Thursday, February 26, 2015

WILD CANARIES (CutPrintFilm.COM)

check out my review of Lawrence Levine's Wild Canaries over at Cutprintfilm.com


Friday, February 20, 2015

MISUNDERSTOOD MASTERPIECE: DEEP COVER


Like Judgment Night, Deep Cover is another early 90’s film that’s known more for the music than the actual movie (for those that don’t remember, the Deep Cover Soundtrack gave Snoop Dog & Death Row records a push before The Chronic album). I find this upsetting because Deep Cover is actually quite good and it doesn't belong in the same universe as Judgment Night. I think we all know the 90’s brought us an abundance of violent/hood/drug-related films that were both good & bad (New Jack City, Juice, South Central, Boyz N Tha Hood, King Of New York, Strapped, Menace To Society, etc). It got to the point where any American movie with a hip-hop soundtrack that involved Black people, guns, violence & the police got thrown in to the same generic category. Because of this, stuff like like Deep Cover, The Glass Shield & Clockers got unfairly placed in to the “hood/gangster” genre. I won’t deny that there are similarities between some of these films. Parts of King Of New York rubbed off on Deep Cover in terms of style, a lot of these movies share some of the same actors, the basic plot of Strapped is damn near identical to Deep Cover, and in all honesty, Deep Cover is almost like an unofficial sequel to New Jack City. While NJC was obviously more of a commercial success, I have to give the artistic edge to Deep Cover because the latter film makes you want to stay away from drugs all together. There isn’t a character like Nino Brown (NJC) that people look up to or find charming (I know it wasn’t Mario Van Peeple’s intention to make Nino Brown out to be a slightly likable character, but Wesley Snipes turned him in to a charismatic figure that people still quote today).

Bill Duke's directorial work focuses primarily on people of color (Dark Girls, A Rage In Harlem, A Prince Among Slaves, Hoodlum, etc). Actually, I've always wondered why he, along with Carl Franklin, Charles Burnett & Wendall B. Harris, weren't included on that famous New York Times cover highlighting Black filmmakers in the early 90's. While Duke's films are enjoyed by folks of all races, I have a hard time believing the average non-black movie goer can truly appreciate something like Dark Girls. And if I'm wrong then why wasn't it given any kind of a substantial theatrical release?
Deep Cover might be Bill Duke’s one truly universally accessible film in that it features more recognizable faces like Jeff Goldblum (in one of his greatest performances) and a post-Boyz N Tha Hood Laurence Fishburne (this was right around the time when he went from being billed as “Larry Fishburne” to “Laurence Fishburne”).

Clarence Williams in Tales From The Hood

Let’s also not forget the superb supporting cast. Besides Goldblum, Deep Cover features two more of modern cinema’s unique figures in the form of Clearance Williams III & Roger Guenveur Smith. Clearance Williams’ reputation as a quirky loose cannon goes without saying but if you need some examples, just watch him in Tales From The Hood, Half Baked & Sugar Hill. It’s a shame that he wasn’t used as a villain more in his prime (in Deep Cover he plays a police officer who kind of represents the protagonist’s conscience). Honestly, couldn’t you picture Clarence Williams as a psychotic villain in a early 90’s Steven Segal movie? I certainly could.
Some of you may not consider Roger Guenveur Smith to be as intense or edgy as I do, but just watch his performances in He Got Game or the final act of Eve’s Bayou and get back to me.

And I’m sorry but this guy’s presence, as the rival drug dealer “Ivy”, was criminally underrated. No other grown man could ever use the term “sissy” when addressing another man and actually make it work as an insult…


The character of Ivy is the type of lower-mid tier villain that could have easily been removed from Deep Cover, wordrobe & all, and placed in Robocop or a vintage Van Damme movie.

I feel like the only person missing from Deep Cover was the racially ambiguous post-Anthony Quinn/pre-Victor Argo Henry Silva. He could have easily played the role of “Barbosa” (not to take anything away from Gregory Sierra because he did a fine job). Silva had an edgy acting style that would have fit in perfectly with the rest of the Deep Cover cast (he would later go on to make up for this missed opportunity by playing the main crime boss in Ghost Dog).
Henry Silva

Ever since I was a boy I always sensed that something was a little “off” about the performances in Deep Cover. And when I say “off” I don’t mean that in a negative way. It’s not like the performances were bad. They were just…strange. Lines of dialogue were delivered with these weird inflections when it wasn’t really called for, some moments were beyond random (Roger Guenveur Smith’s “Eddie” frantically eating a popsicle while high off his ass) and the overall moodiness of the film felt like a light Miles Davis acid trip (see the African mask scene for an example of this). However some of the dialogue is pretty thought provoking & sharp:

Gerald Carver (Charles Martin Smith): Do you know the difference between a Black Man and a nigger?

