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When Harry Met Sally, starring Drake

One a car ride from Toronto to New York, Drake and Sally get into a discussion about whether or not men and women can be friends. Sally insists that they can, while Drake maintains that they can’t, stating “all my let’s just be friends are friends I don’t have anymore”. Years later, while still maintaining these attitudes, they inadvertently end up sleeping together, which causes a rift in their friendship. Afterwards, Sally moves on with another guy and Drake passive aggressively writes about her and uses her voicemail messages in songs.

You’ve Got Mail, starring Drake

Drake has a contentious relationship with a young woman who spends all her time going to LIV after church on Sundays even though she’s a good girl and he knows it. Unbeknownst to him, they begin an intense internet romance. When he finds out that this new beau is his rival he realizes that it is his mission to save her from herself by calling her out in his music.

Pretty Woman, starring Drake

Drake falls in love with a stripper he met at Magic City. This one pretty much writes itself.

Notting Hill, starring Drake

Drake plays a humble bookstore owner who falls in love with a Barbados pop star and finds it difficult to stay in her life because he keeps cramping her style.

Garden State, starring Drake

Drake is very sad, so Natalie Portman introduces him to Skepta music and dancehall in order to change his life. It doesn’t really make him feel better but at least he got some ideas for how his next album should sound.

Knocked Up, starring Drake

After a raucous night at 1 Oak ending in sexual relations, Drake finds out that his one night stand is pregnant and tries to prove his worth as father material despite his erratic schedule and  the fact that he lives in a home with an unnecessary amount of hangers on, R&B singers and random niggas he doesn’t even know. Despite her wanting to feel comfortable raising a baby with him and walking around naked in his kitchen without running into some stranger, Drake insists that that’s not the life he’s living. Will these crazy kids figure it out? who knows.

Jerry Maguire, starring Drake

Actually this one is exactly the same.

 

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The pope is in Washington, D.C. at the time of writing this. The streets of DC are chaotic, packed and noisy. The metro is a warzone where nobody can reasonably hope to make it to the other side unscathed. There’s also a baseball game later today and just the general aggravation of working in the city and dealing with people. Washington, D.C. is hell (sorry pope!) and I am here for it.

The idea of a city destroying itself because of too many events planned all on one day is so tantalizing and, if you’ve watched summer movies and television shows long enough, you probably feel the same. This is the stuff destruction porn is made out of: an intense, unruly event that destroys the fabric of a major American city. What if people protest the pope? What if the Nationals lose tonight? What if these two groups find each other and take out their frustrations on each other causing a new civil war on the streets of D.C.. I mean, might as well right, the red line isn’t gonna show up for 30 minutes anyways.

And you just know all those people stuck in that train station forever will eventually go crazy. Just like Animal Farm, they will create a new civilization that is built on fairness for every man until somebody decides that someone needs to be in charge, which eventually devolves into everyone thinking they deserve to be in charge. This then leads to nobody trusting anybody and everybody plotting to murder everyone else in order to accept their place in the top of the food chain. Of course, there’s enough time for all of this to escalate quickly, because there still won’t be a fucking train anywhere in sight while this takes place.

The pope of course would try to end the violence, but he is partly responsible for the state of affairs happening. He must reconcile his responsibility while proving he can still make it right in the end. Along with Barack Obama and his arsenal of quippy, inappropriate one-liners, the pope will fight through the rubble and malevolence to save the city.

Also The Rock will be there in a rescue chopper saving his family and throwing up the deuces and a middle finger to everyone else because the fuck you thought this was? Rated R. Let chaos reign.

George Miller made a movie that looks like a bump of the finest cocaine. It’s visually aggressive, it’s incredibly fast and extremely chaotic despite being a laser-focused story and production. Mad Max: Fury Road is extremely unique in the current Summer blockbuster climate: it’s fast, the story is thin yet fully formed, it allows women to be the focus and heroes in a way that feels genuine and not purely as bait to appeal to PC culture and most importantly, it’s just a fun ride. There’s nothing quite like it right now and it doesn’t seem to want to do any of the things that other summer movies/sequels/reboots want to do which is, namely, to sell toys and set up for the next 7 movies in line.

Mad Max: Fury Road brings back the titular Road Warrior, now played by Tom Hardy, into a depleted yet still technically thriving desert landscape known as the Citadel, where a ghastly beast-man kept alive by a makeshift breathing apparatus by the name of Immortan Joe, rules over the entire fortress: from the scarce supplies of water released from a sewage system at the top of his fortress based on his whims to the manufacturing of women’s breastmilk to the use of women’s bodies for the purposes of making more children to fight in his wars in the name of their God.

The movie starts with Max’s kidnapping at the hands of Immortan Joe’s soldiers where he is turned into a blood bank for the weakest yet most energetic of the soldiers, Nux (Nicholas Hoult). When a one-armed tank driver named Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) leads a band of rebels tired of being used by Immortan Joe for reproduction on an escape through the Wasteland in search of a new home, she’s hunted down by every soldier and bloodthirsty, war-mongering lunatic in the Citadel. 

In the midst of their escape, Furiosa and the women are joined by Max and forced into working together in order for the both of them to escape their dire straits. I worry about whether this description functions properly to state what this movie is about since so much of the movie simply moves without feeling the need to explain itself. Truthfully, it doesn’t need to: There’s a group of dictators, warlords and sheep and there’s a group of underdogs trying to escape them is enough to sustain a movie whose primary goal is action, excitement and visual spectacle.

