Ferguson: A Report From Occupied Territory (2015) review

Rated: 2.5 / 5

This review appears to be shadow-banned on letterboxd, so I’m porting it over here.  Originally reviewed October 4, 2016.

 

“For example one teacher said that she felt that Darren Wilson wasn’t wrong, that she felt that he should’ve shot him.”
“And that’s what she said?”
“Yeah.”
“Verbatim?”
“Yeah.”
“What was the first thing y’all said in regards to how she felt?”
“My exact words were, ‘Man did you hear what she just said? She must be crazy.’ Those were my exact words. Like, when she said it, I couldn’t believe it like, i- it all saw makin’ me feel like, makin’ me wanna stay more distant from those teachers. Like, we can’t really relate so, how can you sit there and talk to me, like, I don’t understand.”

“If they catch us, we don’t know what could happen. We could be the next Mike Brown, for real. They wonder why we just take off running. It’s not that we doin’ anything bad, we scared to be around them. If they see young black kids, trouble, that’s what they think right off the bat, trouble.”

“Black folk are seen and thought to be innately criminal. Innately terrifying. More powerful, more strong, beastly. Which is why you can have a recording of Darren Wilson referencing Mike Brown as something other than human, as an ‘it’. And if that perception is guiding our engagements with folk, the biggest problem is not about the use of weapons alone, as in physical weapons, but as in the ideological weapons we need to rage war against.”

So I went in this documentary expecting to get pissed off. At the bias. Because if there’s anything I’ve learned about the Black Lives Matter movement over the past several months, it’s that the cases of police brutality they base the foundations of their cause on are horseshit. Case in point, Michael Brown. It doesn’t take long to debunk the whole, “He was an angel who did no wrong to the officer or to anybody,” theory. A video here, a video there, and you realize that the officer was in fact within his legal and logical rights to shoot that guy. But no matter. Once it made headlines by the biased sack of shit news media that chose to spin the story in the most racially-motivated way possible (as they continue to do to this day), the riots began.

Justice for Brown. Hands up, don’t shoot (a situation that didn’t happen at all, so even that is built upon a lie). So let’s also loot and burn down some buildings while we’re at it. The court house? The police station? No, that’s too dangerous, let’s take out the easy targets.

The riots were bullshit, and anyone who loots stores that had nothing to do with the events are sacks of shit, I don’t care if they’re crackers or niggers.

And of course the documentary didn’t cover any of that. Because the poor suffering black community has to be held in a shining light. It’s bullshit manipulation.

That being said, the documentary did go into a direction of understanding that I wasn’t expecting. Because the black community in Ferguson was (is) poor, the black community in Ferguson was (is) suffering. But it’s not because police are discriminately killing black people left and right because their racist emotions got the better of them. Oh no, it’s more logical than that, though no less anger-inducing. The city of Ferguson (and a portion of the city of St. Louis from what I understand) initially had a housing plan that developed in the 60s. Long story short, it fell through, and the city began doing horribly financially. And what’s the best way to generate income for the city if there is a sector of Missouri that isn’t offering a source of income due to failed businesses and minimum wage housing where the black community lives paycheck to paycheck (how and why the housing plan initially failed is left out of the documentary)? By ticketing the shit out of them. Get police to patrol areas and target low-wage earners for citations and ticketing, at which point they will go to court, where they can’t afford a lawyer, and they will most likely plead guilty to it, and they will be stuck having to pay off the fine, which is anything but cheap for them. Add onto that fact that there are more tickets that citizens living in the city, and you’ve got yourself a very bad state of affairs. But it got the city the money income it was looking for to keep itself going. And to make sure the process got more effective, they would hire more and more police officers.

“You need so many police officers that you start getting to a point where the quality of those police officers I think is being compromised, to say the least.”

This explains perfectly why there is such disdain between the black community and the police force. So why isn’t this in the news more often? Because it targets the higher ups? Top officials? Well if there’s any good that came out of this, it’s that ever since the riots and protests, despite how misdirected they were, something happened as a result of this.

“On March 4 [2015], the U.S. Department of Justice issued a scathing report of the Ferguson Police Department. It confirmed that officers violated constitutional rights by disproportionately targeting African-Americans and exploiting them as sources of revenue.”

As a result, the mayor and the police chief and a few others stepped down from their positions. Now one can only hope that progress will be made. But to be honest, I’m not entirely sure how. What is an honest and legal alternative mean for the city to generate income and not go bankrupt? Is progress being made towards such a goal? I don’t know. I’m not an expert on the subject, and I just don’t know. What I do know is that, if there’s to be protesting, it would go a lot better if they picked their spots and methods for protesting more logically. Such as in front of the court house where they are given their fines to pay, or in front of the police station where the cops are at who hand out these tickets, or at the mayor’s office.

There is an injustice being done in similar towns with similar black communities, but this isn’t a nationwide epidemic as far as racism is concerned. Believe me, if they could pull this off on a white community, or dare I say a mixed community, they would. And they do. Because I’ve lived in and been to such communities. It’s nothing new for the police force to seek out giving tickets to citizens, because that generates their paycheck and is what keeps the courts going and generates revenue for the city. There needs to be a better way than that. This is something to focus on, on a city by city basis. So why can’t something like that be the focus of the media as opposed to this racially/viewership-motivated cherry-picking those fuckers do?

Michael Brown, Black Lives Matter, Hand up Don’t shoot, those are built on lies. The anger built from mistreatment by the police and the city government is not. Can we find some common ground here?

Metropolis (2001)

(I can’t stop loving you.)
I’ve made up my mind, to live in memory of the lonesome times.
(I can’t stop wanting you.)
It’s useless to say. So I’ll just live my life of dreams of yesterday.

— Ray Charles

Rated: 3 / 5

This film has an interesting way with music, and it works. It may not be traditional to play a Ray Charles song the moment when everything is blowing up as is bound to happen in an anime, but it pulls it off. It’s just too bad I didn’t feel the anime was strong enough to match up with the lyrics.

 

It starts out with red lines making intersections among a black screen. A target? Paths crossing? Or just a simple opening credits stylistic choice? Who know? More importantly, it starts black and white, and grainy, before emerging as a bountiful amount of yellow/gold lights, brightening up the dark. The film stays this well lit up until the coup, where the snow starts to fall and the colors become more and more muted, until near the end, encapsulating the film’s arc. As any film art 101 student would know, this indicates that life is good, then it’s not, but then it will get good again. But I find such a conclusion questionable for this film.

