Category: History


Juddas and the Black Messiah

February 21st, 2021 — 8:43am

Judas and the Black Messiah – HBOMAX
****
This is a very powerful film, which examined the rise of the Black Panthers in Chicago and the underlying story of a double agent black man who is recruited as an informant for the FBI after he was caught committing a crime and chose being “Judas” rather than going to jail. The story provides insights into the men and women who developed and coalesced into the Black Panthers mostly from several black groups centering in Chicago. LaKeith Stanfield plays the Judas and there are outstanding performances by many of the stars, but of particular note was Daniel Kaluuya who played Fred Hampton, the Black Panther leader, and his girlfriend Deborah Johnson played by Dominque Fishback. Of note also was the performance of Martin Sheen who plays J. Edgar Hoover in a relatively small but quite effective role.

There is violence, suspense, and murder throughout the film. The movie captures the anger and revolutionary nature of a coalescing black power movement. The storyline reminds us that it was not a single black group that demanded the equality which they deserved, but several rival groups and gangs, the Crowns, Young Lords, and the Patriots that all came together in an uneasy truce to face the violent oppression, which they encountered daily.

The film showed the work of the Black Panther organization as being mostly about self-help for the community. They created breakfast programs as well as working to set up a medical clinic. Most important to the group was bringing together all the varied factions within the community who had felt unheard, discriminated against and marginalized. The film showed how important it was for the Panthers to be able to defend themselves from the constant, unprovoked assaults by the police and the ongoing attempts to crush them completely by J. Edgar Hoover and the F.B.I.

The plot was intriguing and the historical truth was revealing. The acting was great and the directing by Shaka King and the outstanding production was deserving of the many awards that are now being discussed for this movie. (2021).

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History

One Night in Miami

February 1st, 2021 — 10:29pm

One Night in Miami (Amazon)
****

This imaginative story of the fictional meeting of four black icons caught us by surprise. The film is supposed to have taken place in 1964 when we were in our 20s and while very much aware of the civil rights movement but we were not intimately cognizant of the role that each of these well-known persons were playing at that time.

Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), the great heavy weight boxer, had just become the world heavy weight champion by knocking out Sonny Liston. He was probably the youngest man in the foursome and was about to become a follower of the Nation of Islam and become a follower of its leader Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir). However, Malcolm X was about part ways with this organization and make a pilgrimage to Mecca. Jim Brown (Adis Hodge) was a great football player who seemed to be the least developed character in this film. We most enjoyed the character of Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom, Jr.). We had a fond memory of his feel good music and the change that was developing and black awareness in this character as well as in the entire country was reflected in his interchanges with Malcolm X.

The film was directed by Regina King with the screenplay by Kemp Powers based on his book.

The movie ends with a note that Malcolm X would be assassinated shortly after this story was to have taken place reminding us that this was just beginning of the ongoing Civil Rights and Black Lives Matter movement. It is rare that such a totally imaginative interchange between relative contemporary figures can capture the essence of their historical significance. It is also painful to know that over fifty years later, the fight for equality and justice needs to continue to be waged. (2020).

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History, Politics

Ma Rainy’s Black Bottom

December 29th, 2020 — 3:13am

Ma Rainy’s Black Bottom (Netflix)
****
This film is Based on the play of the same name by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright August Wilson. The setting is the 1920s and a Black Jazz Group is preparing for a recording session. The film takes a deep dive into a couple of the characters. The main focus is on Levee, a black trumpet player who wants to play things his way and dreams of forming his own band rather than playing back-up to a great black singer. He is played by Chadwick Boseman in his final performance as he passed away shortly after the filming this movie. His character embodied the frustration of black men, especially talented ones who were held back by prejudices of the time. The other star of this film was Viola Davis who lived within Ma Rainey, a black superstar singer who is going to take everything her talent deserved although she clearly had to stand up and make her righteous demands. The storyline, great acting by the entire cast, directed by George C. Wolfe, provided a wonderful insight into the oppression and prejudices which emerged in this time period. The senior producer for this excellent film was Denzel Washington.

Our biggest disappointment with the film was that it ended when it did. We so much wanted to see a light at the end of the tunnel that we hoped could be there. Instead, we were shown the endless frustration and pain that has been the plight of so many black people. (2020).