The dialogue isn’t scant necessarily but it is small, you learn just enough to know that Furiosa is seeking to make something right from her past and that she cares about protecting the women. You learn enough about the Citadel and Immortan Joe to know that this a man who wants an endless supply of soldiers to work under his hand, that the Citadel is full of people who know to worship him as a God and that children, and as a result women, are tools in keeping this order. You also learn what drives a character like Nux and that Max is ultimately still trying to atone for the family he lost in the original Mad Max.

Much has been by critics and cultural writers about the feminist agenda of the film–a thought that hadn’t crossed my mind until I heard a lot of commotion about complaints from meninist groups and internet trolls. I suppose the film is feminist in a broad sense. Despite the title, the real star of this film is Charlize Theron and her band of women who are running away from patriarchy essentially. The phrase “who destroyed the world” comes up a few times and it’s pretty safe to assume that the answer is men (that’s certainly the answer in real life). There’s a lot of very clear ideas about toxic masculinity: Immortan Joe’s soldier’s are deviants obsessed with sacrificing themselves in the name of their Lord, they are brutish in the way they speak  and both the violence and the vehicles are cartoonishly excessive. I mean there’s a guy whose job it is to play a garish axe guitar over a giant bass system on the top of a monster truck like vehicle while flamethrowers go off behind him; it is a winking parody of everything about masculinity.

At its core though, it is a movie about underdogs and people who just want peace and hope. You could equally use the film as a referendum on religion or with capitalism. Immortan Joe has an army of sacrificial lambs excited to die for a cause they assume is meaningful in the name of their God so that they can be welcomed into heaven. The Citadel is a society with a clear upper class and lower class that are treated terribly and children are bred to bulk up the armies that make sure the Citadel continues to have gas and water from other enemy territories. These are the foundations of most apocalyptic action films. The Have-Nots vs The Haves and the influence of religion in our wars.

That’s not to say the feminist coding of Mad Max: Fury Road is unfounded. This is still a movie with a female heroine and a band of women at the forefront of the action who either fight side-by-side with Max or utilize Max as a partner to fight for them. Max is never the leader; he’s the muscle at times and he even comes up with a plan in the movie but nobody thinks to look to him for what they should do. There’s no superhero movie trope of the woman who has to prove that she’s just as tough as a man and there’s no backstory or desire to sort of showcase the femininity of the women even though they’re extremely tough as some sort of misguided attempt at nuance. It’s feminist in the way it lets the women be human beings stuck in the same grim world as Max and surviving in the exact same way.

Speaking of superhero movie, in a Marvel run world, this movie really does feel like a bottle of cold water after days spent walking in the desert.  Watching the latest Avengers’ film is a lot to take in: it’s noisy, cluttered, all over the place, full of CGI, full of story, full of backstory and full of pounds and pounds of exposition. Everything happens and yet at the end it all feels disposable; I can’t imagine that’s completely accidental. The thing about these movies is that they’re one long commercial for the next seven movies. Nothing feels essential or valuable because nothing in these movies is essential or valuable. They’re all based on comics that have existed for years and hell, characters have died and come back so, does any of this really matter.

Mad Max, despite being the fourth movie in a series, is fresh in the sense that it has a straightforward story and it’s not particularly concerned with the how of all of this. There’s no backstory explanation and there’s no side story or extra baggage tacked on. This is a movie celebrating spectacle and insanity. There’s nothing like it right now and that’s both a positive and a sad reality.

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I wrote a smaller thing about this movie earlier this week, you can read it here.

The following is a more in depth journey into the majesty and the frustrations with interstellar– a very gorgeous and immersive action film that does not realize that it is also a silly space opera about the power of love. I wouldn’t read it until after you’ve seen the film.

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Christopher Nolan has perfected a specific time of movie viewing experience that is simultaneously exhilarating and frustrating. His movies are expert nonsense with awe-inspiring images and—much to the chagrin of everyone watching—the self-indulgence on display makes it hard for you to ignore the flaws.

Interstellar is Nolan’s latest grand statement. A space opera tailored for the 21st century that is, at one moment, breathtaking, mesmerizing and exciting and then at the next moment is overwrought and bloated. It’s an erratic and glorious slog of a movie that feels even longer than it’s 168 minutes.

Interstellar follows the story of Cooper (Matthew McConaughey): a former pilot and engineer who is now a farmer due to widespread hunger caused by a future blight. He lives with his father-in-law (John Lithgow), teenage son Tom, and 10-year-old daughter Murphy (named after Murphy’s Law because of course). Cooper is a fine farmer but he really wants to get back to being the explorer he once was. While his son is more enamored with the farmer aspect of his life, it’s the daughter who carries the adventurous spirit of her father. She believes a ghost hiding in a bookcase is communicating with her but when Cooper discovers it, he interprets this instead as gravity. The gravity is sending the two a set of coordinates in binary, which takes them to a hidden NASA base.

