Race

March 6, 2017

Movie Review: Get Out

*This is a pretty spoiler-free review that leaves a lot to be debated about.*

A lot of you know that I’m a horror guy. But these days there really isn’t much to offer outside the possession, found footage, creepy ghosts sub-genre. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse every time I say that, and I say it so often it’s exhausting, but it needs to be said. Unfortunately Jason Blum has tapped into something that people love and keep coming back to for some reason. The irony doesn’t escape me that “Get Out” is a Blumhouse Production. Sometimes you just have to put your hate on the side burner.

As far as a film that combines high concepts, social commentary, and elements of horror and thriller alike, you’re not going to get much better than “Get Out.” Not to mention the fact that it makes white people uncomfortable to talk about is an added bonus. Most reviews coming out are about how the film is great, injects something special into the horror genre, yada yada yada. But I guess the thing at this point is that talking about the plot could spoil the intentions of the film and the sizable reveal in the 3rd Act.

So here’s the long and short of “Get Out.” Chris has been going out with Rose for a few months, so naturally the next step for Chris is to meet Rose’s parents. Chris and Rose load up and head out of town for a weekend in the country with her family, the Armitages’. What follows is a weekend that shows the sinister intentions of the family, despite their demure social front and fondness of being worldly liberals who would have voted for Barack Obama a third time.

You can sum this film up to the friend that you know, who is white, that feels he understands the condition of minorities by trying to relate with them at a base level, ie, taking an accent with their speech, telling them you would have voted for their leaders again, etc. Speaking from the white perspective, I’ll never understand the plight of someone who is Afro-American, Latino, Asian, Native American, and so on, understanding isn’t the key, the key is letting them explain their situation without the injection of white-splaning. Also, just because you have friends who aren’t white doesn’t give you the ability to understand. As a white person you’ll never understand the struggle.

Now that I got that out of the way, what is there to like about “Get Out?” Tons!

Peele has created something that while not pure horror, is the horror story of our time, especially for any non-white. It’s also a slow burn to a nice 2nd act twist that while you might have seen coming, when it does hit, it’s a true kick in the face. But the most interesting thing might be who you actually TALK TO about the twist. From the white perspective, you might hear an audible gasp, or a “wow, that’s crazy.” If you ask anyone who isn’t white, you’ll likely hear, “I knew it.” or “that’s fucked up.” That’s because it is fucked up, but it might also be a fact that white people wouldn’t believe a white person would do something like that, and in there lies why we still have a lot to do in terms of race relations and how we perceive our own race and the lengths, and depths, they are willing to go.

There is also some humor sprinkled in with what some people are calling the best supporting character in modern times in Rod, Chris’ friend that works for the TSA, played by LilRel Howery. He’s a great character that is self-aware of the situation that Chris is in, intelligent, but also looked down upon when he presents evidence about the trouble his friend is in; by the police no less. It’s just another thing to remind you of the times we live in, or what’s been going on for the between part of the last century.

“Get Out” is a film best served re-visiting at least twice, maybe even three times. Sure, the “twist” is gone upon multiple viewings, but the journey to how it gets there can get lost in the details. The Armitage estate is surrounded in mystery, and relics from other countries and cultures are scattered around the house. A conversation early in the film between Chris and Rose’s father. Dean, sets the tone of the family’s legacy and even gives a “what-if” if history was just a little different. It’s actually pretty chilling.

Considering I’m staying as spoiler-free as possible, I’m going to stop this review right here, But the point is that this film will appeal to the passive viewers as just a straight up psychological horror film but if you want something with a little more meat on it’s bones and something to say, “Get Out” is the first great film of 2017.

January 13, 2017

What Does it Mean to “Do The Right Thing”

*The opinion of Matt does not necessarily coincide with the opinions of the rest of the crew of Simplistic Reviews. 

This year will celebrate the 28th anniversary of the Spike Lee Joint, “Do The Right Thing.” But the question we always ask ourselves is, “What is the right thing?” Is there a “right” thing? And if there is a “right” thing, how does one make the decision on what the “right” thing is?

