Friday, February 19, 2010

Penny Thoughts: Feb. 12-18

Clockers (1995) ***
Dir. Spike Lee
Starring: Mekhi Phifer, Harvey Keitel, Delroy Lindo, John Turturro, Isaiah Washington, Keith David, Thomas Jefferson Byrd, Peewee Love

This is the third time I’ve seen this movie and the first time I saw Spike Lee in the story. I noticed his style before (and his cameo), but not his themes. Of course, the Lee style alone is enough to make the film worth it. It’s a gritty look at inner city crime and how black youth cannot avoid it. But this time I also saw Lee’s strong stance against racism and the idea that a young black male doesn’t have a chance of making it away from crime growing up in the inner city because of all the forces of racism working against him. Mekhi Phifer’s low level drug dealer can’t catch a break when he doesn’t do anything wrong because everyone (black and white) wants him to have done something wrong.

9 (2009) ***½
Dir. Shane Acker
Starring: Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plumber, Martin Landau, Crispin Glover

“9” is a strange, fascinating, and ultimately powerful animated movie about mechanical rag dolls representing the last remaining vestiges of humanity following an apocalypse brought about by war against machines. During its theatrical run its plot was accused of being too simplistic for its adult target audience, but it’s the story’s simplicity that provides its power. It’s a rather astonishing little movie.

Passing Strange (2009) ***
Dir. Spike Lee
Starring: Stew, Daniel Breaker, Eisa Davis, De’Andre Aziza, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Coleman Domingo, Chad Goodridge

Spike Lee was so moved by this Broadway sensation musical/performance piece, which told the story of a young musician’s search for himself in Europe, that he decided to film the final performance of this Tony Award winning production at the Belasco Theater. Lee doesn’t add much cinematic flare to this stage production, but it’s a good representation of the performance of this engaging story. A true cinematic adaptation is in the works.

Black Dynamite (2009) ***½
Dir. Scott Sanders
Starring: Michael Jai White, Byron Minns, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Tommy Davidson, Kevin Chapman, Phil Morris

Watching the new blacksploitation spoof “Black Dynamite”, I wished I had been able experience the black cinema of the seventies in all its glory, with its wide collars, big guns, polyester suits, bad acting, beds filled with ‘ho’s, gratuitous kung fu, and a big black fro. No, I’m not black, but watching “Black Dynamite” made me wish I was.

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