There, the two meet with Cooper’s old mentor, Dr. Brand (Michael Caine) and his daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway), also a scientist at the facility. They explain that gravitational anomalies (i.e. ghosts) have occurred in recent years, the largest manifesting as a wormhole near Saturn. Based on a previous mission through the wormhole that narrows down three possible new home planets, Brand has come up with two plans: one where the NASA facility itself lifts off and travels to the new planet with many people in tow, or the other where frozen fertilized eggs are used by a second mission to start a new colony.

Cooper, despite the wishes of her daughter, reluctantly joins the second mission after being recruited. There’s no doubt that he feels tremendous guilt going on this trip but as his father says to him, “this world never was good enough for you.” Thus, Cooper takes the mission to attempt to save humanity. He bids his son farewell leaving him his farming truck and gives his daughter one of a matched set of watches, keeping the other for himself and, unwisely, promising that he will come back.

Cooper, along with Amelia, and two other scientists: Romilly (David Gyasi) and Doyle (Wes Bentley), and a sophisticated robot assistant TARS (Bill Irwin). Journey into space to successfully to dock with an orbiting space station and begin the two-year trip to Jupiter and the wormhole.

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The story is as seemingly straightforward as possible. A dad, who is also a space cowboy, tries to save the planet; this is a Chris Nolan film however, and plot is nothing more than a catalyst to get to what really matters: the awesomeness of space. Nolan seems as fascinated with space as any dough-eyed child who spent their days watching Cosmos. The movie’s approximation of space (on an IMAX screen) is spectacular. Just as Gravity and 2001: A Space Odyssey before it, Interstellar captures the wonder, beauty, seemingly endless vastness and pure fucking terror of space. There are times when the actors seem like distractions to what is really a love letter to space and the infinite possibilities inherent.

That’s ultimately the frustration with the movie. It wants to tell this big melodrama about love’s ability to transcend all things through the love of a father and his daughter (way to give the son the shaft guys), but too often it feels like the actors are chess pieces in a game where the player is more interested in how amazing the board is. They move because they have to and too often—when the action does get into full gear—everything happening on screen turns into a frenetic jumbled mess where 1,000 things are happening at once.

Despite this, this movie would still be a lot more fun if it didn’t get trapped under the weight of Nolan’s self-serious and self-important need to make this some sort of definite statement on mankind’s instinctual sense of survival and the can-do American spirit of exploration. McConaughey is the proto-typical masculine American cowboy now asked to be Astronaut. He’s great in this because he does what’s asked of him: he’s pure charisma, he’s built as the kind of handsome hero that a space folklore would need and he’s serviceable as a dad who just wants his kids back. Yet, there’s no room for him to be anything more than a driver for this vehicle and there’s even less asked of from the other great actors in this movie. Nolan packs this film with an 80’s Lakers roster of top-notch talent and then asks them all to be role players to service his grand doctrine on love and humanity (Jessica Chastain might be strongest after McConaughey). For someone who’s on his 5th major studio film (and is more or less guaranteed to inexplicably fill a movie theater), you’d think he’d learn the number one secret of these kinds of movies: they’re supposed to be fun.

Nolan takes a lot out of Kubrick’s own vision of space and the infinite, except Kubrick is cold, calculating and distant whereas Nolan is the same way but wants to seem like he’s warm and sentimental. There are many cues that are aimed to tug at the heartstrings and move you close to tears, but it always seems beside the point—as though it’s there because it needs to be. That’s not to say it doesn’t work at all. This movie was an amazing experience. Nolan has a clear vision and fascination with science and astronomy. Each planet that the explorers visit in the film is mesmerizing: one that’s one big tidal wave, another that is covered in ice. The film’s vision of a blackhole and infinity is original and sublime, even if the science behind it may not be completely sound. You end up leaving this movie wondering what it would be like if Nolan went full Kubrick and didn’t even bother tacking on an action movie to what is essentially a love letter to astronomy, science and discovery.

For all the flack Nolan gets for the self-indulgence in display in his movies, he is good at what he does. He thinks huge and goes for more; his movies are beautiful, lush and every detail is thought over. He’s in love with loud—so much so that in the brief moment in the film where everything goes quiet it’s a jolt to your system—but he has Hans Zimmer there to soundtrack an epic feat of moviemaking like only he can. While the lesson of “love conquers and transcends all” doesn’t completely land, what does is the idea of dreaming big and reaching for the stars.

BOYHOOD

I wrote a review of Boyhood for Obsessed Magazine. Here’s an extended version of it:

“What do you remember most about childhood” was what was written on a notecard handed to the people attending the screening for Richard Linklater’s opus Boyhood. Thinking about the question caused some conflict within me for the inherent challenging nature of such a vague question. There is a lot of difficulty in zeroing in on the one thing out of your childhood that resonates the most. Reflecting on this question I could only revisit my past in spurts and interludes of brief standout moments.

Linklater’s Boyhood does the same. It’s sweeping and sporadic, jumping from year to year sometimes in a blur. Boyhood tells the story of the evolution of Mason, Jr (Ellar Coltrane) over a 12 year period, starting from age 6 and going on until he hits 18. The film was shot over a 12 year period starting in 2002 for a few weeks out of every year.

Mason’s parents are divorced. His mom Olivia (Patricia Arquette), is his and his sister Samantha’s (Lorelei Linklater) primary caretaker. His dad Mason Sr (Ethan Hawke), visits inconsistently whilst trying to hold on to dreams of being a musician and the cool dad.