The main reason I went and watched Fritz Lang’s Metropolis was to prep myself for this version of it. This movie is not a shot for shot remake in the slightest. In fact, ziggurat and futuristic utopia with underground workers and some Christian metaphors aside, these are very different films. Sure there’s a robot girl created for different purposes among the 2 parties involved, but she behaves differently than in the 1920s Metropolis. The Supreme Being, as she’s called, is the 2 girls made one from the older film, both the demented robotic version, and the good version. She starts out good and innocent, and angelic as bluntly shown at one point, mainly due to her ignorance and lack of knowledge, and hair growing solar powers. But as she goes on and gains more and more knowledge about herself and those around her, she eventually transforms, quite suddenly actually, when some internal part of her (the heart part I believe) activates. Then she becomes an enemy to all of mankind, including Astro Boy.

The theme from the first film is that the mind and the hands need the heart as a mediator. Well, that’s not the theme from this film, though it does put some emphasis on the heart. If I understand correctly, when the heart activates, what’s really going on is that it’s shutting down. She no longer has a heart or emotions, just as her creator eventually desired. The repercussions are disastrous, because a Supreme Being without a heart will reign down destruction. One could say that she learned to be this way because of the violence she’s seen, but really, when you think about it, it just ends up being due to programming, which takes away from the film.

In fact, the finale is when things start to fall apart. Of course they designed the ziggurat to become an uncontrollable time bomb when a robot they had designed for it decides to take control. Of course there aren’t any backup security measures. Of course the tower would start to do things unexpected by the very people who built it. All this wiring and circuitry shit just comes out of the blue because, fuck it, anime’s need a big bombastic over the top finale. Things just happen manically because the script says so from that point, not to mention our two protagonists are the only ones to somehow survive the destruction of the ziggurat.

So, yeah, I found things that I disliked this time around, after haven’t having seen this movie for many years.

Like more films of today, the question and theme is on artificial intelligence. Can a machine think for itself? Can a machine love? Are machines better than humans? You know, all that bullshit, a theme that I’m not a big fan of. It’s not as universal as the themes found in the Fritz Lang original.

All that aside, the animations are largely fantastic, even if some of the CGI meshing doesn’t, you know, mesh all that well or look all that good compared to the 2D style. Many of the camera views aren’t close ups, they are pulled back to give a large view of areas of the city, allowing for a massive amount of detail to be captured in many frames. Close-ups are used sparingly, and largely saved for brief moments. Another difference between this film and the old silent picture is that there are less details shown about how this society functions, technology-wise. I mean, there are the robots, and the robot firemen, robot firehoses, robot garbage collectors, robot detectives, robot everything. As one character states, the machines will replace man and take all their jobs one day (which is a guarantee if the political cocksuckers keep attempting to raise minimum wage to the point where having and maintaining machines is cheaper than having human workers; sorry, tangent).

There are sectors of people who are for machines and their rights, and those who don’t believe machines have any, so they resort to violence against the machines, destroying them (some in the coup, others for security reasons). The film makes sure we are supposed to feel sad when machines are killed off. Killing off a machine that places some animal symbol in a spotlight. Killing off another that is up on some advertisement mannequin. And guess what? No explanation is given as to why those dumbass machines were there in the first place, which makes the film feel manipulative as hell. “Oh the poor machines, why do they have to kill them? Boohoohoo!” You know what, fuck the machines. There are only 3 to care about in the entire movie, who’s reasons for acting in such a way as to be killed off make sense and the context is understandable and more clear. The rest of them can burn in robot hell for all I care.

What makes me sad is that now I can’t enjoy this movie as much as I used to. And there’s plenty to admire about this film. Great animation, decent plot, interesting music, good characters. The first 3/4ths of the film are solid enough before the “the less fucks we give for the sake of the action, the better” finale, except for a few things:

* The mad doctor who created Supreme Being Tima. Not much motivation as to why he’s wants to run away with her, or what his real intentions of creating her are if not for Duke Red. There’s a brief moment when we first see him that gives a potential reason that links back to the original film. He’s glancing at an old picture of Duke Red’s daughter. But that’s all we get. You know, considering that this is a Japanese film, and that the Japanese aren’t know for being subtle when it comes to film, you would think they’d clear that up somehow. But they don’t, so I’m just assuming this is a nod to the mad doctor character from the silent film, and settling for a character with less dimensions to him.

* Some robots that die to make the viewer feel sympathetic about it, when the average viewer probably wouldn’t give a flying monkey shit about them.


So, what could’ve been done better then? Well, the above two points could’ve been easily resolved with more footage and an expansion upon the subjects. But the finale, well, why not link things back to what happened midway through the film? Duke Red creating the ziggurat with the intention not to make the city/nation more grand and beautiful, but also as a way to gain power and threaten the world with the power of the ziggurat, which can shoot lazers at the sun and cause the sun’s radiation (the sun’s rays) to hit the Earth and mess up the robots (not to mention the citizens themselves if the radiation was bad enough). Is it so difficult to have crazy blonde Tima just hijack control of the lazer and threaten to use it to destroy humanity or something? Or just control all the robots in the city and eventually the world (it does that already, but they need more More MORE!)? Build upon what you’ve laid the groundwork for movie! You can’t just pull shit out of the blue for the hell of it. We’ve already got Takashi Miike for that.

The main characters, Kenichi and Tima, their relationship with one another isn’t all that well developed, so when the turning point of the story happens, the emotional impact isn’t as great as is needed (not to mention that Tima’s turn happens a bit too drastically with no hint that it would happen in that way).

This film has some heart to it, but not enough. I rewatched this with the intention of enjoying it again, but I can’t enjoy it like I used to. Unless there’s something I’m missing, or some other way of looking at the film that I haven’t comprehended. Still, all in all, it is a beautiful looking film. The CGI may not mesh perfectly, but it’s the next best thing compared to Memories. Three stars is the best I can give it, and 1/2 of those stars is due to sympathy.

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Homegrown: The Counter-Terror Dilemma (2016)

Homegrown: The Counter-Terror Dilemma : Extra Large Movie Poster Image - IMP Awards

Rated: 4 / 5

I expected this documentary to be more of a one-sided “make peace, not war” film which showed how muslims are becoming unjustly discriminated against and imprisoned for being potential jihadists, but are really just nice people.

