Posts Tagged ‘picks’

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Black Excellence Versus White Mediocrity

by Jordan Flaherty

This year’s Oscar’s race is predicted to be a contest of La La Land, a relatively sunny musical that celebrates a timeless and relatively white fantasy of Los Angeles; against Moonlight, a deeply moving and poetic Black gay coming-of-age story set in 1980s Miami. Whoever wins the awards, Moonlight is this year’s best film. Like Beyoncé losing the album of the year Grammy to Adele, the fact that La La Land is even a contender reveals the prejudices of the entertainment industry. It’s not that La La Land is a terrible film. It’s beautifully styled and shot, even if its content is tone deaf. Even compared to the best films of this year, none compare to the transformative power and beauty of Moonlight. But Hollywood loves to celebrate itself, and the industry is wealthy, white and male dominated, so La La Land is seen as a favorite.

This was a great year for cinema, and many releases this year are relevant to this political moment. Director Pablo Larraín and star Gael García Bernal, who previously collaborated on the political drama No, return with Neruda, a poetic film about the importance of poetry in a time of fascism. French Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, director of 2010’s underrated Incendies (and 2015’s overrated Sicario) returns with Arrival, a film about the importance of science over nationalism. David Mackenzie’s heist film Hell or High Water is an indictment of the soullessness of banks. Director Ava DuVernay’s 13th, while frustrating for the issues it leaves out, is a powerful introduction to the topic of mass incarceration. Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures, while unfortunately creating white saviors where none existed, is still redeemed by a powerful civil rights movement story and excellent performances by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe. Finally, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos brought surrealism mainstream with his original and very funny dystopian satire, The Lobster.

This was also a year of great genre films, like Fede Álvarez’s Don’t Breathe, a tense and original horror film set among the post-industrial landscape of Detroit. Director Jeff Nichols and star Joel Edgerton, who also collaborated on this year’s civil rights drama Loving, also released the surprising and very smart science fiction film Midnight Special. Cheang Pou-soi’s densely plotted Hong Kong action film Kill Zone 2 is much smarter and funnier than you might expect. Paul W. S. Anderson’s Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is by no means a great film, but deserves credit as an action series in which every film passes the Bechdel Test and features a corporation as a villain.

As television becomes more experimental and risk-taking, there was some truly great and cinematic TV this year. Especially worth watching is the intricately plotted Mr. Robot, which follows a multiracial group of hackers working to end capitalism. Some of the best documentary work this year came from the show Rise on Viceland, in which a Native American producer and correspondent explore indigenous issues, starting with Standing Rock. And Atlanta and Insecure, while very different from each other, are two of the most creative, original, and funny comedies in years.

This year’s top ten films span categories and countries, but together they explore race, class and gender in new and intelligent ways. Here is my list.

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It’s supposed to be 117 degrees today, July 2nd.  So why not?  I’ll repost the link in December.

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It’s a Wonderful Life

(Update: This was on Youtube for free, but Google Corp. decided they can get people to pay “$9.99” now for a public domain film!)

Some films last as classics because they’re old.  Some because they’re mind-blowingly great.  This one is the latter.  Trust Frank Capra.  It’s also free on the web for your viewing enjoyment right now.

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Scrooged

Bill Murray does TV executive Ebenezer Scrooge!  Pure Murray, pure Christmas – they would play this film every year at a Christmas Eve party I attended several times.  You may want to consider it too.

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The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Well of course, as they often play this on the networks during holidays, and it has fond memories lodged in my childhood brain.  Again, mind-blowingly great and adds an out of left field component to Christmas.

Film Title: Bad Santa.

Bad Santa

She has a Santa Claus fetish, so what can you do?  An irreverent, often nasty tale of dumb crime, midgets and a messed-up little porker of a kid.

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The Nightmare Before Christmas

Danny Elfman, Halloween kidnaps Christmas, Tim Burton, this is legal lsd for kids.

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Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Okay, for the under 10 crowd, I mean they gotta watch something.

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Christmas Vacation

Chevy Chase returns as hapless corporate cog Clark Griswold at the mercy of family, cheap ass bosses and the meanest movie squirrel ever filmed.

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Friday After Next

Ice Cube returns with his same shtick, but this time in a Christmas story from the hood.  Funny characters and Santa may be picking up rather than dropping off.

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A Christmas Story

“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”  Quirky little indie kids tale that made the cut.  Some odd observations of American culture in the 50s, and usually loved by all.

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Monty Python’s Meaning of Life

“It’s Christmas in heaven, there’s great stuff on TV, the Sound of Music twice an hour and Jaws one, two and three.”  Only play this if you want to freak the fuck out of everyone in attendance.

Bonus

Trading Places has a hilarious Christmas moment when wasted Dan Ackroyd in a filthy Santa suit pilfers food and booze from a Christmas party.  One of the all-time great drunken roars.

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