#155- The House is Black

Quick recap: Lepers! They’re just like us! They eat, play with friends and have bricks stacked on top of their hands in an effort to relieve stiffening joints. So much like us, those lepers.

Bart: At Sunday school, they said the lepers were cured by some bearded dude. Homer: Jesus? Bart: Yeah, that sounds right.

Bart: At Sunday school, they said the lepers were cured by some bearded dude.
Homer: Jesus?
Bart: Yeah, that sounds right.

Fun (?) fact: Leprosy can be spread to humans from armadillos. Now I don’t feel so bad about all the ones I have hit in the past, and believe me, there were MANY.


My thoughts: There really isn’t much to say about this film, partly because it’s so short and partly because it’s just footage of people with leprosy so I’ll  just look like a jerk if I make fun of them.  Along with the footage, the director reads her own poetry as well as a few bible verses thrown in for good measure. Most of the time it felt like I was back in the church I grew up in, watching a promo video from some missionary needing sponsorship. At any minute I thought some preacher was going to pop up and in his thick southern accent, beg us to ‘please think of the children’. I’m just thankful there wasn’t inspirational music in the background or it might’ve been too difficult to hold back snark.

Despite what I just wrote, I never felt like The House is Black was exploitive. The people living in the colony seemed truly happy and it made me especially glad to see a team of doctors and nurses taking care of them. I always thought people in leper colonies were cast off and forced to survive on their own but that’s apparently not true for everyone. The podcast Stuff you Should Know did an excellent show about leprosy a few months ago and it was there that I learned how tightly knit these groups can be. There was a famous example of a colony in Hawaii where, even after it was closed, people chose to stay because it was their home. I also learned that the disease is curable although its disfiguring effects can not be reversed. As sad as these colonies seem to us, they are able to provide a somewhat loving, normal life.

The scene that kind of derailed the movie was at the end when the teacher asked his students such enlightening questions such as ‘name something good (friends, play time)’ and then ‘name something ugly  (hand, foot)’. What the hell kind of lesson is this? And then he asks one of the children to explain why parents are important and the kid answers that he doesn’t know because HE DOESN’T HAVE ANY. Jeez. The title of the film comes from the teacher asking a man to write a sentence using the word ‘house’ and the man comes up with ‘the house is black’. So I guess they were studying grammar or ‘phrases you can use to totally make westerners feel even more sorry for you than they already do.’

MRW someone asks a stupid question.

MRW someone asks a stupid question.

Final review: 3/5.

Up next: Sex,Lies and Videotape

#140- Tongues Untied

Quick recap: A quasi-documentary about the lives and experiences of black gay men, as told through spoken word and personal stories.

also a helpful tutorial for snapping properly like a diva!

also a helpful tutorial for snapping properly like a diva!

Fun (?) fact: Tongues Untied originally ran on PBS, and was therefore partially funded by the government. As expected, this did not go over very well for conservatives, who called this ‘pornographic art’, which I think sounds kind of nice.

My thoughts: I think this movie, above all others really took me out of my element and made me see a subset of America I had not thought deeply about before: the black gay male. Seeing as I am neither black, nor gay, nor male, I wasn’t too sure how I would react to the documentary, but it ended up being the perfect example of why we watch movies: to experience something new as well as gain empathy for others.

Tongues Untied is a documentary in the sense that it is true experiences of the men involved, but there are no interviews or narration. Instead, most of the words are poems from Marlon Riggs, the director of the film who also appears on screen detailing his experience growing up gay and black. The rhythm of the movie was a little hard to get into at first, mostly because I’m not too familiar with poetry. I warmed up very fast to the concept once I stopped focusing on the words and instead focused on the people and emotions being showcased.

I’m no expert in late 80’s black gay culture, but Riggs seemed to show a full spectrum of men: drag queens, old guys, young guys, muscular guys, ‘sissies’ (a great discussion of this word occurs during a scene when a bunch of men are eating and talking about what they have been called). I loved that Riggs didn’t focus on the names of the men in the documentary because it made it feel like this could be anyone in the role, detailing their situations. The anonymity ended up making the movie feel more personal to me, as if I would recognize someone I knew at any moment.

The most powerful point of the film comes at the end, as the faces of young gay black men who have died of AIDS appear on screen. The theme of silence pops up throughout the poems in Tongues Untied, and refers to the silence men go through in hiding a part of their identity. Reading the obituaries in the film made me aware of how many men were forever silenced by the disease. 4 years after completing this film, Marlon Riggs himself succumbed to the AIDS virus.


Final review: 5/5. Never in a million years would I have watched this on my own, but I am so glad I did.

Up next: Close-Up

#133- The Blair Witch Project

Quick recap: Three film students hunt down information about a local Maryland legend, the Blair Witch. While camping in the woods, the hunters soon become the hunted. GET IT?

a scene from one of the scarier parts of the film

a scene from one of the scarier parts of the film

Fun (?) fact: Most of the actors’ lines are improvised. The director gave them very general notes as to what their direction was and then they were in charge of the rest. They were also in charge of filming the whole thing and stayed in character during the entire 8 day shoot.

maybe if Etsy had been around, the Blair Witch might've had something to fill her time rather than killing people.

maybe if Etsy had been around, the Blair Witch might’ve had something with which  to fill her time, rather than killing people.

