In Una Noche, Lucy Mulloy’s debut feature film, a brother and sister living in Havana embark on a dangerous journey with their friend, floating on a raft bound for Miami. Even ahead of its release this month, the film has garnered Mulloy numerous accolades, and even a stamp of approval from director Spike Lee. In April, the movie also made waves when lead actors Javier Núñez Florián and Anailín de la Rúa de la Torre (who became a couple during production) disappeared en route to the Tribeca Film Festival, only to resurface days later with the revelation that they were seeking asylum in the United States.
At its core, though, Una Noche is a compelling portrait of a teenage girl, a coming-of-age story set in a context rarely seen. I talked with Mulloy about the Una Noche, her working relationship with Spike Lee, her experiences as a female filmmaker, the importance of representation, and what made her, a British director, so keen on telling a Cuban story…
Read the interview here.
One of my most memorable and, in a way, profound early movie-watching experiences happened the first time I saw Eddie Murphy in Coming to America. By that point, the film was almost a decade old (I wasn’t even born when it opened in June 1988), part of the Golden Age of Murphy’s Hollywood career that included works such as 48 Hrs., Trading Places, and Beverly Hills Cop. Directed by John Landis and based on a story conceived by Murphy himself, it had a simple but brilliantly executed plot: Pampered African prince, Akeem, travels to Queens, New York, where he disguises his royal identity in order to find a bride who will, as he explains, “stimulate my mind, as well as my loins.”
Up until this point in the ’80s, Murphy’s on-screen roles were largely street-wise cops or grifters prone to witty one-liners, often pairing him with uptight Caucasian straight-men. Here, he was entering entirely new territory. Instead of a cop or a con man he was prince; he was the straight man, and for the first time, he was also the romantic lead. The role marked another important turning point in Murphy’s genesis as a comedic actor: It was the first time that he really began to experiment with makeup and prosthetics in the creation of multiple personae on screen. Randy Watson, lead singer of Sexual Chocolate, and Saul and Clarence, barbershop regulars, were all the progenitors of the kinds of characters we would come to know, for better or worse, in comedies including the successful remake of The Nutty Professor and the less warmly received Bowfinger and Norbit.
Revisiting Coming to America as a critic, much of the humor that helped to make it the third highest-grossing movie at the U.S. box office in ‘88 still holds up. From Soul Glo to “Sexual Chocolate!” to McDowell’s, Murphy and his team managed to strike a balance of relatively edgy humor and charming, if at times slightly formulaic, romance. Revisiting it as a Ghanaian, that satisfaction of seeing the on-screen portrayals of Africans who weren’t corrupt, impoverished, or dying of AIDS remains. Of course, Prince Akeem’s Zamunda, with its palm trees and turreted castles and ridiculous excess, is an outlandish fiction, but for an African, this deliberately positive vision still feels like a rebuke to so many negative cinematic representations of the African continent…
Read the rest here.
trying to come up with a thesis - Film School Thesis Statement Generator ain’t helping. any ideas, guys?
In Scott Coffey’s Adult World, former Nickelodeon star Emma Roberts takes on the difficult task of convincing an audience to root for an obnoxious, self-obsessed aspiring poet, and doesn’t quite stick the landing. She plays 22-year-old Amy, introduced to the audience in the midst of a half-hearted suicide attempt. Staring listlessly at a poster of Sylvia Plath, Amy first sticks her head inside of an oven, then thinks better of that “suicidal plagiarism,” opting instead to pull a plastic bag loosely over her head. This is a fitting first introduction to our heroine: melodramatic and a little ridiculous. She’s the kind of girl who relishes in her white, hipster, middle-class ennui, describing riding a city bus as “like being in Mogadishu.”
The film then flashes back a year. After Amy’s parents decide that they “can’t afford to subsidize” her poetry career anymore and tell her that she needs to grow up, the loan-saddled college grad moves out of their home. Hurt by their lack of faith in her, she pursues a literary career by stalking her favorite living poet, Rat Billings (John Cusack), and takes a job at an adult video store managed by a cute, affable twentysomething male (Evan Peters) with the words “love interest” practically tattooed to his forehead. There are a few comic scenes where the virginal Amy squirms in the presence of dildos and “sticky DVD returns,” but from the oversexed store owner played by Cloris Leachman, to the display of vibrators that Amy clumsily sends crashing to the ground when she first enters Adult World, the humor is as broad as a football field.
Adult World doesn’t quite fit the bill of a dark comedy, as it’s neither uproariously funny nor does it carry much dramatic import. Most of the time, as it leaps from broad slapstick to bleak, unironic melodrama, it’s difficult to tell what exactly it’s going for. But its bewildering atonality is at least in keeping with Roberts’s erratic performance. The world of the film, all contrived situations and caricatured people, revolves around Amy, who’s played by Roberts without the sort of charm that might have been redeeming in another actress’s hands; too often she settles for garish overstatement when a scene calls for nuance…
Read the rest here.