Homegrown: The Counter-Terror Dilemma - Watch the HBO Original Documentary | HBO

To my surprise, that’s not what this is.

 

This takes a hard look at both sides. The film mainly focuses on one incident where this guy gets arrested and charged and sentenced for 4 counts of conspiracy, an American born and raised muslim. It focuses on the family members, mainly the sister and occasionally the mother, who are saddened by this and say that there is no way he would ever do such a thing, etc. I expected the film to mostly compose of that, until it showed the other side, one of the officials discussing how he and others were tracking this guy, what led them to eventually arrest and charge him, why they did so, their history with cases like this, and so on. It becomes a very muddled grey area, where you can’t be sure if this guy was as innocent as his family claims, or not.

Homegrown: The Counter-Terror Dilemma - Watch the HBO Original Documentary | HBO

But the film doesn’t just focus on that small scale. Throughout the runtime, it goes bigger, talking about how people become jihadists, how they become terrorists, incidents involving terror attacks (mainly the Boston marathon bombing and the Fort Hood attack), the culture and atmosphere of the environments such events lead to, etc. It even mentions the English speaking magazines written by whosoever that talk about how one can become a terrorist, make bombs, how to attack, etc. How a bad economy makes opportunities more rife for citizens to become terrorists.

HBO Canada – Bell Media

But most importantly of all, the film even offers a solution to the problem (not some solution that’s going to guarantee jihadist attacks never happen again, there’s no such thing as a 100% guaranteed solution, terror attacks have always happened since the beginning of civilization). That teachers and families must not be afraid to confront and discuss this issue with their children. Because one way or another, children will get curious enough to go online and look this stuff up and come to their own conclusions. Better to discuss it early on, at the right age, when they can be educated on why it’s bad and so on. Because one of the reasons some people go on to become terrorists, bad economy aside, is because it’s a subject considered too taboo for school and families. That’s bullshit, and that’s the wrong stance to take. It should be discussed, it should be talked about, there should be discussions about it.

The finale of the film couldn’t have been done any better. It all comes to a head when the CIA official, who talked about the why and how of arresting that potential terrorist guy, gets in the same room as that guy’s family, his sister and mother. They talk about the whole incident. Was it wrong? What should they have done? If they could go back would they change anything? Role reversal? Etc. It’s a fantastic thought provoking sequence that has no clear easy answers to it. It’s worth sitting through the entire film just to get to that moment it’s been building up to.

Homegrown: The Counter-Terror Dilemma (2016) - Backdrops — The Movie Database (TMDb)

That being said, they could’ve trimmed a couple minutes off the runtime during some portions. But as is, it’s actually a fairly good documentary. It’s not as one-sided as you might think, takes a look at several sides (including the side of a muslim teacher who discusses the importance of the cultural learning and the consequences of not making the hard subjects talking points), and is something that I honestly think should be considered for viewing in modern culture classes.

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Mystery (for now) review for Black History Month (because there’s no white history month)

“There’s a difference between having black skin and black thinking.”

— Spike Lee [1]

Long Introduction

So lately I’ve been told to lighten up.  To not take things so seriously.  Just lighten up, stop looking for metaphorical messages within films that you find insulting, and just enjoy the damn movie.  That’s the message I got from at least one individual in response to my Red Sparrow review.

 

Well, its well acted, well written and directed, good production values and that torture, knife fight scene was incredible. While all of this happened on screen you were pissed off, angry for what?

 

Gex
Well-acted is a bit more on the subjective side in this case, considering the use of Russian accents (or more accurately, the brief moments they weren’t used). In any case, the acting isn’t the main problem. It’s the portrayal.
Well written. In what way? It’s because of how they wrote some of these characters that irritated me in the first place.
Well directed. So well directed that it gets in your face (see strangulation scene). Though I won’t deny the director has talent.
Production values. That alone never makes a movie good. Especially when a large portion of that is spent on actors more for their name than for their talent and being best suited for the role. At best, production values can make a movie look good, not be good. The other factors determine if those good looks are put to good use.
The torture and knife fight. It’s decent. Not near enough to save this film. I’ve seen better.
As I stated in the review, I was pissed and angry about the depiction of both the men and the women, how they were largely charicatures made more to convey a metaphor, and it being a metaphor I despise from films made in this day and age that know fully well what kind of shit message they are peddling. That’s also why I disagree with the writing, enough to not even bothering to consider what leaps in logic this film may have in it, assuming I did get past the charicature issue. But considering that issue is something that negatively affects society today…
Or is it not obvious that this is one of those female empowerment films that empowers women at the expense of men by making the men out to be morally and mentally inferior? If I wanted a film about female empowerment, I’d watch fucking Thelma & Louis, or Basic Instinct, or Mad Max Fury Road, or Aliens, or Blood of Heroes. If I wanted a film about Russian espionage, I’d watch Gorky Park, or The Hunt for Red October, or No Way Out. And if I wanted a film where a lady gets revenge on despicable men who wronged her, I’d watch I Spit on Your Grave (preferably the remake).
Every single one of those films, for one reason or another, is superior to Red Sparrow.

 

Waldo WaldoOh my, all of what you say doesn’t have anything to do with the movie itself. Are you angry when watch movies? Methapors and hidden messages? In this movie?! You’re reading way too much into a simple spy film.

In Thelma and Louise, isn’t Darryl inferior then too? In Aliens, what about the Paul Reiser character? You gotta loosen up a bit. Just a bit.

