Movie Review: Airplane! (1980)


Title: Airplane!
Release Date: July 2, 1980
Director: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Production Company: Paramount Pictures | Howard W. Koch Productions
Summary/Review:

The team of Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker didn’t invent the spoof movie but their style of clever wordplay and visual gags set a pattern that’s still being followed 40+ years later.  This is a movie I remember watching again and again in my childhood (mostly in an edited for tv version, more on that later) and still remember most of the gags revisiting the movie all these years later. Nevertheless, there are so many jokes packed into this movie that you always notice something new.

Now I’ll admit that there is an element of nostalgia to this movie. Air travel has changed so much in 40 years and there are references in this movie that a younger viewer just might not get the jokes.  As always with 70s/80s comedy there’s a concern with racially and sexually insensitive jokes and Airplane! has a few (African villagers playing basketball, jiggling breasts) but fortunately not too many as much of the humor is situational rather than stereotypical. I won’t excuse Airplane for being “of its time” because I remember people in the 80s criticizing the movie for being crass.

I first watched this movie on TV in the mid-80s and I think watched a video tape of that version for years afterwards.  The TV version not only cut out the raunchier parts but actually added scenes.  I particularly remember the “Hi, Jack!” gag and more scenes with the children acting like they’re grownup business travelers.  I found a compilation of the cut scenes on YouTube and remember every single one vividly.  I would totally watch a cut of the movie that reincorporated these scenes into the theatrical version.

Rating: ****

Favorite Movies of All Time: 240-231


Over the past few years I’ve made a concerted effort to watch lots of movies considered to be among the best of all time.  Now, for the first time, I’ve made my own list of favorite movies of all time.  Every other Wednesday throughout 2022, I will be revealing ten movies in my list of 250 Favorite Movies of All Time.


240

Title: A Grand Day Out
Director: Nick Park
Cast: Peter Sallis, Peter Hawkins
Year: 1990
When did I first watch this movie?: At an animation festival at the Williamsburg Theater in Virginia, circa 1991.
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: This was my introduction to Wallace & Gromit and the greatness of Nick Park and Aardman Animations. Besides, I love cheese and I love travel, so a movie about “cheese tourism” was targeted at me.


239

Title: Lewis & Clark – The Journey of the Corps of Discovery
Director: Ken Burns
Cast: Hal Holbrook, Sam Waterston, Adam Arkin, Murphy Guyer, Matthew Broderick, Kevin Conway, Gene Jones, Tantoo Cardinal
Year: 1997
When did I first watch this movie?: I watched this when it premiered on PBS on November 4-5, 1997.
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: As someone who is passionate for history and for films, it’s not surprising that I’ve long been impressed by Ken Burns many historical documentaries.  I watched many, but not all, of Burns’ works and I think this one is emblematic of how he explores historical events while also embracing the possibilities of beauty in film.  I’m also fond of The Civil War (1990),  Baseball (1994), Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson (2005), The War (2007), The National Parks: America’s Best Idea (2009), and Prohibition (2011).


238

Title: Beauty and the Beast
Director: Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise
Cast: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Angela Lansbury
Year: 1991
When did I first watch this movie?: When I was in college in the early 90s, I think?
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Many people consider this the all-time best animated feature from the Disney studios, and with good reason. First, there is the music created by lyricist Howard Ashman (who tragically died before the movie’s completion and composer Alan Menken.  Then there’s the seamless blend of classic Disney animation styles with new digital effects.  And Belle was really a new type of character for women in Disney, escaping patriarchal stereotypes to be her own her with her own identity.

 


237

Title: Adaptation
Director: Spike Jonze
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep,  Chris Cooper, Cara Seymour, Brian Cox, Tilda Swinton, Ron Livingston, and Maggie Gyllenhaal
Year: 2002
When did I first watch this movie?: 2007, although I saw it in a movie theatre so it must’ve been re-released at Brattle Theatre or someplace like that.
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Charlie Kaufman’s work as a screenwriter and director has produced some of the most inventive and just plain weird movies of the past few decades.  We’ll be seeing several of his works on this list. Adaptation is great because it shows the writing process and inner life of an introverted person. It also deconstructs and questions the “truth” of fiction.


