Archive for the ‘Social Drama’ Category

Come on, vogue
Let your body move to the music (move to the music)
Hey, hey, hey
Come on, vogue
Let your body go with the flow (go with the flow)
You know you can do it

Madonna’s best track is featured during the entire first episode of the second season. It’s a really good episode. If you only have to watch one episode of this entire series, pick that one. You can also watch the entire show of course, but there are not that many episodes nearly as good.

Madonna’s Vogue kind of made the late eighties New York ball culture mainstream. For a few months. Until the hype was over. Few people actually know about this underground culture, which is experiencing a bit of a revival right now. And this show is only going to get more people intrigued.

The show is important. No doubt. It focuses on an underground culture with characters from the black and latino underrepresented lgbtq community. And it tells the story of the struggle that people with HIV or Aids had to go through 30 years ago. That storyline is quite moving. BUT – in capitals – the acting, writing and directing is messy. Especially in season 1, which introduces the characters. Maybe that has to do with the directing. And the budget. It feels like every scene was never rehearsed and shot in one take only. It’s amateur. And annoying. The dialogues feel awkward as well. Season 2 improves on all of this. The acting is much better and especially the monologues of diva Miss Electra are hilarious and well-written. The episode stories however are often too far-fetched (the one where they have to hide a corpse, really?) or a real drag (the aids cabaret in the hospital).

Some characters are really cool though. That Miss Electra steals the show. She’s a vicious queen with a cold heart, but defrosts by the end of season 2. She is by far the most fierce, intriguing and hilarious person in the cast. Dominique Jackson is acting a bit wooden in season 1, but shines in season 2. Get her an award. Equally growing in her role is MJ Rodriguez as Blanca, who keeps the show going. She needs an award to.

There’s a lot going on. And the AIDS-related storylines are really good. But the interaction between the characters doesn’t feel realistic. They are inconsistent. In one episode they hate each other’s guts, in the next they support each other like sisters, in another one they are ready to physically harm each other, in the end they go on a day trip together. It’s weird. I’m sure there is enough drama in real life. So to add extra drama just doesn’t make sense.

Still. Season 3 may be great. and the soundtrack is excellent

www.imdb.com/title/tt7562112

Mon Frère – **(*)

Posted: August 19, 2019 in 2019, France, Social Drama, XX1/2

French cinema dares to put unprofessional actors in front of the camera and it almost always works. Why doesn’t Hollywood take these risks? Because the actor’s guild would complain? Who knows. Somehow in France, established actors praise the work of debutants and don’t mind sharing the screen with them in supporting parts.

However, this time the lead actor may not be nominated for best newcomer at next year’s César ceremony as he’s gotten himself in a bit of a shitty mess earlier this year. Accused of manslaughter, he’s imprisoned as we speak. So, it’s quite ironic that he’s playing a kid that’s placed in a centre for young delinquents, accused of having killed his father.

MHD is a young French rapper, who even performed at Coachella last year (the first French rapper to ever do so). You may have never heard of him, but he’s one of those successful artists on streaming sites around the world, mixing trap with african sounds. He’s doing a great job in this movie. Clearly new to the acting game, he does deliver. His performance is honest and real and it’s quite brave to play a young delinquent of about 18 years old, when in fact you are a 25 year old rap star. But he’s not the only star. A lot of the fellow delinquents in the movie do an excellent job as well. Sure, their characters are stereotypical and a bit too much at times. Just like the actors who play the staff of the juvenile detention centre. But in the end it’s an intriguing movie.

It starts off as a semi-documentary about life in one of those centers, but then focuses quite fast on two young adults, hating each others’ guts at first, but then forming an alliance towards the end. Towards the end it loses its seriousness and realism and that’s a bit of a disappointment.

It sure has it flaws, but it’s worth the watch. It’s in movie theaters in France, but on Netflix anywhere else.

www.imdb.com/title/tt9095526/

 

Le Grand Bain – *(*)

Posted: February 7, 2019 in 2018, France, Social Drama, X1/2

Flight movie #1

Both a hit at the box office and with the critics, this French dramedy disappoints. A bunch of male losers meet weekly for a practice of synchronised swimming. They pretty much suck at what they do, but it gives them some kind of satisfaction. Each one of them has their issues. The principle character, who just joined the team, has been at home with a depression for more than two years. He fits in perfectly and soon motivates the group to participate in an international competition.