In 1950, United Artists released The Jackie Robinson Story, a biopic about the iconic athlete’s rise from the Negro Leagues to the Major Leagues, where he made history as the first black man to break the baseball color barrier. The film starred a then-31-year-old Robinson, playing a watered-down version of himself in a watered-down reenactment of the prejudices and indignities he faced as a black man in a white-dominated sport. Now, over sixty years later, writer-director Brian Helgeland presents 42, a well-intentioned, visually striking, but just as watered-down biopic that unfortunately fails to go much deeper than its predecessor.
Despite being over two hours long, the movie only chronicles a short period of Robinson’s life, focused mainly in 1947, the year baseball manager Branch Rickey (played here by a scenery chewing Harrison Ford) made history by signing the young athlete to the all-white Brooklyn Dodgers. Charismatic newcomer Chadwick Boseman is reminiscent of a young Denzel Washington (who was once attached to play Robinson in a Spike Lee joint that never got off the ground), but his and co-star Nicole Beharie’s talents go to waste on a script that is often schmaltzy and cliché, failing to delve deeper into who Robinson was outside the context of baseball.
The movie gets it right when it comes to the scenes of actual baseball playing - Boseman’s charm shines through the most in the tense, exciting moments where Robinson’s talent is so poignantly juxtaposed with the racism of those around him. And in one particularly powerful scene, he has a near breakdown after something like a ten minute, n-word laden verbal assault from the coach of an opposing team - but he regains his composure, the music swells, the crowd cheers, he turns the other cheek, steps out onto the field, and into baseball history.
42 is inspiring, but it’s also slightly reminiscent of movies like The Blind Side and Remember the Titans, films that seek to simplify racism through the context of sports, with its codes of sportsmanship and a pure sort of democracy which ensures that every man “deserves a fair shake” if he’s got the goods. Of course, it’s not that simple, and while the movie can’t very well take a pause to explicitly say that, it would have helped if it had more nuance and less formula…
Read the rest here.
Two Brown Girls - Episode 15
In this episode of Two Brown Girls, we discuss Atlantic City ratchetry, Roger Ebert, Christopher Abbott leaving Girls (and the mysterious “brown-ification” of his character on the show), The EPIC GREAT GATSBY TRAILER (in Zeba’s humble opinion), and finally the problematic elements of hip hop, starting with Rick Ross’s recent lyric controversy (trigger warning for discussion about rape starting approx. 22:00). Happy Sunday!
ALSO ANY AUDIO PROBLEMS YOU HEAR ON TODAY’S PODCAST TOTALLY AREN’T THERE AND YOU SHOULD PROBABLY GET YOUR EARS CHECKED CUZ OUR MACBOOK MICROPHONES ARE FLAWLESS!!
The dust has now begun to settle in the wake of the release of Spring Breakers, director Harmony Korine’s highly anticipated and now much-debated crime drama about four college co-eds who go on a crime spree during a holiday in Florida. By now, even if you haven’t seen the movie, you probably know a few things about it. You’ve probably seen the numerous promotional photos featuring former tween queens Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens clad in DayGlo, barely-there bikinis, toting semi-automatic guns and wearing pastel balaclavas. You know that James Franco also stars in the film as an over-the-top aspiring rapper and small time drug dealer (loosely based on real life hip hop artist Riff Raff) who introduces the wild young girls to a seedy underworld of drugs, sex, and violence.
It is Korine’s most accessible and most mainstream-esque film to date, thanks to its ex-Disney starlets and a marketing campaign targeted to the Tumblr generation, that features a partnership with Opening Ceremony for a special capsule fashion collection of $80 crop tops, sweat pants, and bikini sets that can be found plastered across the “soft grunge” blogs of teens who idolize the no longer wholesome Gomez and Hudgens.
The general consensus amongst critics is that the movie is a sort of “fever dream,” a cinematic echo of the excesses of reality television, celebrity culture, music video aesthetics and the disorienting, hypnotic thrum of dub step and southern rap. Still, weeks after its debut, there is ongoing debate as to whether Spring Breakers is art or trash, a biting social commentary or a vapid, exploitative, and over-hyped gimmick.
With its lingering, beautifully shot scenes of debauchery, filmed, as Korine described it in one interview, as if they were “lit by Skittles,” it isn’t hard to see why some responses to the film have accused it of glamorizing some of its more problematic elements. Several writers have suggested that the movie has racist undertones, which culminate with (spoiler) the spring breakers massacring a house full of black, stereotypical presented “gangstas.” Others have called out the movie for perpetuating rape culture through a male point of view that objectifies the young scantily-clad female bodies on view throughout most of the loosely-drawn narrative…
Read the rest here.