It's tough having a conversation in times of social and political distress. Simply put, we spend to much time talking AT each other, instead of talking TO each other. The American Ego is a hard one to crack, many of us go into any sort of conversation already feeling we are right, so opposing thoughts go in one ear and out the other. It's not about reaching understanding, it's about being the one whose right. Which is why it seems like we are constantly running in circles every time an event like the one we are living through right now comes up.
I've had this blog since 2013. It has always primarily been a movie blog. But in the last few days, its been tough mustering up enough courage to write about movies. I have certainly had some things planned, but it feels wrong to me to promote this blog about entertainment when the world is burning around me. There are going to be plenty of movies made about about 2020 in the future, mark my words. Before you get all shaken up when they do, remember that popular culture has mirrored our world pretty much since its inception. Maybe you just started to notice now, maybe its not as subtle as it is now. But the shows and movies we watch, the books we read, the music we listen to, its been a reflection of us. Always. That has never changed.
In order to express my feelings of the world and in an attempt to tie into the themes of this blog, I have created "The Revolution Playlist." If I try and ask you guys to understand the situation and how we got here, that will take some explanation. I am presented a list of movies. Each of these movies represents something that is going on in the country today. I am going to discuss the movies and how they tie into what's happening right now. In order to heal as a nation, we have to understand and respect what is going on here.
See these movies. Actually watch them. Analyze them. Watch them more than once. If you are looking down the side of your nose at a movie, you're not seeing it. Take the time to watch these. Maybe their confirm your beliefs, maybe their challenge them. But in the end, you'll understand more about what's going on then you did yesterday.
Birth of A Nation (2016)
Ever notice when a slavery movie is made, there is always a white character that's not as racist as the others? Almost as if they through in a character in order for white audiences to identify with? Do they think white audiences can't identify with black characters? There is always a need to mainstream slavery movies, even when people are constantly asking why there are so many movies about slavery. The answer is, until we realize this country was built on blood and skin, there will always be slavery movies. "Birth of a Nation," is a pretty raw experience, and there's no less racist white character for white audiences to cling to. Because none of those types of people really existed in the American South at the time. About the rebellion by Nat Turner, this man murdered slavers in their beds, many people who have studied turner have questioned his tactics, just as the tactics are being judged by many right now. Racism and slavery cannot be uncomfortable topics, because racism still very much exists right now. We need to be able to discuss these things head on, otherwise they may never go away.
Sorry To Bother You
A conversation that comes up frequently these days is the question of white privilege. The dissenters like to say "there are poor white people and there are rich black people and white people suffer all the time, therefore white privilege doesn't exist." Sorry to sound harsh, but if you only think of privilege in terms of money, you're missing the point. We have a way of trying to get those of other races to assimilate into our culture, and we get mad when that doesn't happen. Lakeith Stanfield plays Cash, who works as a telemarketer. When he's not doing very well, he is told of the magic of the "white voice," then things really turn around for him. The film is a social satire of the workforce and class, but you can't deny that the film is attacking privilege as well. There's a powerful scene in which Cash's not only gets him to rap, but gets a room full of white people to chant the N-word. It's a powerful scene, and had money not been on the line, Cash wouldn't have put up with it. It's a blisteringly angry film.
When does Disney ever really...challenge the zeitgeist? "Zootopia" may look as cute and cuddely as any other Disney movie. But at the same time when it has so much to say about racial profiling, how we build social diversity and how we play into the roles we are assigned at birth, it becomes something else entirely. Had I made a list of the best animated movies of the 2010's, "Zootopia" would have ranked quite high, indeed.
Up until 2018, Marvel was on top of the world, but a laundry list of problems with their beloved franchise was palpable. One of the most frequent flaws of the entire franchise was how they could never, truly handle their villain problem. Enter Erik Killmonger. There was quite an uproar on Twitter after "Black Panther" blew up at the box office. Anytime a villain is identifiable, you change the ground entirely. Killmonger's plight is of righteous anger. He's sick of seeing what is happening to his people around the world, and he's angry his family history was erased. Right now, lots of people are reacting to the anger we are seeing, and having little sympathy for what has caused all of that anger.
Here in America, we have become so obsessed with black culture that somehow we left the actual people responsible for that culture behind. What a set-up for a horror movie, right? Not only is "Get Out" a singular film though, its also wildly subversive. When trailers starting hitting the internet for this movie, everybody thought it was going to be a Conservative hit piece. That's simply not the case. Jordan Peele attacks the flaws of white liberalism harder than those of white conservatism here. Right now, black Americans need allies, totally. But if you are jumping really high, waving your hands in the air to be that ally, it can be a little much. If you are out to prove so viciously that you are not racist, it can come off uncomfortable. When fighting to correct injustice, its better to just be yourself.
Here's a pair of movies, one a feature and one a documentary, that revolve around the Los Angeles riots from 1992. The documentary is the slow burn between the people of Los Angeles and its police department, and how the city slowly got the reputation for having a corrupt police force. When people get angry enough to riot, it's not a spur-of-the-moment thing. Anger and madness has been simmering in that city for a long time, and Rodney King was the stray that broke the camel's back. "Dark Blue" may be fiction, but its about a cop slowly realizing just how corrupt his position is and he tries to make a difference. It's very encouraging during all the carnage over the weekend, that there are several police forces who have chosen to peacefully protest with their communities. That's basically Kurt Russell in "Dark Blue," that realization that you can still do good after having such a bad reputation put on you. It's truly up to us as individuals whether or not the world changes.