236

Title: The Saddest Music in the World
Director: Guy Maddin
Cast: Isabella Rossellini, Mark McKinney, Maria de Medeiros, David Fox, Ross McMillan, Louis Negin
Year: 2003
When did I first watch this movie?: I watched this on DVD in 2007.
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Speaking of makers of weird movies, Canada’s Guy Maddin gives Charlie Kaufman a run for his money.  Frequent Maddin collaborator Isabella Rossellini stars as baroness in Great Depression-era Canada who holds a contest for the saddest music in the world to promote her family’s brewery. As Lady Helen Port-Huntley says “f you are sad and like beer, I’m your lady.”  As weird as this movie is, it may be the most accessible of Maddin’s oeuvre that I have seen.


235

Title: Intermission
Director: John Crowley
Cast: Colin Farrell, Kelly Macdonald, Cillian Murphy, Colm Meaney, Shirley Henderson, David Wilmot, Deirdre O’Kane, Michael McElhatton, Tomás Ó Súilleabháin, Brían F. O’Byrne, Ger Ryan, Jane Brennan
Year: 2003
When did I first watch this movie?: At the theaters in 2003.
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: This is a movie I found myself thinking about and quoting years after I first saw it – especially the parts about brown sauce and Celtic Mysticism.  This movie stars some of the biggest Irish actors of its time, but it eschews movie stereotypes of Ireland. Instead it’s a comedy and crime caper with an ensemble cast set in Dublin’s residential neighborhoods that focuses on extraordinary moments in the lives of very ordinary people.


234

Title: Zootopia
Director: Byron Howard and Rich Moore
Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Tommy Chong, J. K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk, and Shakira
Year: 2016
When did I first watch this movie?: June 2016
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: It’s a very clever comedy that revels in creating a world populated by anthropomorphic animals, all while being a critique of systemic racism.


233

Title: Dreams
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Cast: Akira Terao, Mitsuko Baisho, Martin Scorsese, Chishū Ryū, Mieko Harada, Yoshitaka Zushi, Toshie Negishi, Hisashi Igawa, Chosuke Ikariya
Year: 1990
When did I first watch this movie?: At Williamsburg Theatre, circa 1991
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: I remember being entranced by the visual splendor and imagination in the eight vignettes, which were based on Kurosawa’s actual dreams.  The images of walking inside Van Gogh paintings and the platoon of ghostly soldiers have stuck with me.  This was the first Kurosawa film I ever saw and I need to revisit it to see how it holds up.


232

Title: Airplane! 
Director: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Cast: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Lorna Patterson
Year: 1980
When did I first watch this movie?:
Why is this one of my all time favorites?:


231

Title: WALL-E
Director: Andrew Stanton
Cast: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy, Sigourney Weaver, and Fred Willard
Year: 2008
When did I first watch this movie?: Summer 2009
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Another movie that has light comedy and romance with an underlying story of environmental catastrophe.  I like that it shows humans at our worst and yet still has hope for humanity.

Movie Review: Class Action Park (2020)


Title: Class Action Park
Release Date: August 27, 2020
Director: Seth Porges, Chris Charles Scott III
Production Company: Pinball Party Productions | Strategery Films | Warner Max
Summary/Review:

As a kid growing up in Connecticut, ads for Action Park were constantly on the tv and radio, but my requests to go there were denied.  My mother was not fond of driving to New Jersey nor did our family budget have much room for visits to theme parks.  It was only until years later that I learned that I may have dodged a bullet since Action Park had such a reputation for guests getting injured and sometimes killed.  In fact, back in the 80s, I remember New Jersey’s other theme park Great Adventure having the reputation for danger since several teens were killed in a fire and one person fell off a roller coaster.

Class Action Park features interviews with former employees and guests of Action Park mixed with archival news footage and old home movies.  The general theme of the movie is “can you believe how dangerous this place was” and the strange nostalgic feeling of having survived it.  The jokey tone of some of the commentators is placed at odds with survivors of people who died at Action Park, with the ending of the film actually featuring the most uncomfortable contrast of narration and film.

The villain of the piece is Gene Mulvihill, a shady investor in penny stocks who opened Action Park as a summer activity at his ski resort in 1978.  Action Park was a pioneer of the modern waterpark, so a lot of the rides were  experimental to begin with, but Mulvihill refused to hire professional ride engineers and often redrew the plans himself to make them more extreme. If the rides weren’t dangerous enough, the park was run almost entirely by teenagers with underage drinking and drug use common among the staff.  Mulvihill’s libertarian emphasis on freedom and profits with his callous disregard of people injured and killed at the park becomes emblematic of the USA in the Reagan Era.

