Saturday, February 17, 2018

Did the Right Thing - GO SEE BLACK PANTHER!

Ryan Coogler is arguably the most relevant writer/director working today, and in my opinion he is solidly three for three.  His most recent offering Marvel's Black Panther transcends its superhero genre  -  it truly is a marvel.  It is revolutionary.

The Black Panther, T'Challa, is not the only one donning the mask  -  his nation, his homeland, Wakanda hides its true identity from the world.  Although it appears to outsiders as a third-world pre-industrialized African nation, it is in fact the Super Power, albeit one that has long chosen a path of isolationist policy.  But rather than getting bogged down in a long-winded analysis, this post is [or at least should be] rather a call to arms. Like its title says, "GO SEE BLACK PANTHER!"

If you are reading this you are most likely familiar with both Fruitvale Station and Creed, and thus know the potential of any future collaborations between Coogler and actor Michael B Jordan;  Black Panther will not disappoint.  It may however leave you scratching your head, asking yourself, What did I just see?  I, for one, have seen many films and have never seen anything like this.

In addition to going to see Black Panther may I strongly recommend the following list of films and readings that I have recently experienced with my students that inform my understanding of Coogler's most recent achievement:

The beforementioned Fruitvale Station and Creed.

Malcolm X. Dir. Spike Lee. Feat. Denzel Washington, Angela Basset, Bobby Seale, Al Sharpton,
      and Nelson Mandela et al. 40 Acres and a Mule, 1992.

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. 1959.

Dunbar, Paul Lawrence. "We Wear the Mask." 1896.

Ellison, Ralph. "Battle Royal" from Invisible Man. 1952.

Haley, Alex and Malcolm X. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. 1965.

Hughes, Langston. "The Negro Speaks of Rivers." 1921.

Wilson, August. The Century Cycle.

A final note or two: please leave comments (if you are in my class I may even award points); I think it important to note that Black Power [sic] celebrates not only the oppressed but also celebrates women like few if any films before it; finally, GO SEE BLACK PANTHER!

Friday, February 16, 2018

"Get Your Hands Out of My Damn Pockets"

Malcolm X.  Dir. Spike Lee
        Feat. Denzel Washington (Malcolm X), Angela Bassett (Betty Shabazz), Spike Lee
        (Shorty), Delroy Lindo (West Indian Archie)
        Donald Patrick Kelly (School teacher)
        Warner Bros., 1992.

        Spike Lee’s 1992 film Malcolm X was all about the life of the great African American civil rights activist Malcolm Little “Malcolm X.” Denzel Washington does a great job spotlighting the life of Malcolm X. Like the main character in the previous films we watched in class, Malcolm built his life from the bottom up.
        Malcolm was convicted on some conspiracy crimes that many people did not agree with. Like Adonis “Creed” Johnson, and Oliver Grant he took advantage of his time in jail to improve his life. When he was in school, before his time in jail, he had a teacher for whom I feel was a big motivation for Malcolm. When Malcolm told him that he wanted to be a lawyer, his teacher replied back with “think of something more realistic; like a carpenter.” Malcolm was more than this; he was not going to let anyone tell him he cannot do something.
        Malcolm was apart of the Nation of Islam “NOI.” He was also an advocate for human rights; more specifically, the rights for African Americans. After Brother Johnson was beaten by police, Malcolm led a march from the precinct to the hospital. There he demanded for Johnson to receive proper medical care. This really stood out to me, because Malcolm dedicated initiative and pride for not only a close friend, but for a bigger picture: racial injustice.
        Malcolm was a firm believer in working and advocating for what he believed in, but not everybody agreed with him. Specifically, many of those apart of the Nation of Islam. Those in the Nation of Islam believed that Malcolm was becoming to big for his name. The hate was so bad that Malcolm, along with his family received death threats. Malcolm was so on edge that he laid in bed at night with a gun. One night, some people torched his house and burnt it to the ground. This was a motif of a clip showed earlier in the film; Malcolm’s late father’s old home being torched by the Ku Klux Klan.
        On February 21st, as he gave a speech in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan Malcolm was set to begin a speech at the Audubon Ballroom. Just as he began his speech a gentleman hollered “get your hands out of my damn pockets” and then chaos occurred. Malcolm was shot several times by members of the Nation of Islam who bum rushed the stage. Malcolm’s wife Betty weeped as she laid there on the stage next to her dead husband. Malcolm X died fighting for what he believed in, and is considered to be a hero to many.
        This film ranks in the middle 50% for all of our viewings this year; it’s not my favorite, nor my least favorite. This was a good time to pick to show this film. February is black heritage month, and Malcolm X is known to be one of the most iconic African Americans in history.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Director. Benh Zeitlin
Feat. Quvenzhané Wallis (Hushpuppy), Dwight Henry (Wink), Levy Easterly (Jean Battiste)
Fox Searchlight Pictures & Entertainment One, 2012

