Tag Archives: movies

Sundance Pick: An Oversimplification of Her Beauty

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty • Teaser from Terence Nance • Terence Etc. on Vimeo.

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty defies categorization, in all the best ways possible.

The first thing to know is that the film isn’t a linear story. It’s a complex and complicated exploration of modern love, an intriguing dance between two characters circling the possibility of a relationship, born out of mutual infatuation. Avant-guarde storytelling in the key of noir, Oversimplification blends animation, live action, and narration to tell the tale of Terence falling in love with Namik. The characters are real people, based on their own lives. Nance earned his spot in the New Frontier section of Sundance – in addition to the innovative, movie-within-a-movie style of storytelling, animation also plays a key role. Exploring his inner emotions through stop-motion figure dolls and beautifully rendered scenes, Nance essentially uses this film as therapy, working out the complicated tangle of his messy romantic life.

Refreshingly, black women are Nance’s muses. Often in cinematic depictions of black love, the relationship is construed as adversarial. Here, as Nance documents the many loves that fit his archetype of “brown, maternal, well read, well traveled,” black women take center stage, his love for each of them palpable through the screen.

But is what he feels for them really love? Nance believes so, and spends most of the film trying to articulate what he loves about Namik, and how his past relationship history lead him to this point of nearly breathless anticipation. The film is ripe with themes for exploration but I will have to leave most of those paths untouched. Nance has created a work so complex, it is almost like recorded performance art. Thus, I agree with Tambay – it needs to be experienced. Hopefully, it finds a distributor because it deserves to be seen and experienced by as many people as possible. Nance’s story is both familiar and strange, and tends to provoke a lot of self-reflection in the audience. Who are we, when we are in love? I’m still mulling over my own answer.

Sundance Pick: Filly Brown

Walking in, I thought I had Filly Brown pegged. The trailer gave me the impression it was like every other hip-hop movie I’d ever seen:

  • Young kid from the hood trying to make good? Check.
  • Prerequisite positive rap song that feels like it was pulled from Ghostwriter? Check.
  • Street pressures that are easily overcome? Check.
  • Mandatory plot for women, involving sexing up your image to get signed to the majors? Check.

But hey, I had just gone through three really depressing movies about the fall out of the drug war. I needed something to lift my spirits, and I will shamelessly admit that I enjoyed Brown Sugar. On the real, Filly Brown could have been a Lifetime produced version of the Somaya Reece story, and I still would have watched it!

Luckily, I was wrong.

Okay, on second thought, I wasn’t that wrong. Two and a half of the four I listed above were in the movie. But the team behind Filly Brown managed to add enough new elements to make the standard tropes feel fresh. Continue reading

Sundance Pick: Celeste and Jesse Forever

Writing a good romantic comedy is tough.

Writing a good divorce comedy is tougher.

So the fact that Rashida Jones nailed both her performance and her part of the screenplay entire movie is something very special.

Celeste and Jesse Forever follows a long-term couple in the midst of a breakup. Having been best friends for the past twenty years, Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) find themselves divorcing–in spite of their continued chemistry. Celeste, a trends analyst and pop-culture commentator, is the epitome of a responsible business woman. Jesse is an unemployed artist, who spends more time scheming on surfing than actively planning out his life. They bond through some strange shared loves (like masturbating lip glosses, baby corn, and other things that look like tiny penises) but Celeste initiates the divorce since Jesse has failed to grow up. Continue reading

Sundance Pick: 5 Broken Cameras

Trailer “5 Broken Cameras” from Guy Davidi on Vimeo.

 

“By healing, you resist oppression. – Emad Burnat”

5 Broken Cameras is a story of living in the shadow of oppression, a moving portrait of vibrant resistance through the unapologetic embrace of life itself. Set in the small Palestinian village of Bil’in, the story and narrative belongs to Emad Burnat, who became the eye of the village and ultimately chronicled over five years of activism. The people of Bil’in found their lands being encroached on by the building of a new settlement, and the wall to protect that settlement. They protest peacefully, marching up to the wall each Friday and thinking of new actions and demonstrations to stop the advancement of the settlement.