We watch Mason move from house to house for reasons ranging from money, to opportunities for his mom to advanced to second marriages to abusive drunks. over the course of a little under 3 hours you’re watching people, children especially, grow older before your eyes and you start to care about them as your own. You bring your own childhood experiences to the film and, despite personal differences or experiences, this is a universal story.

The film moves like childhood moves: quickly and sometimes hastily. If it wasn’t for the fact that kids change so dramatically in those developmental years, you’d never notice that time had gone by. Linklater knew this and made a film that tailored to how these people age, what life does to you in this time period and how you change. As a technical showcase of filmmaking, Boyhood is outstanding. Every shot feels purposeful and focused. The film glides from point A to point Z without tripping or getting too caught in its own importance. Unlike say Before Sunrise or Slacker, this is not a movie meant to display its own intelligence and outlook on life in a direct manner. It’s a movie in which life speaks for itself.

As a story, Boyhood is heartbreaking and charming. Patricia Arquette is given so much to deal with and it’s hard to watch what she goes through and not feel for her. She is given the role most mothers are given: the most thankless one. Watching her go through school and ultimately become a professor should be a triumph but it never feels that way, instead it always feels like there’s more she has to do. Ethan Hawke nails a character that Ethan Hawke knows how to nail; the guy trying to hold on to being cool. Throughout the film, he disappoints his children and comes up short all in the name of chasing a dream. It’s almost like he uses being hip as an excuse for being lackluster, like if he can convince these two kids that he’s awesome they might forget that he’s not very existent in their lives. And yet, when he does finally get a thankless job selling insurance, remarries and trades in his old school Mustang for a minivan, you feel bad for him. You know that he gave up even though it’s never said or discussed. That’s part of his finally joining adulthood: giving up.

The real gut punch lies with the kids though. Watching both Mason and his sister Samantha get older before our eyes and battle the trials of adolescence is endearing. They’re angst ridden and obtuse but you get it and you want the world to give them a moment to breathe. With Mason specifically, you want him to be allowed to fly free like the bird he wants to be, but that’s not the world. You think back to your own adolescence and how oppressive in nature the adults are in your lives. Preordaining a path for you, taking out frustrations on you and telling you who to be as a person. This is Linklater’s deal. From the many pseudo-intellectuals of Slacker to Jason “Pink” Floyd in Dazed And Confused, He’s always told the story of kids who don’t get the world, who don’t fit in and who just want to find some kind of real answer.

Near the end, Mason’s mother breaks down as he prepares to leave for college, and in her fit of tears she says, “I just thought there’d be more”. It’s the most heartbreaking and weighty line in the film and it’s never answered. There’s no moment of consoling or reassurance, it’s just there for you to take in. That’s the bittersweetness of this film. There are no answers to your questions. You feel pain, you feel pleasure and you wonder whether any of it meant anything at all. You’re always chasing a fulfillment that never comes.

Things just happen to these characters and there is no time for pause or reflection, life always goes on. To paraphrase one character near the end, “you don’t really seize the moment, the moment seizes you”. Boyhood is about the moments the seize you and mold you into who you become. It’s messy, beautiful and chaotic and in the end I just wanted to relive it one more time, just like childhood.

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At some point, the summer movie season became exhausting. Everything about it feels relentless, repetitive and terribly loud. These days the summer movie season no longer exists in what we call summer; it’s seeped its way into all the other seasons with its sequels, prequels, origin stories, remakes, reboots, reboots of sequels and so on. Sometime around the mid-2000s, nerd culture became mainstream and anything related to a comic book, action figure, video game or board game started getting made. Now this is always happening, but what’s different now is that film studios seem to be exclusively in the business of pumping out quantity in order to keep up with a changing media landscape, and the easiest way to produce quantity is to make property that’s already available. Remember that stretch armstrong you love so much? It’s gonna be a movie starring Jon Hamm. That game Jenga? That’ll be out in theaters in 2019, and I know you love Cats! The Musical, well get ready to love it with Anne Hatheway in 2018.

I write this after just getting home from Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, the sequel to the prequel Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes released in 2011. It was fine, I guess (be on the lookout for a review on Friday), but like all the other movies like this, it was just draining. The plots don’t change very much between these movies: there’s a hero who’s battling an inner turmoil, there’s always an origin tale, there’s always long-winded speechifying, there’s always a bad guy who planned to get caught and there’s always a city being completely destroyed.

The worst offense though is that none of these movies ever really end: they’re placeholders for other movies coming soon. These movies are rarely standalone, they end with some sort of tease for the next one and they probably have something at the end of the credits just for the fanboy enthusiasts who will these projects to life. Hollywood doesn’t seem particularly interested in telling stories anymore, they just want to make a product. An easily manufactured product with commercial viability. More and more, as time passes, movies that told new stories were given a chance. Studios would finance smaller fare tailored for a specific crowd. Now those smaller movies are most likely being played on VOD and the majority of romantic or slapstick comedies and dramas are being pushed to the fringes because America needs their movies to play well in China.

