Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Movies: September 18 - 24

Bamboozled (2000): This Spike Lee joint is the one film of his I have been the most apprehensive about watching. I heard very little that was positive about the movie and I knew it had something to do with actors in blackface and racism. It does, but it happens to be an excellent movie. Pierre Delacroix (Damon Wayans) is a writer for a television network and is the one black writer there. With the network behind in the ratings his white boss (Michael Rappaport), after telling the Harvard educated Pierre that he is blacker than Pierre is, tells Pierre to dig deep into his blackness and to come up with an urban show that will get people watching. Previously Pierre had been pitching high concept shows, but in frustration decides to push the envelope so far that his boss will see that the shows Pierre actually wants to write are worth making. Pierre comes up with the most racist, most offensive idea that would never in a million years be made in the twenty first century: an update of the minstrel show, except where the black actors will be in "blackface" make up, set back in a watermelon patch on a southern plantation, where the characters call themselves "coons". To Pierre's surprise and his assistant's (Jada Pinkett-Smith) horror, Michael Rappaport loves the idea and wants to make the show. The show, which we get to see segments of, is filmed in front of a studio audience and it becomes a popular and critical hit. The show was pitched as a satire, but it is clear that it is doing nothing more than revisiting and re-affirming the concept that black people (and perhaps people in general as there is a scene where other races and cultures identify themselves with the characters) are nothing but ignorant, dancing, singing buffoons. Thinking people know that this is absurd, and Jada Pinkett-Smith's character spends a good amount of time trying to get this across and to convince Pierre and the lead actors in the show that by being a part of this show that they are nothing more than exactly what the show is purportedly making fun of. Bamboozled is a tragedy in the theatrical sense of the flaws in certain characters causing their downfalls, and this film is a powerful, if a little heavy handed, exploration of what it means to be a black entertainer in an industry run by white men.

Take the Money and Run (1969): The early Woody Allen was an experimental Woody Allen. In this flick he employs a documentary style with action and zaniness mixed in. He plays an inept career criminal and hijinks really do ensue. Various characters discuss Allen's character's life as if they are being interviewed and tell us about him, all in the early comedic style that Allen had: meaning that jokes a-plenty abound. I do get tired of seeing Woody Allen in each of his films, but I will just have to get over that because he stars in most of his movies.

Sex, Lies, and Videotape
(1989): This movie felt empty. Andie MacDowell's husband is cheating on her with her sister. MacDowell and her husband are no longer intimate. A college friend of his comes to town to stay with them for a short period of time and it turns out that he has a fetish where he videotapes women talking about sex and everything they have done and want to do. MacDowell is repulsed, but is friendly with the friend. The sister is intrigued because she is of loose morals, and the husband is concerned because this may mess with his two relationships (wife and mistress). And, I do not care about these characters. They are all somewhat slimy, except for MacDowell who is just sad. There is no joy in Mudville. Even so, this was a well put together film by Steven Soderbergh and it flows well and does not drag. It is just a film filled with unlikeable characters.

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