Back in the fall when I was binging on horror movies, and again a little later on movies about unions, I kinda wanted to blog reviews/comments about them. I didn't do it then because I wasn't sure anyone would care and also I generate more than enough work for myself already, but now I'm watching masses of films about social justice and civil rights and labour conflicts and political activism again* and I'm just going to go ahead and do it.

If anybody does want to read these and wants me to be more pro-active warning for certain things or greying out spoilers (probably less relevant for these than for horror movies given how many of these are based on true stories) or triggers (probably very relevant for both), please let me know and I'll be happy to accommodate.

IMDB entry: Selma
As in Alabama, 1965, the major civil rights battle over black Americans actually exercising the right to vote. Sort of a Martin Luther King bio-pic but largely as an anchor/entry point into the event and its wider context.

Really good, I think. Deftly filmed and edited and some very compelling performances, especially from David Oyelowo as Dr. King and Stephan James as John Lewis. I watched before investigating cast and didn't recognize Oyelowo at all, which I think had less to do with the mustache and the pudge and more with the voice because he sounds completely different here than in anything else I've seen him do. Even going back and looking at it again I can see "oh yes that is David Oyelowo's face" but can't hear (what I expect) his voice (to sound like) at all. More remarkable than that, though, is how from the very first frame it's clear: this man knows he's going to be murdered, sooner or later, and doesn't accept that so much as agree that there's just no other way things can go. Even if retreating from the spotlight could protect him, which it couldn't, he can't do it. It's not because he's aiming to be a martyr, either, exactly, although he very obviously appreciates the utility of martyrs. This fight needs to happen and he won't live to see the other side but fighting it isn't a choice, at this point, it just is.

Lots of physical violence, primarily savage beating of unarmed and seriously outmatched people and one sudden awful thing about five minutes in that jolted me right out of my seat, and an equally disturbing level of verbal and ideological violence. Seriously, some of the things white people say and believe here fucking scare me, because I can't wrap my head around how anybody could ever think that, while at the same time I know that people did and still do think that way. Like, I'm not pretending I'm above racism or anything like that, of course I have biases I'm aware of and biases I'm not, but for this kind of extreme categorical hate to be viewed as rational and correct instead of pathological just . . . boggles.

IMDB entry: Freedom Road
I think what I watched must be the truncated European theatrical release version, or something, because the plot summary on IMDB is completely inaccurate and Wikipedia's isn't much better. This might also account for what seemed to me some odd jumps in plot and clumsily marked jumps in time?

Muhammad Ali = not a great actor, though fortunately more wooden than hammy, and he's not far below the rest of the cast--acting is not the film's strong suit (neither is its score). The script seems pretty solid, though, some good dialogue, and apart from the aforementioned odd jumps the story is well-structured and compelling.

Film jumps from Gideon Jackson (Ali) in the Union army receiving news of the Emancipation Proclamation to thirteen years later, at home in South Carolina, being told that his and all the other families sharing the land (mostly black, some white) are being evicted for spurious reasons by the Klan-affiliated sheriff. Jackson persuades the others to take up a defensible position in the former land- and slave-owners' vacant mansion for when, not if, the slimeballs come back. Film then jumps back to explain how they got there, to wit: immediately post-war Jackson, despite being at that time illiterate, was elected to represent his peers at the state's constitutional convention. He comes back committed to getting legal ownership of their farms before anybody tries to take them, and to do this he needs money and the support of their initially hostile white neighbours (chiefly represented by Kris Kristofferson). Eventually they get the land and aside from harassment by the Klan everything looks rosy. I assume the Senate stuff mentioned in the other blurbs happened during this apparently relatively peaceful time gap? In the version I saw we jump right back to "present day" siege prep. The last half hour can basically be summed up "racists fall, everyone dies"--and I do mean "everyone". All the black people die. All the sympathetic white people die. Children die. Even the dog dies (killed in the act of mauling a Klansman, though, so that dog is definitely going to heaven). The mansion burns down. The end. It's all very cheerful.

IMDB entry: Bloody Sunday
Does what it says on the tin: observational cinema-style recreation of January 30, 1972, when British soldiers opened fire on a civil rights protest in Derry, killed thirteen people, wounded fourteen more, and made the political situation in Northern Ireland even more violently antagonistic. Hand-held, grainy, composed like a documentary without narration or anything flashy to disrupt immersion in a day going horribly wrong (until the text cards in the last few minutes reminding us that the soldiers involved were not only cleared but decorated for shooting civilians, anyway). I recognized very few people apart from James Nesbitt (whom I have long adored) and Nicholas Farrell, both of whom do excellent expressive face stuff. I really don't know what else to say, except that I would not recommend Steve Rogers watch this movie (or observational/cinema verite films in general); the U2 song can give him the gist just fine if listened to in a context other than over the end credits.

*Largely for myself, out of interest and a desire to educate myself on histories political and pop-cultural, and also for Socialist Steve Rogers because I am determined to actually write that story, damnit.
graydon: (Default)

From: [personal profile] graydon

re keeping up -- Giving yourself more than enough to do is one thing; deciding that not being able to do too much is evidence of failure isn't playing fair.

And hey, you did some of it. You did some of it well and deftly. These are all the sort of thing I generally can't watch because I wind up multi-axis enraged, and the reviews convey that stuff but in a deft wry way that keeps the review from being enraging. That's doing a good job.


theleaveswant: text "make something beautiful" on battered cardboard sign in red, black, and white (Default)
roses, bruises, 'bout your shoulders

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