It's my Birthday! What do you got for me?

Joined: Jan 2008
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Popcorn Reviews
Thief12Popcorn, you lucky bastard. I stumbled upon this today on Amazon Prime, and well...


Cameraperson (2016), recommended by Popcorn Reviews (RT)

What does a Brooklyn boxer, a Nigerian midwife, a family of survivors of the Bosnian War, and a herd of sheep have in common? Well, they were all subjects of cinematographer and filmmaker Kirsten Johnson during her career of 25 years, and she chose to put their lives as a unique autobiographical journal.

Johnson, who started her career as a cinematographer and camera operator in the late 1990s, has worked with the likes of Michael Moore and Laura Poitras, and her job has taken her all the way from the USA to Darfur, Bosnia, Russia, and back. Cameraperson is spliced from bits and pieces of many of the documentaries and short films in which Johnson has worked. But she does so in such a beautiful and poetic way, while also intersecting it with videos of her children and her family.?

The end result is a poignant and moving look at, not only Johnson's career, but rather a look at life around us in this planet. The challenges of humanity are presented from such different points of view: from the frustration of an up-and-coming American boxer, to the struggles of survival of a family in post-war Bosnia, to the inherent need to breathe and live of a Nigerian newborn, or a mother dealing with Alzheimer. The struggles to live, to survive, to achieve are shared by everyone, it doesn't matter who you are.

There is little dialogue in Cameraperson, but there really is no need for it. The visuals and images speak for themselves. Grade: A

Nice! Glad you got around to seeing it, because I feel like this didn't get enough attention on this forum. Also, this film got released on Criterion earlier this year.

Thanks to you for the "gift"?;)?It really got to me at one point, which is always a good sign.
Aug 11, 2017 5:23 PM
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Popcorn Reviews
Thief12The Killing (1956), recommended by Peng (BPS)

Stanley Kubrick has been one of my favorite directors for a while now. From 2001 to Eyes Wide Shut, almost all of the films of his I've seen would probably make it to a Top 50 or Top 100 list, if I ever made one. Despite that, I still have a couple of blind spots on his early works. Earlier this year, I saw Fear and Desire during my #JanuaryOfDebuts. Now, it was The Killing's turn, so thanks to Peng for bringing it up (still have Killer's Kiss, Lolita, and Paths of Glory to check)

The Killing follows Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden), a veteran criminal and ex-convict determined to do "one last job" before marrying his girlfriend. The job? Robbing $2 million from the counting room of a racetrack. To achieve this, he assembles an assorted group of associates to create various diversions and perform different tasks. The crew includes a racetrack bartender, a "muscle" man, a corrupt cop, a sharpshooter, an old friend, and a racetrack cashier. But things might not go as planned when one of the group spills too much of the job to someone else.

Kubrick's approach to The Killing is methodical and one can say, distant, as we see all the preparations for the heist. It's like running through a checklist as we see how Clay recruits most of the members of the team, and how each of them prepares for the big hit. Aside of Johnny, the focus of the story is on George (Elisha Cook, Jr.) a racetrack cashier that is full of insecurities and frustrations, which make him speak too much to his wife, Sherry (Marie Windsor). And Sherry, by the way, might've very well won the 1956 Wife of the Year ??

Some minor complaints, the narration felt a bit awkward and maybe even unnecessary. Second, the distant approach doesn't give a lot of space for audiences to connect with the characters, but I don't think that was Kubrick's intentions anyway. His intention is to get us all amped up with the preparations and make us wonder "will they make it? or will they fail?" and in that, he succeeds. The swift direction and the tense score keeps us in the edge of our seats all the time.?

Perhaps with a more character-driven approach, the ending would've packed more of a punch, but I thought it was cool anyway. I like to think that Johnny's final line is an example of Kubrick's perennial motif of "dehumanization", with him being dehumanized by all the time in jail and crime itself. All in all, The Killing is a pretty slick film, full of tension and nice camerawork. Grade: Torn between a high B+ or a low A-

This is one of my favorites. I liked it a bit more than you do, but I get your complaints.