My thoughts: No sense beating around the bush for this one, The Blair Witch Project scared me half to death.  Which is quite disappointing because this was supposed to be a month long journey of fear and then I go ahead and chicken out after 3 movies. I’m going to continue to watch horror films this month but I’m not sure anything will be able to top the fear I felt after the last scene.

What made The Blair Witch Project so scary for me were all of the times my imagination had to fill in the blanks. There were several scenes where the screen was black and all you could hear wa some rustling and a few voices. Even the final scene when Heather and Mike walk into the house you never see the witch. But what you do see are remnants of what the witch has done: bloody child handprints all along the wall.  The final shot of Mike standing in the corner was almost too much for me to handle. Once again, you never see anything but on the other hand, the nightmare is everywhere. Maybe even your own home. Maybe in your bedroom. Maybe even in the corner with the lamp that came from your son’s room because it creeped him out and now at midnight you finally get it and you want to go in and tell him but then decide against it because that would probably be an example of bad parenting.

What most surprised me about The Blair Witch Project was its authenticity. The beginning of the ‘documentary’ is slow moving with the 3 students packing, goofing off and talking about the cameras. It’s important to have all that in there because the whole idea is that this movie is footage found a year later. It kind of reminds me of my pet peeve with America’s Funniest Home Videos, and believe me, I have MANY. Anyway, my biggest annoyance was the fact that the cameras just happened to be rolling when grandma fell off of the roof or some 4 year old kid was chased by a rabid dog. Were people just sitting there for hours waiting for something to happen or did they just get lucky? Or is it all staged? Why hasn’t Buzzfeed done a ‘where are they now?’ post about the stars from America’s Funniest Home Videos? So many questions now.

RIP 3 acting careers

RIP 3 acting careers

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Horrorfest!

#129- Gimme Shelter

Quick recap: This documentary follows the Rolling Stones on their worldwide tour in 1969, although the focus is mainly on the tragedy at the Altamont Speedway December of that year.

The post will be Mick Jagger heavy. Deal with it.

The post will be Mick Jagger heavy. Deal with it.

Fun (?) fact: Meredith Hunter, the guy who was stabbed by the Hell’s Angels, was not actually murdered during ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ but instead ‘Under My Thumb’.


My thoughts: Mick. Jagger.  Oh my god, Mick Jagger. I know that the documentary touched on a few complex issues in the music world, but let’s just sit for a minute and appreciate Mick Jagger. Go ahead. Take a minute. I’ll be right here.

Good? Ok. So I’ve never been a big Rolling Stones fan, although I certainly appreciate their talent and influence on virtually every rock band in existence. I think the reason I never got into them is because I’ve only heard their biggest hits on classic rock stations and it never occurred to me just how important they were/are. After watching Gimme Shelter, I get it. What’s funny about that is that this isn’t the sort of music documentary that most people are familiar with: a lighthearted look at a hard working group who spend long days on the road, meet with thousands of fans and still manage to find time to goof off.* Gimme Shelter is a critical look at The Stones and their decision to hire Hell’s Angels to protect them as well as the counter culture movement in general.

* The only music documentary I am familiar with. Unfortunately, not on this list.

* The only music documentary I am familiar with. Unfortunately, not on this list.

My take on the whole thing is that everyone had a hand in this and yet who’s really to blame? Starting with the Rolling Sones, when it was announced they would be doing a free concert at a speedway, I knew things wouldn’t end well. They were one of the biggest groups at the time, if not the biggest. Practically the entire country would try to come to this. Which leads to their decision to use the Hell’s Angels to protect them. I read that there is a Hell’s Angels in Britain that the Stones used before, but they were much less violent. It seems that they didn’t know what they were getting into until it started getting out of hand. Which leads to the audience’s part in all of this. There were over 300,000 people in attendance that night and I would guess that most there were on something. People showed up expecting a Woodstock but instead it turned ugly and violent. Meredith Hunter’s death is incredibly sad, but as it was later noted, he had pulled out a gun and one of the Hell’s Angels stabbed him in self-defense. It’s hard to say how this all could’ve been prevented except to maybe have not had the concert at all.

It’s powerful enough to see the crowd start to get out of hand and even more powerful to actually watch as the death occurs. The Stones keep playing during all of this although they do say at some point that a doctor is needed. I imagine that stopping the concert at this point would’ve been useless because that would’ve probably started a riot. So it isn’t until the end of the movie that we see The Stones sitting and watching the footage of the concert and feeling the weight of their consequences. And it isn’t even that they are to blame necessarily, but that there are consequences to everything, especially with  such explosive fame as theirs.


Final review: 4/5. A little slow at first but very powerful at the end.

Up next: The Burmese Harp