Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
New Release For the Week of 2/17/17
“I Am Not Your Negro” (PG-13)
Narrated by : Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by: Raoul Peck
In I Am Not Your Negro, Haitian-born filmmaker Raoul Peck has created a timely and powerful film using novelist James Baldwin’s own words. In addition to archival clips that reveal Baldwin’s intelligence, perceptiveness and wit, actor Samuel L. Jackson reads from the writer’s unpublished book about his relationship with Civil Rights leaders like Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King. Doubly “branded” because he was gay and Black, Baldwin left the United States when he turned 24, and eventually settled in the French Riviera. Houseguests included actors Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, and Yves Montand, and musicians Josephine Baker, Nina Simone, Miles Davis and Ray Charles. Visiting the United States in support of the Civil Rights Movement, Time magazine put Baldwin on its cover with the comment: “There is not another writer who expresses with such poignancy and abrasiveness the dark realties of the racial ferment in North and South.” Peck isn’t content to package Baldwin in a time capsule. Modern day scenes from Ferguson. Missouri and the Black Lives Matter movement emphasize what Baldwin said in a 1979 speech at U.C. Berkeley, that the ongoing quest for racial equality is “the latest slave rebellion.”
4 pieces of “must see and hear for yourself” toast
Fifty Shades Darker (R)
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Kim Bassinger, Luke Grimes, Marcia Gay Hardin
Directors: James Foley
WARNING: Product placement follows!
I thought that “vanilla sex” meant studiously avoiding kinkiness. In Fifty Shades Darker (the sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey) BDSM is the norm, yet Ben and Jerry’s vanilla is the flavor used to… well, I’ll leave the rest of the sentence to your imagination. The new director has an obvious breast fetish. (the old director wasn’t rehired because of “creative differences” with Dakota Johnson). But just like the original, I am still astounded that a plot centering on an untouchable Alpha-male who builds a torture chamber in his lavish penthouse for the sole purpose of debasing women captured the imagination of so many American females. If you must see this film, my suggestion is to wait until you can watch it at home and then play a variation on the “drinking game.” Every time Dakota Johnson’s character makes a nonverbal comment (i.e. “umm,” “uh-huh,” “mmhm,” “huh?,” or “ooh,” take a bite of your favorite Ben and Jerry’s flavor.
1 piece of high-calorie torture-porn toast
The Great Wall (PG-13)
Starring: Mat Damon, Tian Jing, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe, Hanyu Zhang, Eddie Peng, Kenny Lin, Han Lu
Director: Yimou Zhang
Not content with the historical realities involved in the construction and 24/7 guarding of The Great Wall in 12th Century China, the filmmakers have turned the invading forces into lizard monsters. Made for international distribution, Matt Damon is cast as a “western” mercenary on a quest to steal the secret of making gunpowder. Others have written that Damon is here just like Tom Cruise was in Japan as The Last Samurai because “only a white man can save the world.” Involving the talents of thousands of CGI technicians, the result is surprisingly flat and textureless. This is even more surprising because Yimou Zhang is the director. For an example of what might have been, I suggest you watch Zhang’s astounding House of Flying Dragons instead.
1 and 1/2 pieces of this film bombed in China toast
First Fight (R)
Starring: Ice Cube, Charlie Day, Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Dennis Hysbert, Joanna Garcia
Director: Richie Keen
After an unhinged English teacher smashes one of his student’s desk with a fire ax, he challenges the history teacher who turned him in to the principal to a “we’ll settle this after school” fist fight. The tenuous plot involves the history teacher recruiting other members of the dysfunctional faculty to create sophomoric ways to avoid the fight. These secondary characters contribute supposedly funny bits involving their various paraphilias (i.e. one lusts after his student’s mothers, another snorts meth and lusts after his students), but the results are cringe-worthy instead of amusing. Other critics have spent way too much time writing about the parallels of this “winning at any cost” scenario with Donald Trump’s world view—a premise supported by the fact that one of the producers is the newly confirmed Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. But pay them no mind and keep your money in your pocket. Labelling this movie “a comedy” is false advertising.
1/2 piece of the writers must really hate teachers toast