What a month. The day after the 50th anniversary of the murder of Malcolm X, with Oprah Winfrey leading the freedom march from London to Hollywood, and nobody says a word in memory of Malcolm. The pompous British ass who played Martin Luther King in “Selma” pretends to break down in tears after Common and John Legend’s performance of “Glory,” while Oprah slinks in behind him to place a consoling hand on his brow, looking like the obese transvestite Divine copping Monica Vitti’s final gesture in “L’ aventurra.” The song is spectacular and well-deserving of the Oscar it received, so good in fact that I watched the movie a second time to search for the emotional heart that was in the song. I didn’t find it. Legend’s and Common’s acceptance speeches, claiming “Selma is Now” were historically way off the mark. In terms of the African-American struggle for voting rights, “Selma” was closer to the paranoid racist dystopian fantasy of “Birth of a Nation,” made 100 years ago. If the the Academy really wanted to honor a movie that addressed topical issues of racism in the United States, they might have given the nod to “Dear White People,” a picture more relevant to the present than this dusty old British production financed in large part by the ever-powerful Oprah Winfrey. Not that it didn’t provide a halfway decent history lesson for today’s kids; just that it is scandalously irresponsible to read it as an allegory for Ferguson, Missouri. Pretending they are they same thing is a cagy way of averting attention away from the obscene reality of the government’s crimes against young black men. If there is a historical parallel with the numerous murders of young men by policemen, it is the persecution and systematic executions of dozens of Black Panthers that disabled the black power movement in the 1960’s and 1970’s, a movement inspired by Malcolm X, not Martin Luther King.
This is what I saw in February. It was an otherwise busy month for me, as I accepted the challenge to write 14 songs during the months and ended by writing 24. For those interested in such things, here is a link to hear them: http://fawm.org/fawmers/billwhite51/
1.Joan Mother of the Angels
2.The Wicker Man, The Chase, Escape From Japan
3.Bonnie and Clyde, The Missouri Breaks
4.Little Big Man, Alice’s Restuarant, Taken 3
6.Night Moves, Sybil
7.The Ugly American, The Rack, What We Do In the Shadows, St. Vincent
8.Match, Gemma Bovary
9.The Voices, Clerks
10.Rachel Rachel, A Gathering of Eagles, Richard Pryor in Concert, The Humbling
11.The Gauntlet, The Mission
12.Providence, Eat, Cold Comes the Night, The Internship
13.My Name is Julia Ross
14.Birdman, Song One
16.List of Adrian Messenger, Paddington, It Came from Outer Space
17.Holocaust Night Will Fall, Two Men in Town
18.Bridges of Madison County, Enemy
19.American Sniper, Heartbreak Ridge
20.The Hurt Locker, The Dreamers, White Devil Black Heart
21.Madame Yuki, I’m All Right Jack
25.Wild Tales, Taken 2, Honky Tonk Man
26.Steria, Can Can
27.Come Drink With Me, 52 Pick-Up
28.Death Wish, Armored Car Robbery, Confessions, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Some brief notes on the above:
“Styria” returns to the mood of the original Carmilla novel, dispensing with the dazed nude wanderings of lesbian vampires through castle and forests in favor of exploring the dream ties between two mysterious girls.
Argentina’s “Wild Tales” was the best of the nominees for the foreign film Oscar, although far from being the year’s best foreign film. A funny and horrifying look at revenge rage that never failed to surprise at each escalation of the situation.
“Two Men in Town” is a huge flop about a black man on parole in a Texas border town who is harassed by local cop Harvey Keitel.
The only thing that kept me awake in the repetitive and tedious “Enemy” was trying to figure out what was happening. Only after straightening out the disordering of events was the situation between the man and his double clarified, and it certainly was not worth the trouble of solving the puzzle.
“Paddington” was a funny story of a talking bear from darkest Peru, looking for a home in Manhattan.
Ukraine’s Oscar candidate, “Tangerines,” was leaner and meaner than “Leviathan,” Russia’s entry. it is all about the futility of trying to save a crop of tangerines before they are destroyed by approaching armies.
Anne Hathaway makes the most of a single expression in “Song One,” in which she plays the sister of a musician in a coma who falls in love with her brother’s folk-singing idol. The music in this movie is atrocious, and the lead boy embarrassingly representative of the new breed of sensitive folksinger prone to falsetto excesses and live multi-tracking gimmickry.
Gemma Arterton first caught my eye as 2010’s “Tamara Drewe,” a clever update on “Far From the Madding Crowd.” She was intriguing as a vampire in 2012’s “Byzantium.” Last year she was used in startlingly different ways in two pictures. In “Gemma Bovary” the French director gave the UK actress the full-on glamour treatment. In “The Voices” the US director just cut off her head and put it in the refrigerator.
“Eat” is the gross-out movie of the month, as a sleazy wannabe actress devours herself in fits of self-mutilating feeding frenzy. I had to close my eyes several times to keep from throwing up.
Horror-comedy is the nerdiest of genres and I detest it. But “What We Do In the Shadows” really gnawed on my funny bone. This New Zealand picture reminded me so much of the hilarious television series “Flight of the Conchords” that I compared the credits and, sure enough, the same guy was behind both of them.
“St Vincent” is a rare commodity – a funny Bill Murray picture. he has become such an irritatingly smug old geezer of late that I cannot stand him. “The Monuments Men” is a case in point. But this wasn’t half bad, despite the maudlin miasma in which the screenplay has been marinated.
No matter how bad “Taken 3” is, it will make more money than its competition. Such movies are so bad these days that their constituency balks at one of unknown lineage. And “Taken 3” is really bad. But it is a comfortable kind of bad, because it is familiar even when it does not come across with the full bill of goods. It is never a torment to watch, and its worst scenes are funny in the same way that a baby needing its diapers changed and its nose wiped might get a laugh out of an onlooker who is not responsible for cleaning up the messy thing.
And now, back to the Oscars, and something that is not funny at all……….We have a television program here in Peru in which amateur singers compete by imitating celebrities. If Lady Gaga were to do her Julie Andrews impression in this company, she may have a chance of defeating the competition. but no matter how much of Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler she exudes, it will never add up to a fraction of the talent Julie Andrews has. After enjoying the montage of medleys from the film “The Sound of Music,” it was both redundant and unpleasant to watch and hear lady Gaga caterwaul those same songs live on the Oscar stage. Her execrable performance was redeemed only by Andrews’ courteous acceptance of the tainted tribute. Andrews is an angel, a precious gem who lit up the world with her exquisite voice and gentle presence for over fifty years, and it is so sad that her time has come and gone, leaving us to in the glossalandic ruins of phonies such as Lady Gaga. Listen and weep.