Monday, September 10, 2007

Movie Tuesday - We Play the Race Card

This week I watched some of the best cinema I have seen. The two movies that I'll look at in this post both take a look at the sometimes-controversial, and always complex subject of race and prejudice in America. Specifically, in Los Angeles.

American History X - 6 stars

This is an amazingly powerful film, featuring some incredible actors in an incredible story. Almost ten years after it was made, it (unfortunately) sounds like it could be today. Especially the tirade about "Border-Jumpers" in the middle of the film. Edward Norton's character of Derek Vinyard is the central figure through most of the movie, but it is the fragile character of his little brother Danny, played expertly by Eddie Furlong, that draws you into the story. His fate is not quite yet chosen; he has started down a dangerous path, but might still be helped.

Whereas Danny is a follower, who does what he's told, (by his principal, by his brother, by his "Mentor", Cameron, or by his friends) Older brother, Derek, is a leader. A leader who is as intelligent as he is troubled. We see Derek get some wisdom to go with his intelligence, when a prison counselor (who happens to be a black man, and Danny's high school principal) asks him this poignant question:
"Has anything you've done made your life better?"
It's a question that, in the right circumstance, can focus introspective brooding where it can actually help.

The past still rears it's ugly head, and past mistakes continue to have repercussions long after repentance. Derek sports one heck of a tattoo in this movie that will always be there to remind him of what he was, and what he did.(Actually he has several tattoos, but one stands out from the pack in a major way.)

If you haven't seen it, See it. But be warned, it does contain a few short sequences of truly horrific violence.

Crash - 6 stars

This Triple-Oscar-Winning film is a cinematic testament to my personal Creed and Motto:

"Everything Is Complicated"

This movie takes an even more nuanced, and much less gritty, look at race relations. As a believer that most of life occurs in shades of gray, I found this movie to resonate with me quite a bit. Rather than do the regular review, I thought I would give a list of things I learned while watching Crash.

  • Never, ever get a tattoo on your neck. Ever. It gives people the wrong impression.
  • Dealing with an HMO sucks bad enough without antagonizing your customer service worker.
  • If you are a Persian shop owner operating in the United States, LEARN ENGLISH and CALM DOWN!
  • Drive Carefully
  • Dashboard religious figurines do not confer any benefit to the user.
  • Guns don't kill people; Bullets kill people.
  • Racism occasionally leads to correct predictions, this still doesn't make it right.
  • Being a cop is dangerous on a lot of levels.
  • Driving a Brand-New Luxury SUV is just asking for trouble. Half of the problems in this movie would have never occurred if these people would have just bought themselves a nice, reliable Toyota Celica. A really nice car goeth before a fall, it would seem.
  • 5-year-old kids are really gullible.
  • Christmastime is a good time to not be in Southern California.
  • If you can't make friends, hire a maid.
  • And Finally: If you were a jerk yesterday, today you can be a hero; if you were a hero yesterday, today you can still be a jerk. It's up to you.
So there you go. If you haven't seen it, go see it. Then come back and read this list again.

That's all for today, Blog Fans! Thanks for reading, And we'll See You Again Tomorrow!

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