Smaller studios like A24 are doing their best by throwing money at more experimental filmmakers and filmmakers with a distinct voice to make their film and release it to theaters. Most recently, they distributed films like Obvious Child, The Rover and my favorite film of the year so far Under The Skin. But a few studios can only do so much. Marvel studios alone has shown no interest in slowing down or even making interesting movies. They’re making product at a high frequency for both movies and television. Michael Bay is having bags of money thrown at him to remake all your favorite 80s products louder and bigger. Go on any film geek site and you’ll see lists upon lists of soon to come films; sometimes just the listing of a movie set to come out in 2017 is more exciting than the actual movie. Everything now is about what’s next, who’ll make it and who’ll be in it. It’s pure fan wish fulfillment, the movie is almost beside the point.

It’s an exhausting task to keep up with all of these movies and an even more frustrating one to sit through them. For every one that tries to have a voice and a real style, there are a million that use the Chris Nolan darkness filter. Speaking of which, at some point around Batman Begins, it was decided that all of these movies have to be so serious and so gritty and drab and full of so much faux-intellectualism. Every movie is a statement on something political or a catastrophic event; none of these movies want to be fun. This is silly. We already have to sit through a movie based on a rare 1980s anime that 5 people were into when it came out, at the very least make a fun movie. And if you’re going to go the serious route, get a real filmmaker and not a gun for hire. There are nights when I wish that Ang Lee’s Hulk had worked, because then maybe you’d have artsier directors using these properties to make something a little more fascinating. Currently, these movies just feel tailored for a short attention span; meant for nothing more than a reaction of “that’s neat. Can’t wait for the next one.”

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When I was a Freshman in college, my professor played scenes from Do The Right Thing in order to have a conversation about how we discuss and portray race in entertainment. When we got to the riot at the end of the film, a young black woman in the class began to laugh. My white professor asked her what was so funny about it–he seemed almost offended that she would laugh at such a pivotal, serious moment in the film. She tried her best to explain what was amusing about it but it was difficult for her to get it across. I understood why she laughed though and I’m guessing the rest of the black students in that class got it too.

Do The Right Thing is Spike Lee’s third film, and it feels like the film Spike Lee has been building to for his entire film career up until that point. 25 years later, it would be nice to look back on it as dated but instead it’s just as relevant today (even the style of it is relevant today). The only thing that’s really changed is its reverence. Today we can watch Do The Right Thing and see it as a landmark film that was deserving of its accolades and maybe even deserving of more; we can appreciate the murkiness of the story and its ability to never judge its characters. However, when it came out in 1989, it wrecked the nerves of critics who thought so lowly of black people that they assumed the film would make them riot. It aggravated people because of its lack of definite answers or opinions. As far as people were concerned, what good is a conversation on race if no answers are given, and judging by the Hollywood reception of a film like Crash, this attitude hasn’t gone away.

Do The Right Thing follows Mookie, a young black man living in an African-American neighborhood in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn with his sister and delivering pizzas for Sal’s pizzeria working to support his girlfriend Tina and their son Hector. The film takes place over the course of the hottest day in years and finds itself capturing the regular activities of a distinct group of characters around the neighborhood. There’s an old drunk called Da Mayor who’s constantly trying to win the approval and affection of the neighborhood matron, Mother Sister; there’s Radio Raheem who walks around the block blasting Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” on his boombox. There’s the local radio disc jockey, “Mister Señor Love Daddy”; Three men, known as “the Corner Men,” who comment on the neighborhood and the day’s events, Four teenagers – Cee, Punchy, Ahmad and Ella – dealing with the heat outside and Buggin’ Out, an Afrocentric activist who takes on the cause of demanding Sal recognizes black heroes on his wall of fame.

As the heat builds up throughout the entire film so does patience and comfort. One of the more fascinating aspects about Do The Right Thing is what it implies about how we deal with each other. A good majority of the movie involves people holding their tongue and keeping disapproval to themselves. The best example of this is when Mookie’s sister, Jade, comes to the pizzeria. Sal is obviously taken by Jade, and they have a flirtatious relationship with each other  that rubs both Mookie and Sal’s oldest son,  Pino, the wrong way. But nothing is ever said, it’s simply felt and implied. People are uncomfortable with each other for various reasons but nothing is typically said because it goes against etiquette. The heat acts as the universe pushing people into ultimate confrontation; without it, silence keeps the peace.

What tends to frustrate people about the film is that it’s not terribly concerned with racism in the way the media tends to be. It’s not framed in a white perspective nor does it aim to make white people feel better. Not only that, it’s not really interested in racism as a “thing” that you are. Despite what happens at the end, you’d never think of Sal as a “typical racist”. Pino is upfront about his perceptions of black people yet his favorite entertainers are black.  Buggin Out is very obviously indignant and self-righteous but is more or less following along what he thinks a black activist should be and Radio Raheem, while volatile, is gentle at his core and on his own struggle between “Love and Hate.”

Speaking of Radio Raheem, his blasting of “Fight The Power” is thread that carries the film. Public Enemy’s song about revolution is angry, confrontational and unapologetic. It’s a song about the buildup to a point where you can’t take it anymore and you have to react. Much of Do The Right Thing travels the line between angry and indifferent. There’s a lot of anger stored inside these people; a lot of feelings about poverty, gentrification, culture, ownership and relationships. When Radio Raheem talks about Love vs Hate or “the left hand and the right hand”, you know it’s a metaphor for race relations, but the thing about it is: how do you choose love when there is none. To say that these people all hate each other would be inaccurate, but it would be fair to say they don’t particularly love each other and they do hate their circumstances. So when all was said and done, what choice was left in the end but hate.

