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Posts Tagged ‘black film’

When the muse strikes, she strikes hard. 2011, year of Infinite Jest and Blaxploitation!

“Where every nightmare you have ever had comes true”.

The trailer itself is sort of a let down, I mean the main villain is shown and killed. Sloppy. After seeing the film, I thought the fun part was guessing if he was really the villain and why – which is actually never explained besides the fact that for some reason the antagonist has a blood feud against the family line ( being second best sucks, I know). All this despite the fact he served one of the members for at least two decades. Patient guy.

In my thesis, I make note of the fact that the cop and a university professor are interesting sidenotes – especially the doctor whom actually *spoiler alert* is related to the old woman Pauline Christophe, which makes for a funny scene in the film when Michael Evans says ” hey, man somebody must have got their y’s crossed because you ain’t the right color”, Janee Michelle smirks in a quick cut, to which Victor French replys: “Right color for what?” and Evans says “we are supposed to be related and you don’t look related to me”. Obviously, the scene is poignant considering the fact that they had just finished discussing the slave rebellion in Haiti and the fact their ancestor is Henri Christophe. That fact comes as a slap in the face since the only person left standing by the end of the film is Dr. Cunningham, and not only does in inherit the house and everything else: he becomes king of the legacy left by a former slave. His relationship with his cousin is not consummated, which actually happens too quickly for my taste considering the fact that their other cousin had just died. Next thing you know they are holding hands.

However, Cunningham’s “capacity for knowledge” plays into the rationality and irrationality duality assigned to white and black actors since the dawn of the film era, with whites of course signalling rationality or as Entman and Rojecki discuss in The Black Image in White Mind (xvii) regarding the association of Black identity with the supernatural and White identity is associated with the material world of intellect, power and success. To emphasize the point further, Miss Cristophe undergoes some form of astral projection. She is split into two spectral forms and then combined into one and under the influence of the voodoo bad guy, only to be saved  by Dr. Cunningham whom manages to control his grandmother through his knowledge voodoo lore and mythology, e.g. Erzulie. Michael Evans character seems to be lack any interest in his history and his supernatural disbelief is explained as ignorance since the voodoo priest/butler says “their ignorance was their destruction”. Funnily enough he wanted control of the bloodline through Miss Cristophe, whom I think actually is of mixed heritage when the spectral scene is analysed since both men desire her. Even her other cousin played by Michael Evans desires her yet he is lured by a false spectral image of her resulting in his death.

One huge question which I lack an answer to. Since when are  there mountains in Georgia? All of a sudden they are in Atlanta. One scene reminded me of St Louis though. However, according to IMDB, the day scene is shot in Atlanta:

Underground Atlanta – 50 Upper Alabama Street, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
(Day Out sequence)

Funniest line: “Blood calls to blood, looks like somebody didn’t check out all the blood!”. Otherwise, I highly recommend the matte scenes . For some reason, the topography seems to be shot in California/Colorado (very unlikely considering the budget)(mountains) or at least the beginning scene, yet there is fog and darkness when both actors look at the mountain from a strange viewpoint. It was hard not to think of Castle Greyskull and Castlevania. I also loved the mirror scene and the numerous skull scenes, however I cannot understand why Harriet Johnson was the only one to see “hooded death”, both in the plane and in the car before she dies. A Final Destination kind of vibe going on there.

IMDB Trivia:
Xernona Clayton’s only film role.
Janee Michelle must see appearances:
In the Heat of the Night (TV series), Sanford and Son and Scream Blacula Scream.
Michael Evans – for us fans of The Jeffersons and Good Times. Classic stuff: “Let me tell you something about people. That bartender is willing to work for me because if you got enough green in your pocket black becomes his favorite color”. and “That ain’t nice talking that way to your little mamie here”.

If you watch this film, I highly recommend a song and a better film.

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During the height of the Great Depression there were two films, Hallejuah and In Old Kentucky, that were released within a short time of each other; and so for the first time in American film history the major studios had an all black cast. Before then, blacks were only minor characters, in most instances they were played by white actors – in blackface. Exemptions from this rule include an actuality from the Edison studio, where a black boy is washed by his mother.

The juxtaposition between the dark skin of the boy and the foamy, white bubbles indicate his “tragic state”, invoking the laments of the female in Solomon’s Songs of Song: nigra sum sed formosa and the onerous burden of the master race as Kipling wrote.

The significance of this event in film history cannot be understated because blacks finally gained access to the Hollywood studio establishment; nonetheless there is a tragic story behind this milestone in American history. Immediately after starring in In Old Kentucky a young actor by the name of Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry catapulted into stardom. Relatively few people except film scholars and cinéphiles know his stage name, Stepin Fetchit, which is now synonymous with racial slurs like Uncle Tom, golliwog and house negro.

The forgotten legacy of Lincoln Perry is actually a significant event in itself and in film and American cultural history for two simple reasons: he was the first black film star, thus paving the way for actors such as Sidney Poitier later on, and his life epitomizes the struggles of black individuals in American society during the 20th century.  Perry’s character Stepin Fetchit became known as the “the laziest man in the world” in films. By doing so he therefore attracted the ire of future generations, i.e. by the few nowadays which actually know him, who often cringe when his name is mentioned.

While at the pinnacle of his career, the NAACP attacked his persona as they felt that he represented a stereotype that was demeaning to blacks. He was always being ordered around in films and he was considered a caricature of blacks: lazy, stupid and ignorant. This stereotype, which is still in use today, can be seen in old Warner Bros cartoons in a hyperbolic caricature of Perry’s persona. The film career of Perry follows the trajectory of the film careers of other black actors – and especially the representations of blacks often authored and controlled by a white studio system and a predominately white audience. After breaking into the film industry, the fate of many actors was to succumb to substance abuse and often end up in menial jobs, which was a far cry from their former illustrious careers. One need look no further than Dorothy Dandridge.

Not long after the NAACP finally got its way by ridding the airwaves and television of Amos and Andy and Stepit Fetchit. Perry was not able obtain the same star billing and wages as other white actors, thus he fought a losing battle with Fox despite his former success he became a persona non grata amongst the Hollywood studio system and a pariah to many middle class blacks. Perry escaped into the so called “race films” and later disappeared altogether only to be discovered in a nursing home as a destitute stroke victim.

Afterwards, other black actors would follow in his footsteps and the critical stance taken by many against Perry coincides with the criticism Sidney Poitier received during the Black Power movement, as he was considered just another fabricated myth of the dominating culture: an Uncle Ben or the perfect black man. However in recent times there has been a reevaluation of Lincoln Perry’s legacy and a recent biography and an interview on NPR suggests a different reading: he was the ultimate trickster because he quite simply never got to fetching anything at all. Without the significant event of an all black cast and Lincoln Perry as the first black star one could argue that things could have turned out differently.

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