It was pretty good, and it cements Kubrick's place in my list of favorite directors. I still have those four to see, but IMO, most of his other films are masterpieces. The only weak films of his would be his first film, Fear and Desire, and maybe, to a certain extent Spartacus.?
Aug 11, 2017 5:32 PM
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Thief12
Popcorn Reviews
Thief12The Killing (1956), recommended by Peng (BPS)

Stanley Kubrick has been one of my favorite directors for a while now. From 2001 to Eyes Wide Shut, almost all of the films of his I've seen would probably make it to a Top 50 or Top 100 list, if I ever made one. Despite that, I still have a couple of blind spots on his early works. Earlier this year, I saw Fear and Desire during my #JanuaryOfDebuts. Now, it was The Killing's turn, so thanks to Peng for bringing it up (still have Killer's Kiss, Lolita, and Paths of Glory to check)

The Killing follows Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden), a veteran criminal and ex-convict determined to do "one last job" before marrying his girlfriend. The job? Robbing $2 million from the counting room of a racetrack. To achieve this, he assembles an assorted group of associates to create various diversions and perform different tasks. The crew includes a racetrack bartender, a "muscle" man, a corrupt cop, a sharpshooter, an old friend, and a racetrack cashier. But things might not go as planned when one of the group spills too much of the job to someone else.

Kubrick's approach to The Killing is methodical and one can say, distant, as we see all the preparations for the heist. It's like running through a checklist as we see how Clay recruits most of the members of the team, and how each of them prepares for the big hit. Aside of Johnny, the focus of the story is on George (Elisha Cook, Jr.) a racetrack cashier that is full of insecurities and frustrations, which make him speak too much to his wife, Sherry (Marie Windsor). And Sherry, by the way, might've very well won the 1956 Wife of the Year ??

Some minor complaints, the narration felt a bit awkward and maybe even unnecessary. Second, the distant approach doesn't give a lot of space for audiences to connect with the characters, but I don't think that was Kubrick's intentions anyway. His intention is to get us all amped up with the preparations and make us wonder "will they make it? or will they fail?" and in that, he succeeds. The swift direction and the tense score keeps us in the edge of our seats all the time.?

Perhaps with a more character-driven approach, the ending would've packed more of a punch, but I thought it was cool anyway. I like to think that Johnny's final line is an example of Kubrick's perennial motif of "dehumanization", with him being dehumanized by all the time in jail and crime itself. All in all, The Killing is a pretty slick film, full of tension and nice camerawork. Grade: Torn between a high B+ or a low A-

This is one of my favorites. I liked it a bit more than you do, but I get your complaints.

It was pretty good, and it cements Kubrick's place in my list of favorite directors. I still have those four to see, but IMO, most of his other films are masterpieces. The only weak films of his would be his first film, Fear and Desire, and maybe, to a certain extent Spartacus.?

The only Kubrick films I don't have strong opinions on are The Shining and Killer's Kiss. I haven't seen the 2 you mentioned.
Aug 11, 2017 5:34 PM
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Thief12Actually, we're gonna start now...


Laura (1944) recommended by Apex Predator (RT)

Ever since I took an online course on film noir a couple of years ago, I've had my eyes on this one. But for some reason, I hadn't seen it yet, so thanks to Apex Predator for bringing it up. The film has all the ingredients of a perfect noir: dark surroundings, shady characters, skewed and subjective points of view, a potential femme fatale, etc. and yet it feels unique in its own way.

Laura follows up Mark McPherson, a New York detective (Dana Andrews) investigating the alleged murder of the titular character, who was a successful advertising executive. Some of the potential suspects are Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), a newspaper columnist with a quick wit and a vicious tongue, and Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price), a "kept man" that happens to be engaged to Laura. As Mark follows up the trail on Laura's murder, he wounds up finding twists and surprises in every corner while also developing a crush on the woman.

Laura, who we first meet through flashbacks, is played effectively by Gene Tierney. It isn't the "showiest" role, but she gets the job done. Similar things can be said about Andrews, who is cool and slick as the tough cop. He doesn't get to emote much, and him falling for Laura feels like a bit of a stretch, but I don't mind him. The show here belongs to Webb as Waldo Lydecker. From the first frame when you hear his narration, you know the film belongs to him. Webb does a perfect job in portraying a unique man; a man that is both confident and frail, strong but flawed. You never know what to expect from Lydecker, aside of his verbal attacks. Which is why we might tolerate absurdities like allowing a suspect to ride shotgun with a cop while interrogating other suspects.

