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Reel Injun is a critically acclaimed Documentary directed by Neil Diamond. It was released in 2011 and won three Gemini awards.

 

                Reel Injun is directed from Neil’s point of view. His view being that for the most part Native American people or Indians have not been properly recognised in American film. He gets his point across primarily by showing archival footage and interviewing various actors and Native people. This film really opened my eyes to the misrepresentation of Natives in cinema. Two extremes of Native representation shown in the documentary would be the 1939 film Stagecoach directed by John Ford and the 2001 film  Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner  which was written,  directed and acted completely in Inuktitut. Stagecoach is a classic western film starring John Wayne and Claire Trevor. It is the type of western that glorifies the cowboy and portrays the natives as savages.  At one point Reel Injun shows some footage of John Wayne smashing a dead Indian in the head with a rock and then shooting the corpse. I’m sure if I was immersed in the film and oblivious to the connotations of the scene I wouldn’t have batted an eye, but Reel Injun puts that scene and many like it into perspective. Stagecoach  was after all made by and made for middle America of the 1930’s. Mostly every film in that era was marketed towards white people, so it was common to have the white cowboy hero slaying ”savages”. It was also a very politically incorrect time and unfortunately I don’t think John Ford had any incentive to portray Native Americans properly. Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner has a much different depiction of Native Americans. The Fast Runner is a film written and acted in the Inuit language Inuktitut. In Reel Injun, native director Chris Eyre praises its authenticity and says it’s the most Native film ever made. Based on the footage shown in the film, The Fast Runner almost looks like a documentary for National Geographic.

                Overall I believe that Neil Diamond’s goal was to bring Native awareness up and break the stereotypical view of Natives brought on by Hollywood. He certainly enlightened me to these issues but Hollywood is another story. In the recent film The Lone Ranger,  Johnny Depp plays a very typically Hollywood Indian, so it looks like nothing has really changed. On a good note Canadian cinema seems to really understand Neil’s point of view and if films like  Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner continue to be made maybe the point will get across to Hollywood.

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Review of Reviews

I chose to compare and contrast two reviews of Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest film Only God Forgives. The film has a curious rating of only 40% on Rotten Tomatoes, so its close to being split right down the middle in terms of like/dislike ratio.

The first review I chose was by Ann Hornaday from the Washington Post. Its safe to say that Ann disliked the film, maybe even appropriate to say she loathed it. The second review I chose was by Blake Howard from graffiti with punctuation. Blake definitely represents the other half that loved the film. He almost gave it a perfect rating of four and a half stars out of five, whereas Ann Hornaday gave it an underwhelming one star out of five.

Blake Howard describes the ultra violence in this film as a thing of wonder and beauty and he sees Ryan Gosling’s character as intense and passionate. Ann Hornaday     would vehemently disagree with Blake’s review since she described the constant violence as, ”like the big dance numbers in bad musicals: showy, artificial and meaningless.” There is so much violence in this film that Ann described Nicolas Winding Refn as a fetish filmmaker. His fetish evidently being violence. She claimes that he only made the film to please himself and disregarded the viewer. She also said Ryan Gosling’s performance was dull and a disappointing role for such a good actor. Ann’s review was the only one of the two to compare Only God Forgives to other films by Nicolas Winding Refn. She mentioned his ”impressive” earlier work, Valhalla Rising. Valhalla Rising is also quite violent so its safe to say she isn’t biased to bloody films.

The love or hate frenzy for this film is really quite interesting, it almost makes me want to see the film more. I just hope I like it as much as Blake does.

Ann’s Review

http://www.washingtonpost.com/goingoutguide/movies/only-god-forgives-movie-review/2013/07/17/7299b23a-eb0f-11e2-a301-ea5a8116d211_story.html

Blake’s Review

http://www.graffitiwithpunctuation.net/2013/08/16/review-only-god-forgives/