During this time, Emad also had a son, Gibreel, which brought his total brood to four. Emad mentions that each of the boys knows a slightly different world. The eldest was born during the Olso Accords which meant that he grew up with more freedom and mobility. Gibreel, on the other hand, mixes his first words of “mommy” and “daddy” with “army,” “cartridge” and “run! run!” If it weren’t for the ever present undercurrent of violence, Emad’s life would almost be seen as idyllic: a loving family; a large, involved village; numerous dances and celebrations are cornerstones of the life they create. Their marches are also full of hope and some humor. At one point, tired of the late night raids on the village, a group of children march up to the wall, chanting “We want to sleep! We want to sleep!” The situation in Bil’in gained international attention, and groups of Israeli, German, and other activists come at various points to show their support and solidarity. However, violence is never far enough away, and the promise of more hangs over Bil’in like a cloud. Continue reading

Sundance Pick: Mosquita y Mari

“Though we tremble before uncertain futures/ may we meet illness, death and adversity with strength/ may we dance in the face of our fears.”
― Gloria E. Anzaldúa

Mosquita y Mari is a slow paced exploration of being a teenager peering over the brink of adulthood. Set in a Mexican-American neighborhood in Los Angeles, Mosquita y Mari follows the lives of two very different Chicana teenagers. Yolanda (Fenessa Pineda) is a studious high-achiever, a dutiful daughter from a loving home. Mari (Venecia Troncoso) is rebellious and volatile, with a chip on her shoulder that crowds out most of the world. Circumstances toss them together again and again, and they embark on a deep and intense friendship.

In her press kit, writer/director Aurora Guerrero writes:

The inspiration behind my debut feature-film, Mosquita y Mari, was my own adolescence. Initially, when I decided I wanted to write a feature-length script I kept coming back to a series of complex, same-sex friendships I had while growing up. When looking back, long before I identified as queer, I realized my first love was one of my best friends. It was the type of friendship that was really tender and sweet but also sexually charged. Despite the fact that we had the makings of a beautiful teen romance we never crossed that line. The beginnings of Mosquita y Mari was reflecting back on that time and asking myself the questions, why didn’t we cross that line and what kept us in “our place”? I didn’t grow up in a household where my parents forewarned me that if I turned out to be gay they would disown me. They didn’t wave the Bible in my face saying it was wrong. Instead the message was subtle. It was hidden in the silences around sex and desire; it was implied in society’s expectations, you know, like you only experience those feelings of love and desire with the opposite sex. I think all of us are subject to society’s rules so I think many people can relate to this story of censored friendship. That was the initial inspiration. [...] Continue reading

Attack the Block Proves You Don’t Have to be Epic to Be a Hero

Movie theaters used to hold a special kind of magic.

Lined up with my friends, clutching the occasional purchase of popcorn and a soft drink, or sneaking smuggled in snacks, we would watch in awe and horror as teenagers paraded around on screen, seemingly oblivious to the threat of violence lurking around the corner. When I was about thirteen years old, I sat through the original Scream. The rules of horror movies, as articulated by the character Randy, were clear and concise:

Randy: There are certain RULES that one must abide by in order to successfully survive a horror movie. For instance, number one: you can never have sex.
[crowd boos]
Randy: BIG NO NO! BIG NO NO! Sex equals death, okay? Number two: you can never drink or do drugs.
[crowd cheers and raises their bottles]
Randy: The sin factor! It’s a sin. It’s an extension of number one. And number three: never, ever, ever under any circumstances say, “I’ll be right back.” Because you won’t be back.

But there were some rules that we knew that never were articulated.

    1. The black character always dies, normally first. This is normally related to not being lead characters, but easily dispensable side characters. Sure, we had Tales from the Hood, but we knew the score. I think that’s why all of us at the local participatory theater screamed the whole way through I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. “Run, Brandy, Run! You gotta make it because they already killed Mekhi!”

