there for a good 5 minutes, quietly letting the food settle. Mike ate the candle apparently, mistaking it for licorice. Omar and I laughed about stupid MySpace people. Kenny started hating on people. We left the restaurant and all went our separate ways, but we’d see each other again. As it should be.

jose, who can’t stop looking at his theme, and has Pearson and Aaron to thank for the inspiration …


El Niagara en Bicicleta (The Niagara on Bicycle)

by Jose Vilson on January 17, 2008

Gust and Charlie

2 weeks ago or so, I watched Charlie Wilson’s War, and I must say, this movie had my attention the whole movie. I was enthralled with the idea of a covert war, mainly because things of this nature happen so frequently but are kept from us by the national media. In any case, what really made me contemplate the world’s ills a little was the bit by Gust Avrakotos (wonderfully played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman) in which he says:

A boy is given a horse on his 14th birthday. Everyone in the village says, ‘Oh how wonderful.’ But a Zen master who lives in the village says, ‘We shall see.’ The boy falls off the horse and breaks his foot. Everyone in the village says, ‘Oh how awful.’ The Zen master says, ‘We shall see.’ The village is thrown into war and all the young men have to go to war. But, because of the broken foot, the boy stays behind. Everyone says, ‘Oh, how wonderful.’ The Zen master says, ‘We shall see.’

Powerful. It’s amazing how even when a few people fancy themselves as benefactors to a certain situation can they end up being their executioners. For instance, I take a glance over at Dominican Republic, a country wrought with so much promise yet so much poverty. In the song “El Niagara en Bicicleta” by Juan Luis Guerra, he discusses a trip he took to the medical office, and the trouble with just getting medicine in that country. I thought, for someone as rich and popular as he is, if he can’t get good health care in his own country, what does that mean for the other inhabitants of this country?
With so many American-titled streets and statues (there’s even a Vietnam there, fittingly enough), one would think the country was a property of the United States (kind of like putting the Monroe Doctrine on its head). Yet, this property still has problems keeping the electricity on, still can’t have fair elections, can’t get a real sewer system running, still have drastic medical needs, and have had a series of dangerous robberies even in communities that never had issues with theft on such a massive scale before.

Yet, people in these Americas get mad because so many of us whose families immigrated from other countries would rather concentrate on the countries from whence we came instead of places like Darfur, the African country du jour for anyone who considers themselves “liberal” in this country. Rather than acknowledging that it’s really easy for some of the inhabitants in this country to drop everything and go save this “Third World” country, (don’t we live on one planet?) they get mad and post secrets like this:



Please. If they really wanted to do some good, they don’t have to look any further than across the bridge, or on the other side of the highway, or a few stops on the train or bus, or on the south or east side of things. Or even better, look in the mirror and acknowledge their own roles in the continued conflicts we have amongst ourselves. Lower East Side, Harlem, South Side of Chicago, East St. Louis, South Central, and Watts all have flashes of the impoverished countries some of these “liberals” think they’re saving. And the easiest way to deal with these neighborhoods is not by ensuring that every citizen of this country has the same rights as the next, but to supplant them and gentrify the neighborhoods they live in so it fits their ideal. Similar to what’s happening to Iraq, but on a smaller scale and unfortunately much more legal.

This isn’t to say that I think anyone who lines up in support of Darfur is a faker. I think they have issues that we can help resolve. However, we’ve gone through a laundry list of countries that need America’s help; it’s like a biannual tradition of twirling the globe in our rooms and picking a country to shift the agenda to. And that’s insincere.

Which brings me back to Charlie Wilson’s War. Charlie finds himself doing the right thing for the people of Afghanistan because, honestly, he wants to. Yet, when it comes to them building their own means of survival by building a school, it’s no longer in the interest of his government. And people who want to save Afghanistan like Joanne live in these mansions as if to relieve their souls from dealing with the obvious contrast between her and the impoverished people of the country.

Thus, it’s Gust, the most dangerous, craziest, and anti-social character in the movie who observes the inevitable most eloquently. Or maybe he’d just been through so much that he’s deprogrammed from the wresting conformity that all these distractions have let us to. Because that too is like riding a bike up the Niagara

jose, who’s been wielding Excalibur’s sword doing some serious work in class, and will report on that next week for sure …