I think I agree with Ebert, who said that the "absurdities and improbabilities somehow do not diminish the film's appeal. They may even add to it." Laura is not a perfect film, and yet it seems perfect in its own flawed way. It flows effortlessly, it pulls you in and keeps you in. Like Lydecker himself, a unique film it is: flawed, but perfect. Grade: A-

Stumbled across this a few months ago on PBS (they have a Saturday Night classic movie night in my station). They have had a run of film noirs (such as this and Lady from Shanghai) and classic musicals (Show Boat; The Band Wagon) in the past along with older movies (9 to 5; Tootsie; Married to the Mob).

Will agree to a great extent on the review. Webb was gold as the critic. Yeah, there were some stretches of logic. But there was more than enough to definitely make it worth the recommend. Glad you enjoyed it.

I suspect you'll really enjoy The Lady from Shanghai.
Aug 11, 2017 10:47 PM
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Apex Predator
Thief12Actually, we're gonna start now...


Laura (1944) recommended by Apex Predator (RT)

Ever since I took an online course on film noir a couple of years ago, I've had my eyes on this one. But for some reason, I hadn't seen it yet, so thanks to Apex Predator for bringing it up. The film has all the ingredients of a perfect noir: dark surroundings, shady characters, skewed and subjective points of view, a potential femme fatale, etc. and yet it feels unique in its own way.

Laura follows up Mark McPherson, a New York detective (Dana Andrews) investigating the alleged murder of the titular character, who was a successful advertising executive. Some of the potential suspects are Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), a newspaper columnist with a quick wit and a vicious tongue, and Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price), a "kept man" that happens to be engaged to Laura. As Mark follows up the trail on Laura's murder, he wounds up finding twists and surprises in every corner while also developing a crush on the woman.

Laura, who we first meet through flashbacks, is played effectively by Gene Tierney. It isn't the "showiest" role, but she gets the job done. Similar things can be said about Andrews, who is cool and slick as the tough cop. He doesn't get to emote much, and him falling for Laura feels like a bit of a stretch, but I don't mind him. The show here belongs to Webb as Waldo Lydecker. From the first frame when you hear his narration, you know the film belongs to him. Webb does a perfect job in portraying a unique man; a man that is both confident and frail, strong but flawed. You never know what to expect from Lydecker, aside of his verbal attacks. Which is why we might tolerate absurdities like allowing a suspect to ride shotgun with a cop while interrogating other suspects.

I think I agree with Ebert, who said that the "absurdities and improbabilities somehow do not diminish the film's appeal. They may even add to it." Laura is not a perfect film, and yet it seems perfect in its own flawed way. It flows effortlessly, it pulls you in and keeps you in. Like Lydecker himself, a unique film it is: flawed, but perfect. Grade: A-

Stumbled across this a few months ago on PBS (they have a Saturday Night classic movie night in my station). They have had a run of film noirs (such as this and Lady from Shanghai) and classic musicals (Show Boat; The Band Wagon) in the past along with older movies (9 to 5; Tootsie; Married to the Mob).

Will agree to a great extent on the review. Webb was gold as the critic. Yeah, there were some stretches of logic. But there was more than enough to definitely make it worth the recommend. Glad you enjoyed it.

I suspect you'll really enjoy The Lady from Shanghai.

I'm looking forward to The Lady from Shanghai, also because I'd like to see more of Welles. But anyway, thanks again for the recommendation.
Aug 12, 2017 4:46 PM
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Bamboozled (2000), recommended by Mod Hip (The Bronze)

Even though I'm not that familiar with his filmography, I've seen several of Spike Lee's films (four, to be exact). But if there's one thing I've noticed on the ones I've seen is that he's anything but subtle. And I'm not saying it as a bad thing; he wants to get his message across, and constructs his films in a way to do so. Sometimes it works pretty well, sometimes not so much. Bamboozled leans more towards the former.

Bamboozled follows Pierre Delacroix (Damon Wayans), a TV writer working for a struggling cable network. When his boss, Dunwitty (Michael Rapaport) forces him to come with an idea of a new show, Delacroix decides to pitch the most racist show in the vein of 19th century minstrel shows in order to get fired and out of his contract. The black actors will wear blackface, and the script will be full of stereotypical and racist jokes. Reluctantly on board is his assistant, Sloan (Jada Pinkett), who develops a close friendship with Manray (Savion Glover), one of the new stars of the show.

