#373- Judge Priest

Quick recap: A judge dispenses good ol’ Southern wisdom with a lot of love and just a touch of racism.

Fun(?)fact:  Stepin Fetchit played Jeff Poindexter, a ‘stereotypical 19th century black male’ in Judge Priest. Despite mostly playing dim-witted characters on screen, Fetchit was considered very aggressive and cunning when it came to getting compensated like his white co-stars. He was one of the very first Black actors to fight for equal treatment in the entertainment industry.

My thoughts: If there is one thing I learned from this movie it is this: If you ever find yourself on trial in the Deep South, tell a story about your confederate great-great uncle while someone whistles Dixie. It’s apparently that simple. In fact, tying an issue somehow to the Civil War could really solve all of our current problems. See, many people in the South don’t believe that global warming and why should they? Right now it’s only affecting penguins and polar bears up north. However, rising oceans will become a problem very soon for states like Mississippi and Alabama, and there are a lot of confederate cemeteries there. Doing something about climate change pays honor and respect to those brave, racist soldiers!

Stepping off my soap box and back into this review, I really enjoyed most of this movie even though parts made me really uncomfortable. Judge Priest was a sweet guy and got along with almost everybody. And I think he was a good judge too, although mischievous ways, like paying Poindexter to play Dixie to tug at the heartstrings of the jurors is probably illegal. But still, it seems as though 19th century Southern small towns weren’t really concerned with following all laws, as long as justice was served at some point. The beginning of the movie has Jeff Poindexter in front of Judge Priest, accused of stealing chickens. It seems an easy conviction until Priest reminds the prosecutor about various times he did basically the same thing. Maybe that wouldn’t fly in a big city but in this instance, people were satiated with the outcome.

It’s hard to land on a true opinion about this movie because so much of it is steeped in racist culture. Poindexter and Priest are considered friends but he still bosses him around and has him do unethical things for money, like he’s a puppet. And Aunt Dilsey is a sweet housekeeper but very stereotypical in that she lives for taking care of Priest and her main social activities consist of cooking and going to church functions. Still, there are glimpses that the director very much knew that these black actors were capable of so much more but maybe the audience wasn’t ready. It’s surprising to see a film about the South not completely turn into African-Americans being the butt of all the jokes. But maybe I’m just surprised because the bar is set so low.

Final review: 3/5

Up next: Toy Story

Advertisements

#367- Cairo Station

Quick recap: So, there’s this station, see? And it’s in Cairo. And there are a lot of crazy characters who work there, such as Qinawi the disabled newspaper seller, Hanuma, who illegally sells Pepsi (I think?) and her fiance Abu Siri who is a decent guy, mixed up in all the madness.

This was a gorgeous cast of people

Fun (?) fact: There isn’t much out there about this film, unfortunately. The best fact I could find is that Youssef Chahine is the director as well as the main character, Qinawi.

My thoughts: Proof that I know next to nothing about the world around me, I was shocked by how modern Egypt looked in Cairo Station. There was plenty of traditional clothing but there was also a very Western looked that I wasn’t expecting. It reminded me of the book Persepolis and how modern Iran was before the Islamic Revolution. Granted, this was only a tiny slice of life in the city but I would’ve loved exploring the underground scene and up-and-coming rock and roll acts.

What I wouldn’t have loved back then? A creepy guy like Qinawi hanging around. It’s genius how the director showed Qinawi’s creepiness throughout the entire movie, even in the first couple of scenes, and yet because he was disabled, I overlooked everything. The pinups that decorated his shack? He was lonely and wanted a woman. Spying on Hanuma as she dressed? It was only because he was worried about her. Buying a knife and repeatedly stabbing a woman? Ok, that’s when I started to have suspicions. But really, I found it so progressive to have the main villain as a mousy disabled guy that everyone pities. And that all the women in the film were creeped out by him but their husbands and boyfriends didn’t believe them. Time and time again, these women were told that they must’ve done something to deserve the lascivious stares and were ignored. It wasn’t until the very end of the film, as Qinawi had kidnapped Hanuma that everyone jumped into action.

Although the main plot was interesting and unique, the subplots were difficult to follow at times. There was one about a union forming and another about a young girl being ripped away from her lover. It was hard to figure out what I was supposed to focus on at times, which I guess is the point of filming in a busy train station. I did love the various ‘artsy’ close-up scenes and dramatic music but it all felt too much sometimes.