Comment » | 4 Stars, History, Musical

Loving

November 29th, 2020 — 12:15am

***

Loving ( Prime Video, VUDU,

This 2016 film is a re-creation of a story behind a very important Supreme Court case, which struck down a Virginia Law forbidding inter-racial marriage and conception of children between an inter-racial couple and by doing so established nationwide precedents. The historical significance of this event makes this movie a riveting cinematic experience. Jeff Nicolas who wrote the screenplay was also the director. Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton were the co-stars as Mildred and Richard Loving. The movie was nominated for various awards.

We both felt that weakness of the film was the passiveness of Mr. Loving. We can easily understand the tremendous fears that anyone in his situation would have as his loving marriage was threatened as was the potential damage to his three children if the parents had to go to jail, but we missed the inner turmoil and conflict that he must have had, which we could see to some degree in his wife. While we understand the immense historical significance of this case, we also believe that there was room for a dramatic exposition of its importance in our society, which could have been explained by historical film clips about this important historical event. Thus while the film should be seen for its historical and social value, it had much to be desired from a cinematic point of view. (2020)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, History

The Red Violin

October 15th, 2020 — 5:27am

***
The Red Violin (Amazon Prime, Netflix)

This is a unique story directed by François Girard. It has an outstanding cast which includes Samuel L. Jackson, Gretta Scacchi, Monique Mercure, and Don McKella. With lush cinematography, “The Red Violin” provides much to think about. We are brought along with the story of the creation in the 17th century of a particularly well crafted violin and how the instrument is used, abused, and yet survives until the present day. The violin maker is crafting the special instrument for the son that his wife is soon to bear. However, she dies in childbirth and he is so distraught that he uses her blood mixed into the varnish on the violin (hence the “red” violin). The film skips to a child prodigy orphan who is then given the violin, but meets tragedy as well when he dies and is buried with the violin. A group of gypsies rob the grave and one of the women plays it beautifully until she is noticed by a wealthy land owner/concert musician who makes a deal with her and her group, in which they are given land on which to live while he takes the ownership of the violin. After some time of his playing in concerts and receiving wide acclaim, he meets a tragic end. The violin is taken by his Chinese servant to China. There, it is lovingly cared for and played until the Cultural Revolution causes instruments of Europe to be banned and their musicians ostracized. Ultimately, the violin finds its way to present day Montreal where it is part of a large shipment of instruments purchased from China. The film intersperses scenes of the present with experts doing research on the origin of instruments with the scenes of the rich history and adds an extra layer of intrigue as the instruments are being readied to be auctioned to aficionados willing to spend huge amounts of money. While the most interesting depiction of time, place, and history, the up and back nature of the film is often jarring and confusing; however, seeing phases of history through the story of a particular instrument is thought provoking and the modern day drama somewhat intriguing as well.(1998)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, History

Mucho Mucho Armor – The Legend of Walter Mercado

October 15th, 2020 — 4:51am

***
Mucho Mucho Amor – The Legend of Walter Mercado nf

This is a documentary film that takes place over several decades about someone who is apparently one of the most well-known Latin stars in the world. He was born in modest circumstances in Puerto Rico and from an early age had been seen as having “something special,” to which people gravitated. He was an actor who became interested in astrology and due to a various circumstances he appeared in various short television segments telling fortunes according to the astrological stars. At one point, he had 120 million viewers. People all over Latin America became enthralled with his pronouncement and his performance and he became loved and sought after celebrity. He dressed in extravagant costumes with magnificent capes that became an essential part of his shows. He spent a lifetime as someone who loved to look glamorous in his feminine/masculine attire and who only wanted to spread love and good feelings. The documentary allows the viewer to see into his rise as well as the betrayal by his manager, which almost destroyed him. Yet, he lived to see better days and to enjoy once again his status as a unique icon within the Spanish speaking community. Seeing the film, you are left with the feeling of having witnessed someone totally unique and full of love (2020).

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, History

Da Five Bloods

July 8th, 2020 — 6:27am

*****
Da Five Bloods Continue reading »

1 comment » | 5 Stars, Action, Drama, History, War

Crip Camp

March 28th, 2020 — 11:00pm

****

Crip Camp-nf

This film was recommended to us by someone who knew that we spent the summer after our wedding working in a camp for orthopedically handicapped adults and children. It is produced by  the production company formed by former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama in association with Netflix. The opening scene of this documentary film, although taking place several years later showed Camp Jened very much resembling our own unforgettable summer experience. The focus was mostly on teenagers, many in wheelchairs, some with severe speech impediments and others limping around, but all with the energy and joy as they clearly felt liberated and were having the time of their lives. Many spoke of how for the first time they did not feel different. Others spoke of the joy of swimming and playing baseball even if it was from a wheelchair. There was the first teenage sexual attraction and overall a most meaningful summer.

