Posts tagged movies
Tyrus Wong, The ‘Bambi’ Artist Who Endured America’s Racism, Gets His Due

Tyrus Wong, The ‘Bambi’ Artist Who Endured America’s Racism, Gets His Due

The late Tyrus Wong, whose paintings formed the basis of Disney’s iconic film, is finally receiving the recognition he deserves.

By Katherine Brooks via huffingtonpost.com

Even if you’ve never heard the name Tyrus Wong before, you’ve likely seen his work. Maybe not in a museum or gallery, but you’ve probably enjoyed the late artist’s fascinating brushstrokes ― or the films that they inspired ― in the comforts of your home.

Until his death last year at the age of 106, Wong was considered America’s oldest living Chinese-American artist and one of the last remaining icons of Disney’s golden age of animation. Few people outside of his studio could identify him during his lifetime, but his art was eerily ubiquitous. Handpicked by Walt Disney to guide one of his films, Wong’s watercolor sketches formed the basis of “Bambi” and, later, Warner Bros.′ live-action movies like “Rebel without a Cause.” His calligraphic imagery wound its way onto Hallmark Christmas cards, kites and hand-painted California dinnerware. He did show in galleries and museums, too ― with greats like Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, no less. 

And yet, it wasn’t until recently ― later in his life ― that he began receiving the recognition he deserved. It was in 1942 when he painted a minuscule buck leaping through a forest felled by blazing flames, an electric landscape that would heavily influence the World War II-era movie about a fawn who lost his mother. Seventy-five years after “Bambi,” Wong is the subject of an “American Masters” film on PBS, a documentary portrait that reveals how he overcame a harrowing immigration process and years of racism in the United States to become one of the most prolific artists in recent memory.



“Tyrus Wong’s story is a prime example of one of the many gaping holes in our society’s narrative on art, cinema, and Western history,” Pamela Tom, the director behind “Tyrus,” set to air on PBS Sept. 8, explained in a statement. “By telling his story, I wanted to shine light on one of America’s unsung heroes, and raise awareness of the vital contributions he’s made to American culture.”

Her 90-minute documentary follows Wong from his birth in Canton (now Guangzhou), China, to his attempts to immigrate to the United States in 1919. Detained for a month, he, along with his father, endured extensive interrogation before being allowed to enter the country, only to live in poverty once they arrived. As multiple sources in the film point out, American society in the 1920s and ’30s was not kind to Chinese-American communities ― many immigrants saw only a few options for work, including acting as laundry men, house boys or restaurant staff. And the world of animation and film, a more than unlikely field Wong fought tooth and nail to enter, was not much kinder. Described as “an old boy’s club,” Wong recounts how he was called a racial slur on his first day with Republic Pictures. 



Still, his sights were ultimately set on fine art. An eventual graduate of Otis Art Institute, the animator, designer, painter and kite maker rose to the coveted status of a Disney Legend by 2001. Beyond that, his work indeed hangs in museums, his name appearing in placards next to other greats. “He had a lot of dignity, but he also felt the pangs of racism,” Tom told HuffPost in an earlier interview. “I think Tyrus represents success. He represents someone who’s a survivor, who broke these racial barriers.” 

Today, immigrants in the U.S. continue to face astounding obstacles. Just a few days before the premiere of “Tyrus,” President Donald Trump and his administration initiated the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protections, putting nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation if members of Congress fail to strike a deal. Wong’s story illuminates just how difficult it is to succeed in a world that’s designed to test your limits at every turn. 

“It’s so unlikely,” a voice in the film’s trailer declares of Wong’s biography, “and that’s what makes it so valuable.”

Ahead of the debut of “Tyrus,” HuffPost is premiering an exclusive clip from the “American Masters” film. For more information on the project, head to PBS.


Not Your Trophy: Deer Imagery in Jordan Peele’s ‘Get Out’

I wasn’t the only one to pick up on the powerful use of the deer imagery, A.M. NOVAK did as well and I am featuring his article below, but not many did. Of course, there were so many other powerful uses of symbols and the genre that America thankfully did pick up on, as Frank Bruni dissects in The Horror of Smug Liberal very accurately and brutally honestly.

In his article Frank Bruni also pointed me to an interesting aspect of the horror genre that I had not thought about before since I have to admit I am not a big horror fan. Frank Bruni draws a link between certain horror films and social issues, such as Rosemary’s Baby and abortion and The Stepford Wives and women’s liberation, and now between Get Out and Black Lives Matter. Again I find this very accurate and have a new found appreciation for the horror genre, not only because of Get Out.

It is needless to say that Get Out is everything a movie should be and more, horror or not. With this film Jordan Peele has established himself as one of the best and most relevant screenwriter and directors we have at the moment. We need more filmmakers like him.



Not Your Trophy: Deer Imagery in Jordan Peele’s ‘Get Out’

BY A.M. NOVAK ON MARCH 22, 2017 

Jordan Peele’s psychological horror Get Out has consistently drawn large box office numbers since its February 2017 release. As with Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby or any Stanley Kubrick feature, it’s the carefully layered subtext that bears repeat viewings. As black photographer Chris (Daniel Kaluuya, Black Mirror) and his white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams, Girls) venture to upstate New York to meet her parents, race is revealed to be more of an issue than Rose originally let on. Get Out explores many notions: the duplicitous nature of liberal racism, the cumulative damage of microaggressions and appropriation, assimilation versus acculturation. But it’s the deer imagery, and the insinuations about race and resistance, that continue to elude audiences.