I found this movie to be interesting in how it showed how the most unbelievable aspects of Action Park came to be and persisted.  But I also don’t think it is a very well-made documentary.  For one thing, it could’ve used a wider of variety of commentators as the handful involved said mostly the same things.  Also, the frequent reuse of b-roll footage throughout the movie feels lazy and unprofessional.  Still it’s an interesting movie to watch if you’re curious about how an experiment in pure libertarianism in Greater New York City went horribly wrong and why regulations may be good, actually.

Rating: ***

Book Review: Highly Irregular by Arika Okrent


Author: Arika Okrent
Title: Highly Irregular: Why Tough, Through, and Dough Don’t Rhyme―And Other Oddities of the English Language
Publication Info: Oxford University Press (2021)

Summary/Review: I always love a good book about why English seems to make no sense.  Okrent breaks down English’s oddities into conflicts of words usage changing among the different languages of various invaders of Britain, the biggest being the Norman invasion which lead to centuries of the elite speaking French while the commoners spoke English.  The introduction of the printing press lead to attempts of standardization for words that previously had no standard spelling, but localized so that they didn’t always end up logically applied.  Then in the 19th century, classically trained scholars tried to apply the standards of Greek and Latin to the unruly English language, causing more problems in the long run.  Event today English is evolving and changing in weird ways while still oddly being a successful means of communication among people who use the language.  The book is broken up into short chapters so it can be read all at once or broken up to be read at one’s leisure.

Recommended books:

Rating: ***1/2

Favorite Albums of All Time: 250-241


Having listened to every album on the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I’m making my own list.  This list will be only 250 albums, although I had to make some tough cuts.  The list includes a mix of works of musical genius with the pure nostalgia of some albums I’ve loved throughout my life.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these albums and what your favorite albums are.

Going forward I will be counting down ten more albums every other Wednesday (I wasn’t ready to start on Wednesday this week since it took time to rank my list!).

250

Artist: Happy Mondays
Title: Pills ‘N’ Thrills And Bellyaches
Year:  1990
Favorite Tracks:

  • God’s Cop
  • Loose Fit
  • Bob’s Yer Uncle
  • Step On
  • Harmony

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Happy Mondays were on heavy rotation on the local modern rock station, WERS, so I’d heard many of the songs and wanted the album. I went to a new record shop and the clerk thought I was buying the soundtrack to “Happy Days.” I guess he wasn’t all too hip.
Thoughts: Before grunge, alternative music was “baggy” or the “Madchester sound” from the UK.  And maddest of those bands was Happy Mondays.  Get this, they had a member of the band named Bez who didn’t sing or play an instrument, he just danced manically around the stage. I wasn’t a recreational drug user, but the thoroughly stoned vibe of this music resonated with me all the same.  The lyrics aren’t so great, so it’s good they’re hard to understand.

Bonus Sounds: Fellow Madchester act, The Charlatans had a hit with “The Only One I Know.”  Except I always heard my own name in the song (“Liam, the one I know”, and I wasn’t the only one.


249

Artist: The Nields
Title: Gotta Get Over Greta
Year :1997
Favorite Tracks:

  • Taxi Girl
  • Gotta Get Over Gretta
  • Best Black Dress
  • I Know What Kind of Love This Is
  • Cowards
  • Lovely Rita

The First Time I Heard This Album …: I probably first became aware of The Nields at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in 1999 and I also was gifted a mixtape with “Lovely Rita” (a rare cover that is better than the original) at the same time.  I probably acquired the album sometime later that year.
Thoughts: This folk pop band from Western Massachusetts was big on the folk music circuit when I was following it in the late 90s/early 00s. At the time the band was sisters Katryna and Nerissa Nields and three guys named David. This album goes to some dark places and the songwriting does a great job of capturing the women’s voice in various situations.

Bonus Sounds: I went through a time when The Nields were one of my favorite bands and enjoyed their albums PlayIf You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now, and Live from Northampton among others.  The sisters Nields ditched the Daves in the early 00s and are still performing to this day.


248

Artist: The Paperboys
Title: Molinos
Year:1998
Favorite Tracks:

  • Molinos
  • Waste Some Time
  • I’ve Just Seen a Face (the second straight album with a great interpretation of a Beatles’ tune)
  • Same for Everyone
  • After the First Time
  • Ray’s Ukrainian Wine Cellar Polka/Nelli’s Afterthought

The First Time I Heard This Album …: I’m guessing I also learned of The Paperboys at a folk festival or maybe they opened for another artist I liked sometime around 1999-2000.  And then I bought the CD.
Thoughts: The Paperboys are a Western Canadian band lead by Tom Landa that play a Celtic Rock sound mixed with other forms of roots and world music. Their music has an earnest quality to it with a lot of musical virtuosity.