However, this documentary film was much more than the story of a wonderful great summer camp experience. The producers and editors put together the story of the historic civil rights movement of people with disabilities. It also became obvious that some of the participants in this and leaders of this movement had met each other during their glorious summer camp experiences. Now many of them were young adults and were emerging as the leader of this most important movement.

A group of them had landed in San Francisco where they began to demonstrate against Joseph Califano who was the Secretary of Health Education and Welfare and was not carrying out Federal Law section 504 and therefore not supporting equal opportunities for the handicapped. Curb cuts, so wheelchairs and their occupants could travel freely, elevators in all structures as well as other architectural accommodations to allow people with disabilities to lead a more normal life were their demands and expectations. The Black Panthers who originated in nearby Oakland, California, supported and joined them in their protests. This movement then reached a crescendo when the growing group of protesters arrived in Washington, D.C. and held sit-down demonstrations in front of Secretary Califano’s office outside the building and inside. This went on for a couple of weeks before finally Califano recognized the rights of the handicapped.

To think that much of this movement started in the early relationships of many young people who met at the remarkable summer camp a decade earlier. The filmmaker obviously dug up early footage from Camp Jened and focused on several people who became leaders in this most important movement. The viewers of the film were able to follow them as they emerged into adulthood and made the remarkable contributions to the civil rights of the disabled in this country. (2020)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, History, Politics

Burden

February 19th, 2020 — 1:40am

****

Burden

This story, set in the 1990s, is based on real events and real people. It takes us into the Deep South where a group of Ku Klux Klansmen are converting an old movie theater into a KKK Museum. As we meet our main character, Mike Burden (Garrett Hedlund), he is one of the Klansmen. We see his life is about to change as he meets a poor, lovely white young woman (Andrea Riseborough) with a small son who has a different background and values than he does as she and her son are friends with black families and her kid is best friends with a black child. They fall in love and she says that he will have to choose between her and the Klan as she could not tolerate the brutality of the KKK. This unlikely threesome shortly finds that they have no place to live and they are befriended by a black congregation led by Rev. Kennedy (Forest Whitaker).

The film clearly captures the hate and brutality towards black people by the white people who identify with the prejudices and hate symbolized and characterized by the KKK. It also reminds us of the potential for change when human beings fall in love and feel very close to each other, allowing them to open up and become more empathic. Self worth can rise and insecure anger can be reduced. There is also a wonderful depiction of a black church group whose faith sustains them through a very difficult time and how important was their beliefs and the leadership of them by their spiritual leader, were in their lives.

It is easy to see how one might view this story as just a fairytale but the characters and story ring true. This belief was further reinforced when during the closing credits we were able to view the real people about whom this story was based. (2020)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History

The Two Popes

November 7th, 2019 — 6:28am

*****

The Two Popes-sp

At our preview screening of this movie, we had the pleasure of hearing the screenwriter Anthony McCarten describe how he created his vision of the relationship between these two Popes. Mr. McCarten who also wrote the screenplays for The Darkest Hour (Winston Churchill), “Theory Of Everything” (Steven Hawking) and “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Freddie Mercury and his band Queen) built the story based on little known facts about the interactions between the current liberal Pope Francis and the previous conservative Pope Benedict. The story imagines a meeting between the two of them prior to the resignation of Pope Benedict, which may have actually taken place. Through the use of flashbacks in time, we learn about Pope Francis as a young priest in Argentina and how he dealt with the influence of Peron in his native country. During the imagined meeting between the two Popes, prior to the time that Pope Benedict steps aside, there is a suggestion that both of them have regrets in their lives. Although it is not mentioned directly, the older Pope is said to have been a member of the Hitler Youth Group in his native Germany. Certainly, both men come across as very empathic servants of God who care greatly about people and are deeply religious.

Aside from the fascinating interaction between these two historic figures, the scenes inside the Vatican, which has been recreated (no actual filming is allowed inside) are magnificent. The acting by the two great actors Jonathan Pryce (Pope Francis) and Anthony Hopkins (Pope Benedict) are quite masterful. The direction of the movie and photography led by Fernando Meirelles is outstanding. This film definitely deserves your attention.

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Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, History

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