Russell Stevens (Laurence Fishburne): The nigger is the one that would even answer that question.

(This was always one of my personal favorite exchanges from any movie. I’ve never been quite sure if Fishburne actually answered the question, thus making him a “nigger”, or if he side-stepped it and eloquently put Smith in his place)

Now that I’m older I’m of the theory that, because Deep Cover is partially about drugs, all the cast members in this movie were acting under the influence of some type of drug in an effort to really tap in to the movie. Naturally this would add an additional layer to Deep Cover in that the movie is already about a cop who assimilates into the role of a drug dealer and starts to play the part a little too well.
And I’m not talking about hard drugs like heroine or crack. I just think Fishburne, Goldblum, Williams and the rest of the cast were taking hits of laced marijuana in between takes. Drug use is a crapshoot when making cinema. Some of Martin Scorsese’s best work was done under the influence of cocaine while some of Richard Pryor’s worst performances, which all took place at the end of his career, were because of drugs.
But the final outcome with Deep Cover and it's alleged drug use (which is a crazy theory only I believe in) was a success in my opinion.

In the film, Laurence Fishburne plays “Russell Stevens” – a police officer recruited by the CIA to go undercover in an effort to help take down a Los Angeles drug trafficking operation (the CIA’s recruitment of Stevens in Deep Cover is similar to that of The Silence Of The Lambs when Clarice Starling is used by the CIA to help capture Buffalo Bill). As the title suggests, Stevens (who now goes under the alias: “John Hull”) gets in way too deep. While undercover he becomes romantically involved with one of the lower-level traffickers he’s supposed to be taking down and forms a strange bond/partnership with another trafficker in the form of “David Jason” (Jeff Goldblum). Even worse, Russell gets hooked on drugs which hits way too close to home for him (at the beginning of the movie we learn that Russell’s father was an addict and because of this, he vowed to never use drugs).


If you happen to watch Deep Cover after reading this, please note Jeff Goldblum’s slow transition from a crooked suburban defense attorney to a wannabe drug kingpin (if you still have a VCR, I highly suggest watching the VHS to retain all the grittiness). Fishburne’s transition from a straight-laced cop to a drug addicted undercover agent is also underrated (by the middle of the movie you start to forget he’s a cop). I’d also like to know if I’m the only person who thinks the acting in the final climax is absolutely batshit crazy for a conventional/studio film. Again, I mean that in a good way in the same way I think elements of Only God Forgives are equally batshit crazy. Deep Cover is a unique beast that stands out from all the other movies in the same genre. Instead of pointing the finger at addicts and low level drug dealers, Bill Duke shines a light on everyone from the CIA to the upper class drug dealers in the suburbs who are just as much a part of the drug machine as the dealers on the corner.

As much as I love rap music, I have to admit that it’s given some good films some bad reputations OR, it’s put some average/overrated movies on an undeserved pedestal (Scarface). I sometimes wonder if folks actually know characters like Tony Montana & Nino Brown aren’t good people and shouldn’t be idolized. We all know besides mafia folks like John Gotti and whatnot, Montana & Brown are two of the most referenced figures in modern rap lyrics when it comes to money & violence. I sometimes struggle with these movies myself because I get all caught up in how they make black people look. Some of these “urban” movies are pretty stupid but they have one or two really great qualities that trump the bad qualities. Take King Of New York. The older I get the more I kind of dislike Abel Ferrara’s cult classic. I started watching this last year to prep for the Cinema Of Abel Ferrara and I began to wonder if I was too old for this. But Laurence Fishburne’s performance kept my attention (*SPOILER ALERT* is it any coincidence that once his character is killed off, the movie starts to drag to an anti-climactic finale?) From Deep Cover’s promotional advertisements to its association with Death Row Records (one of the pinnacles of “Gangster Rap”) I can see how people unfamiliar with Bill Duke’s filmography would assume Deep Cover was just another run of the mill crime film, but I assure you that’s not the case and is worthy of a second chance/rediscovery.

