Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Film Review: BlacKkKlansman (a Spike Lee film)

This film, probably Spike Lee's best work since "She's Gotta Have It" in 1986, is a joyous romp, karmic, powerful, absurd, and also flawed.  It walks a line between terrifying and funny, depicting a story that is based on a true story so implausible that, were there not a book memoir to read, one could dismiss it is a wild flight of fancy. It has beautiful and mesmerizing young actors, fascinating and snappy dialog, and the best actor impersonation of a young David Duke imaginable (compared at the end to the real McCoy).  The main protagonist, Ron Stallworth, is played with gleeful aplomb by John David Washington, who looks (in my opinion) utterly unlike his famous father Denzel, but is just as good an actor.  And Stallworth's sidekick Flip Zimmerman is played by Adam Driver (of Star Wars fame for playing villain Kylo Ren).  Driver's performance also stands out, and its good to see him in a non-villainous role.  The camera loves them both.

As the plot careens towards an inevitable confrontation, there is a lengthy segment that my husband found boring, but I thought was perhaps the high point of the film.  Cutting repeatedly between two groups of people, one all white (a high-level KKK dinner meeting) and the other all black (a Black Power meeting of young people at a collage), we watch as each speaker whips his listeners up into a frenzy of passion.  It's ominous when the white KKK members scream their hatred, and it's also surprisingly worrisome when the young, empassioned blacks wave their fists and scream just as loudly for black empowerment.  Spike Lee was clearly trying to make a point, one I appreciate particularly because just such angry energy scared me away from fully supporting the Black Lives Matter movement for a long time after it first emerged. 

I won't go into the film's faults; you'll see some of them.  But it has so many virtues that I found it overcame its own weaknesses.   And it also has a superb sound track.  Even if you hate the story, you'll love the music, and you'll be amused and worried at the same time.  And, most of it really happened.  It's a great case of truth being stranger than fiction.

I recommend it highly.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Film review: Plant-Pure Nation

I forced myself to sit through a viewing of the film Plant-Pure Nation, directed by (and starring) physician Nelson Campbell, son of T. Colin Campbell of The China Study fame.  I say "forced myself" because Dr. Campbell might have done well to hire a professional to direct this film instead of directing it himself.  Unfortunately, the film alternates between incoherently rambling lectures on the state of food in today's world and the clarity of a gripping story, which is Dr. Campbell's attempt to influence food policy in government.  It's unevenness will prevent many from getting to its really strong and important message, which is, that governmental policy remains bogged down in lobbying efforts by large corporations, so that government at most levels is incapable of making a food policy that is good for people, along with Campbell's call for a grass roots effort strong enough to overcome the corporate lies, the greed, and governmental inertia.

Although often unfocussed, in its moments of highest clarity, this film is riveting.  Especially, the segment where Dr. Campbell worked with a Kentucky legislator to try and obtain recognition for the science behind the benefits of a mostly plant-based, whole foods diet.  The failure of the political process is awful and the reasons for it (lobby interests of industry) are clear to see.  Dr. Campbell's personal perseverance is admirable.

It is a real shame that this film could not have been more professionally vetted, because its subject matter is of life-saving importance to the world.  As it is, I don't think many people will be able to plow through it.  The first gripping segment, in my opinion, was about 30 minutes in.  And from there on, it was up and down.  The case study in North Carolina was absolutely amazing--they found a few dozen people with dire health issues, provided them with three square meals a day (of a healthy, plant-based diet), and scientifically tracked the medical improvements and weight loss of the participants.  The results were compelling. 

For those willing to do the work, Dr. Campbell and his associates are also providing, now via the Plant Pure Nation website, a strong support network so that people can try out a plant-based, whole foods diet and experience the benefits for themselves.  All that is admirable, and they seem to be achieving some degree of success.  I do wish they had hired professionals to edit and polish the film more before releasing it.  It started weakly, had great moments along the way, but also incredibly boring sequences, and it seemed to lack a coherent, over-arching narrative.  I would have redesigned the beginning to get to the point more quickly--that governmental action is nearly impossible, and that a grass roots uprising demanding better use of food to prevent illness is required--and to stay on the message more diligently.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Hell is talking about cultural appropriation, intersectionality, and white privilege

If I wanted to get dreadlocks, I could do that, and I am certain I wouldn't get rich or famous as a result. But apparently, if I did that, a certain number of people would accuse me of "cultural appropriation". Apparently, to such folks, it's my "white privilege" (which I am, per them, too stupid or maybe mean to understand that I have) which prevents me from understanding why they are offended because I wanted to get dreadlocks.  Oh yes, and I can't be a feminist any longer, because black women or Chinese women or whichever other group you want to identify, who are also women, must have it worse. There is a name for that, "intersectionality", which I very much wish I had never encountered, along with "cultural appropriation" and "white privilege".

Do people really think life is a competition, where I've had it worse than you is going to make anything better?  How dare people like anything in black culture (unless they are black)?  How dare any white person claim sympathy to the black experience, without first groveling and whining about how they can't possibly begin to imagine it?  How dare a woman complain about not being paid equally for work, or being denied a job because of her gender, when she should just suck it in because a Chinese or black woman has suffered not only that but other injustices too?  Just shut up, all you well intentioned people.  The road to hell is paved with good intentions, as we all know, and to me, one good version of hell is where we are all forced to talk endlessly about weak and unhelpful phrases such as "cultural appropriation", "white privilege", "male privilege", or "lack of intersectionality".

Reducing cruelty in human life is not a competition of meaningless phrases.  Attempting to be a kind and compassionate human being should not result in a barrage of criticism . I understand we could all be more sensitive and all that, but the accusatory nature of these terms just does not feel helpful. 

There is not a single human being alive today who is not suffering in some way, has not suffered, or will not suffer.  In my opinion, the only way to help each other is compassion, not accusation.  Hence, I really think those phrases above are doing more harm than good. 

These phrases were invented by people who, in my opinion, are suffering.  While I feel for their suffering, I really cannot convince myself that it is a good idea to continue to encourage language that is, in the end, counterproductive to what those people need to have happen in the world.  Which is, that people may sympathize with their plight.

I urge people to stop cooperating with this fuzzy and bad use of language.