For the most part, Bamboozled manages to be both funny and insightful as far as its social commentary goes. The critique about the state of affairs in national television is very on-point and sometimes even harsh to look at. There are parts, though, that end up being a tad clich? and predictable (the writer becomes a sell-out, the star becomes corrupted by fame) but they serve their purpose in the grand scheme of things. Most of the performances are solid, although Wayans awkward accent and pitch is a bit distracting (but perhaps part of his character's "French" persona). Glover and his best friend (Tommy Davidson) are standouts, even if their subplot feels a bit cut short in the end, and Rapaport is pretty good.

The film does derails a bit towards the last act, becoming more scattered in its targets. Like I said above, Lee is anything but subtle, and sometimes his message gets a bit heavy-handed and too aggressive. But other times, what he manages to get across and what he succeeds in conveying is beautiful in its tragedy and harshness. The first time we see Delacroix' show is an example of that, and we find ourselves like members of the audience, both laughing nervously and gasping in shock and disbelief; forcing us to look within ourselves and within our entertainment industry and ponder about the things we, as a society, have done wrong.

There is a montage near the end of clips and scenes from shows and cartoons of the early 20th century that show how offensively black people have been portrayed on films and TV: as savages, uneducated, dumb, violent, servile. Some of those portrayals were anything but subtle, so perhaps we need an equally unsubtle response to acknowledge our wrongs. I can say that the film left me thinking more because of its message, than for its superficial plot and performances and whatnot. Respect to Lee for that. Grade: B+
Aug 12, 2017 4:46 PM
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Raising Victor Vargas (2003), recommended by Hollis (The Bronze)

Raising a family is not easy, but then again, neither is growing up. The hardships of growth, maturity, sexuality, trust, love and personal relationships are shared by both the parents/guardian and the children. They are constant, regardless of where you come from. It is against this reality that newcomer writer/director Peter Sollett sets this coming-of-age story that manages to feel authentic while avoiding the usual clich?s.

Raising Victor Vargas follows the titular character (Victor Rasuk), a teenager growing up on the Lower East Side of New York City. Victor is being raised by his grandmother (Altagracia Guzman), along with his younger sister Vicki (Krystal Hernandez) with whom he constantly fights, and his younger brother Nino (played by Rasuk's real-life brother, Sebastian) who idolizes him.

Victor is cocky, confident, and a bit of a ladies man. While hanging out at the local pool, he sets his sight on Judy (Judy Marte), the prettiest girl in the neighborhood, initially for the wrong reasons. But while he tries to court her, Judy has to face her own trust issues which come as a result of being constantly harrassed by men that yell at her things like "Which one of you want to be fucked in the doody ho?"

Other subplots include Vicki falling in love with a kid, Nino dealing with puberty and his own sexuality, and Judy's best friend, Melonie, trying to start her own relationship with Harold, Victor's best friend. But the one that holds them together, and ends up being the most effective to me, was seeing the effect all this events have on their family circle, especially Victor's grandmother, who is struggling to raise three young kids.

Ultimately, the film's strength is its authenticity. Everything about it, from the setting to the characters and their performances, feels genuine. This is more surprising when you consider that most of them had little to no experience acting. I like what Ebert says about them: "fresh-faced newcomers who never step wrong". Victor starts the film being a bit of an asshole, but just as you see him grow and who he really is, you grow to appreciate him, and the film, for that.

Grade: B
Aug 16, 2017 11:07 AM
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Aug 16, 2017 11:36 AM
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Aug 16, 2017 11:44 AM
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Aug 16, 2017 8:52 PM
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MKS
Joined: Jul 2006
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I think Bamboozled is one of Lee's masterpieces. I can't think of a better film that attacks the legacy of racism in the entertainment industry. Like most of his late era films, it's perhaps too ambitious for it's own good, but the way it delves into the relevance of minstrel shows, accepted racial roles, the exploitation of one's own race and the cooptation of black culture, such a grandiose assortment of topics, and doesn't buckle under the weight of it is astounding. I think when/if Criterion gives it a proper release, we'll see a reassessment of it as one of the great black films of the 21st century.

