Archives for February 2017

My Take on “Get Out” (2017)

Where does one begin with Get Out? I feel as if I can’t even put much together in terms of a critical analysis since I am, hours later, still trying not to stumble over my thoughts as to what all of it means. This alone is one reason that makes this feature, written and directed by Jordan Peele, a must-see – even if you are not a fan of the horror genre.

As was brought up to me earlier today in a conversation with a friend, Get Out has carved out a space in the horror genre which has been the often abandoned or forgotten for the splashier (pun intended) torture porn of recent years. Get Out is a psychological trip that serves as an allegory; in other words, it is not horror for the sake of horror. And that – at the end of the day – is what makes it so terrifying. It is telling us a story that is a glimpse into our own realities, whether we fully realize it or not.

DANIEL KALUUYA as Chris Washington in Universal Pictures’ “Get Out,” a speculative thriller from Blumhouse (producers of “The Visit,” “Insidious” series and “The Gift”) and the mind of Jordan Peele. When a young African-American man visits his white girlfriend’s family estate, he becomes ensnared in a more sinister real reason for the invitation.

As a critique of race relations in America, this film is a clear rebuke of how we engage and interact with one another cross-culturally, particularly when African Americans enter predominantly white spaces. In that way, Peele gives equal presentation – from trading in racial stereotypes, to the supposed more enlightened or “liberal stance” some might take. This latter attitude is most pronounced in the presentation of the protagonist Chris’ (Daniel Kaluuya) girlfriend’s parents, played by Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener. They are so “down,” they would have voted for Obama a third time (insert chuckle here).

But let me pause – I am getting a little ahead of myself.

From the outset, Peele frames the story by starting with a (seemingly unconnected) breadcrumb that will have some payoff a little later in the story. After this cold open, we are introduced to Chris, a young, successful photographer who is about to embark on a weekend trip to meet the aforementioned parents of his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams). Chris and Rose’s interaction includes some cute and ultimately benign dialogue where they make light of the racial dynamics of their relationship.

As I write this out, that is actually kind of where I want to leave things, plot-wise, if I am honest. Establishing that Chris and Rose are headed from the city to her parents’ crib out in the ‘burbs is enough of a setup in my opinion. Mainly because you know that things are going to take a decidedly dark turn and likely spiral into a terrifying hellscape – with this being a horror film and all … That said, the journey to this destination is worth it because not only are you getting moments that will offer up a jump scare or two, but woven into the narrative fabric are some light moments, mainly in the form of Chris’ bestie Rod (LilRel Howery). This levity has added another layer to an already entertaining and enthralling piece of filmmaking.

Of course, the centerpiece of all of this is the cleverly constructed allegory which I have previously alluded to. There are moments where it really drives home the effect that these social interactions have on the likes of Chris. One quote in particular, at a point in the story where all is essentially revealed, really is stuck in my head and probably will be there for quite some time. It might be minor in the larger arc of the story, but it is something that really resonates with me.

So as you can tell, I really enjoyed Get Out. With its blend of terror, humor and social commentary, it is an accessible piece of movie making worthy of a look.

(L to R) Missy (CATHERINE KEENER), Dean (BRADLEY WHITFORD), Rose (ALLISON WILLIAMS), Georgina (BETTY GABRIEL) and Chris (DANIEL KALUUYA) in Universal Pictures’ “Get Out,” a speculative thriller from Blumhouse (producers of “The Visit,” “Insidious” series and “The Gift”) and the mind of Jordan Peele. When a young African-American man visits his white girlfriend’s family estate, he becomes ensnared in a more sinister real reason for the invitation.

Commentary on Deadline Article on “Moonlight”

Yesterday, an ILC reader brought something to my attention that amazed and excited me in equal measure. So much so I decided to take a short break from my other drafts to wax poetic about what I read; it concerns the international market success for the Oscar-nominated film Moonlight, which I reviewed late last year.

For proper context, I enlist you to read the article on Deadline.com titled ‘Moonlight’ Shines At International Box Office As A24 Grows Offshore Biz Model.

As you will see in the article, a deliberate and strategic effort has been put in place by the film’s director (Barry Jenkins) and distributor (A24) to generate commercial success overseas, in spite of the subject matter and not having any star power that would normally be a draw for international audiences.

What I find fascinating in reading between the lines of this piece is that in addition to the above, there is the factor worth noting – Moonlight is a film which centers on African American lives.

Although the tide does seem to be shifting a bit in recent years, for quite some time I have read about the challenges film and television studios have had when trying to sell or promote their products that prominently feature casts of color. The conclusion being that there just isn’t a market for this “niche” piece of filmmaking overseas. The implied impact, of course, being that if you can’t repeat the domestic success abroad, one must consider carefully any future development projects that fit this profile. Now in the case of Moonlight, there is the recognition that because of the critical/awards successes and high profile it has received, the film’s cache increases as it enters the worldwide box office. Other films, unfortunately, might not be so lucky.

But if this article proves anything, is that with a little creative marketing strategy, the full-throated support of the studio and a general faith in a discerning and sophisticated movie audience, many films can find their footing outside of the United States.

I Am Not Your Negro (2016/7)

Where does one begin with this amazing documentary and make no mistake – let’s get that out of the way – this is an AMAZING documentary that I recommend everyone seek and discover.

In these uncertain times, I have often found myself at a loss of words on how to articulate exactly what I feel as I look at the world around me. On that level alone, the Academy Award ®-nominated I Am Not Your Negro could not have come at a more perfect time. After watching this documentary, I felt as if many others and myself are given a voice through the eloquent thoughtful words of James Baldwin.

Based on a 30-page manuscript from an abandoned 1979 project wherein Baldwin set out to detail a personal account of the lives and deaths of friends and civil rights icons Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Although the project never went past these few pages, they are more than enough to be brought to life through the voice of Samuel L. Jackson.

The eloquence of the spoken words is accompanied with a wonderful visual language that director Raoul Peck has chosen to broaden out this original story to examine race relations in America.

As someone who (obviously) loves the language of film, I must say this cinematic technique was really put to good use. Archival interviews featuring Baldwin, photographs of the past and present, clips from classic Hollywood films, as well as contemporaneous images chronicling current events are beautifully woven to tell a story that is both very personal as well as serve a larger narrative purpose.

Often when you watch a documentary film, one tries to decipher what the central thesis of the work is. As the story revealed itself to me, I almost immediately registered that the filmmakers are trying to drive home one simple fact: history is not the past, it is now. Sure, some events may have happened in the past and as such, are a matter of record in the present. But never forget – the events of the past are alive and all around us, informing us as we journey through our lives. And sure enough, as the film neared its conclusion at 90 minutes, Baldwin in his own words said very much the same thing as if speaking to the audience from whatever realm he currently inhabits.

And given the dour circumstances and moments the documentary captured, there is a lovely and emotional chord of optimism struck at the end.

I Am Not Your Negro is an instructive and masterful work that will touch your heart and mind with its powerful message.