Cinema in Color Review #4: Smoke Signals

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Disclaimer: I do not claim ownership of any photographic material used unless otherwise noted. This blog is intended for purposes of film criticism, commentary, and humor. If you wish to start this journey from the beginning, start with the prologue here.

*****

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SAMURAI! YOU HAVE A REVIEW TO DO! GET TO IT! WHY THE LONG FACE?!

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ALSO, SINCE WHEN DID YOU BECOME AN EQUUS FERUS CABALLUS?!

Oh, the horse head? That’s just something that happens when I become depressed. Look, I, uh… I’m not really feeling into reviewing anything today.

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I CAN STILL INCINERATE YOUR TESTICLES, YOU KNOW! SERIOUSLY, WHAT IS GOING ON WITH YOU TODAY?!

I don’t know. I’m just… Have you ever felt homesick? Have you ever gone on a long trip or moved to another place and found yourself missing your home? Your family? Your community?

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MY BIOLOGICAL FOREBEARERS ATE ALL MY 1,403 SIBLINGS UNTIL ONLY I REMAINED. I PROVED MY WORTHINESS AS THEIR STRONGEST OFFSPRING BY EATING THEM IN TURN. 

Well… that’s not how human relations work – for the most part. Reviewing A Cool Like That Christmas and being alone for the holidays recently has gotten me a little down. It’s largely because, well… I grew up in the Inland Northwest. You know where that is?

It’s this gorgeous area between the Rocky Mountains in eastern Montana and the Cascade Mountains down the middle of Washington, with the northern part of Idaho in between. You could pass through hundreds of miles of valleys and mountains with these flowing rivers and evergreen trees in north Idaho and suddenly find yourself driving through rolling steppes and dry farmland in eastern Washington. I just… I really, really miss it. I mean, hell. Look at this!

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Admittedly, the area does have a number of problems. Northern Idaho in particular has the largest concentration of white supremacists in the Inland Northwest and arguably the entire Pacific Northwest, largely due to the Aryan Nations making the region their home in the 1970s. In the 1980s and 1990s, a series of attempted bombings by white supremacists in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene lead to public backlash against their respective groups, although they still haven’t vacated the region entirely. As recently as 2011, a Neo-Nazi tried bombing the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Parade in Spokane.

Still, in spite of all that, I just really miss it.

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WELL… SENTIMENT IS LOST ON ME, HUMAN. GET TO WORK! YOU HAVE TO REVIEW SOMETHING!

I don’t feel like it.

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ALLOW ME TO DEMONSTRATE WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO YOUR PRECIOUS GRAPES IF YOU DON’T.

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Ugh! Fine!

In that case, I’m picking something to get me out of my rut of homesickness.

Today, I’m reviewing a 1998 film called Smoke Signals. It’s the first feature film to be directed, written, and co-produced by American Indians, with an all-American Indian cast. Considering how popular Westerns have been in American cinema, going back to The Great Train Robbery in 1903, it’s astonishing how the first all-American Indian film production took another 95 years to become a reality. Even African-Americans managed to direct, write, produce, and star in The Homesteader back in 1919.

Coincidentally enough, Smoke Signals was also set and filmed in my home region, the Inland Northwest. Perhaps seeing the landscape of my home will satisfy my homesickness, but is it a good film? Continue reading

Cinema in Color Review #2: Friday

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Disclaimer: I do not claim ownership of any photographic material used unless otherwise noted. This blog is intended for purposes of film criticism, commentary, and humor. If you wish to start this journey from the beginning, start with the prologue here.

*****

Konichiwa, pardner. I am the Wild West Samurai.

Before I start this review, my captor has some questions for me. So, just give me a moment.

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SO, HUMAN, I’VE LEARNED OF SOMETHING ON YOUR PLANET CALLED… MARRIAGE IGUANA?

Yes, marijuana? What of it?

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AND THIS GROWS FROM THE SOIL OF YOUR PLANET?

Yes, Einstein. It comes from the ground.

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WHAT IS AN “EINSTEIN?”

………

………

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Anyway, what was your question?

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WHY WOULD SUCH A DANGEROUS PLANT BE ALLOWED TO GROW ON YOUR PLANET?

Wait, what? Marijuana isn’t dangerous…

… Might dull a few brain cells, but hardly dangerous.

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THEN WHY ARE SO MANY HUMANS IN PRISON BECAUSE OF THIS PLANT?

Oh, Lord…

The War on Drugs is why. Basically, marijuana had already been illegal in America since the 1930s as a result of anti-Mexican sentiment. White American workers hated competing with Mexicans for jobs, so the Federal Bureau of Narcotics started a propaganda campaign exploiting white workers’ fears of Mexicans, associating marijuana with Mexicans, and getting the drug banned as a result. In the 1970s, President Richard Nixon started a “War on Drugs” by the government to allegedly save America from an epidemic of addicts and crime. In 1994, Nixon’s aide revealed the real reason behind the War on Drugs: “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. […] We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

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You know those assholes whose farts linger long after the asshole itself has vacated the room? Nixon was that asshole.

