As a White Dude with a full deck of privilege and a shitload of unlearning to do when it comes to an effort at anti-racism, I acknowledge that there’s always going to be imperfection, at best, in my understanding of the Black Experience. Too many people like me use that as an excuse to not even try, of course, preferring the comfort of a bubble in which ignoring racism is hardly ever recognized in and of itself as a racist act. As a White Dude, part of me resides inextricably in this bubble regardless of my physical location. There’s quite an echo in here. And while I do recognize that ignoring racism is itself a contribution to racism — of course it is — I’m still undoubtedly one of those unthinking contributors. And admitting this puts me no closer to our aforementioned understanding. Nine out of ten attempts to place myself outside of the bubble are too weak to even perforate it, and the tenth is a noble failure.
Amongst those measures of not-enough is the discovery, experience, discussion and championing of Black Art. This is too easy and not impactful enough to be considered “putting in the work” for us White Dudes, or to count as allyship in any meaningful sense. So I’m gonna sound really, really desperate to make a grand point here when I turn heel to assert that it’s also not nothing, because not nothing is hardly the bar we should be striving to clear. But when discovering, experiencing, discussing and championing something as vital as Mangrove, even this most passive engagement can result in challenging questions of the sort that are typically drowned out in the din of the benighted bubble.
Continue reading Small Axe: Mangrove (2020)
It’s just a shame that this film wasn’t a bit better. I’m not saying I hated or even disliked Shame, but it had the potential to be a great film that handles an issue that is rarely discussed and is entirely taboo. One thing, for sure, that impressed me about Shame was the way that it made me actually feel the shame and remorse and immense self-loathing that Brandon experienced on an hourly basis. That was powerful, and I mainly attribute that to the sheer talent of one of my favorite actors, Michael Fassbender. In his second collaboration with the talented Steve McQueen, Fassbender is almost frightening. When he attacks his visiting sister in nothing but a bath towel (one that is starting to fall down, at that) and begins screaming in her face, I genuinely felt like he might have lost his mind. His rage, which clearly stems from his own unimaginably great disappointment in and repulsion of himself, is fairly constant and, while far less intense than that of his later performance as a plantation owner in McQueen’s follow-up film 12 Years A Slave, is shocking.
At the same time, Fassbender is also wise to portray Brandon thoroughly enjoying the acts that ultimately lead to his frustration. This is vital to his performance because it is clear that the film is attempting to show that sex addiction is, in fact, an addiction. It is an affliction, much like alcoholism or drug addiction. Brandon is not a freak, he’s not a pervert…he is suffering. But, as all addicts do, Brandon enjoys doing these acts while he is doing them. Just because a cocaine addict might desperately want to stop using the drug, this doesn’t mean that he will suddenly no longer enjoy cocaine when he does use it. In order to achieve the goal that this film is trying to accomplish, Fassbender needs to be as dead-on as possible. He nails it.
Continue reading Shame (2011)
Although I feel like it cannot be, I have to suppose that it is just a coincidence that this film, entitled Hunger, completely lacks any meat whatsoever. This film had me quite excited to see it; I am a total Fassbender fan and it had garnered a strong 82 Metascore. I thought it was going to be one of those slightly dull, but really fantastically unique and emotional films with great writing and better acting. Well, I got the acting out of Fassbender, but literally every other single aspect of this film fell heavily flat for me. Which did come as a surprise considering who the director is: the great Steve McQueen. With 12 Years A Slave, McQueen, in my genuine opinion, made one of the greatest movies of the twenty-first century. Everything just worked so well, from the otherworldly penmanship to the astounding, Oscar-winning performances. The Wolf of Wall Street was my favorite in 2013, but 12 Years was undoubtedly the best.
The biggest gripe I have with Hunger is probably the fact that it refuses to settle on a protagonist until about thirty minutes in. Inexplicably, the film starts with, and carries on with, the tale of two characters who ultimately become totally irrelevant. Granted, they do set up the scene; their situation portrays how terrible the conditions were for those imprisoned men. That does not change the fact that the exact same effect could have been as, if not more, easily achieved focusing instead on Fassbender’s character, Bobby Sands (the ultimate protagonist). The two initial characters essentially share a few lines of dialogue, smear their shit all over the walls of their cell, and grow long hair and beards.
Continue reading Hunger (2008)