 

“Oh my, all of what you say doesn’t have anything to do with the movie itself. Are you angry when watch movies? Methapors and hidden messages? In this movie?! You’re reading way too much into a simple spy film.”
If you don’t think metaphor is a part of film in general, then you have a lot to learn. Go back to watching Citizen Kane in film studies 101 or something for examples up the ass. If you want a film without a metaphor, go watch Reefer Madness and let them preach the message directly to you, loud and clear.
Allow me to provide an example from another female empowerment film I can recommend over this: Bound.
In that film, there is garden clippers, used during the first act by mobsters to clip the fingers off a guy they are interrogating for information. During the second act, a different mobster uses garden clippers to threaten his female companion. During the third act, a woman breaks free of the rope that binds her by using those garden clippers. It helps to enhance the viewing experience when one considers what those clipper represent, via metaphor. They represent the brutality of that power in the first act, desire to have and use such power during the second act, and finding that power and using it to fight for freedom in the third act.
A metaphor can be used on anything, whether it’s a person, an object, or a figure of speech. One could make the case that the female couple in Bound is a metaphor for same-sex rights, and their victory over the mob bosses represent victory over the establishment that stands in the way of those rights.
All I’m doing with my review for Red Sparrow is demonstrating how the metaphors are used in that film for similar reasons, but without the decency of adding more to it than that. Both the women protagonists in Bound had enough traits to them, plus background to their character, to make them more relate-able and easy to root for, and even the male antagonists had layers to their own characters. Virtually everyone in Red Sparrow has no such traits, and the closest thing I could find was the main protagonist having a history of temper tantrums (which honestly only seemed relevant two times in the film, and neither occasion made that dialogue reveal necessary simply because, well, plenty of people would react the same way under the circumstance; and that first act of revenge she did demonstrated that she has a temper), and that her uncle isn’t one to be trusted and is implied to have done bad deeds around the family in the past (which attempted to make their dialogue interactions interesting, with that sort of history shared between them, a pessimistic uncertainty). But that’s all we get. There really isn’t anything else with her character, or with any other character (save for that one chick who is revealed to have been in a lesbian relationship, but that was used strictly as a plot device).
The film is hardly subtle about what the metaphors are. But as you said, it’s a simple spy film. Simplistic because it’s dumbed down. It’s all about living a life where your life, and your body, don’t belong to you but to someone else. Then finding a gift within yourself and using that gift to fight back until it becomes your own life, and ultimately becoming superior to those who tried to own you in the past. The body of a female belonging to that of a man, as opposed to willingly sharing it with a man. The gift of feminism being the empowering force to fight back against and defeat toxic masculinity.
In Thelma and Louise, isn’t Darryl inferior then too?
Yes. But in that film, it at least had the decency to have the two female protagonist have faults in their character, faults which led to them making bad decisions that led them into the downward spiral. That film preaches to the choir, but at the same time it’s also very apparent that it’s meant to be all about women in a man’s world. It was designed from the ground up to be a feminist film. Red Sparrow had the gall to act like it would be more, when all that does is indicate wasted potential.
In Aliens, what about the Paul Reiser character?
Now you’re pushing it. He’s not a metaphor for toxic masculinity, or male dominance, or anti-femininity, or anything like that, not as far as I can tell. If it’s not apparent that he represents corporate/government interests at the expense of all else, then you’re not in much of a position to lecture me. Take into account that the film Aliens also has elements of the Vietnam War in it (I’m not making this up, documentaries and commentaries, including by the crew of the film itself, say as much), and you could also say Burke represents corruption leading to needless lives lost from a military and civilian point of view during that war.
Just because a guy plays a bastard who wants to do harm to one or more women in a film doesn’t mean he automatically represents the anti-feminine. It depends on the context, of what else is in the film that surrounds that character and his/her actions. On that note, my conclusions regarding the majority of the male characters in Red Sparrow does fit within the context of that film. Guess I just had to make that more explicitly clear to you so you could get the message.
You gotta loosen up a bit. Just a bit.
I’ll loosen up when I watch a film that isn’t supposed to be taken seriously. Or better yet, when I watch a film that is impossible to take seriously. Like Reefer Madness.

 

 

I’ve seen Citizen Kane and Refeer Madness. So my education so my education in film is done. Decency is a big point with you. I don’t get it. You got too many issues going on while watching a movie. That’s all right. Enjoy them in your way. Everything’s good.

 

Gex
It may be true that I have a few too many issues with films in general, but there’s a reason for that. 2 reasons actually.
1. I’m naturally picky about films, from the little things to the big things. I have no problem with this mainly for the sake of battling consumerism. The less films there are that please me, the less there are that tempt me to buy them. That, and there’s too many films out there in existence that set the bar high enough that I see no reason to lower it.
2. Protection from brainwashing. Particularly from elements like those in this film, among others that promote SJW virtues. I have been a victim of similar stuff in the past, and I’ll be damned if I drop my guard and allow it to happen again. So I aim to spot these little “lessons” that are in films like this, determine how deliberate and volatile they are, and if it’s bad enough, call them out on that bullshit.
The way I can ensure I don’t go over the edge with this is by being open to challenges on my position, and meeting them head-on, and see if my position stands up to scrutiny. That is one way I find out if I’ve been buried under the muck after a period of time, under the spell of one agenda or another. Losing a debate where much of what one was taught most of your life can be quite liberating and enlightening. Pity many on this site won’t allow for that anymore. And why? Because they’ve become the same brainwashed victim I used to be in the past; only difference being they’re not willing to see if their position stands up to scrutiny even while attacking the positions of others.
So now you know the why of my position. If you think I’m exaggerating on the influential powers films can have over people, I can link to a 20 minute youtube video that can show otherwise, but I have a feeling an escapist fellow like yourself isn’t ready for the black pill yet. Hopefully you’ll never need to be. It’s a funny thing though. I recall about a year ago you had no interest in debating the merits of a certain film, that you were on this site to have fun, not to debate. Nice to see you’re making progress. Who knows where you’ll be next year, or the year after. As for me, make no mistake. Having my position challenged and argued over is something I not only find fun, but also find that it tends to enhance the viewing experience of the film being discussed.

 

So yeah, I’ll admit, I’m a real hardass when it comes to these things.  So I agree, there are times when I need to learn to lighten up; though that’s probably a poor choice of words given that it’s currently black history month.  I should be darkening up.  Regardless, I aimed to find a film appropriate for the occasion.  Some film that, at least from the outset, seems like something I can take in a fully lighthearted manner.  Have a little fun.  Not be so judgemental.  Not attack it for its devious subliminal intentions (assuming it has any).  It’s a wish some ask of me.

 

 

Well…

 

 

soul man 1 GIF

 

 

… be careful what you wish for.

 

 

 

Soul Man (1986) review

Rated: 3 / 5

“I’m riding my man Obama.  I think he’s a visionary.  Actually, Barack told me the first date he took Michelle to was Do the Right Thing.  I said, ‘Thank God I made it.  Otherwise you would’ve taken her to Soul Man.'”

