Sunday, March 5, 2017

GET OUT to the Movies in Trump's America

If you wanted to write and record a protest song, you could do it in an hour -  including the time it would take to post it online and send it around the world. Music, that pulsating pleasure, is a very immediate art form.

Film, not so much. It takes time to write, cast, shoot, score and edit a film - and that's all before getting it distributed. Roger Corman used to crank 'em out and get his product into theaters in a couple of months, but these days, cinema is a long-term endeavor. That goes double for a film with lots of special effects and post-production work. In some cases, all that can take years before the finished product is done.

This delay is a big part of what makes films that feel timely a rare and special thing. And if, as the saying goes, timing is everything, then two films we saw this weekend have everything.

We just got home from seeing Logan, Hugh Jackman's latest and (it is said) last appearance as the character Logan, AKA Wolverine. It was a very good film, and very heartfelt. It scaled down the usual - no, make that cliché - whole-world-in-peril scope of superhero films, which made it much more engaging. In addition, it had the courage to be a very sad film. But, the thing that made it seem so, so timely was that the plot can be boiled down to this: An effort to get a bunch of mostly brown-skinned kids (who are mostly girls) across the border to safety. The safety of Canada that is, and away from the danger of being hunted down in the United States.

Resonance, and then some.

So Logan soared pretty high by avoiding many of the clichés of superhero and action films. Now, clichés are clichés because they sell, or at least sold at one point, but they are a death trap for creativity. Ah, but the other film we saw this weekend, Get Out, soared even higher by making a very creative death trap indeed.

Black men in mainstream movies...How are they usually represented? Gangbangers, thugs, and various heavies, with a smattering of comic sidekicks for "flava" are the cliché roles usually reserved for them. But Get Out manages to subvert those clichés twice, as well as a few horror movie clichés. The main character of the film, Chris Washington (played by Daniel Kaluuya) transitions from being the victim of violence to becoming the hero of his own story.

I don't want to even get near summarizing the plot of Get Out, because its appeal lies so much in the unexpected turns it takes. But again, with a plot involving white on black crime (I'm being very general here), and what people of color have to do to survive in white America, it is a very timely film as well. Jordan Peele, directing a feature film for the first time, from his own script, has created a unique and masterfully crafted film. The acting is absolutely top notch, with a special nod to Betty Gabriel for one amazing scene. Yes, it's a "horror" film, but it is so much more than that as well.

Both films speak loudly about the current state of affairs in America, what with a racist sociopath occupying the White House and promising to "secure our borders" from brown-skinned "others." I highly recommend these films both as art, and as social commentary.