Tag Archives: Race
24 Feb

Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” is a devilish little bit of social commentary that takes the essence of “Guess Who’s Coming to Diner” and forces it, with vehemence but also panache, into a “Wicker Man”/“Stepford Wives” construct. The result is something clearly borrowed, incredibly fresh and nearly perfect in light of the current political climate. What’s also remarkable is that the horror flick-cum-black comedy marks Peele’s directorial debut, and a surprising one at that – not only because is it so sharp and confident, but also because Mr. Peele is better known as half of the comedy team of Key and Peele on Comedy Central.

The setup’s simple enough. Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), an aspiring photog, agrees reluctantly to meet the parents of his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams of “Girls”), whom he’s been dating for five months – just long enough to have to take these things seriously.

“Do they know I’m black?” Chris asks, a question that the lily-white Rose shrugs off, telling him that her dad would have voted for a Obama for a third time if he had the chance. It’s a pointed little barb, but since “Get Out” started filming long before it played at Sundance in January, I’m not certain Peele understood the whole political backdrop he’d be facing. Given the results of the election, the daggers the film throws couldn’t be any more on point. Continue reading

Hidden Figures

7 Jan

One of the best films of 2016 (yes, it opened in New York City and Los Angeles a few weeks ago as part of awards season’s annual bait-and-switch shenanigans) happens to be a sentimental crowdpleaser that, for all its potential schmaltz and didactic pitfalls, maintains an incredibly poignant balance especially when it comes to matters of race – and there’s plenty of them; “Hidden Figures” is about three African-American women employed as engineers and mathematicians by NASA during the first space launch, just as Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic push for Civil Rights was gaining its groundswell.

It’s not a widely known bit of history, but Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Mary Jackson (singer Janelle Monáe, successfully doubling up as an actor) and Dorothy Vaughan (Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, killer good) toiled for NASA during the Mercury space program as engineers and computers – mathematicians doing the technical legwork before Big Blue dropped its first mainframe – and proved critical in getting John Glenn up and into orbit. One of the film’s most telling – and touching – moments comes when Glenn (Glen Powell) meets Johnson during a technical assembly of scientists and mucky-mucks where she’s not only the only woman or person of color in the room, but the only one able to solve complicated flight variables mathematically. Later, when there’s a snag in the mission and the reentry point needs recalculating, he asks for her aid, referring to her simply as the “the smart one.” Continue reading

Race, Film and Reflection

4 Sep

Huffington Post

Posted: 09/03/2013 2:41

In the wake of the George Zimmerman trial two movies have come out that have helped shape the discussion on race and the racial divide. The docudrama Fruitvale Station explored a similar real-life shooting, but preceded the tragic event with a poignant preamble that chronicled the struggles of a young black male trying to go straight in a society seemingly stacked against him, and more recently Lee Daniels’ The Butler, followed the life of a black man (Forest Whitaker bringing grace and dignity to the role) raised during the early 1900s on an antebellum plantation in Georgia where he witnesses his father shot and killed by a plantation supervisor (who had just raped his mother) and later goes on to become a member of the White House wait staff, serving eight presidents from Eisenhower to Reagan during his long tenure.

As a freelance film critic, formerly with the now (and sadly) defunct Boston Phoenix and currently publishing in a variety of media outlets, I was carefully preparing my review of The Butler for a South Carolina paper, and in looking at the film’s credits, I noticed that the basis for Danny Strong’s script was a Washington Post article by a reporter named Wil Haygood, who in print had documented the decades-long career of Eugene Allen, the man Whitaker’s fictional Cecil Gaines is based upon.  Continue reading

Fruitvale Station

1 Aug

‘Fruitvale Station’: Based on true events, stirring film brings Oscar Grant back to life

By Tom Meek
July 31, 2013

In the wake of the George Zimmerman trial and the cries of justice for Trayvon Martin, “Fruitvale Station” could not come at a more appropriate time. It won’t ease the current emotional swell, but it will aid in furthering the conversation.

073113i Fruitvale StationAt 2 a.m. New Year’s Day in 2009, Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old black man, was shot and killed by a transit cop as he lay face down and partially restrained on the platform of the subway stop of the title. It was a tragic end to a buoyant and hopeful evening as Oscar and his friends tried to make their way back to Oakland, Calif., from a sojourn across the Bay to see the fireworks.   Continue reading