In the climactic moment, Buggin Out and Radio Raheem and their cohorts burst into Sal’s around closing time, blasting Public Enemy and screaming at the top of their lungs to “put some brothers on the wall”. This leads to Sal in the heat of the moment, getting angry and unleashing every thought he’d probably kept to himself many times before and destroying Raheem’s boombox. They get into a scuffle afterwards which leads to the police showing up to arrest and beat Buggin Out and inadvertantly beating Radio Raheem to death in front of a mostly black crowd. The anger with which this event instills in people causes Mookie to grab a trash can and throw it into the window of Sal’s while proclaiming “hate”.

Typically, in entertainment and media in general, black people are encouraged to take the high road. We’re always supposed to be the bigger people. We’re always supposed to choose love. So to have the film climax with such an ugly and aggressive moment as this was always going to upset a certain type of audience who’d rather not think too deeply. People tend to obsess over whether or not Mookie or Buggin Out or Raheem were heroes of this story; hey want to know whether these were the guys who “did the right thing”. I am sometimes curious as to whether or not the point would’ve been more clear if Spike Lee were white or, at the very least, if he weren’t Spike Lee. The idea that Lee could be objective was never a consideration, there had to be a clear sign. Despite these criticisms, it’s hard for even the most minimal thinking person to say that one group was right and the other was wrong. It’s too neat and tidy and undermines the power of the scene. So much emotion and ferocity is poured out on that screen and all of it is gripping and fascinating to watch. By the time the cops show up you knew where it was going because this is where it always “happens” to go. You knew something bad was going to happen and for them to watch a young man die from police abuse due to this was heartbreaking and frustrating. In the end, the crowd chooses hate because what else were they really going to do.

When I was a kid and I got angry at my parents, I would go into my room and destroy everything–because it was my room. I knew I could get away with it more than if I destroyed what belonged to them. This, in essence, is what the riot is. The reason Buggin Out wants pictures of black celebrities on the wall is because they have just as much right to be represented on the wall as the Italian celebrities. Sal may own that pizzeria but it’s in a black neighborhood and prospers from black dollars, in a sense they look at it as their’, so when they burn it down, they’re burning down a part of their neighborhood not just Sal’s Pizzeria. Reasonably speaking, they could get away with it. The day after, Mookie goes to visit a distraught Sal at his burned down restaurant to ask for his pay for the week. Sal is livid that  he could throw a garbage can into his shop and just act like it’s no big deal. They fuss and fuss until Sal angrily pays Mookie and the two briefly and, a little unclearly, seem to reconcile. It’s an odd moment because it lessens the riot from something seemingly revolutionary to something much more mundane. It’s reduced to something that just happens.

That girl in my class laughed because this is something that just happens. I got that and I’m sure others did. It’s not exactly true and it ignores a history of white supremacists rioting in black neighborhoods and homes, but it’s a stereotype among a list of many that have been burdened on us and at a certain point, laughter is how you deal. I didn’t find her reaction wrong anymore than I found any of the things that transpired wrong. It just happened. Lee felt that people wanted him to solve racism in his movie which was unfair. Racism is not a concrete idea; it’s deep, engrossing and informs everything. It deserved to be treated as complicated. A mentally disabled man named Smiley meanders around the neighborhood, holding up hand-colored pictures of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. and pointing out that they were friends. The film ends with quotes by both men about violence on two opposite spectrums. They didn’t agree with each other’s worldviews but they were friends; they chose love. If there’s a lesson in Do The Right Thing it revolves around that choice between love and hate, but it’s a decision that’s constantly being made not one that will ever be finalized.

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Rap music and I have a tenuous relationship. As time goes on, I’m increasingly puzzled as to whether rap wants me to love it. Maybe these are the symptoms of getting old and washed up; when I was young, rap is all I cared about. The music consumed me at my most pretentious years and I both cherished and defended it. Today, I find myself more interested in revisiting older music–from both my youth and before my time–due to a growing disinterest in what’s happening now. All of that being said, rap has always been ridiculous and fodder for comedy. The most self-serious rapper out is just as humorous as many gimmicky artists; it’s entertainment at the end of the day and the inherent humor in the outlandishness and boisterousness add to its charm.

CB4 is a silly little film that involves people who love rap making fun of it. Directed by Tamra Davis, a music video director for rap and alt darlings like NWA and Sonic Youth, CB4 is the story of Albert (Chris Rock), Euripides (Allen Payne) and Otis (Deezer D) and an obsession with rap their families just don’t understand. The three boys are desperately trying to find a gimmick that’ll give them the opportunity to get a slot at a famous nightclub run by a drug kingpin named Gusto (Charlie Murphy). One day, Albert heads to the nightclub in the early afternoon to beg for a timeslot for him and his friends to perform and ends up inadvertently helping the FBI bust in on Gusto and his crony, 40 dog (Ty Granderson Jones), in the midst of a drug deal. Naturally, Gusto thinks he snitched on him but it doesn’t matter; he’s going to jail and Albert realizes that the best move for his rap career is to embody the tough guy gangster as a character. He convinces Euripides and Otis to follow his lead and Cell Block 4 aka CB 4 (named after the jail cell Gusto was thrown in) is born, with Euripides as Dead Mike, Otis becoming Stab Master Arson and Albert becoming (what else) MC Gusto.