You probably didn't expect to see "Joker" on here did ya? I still have many problems with the movie, but I also have to say that if Todd Phillips just made his ode to "Taxi Driver" without involving the comic book antics, would have been stronger overall for me. Both movies do an exquisite job of the dangers that come when people feel like they are voiceless. Some may seem shocked by the riots and looting. We have to look further back at history to see that when Black Lives Matter became a movement, it was immediately denounced. When Colin Kapernick took the knee; he lost his job and was endlessly mocked. Any time a celebrity of color speaks out they are regarded as spoiled brats and any peaceful movement is regarded as race-baiting. Fighting the good fight with no affect allows anger and resentment to eventually assimilate.
Ace In The Whole
Whether you are a Republican or whether you are a Democrat, you are probably sick of news media at this point. I can't blame you. I am too. One of the worst things to happen to news media was how different outlets took sides politically. News has always supposed to be the unbiased facts. But now, we've created a world of fake news in order for these outlets to get readers and ratings. It's easy these days to call a story fake news. But is it fake news because the information is false or because it doesn't line up with your beliefs? See the problem, here? You can thank both Billy Wilder and Sidney Lumet got it right early.
If you've seen the video over the weekend by Candace Owen trying to discredit the movement for George Floyd, it appears that all you need to make it as some sort of "reporter," is to be convincing, to be a good speaker. It doesn't matter if you are spewing facts, the word fact has been lost, and we must work together to reclaim it.
Boys N The Hood
I will admit that I was hesitant to put this movie on the list, simply because I don't want to be a choice where people point at it and say "See? Right there! Black-on-Black crime!" As I said above, we need to be concerned about the Cause and the Effect in this country, and not so much concerned on the Effect. The film is simply a day in the life of a group of people living in South Central Los Angeles. But observe how cops handle situations in this movie. Observe the few white people that show up in this movie. Observe how outsiders to South Central react to being in the area of Los Angeles. That's the real thematic meat of the movie. Where it all comes together though, and where it goes from a very good movie to one of THE movies of the 90's...
I wish I could shrug that speech off as simple cynicism, but when you get into history not taught in our schools. When you look at the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover and COINTELPRO and the crack pandemic, its easier to make light of what Fishburne is talking about here. Which leads us into Straight Outta Compton, another movie on this list. Where I grew up, there was always a negative connotation associated with rap music. When in reality, they are really speaking about the lives they've shared and try to spread awareness of the lives they lead every day. They are using art in order to grant understanding.
Its amazing to see where privilege sneaks into, especially into fandom regarding franchises about fighting the system for all. There have been many disputes over where a person of colors' place is even in entertainment. "That Asian actress can't be in a Star Wars movie!" "That woman can't hold Thor's hammer!" "That actor can't hold Cap's shield.!" I swear to god, despite being black in the Ulimate Universe, I heard many people refer to Samuel L. Jackson as Affirmative Action Nick Fury. All throughout entertainment, for many decades, we had token black characters, and if they didn't die first, they were the comic relief. I grew up watching movies where the white men were always the heroes, and the characters of color were the background. Now in the 21st Century, when you are seeing the paradigm starting to shift, its making some people mad.
"Bamboozled" takes after "The Producers," Damon Wayans plays a TV executive who often gets heckled by his white boss because none of his TV ideas are "black enough." Angered and annoyed, he pitches "The New Millennium Minstrel Show," and telling by that title, I think you get the direction he's pushing for, he creates the most offensive show possible about black stereotype and instead of getting fired and ending his career, the show becomes a hit. Has anyone noticed that most dramas with all black casts often get cancelled? Growing up in the 90's, the most popular shows with predominately black casts were all comedies, is there something to that? Again, I acknowledge that things are starting to change for the better in this regard, but the more they change, the more people get mad because they feel "an agenda is being shoved down their throats." If we really have all these freedoms to express ourselves, why is the expression of other culture seen as an attack?
The Hate U Give
Do The Right Thing
These two movies are together because they are both summations of all my thoughts. Each of these movies feature ideas on how the media fails us, white privilege, police brutality, and the tensions that come with races trying to share this country of ours. There is quite a bit on the minds of each of these movies, and if there are only two you pick from this list, I hope you choose these two.
And if that's not enough for you. Check out "All The President's Men," a movie about Watergate which very well explains how a portion of our society became jaded with our government. Check out "The Hunger Games" but specifically the last movie. There are a lot of people who love this franchise, but it doesn't seem they understand Katniss' actions in the final film. When you vote this November, and I hope you do, be sure we are voting for people based on policy. Not just because of the letters that follow their names.
Most of these movies are directed, written, produced and starring black artists and performers, and now is a better time than ever to support black artists.
If you are protesting, supporting, sharing, and educating yourself or others. Please stay safe.