           A story about an adventurous, curious, 6 year old girl. Now, that sounds like how any other child would be, but Hushpuppy was different. Living off the grid doesn't seem like it would be easy to have as a lifestyle, but for everyone living in "The Bathtub" it became normal. In hard times she would call out to her mom to talk to even though her mom passed away, she wasn't really close to her father. After a series of events they end up breaking the wall separating the city from the Bathtub, but it causes a flood and a lot of people living there got sick or injured and needed medical care.
          This movie goes through so many events, but it kept me engaged. I love how independent Hushpuppy was and how they made the connection with her and aurochs. To me it symbolizes that she's a strong person and just keeps going through the motion. I've seen other films where it shows a child or young adult being independent and finding their way through life, but this movie was different from others. You kind of have to pay close attention so that you can grasp the full story of the movie, but over all this was a great movie and I would recommend it to anyone.

X #aysiastarr

Malcolm X was Spike Lee’s sixth movie. Based on the 1965 autobiography co-written by Malcolm and future Roots creator Alex Haley, it’s a 202-minute, continent-hopping epic boasting a superbly charismatic, Oscar-nominated performance by Denzel Washington as the activist and orator. He lived a dozen different lives, each in its way a defining aspect of the black American experience from nightmare to dream. There was never any in-between for the man who was initially called Malcolm Little, the son of a Nebraska preacher, and who, when he died, was known by his Muslim name, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. Malcolm traveled far, through many incarnations to become as much admired as he was feared as the black liberation movement's most militant spokesman and unrelenting conscience.

Malcolm X is full of color as it tells of life on the streets in Boston and New York, but it grows increasingly intense when Malcolm is arrested for theft and sent to prison, where he finds his life's mission. The movie becomes proper, well mannered and somber, like Malcolm's dark suits and narrow ties, as it dramatizes his rise in the Nation of Islam, founded by Elijah Muhammad. Mr. Lee treats the Nation of Islam and its black separatist teachings seriously and, just as seriously, Malcolm's disillusionment when Elijah Muhammad's fondness for pretty young secretaries is revealed. When, after his split from the Nation of Islam, Malcolm goes on his pilgrimage to Mecca, the film celebrates his new insight into racial brotherhood, which makes his assassination all the more sorrowful.

The story of Malcolm X is filled with action with pitfalls for any movie maker. Mr. Lee is creating a film about a man he admires for an audience that includes those who have a direct interest in the story, those who may not have an interest but know the details intimately and those who know nothing or only parts of the story.

Fruitvale Station: Anthony Ruggiero

Image result for fruitvale station

Fruitvale Station is a 2013 drama/crime film directed by Ryan Coogler. The movie stars Michael B. Jordan (Oscar Grant), Octavia Spencer (Wanda), Melonie Diaz (Sophina), Kevin Durand (Officer Caruso) and Anna O'Reilly (Katie).

Osacr once spent time in San Quentin but is now a free man. He is trying to clean up his act and support his girlfriend and daughter. The movie reveals through flashbacks the last day of Oscar Grant's life. He is trying hard to get his job back at the grocery store he used to work at but has to lie to his family about hum working there. He spends most of the day planning out his mothers birthday for the night while also lending his sister money for a financial binding knowing that he wont be able to pay rent for the month. Later that day he goes out to fireworks with his family and ends up at fruitvale station. At fruitvale station people get into a fight on the train and are taken off of the train by police officers. One of those men happens to be Oscar. The men try to say it wasn't them, but the cops ignore them and call them the N word. After a little bit one of the officers feels a little pressure and shoots Oscar. Oscar is taken to the hospital where he is pronounced dead. 

In my own opinion the movie was good and the Ryan Coogler + Michael B. Jordan collaborations keep on coming, and I love them. They work so well together and should continue to make movies together. 

Anthony  -  your post is almost all summary.  You provide little if any film analysis.  I recommend that you consider resvising.