Friday, February 13, 2015

A MOVIE FOR VALENTINE'S DAY: THE DEEP BLUE SEA


Movies that deal with protagonists who stray from their significant other on a one-night fling, spend their time juggling multiple partners, or leave their stable relationship for something more "exciting" (Take This Waltz, She’s Gotta Have It, Friday Night, Two Lovers, Boomerang, Unfaithful, etc ) are often hit or miss with me because a lot of times they're sympathetic when I personally feel they shouldn't be (She’s Gotta Have It & Friday Night being the exceptions/“hits”, Two Lovers & Unfaithful being the “misses”, and Take This Waltz falls somewhere in the middle).
Even some of the good movies that explore this subject matter are incredibly frustrating. You often look at the characters in these stories who know they’re being cheated on or being ”played” yet they still stick around and allow it to happen. That's incredibly frustrating to watch. In defense of She’s Gotta Have It, the title character does make it known from the start that she’s not about settling down or being with just one partner. But take a movie like Boomerang. I’ve come to learn that women love that movie and don’t seem to have any issues with the ending (men obviously enjoy it too, but women LOVE Boomerang). Ladies, aren’t you supposed to hate a character like “Marcus Graham” (Eddie Murphy)? He sleeps around, cheats on Halle Berry, and STILL ends up with her in the end. How do you not have a problem with that? I only ask because I have yet, in the almost 23 years that Boomerang has existed, to hear anyone ever address this. I know there’s a human element to all of this. There are realistic factors that do come in to play. When someone has a hold of your heart it’s tough to let that person go no matter how shitty or half available they are to you. I guess at the end of the day that’s just not my thing, and I chose to not fully understand or accept that way of thinking. In my opinion, for a relationship to work you have to be available for just one person. But that’s me.
This is partially why it took me so long to watch Terence Davies The Deep Blue Sea – a remake of the 1955 film based on the 1952 play of the same name. I read the synopsis when I was in Toronto a few years back and I decided that it was about some fragile/delicate woman who is given some invisible “pass” to cheat on her husband and we’re supposed to feel sorry for her. As I’ve already stated in my review of Take This Waltz (a movie that shares a few similarities with Deep Blue Sea), filmmakers tend to make these scenarios where one spouse (usually the husband) is mean, abusive, unloving and/or unfeeling, which gives their better half no choice but to cheat in order to feel loved.


Like Michelle Williams in Waltz, Rachel Weisz in The Deep Blue Sea plays a married woman (“Hester”) who falls for a man (“Freddie”) who is the opposite of her husband (“William”) in almost every way – Freddie (Tom Hiddleson) is young, handsome, exciting, charming and even slightly dangerous (he clearly has PTSD from his time serving as a soldier in WW2). William offers stability, safety and the other typical husbandly duties one would expect, yet he's incapable of affection. But thats not exactly all his fault. We learn, in a flashback, that William’s dysfunctional upbringing (courtesy of his mother) is the reason he’s not very good at showing affection. Hester may be the main character in The Deep Blue Sea but I found her husband William to be the most interesting. He’s also the reason I respect this film so much. Instead of making him out to be the typical shitty husband who leaves his beautiful wife no choice but to stray, Davies gives us a glimpse in to his side of things and we learn he isn’t the coldhearted guy he initially appears to be.

Hester soon finds herself in a pickle when she comes to learn that even though Freddie meets her physical needs, he can’t offer her the stability she wants in order for their relationship to last. And I don’t mean to cheapen the relationship between Hester & Freddie by implying that all they do is have great sex. This sounds corny as all hell, but Freddy makes Hester feel “alive”, which is something she didn’t feel with her husband William. Like I eluded too earlier, I normally wouldn’t care about the problems concerning a character like Hester, but when Terence Davies lays out everyone’s problems and allows us to feel sorry for some of the supporting characters, it’s hard to not feel some sympathy for her as well. Plus we know that Hester & Freddie are doomed. Ultimately, no one wins in the end.


The Deep Blue Sea is also interesting in terms of gender. It's a movie, directed by a (gay) male, that looks at things from the perspective of a complicated (straight) female character, from source material originated from a (gay) male playwright. The film also sheds light on men’s (sometimes) closeted sensistivity (courtesy of the William character) and our (sometimes) inability to deal with things like love, responsibility, etc. I know it seems pointless to even mention this or bring up the sexuality of Terence Davies, but he brought up an interesting point in an old film comment interview from 2012...