There’s no doubt that “Thing” was a film that happened at the right place at the right time, and while other films have tried to emulate the race divide and a sign of the times, see also Lee’s “Summer of Sam” for a look into the racial and cultural divide in 1970s New York, there still isn’t a film, for my money, that captures the anger, anxiety, and zeitgeist of a city sitting on a powder keg. Of course, art often imitates life, and in recent years with police shootings, gang violence, political discourse, and attacks on immigrants, minorities, and the LGBT community on the rise, we all live in uncertain times.

Oh, there is also the fact that we have a bullying, fear-mongering, divisive, reality-show starring megalomaniac about to take the Oath of Office as the 45th President of the United States, but don’t worry folks, go watch some foxes jumping in the snow (actually, that doesn’t sound like a bad idea).

Back to the point, in “Thing” the climax reaches a fever pitch when the character “Radio” Raheem is murdered by NYPD officers, a fire hose is turned again an angry mob and our “hero,” Mookie, played by Lee, throws a trash can through the window of local pizzeria, Sal’s Famous. A lot of anger is loaded into the final 15 minutes of the film, but it brings up the question; What is the “Right” thing?

This is an argument that I’ve gotten into with a lot of people. Personally, I’m always interested to hear what people think is the “right” thing. The biggest point of contention is always whether Mookie should have thrown the garbage can through the window of Sal’s Famous. While I understand why this might be a point to argue between people, I’m on the side of this being the “right” thing. Simply, it was rightful rage over the death of an innocent citizen by the “trusted” police force which forces another citizen to act in way that many may never understand how to act. Of course, in turn, this action also saves the lives of Sal and his sons, despite the fact that their business is destroyed by an angry mob. That’s the simple way to breakdown the climax of “Thing,” but there is much more leading to this choice.

Other aspects of the story certainly play a big part in Mookie’s decision. The New York heat, Sal not paying Mookie before the day was up, being accused of being a dead-beat father, the constant harassment by Smiley, there are several aspects of the day that sets Mookie off, but the most reasonable is always going to be seeing “Radio” Raheem murdered in front of him by police who are tasked with upholding the law and having the CPR (Courtesy Professionalism Respect) on the side of their cruiser (the irony). It’s a layered argument that can be tossed back and forth, but the reason we still reference “Thing” as the movie that still commands our attention a quarter of a century after it’s release is the climate we live in currently.

Police still systematically target minorities which often ends in horrific results, and police are overworked with less officers on the ground to do the job correctly, not to mention the fact that many officers are ill-equipped to get the job done correctly. An overburdened and broken system leads to misjudgment and tragedies that will continue to happen.

Is violence the “right” thing…no….however, when you are kicked, prodded, marginalized, and made to feel that you have no rights as a citizen, what are you going to do? Throwing a TV through a window might be a start, but how about throwing your vote in a ballot box on a local level to make the immediate change that is needed to hopefully, at some point, make a bigger change.

Much was made when “Thing” was released, including comments that viewing this film would incite riots. Lee’s response was whether critics believed that minorities, namely African-American’s, were unable to control their impulses while viewing a work of fiction. It was a perfect response for people that just don’t get it, and will never get it. Hell, if “Thing” makes you angry, IT SHOULD! While it WAS a work of fiction it was still inspired by true events, namely the beating and murder of Michael Stewart by NYPD officers, and we are still seeing the endless deaths of African-Americans around the country, sadly at the hands of law enforcement officials. We should all be upset by this, while Lee is being a politician about it, he should have said “Yes, people should get upset about this film, it’s happening, this is the world we live in!”

So, what is the “right” thing? IS there a “right” thing? The “right” thing is to take tragedy and knowledge and apply it in a way that changes the course of your life, your country, and your politics. We are living in scary times, with people in charge that seem to like to “troll” the American people. We literally have an Internet troll who is poised to take the office of The President of the United States shortly. Think about that….someone who made his career firing the like of Lil John and Dennis Rodman from a fake job interview show is going to be hiring people to look after Civil Rights cases and reading the most classified of files, will be running our country for what could be up to eight years.

The “right” thing is to follow the mantra of Public Enemy and “Fight the Power.” But fighting the power is more than just with your fists. Fight with your empathy, fight with your courage, fight with your knowledge, shit, fight for your right to party, because if anything you always have the “right to fight.”

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