Bonus Sounds: While Molinos is the best album by The Paperboys that I’m aware of, I also liked Postcards (2000) which contains the great track “Still the Night,” and there 2002 “greatest hits” compilation Tenure. I haven’t kept up with the band but apparently they’re still active, although the lineup has turned over with only Landa remaining in place.


247

ArtistThe Pinker Tones
Title: Wild Animals
Year: 2008
Favorite Tracks:

  • S.E.X.Y.R.O.B.O.T
  • On Se Promenait
  • The Whistling Song
  • Happy Everywhere
  • Working Bees

The First Time I Heard This Album …: I’m pretty sure I was introduced to The Pinker Tones by NPR’s All Songs Considered and soon became obsessed with “S.E.X.Y.R.O.B.O.T” and eventually acquired the whole album.
Thoughts: The Pinker Tones are a duo of Mister Furia and Professor Manso from Barcelona. The Pinker Tones sound is eclectic, listed as indie pop and alternative on Wikipedia, but there’s also a lot of funk and electronic dance in their sound mixed with lounge music and traditional European pop.

I love this video for “Fugaz.”  They just want their dance back so much.

Bonus Sounds: The Pinker Tones are apparently still active, but don’t seem to have released a new studio album in a decade.  I remember trying to listen to some of their other albums and not finding I liked anything as much as Wild Animals.

 


246

Artist: Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Title: Fever to Tell
Year: 2003
Favorite Tracks:

  • Date With the Night
  • Black Tongue
  • Pin
  • Maps
  • Y Control

The First Time I Heard This Album …: I discovered the debut album by New York City’s Yeah Yeah Yeahs by randomly browsing through the CDs at the public library, maybe a year or two after the album was released.
Thoughts: I immediately came to like the “dance punk” tunes with Karen O’s unique vocal stylings and it was in heavy rotation back when I had an iPod and listened to it a lot.  I became reacquainted with the album last year when I listened to it for the Rolling Stone 500 project and realized it had stood the test of time.

Bonus Sounds: The Yeah Yeah Yeahs released three more albums after Fever to Tell, but I haven’t listened to any of them.  They appear to be still together but have been quiet for the past decade. Another album I found at the library by a band from NYC that I really liked (but didn’t make this list) is Turn on the Bright Lights by Interpol.


245

Artist: The Shins
Title: Chutes Too Narrow
Year: 2003
Favorite Tracks:

  • Mine’s Not a High Horse
  • So Says I
  • Saint Simon
  • Pink Bullets

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Round about 2004 I was looking for new bands to listen to and I didn’t always find them at the library.  Natalie Portman could’ve told me that The Shins “will change your life” but I didn’t hear that from her until a few years later so I think it was actually an online magazine like Pitchfork or Paste.
Thoughts: The Shins are a band from New Mexico that play a bright style of indie pop that masks deeper introspection in the lyrics.  This is another album that was in high rotation during my iPod Era (ca. 2004-2012), which is apropos since The Shins music probably could’ve been used in an ad for Apple products (that may sound like a dig, but it isn’t).  It was nice to revisit this album after a long time.

Bonus Sounds: The Shins have a lot of turnover over the years with only James Mercer remaining from the original lineup. The success of Chutes Too Narrow seemed to negatively affect him and the handful of albums by The Shins since then haven’t measured up in my ears.


244

Artist: Various
Title: Channel 1 – A Compilation Of Output Recordings
Year: 2000
Favorite Tracks:

  • Fridge – “Anglepoised”
  • Four Tet – “Calamine (Radio Version)”
  • Sonovac – “High-On-Tech”
  • Gramme – “Like U”
  • LB – “Superbad” (yes, it’s a cover of the James Brown track)
  • Soft Verge  – “Microbial”

 

The First Time I Heard This Album …: So I have picked out albums randomly from the library shelves and downloaded the from iTunes, but how about buying an album from a store unheard? That’s how I acquired this collection of electronic music from the now defunct Twisted Village in Harvard Square, a store that specialized in esoteric music with no commercial potential.
Thoughts: Output Recordings was a British label that focused on various forms of electronic music and only existed from 1996 to 2006.  This compilations contains tracks you can dance to and tracks you can meditate to, and is a really good representation of electronic music circa 2000.