— Spike Lee [1]

Now for those of you who aren’t familiar at all with this film, well, it has garnered a reputation for being one of the most offensive movies ever made.  Why?  Because it’s about a student who just got accepted into Harvard, but doesn’t have the financial means to get into Harvard; so in order to get the scholarship funds needed to support himself in Harvard, he changes his skin color from white to black (via tanning skin pills; ’cause apparently that’s a thing), making him the prime candidate for gaining a black scholarship.  Oh yeah, this sounds right up my alley, one without the black muggers to fuck me up and steal my shit.

Is lynching a cabbage patch kid racist?

That’s right, it’s going to be one of those kinds of reviews people.  Brace yourselves.  I’m well past the point of giving a fuck.

Anyway, I went into this film expecting a lighthearted, albeit very non-PC, comedy with plenty of black jokes along the way, plus some intentioned and unintentioned morality race-relations lessons.  And for a while, that’s basically what I got.  The jokes were landing well a good portion of the time.  But there were a couple sequences that went on for too long that just ended up being cringe-inducing.  In particular, the sequence where Mr. Soul Man is playing basketball and failing (too) miserably at it.

There’s also the scene where he tells his girlfriend and parents that he’s white/black that also ended up being cringe.  You know, one of those scenes where the protagonist is on the verge of having his secret uncovered and landing him in serious trouble, and shenanigans happen where he tries to juggle one problem after another, until it all inevitably falls apart.  Those types of sequences drive me nuts simply because they exist just to prolong the inevitable.  All I can think it, “Just get it over with already!  Just let the fucking hammer fall!”  The only film that ever got away with that, mainly because the entire film is all about this, is The Talented Mr. Ripley.

Oh yeah, and Ronald Reagan’s son is in this.

Thankfully, those moments are few and far between.  There’s plenty of great dialogue which, while one would think it would get dated, only becomes more legendary due to events that happened over the last few years.  For example:

“Gordo, it’s going to be great!  These are the 80s man!  It’s the Cosby decade!  America loves black people.”

Although, without a doubt, the most hilarious and anti-PC moment in the entire film has to be the dinner sequence with Leslie Nielsen (yeah, he’s in this, and to my shock, he plays the whole thing straight-faced).

That sequence is easily the pinnacle moment of this film.  It had everything condensed during that minute and a half that I hoped would be in this film.  A play upon stereotypes, taken to the extreme, in the most over-the-top and hilarious (in my personal opinion) way possible.

“[Soul Man is a] cheaply-made cynical viewpoint of black involvement in American life.”

— Benjamin Hooks, then-executive director of the NAACP headquarters in Baltimore [2]

Normally this would be the point where I would set up some barriers for some who would take offense at me enjoying an offensive movie there-bye making me an offensive person who has offensive tastes, and mention how this is a segment that parodies black stereotypes just as much as it parodies white people who view blacks in that stereotypical fashion (thus making this satire and not just exploitative for exploitation’s sake), but what would be the point?  Plus I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t say I would’ve enjoyed the hell out of this film if it was racially offensive just for the sake of being racially offensive.  Because despite what people may say about how, “We all need to get along, and the way we must do that is by not exploiting minorities in any fashion no matter how well or ill-intentioned,” or, “Jokes like thee should never be made because someone will inevitably find them so offensive they’ll get all depressed and either commit suicide or harass/murder someone,” they’re all hypocrites who are completely and utterly full of shit (yes, that means the majority of you negative letterboxd reviewers; go ahead and block me and unfollow me, I’m used to that by now).

“Anyone who disagrees with my outlook on the world calls me a racist, in the hope that they’ll draw attention away from their own beliefs.”

— Spike Lee [1]

While they condemn any form of mockery done at the expense of, oh say, black people (of any gender and sexual preference), they would fully endorse the mockery done at the expense of white people.  Which in this case, I guess one could say the equivalent of this would be that film White Chicks.

And of course many films today usually make a mockery of straight white men, and Christians.  And many condemn the mockery from whichever direction because they proclaim it puts down one gender/race/belief in order to empower another.  And to that I say everyone, every gender, every race, every belief, deserves to get mocked.  Because I think we can all agree that there comes a point in your life when your just minding your own business and then something happens that makes you think, “…  You know what?  The human race is stupid.”  And we are.  No matter what race you belong to, what gender you are (in spite of what you may identify with to clash with reality), what belief you hold, there will always be something about you because of your gender/race/belief that deserves some mocking in one fashion or another.  So I say just sit back, relax, take the blunt of the jokes, and give some back, and enjoy the jokes made at the expense of others.  Sometimes if a joke is done well enough at your own expense, you’ll laugh along with it too.

Even the whole race-relations thing is a joke.  This film makes fun of black people just as much as it does white people.  For example, back to that dinner sequence, one could say it makes a mockery of black people by stereotyping them (let alone having the whole blackface thing).  One could also argue it makes a mockery of white people because it portrays them as individuals who look at black people in that stereotypical manner.  Some stereotypes elevate black people to a higher level than the average is capable of, such as when the mother fantasizes about the blackface guy ravishing her.  Some stereotypes demote black people as those who are heroin-addicts who mistreat their wives/girlfriends while eating watermelon.  And sometimes, dare I say, the stereotypes are accurate.  And every race has a stereotype.  From the black guys with big dicks, to the black girls with the fat asses, to the bitter old white guys who hate everyone non-white, to the white chicks who bitch about everything.  And I say it’s alright to have all of the above portrayed so long as it is done with the awareness that not everyone conforms to those stereotypes.  The danger would be in believing only in those stereotypes.

Back to the film.  So throughout the course of the film, the protagonist has this arc about understanding what it’s like to be black, kind of.  And this arc is accomplished by inserting even more stereotypes, done at the expense of white people.  You have the white stalker cop waiting to bust Soul Man for any little error made while driving.  You have the two white college guys always making black jokes.  You have the guy who owns the apartment building who is racist.  You have the bitter old white guy who hates black people.  And you have the hippy daughter who wants to sleep with anyone non-white so she can experience some of their repression, which should theoretically become liberated during intercourse.

And it’s that moment where I believe the film has a relevant message for all those people around nowadays who think they understand the alleged plight of the black race and wish to help them at the expense of others, and going to extremes to do so.  The message being, they’re friggin’ idiots.