    2. Upper middle class white kids are the stars of these things. In general, no matter how big and bad the villain is, they are still hanging out in pastoral campgrounds or tony neighborhoods, waiting for their victims to sun themselves on their cabanas. The only exception I can think of was Candyman who was black and haunted the Cabrini-Green housing projects. And later, came a few other things we need not name. But in general, horror film villains and heroes alike were in the providence of “not us.”

So when Moses and his crew took to the screen, defending their tower block from alien invasion, my inner fourteen year old wanted to jump up and start yelling.

Unfortunately, my 28 year old self knows we don’t do those things at the Museum of Modern Art, even if we really, really, want to.

[Some light spoilers ahead.]
Continue reading

The Warrior’s Way Finally Gives the Asian Guy the Girl

by Latoya Peterson

Randomly watching TV, I was shocked to see this ad for The Warrior’s Way:

Wait a minute – that was an Asian male lead. Who has a love interest. That he kisses. And she’s white!

There are a couple different reasons why this is remarkable.

One, in many American made films, the Asian guy is supposed to be the sidekick – even if they happen to be in the lead role. Therefore, no need for a love interest, much less one that reciprocates his feelings.

Two, we have an interracial couple kissing on screen in the promotional marketing material . This should not be a rare sight in 2010. Yet, here we are.

Not sure how I feel about the East meets West plot construction – this could be a really awesome, somewhat subversive way to acknowledge that there were more people in the American West than just outlaw settlers. Or it could play right into the stranger from a far away land cliche. The flying ninjas invasion scene makes me lean toward the latter, unfortunately.

A Racialicious Halloween: Target Shopping Edition

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

From the same store that stays sold out of Princess Tiana dolls (especially the green-gowned ones), from the same store that stays sold out of the latest Black Barbies (I was lucky I got this one, button not included)….

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I saw this display for some Target “Spook-tastic Savings”….

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Which is fine–I still watch and collect DVDs, even though they’re becoming an obsolete medium–so I’d purchase some…until I saw exactly what was on sale.

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If my photo’s too blurry or the print too small, my deepest apologies. I tried surreptitiously to take the photo.  What’s on the shelf:

The BrothersThe Color PurpleDiary of a Tired Black ManEve’s BayouThe Five HeartbeatsGifted HandsGood HairPurple RainMenance II SocietySchool Daze…

…to name a few.

To those who may not know:  “spook” is a racial slur for Black people.

To answer the question of where I saw this, the display was in a Target in downtown Brooklyn, NY, where a large number of its on-floor staffers are Black and has a very racially and ethnically diverse customer flow.

Of course, we can talk about intentions–the usual variations of “they probably didn’t mean it” that I heard from a couple of customers–but the impact is the continued perpetuation of an single old stereotype, even with a display of new(er) and varied representations of Blackness.

Just in time for the holiday.

I called over a sales associate, a very sweet young Black man.

“‘Spook’ is an offensive term referring to Black people. Having ‘spook-tastic’ and Black films together can be considered offensive.”

He looked at the display with surprise and apologized. “Oh really? I’m so sorry.  I’m not in charge of the display.”  He looked at it again, the “aha” moment spreading across his face.

“Is there a manager? If you want to let the person know…maybe I can speak to him or her?”

“Sure.” He found a manager in the next aisle.  He discussed the situation with her and came back to me.

I said to the sales associate, “Maybe you can find some horror films to put up on the display, which would be more appropriate. But “spook” and Black films…just nah.”  When I finished what I said, the manager peeked her head around the corner.

I walked away to try out my iPod on a display stereo to see if music was coming out of one speaker just on my speakers or if it was just jainking up on other equipment.

When I left the store, the associate, the manager, and a security guard gathered around the display, discussing it.

ETA: The sign was changed to something about their “low price promise.”  And I purchased a green-gowned Princess Tiana doll.

Photo credits: Andrea (AJ) Plaid