Film Comment: Rattigan, of course, was gay. Do you think he was thinking of his own forbidden desires when he wrote Freddie, or was he more invested in the idea of Hester’s womanhood?

Terence Davies: There was a myth that Rattigan had written it for two men, but I heard from [co-producer] Sean O’Connor, who had known Frith Banbury, who directed the play in 1952, that he had never written it that way. If he had done, it would never have been staged because homosexuality was against the law then. But what had happened was that Rattigan’s former lover [the actor Kenneth Morgan] had gassed himself [over his loss of a subsequent lover] and that had been the springboard for the story.
Like a lot of gay writers and directors, Rattigan could do women rather well. That’s not a backhanded compliment to myself—I’m thinking of someone like George Cukor. One reason is that there’s a sort of bond between women and gay men. You can come across women who are very nasty about gay men, but they’re quite rare and I’ve only ever come across two. Rattigan, I think, was fascinated by the nature of sexual love.


The Deep Blue Sea certainly has a Douglas Sirk vibe. It’s like Todd Haynes’ Far From Heaven in that it’s not only a remake of a movie from the 1950’s (Far From Heaven being a loose remake of Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows) but the overall ambiance is overwhelmingly melodramatic. The Deep Blue Sea isn’t as intense as Far From Heaven, but if you’re familiar with both films and what they tried to do, I think you get the comparison I’m trying to make. The performances in The Deep Blue Sea stay true to the kind of acting you’d expect from a film made in the early 1950’s (maybe slightly more subdued and intentionally surpressed), and the colors are incredibly rich & bold (true, the colors in Far From Heaven “pop” a lot louder than in the drab post-WW2 Britain that Davies shows us, but the colors in Deep Blue Sea are still polarizing).

All That Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk) / The Deep Blue Sea (Davies)

I grew up when Douglas Sirk was at his height—All That Heaven Allows, Magnificent Obsession. – Terence Davies (Film Comment, 2012)

Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes) / The Deep Blue Sea 

The Deep Blue Sea (2011) might have been my favorite late discovery of 2014. This is kind of an inappropriate pick for Valentine’s Day in that it deals with attempted suicide, infidelity, PTSD, depression & heartbreak. But the romance & passion within Deep Blue Sea is very intense which makes it kind of eligible in my opinion. I do very much recommend this (it’s currently streaming on Hulu+), but some of you may want to wait until AFTER Valentine’s Day to do so.

MULIGNANS (LATEST SHORT FILM FROM SHAKA KING)



Hey All,

Newlyweeds director/PINNLAND EMPIRE favorite Shaka King returned to Sundance with a new short film; Mulignans. It's now up on vimeo so make sure to check it out and share as much as possible.

If Adult Swim is looking for new content, look no further...


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

IN DEFENSE OF BLACKHAT...



It's no mystery that I'm a Michael Mann fan. Look how well people know me...



Another friend of mine even made it a point to post some of the many negative Blackhat reviews on my facebook page just to rub it…


So yes, what you're about to read are the views of a diehard Michael Mann fan...

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – for a studio filmmaker Michael Mann is a breath of fresh air. He makes an honest attempt at trying to be different and somewhat experimental (when compared to most other mainstream directors). He also influenced a new generation of films that makes places like Los Angeles (Drive & Night Crawler) & Chicago (The Dark Knight) seem like the coolest places on earth (that opening bank robbery scene from The Dark Knight is straight out of Heat, right down to the music).

This isn’t so much of a review as it is a critique on what I feel some people got wrong about Blackhat (guest contributor Nathaniel Drake Carlson already did a superb job reviewing the film). I will say that Viola Davis had a couple of quick shining moments in her performance as “Agent Barrett”, and I was happy to see Ritchie Coster (“Kassar”) used as a villain in something besides one of the many different Law & Order incarnations (he’s seriously an updated/slightly more menacing version of Peter Stormare in my opinion). I also feel Holt McCallany (“Agent Jessup”) is an underrated actor who seemed to fit perfectly in the Michael Mann universe. Instead of stacking his cast with 3-5 famous/known actors (like he did with Heat, Public Enemies and The Insider), Michael Mann used two well known actors, one of which (Viola Davis) is really only in the first half of the film and the rest a cast of solid supporting actors who played their positions well.