Calling CB4 a sharp critique of rap in 1993 is probably giving it too much credit, but it is very obviously made by people who enjoy rap music a great deal. It’s filled with plenty of gags and references to what was happening at the time: from gimmick rap and silly dance music to record industry execs trying to cash in to political candidates making anti-rap a platform. CB4 themselves are a parody of NWA and the impact gangsta rap had on rap at the time as well as the critiques about it. Within the group, Dead Mike played the role of the militant black Brand Nubian type while Stab Master Arson was the uncle Luke type woman-obsessed DJ (naturally he was the one with a hundred little sisters).

CB4 is pretty easily the highlight of Chris Rock’s career as a writer or filmmaker–he wrote it along with Nelson George and Robert LoCash–and that’s kind of a bummer. Of all the black comedians who should’ve made that Eddie Murphy/Richard Pryor transition to making great film work, Chris should’ve been the one to do it. The problem I’ve long suspected, is that Rock needs to be reigned in by other great writers. Left to his own devices, he tends to get trapped in this mode of taking movies he loves and turning them into one-liner heavy caricatures. With a Nelson George (or a Louis CK or Wanda Sykes), he can be utilized in a constructive way.

For as silly as CB4 can be, it’s a very controlled and focused film. The jokes may not always land, the story may have some cheesiness to it but all of it works. It’s a film that’s been vindicated over time but still doesn’t get the attention it deserves. I’ve often wondered how a film like CB4 would look today: is rap (music in general really) might be too niche-ified and vast for it but CB4 proves that a lot of the same things that are ridiculous now were ridiculous then, which puts a damper on all that nostalgic rose-tinted waxing about the good ole days. As I type this, a number of MC Gustos have popped up on Datpiff and that’s probably how it’ll always be. Rap music frustrates me deeply but I hope it never changes. Keep pumping out that music straight outta LoCash.

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Here me out.

The first season of True Detective was a interesting concept and technical feat surrounded by smothering pretentiousness and often silly dialogue. The show was a work in progress from beginning to end but it was always somewhat entertaining and interesting. The most intriguing part of the series is that it’s limited: every season will bring a new story and a new cast. This season brought us Woody Harrelson growling and clinging on to some dated sense of masculinity while also wishing he cold give it up; it also brought us Matthew McConaughey’s jaded, College-junior level ruminations on the meaning and inherent hopelessness of life. It was ridiculous but also kind of fun and I think True Detective should continue down this path.

This is what leads to my opinion that season 2 should be about Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey, otherwise known as Martin Lawrence and Will Smith from the 1995 film Bad Boys. For those of you who remember, Bad Boys was the directorial debut of a flashy commercial and music video director by the name of Michael Bay. It has the benefit of being early in Bay’s career, before he figured out how to shove in 4,382 explosions into a 2 and a half hour movie while still making time for racist stereotype humor and gratuitous shots of women’s asses. Bad Boys as it stands is just a cheesy action movie that looks like a sleek early 90s music video that is propelled by two great performances made by two Black actors about to completely blow up.

All this said, there’s no two people I would rather watch discover the evil hidden in all men while trying to infiltrate a secret cult of white supremacist Miami club owners who sacrifice 20-something bottle girls for their satanic rituals than these men. Just imagine it for a second: Marcus Burnett, family man, watching his 37 kids grow up and growing distant from his wife but refusing to admit that it’s happening. He just wants to do his job and go home to wife to spend some quality time. Instead he’s got to put him with this secret cult bullshit. He blames Mike for this because he blames Mike for everything. As far as he’s concerned Mike is a magnet for this type of shit. Everywhere ol’ Mikey Mike goes, there’s a secret cult sacrificing women in satanic rituals. The truth is, he blames Mike because he envies Mike. Who the fuck is this trust fund cop anyways? He rides around in the nicest cars, fucks supermodels and uses this job as an excuse to live out his Commando dreams. Marcus’ resentment is understandable: nobody envisions a life unfulfilled, a marriage with a spark that has faded and children who treat you like you don’t matter. This job is the only thing that makes Marcus feel like a man, even if only for a moment, but it isn’t enough. Marcus would never cheat on his wife though–he just can’t bring himself to–so instead he accepts this life; a life of emasculation in a world where male truthers are desperately clinging onto the most basest, aggressive senses of male ego. In this world Marcus continues to make sense of it all.

