Aliens vs. Halloween

October 17, 2009 at 5:44 pm (News) (, , , , , , , , , )

Illegal Alien Costume

Halloween. It’s a time for fun, candy, costumes, and an excuse to party (as if we needed one). For kids, costumes usually concentrate around their heroes from tv, books, movies, and music. As adults we tend to add in some sexiness or humor, especially humor with its roots in politics and pop culture. This week Target and BuySeasons, Inc were asked by the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles to pull one of their costumes off the shelf because of its political humor.

The costume in question consists of an alien head, green card, and prison style jump suit with “illegal alien” emblazoned across the chest. The Coalition calls this “distasteful, mean-spirited, and ignorant of social stigmas and current debate on immigration reform.” A report by Minneapolis based Star Tribune cites other immigrant groups up in arms over the issue.

What I don’t understand is why one group would feel that this costume is directly targeting them. The costume has an alien mask, though the mask is not green it does not  depict a specific race. There is nothing on the costume or props that suggest a specific ethnicity is being harassed by it. It is not saying “all aliens” or “legal aliens” – just illegal aliens. “Illegal Alien” is a blanket term. In fact according to the 2007 statistics, between 2005 and 2006 the number of illegal aliens from Mexico diminished from 7M to 6.5M while the number from India rose 125%.  Between 2005 and 2006 China, India, and the Philippines were all ranked in the top six countries for illegal immigrants, not to mention the nearly 75,000 undocumented Canadians.

So what do you think? Is this costume directly offensive to a certain culture, or merely a satirical embodiment of a political issue? In a pole on the AOL website out of 186,945 people this offends 9% of them while an overwhelming 91% of voters find this costume inoffensive – 91%! That’s nearly a third higher than Obama’s approval rating in January 2009.

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District 9 – No Non-Humans Allowed

August 30, 2009 at 11:52 pm (movies, News, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

District 9 is a movie that unexpectedly brings together some of the best features of several movie genres. The premise of the movie is that 20+ years ago an alien spacecraft came to rest just above Johannesburg, South Africa. “It hovers above the city for three months without any contact; eventually humans take the initiative and cut into the ship. They discover a large group of aliens who are malnourished and sick.” Eventually these aliens, nicknamed “prawns” by the local human population, are forced to reside in a government controlled area-cum-slum named District 9. Multi-National United, a private company, takes control of the operation when it is decided to move the prawns to a new area, named District 10, 240 Km from Johannesburg.

The film is shot in a documentary style employing several camera techniques including: helicopter views, security cameras, first-person-shooter, and, of course, extensive shoulder mounted camera work. The image movement is kept well under control through most scenes, so there is no Blair Witch type of motion sickness. The only lock-off/tripod shots are those of interviews shown at the beginning and ending of the movie.

Like vintage sci-fi films, the audience forms an emotional connection with the monster, or aliens in this case. Sharlto Copley, who played the protagonist – Wikus Van De Merwe, actually adlibbed all his lines, a feat that may not have been done since Robert Altman’s 1970 movie, MASH (it won an Oscar for Best Writing – the script was barely used), which probably added to the uneasiness and awkward fluidity of Copley’s performance, and helped sell the documentary feel of the film. The CG of the aliens was done very nicely, but the alien mechanized battle suit reminded me too much of the ED-209 from Robocop.

Overall, I think the movie was very well done. The majority of the actors are either unknown, or have worked mostly in television instead of film. The camera positioning and technique helped to define the movie as a sci-fi mockumentary, and the storyline is laid out better than most action films. I can’t wait to get the DVD release and watch the special features.

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