Friday, February 9, 2018

Creed by Siramad Gonzalez

Adonis Johnson (Micheal B Jordan) never knew his dadhe also never knew how famous he was. His father was the famous boxer Apollo Creed (see Rocky I - IVwho had passed away before Adonis was born (he was literally killed in the ring). Once he starts to find out who his father was he wants to begin boxing (he was a proficient fighter even before that in both group homes and juvie). He notices how it's something he likes, and it also runs in the blood. He eventually seeks out Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and asks Rocky to become his trainer. Rocky at first begins to deny Adonis request because Rocky is already retired, but Rocky sees something in Adonis  -  he sees a lot in him at agrees to mentor him. With the help of his trainer and a lot of effort Adonis gets a title shot but weather [whether] he has the true heart of a fighter remains to be seen. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Fruitvale Station By: Henry Seyue

Image result for fruitvale station
Dir. Ryan Coogler
Cast: Michael B. Jordan (Oscar Grant), Octavia Spencer (Wanda Johnson),  Melonie Diaz (Sophina Mesa)
Significant Productions, 2013

This is one of the more recent non documentary films to accurately capture the black man's plight on the big screen. The film shows us the final hours in the life of Oscar Grant, a twenty-two year old who was killed in the dawn hours of new years day 2009. Seeing that the events of the the movie are based on a true story, I would actually say this film largely made itself, leaving director Ryan Coogler with little to actually add for it to become a great film. Even with that being said, the events  that he did add, or recreate, actually made the film even better. He used the first 30 or so minutes of the film to depict the backstory of Oscar grant, some of which may not be entirely true but adds significantly in making the film that much more relatable to some viewers, and creating sympathy in others. Another aspect of the film I enjoyed was it's visual accuracy. I don't want to read into this too much, but I enjoyed how the clothing, lingo, and technology of the film was consistent with what Grant's world would've been like in 2009. Lastly, the most important part of this film is the emotion it extracts from the viewer. As a relatively calm person, watching this film actually extracted a certain anger from me that many "controversial" films don't cause me to manifest. Again, I won't give Coogler or screenwriters too much credit for this seeing that the events that made me react this way weren't a product of their own creativity, but nonetheless, I think it is all delivered in a way that serves justice to the tragedy that is the story of  Oscar Grant.

The backstory of Grant includes being a drug dealer, getting incarcerated, having a daughter and not being able to keep a legitimate job. In a way all this reminds me of the story told by J.Cole on his song "4 your eyes only" because it depicts the same type of struggle that comes with living in poverty and having a child to take care of. This struggle although sad isn't very unique, and because of this it makes the film relatable. In a nation that incarcerates more people than anywhere else in the world, there is no shortage of people that can relate to this part of the film. For those who can't relate, seeing how much Grant struggles to be a "good guy" for the sake of his daughter can still draw emotion from those who haven't had the same experiences as grant.

The film also does its best to be void of any anachronisms, as every historical film should, but beynd this I just find pleasure in how good of a job is actually done. For a film that is made in 2013 I would actually be convinced if you told me it was a film made in 2009 or earlier. The beat up cars from early 2000's, the talk of a Saints/Colts superbowl, the motorolla flip phones, and the baggy dull clothes gives this film just the perfect touch to seem more like a documentary than a docu-film. When compared to the actual footage of grants murder in 2009, the films re-creation is flawless. As far as the actual footage of the situation the film is based on, it is masterfully placed in the beginning and end of the film making everything come together like a good essay.

This is truly an outstanding film, but I try to be cautious as to whether or not the film is outstanding because of the how well it is put together or simply because it covers such an interesting situation. I would be lying if I said the film didn't have any dull moments, as a matter of fact there is an abundance of dull scenes in the film, not just in terms of images, but actual conversations and individual moments like Oscar waiting on his girlfriend to use the bathroom where quite boring. This isn't a film with any music or real soundtrack, not that it's necessarily a bad thing, but it might not have hurt to have more scene-fitting tunes in the film. Also, the film ends pretty abruptly. Again, this could be seen as both a good thing and a bad thing because you are left on the edge with a lot of emotion by the final scene, but at the same time you feel unsatisfied with emotions such as rage. A lot of the film focuses on Oscars relationship with his daughter, and if the film took the time to build background on that relationship, it certainly could've devoted another twenty minutes that could've still left viewers full of emotion, but feeling more satisfied knowing the fate of Oscars daughter and family immediately after his death. This might be just "a me thing", so speaking more generally of the film I would give it a solid 6.8/10. The sentiment is very powerful, and in terms of directing, there is a lot of things done right, but I know subconsciously this film isn't anything special. Given that the film practically created itself, I would say the final product is something almost anyone could've come up with.