Chris’ journey begins with a bad omen. During his drive with Rose to the Armitage residence, the relative normalcy of their trip is shattered when they collide with a deer. Its body catapults into the woods just off the road, and the couple pulls over to recover. Chris feels compelled to exit the car and steps into the woods to see if the deer is still alive, standing over the dying animal as it gasps its last breath. Close ups are intercut with shots of Chris’ transfixed face, hinting at something simmering under his calm exterior. Later, during his first trip to the “Sunken Place,” Chris reveals his greatest childhood shame to Rose’s hypnotherapist mother, Missy (Catherine Keener: he didn’t act quickly enough to save his own mother in the hours after her hit-and-run accident, and was thus responsible for her death. At this point, it’s clear that Chris goes back to see the dying deer because it served as a reminder of his mother’s death. From the film’s beginning, writer/director Peele clues the audience in as to the deer’s significance as a symbol.



The biggest indicator that the deer means something more is most apparent when Chris first meets Rose’s father, Dean (Bradley Whitford), in person. His reaction to the deer story is notably odd. He praises Rose for hitting the deer and goes on to rant about the entire species and how they ruin the local neighborhoods. To eradicate them is a service to the community, according to Dean. This scene not only sets an odd tone for the rest of Chris’ interactions with the family, but it also primes the audience for what’s to come. We’ve all heard or read this rant before in the comments section of an article about POC. Instead of deer, however, the comments are often aimed at non-white people and how they ruin neighborhoods, how unassimilated they are and how they need to be locked up (or worse) for everyone’s safety. Later in the film, the reveal that the Armitage family appropriates black bodies for the convenience and use of wealthy white society is justified as being for the greater good or, in other words, as a service to the community. Dean’s out-of-place tangent, then, is not just referring to the deer, but what — or whom — it represents to him.

At first, it seems peculiar that Dean speaks so lowly of deer, considering he has the imposing head of one mounted on the wall of the rec room where Chris is later held against his will. It’s not just a deer head mounted to the wall, either; the antlers indicate that the deer is likely male, also known as a buck. That in itself isn’t enough to make one pause, since it was clear early on that Dean was a hunter of sorts, and procured many exotic souvenirs during his travels abroad. During the grand tour of the house, he casually showed off his trophies from far-off African locales. Statues. Instruments. Tapestries. Elements he had cherry-picked from black culture to display in his own home; a simple-but-effective display of black appropriation. Like the black people Rose hunted and seduced, Dean’s favorite bits of blackness were given new life as decorative trophies. The biggest trophy of all, though, is displayed in the recreation room.



A buck’s taxidermied head mounted in a rec room is nothing special on its own, but in Get Out, the connected historical context makes it a far more sinister image. A buck is also a known post-Reconstruction racial slur, used to describe black men who refused to acquiesce to white authority figures and were considered a menace to white America. The “black buck” became a stereotype in America throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries that reduced African-American men to the villainous role of savage brutes, who would cause devastation to white property (including the rape of white women), and thus necessitated brutal measures in order to maintain order, for the good of the community. In Get Out, it is in this context that the buck’s mounted head is transformed into a symbol of white dominance over the black male. That the trophy is displayed above the television (used to mentally “tame” Chris into submission via hypnosis) is no mistake.

Further, it’s no mistake that Chris escapes the recreation room the way he does. He resists the family’s hypnosis cues by picking and stuffing cotton (from the armrests on his chair) into his ears, the racial irony of which is particularly satisfying, and was confirmed as intentional by Peele in a New York Times podcast. As Rose’s brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) comes to collect Chris, he bludgeons the young man with a bocce ball; another sweet spoonful of irony in which he fulfills the brute athletic “purpose” that Jeremy insisted upon earlier. Chris then impales a shocked Dean with the antlers of the very buck that loomed over him moments before. The antlers are both a literal and a metaphorical implement of resistance, and their indication is clear: Chris is not a wild beast to be tamed, and he will not be another ethnic trophy for the Armitage estate. With the prior knowledge of Dean’s awkward raving about the deer population needing to be kept under control, it becomes especially poetic that a physical token of the dehumanization of black people becomes a tool for tearing him down and, by extension, the nuanced oppression that he represents.

Like the color red in The Sixth Sense, the imagery in Get Out is both visually striking and packed with power. Jordan Peele saturates that imagery with subtextual power, using the deer as a symbol for Chris’ past trauma, the animalization and appropriation of people of color, forced deference to the white man and, finally, as an instrument of defiance. With so much gold mined from one visual element, it’s safe to assume that Get Out will continue to entertain and provoke with multiple viewings, making it a valuable addition to any film lover’s collection.

A.M. Novak (@BookishPlinko) is a horror enthusiast and contributor to Daily Grindhouse, 100 Films/100 Scenes, Horror Writers and 52 Weeks of Horror. When she’s not staunchly defending Halloween 6, she’s scribbling nightmares for the masses in the form of short stories.