A Whole Lotta Woman

After watching Foxy Brown, I have so many questions, all about the hair. Forgive me for being an ignorant Negro, but were the Afros really that naturally glorious in 1974? I mean, I know there were a few wig moments, but my word, those ‘fros are so meticulously groomed, I watched in wonder.

Also Pam Grier.

My word.

Her body like whoa. Everyone that has watched this film knows this, because from the opening credits, pervy director Jack Hill had his camera all over her. Blaxploitation sure lives up to its name in this bad boy. So much gratutitous nudity. Am I hating because Jack Hill is essentially the proto-Tarantino? Not at all. Foxy Brown is a campy classic for a reason, so I can’t hate. Pam Grier plays the titular role, all hips and boobs in the opening credits, doing her little jiggy disco dance. Read the rest of this entry »


The Dark Knight Snoozes

Christopher Nolan desperately needs a sense of humor.

The Dark Knight Rises is so grim, so self-serious, that at some point halfway through the 2 hour and 40 minute slog, I just started laughing.

In no particular order, my thoughts:

-Increasingly, I’m beginning to realize and (appreciate) how much Heath Ledger made The Dark Knight watchable. Sure Bane has a weird voice and his neck is freakishly thick, but as a villain there’s not much that makes him compelling. I am not a comic book diehard, so I don’t know if that’s Nolan’s fault or the people that originally wrote Bane’s character. One thing’s for sure though, Heath Ledger’s Joker freaked the hell out of me because there was no backstory, no explication for his wanton, anarchic need for violence. That’s what was chilling. That and the bad clown makeup.  Read the rest of this entry »

Mo’ Better is best

My first exposure to a Spike Lee joint came courtesy of my 11th grade US history class. Actually it wasn’t a class, it was an after school AP review session for all the cool kids who fancied themselves smart and edumacated (sic). The teacher who taught the session was very popular among a certain subset of intelligent social justice types, about half of whom now appear to be in Teach for America. (You did good Mr. D.)

Anyway, we watched Bamboozled, which is not–it’s safe to say– one of Lee’s finest moments. All of his worst tendencies are on display. His heavy-handedness. His lack of focus. Bad acting. (Lawd have mercy–Damon Wayans’s white voice!) It’s supposed to be a satire but the film is relentlessly humorless.

I judged Mr. Lee so hard after watching Bamboozled. It certainly didn’t help that it seemed like Lee was always taking something too far, like a bitter old uncle. But I guess it’s to his credit that I’ve always gotten an avuncular vibe from him. He cares about black people. He’s very earnest in that way.

The problem is sometimes that unbridled passion can make his films too absurd. Jungle Fever and She’s Gotta Have It, had that effect on me. Do the Right Thing I’ve tried and failed to finish. Malcolm X I’ll conquer when I have three solid hours to spare. (UPDATE: Conquered it. It’s up there.) Read the rest of this entry »

Margaret, a masterpiece?

To be 17 again. What a nightmare that would be. Teenagers, through no fault of their own, are generally awful people. By 17, you’d think the worse would be over but watching Kenneth Lonergan’s much ballyhooed Margaret yesterday confirmed for me that sometimes, the worst is yet to come.

First, though, a few notes on Margaret’s production:

Last month, Joel Levell for The New York Times Magazine wrote a pretty breathless piece of sycophancy about Margaret, the so-called masterpiece from critic darling Kenneth Lonergan that no one got to see because issues over whittling down the originally three hour long film to a more manageable 150 minutes were too much to bear. The film, shot in 2005–a lifetime ago, you’ll discover if you watch, was finally released for public consumption last year, but Longeran was so disappointed by that version that, encouraged by a few film critics who clamored for the release of the real thing, ‘ Lonergan went ahead and screened the near-three hour version, soon to come in DVD form, at New York’s Landmark Theater for critics and the public this past Monday. Read the rest of this entry »

A note

I worry about this generation sometimes. I really do. I’m afraid we live in an America where the greatness of Barbra Streisand is not fully understood or fully appreciated. There are people my age and younger who only know her as Ben Stiller’s ultra-Jewish mother-in-law in Meet the Parents or as the woman that Rachel from Glee keeps going on about. This worries me, because Barbra Streisand  is the second greatest popular music vocalist of our time.* (The first, if you’re curious is, Aretha Franklin.) Do you know that Barbra Stresiand is the best-selling female vocalist ever? Did you know that?  Forget Yentl. Forget Ordinary People, that overrated piece of schmaltz, forget A Star is Born. Forget the EGOT.

Just start with the voice.

Watch this. I know it’s obvious, but it’s the best demonstration of Barbra’s breathtaking agility.  Read the rest of this entry »

About last night…

There is such a thing as too beautiful. This is not a compliment masquerading as an insult. This is just an insult.  Rob Lowe in the rather dreadful 1986 film  About Last Night (yes, I’m that bored) is simply too beautiful. As Lowe has gotten older, his face has inevitably cragged. But as a 22-year-old playing older than his years in About Last Night, his face is otherworldly. Perfectly symmetrical, eyes just blazing, cheekbones sculpted at unbelievable, model angles. It’s weird. It’s distracting.

Rob Lowe plays Danny, a college dropout who works as a restaurant supplier person in Chicago. His best friend is Bernie (Jim Belushi, always, I thought, unfairly tagged as the lesser Belushi. Until I saw this movie. Why invite the inevitable comparisons by playing such a John Belushi-like character, Jim?), a horrible miscreant of a person, who is just so contemptible in this film that how and why Danny and Bernie remain friends is one of the film’s unsolved mysteries. After a softball game, Danny and Bernie go to a bar where Danny picks up the enchanting Debby (Demi Moore), an advertising designer. The subsequent relationship that unfolds draws the ire of Debby’s best friend Joan (Elizabeth Perkins, who I just realized was in the remake of Miracle on 34th Street. She is such an underrated fox. Her eyes are beautiful.) Read the rest of this entry »

Hmm: Take This Waltz review

Take This Waltz is disorienting from the start, in no small part due to the fact that it is set in present-day Canada and my narrow, jingoistic American brain  could not figure out why Michelle Williams kept saying ‘soory’ until forty minutes into the movie. But even after I finally figured that out, the first two thirds of the film are still eyeroll inducing. Unfortunately, Take this Waltz suffers from Serious Writer syndrome,  an ailment comprised of faux subtlety and other advanced creative writing tropes that tends to afflict earnest, indie films like this one, about ordinary people with ordinary problems.

Margo, the film’s protagonist, meets cute with a guy in Montreal at some sort of 18th century colonial reenactment town. With the sort of happenstance that only occurs in the movies, they meet again on the plane back to wherever it is they live in Canada and immediately have one of those metaphorical conversations, too rich and too hokey to be true. “I’m afraid of missing connections.” Margo says to her muscular confidante Daniel played by Luke Kirby, one of those actors who you’ll feel like you’ve seen in a thousand recurring guest roles on TV, but whose name always escape you. Daniel, like characters in movies with Serious Writer Syndrome tend to do, can parse Margo’s intentions with the keen acumen of someone that only the creator of all the characters can posess. He is also a rickshaw driver.  Read the rest of this entry »