Bonus Sounds: At some point, I returned to Twisted Village and picked up Channel 2 – A Compilation Of Output Recordings (2003) but it didn’t have the same magic, although I did love the retro 80’s soul sound of “Ice Skating Girl” by Rekindle.  I have kept up with the output of Four Tet over the years, but I have no idea what happened to any of the artists on either of these compilations.


243

Artist: Hothouse Flowers
Title: Songs From The Rain
Year:1992
Favorite Tracks:

  • An Emotional Time
  • Be Good
  • Isn’t It Amazing
  • Thing of Beauty
  • Stand Beside Me

The First Time I Heard This Album …: I participated in the Boston –> New York AIDSRide as a rider in 1999 and 2000 and there was this great song that played at the end of the orientation video.  Finally, as the 2000 ride was ending I finally was able to find out from someone that the song was “Thing of Beauty” by Hothouse Flowers.
Thoughts: Hothouse Flowers are a band from Dublin, Ireland who had some success in the late 80s in the wake of U2.  I hadn’t given them much thought until I learned that they were the band behind “Thing of Beauty” (which was actually a Top 40 hit for them in 1993, but I missed it at the time). Songs from the Rain is full of the bands rock tunes with soul and gospel flourishes, many of them raving up into great singalongs.

Bonus Sounds: I still never warmed up to Hothouse Flowers’ other works, although I really love the track “Christchurch Bells” from their 1990 album Home.  I saw the band’s leader Liam Ó Maonlaí perform solo at Club Passim in Cambridge in 2005.  He is very tall and plays the didgeridoo, an indigenous Australian instrument.  I got a copy of his solo album Rian that night but didn’t listen to it much. As for the Boston –> New York AIDSRide, there is one other song that alway brings back memories of those events.


242

Artist: Jim’s Big Ego
Title: Noplace Like Nowhere
Year: 2000
Favorite Tracks:

  • Stress
  • Concrete
  • Prince Charming
  • Boston Band
  • She’s Dead
  • Slow

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Probably picked it up at a Jim’s Big Ego show when it was released in 2000.
Thoughts: I first Boston folk rock band Jim’s Big Ego play at First Night 1999 when their set included songs like “Stress” and “She’s Dead.” I got a couple of their albums that night and would see Jim Infantino and co several times over the next 5+ years.  Noplace Like Nowhere was their first release after I’d been seeing them for a while and it had higher production values than their earlier releases, including new recordings of “Stress” and “She’s Dead.”  But it was new songs like “Concrete” and “Prince Charming” that one me over, both by being less sarcastic and just being plain great pop songs.

Bonus Sounds: I had the albums Titanic (1996), Don’t Get Smart (1998), and They’re Everywhere (2003) which all have some great tracks, plus there were always some great songs I heard in concert that weren’t on any album.  I kind of drifted away from JBE circa 2005.  The band is still out there, though, although like many of the bands in this post they haven’t released any new recordings for a decade.


241

Artist: The Go! Team
Title: The Scene Between
Year:  2015
Favorite Tracks:

  • “The Scene Between”
  • “Blowtorch”
  • “Catch Me on the Rebound”
  • “The Art of Getting By (Song For Heaven’s Gate)”

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Not to be a stereotype, but this is another band I learned about through NPR’s All Songs Considered.  I had heard songs from their previous albums but the title song of this album really won me over.
Thoughts: The Go! Team are an outfit from the UK who mix performances of upbeat indie pop with samples of things like cheerleader chants, hip hop, space-age bachelor pad music, and obscure movie soundtracks.  It’s something called plunderphonics.  “The Scene Between” sounds like a gospel choir gone psychedelic with a suitably trippy video to accompany it.

Bonus Sounds: I’ve kept up with The Go! Team since 2015 and written about them on this blog.  While nothing quite measures up to The Scene Between, they’re always good if you’re looking for something different and upbeat.


 

Album of the Week: Came by Tran Uy Duc


Album: Came
Artist: Tran Uy Duc
Release Date: December 20, 2021
Label: Self-Released
Favorite Tracks:

  • Three
  • Banal (feat. Pilgrim Raid)
  • Catwalk

Thoughts: Every so often when I listen to music too much everything starts to sound the same.  That’s why it’s refreshing to listen to this album by Tran Uy Duc, and 18-year-old artist from Vietnam, of what is basically a bunch of vignettes of machine-metal sounds.  Every so often it sounds a little bit like music and it sounds wonderful.  Check out Pitchfork for a more in-depth review.
Rating: ***1/2

Movie Review: Black Girl (1966)


Title:La noire de…
Release Date: 1966
Director: Ousmane Sembène
Production Company: Filmi Domirev | Les Actualités Françaises
Summary/Review:

This film was made a few years after Senegal gained its independence from France and is considered one of the first feature films created by people from sub-Saharan Africa.  It explores the themes of lingering colonialism and imperialism through the story of a young woman named Diouana (Mbissine Thérèse Diop).  She leaves her impoverished village near Dakar to work for a French couple in their apartment on the French Riviera.