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Hehehe! Pull my finger…

It’s funny you should ask me about marijuana, though. The movie I was going to review coincidentally has a lot to do with the subject.

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WHAT MOVIE IS THAT?

Oh, just a mid-’90s cult classic I’ve never seen called Friday.

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WHAT?! You’ve never seen Friday?! String him up by his balls!

My balls are in a precarious enough situation without your guys’ help, spank you very much. Yes, I know this is a popular movie. I’m on social media. I’ve seen all the goddamn memes. “Daaaaaamn!” “Bye, Felicia.” “You got knocked the fuck out!” Those memes are like the Hotel California. You can’t fucking escape them.

So, is the movie’s reputation warranted?

Continue reading

Cinema in Color Review #1: Boyz N The Hood

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Disclaimer: I do not claim ownership of any photographic material used unless otherwise noted. This blog is intended for purposes of film criticism, commentary, and humor. If you wish to start this journey from the beginning, start with the prologue here.

Konichiwa, pardner. I am the Wild West Samurai.

Let’s kick this off by going way back to the year 1991.

It was a pretty fucked up year, by several standards. The United States invaded Iraq, won, left, and didn’t go back for 12 years. Soooo… it qualifies as a victory like how a premature ejaculation qualifies as getting laid, only to find your one-night stand at your doorstep years later. With a teenager in tow. It was also a year of profound pop-culture fuck-ups. Axl Rose showed how much of an ass he was by attacking a fan at one of his concerts. Three goats were sacrificed so that Ed Sheeran could be born.

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I wish your voice wouldn’t work like it used to before.

Sorry. Was I thinking out loud? Anyway, 1991 was also the year Bryan Adams’ song “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” made it to number one on the Billboard charts – for seven godforsaken weeks in a row. Like Kevin Costner’s acting in the film the song was written for, it was phoned in, soulless, and as riveting as listening to paint dry on a white picket fence. Outside a bland white house. With a bland white family eating bland whitebread sandwiches inside – with mayonnaise on top. And it won the 1992 Grammy Award for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television.

Dark times, people. Dark times.

Had it not been for the brass pipes on Angela Lansbury and her vocal work on the song “Beauty and the Beast,” done in one take – yes, this was done in one take – Adams might have won the 1992 Academy Award for Best Original Song. But he didn’t. The Fire Lord was stopped. Zelda was rescued. Middle-earth was saved. And that’s all that matters.

1991 wasn’t all bad, though. The Soviet Union dissolved, the Berlin Wall came all the way down, and the Scorpions released a bitchin’ single about it.

Nirvana released their magnum opus Nevermind and their single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” not only topped the Billboard charts the next year, it ushered in a wave of grunge music that defined the ’90s. A Tribe Called Quest released their album The Low End Theory the same day as Nevermind, and proceeded to do for alternative hip-hop what Nevermind did for alternative rock. Prince released Diamonds and Pearls, with “Cream” as his last number-one single. A little-known rapper named Tupac Shakur kicked off his solo career with the release of 2Pacalypse Now, with the promise of more spit to come. Michael Jackson released Dangerous, his last good album (fight me). Ice Cube went from a rap career to starting his film career. Whitney Houston sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl, proceeding to blow the minds of 80 million people and holy fucking shit, I feel old. At least one person from all these acts is now dead: Phife Dawg, Kurt Cobain, Tupac, Whitney, Michael, Prince…

Well… except Ice Cube. He’s still around and actually done pretty well for himself: Four kids, been married the equivalent of 4,380 Britney Spears-length marriages, and has never had a rap sheet in his life. Props, man, props. And that film career of his? That started with a role in Boyz N The Hood, written and directed by a young and unknown John Singleton. After mentioning The Homesteader as the first known film ever made with an all-black cast and crew, it only made sense to start with another first. At the 1992 Oscars, John Singleton was the first African-American to be nominated for Best Director. What caught my attention when I’d first read about the film was that in 2002, it was selected for preservation as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress. I remember quirking an eyebrow at that.

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Really? This… weirdly-titled motion picture with a Z in place of an S?

So, is it that good?

With an alien breathing down my neck to review this, do I have a choic-?

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GET ON WITH IT, HUMAN!!!

Right, right! Yes! This is Boyz N The Hood.

Continue reading

Prologue: Introduction of the Film Critic

Disclaimer: I do not claim ownership of any photographic material used unless otherwise noted. This blog is intended for purposes of film criticism, commentary, and humor.

Konichiwa, pardner.

I am the Wild West Samurai, a film critic.

This is my blog featuring my reviews of films with majority casts of color (i.e. not white people), stretching from today to the days of silent cinema 100 years ago.

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‘Ey, this is America! How dare you talk about race! Talk about it anonymously in comments sections, like a normal person!

Continue reading