7 posts categorized "African American Cinema"

August 19, 2018

BLINDSPOTTING

Blindspotting“Blindspotting” carries the burden of associating itself with Danny Boyle’s 1996 mind-blower “Trainspotting.” The slang term blindspotting refers to “a situation or image” that is interpreted in two different ways.

If you’ve seen the picture that resembles either a vase or two faces, then you’ll know it when you see it referenced in the film. It’s a fair enough title to pin your movie on even if it comes off as derivative, overwrought, and a little precious. Accordingly, these are all terms that apply to “Blindspotting,” an amateurish effort at addressing the plight of young blacks, and their similarly hip-hop culture-informed white compatriots, in and around socially troubled, and trigger-happily policed Oakland, California.

Blindspotting

Collin (co-writer/actor Daveed Diggs) is finishing up his final days living in a probation house after serving a term in the pokey for an incident that occurred at a bar where Collin’s childhood best friend Miles (Rafael Casal) was the bouncer. The wardrobe department puts too fine a point on the film’s regional location with Collin wearing so many shirts that say, "Oakland" that you’ll never want to visit the East Bay wearing any other such attire.

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Collin is black, Miles is white. Collin doesn’t have enough common sense, or character judgement, to recognize Miles as the biggest threat to his reentering free society. Miles is this film’s antagonist, as much as local cops who treat Oakland like minority hunting ground, although most audiences won’t pick up on it. The pals drive trucks for a moving company. On his way home Collin witnesses a cop shoot and kill an innocent civilian. Needless to say, he can’t get the violent memory out of his head. Oh tourism. 

The movie hits cliché rut whenever female characters come into the picture. Dialogue gets downright cheesy when the boys talk to girls. Collin is still hung up on the girlfriend who never once visited him in the slammer. Miles lives with his baby mama and child even as he recklessly carries a gun around for safety. The longtime buddies speak in hip-hop lingo as they help rich white folk move into their gentrifying neighborhood.  Bromance is good, tech yuppies are evil.  

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Form is another of this film’s weaknesses. The movie jolts in fits and starts with scenes that don’t always move the story along, or provide character motivation. There is a better movie hiding somewhere inside of this one, but this is the one we’re stuck with.

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Inspiration is the main thing “Blindspotting” has going for it. The film is energized by two young (relatively unknown) actors putting skin in a film they believe in. Newcomer director Carlos López Estrada doesn’t possess the skills necessary to make every scene work, or to excise crumby dialogue, but “Blindspotting” is nonetheless fascinating from a social perspective. America’s ever-festering boil of racism continues to claim the lives of minorities and those unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when guns are drawn. “Blindspotting” plays it safe; who can blame it for that?

Blindspotting

Rated R. 95 min. Two Stars

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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August 14, 2018

BlacKkKLansman

BlackkklansmanSpike Lee’s latest failure “BlacKkKLansman” is all the more disappointing for its squandered potential bite as a satirical take on modern race relations between whites and blacks in America (see “new boss same as the old boss”).

Lee creates a safe pastiche of commercial embraces that include a 1972 approved “Soul Train” vision of [dancing] black activists, and a storyline without a dramatic arc. Lee ends up equating black activists (read radicals) with David Duke’s motley crew of Klansmen (a group that does not always exclude women). These insults are exacerbated by an overlong running time that turns the movie into a dead-end marathon. Things get tedious. 

Spike Lee’s dramatic sins are many in this picture. Stylistically, “BlacKkKLansman” has a cliché riddled design that reads as mundane when Lee manages to properly light the shot. Thematically, the film is preachy without ever throwing down on its ostensible political agenda.

BlacKkKlansman' Review: Running on Fury - WSJ

However the hairstyle that Lee’s lead actor John David Washington wears (courtesy of Shaun Perkins and La Wanda M. Pierre), for his character Ron Stallworth, is exquisite. Washington works his fro with a deadpan delivery that borders on cartoonish but stays firmly tongue-in-cheek. Still, Washington never gets the chance to run with the story due to a by-committee script (with four credited screenwriters) based on Ron Stallworth’s autobiography. 

Audiences will always fall for the old “based on a true story” ploy. Don’t believe the hype.

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Newbie police officer Ron Stallworth is a lucky guy. Not only is he Colorado Springs' first black cop, but he moves up from file clerk to undercover detective overnight. Stallworth strikes up a groovy romance with Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier), president of the local Black Rights group. The group’s message of “all power to all people” hits home when Stallworth attends a rally featuring keynote speaker Kwame Ture (a.k.a. Stokely Carmichael) in fine form.