While she expects to care for their children, Diouana is surprised that the woman, known only as Madame (Anne-Marie Jelinek), makes her do all the household chores and cooking. In flashbacks, we learn that Diouana worked as a nanny for the couple when they were living in Dakar and that Madame was treated her much more generously.  Over time Diouana feels trapped in the apartment, not allowed to explore the French village where they live, and falls into a depression with tragic consequences.  The final scene is a haunting image of how colonizers will always be haunted by their past, especially if they fail to make reconciliation.

Rating: ****

Movie Review: She’s Gotta Have It (1986)


Title: She’s Gotta Have It
Release Date: August 8, 1986
Director: Spike Lee
Production Company: 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks
Summary/Review:

I watched She’s Gotta Have It way back in the 1980s and remember liking it, except for THAT SCENE (but we’ll get to that latter).  This was Spike Lee’s first feature film as director, shot in black & white (except for one brilliant burst of color mid-movie), and has more of an arthouse vibe to it than any of Lee’s later work.

The movie focuses on Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns), an artist in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn, and her romantic sexual relationships with three different men.  Jamie (Tommy Redmond Hicks) is presented as the “good guy” and I think the narrative wants the audience to believe that until the rug is pulled out from us later on.  Greer (John Canada Terrell) is a vain model.  Mars Blackmon (Spike Lee) is a goofy sneakerhead and basically a Brooklyn hipster before his time.  Lee has also portrayed Mars in commercials and his own identity and the character’s are sometimes intermingled.

The movie basically does a good job of deconstructing the double standards of a woman who wants to be sexually active with more than one man.  In the documentary-style interviews with the men, they basically “self-own” themselves with their hypocritical views.  This movie is also sex positive in the way that it depicts how Nola is sexually fulfilled in different ways by each of the men.  Still though, this movie fumbles at times where it clearly feels it was written by a straight man. One of the worst is examples is a lesbian character portrayed by Raye Dowell acts like a male fantasy of a lesbian woman.

And now we come to the end of the movie for which I will have to discuss SPOILERS. Angry that Nola won’t choose to be only with him, Jamie brutally rapes her. Later Nola calls it a “near rape” which is an understatement at best. She decides to break it off with Mars and Greer and be exclusive with Jamie but also to be celibate for a time.  Now, it is not unrealistic for a seemingly “good guy” in a patriarchal society to become a rapist, nor is it unrealistic for a woman to internalize abuse and feel that she has to be the one to change her behavior but it does seem to send the wrong message that undercuts everything that came before.  In the final shot, Nola abruptly admits that her period of celibacy was short and she eventually broke it off with Jamie, which, good for her, but it also feels like this movie is trying to have it both ways.

Despite its flaws, She’s Gotta Have It, was a groundbreaking film.  It kicked off Spike Lee’s career, and was in the vanguard of movies by Black filmmakers that shook off the Hollywood stereotypes of Black stories in film.  The movie depicts Brooklyn as home to successful Black people pursuing their interests in careers and personal lives in a way that sadly hadn’t been seen in movies before.  It was also a big boost to independent movies at a time of major studio dominance, and the indies still flourish today because of it.

Rating: ***1/2

Movie Review: The Circus (1928)


TitleThe Circus
Release Date: January 6, 1928
Director: Charles Chaplin
Production Company: United Artists
Summary/Review:

This Charlie Chaplin film comes in-between The Gold Rush and City Lights but is not as highly acclaimed as those two movies, and I can see why.  Chaplin’s Tramp stumbles into a circus and inadvertently becomes a comic star.  He also falls in love with the horse rider Merna (Merna Kennedy) who is brutally abused by the Ringmaster (Al Ernest Garcia).  The arrival of a new tightrope walker, Rex (Harry Crocker), leads to a love triangle among the Tramp, Myrna, and Rex.  There are a number of good gags and stunts in the film, but overall the movie just feels thin.  It’s like a good short film got stretched to be a feature.  Still, Chaplin’s comedic brilliance is always worth a watch.

Rating: ***