But no, Lee is not subtle at all when he doesn't want to be. I tend to think he doesn't need to be, either?
Aug 16, 2017 9:37 PM
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MKSI think Bamboozled is one of Lee's masterpieces. I can't think of a better film that attacks the legacy of racism in the entertainment industry. Like most of his late era films, it's perhaps too ambitious for it's own good, but the way it delves into the relevance of minstrel shows, accepted racial roles, the exploitation of one's own race and the cooptation of black culture, such a grandiose assortment of topics, and doesn't buckle under the weight of it is astounding. I think when/if Criterion gives it a proper release, we'll see a reassessment of it as one of the great black films of the 21st century.

But no, Lee is not subtle at all when he doesn't want to be. I tend to think he doesn't need to be, either?

It's certainly a film that sticks with you for a while.
Aug 17, 2017 12:10 AM
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Joined: Sep 2005
Posts: 12995
MKSI think Bamboozled is one of Lee's masterpieces. I can't think of a better film that attacks the legacy of racism in the entertainment industry. Like most of his late era films, it's perhaps too ambitious for it's own good, but the way it delves into the relevance of minstrel shows, accepted racial roles, the exploitation of one's own race and the cooptation of black culture, such a grandiose assortment of topics, and doesn't buckle under the weight of it is astounding. I think when/if Criterion gives it a proper release, we'll see a reassessment of it as one of the great black films of the 21st century.

But no, Lee is not subtle at all when he doesn't want to be. I tend to think he doesn't need to be, either?

I think it was this lack of subtlety that sank Bamboozled in my eyes. But to each their own...
Aug 17, 2017 12:19 AM
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The Hitch-Hiker (1953), recommended by Rock (The Bronze/RT)

When was the last time that anyone of you picked a hitch-hiker? A practice that used to be common in the first half of the 20th century started to decline as the century entered its second half. We see someone on the street with his/her hand out and we just speed by them and look the other way. The reasons? Some people might say a lack of trust of strangers, which in turn might've been sparked by films like this... or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre... or The Hitcher.

The Hitch-Hiker follows a pair of fishing friends (Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy) who pick up a mysterious hitch-hiker (William Talman) on their way to Mexico. The hitch-hiker, called Emmett Myers, turns out to be a psychopath and a killer. Myers, who is running from the law, forces the friends to drive him to Santa Rosalia, Mexico. But on the meantime, he gets off terrorizing them.

One of the film's biggest assets is Talman's performance as Myers. He is a truly menacing and terrifying figure, not because of his physique, but because you actually believe the guy is crazy, thanks to a devilish half-smirk and his lost eyes. Add to that director Ida Lupino's wonderful direction, particularly in Myers' first scene and you will probably lose the desire to pick up any hitch-hiker. Both O'Brien and Lovejoy are pretty good as well as the two friends that try to stay strong, but slowly unravel during their trip.

At 71 minutes, The Hitch-Hiker is a fairly short and simple film that doesn't overstay its welcome. There are some brief interruptions to see how the American and Mexican police deal with Myers' manhunt that break the momentum a bit, but not too much. Through most of its duration, the film is as tense as it gets. Realizing that it is all based on a real-life killer (Billy Cook), might just get you all more tense and more against hitch-hiking. Grade: B+
Aug 17, 2017 1:31 AM
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MKSI think Bamboozled is one of Lee's masterpieces. I can't think of a better film that attacks the legacy of racism in the entertainment industry. Like most of his late era films, it's perhaps too ambitious for it's own good, but the way it delves into the relevance of minstrel shows, accepted racial roles, the exploitation of one's own race and the cooptation of black culture, such a grandiose assortment of topics, and doesn't buckle under the weight of it is astounding. I think when/if Criterion gives it a proper release, we'll see a reassessment of it as one of the great black films of the 21st century.

But no, Lee is not subtle at all when he doesn't want to be. I tend to think he doesn't need to be, either?

It's especially telling when Damon is in on the satire and Marlon is not. In other words, don't watch NBC's Marlon.
Aug 17, 2017 8:36 AM
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Apex Predator
Who Killed Captain Alex? (I tried getting Rump to watch this for a while now, but since I've given up, I'm passing this on you. Plus, it's on Youtube and under 70 minutes. What can you lose?)