Anyway, let’s address that “Technobabble” headline shown in that last image.
The crux of that review was that the dialogue used in Blackhat was way too convoluted and only real hackers could understand what the hell was going on (it should be acknowledged that actual hackers felt Blackhat was fairly authentic).
I have an issue with folks complaining about the dialogue (or “technobabble”) used in Blackhat because it seems a little unfair. Remember in 2004 when Shane Carruth made his directorial debut with Primer and everyone loved it (well, maybe not everyone, but you know what I mean)? In fact, what people seemed to love so much about the film was the smart/scientific dialogue and how Carruth gave his audience credit in not explaining every single little detail about time travel & wormholes. There was a level of familiarity to the dialogue in Primer that most people didn’t get right away (admit it – you did not fully understand Primer from top to bottom after the first viewing and if you say you did you’re lying). But instead of giving up on it people went back and rewatched the film over & over making it a lightweight cult classic (naturally the $7,000 budget also made Primer a sought after film). Someone even made up a time travel diagram to go along with the film.


Personally, I love Primer (I watched it a month ago and it still holds up) but to the average person, I’m sure it doesn’t sound fun to have to follow along with a chart in order to fully understand/enjoy a movie. Almost sounds like homework doesn’t it? But at the end of the day, people familiar with Primer don't seem to mind the extra work that goes in to understanding & enjoying it. It'd be nice if Blackhat had the same type of fans.
Here we are 11 years later and Michael Mann makes a perfectly timed film about computer hacking & cyber crimes (see: Anonymous, the sony email hacks and the controversy surrounding The Interview) using smart/appropriate dialogue that pertains to the subject matter and everyone has an issue with it. “The dialogue doesn’t make any sense” complained half the critics who wrote about Blackhat. I love how in 2015 half the population reads two Huffington post articles about the Anonymous hackers and/or the controversy surrounding high level email hacking then claim to be html code-geniuses, yet Michael Mann makes a film on the subject and suddenly everyone acts like a 90 year old grandparent trying to understand how computers work. Had Michael Mann spent his time trying to explain all the intricate ins & outs of computer hacking terminology to the audience he would have gotten ripped apart for crafting boring dialogue. It’s like he was in a lose/lose situation. Perhaps this is a compliment to Mann. I guess he’s held to a high standard (which he should be). Maybe people expect consistent greatness from him with every film (if you’re responsible for stuff like The Insider, Thief & Heat it’s understandable that people would expect greatness from you).

A lot of what I’m complaining about here echos my recent review of Spike Lee’s Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus. Not every Mann film is going to be a masterpiece. Some of his films are made strictly for entertainment and to be cool (and there's nothing wrong with being cool as long as it's natural).


There's also an issue of inconsistency here. Some of the same critics who loved Primer didn’t like Blackhat. “Top critics" like Steven Rae & J.R. Jones gave Primer praise while they trashed Blackhat. If you look at it from my point of view, that doesn’t make sense. Do people hold the Bourne films to the same high standards as they do Mann’s action films? No they don’t (and Blackhat is certainly in the same genre as the Bourne series only it has more style).

This is Miami Vice all over again. For some reason people failed to catch that Miami Vice was an adaptation of the television show of the same name and wanted some gritty cop drama. It’s Miami Vice. What the fuck were people expecting? You knew what you signed up for when you bought the ticket to see it. Even if you haven’t seen the original show/source material, you still knew the vibe of Miami Vice (and you know what? Miami is a fairly cheesy place. It’s a fun place that I love to visit, but there’s a layer of cheese over that city that Mann captured in my opinion). Are people so full of themselves that they can’t allow a film to be cool and, dare I say, a little bit cheesy every once in a while? I know Blackhat isn’t a masterpiece. It’s not without criticism.  The basic plot alone (the good guys use a likeable bad guy to capture an even worse bad guy) has been done a million times. Chris Hemsworth's accent/demeanor seems a little forced at times (as do certain lines of dialogue) and it’s never quite spelled out how an MIT-trained computer wizard knows how to defend himself/beat people up so well (I guess all his time in prison surrounded by hardened criminals toughened him up?). The romantic relationship between our love interests did kind of come out of nowhere, and from the outside looking in I can see how people had issues with the editing and jumpiness of the film (I personally didn’t mind it at all, but I can see how that could be offputting to some). But Blackhat still falls in line perfectly with Michael Mann’s post-Heat universe and continues to push that cool/sleek yet jazzy/chaotic style of his. A film critic on Deadline recently wrote a "What Happened To Michael Mann?" themed review on Blackhat and to that I have to respond by saying; nothing happened to him.

