An African-American sheriff protects a Western town threatened by a… MoreAn African-American sheriff protects a Western town threatened by a railroad expansion.
Let's take a look at some of the bits in this film. First, the bad guys want to discredit the sheriff, so they employ a prostitute to seduce him. She does, but because black men have large penises, she is grateful for their night of love-making and doesn't threaten his honor. Second, the sheriff outwits the bad guys by dressing up as a bellboy, who goes unnoticed because black people are meant to be in servile roles.
There's no doubt that there's a lot of satire here, but the film nonetheless commerces in racial stereotypes in ways that I find uncomfortable. Rather than finding the film funny, I found its social critique pedestrian, and while making fun of racism is good, repeating racial stereotypes can be dangerous even under the glass of satire. Perhaps if I had seen this film when it was first released, I would have found it valuable, but now I find it difficult to recommend.
Overall, with uncomfortable racial politics, i don't think this film hits the mark.
A cross-section of African-American men travel cross-country by bus to… MoreA cross-section of African-American men travel cross-country by bus to the Million Man March.
There are films that rise above their politics, films that promote a particular political ideology but also tell an intimate, human story. In literature, I think of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle as a representative example. This is not one of those films. Spike Lee's Get on the Bus is so pat and obvious in its politics that it doesn't get a chance to breathe on its own and its characters never rise above the types they represent. Lee's talent keeps the film afloat, and his camera tricks give the film an energy that we've come to expect from a "Spike Lee Joint," but the real problem remains in the script. This is not Lee or writer Reggie Rock Bythewood debating with himself; if you're confused about the film's politics, Charles S. Dutton lays it all out at the end for you.
Overall, I don't have a lot of opinions about the political statements themselves, but I can say that the film is confined by its message.
A midwestern independent filmmaker marshals his friends to produce his… MoreA midwestern independent filmmaker marshals his friends to produce his horror film, Coven, a title that he decidedly pronounces "Coe-ven".
What word means the opposite of "inspiring?" I suppose it's "discouraging," but that doesn't quite capture how this film makes me feel. Oftentimes, I get a paroxysm of courage that tells me to "just make the damn movie; use your iPhone if that's all you have." But this film casts a shadow of doubt over such moments because I fear that I could look as foolish and incompetent as Mark Borchardt, whose limited cinematic vision, failure to understand basic story-telling concepts, and utter lack of self-reflection are only eclipsed by his self-assuredness and courage. He's no doubt an idiot, but he's an idiot who fashions himself an artist, and there are lower ambitions that a man might set himself to.
American Movie is Borchardt's story, and your patience with his brash, over-taxing ambition will determine your patience with the film. For my part, I found him pitiable and my viewing of the film uncomfortable.
Overall, this documentary serves as an unwelcome mirror for those who fashion themselves artists; I only wish it were required viewing for all Hollywood execs as well.
The documentary profiles Robert Crumb, a cartoonist with a fucked up… MoreThe documentary profiles Robert Crumb, a cartoonist with a fucked up family and a perverse artistic sensibility.
A film with depth and probing intellect, Crumb is occasionally uncomfortable and devilishly funny. Its subject is unabashed in his perversion, but the film's real strength is its ability to look beyond the surface of things and give its audience a glimpse into the source of Crumb's disquietude.
Overall, more about the man than his art, Crumb is an interesting profile.
A grown up child faith-healer reveals the schemes and deceptions of… MoreA grown up child faith-healer reveals the schemes and deceptions of his trade.
Inside the brain of a con artist, this documentary is everything that's good about Elmer Gentry with the added benefit of being all true. Marjoe is an unappealing person, but the film is starkly honest and unflinching in its condemnation. The thesis isn't as intelligent about faith as it might be (because after all faith is far more complex than can be shown in a film or garnered in a tent rally), but this is still a valuable and compelling film.
Overall, Marjoe is a fascinating look at the business of conversion.
A young girl falls for another woman.
Adele Exarchopoulos's face is… MoreA young girl falls for another woman.
Adele Exarchopoulos's face is one of the most expressive I've seen on an actress in a very long time. She has the capability of rendering an entire film's worth of character motivation and contradiction in a single close-up, and her leading lady, Lea Seydoux, is a fitting and remarkable complement.The performances in Blue Is the Warmest Color are the highlights of the film, and to watch this acting master class is a thrill in and of itself.
The story isn't much to write about. A woman tries men, falls for a woman, the relationship encounters difficulty, the end. It's all as one might predict, but that doesn't mean that the variances of individuality don't give the film a vitality and spark that is absent from many modern-day romances.
Overall, good acting is sometimes enough to make a good film.
A Jersey Shore-esque rake with a fixation for porn falls for a local… MoreA Jersey Shore-esque rake with a fixation for porn falls for a local girl who almost matches his fantasies.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut should be praised for its style and for its strong performances by Gordon-Levitt himself and Scarlett Johansson. But it's sexual politics are as obvious as Jon Martello's biceps, and its heavy handed feminist message, while admirable, is pat and basic. There's nothing new sex and gender relations here even though I suspect Gordon-Levitt thinks otherwise.
Overall, the film is only to be blamed for its lack of originality, not necessarily its execution.
After his wife goes missing, a man is the subject of unwanted media… MoreAfter his wife goes missing, a man is the subject of unwanted media attention as the search progresses disturbingly.
Ben Affleck, or as was quipped at last year's Oscars, "Benjamin Affleck, gives a remarkable performance in the lead role, but the real accolades should go to Rosamund Pike, who embodies everything this long, complicated, and twisty-turny plot asks of her. It's not a tour de force, but it's the next best thing.
The film is about marriage, a fading, trapping, and archaic institution, and its treatment is as intelligent, thought-provoking, and inflammatory as a Bergman film. Gone Girl succeeds because it does what all good genre films do: it uses the genre conventions to say something substantive, something meaningful, something beyond proving the cleverness of the writer.
I won't give away the ending, but I'll tell you that I was disappointed with it. I can't tell you why, but I was left unfulfilled.
Overall, this is a fantastic, well-plotted film with a hypnotic mood and good performances.
When a money drop is stolen, a bartender and his boss get unwanted… MoreWhen a money drop is stolen, a bartender and his boss get unwanted attention from the local mob.
My birthday movie this year is a slow burn. The plot takes a while to unfold and there isn't the usual signposting that we've come to expect from most crime dramas, but as the film develops, it becomes more a character study than a crime film. And Tom Hardy gives a compelling and nuanced performance. While the scenes with the dog became too heavy-handed for my taste and there were times when Hardy's character is too naive to carry the film, by the end, patience pays off.
Overall, The Drop isn't the antidote to crime-lauding shit, but it's good enough to show other filmmakers that character-centered dramas are just as compelling as special effects.