Do you know of a "decent" site where I can see it? All I could find on YouTube and Vimeo was one with a "video joker" and another one with a "commentary".
Aug 17, 2017 11:04 PM
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John DumbearSince I rewatched it a couple of days ago, its still great.

"Sorcerer"

For some reason, I almost missed this. Is it the one from Friedkin? 1977?
Aug 17, 2017 11:19 PM
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Thief12
Apex Predator
Who Killed Captain Alex? (I tried getting Rump to watch this for a while now, but since I've given up, I'm passing this on you. Plus, it's on Youtube and under 70 minutes. What can you lose?)

Do you know of a "decent" site where I can see it? All I could find on YouTube and Vimeo was one with a "video joker" and another one with a "commentary".

I think the only ones available are those with the video joker/commentary. They explain at the beginning that there is a low resolution DVD master which is all that's left of the film while its director deleted it from his computer to work on his next film.
Aug 18, 2017 10:36 PM
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Nothing But the Truth (2008), recommended by H.I. McDunnough (BPS)

If you were a journalist, how far would you go to protect your source? Would you risk your job? Would you go to jail? What about your marriage or time spent with your son? I'm not sure if I will, but I do know that the confidentiality provided by the First Amendment is one of the assurances we have of a free press. That is the basic premise of Rod Lurie's little-known drama.

Nothing But the Truth follows Rachel Armstrong (Kate Beckinsale), a journalist for a small newspaper that lands a juicy scoop. After an assasination attempt on the President, the US launches an attack against Venezuela holding them responsible for the attempt. However, Armstrong discovers that a covert CIA operative (Vera Farmiga) had provided information to the White House proving their innocence, but the White House still decided to go on with the attack. Armstrong's article becomes a hit, but not before starting an avalanche of consequences on her.

Enter Patton Dubois (Matt Dillon), an ambitious federal prosecutor that convenes a Grand Jury to force Armstrong into revealing her source. Despite the threat of jailtime, Armstrong holds steadfast to her principle, with the support of her husband (Rusty Schwimmer), her boss (Angela Bassett), the newspaper legal advisor (Noah Wyle), and her newly appointed attorney, Albert Burnside (Alan Alda). How far will those loyalties last? Well, that's what each of you have to find out.

The truth is that I was surprised by how good this was. I hadn't heard nothing about it before, but after seeing it, I do think it is deserving of more notability. The performances are overall solid, with a few standouts in Dillon and Alda. Beckinsale delivers, but not to the extent that I think she should've, considering the weight of the role. The thing is that the film doesn't preoccupy itself with the surrounding political environment: the attempt on the President is irrelevant to the plot, the CIA machinations - although hinted in a nice scene - are not explored, not even the journalistic maneuvers are put forward. The focus of the story is Rachel, and how she deals with this unexpected turn of events, and in that respect, I think a stronger actress would've worked wonders.

Other than that, I would say that the film lacked a proper climax, which left things feeling a bit flat towards the end. However, there's a true kicker in the last reveal that really left me thinking. Add to that the great performances from Alda and Dillon, and you have a true diamond-in-the-rough here. Grade: B+
Aug 20, 2017 1:32 AM
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MKS
Joined: Jul 2006
Posts: 46783
Apex Predator
MKSI think Bamboozled is one of Lee's masterpieces. I can't think of a better film that attacks the legacy of racism in the entertainment industry. Like most of his late era films, it's perhaps too ambitious for it's own good, but the way it delves into the relevance of minstrel shows, accepted racial roles, the exploitation of one's own race and the cooptation of black culture, such a grandiose assortment of topics, and doesn't buckle under the weight of it is astounding. I think when/if Criterion gives it a proper release, we'll see a reassessment of it as one of the great black films of the 21st century.

But no, Lee is not subtle at all when he doesn't want to be. I tend to think he doesn't need to be, either?

I think it was this lack of subtlety that sank Bamboozled in my eyes. But to each their own...

I think subtlety is unnecessary when matched with as much complexity as Spike Lee places in this film. It's essentially a master's thesis on American race relations placed in a relatively amusing satire.
Aug 20, 2017 3:27 AM
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