Wednesday, November 04, 2009

So That's Why all the Streets Have Kill in Their Names

Staten Island's Italian-Americans are up in arms over a soon-to-be-released movie entitled "Staten Island" (imaginative title, eh?) that they say depicts Italian-Americans as mobsters and the borough as mob-victim dumping ground. You know, the usual IA stereotyping B.S. Apparently the movie is a comedy.

The movie isn't out yet, but there is a trailer for it. If the trailer is any indication of how good the movie will be, then Plan Nine From Outer Space may finally be unseated as the worst movie of all time. Think low-rent, comically acted Goodfellas.

Staten Island New York trailer

What makes this all the more pathetic is that the movie was made by native Staten Islander and IA James DeMonaco. As I've said many times before, he should know better.

According to DeMonco:
"For me, the movie has always been a fairy tale, as a metaphor of a small place in comparison to a bigger city. If they see it, they'll see there's an absurdist humor. My intention was never to harm the reputation of this place where I was born and where I will continue to live."
His intentions may be good, but intentions and consequences are generally linked -- and not in the way initially intended. He my not be trying to stereotype Staten Island and IAs, but that's exactly what he's doing.

The problem, as I see it, is that these types of movies focus on the stereotype of the mobster (and why not, they're depicted as colorful, dramatic, expressive and they're interesting to watch) at the expense of the regular folks. The run-of-the-mill IA -- the baker, the dentist, the bus driver -- are not as cinematically interesting. Their stories are not as dramatic. So, naturally, the movie spends most or all of its time focusing on the colorful characters -- who more often than not are not representative of the people or group the movie is about. Not every mobster is John Gotti or Tony Soprano. Many are boring and not too interesting. Most are not too bright. Yet these movies keep depicting them as skillful, cunning, ruthless and somewhat romantic -- your basic outlaw scenario.

The movie has received lukewarm reviews. It opens Nov. 20.