To my surprise though, the film actually had some solid emotionally investing moments.  I wasn’t expecting that in this film.  And these emotional moments revolve around three specific characters.  The protagonist (played by C. Thomas Howell), his potential love interest (played by Rae Dawn Chong), and their teacher (played by James Earl Jones).  James Earl Jones plays his role in the most dead-pan manner, not once cracking a smile at any joke, only smiling when he’s sincere in something he is about to say, which does not happen often.  He’s the kind of instructor all teachers should consider to be a role model.  He doesn’t bullshit, doesn’t tolerate students that bullshit, and never accepts late work, no matter the excuse students may come up with.  Either you work as hard as is necessary to complete your studies, or you’re not good enough.  I loved how his commanding presence humbled Howell’s character at multiple points, not just wiping the smirk off his face, but also dismantling his goofball/asshole attitude.

It’s a similar scenario with Chong’s character, who is there strictly to work hard and learn, having no time to play along with Howell’s shenanigans.  Howell eventually learns, slowly albeit naturally, that he can’t approach his time at Harvard the same way he approached his previous schooling.  By not taking the school work too seriously, and trying to goof off and have fun a good portion of the time.  You know, like the majority of those college comedy flicks from the 70s through the 90s.  Hell, I’d say that attitude is still prevalent in most films of this genre.  Not that I have anything against those types of films per-se, it’s just refreshing to see a film that’s a bit more humbling towards films with that attitude, showcasing that hard work is necessary to succeed.  And the professor and female classmate demonstrate this clearly to Howell’s character.  And so he matures, and becomes a more responsible individual.  It’s a surprisingly solid arc I wasn’t expecting to be pulled off in this manner, especially in a film like this.

“A white man donning blackface is taboo. Conversation over — you can’t win.  […]  But our intentions were pure: We wanted to make a funny movie that had a message about racism.”

— C. Thomas Howell [4]

Where the film does tend to falter, in my opinion, is where many critics tend to primarily bash the film for, though more harsh than necessary because racism.  The whole thing of Howell’s character gaining insight with life from a black man’s perspective.  The segment with the cop tailing him and eventually putting him in prison.  How he brushes off the black jokes done by these two white guys until he starts to find them more and more offensive the more he becomes acquainted with the black lifestyle.  And, of course, the speech near the end where he gets in a serious conversation with the professor.  It becomes too much, and unnecessarily preachy.  Granted, I could tell the film was eventually going to arrive at a point like this, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.  There are a few issues with this.

1.) The film starts to come off as having the attitude of that crazy hippy chick who wants to bang black people because she pities them.  As in the film starts to pity black people with how society treats them.  The typical portrayal of cops similar to how they are portrayed in films like Higher Learning.  The typical attitude that blacks are treated unfairly and are less able to attend college as a result of systematic racism.  I can’t fault the film entirely for this considering this was a mindset that is somehow just as prevalent today as it was back then.  But this is due to a misconception that is easier to swallow than some inconvenient facts to this narrative because society has been conditioned to believe this.  Several studies by those with PhDs, one of the more popular ones being published in a book known as The Bell Curve, indicate that the differences in race are more than just skin-deep.  Muscle mass and bone density aside (let alone average height), there has been shown to be an average IQ difference between the races.  That, on average, blacks have a lower IQ than whites.  Similarly, Asians tend to have a higher IQ than whites.  This is a study that has proved controversial, to say the least, to the point that these scientists who do these studies are shamed, publicly ridiculed, and sometimes have their careers ruined, even though all they had in mind was to report the facts in their studies when it came to their studies on the intelligence factor.  Today, it gets bad enough to the point where Asians are the ones being subjected to racial discrimination by universities, because the Universities give preferential treatment to blacks and latinos.  Not to say blacks weren’t subject to systematic racism in the past either.  And I can’t say in all certainty that this wasn’t a reality back in the mid-80s.  But the contradiction lies within the film itself.  How there is a black professor who is quite intelligent, and a few other black students studying at the same university, enough to match up with the average population statistics in the country.  Making the implications of the racial struggle a bit questionable.

2.) The film already had a strong (albeit overly convenient) plot point on how Howell’s character’s black impersonation to gain a scholarship had actual consequences, by having another black individual lose out on that scholarship opportunity because of him.  That development had enough of an emotional gut-punch to carry the film the rest of the way through to the point where all the other messages regarding discrimination look weak at best, pointless at worst.

3.) The worst of the film’s problems in this regard come near the end, when Howell’s character punches these two white guys who were making black jokes throughout various segments of the film.  For one thing, these two are just another typical white stereotype.  For another, it puts forth the message that it’s not ok to joke about black people.  Even though a good portion of the film (some would say the entire film) was spent doing just that.  And joking about white stereotypes in the process.  It’s not a good attitude to have.  As I said earlier, everyone deserves to be made fun of.  Everyone has stereotypes and flaws that could use some lighthearted mockery at their expense, so that they can learn to toughen up, not take them seriously, and learn to have fun at the expense of others as well.

https://www.thewrap.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/soul_man_cut_spike.jpg

“Our little film was maligned by the black community led by a jealous Spike Lee, who has never seen the film.”

“If you watch the movie, it’s really making white people look stupid.”

“It is adorable and it didn’t deserve it.”

“I always tried to be an actor who was doing a part that was a character versus what I call ‘blackting,’ or playing my race, because I knew that I would fail because I was mixed.  […]  I was the black actor for sure, but I didn’t lead with my epidermis, and that offended people like Spike Lee, I think. You’re either militant or you’re not and he decided to just attack.  […]  I’ve never forgiven him for that because it really hurt me.  […]  I didn’t realize [at the time] that not pushing the afro-centric agenda was going to bite me. When you start to do well people start to say you’re an [Uncle] Tom because you’re acceptable.”

“I am somewhat baffled by the big upset about Rachel Dolezal [former NAACP chapter president].  […]  Why is it such a thing now about her wanting to ID black? I say welcome her in — let her dress up in brownface and frizzy hair. It’s a compliment and refreshing. … I am tired of how the white liberal community, which is racist, and the black community, which is also racist, [is] overreacting yet again. We have bigger fish to fry these days like ridding the streets of guns [and] funding for mental health organizations to assist those in need.”