And what of Mike Lowrey: rich kid, action cop who crashes cars into giant explosion piles and buys another one afterwards. Who cares? None of it matters anyway. Another impossibly hot woman comes to his beautiful condo in order to be pleasured by him and then never heard from again. He’s happy to oblige because he’s always happy to oblige, doesn’t mean anything to him anyways, just the same thing every single day. Mike loved someone once but it didn’t work out, maybe it was the toll the job took on him, maybe he just didn’t know anything about love or maybe after years of causal meaningless sex the concept of love is too foreign to ever be taken seriously. Love is probably imaginary anyways, he figures, just something to distract us as we die alone. Something is happening to Mike the deeper he gets into the cult of Miami club owners. Clubs used to be nothing more to him then a place for overly priced Hennessy and scantily clad women paid to entertain your advances. It never occurred to him that this place could harbor the worst qualities in man but now it only makes all too much sense. The animalistic masculinity and aggression on display mixed with the countless cases of sexual assault? Of course nightclubs could be linked to satanic rituals, if only he’d seen it earlier. If only he’d seen a lot of things earlier. Mike’s been obsessing over this case in between periods of reading nihilist works from Jim Crawford and Eugene Thacker. He’s been trying to make Marcus understand his newfound viewpoint but Marcus isn’t having it. “Now’s not the time Mike” he says; he always says this, because time is a flat circle and we’re doomed to repeat the same things. Mike has found himself obsessed with the boogie monster that leads this cult. He wants to understand how he thinks. He’s stopped shaving and keeping up appearances, Marcus doesn’t get why. Marcus never gets why. At least not until the time is opportune for him to get why (probably episode 8), at that point Marcus will have some insightful commentary about the meaning of life and our place in it and Mike will look at him with bated breath and proclaim, “NOW THAT’S HOW YOU ‘SPOSED TO PROGNOSTICATE THE FATE OF HUMANITY! FROM NOW ON, THAT’S HOW YOU PROGNOSTICATE THE FATE OF HUMANITY!”

So yes, this absolutely needs to be True Detective season 2.

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A lot of time and energy is spent trying to divide life into this or that. Rather than accept that things are shaded in gray and deal with the murkiness that idea involves, people instead try to make things easy on themselves and group things into a series of good and bad or right and wrong. Truthfully, the two things aren’t exclusive from each other–that’s the messiness of living–people will make mistakes, try to fix them, make more mistakes and let the worst aspects of themselves get the best of them. It may be easier to ignore these aspects of life to make things neater, but it isn’t the right call. A lot of art concerns itself with wrestling with the dichotomy of right and wrong and dealing with inner demons. With Ukigasa, or Floating Weeds, Yasujirō Ozu paints the picture of a man whose life is filled with regret and a womanizing past and present is in conflict with an attempt to do right by a son who doesn’t even know him.

The film follows a traveling theater troupe lead by the lead act and owner, Kumajuro. The troupe makes a stop in a small town by the inland sea where the performers go about publicizing their kabuki performances, while Kumajuro pays a visit to his former mistress, Oyoshi. He reconnects with his son, Kiyoshi, who’s grown up and is saving up money in order to attend University. Kiyoshi doesn’t know anything about Kumajuro and believes he is his uncle. When Kumajuro’s current mistress, the lead actress of the troupe Sumiko, learns of this, she becomes jealous and tries to cause problems amongst him and Oyoshi. After Kumajuro ends their relationship, she pays one of the young actresses money to seduce his son Kiyoshi. Ultimately, the two young people genuinely fall for each other, despite Kumajuro’s distrust of her after learning of Sumiko’s plans and when it’s time for him to reveal that he is indeed Kiyoshi’s real father, he finds that it’s much too late for him to decide that now is when he wants to be a real father.

Familial issues are always a strong subject in film, television or music. It strikes a chord with a lot of people even if the story isn’t specifically theirs. Kumajuro wants to do what’s right in the situation he’s given but part of the problem is, he wants to do what’s right ONLY because of this situation is giving. He’s a rolling stone, touring with his acting troupe, he’s womanized and continued to womanized, he comes and the he’s gone in the same breath. His son has grown up and become an adult without his help. The idea that now is the time he wants to be a family would come off to anyone as inauthentic and ridiculous, let alone to his own son. It’s not that you don’t feel any real feelings of love from Kumajuro, it’s that that idea of love isn’t enough. when the two o them go fishing and Kiyoshi talks of going to University, you get the sense that he’s figured out a good portion of what he wants for his life. He’s done this without Kumajuro and that fact isn’t lost on him. There’s no instruction guide on what you’re supposed to do in life on any given situation, and the sense you get is that Kumajuro is a man who’s dropped the ball without even fully realizing it. Good intentions aren’t enough but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter.

It’s good intentions that eventually caused Kayo to do the right thing before it was too late. Kayo was the young actress paid to seduce Kiyoshi but instead found herself falling for him. She knew that she was wrong and didn’t want to hurt him so she confessed to it. Kiyoshi and Kayo’s fling was endearing and delicate; the spirit of young love and infatuation, the sense of adventure when you first meet someone and get to know them and the adrenaline rush of getting so caught in those feelings that you’d be willing to abandon your life and plans just to pursue them. Kayo warns Kiyoshi that she’s trouble and he has his whole life ahead of him but, as anyone who’s been 17 will tell you, those kinds of statements fall on death ears. What started as a mistake my by her becomes an opportunity for the both of them to find happiness and not just try and construct it like Kumojuro tries to.

Part of the beauty of this film is that it’s not here to judge or be cynical about its characters. It sits back and watches them wrestle with their insecurities, their problems, their choices and their beliefs. Kumajuro is a volatile, pathetic old man and yet by the end of the movie you feel for him. Sumiko lets her jealousy envelop her and make her foolish, but you can see that she cares for this old man dearly and has been there to pick him up when he needs it. You can even watch Kiyoshi let his youthfulness get the better of him at times, making him think with his heart instead of his head, but you know how that feels because you’ve been there too. The beauty of the film and the way it’s shot with care is similar to the characters’ portrayal. They’re beautiful and approached with care. There is sadness to the story with moments of sweetness strewn about. Weeds are still flowers and even in the ugliness there’s beauty to be found.

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