Ron keeps Patrice in the dark about his occupation, which involves teaming up with his police partner Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) to infiltrate the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, i.e. “the organization.” The movie could potentially go in an entertaining direction, but it does not.

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Stallworth and Zimmerman make a pass at matching their voices to avoid suspicion since their ruse relies on Stallworth’s ability to sound immaculately white while talking on the (police precinct) phone to various Ku Klux Klansmen, including David Duke himself (as played blankly by Topher Grace). Did no one on Lee’s team consider that using the police precinct desk phone might not be the best way for an “undercover” officer to remain undercover. What happens when David Duke calls Ron Stallworth, and the voice on the line says, “89th police precinct”? Busted. Yet these screenwriters got paid.

Still, plot holes are sadly the least of this film’s worries. Spike Lee and his band of merry writers never settle on this film’s genre. “BlacKkKLansman” sounds like a social satire, think Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil.” It could be a true crime biopic (see "Serpico"). On paper it should be a buddy flick a la “Lethal Weapon.” It could also be a black comedy, which would must needs involve a murder or three (think “Fargo”).

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Instead we get a mediocre, [politically] middle-of-the-road movie that shows its tell card at the film's end when Spike Lee editorializes over the closing credits with violent scenes from the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia where Heather Heyer was the victim of a car attack. Lee’s effort at commentary is ham-fisted as it is naive. Lee only  points out what this film needed to be if it was going to address America's ongoing incremental genocide of black people in any meaningful way.

BlacKkKlansman' movie review: Spike Lee proves he's still relevant -- and  so is David Duke | Movies/TV | nola.com

What would it have taken for Spike Lee to go balls to the walls like he did on his best film "Do The Right Thing"? We'll never know.  

 Rated R (135 mins)

Two Stars

Footnote: If you want to check out a movie that handles the complexities and prejudices of race relations in America, see "Six Degrees of Separation," it's currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

February 09, 2017

MOONLIGHT

MoonlightMoonlight” normalizes racism. It also perpetrates stereotypes about homosexuality and the repressive conditions of blacks in a country that has been carrying on an incremental genocide against this minority since the first slaves were brought here.

As in “Brokeback Mountain,” Hollywood maintains its knee-jerk assertion that gays must always be punished for harboring non-conformist sexual ideas. It’s only rich white people who get to indulge in wild sex fantasies (think “50 Shades Of Grey”). In “Moonlight,” black on black violence is the norm.

The Frame | Audio: Oscar-nominated 'Moonlight' editors on making history in  the era of #OscarsSoWhite | 89.3 KPCC

Here is a movie designed to make white audiences proud of the tears they shed in a darkened theater because those salty drops of water prove just how sensitive they are, except not really. Sentimentality comes cheap, especially when it’s about a gay black guy running back into the arms of the man who betrayed him in a violent and humiliating way years earlier.

Based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s stage play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” screenwriter/director Barry Jenkins shows black characters that, regardless of how much the film’s well-cast actors elevate the baited source material, come across as cartoon people with limited intellects and imaginations.

Moonlight – A Raw, Emotional & Agonizing Award Winning Movie | The Culture  Concept Circle

Split into a three-act structure, the time-jumping narrative follows 10-year-old Chiron, a.k.a. “Little” (Alex Hibbert), a frightened weakling constantly bullied and harassed by boys in his economically depressed South Florida neighborhood. That fact that Chiron’s dad is long gone, and that his mother is a nurse and a crack addict, puts the boy under the mentorship of Juan (Mahershala Ali), a local drug dealer with a soft side. Juan might not be an ideal surrogate father, but beggars like Chiron can be choosers. At least Juan isn’t a pedophile, or is he?

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At school, Chiron’s detractors identify him as gay even before his first sexual experimentation goes in that direction. The power of peer suggestion is strong in this oversimplifies setting.

Cut to act two where Ashton Sanders plays a teenage version of Chiron who enjoys a moonlit handjob and a kiss with his pal Kevin. Alas, Chiron’s dreams of romantic fulfillment are short-lived when Kevin turns on him in a disgusting scene of physical, emotional, and intellectual abuse that seals Chiron’s fate for the years that follow.

Moonlight: Film Review – The Real Face of America

The filmmakers allow Chiron a few moments of doomed emotional satisfaction in a narrative that barely hints at the racist system pulling the strings. Chiron deserves more than the hug he eventually receives, or the return to prison he seems destined for if he survives the unseen encounters with he will most certainly experience.

Moonlight 3

Rated R. 110 mins. 

2 Stars

In episode #29, Mike and I welcome Armond White on the show to discuss MOONLIGHT while drinking C.O.B. from FREE WILL. They said it couldn't be done, so we did it anyway. 

Armond on The Big Feast

Moonlight

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

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