— Rae Dawn Chong [3][4]

And, of course, there’s the inevitable backlash over this film.  Something people still harp on today.  Spike Lee raised hell about it.  The NAACP raised hell about it.  And it has garnered enough of a cultural disdain (despite being a financial success at the box office) to where the film in of itself is considered taboo.  Some say that the film in of itself is racist.  Others will say that, despite the film’s good intentions (or what it believes to be good intentions), its effect on society could only be negative.  I say let’s turn the tables back on those people.  Rather than say the films “good intentions” are misguided, let’s say that those who decry the film as offensive and racist and harmful, are the ones who proclaim to have good intentions, but they wind up being the ones affecting society for the worse.  Rather than stating the film should be given the taboo label, say that it should be taboo to label a film as such when it has no intention of being anything more than just a fun comedy with a bit of heart to it.  At the very least, its heart is in the right place.  And I’m sure those who decry its existence believe their hearts to be in the right place as well.  Because, in all honesty, from what I’ve seen and heard about the incidents surrounding the film, it’s those who decry the film as racist who wind up causing more harm to society than the film itself.  Because they won’t allow more films like this to be made anymore, alongside other films that have no problem portraying whites as stereotypical as possible, portraying straight men and women as stereotypical as possible, in all the negative ways; while at the same time portraying blacks, latinos, and gays in a stereotypical fashion that is as positive as possible.

I say it’s time for society to learn to loosen up.  And hopefully generation Z will lead that charge.  Because if only some people can be made fun of, but not others, then that will lead society down a dangerous path.  So get back into the attitude and groove of the 80s and 90s.  We shouldn’t have any care about who we offend, so long as it is done in earnest jest with no harm intended.  Because when making a joke, it is often (if not always) done at someone else’s expense.  Well, let everyone get a taste of that expense.  For fairness.  And because everyone deserves to have a laugh.

“Soul Man [is a] very positive motion picture that is meant purely to entertain.”

— Bob Rehme [2]

Racist Thats Racist GIF - Racist ThatsRacist GIFs

 

Sources

[1] Mattera, Jason.  Hollywood Hypocrites.  p.104-5.  Retrieved on February 20, 2019 from: https://books.google.com/books?id=ZBZkt71qP8kC&pg=PT116&lpg=PT116&dq=spike+lee+soul+man+obama&source=bl&ots=uUriOrsW0K&sig=foVO3CK8RaZZ7spSZbpL_m9PvBs&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjXtIjts-fPAhUQ_mMKHb_DBsEQ6AEIITAB#v=onepage&q=spike%20lee%20soul%20man%20obama&f=false

[2]  Thomas, Bob.  “Los Angeles NAACP Chapter Calls ‘Soul Man’ Movie Racist.”  The Lewiston (Maine) Daily, Friday, October 31, 1986.  Retrieved on February 20, 2019, from: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1928&dat=19861030&id=lwUgAAAAIBAJ&sjid=_WQFAAAAIBAJ&pg=1221,6139469

[3] Doty, Mariah.  October 19, 2016. “Rae Dawn Chong Blames Spike Lee for ‘Soul Man’ Racial Stigma 30 Years Later.”  The Wrap.  Retrieved on February 20, 2019, from: https://www.thewrap.com/rae-dawn-chong-spike-lee-soul-man/

[4] Higgins, Bill.  June 25, 2016. “Throwback Thursday: ‘Soul Man’ Star Rae Dawn Chong on Rachel Dolezal: “I Say Welcome Her In.””  The Hollywood Reporter.  Retrieved on February 20, 2019, from: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/throwback-thursday-soul-man-star-rae-dawn-chong-rachel-dolezal-i-say-welcome-her-804252

 

Kull the Conqueror (1997) review

Rated: 4 / 5

“Your bride is over 3000 years old.”
“She said she was 19!”

This movie was made for me. I knew I would be in for a good time when the film opened with a fight sequence with Kevin Sorbo and his long chest-length “metal band” hair with heavy metal music being played over it all. This is how I like my cheese served! There so much of it, a glass of red wine is mandatory!

First I’ll say that Kevin Sorbo, he, uh, really can’t act.  But you still gotta love him. He’s like a polar opposite to Reb Brown for bad acting.  Reb Brown is wooden, but awesome when he yells and shoots heavy weaponry and is energetic.  Sorbo is almost never convincing, but he is less wooden and can put on some good sword and sorcery fight scenes.  It’s a shame neither of them were ever in a movie together. The 90s could’ve used it, and the best we ever got was this one episode from Hercules The Legendary Journeys which had a piss-poor fight scene between the two where neither one of them really did anything, and they took the whole idea of “the art of fighting without fighting” too literally. I mean, Kevin Sorbo was Hercules, and Reb Brown was Ares, the God of War. How do you fuck that up?

But anyway, this is a pure Conan rip-off, sort of. Originally, this was supposed to be the 3rd Conan movie titled Conan: The Conqueror, but Ahnold turned the role down, and so Sorbo stepped in along with a few small script rewrites. It kind of shows too, but trust me when I say that this cheese-fest greatly benefits from this, because the plot gets downright ludicrous in the most entertaining of ways.

And Taligaro, played by Thomas Ian Griffith, really cheeses it up with his heated rivalry with Kull. The way he stares at Kull, with that look of, “IIIIII’m better than you aaaaare,” is just great.

And then there’s the smokin hot antagonist Akivasha played by Tia Carrere; oh how I wish she was his main love interest. But then again, if she switched roles with Karina Lombard, the villain wouldn’t have been as good. After all, the whole idea is that she’s supposed to be a smoking hot seductress fire goddess (at least up until the finale, then she’s just a fire goddess).

kull demon GIF

The fight scenes, while nothing spectacular, are entertaining and well done, especially the fight in the ice cavern. That fight deserves special mention because of the heavy metal playing, plus Kull taking weapons out of the hands of frozen corpses and using them against everyone; it’s kind of awesome.

The film must have had a budget that is better than it deserved, because aside from some fire, green screen, and dated 90s cgi effects (this is no Jurassic Park in that regard), this has some pretty good set designs, props, and practical effect work on the fire goddess during the finale. She looks downright scary and evil for one moment with a face that only the devil himself could have, before completely transforming into something completely (albeit intentionally) over-the-top. And then it all culminates in a scene that should go down in legend the the greatest gross-out laugh-out-loud make-out scene in film history. I love this movie!

And there are plenty of other tidbits to keep you going up until that moment. Aside from the entertaining fights, and the portion of the movie where Harvey Fierstein shows up and feels completely out of place (probably how some people feel about Chris Rock in The Fifth Element, except that I didn’t mind his part in that movie), there are some great lines, so-idiotic-it’s-entertaining moments (why are the guards standing around and letting their king get killed? why isn’t Kull revealing himself to still be alive in public after the announcement that he’s dead?), and action sword and sorcery cheese delivered in the best way possible that only the 90s could do.