Final review: 3/5

Up next: Project A II

#366- Tabu: A Story of the South Pacific

Quick recap: Matahi and Reri are lovers who live in paradise. Everything is perfect, except for the fact that Reri has been chosen as a Forever Virgin as sacrifice to the gods. Oops.

Finally sinking in how messed up this whole thing is

Fun (?) fact: I assumed ‘Tabu’ to either be a lost island in the South Pacific, or some very complicated ritual a select group of natives followed. Turns out, it literally means ‘taboo’, as in, Reri becomes off-limits, or tabu, to other men. What a let down.

look at that………scenery!

 

My thoughts: Do you remember when you first discovered National Geographic magazine? You were probably in 5th grade or maybe middle school and the first time you opened one up you told yourself it was just for the articles since you wanted to be an archeologist, after all. But inevitably there was always, ALWAYS some photo shoot about an Amazonian tribe who had never heard of the concept of clothes and that, unfortunately, would be the exact second your teacher chose to walk by. That, my friends, is how this movie felt to watch. I tried my best to pay attention to the plot as best as I could but like that very first National Geographic photo spread many years ago, the tribe….aesthetic…..was hard to ignore.

Despite this movie being made in 1931, it’s not the worst when it comes to representing an indigenous tribe. Director FW Murnau filmed in the South Pacific and hired mostly locals. The beginning of Tabu is about as stereotypical as you can get with youths running around naked and just enjoying nature. But at the same time, it just didn’t feel exploitative . It surprised me how a silent film about a non-white group of people could come off as so humane. For example, there is a huge feast for Reri before she heads out to be a Forever Virgin (meaning no man can ever look or touch her again) and of course the girl is absolutely devastated. I loved how fed up the elder was that he had to deal with such drama, but it felt realistic. And so did Reri and Matahi’s relationship. They really seemed to care for each other, even though both were super naive when it came to being an adult.

As I went over the basic facts with my nine year old the next morning, as I sometimes do, I realized that this is actually a very tragic film. Almost 90 year old spoiler alert: Matahi and Reri run away to a different island only to be tracked down by the elder rather quickly. He threatens to kill Matahi if the girl doesn’t give in to her fate and she finally agrees because she loves him so much. Matahi refuses to give up however and follows her ship as far as he can until he finally succumbs to exhaustion and drowns. So basically the movies ends on a downer, except for the gods, who finally got their Forever Virgin.

Final review: 3/5. The nudity is pretty good too.

Up next: Cairo Station

#346- The Right Stuff

Quick recap: The mostly true story of America’s first astronauts. And Chuck Yeager, because why not?

Someday, someone will make a 3 hour tour de force about New Kids on the Block and that will be the day no other movie will need to exist.

Fun (?) fact: The astronaut suits were made of leftover fabric and pieces from Cher’s costumes.

fabulous.

My thoughts: I had every intention of loving The Right Stuff, but in the end I just couldn’t do it. What’s not to love, you ask. It’s historical, there are great performances, the music is spectacular and above all, JEFF GOLDBLUM.

I think what ultimately bored me was a lack of suspense. I know, it’s history, and I’m certainly glad director Philip Kaufman didn’t just add an explosion for the hell of it. But there has to be something more than:

a) John Glenn’s wife having a stutter and vice president Johnson wanting to meet with her

b) Gordo being the very last astronaut to go up in space

c) Alan Shapard really needing to pee

d) Gus’s hatch blowing off…..or did it?

John Glenn’s malfunction was the only heartstopping part of the movie, which lasted for 3 hours, mind you. It’s an interesting story, sure. But just not worth my time. Now, with the Chuck Yeager b plot, I have no idea why he was thrown in there but I’m glad he was. I would’ve gladly spent hours watching a biography about him, but only if Sam Shepard can play him. That man can do no wrong in my eyes. Aside from the Yeager throwaways, the movie felt disjointed as a whole. There were really silly comedic parts and avant garde camera shots that just didn’t match with the historical tone of the movie. Pick a lane and stick with it, Kaufman. Movies aren’t meant to be a buffet.

Final review: 3/5

Up next: Fast Times at Ridgemont High