The final moments where Hemsworth is stalking the main henchman from behind through a crowd of people is no different than the final moments of Public Enemies when Christian Bale does the same to Johnny Depp...

Blackhat
Public Enemies

One of the shootout scenes in Blackhat (where Holt McCallany shines for a brief moment) is filmed in the same fashion as the shootouts in Heat & Public Enemies. There's a tense scene where Chris Hemsworth & co-star Tang Wei are on the run and escape on to the subway and I was immediately reminded of the final scene in Collateral when Jaime Foxx & Jada Pinkett jump on the subway to escape from Tom Cruise.

Collateral 
Blackhat

And like most Mann films (Thief, Heat, Public Enemies, Manhunter) Blackhat starts somewhat abruptly in the midst of some kind of heist with minimal dialogue.

I say all that to say if you love/like/enjoy Mann's previous work, I honestly don't understand why you'd dislike Blackhat so much. It's completely understandable as to why it may not be your cup of tea (don't forget all the weak points I called out earlier) but to so strongly dislike it means that you dislike his overall style in his other films.

I guess I’m a little sensitive to all this because Blackhat almost feels like Michael Mann’s first feature film in close to a decade (without meaning to sound too harsh, Public Enemies has obviously not stood the test of time and has become quite a forgettable film).
Blackhat won’t be in theaters for much longer, which means it’ll be available on DVD/Blu-Ray fairly soon. To those that misunderstood it upon your initial viewing, or avoided it because of all the bad press, maybe find some time in 2015 to get familiar/revisit this film with more of an open mind and allow yourself to be entertained instead of nitpicking at all the accuracy and pointing out what could & couldn't happen in real life.


make sure to listen to Pink Smoke contributor Eric Pfriender's recent podcast on Blackhat

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

LOVESICK (CutPrintFilm)

Hey all, 

here's my review of Lovesick for CutPrintFilm. Maybe watch it for Valentine's Day with that special someone in your life (...or maybe not. there's much better movies out there)


Monday, February 2, 2015

MOTHER OF GEORGE


Somewhere between a Greek tragedy & a Shakespearean-style comedy (although set in modern day downtown Brooklyn with a mostly African cast) lies Andrew Dosunmu's Mother Of George (2013).
Every year after posting my year in review I always regret the placement of at least one film in my top 10 or honorable mention. Mother Of George was no doubt in my top 20 of 2013, but in the unofficial rankings I had it beneath stuff like Frances Ha & Her. I still like Frances Ha & Her, but definitely not as much as I did 18 months ago. They've both cooled off quite a bit while Mother Of George only gets better each time I watch it (without giving too much away, I used to have an issue with what I thought was a plot-hole but now I know it was needed in order to keep the story going). If I could go back and redo my list I'd put it in that same unique spot that I made for A Most Violent Year in 2014 - not exactly a top-10 movie but better than an honorable mention.
Mother Of George is quietly impressive in that it's great qualities (the cinematography, the ambiance & certain isolated scenes) slowly creep up on you weeks after you watch it.
But at the same time, this is the kind of film that could easily get overlooked (at no fault of the film or filmmaker). Besides being a smaller indie film, it shows black characters in situations that aren't exactly typical within most prominent films. What do I mean by “typical”? Mother Of George has nothing to do with any kind of racial struggle, poverty or magical negroisms. I mean, the subject of slavery alone kind of became a “thing” between 2012 (Django) through 2013 (12 Years A Slave & The Beginning of The Butler).
And please understand that in no way am I trying to downplay racism, slavery, poverty & struggle among Black people. The acts that are covered in films like Selma & 12 Years A Slave directly (and indirectly) affected my life (as far as stuff like The Butler, Django & The Help, I really have nothing nice to say so I'll just be quiet). I would even go so far as to defend certain aspects of Selma against its detractors who criticized the film for not incorporating any of Martin Luther King's real speeches due to his family not allowing them to be used in the film. Anyone who has a problem with that surely must have issues with Spike Lee's Malcolm X. I know I haven't read The Autobiography Of Malcolm X in quite some time, but last time I checked, the character of Banes wasn't even a real person and Malcolm X's introduction in to Islam is a little different from the book than it is in the film. But no one seems to have a problem with that. And at the end of the day they really shouldn't because Malcolm X is an excellent film. Spike Lee had his legitimate reasons for certain omissions as did Ava Duvernay. 