It may be one of the decades that produced some of the worst movies of all time (in the they aren’t entertaining in any way, not even the so-bad-it’s-good way), but when their films hit like this, I forget all about the other shit and fall into a state of pure metal rockin’ bliss. I can’t recommend this movie enough to anyone who is looking for a film that rips off Conan in the most entertaining ways since The Beastmaster, Deathstalker, and The Sword and the SorcererConan: The Barbarian should be taken for granted.

Hey, how about a three-way?

PS: I hadn’t seen this film since I was a kid, and in 1997, that was the only time I saw it. So watching it again now, now remembering very much of it, a spark came into my head when I saw the demon face on the moon. And I thought to myself, “For some reason, that seems more important and familiar to me than anything else in the movie. Why is that?” It wasn’t until the film was halfway over when I realized, “Oh! That’s why!” And then I couldn’t wait for the finale. If you’ve seen Deadly Friend and grew more eager in anticipation for an upcoming scene after that old bitch-lady takes the basketball away from these kids, you’ll know the feeling.

PPS: Oh yeah, this line is in the movie:

“I have altered our pact. Pray I do not alter it any further.”

Let the Star Wars jokes ensue.

 

Red Sparrow (2018) review

Rated: 1.5 / 5

This film met my expectations completely. That’s not a good thing in this case (I’d have been impressed if it somehow went below my expectations).

This is an all-around unpleasant film. Unpleasant with the graphic on-screen presentations which are primarily there to compliment the unpleasant thematic intentions. So one can’t exactly bash the film for succeeding in its goal. But one can bash the film because reaching that goal isn’t something to be proud of. And this film revels in it.

So here’s what I expected: A film about a girl/woman who gets the shit abused out of her by men, only for all that to make her stronger and superior to them and in the end rise to the level of power they once had. Because 90% of all men are pigs, bastards, rapists, sexists, and desire dominance over women. So thus we are intended to feel pity for her when she is taken advantage of, so that we can cheer for her when she gets revenge on multiple occasions and cheer when she triumphs in the end, where she is the one with power over them in terms of position of leadership and emotional manipulation. Plus some moments where Jennifer Lawrence would end up dropping her Russian accent.

And that’s what I got.

This film makes extra effort to be exploitative for the sake of showing how much the protagonist is exploited. One of the earliest, and downright unintentionally hilarious examples can be found with the first (of two) rape scenes. The guy on top of her (and in her) gets strangled to death with a wire, to the point where the wire digs into his neck and blood gushes out onto her. And his “strangle face expression” stays right in her face while this is happening. I mean, Jesus Christ, you’d think the strangler would have the decency to pull him off of her (and out of her). But no, we need to see the despicable suffer at point blank range to enhance their unpleasant nature. It’s over-the-top to the point of laughter.

The whole movie is pretty much like that, with the exception of two men who are good guys, one of which wants her to ascend to that pedestal of the feminine goddess ruler, the other to at least provide some amount of compassion so that there is relief in this dark world. And by the end, they are among those looking up to her.

It would be easier to get behind this if there was more to her character than just being a pure vessel for being abused by toxic masculinity, and strengthening the cause of healthy (if you can call it that) femininity. And the best we get in that regard is that she was known to have a temper when she was younger. For all we know at this point, that temper was aimed at younger boys who abused her when she was a younger girl. Not very far fetched considering the way the world is depicted in this film. Character depth is avoided primarily so that the message shines brighter, and to avoid what some would (unjustly) consider the pitfalls of character flaws. The film would also be easier to get behind if some (I don’t think there’s even one) of the male figures had more than one note to their character. As in men who are assholes much of the time, also have some decency to them other portions of the time. In that way, there’s food for thought about the pros and cons to what Lawrence’s character, and the sparrows in general, do.  I Spit on Your Grave had more fucking depth than this movie!

And that’s ultimately why I knew I was not going to like this movie. Its sole purpose for existence is propaganda at worst, subliminal advertising at best. To fuel the fantasy that we live in a world dominated by men who are primarily composed of the male figures depicted in this film, and that the only way to defeat that evil and make the world a better place is to place the morally and emotionally superior women in charge.

Many other films released in the last few years (as I’m sure will also be released this year) carry that same message, but they’re usually more subtle about it. Regardless, one can easily make a checklist as to what to look for based on just about everything that’s in this film:

* Single mother raising one or more children; check.

* The majority of men are assholes, while the majority of women are anything but (at least compared to them); check.

* An abusive male member of the family; check.

* Ending the film independent without need or want for companionship from the opposite gender; check.

* A lesbian relationship, or at least having a female being the closest thing to a significant other; almost.

* Ending with a sense of moral superiority to men (being physically and mentally superior is a bonus): check.


It’s all simplified and one-sided. Not exactly traits for making a film memorable. And on top of that, a tad bit dangerous if other films aren’t released alongside this to offer counterpoints. Films released today that critique male privilege often go unanswered by films that critique female privilege, because the latter doesn’t really exist. But as of now, that, dear reader, is the world we live in. A bubble chamber. There are so many of these types of film products, and not enough of products from the other side of the spectrum (let alone middle ground), that it convinces many that this fantasy is reality, and they will live as such. And anyone who tries to do otherwise is damned.

Rollerball (1975) review

Rated: 4.5 / 5

The game was created to demonstrate the futility of individual effort.

This is a film that seems to be a cult classic at best, when it should really be an all-time classic.  I find it puzzling how difficult it is to get a hold of this film in a physical format.  It’s not impossible, and it’s affordable, but you have to go out of your way to do it.  Any DVD version that got a release went quickly out of print.  The only Blu-Ray versions tend to be “Limited Releases”.  And it doesn’t exactly show up on television all that much, even though there is no sex, there is a brief amount of nudity (men’s asses in the showers), and the violence isn’t exactly excessive, especially when compared to films we get today.  Hell, this movie is rated R, and PG-13 films get released today that have much more violence and foul language than this film does.  Guess we’ve become desensitized to the violence.  Ironic, given that this relates to one of several messages contained within the film.  Both the being desensitized to violence, and the seeming hindering of historical knowledge.  The messages within this film are more relevant today than they were when the film was made.

Rollerball (1975) - Blu-ray DVD review at Mondo Esoterica

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