In Review – White Like Me (2013 – Documentary)

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On the heels of our two major party political conventions – I’ve been considering a film or two to suggest to the politically minded. Something to set the mood or inform the electorate, in a broad way, about the issues of the day.

To that end – the disparity in the diversity of the two major conventions was the thing that was most stark (all other content notwithstanding) to me.  Since the election – and before – of the first African American, sometimes known as Black – President of the United States, this disparity has been, ironically perhaps, most stark.

It is also ironic, that as the nation has nominated the first woman to be President of the United States in a major party – that race, not gender – is still the driving prevalent issue of our nation, even beyond domestic and foreign terrorism.

To that end, I was reminded of director Scott Morris‘ 2013 documentary White Like Me, featuring race-educator and author Tim Wise. The film explores race and racism in the U.S. through the lens of whiteness and white privilege. Or, in other words, most of the people at one of those conventions as opposed to some of the people at the other convention.

The things that Wise speaks to in White Me, explains those distinctions lucidly.

As it happens, the book Black Like Me (from which this film takes its cues), by journalist John Howard Griffin, was published in 1961 – the year I was born. The corresponding film was released in 1964 – a year of landmark civil rights legislation. Fifty plus years later our two primary party political conventions suggest that while changes abound – much as stayed the same.  Little “d” democrats were often southern and racist in 1961, while republicans were still rich and privileged and – well – republican. And race is still a central issue in the republic. Whether we want to think so – or not.

You only had to look at those two conventions. You could even turn the sound down. Which, occasionally, I did.

Scott Morris’ film is clear, concise and full of fact and example and history. As is Wise’s presentation, in whatever format. The movie is neither placid nor inflammatory (unless you’re already a little inflamed). It’s also not – not angry – yet not angry.

It even manages to be funny every now and again.

Like all contemporary documentaries it’s advocacy. Such is the nature of docs these days. That’s said – it’s accurate and well done advocacy that is most relevant to the politics and the zeitgeist of the very political – race conscious day.

 

‘Do the Right Thing’ at 25: How Spike Lee’s classic changed race dialogue in film

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I know this guy. I love this film. I love this piece.

do the right thing

Off-Ramp contributor RH Greene’s appreciation of “Do the Right Thing,” Spike Lee’s seminal film, which was released 25 years ago, on June 30, 1989. The Academy is showing “Do the Right Thing” June 27 as part of a wider Spike retrospective called By Any Means Necessary:a Spike Lee Joints Retrospective.

Listen Here: ‘Do the Right Thing’ at 25: How Spike Lee’s classic changed race dialogue in film

Tim is Critic At Large for Alt Film Guide (http://www.altfg.com/blog/).  Twenty years of his reviews are archived at:  http://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/tim-cogshell/

Belle Movie Review — Just Seen It on PBS

Zorianna, Tim, and Kevin discuss the new breakout drama, Belle.

Watch here:

Aired on Apr 24, 2014

Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate daughter of a Royal Navy officer is brought to England to be raised as an aristocrat. But being of mixed-race, she is not treated as an equal. When she falls for a young lawyer, she begins to fight the oppression she’s endured.

Starring Matthew Goode, Lauren Julien-Box, and Natasha Williams.
Directed by Amma Asante.
Written by Misan Sagay.
Produced by Damian Jones.
Genre: Drama

Just Seen It!

Starring Zorianna Kit, Tim Cogshell, and Kevin Taft.
Directed by Amy Taylor.
Edited by Zack Wigemann.
Sound Design by Aaron Fink.

Produced by David Freedman, Cooper Griggs, Aaron Fink, Kevin Taft, Pedro Raposo, Amy Taylor, Liz Manashil and Hannah Wade.

Tim is Critic At Large for Alt Film Guide (http://www.altfg.com/blog/).  Twenty years of his reviews are archived at:  http://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/tim-cogshell/

Films in Review: Reflections on the last film of Jean-Pierre Melville

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Un Flic (1972)

Reviewed by – Tim Cogshell

Jean-Pierre Melville’s last film, Un Flic / A Cop (1972), is a late noir classic that features all the central trappings of the genre along with — what was then — a modern sensibility about the nature of who, ostensibly, are supposed to be the good guys. Perhaps it goes without saying they’re not much different than the bad guys; even so, as is the case in many Melville films, good guys and bad guys are mirrors of each other, the same yet different. Add to that several daring high-stakes criminal enterprises and, of course, a femme fatale (played beautifully by the beautiful Catherine Deneuve), and you’ve got a film that, while not the masterpiece of Melville’s canon, would have been so for most other filmmakers.

Despite its title, Un Flic is as much about a very cool criminal, played by a pre-Rambo Richard Crenna, as it is about a very cool cop — Alain Delon, more than a decade after Purple Noon and still striking as a presence on screen. They are both friends and at odds with one another in more ways than even their characters know. It’s an intriguing juxtaposition of male ego and camaraderie in — what was then — an intense, taut film filled with Rififian heist sequences and crisp philosophical dialogue to the bitter end. In fact, the end is wonderfully bitter.

Yes, in present-day terms Un Flic is languid in editorial construction, its contemplative performances are mannered, and its easy macho-chauvinism might grate contemporary feminist audiences. The artifacts of the time notwithstanding, it’s all still really cool, right down to the trench coats and fedoras.

But as mentioned earlier, the film’s title has always been deceiving. Indeed, we spend a good deal more time with the criminal than we do with the cop. From the bank heist that opens Un Flic through any number of encounters, Richard Crenna’s nightclub owner / heist master is as psychologically complex and physically present as Alain Delon’s cynical Commissaire. (Of note: Crenna’s French dialogue is dubbed, though he spoke French throughout his performance.)

Femme fatale Catherine Deneuve

And there’s the girl at the center of it all. Catherine Deneuve’s femme fatale stands apart from the typical cynical sirens of film noir. Deneuve’s character has a heart; it’s just not a faithful heart. She’s aloof and manipulative, yet inviting and pliable — and ultimately deadly.

Fans of Hill Street Blues should look for the ineffable Michael Conrad, an imposing figure whose intelligent eyes belied his menacing physique.

Jean-Pierre Melville’s influence

Jean-Pierre Melville died in 1973 at the age of 57. His work has influenced the films of Nicolas Winding Refn, Mika and Aki Kaurismäki, Joel and Ethan Coen,Martin Scorsese, Walter Hill, Michael Mann, and Quentin Tarantino, to name a few. A most notable Melville film, Bob le flambeur (1956), was remade by director Neil Jordan as The Good Thief (2002) with Nick Nolte. It too is remarkably good.

Un Flic at the Nuart

Un Flic has been reissued and is playing at the Nuart Theater in West Los Angeles for a week, before finding its way to the better cinephile collections. It’s certainly a must-see (and must-own) for Jean-Pierre Melville aficionados, not to mention fans of a good noir morality tale.

Alain Delon in Jean-Pierre Melville’s Un Flic photo: Rialto.

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Tim is Critic At Large for The Alt-Film Guide (www.alfg.com) and 20 years of his reviews are archived at:  http://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/tim-cogshell/