But at the end of the day I guess what I'm really trying to say is that Black people do/did more than just march for justice or swallow their pride and serve white people (and it's not like Selma's lack of Oscar nominations are going to diminish the work/iconic status of Martin Luther King Jr). Black people sometimes find themselves in the midst of complex family situations (like the family in Mother Of George). Black people embrace the beauty of their culture & ethnicity (like the close-knit African community in Mother Of George). Black people also find themselves in peculiar situations that fall within the grey area between funny & fucked up (like our female protagonist in Mother Of George). But mainstream/prominent cinema would have you think otherwise (there are obviously exceptions to what I'm saying but bottom line, my generalization is perfectly just).

In Mother Of George, we follow “Adenike”. Adenike is the loyal wife of Brooklyn restaurant owner/mama's-boy “Ayodele” (Isaach Debankole). They're under pressure from their Brooklyn-based Nigerian community to have children (most of the pressure comes from Ayodele's quietly domineering mother) but they're having fertility problems. Its not quite laid out for us in black & white, but it's implied that Ayodele's sperm count is low, yet everyone seems to blame Adenike (besides, family, loyalty & community, Mother Of George also tackles gender equality & double standards between men & women). 
After a while, Adenike is pressured by her mother-in-law to do something incredibly wrong in order to get pregnant.
The main character here may be a woman, but that doesn’t stop Andrew Dosunmu from exploring the seriousness (and sometimes silliness) of manhood & “manning up”. In addition to Ayodele being in denial about his low sperm count and not wanting to go to a fertility clinic to get help, he also doesn’t want Adenike to work because he’s stuck in the old fashioned ways of his parents where the man is the main bread winner. But no matter how stubborn and “old fashioned” Ayodele may be, he’s still a stand-up guy (the final seconds of MoG couldn’t convey the idea of “manning up” any better).


I find it funny that so many people were up in arms about Selma only getting three Oscar nominations when a year earlier, something like Mother Of George (shot, much better, by the same cinematographer as Selma) got no support outside of The Brooklyn Academy Of Music, Sundance, this very website you're reading right now or quick blurbs on Film Comment & Time Out. Where was the outcry for MoG not getting enough acknowledgement for it's excellent cinematography? I'm not exagerating when I say Mother Of George has one of the greatest opening scenes from this decade so far. It also shows a side of New York City/Brooklyn that we don't get to see too often in modern-day indie cinema.


I'm sure anyone reading this right now is aware of the recent public outrage expressed by folks who were disappointed in the lack of Oscar nominations that Selma received a few weeks ago. But I can't help but think that if Selma was nominated in every possible Oscar category, everyone would have been perfectly complacent. That's a problem to me because Selma is just ONE movie. While everyone is up in arms hashtagging “#Oscarsowhite” all over social media (because ONE movie didn't get enough nominations) there's been nice handful of films to come out in the last few years that, in my opinion, are a breath of fresh air in terms of how black people are portrayed on the big screen, but large black audiences don't seem to get behind them like they did Selma or The Butler or Precious or any of that other stuff. I know films like Newlyweeds (a smart stoner romantic comedy), Black Venus (a biopic on Sarah Bartmaan), Pariah (a film about homosexuality among young black women), A Band Called Death (a documentary about a pioneering all-Black punk band), Big Words (a film that touches on homosexuality in Hip-Hop) and other somewhat "progressive" films concerning Black people aren't always playing in major theaters, but at the same time, it's 2015. Outlets like Hulu & Netflix exist so its a lot easier to seek these movies out (I saw Pariah, Black Venus & Newlyweeds in the theater but I live in New York City). And as far as not knowing about these films existing to begin with, I blame publications like TheGrio.com, Ebony, Essence and other like-minded news sources that clearly don't seek out or push films that aren't Oprah/David Oyelowo/Lee Daniels/Tyler Perry-related (so I don't have to repeat myself, just read this piece from a few years ago).

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