Friday, January 22, 2021

Movie Reviews: American Skin

American Skin
directed by Nate Parker
I have written before of how I tire of media sexual assault double standards wielded against Black men. Kobe Bryant hadn't even had a funeral yet before one white actress was calling the untried retired athlete a rapist while conveniently leaving out her gushing adulation of musician David Bowie, who allegedly seduced/raped a thirteen year old groupie. 
Similarly some people have trashed this movie by referring to Parker's acquittal from rape charges two decades ago when he was a college sophomore. Although we are free to believe anything we like I think that we should also try to judge art on its own merits as much as possible. I try to do that whenever I can. I will certainly do that as long as there are such racial double standards.
So, just going by the actual film itself and not what I might think of the actor, was this a must see movie? No. No it wasn't. It was uneven. It was even a little bit of bait and switch. Ok, make that a lot of bait and switch. 
This might be the subject of another post, but as other people have pointed out, it is very difficult to find many mainstream Hollywood films where the Black man is the hero, defeats his enemies, overcomes other internal/external obstacles, gets the girl, is not comic relief, and survives at the end. 
Also, and likely not unrelated to that phenomenon, many of the African-American heroes and great men or great women we learn about in school were those who turned the other cheek, suffered indignity after indignity, and generally went along to get along.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Movie Reviews: Gilda

directed by Charles Vidor
This film noir really put the actress Rita Hayworth on the map in terms of exciting sex appeal though by modern sensibilities visually the movie is at worst PG-13. Still, regardless of the times, people are always going to respond to swivel hipped women in high slit sleek evening gowns singing somewhat risque songs. So there is that if you are looking for it. In many aspects this film was a knockoff of Casablanca
There's the femme fatale, a nightclub operator with a hidden conscience, and threats from bossy Germans. There is also some subtext which probably wouldn't have been too far out of place in modern films. But in modern film it wouldn't have been subtext at all. I was a little surprised to see it. More on that in a minute.
Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) is a devil may care American gambler and hustler. You can take that second description any way you like. Johnny has made his way down to Buenos Aires, where after having won a lot of money cheating at craps, is rescued from a mugging and beatdown by an older gentleman. This older fellow scares off Johnny's attackers by brandishing his (ahem) walking stick outfitted with a hidden sword. The man admires Johnny's gambling skills and tells him about the best casino in town. But the man advises Johnny not to cheat there.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Casu Martzu: Maggot Cheese

Different cultures have different ideas of what is considered permissible to eat. What is kosher in one culture could be considered disgusting in another. There are too many examples of this to mention. Sometimes even the smell or description of a food which people in one culture consider a delicacy can sicken people from another culture. Some folks get on their high horse and accuse anyone who feels this way of being racist or intolerant or xenophobic. I don't think that's quite accurate. There are individuals with contemptuous feelings towards everyone who is not the same as them who nonetheless enjoy eating at a different ethnic restaurant each week. There are those who believe in all the wonders of multiculturalism who wouldn't be caught dead trying anything too far removed from their teenage palate.

I do know this, though. Although I enjoy many of the various kinds of Italian and for that matter Mediterranean cuisine I am not, repeat NOT eating any kind of food that relies upon the digestive and reproductive processes of flies to give it what some consider a wonderful taste. If I purchased some cheese from the supermarket and upon preparing to consume it, discovered maggots writhing all about inside, I wouldn't be very happy. And the store clerks, managers, and corporate bigwigs would hear all about it. But apparently if there aren't maggots in the cheese Casu Martzu, you just aren't getting your money's worth.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Movie Reviews: The Last Shift

The Last Shift
directed by Andrew Cohn
This indie film is worthwhile watching despite some occasionally muddled themes. I appreciated that this movie didn't neatly resolve everything like an old episode of Scooby Doo or one of those ABC Afternoon Specials. Life is not like that. Sometimes the bad guys win. Sometimes we don't know or agree on who the bad guys are. I thought The Last Shift was realistic, both in casting and in the character depiction and reactions. 

The writing sagged near the end. As mentioned, if you like solid conclusions where everything makes sense and everyone gets what he or she "deserves" then this movie is not that. The Last Shift is also, purposely or not, an extended herky-jerky exposition on why the "class first" focus of people like say Bernie Sanders, doesn't often work in the American political economy. 
This film is set in Albion, Michigan. Stanley (Richard Jenkins) is the night manager of an Albion location of a regional fast food franchise, Oscar's Chicken and Fish (and apparently burgers as well). 

In what could be a nod to co-actor Ed O'Neill's role of Al Bundy, Stanley took this job more or less right out of high school and has remained there for the next forty years or so, give or take. Starting at just over $3/hr back in the day, Stanley has managed to grow his salary to the princely rate of just over $13/hr. Real ambitious hard charging dude, Stanley is. Not.