Moments of escape can be moments of clarity!

"Oh, had I but followed the Arts"-William Shakespeare

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Dichotomy between Then & Now is very thin indeed...

I am back, trying to squeeze in one more post before the end of the month to feel productive, instead of like the lazy summer slug I feel like. For this weeks Reel, I hit the theater, which is a rarity for me.
This weeks Reel is 2016's FREE STATE OF JONES



Farmer, turned reluctant Confederate soldier, Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey)is sick of fighting a war in which he has no stake.  He owned no slaves and didn't grow cotton. He is also repulsed by both the killing and the looting of local farms by the Confederacy, which they called a "tax", but left women and children with no food stores for the winter. During a particularly bloody skirmish, Newton flees, and with the help of Slaves and other deserters both Men & Women, waged a Rebellion. In 1864 they took over the town of Ellis and renamed it FREE STATE OF JONES. 
Knight began a relationship with his grandfather's former slave Rachel (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). His wife Serena (Keri Russell), after being burned out of her home also moves to JONES.
Newton and his rag-tag group not only become a town, they become a family of sorts. They continue to fight against the until the fall of the Confederacy. Even with the end of the War FREE STATE OF JONES has to fight the ashes of the Civil War, in the form of the KKK, Reconstruction, sharecropping and the Black Vote.
For a lot of Whites in Mississippi, the fact that Newton lived and worked side by side with the Black people of JONES was more of a betrayal than fighting against the Confederacy.
His descendants feel the sting even today.  His children by Rachel are shunned by both sides of his family and called Newton's Negroes.

FREE STATE OF JONES was surprisingly  balanced and thoughtful. More shocking was Matthew McConaughey's portrayal of Newton Knight. He softened his usual over the top drawl and delivered a believable performance. Normally I tend to be reluctant when it comes to movies about Slavery. Gugu Mbatha-Raw was a huge selling point for me, because she's an incredible actor. That being said it's still very much a double edge sword.  You want to support movies with POC, but at the same time we want to see all sides of who we are. Diverse, complex, multi-dimensional. We have other stories besides the Slave narrative. Not only that, it's painful to watch.  A comedian once said "Black people watching movies about Slavery is like a Cow watching how Beef is made". That is so true. POC have a myriad of stories to tell. Native Americans are more than the stoic Warrior or Shamans or living in the past. Asians are more than Mystics and Martial Arts.Those stories are only part of POC's Rich & varied human tapestries.
That being said, FREE STATE OF JONES was an important story and one I had not heard. For that alone, I recommend it.

Monday, July 11, 2016

THAT'S NOT A SOLUTION? THINK IT THROUGH!


Finally my latest Blog.  With Summer and all the other "events" happening, I have needed the distraction of Films and Books more than ever. I've probably seen at least 10 movies and read at least that many Books in the interim, so I've plenty of reviews waiting in the wings. I just need to stop procrastinating...yeah, like that's gonna happen.
This weeks Reel is 2011's STAND OFF.

Jimbo (Martin McCann), who lives in a small town in Belfast, Ireland, can't seem to get his life on track.  It's not from a lack of trying. He tries to be a good dad and a good mate to his son's mother, but can't pull himself away from old habits.  He spends his days hanging out with his childhood friend and gambling away what little money he has, hoping for that big pay-off. Jimbo gets in serious debt by borrowing money from Mad Dog Flynn (David O'Hara) the local Irish Mob Boss, who lives up to his name. He has one day to pay his debt to Mad dog. With misguided youthful abandon, Jimbo decides the solution is to rob the local fish market. After his bumbling, inept crime is complete, he finds out too late that the Fish market is a front for the Irish Mob. Now, Jimbo finds himself on the run from not only the police, but Mad Dog is also out for blood. To make matters worse, Jimbo has holed up in a local Antique store with the owner Joe (Brendan Fraser), his girlfriend Sophie(Yaya DaCosta) and two stowaway kids as hostages. Jimbo's solution to his debt problem has quickly become a snowball headed over a cliff with Joe in it's path.

When I decided to watch STAND OFF, I thought it was an action movie. It was devoid of any action what so ever. I'm really not even sure what genre it was. There was comedy, but it was in strange places and decidedly unfunny. It wasn't like the macabre humor of "Fargo", it was just misplaced and a bit uncomfortable. There was nobody you wanted to root for. I had a brief moment of joy, when I saw there was a Black woman (Yaya DaCosta) cast as a shop keeper & later Joe's girlfriend. She didn't pass my "Where my Women of Color at" test, which is like the Bechdel-Wallace, but geared toward women of Color: 1. More than one woman of Color 2. they must talk to each other about something other than a man. 3. They must have a life outside of listening to a white woman's problems. 4. They must have a name. 5. they must survive past the first 20 minutes of the film.
Sophie only passed  #4 & #5. The only thing you knew about her was she came to Ireland from Africa, but we knew EVERYTHING about Joe and it was boring as hell. I was hoping for more because I love David O'Hara but, STAND OFF left me bored and a little disgruntled at not being able to get that hour and a half of my life back...