It’s quite a tough viewing. There is little comedy. And the characters just aren’t intriguing or pleasant. Nor are the actors. Jean Hughes Anglade delivers a good performance, but others like Guillaume Canet aren’t remarkable at all. It’s also a silly story. It’s pretty unrealistic that they can enter an international competition without being part of a national organisation or so. Suddenly they are Team France and are off to Norway to compete with trained teams from around the world.

Not impressed.

www.imdb.com/title/tt7476116

John Singleton’s groundbreaking debut movie is on netflix. It’s a neo-classic because of its cultural impact and historic importance, but it’s not a cinematographic masterpiece. There are a few original scenes, like the one in which the main character tells his dad a lie about having lost his virginity. But overall, it’s all very basic. The acting is remarkable, and was the start of many current successful actors’ careers. Ice Cube delivers the best performance. Lawrence Fishburne is great as well. Same for Angela Bassett. Morris Chestnut and Cuba Gooding Jr showcase their talent, but aren’t always on point. They are all intriguing to watch and the story is captivating as well, even though nothing much happens. The movie just shows how life is in a south central residential town where decent people try to deal with the dangers of their neighborhood, being drug addiction, violence and crime. A remake would be more violent, full of sex and superficial conversations. This one gives food for thought. Just too bad that nothing much has changed since 1991. The movie’s story could easily have been told today.

www.imdb.com/title/tt0101507

Getting a Netflix account will make up for not traveling far this winter! No need to re-visit Salvador do Bahia if you got movies like Ó Paí, Ó on your tv. Not sure what other ‘world cinema is available on the streaming network, but that’s to find out in the near future.

This movie is very confusing though. It starts of as a musical comedy, but it ends as a drama with a message. The confusing part is what that message is. Throughout the movie you get to see Salvador the way no other travel documentary has shown it. It’s a beautiful and exciting city. A lot of the sights that tourists want to see are shown in this feature. The stories are set in the famous Pelourinho area with its colorful houses and the charming cobblestoned streets. If you’ve been to the place, you want to go back as soon as you see it on screen. However, the reality of the city is harsh and it’s like this whole advertising clip ends with the message: don’t go there!

The first characters to appear on-screen are played by Lazaro Ramos and Emanuelle Araujo, both from Bahia. They immediately have a sexy scene together in which he paints on her naked body after he just showed off dancing to a samba beat. Within ten minutes you’re thinking: wow, a movie about gorgeous Salvador with even more gorgeous Brazilians making out. However, half an hour later or so, twenty more characters are introduced and they all represent a stereotype. An hour into the movie, the list of clichés is so long that you can’t take it anymore. But then drama sets in and there are some strong scenes with social commentary. It’s like the parody becomes a political manifest.

The clichés are confronting though. If someone else makes a movie about Brazil and adds too many clichés, they get burned. If a local makes a movie about Brazil and fills it with even more clichés, they get heralded. A Brazilian friend told me the movie was well perceived and quite important for the local community, but for a Western European this movie feels awkward. Sure, everyone in Brazil or who has visited Brazil can relate to some of those stereotypes. But to see them all in one movie is confronting.

The hypocritical evangelist who worships the bible, but loves the gossip of sexual adventures by others. The white trash drug dealing nut-head, who blurts out racist insults to feel better about himself. The cheating husband of a pregnant wife, who fucks the ‘mandatory’ transgender. The emigrant who lies about her successful life in Europe. The rascal kids who find it amusing to rip off tourists. The promiscuous girl who get another abortion because she always forgets to use a condom. The corrupt police officer who needs to keep an eye on the store of his landlord in order to postpone paying for last month’s rent. And then there’s the candomblé (Bahia’s spiritual religion), acarajé (great street food), the music from Olodum (Salavador’s famous carnaval drum band), flirtatious behavious by all, the shouting when communicating, etc…

It’s an interesting movie to watch. But it’s a tough one to sit through. Most of the acting is terrible. It’s just over the top. Wagner Moura for instance is so ridiculous that it’s not even funny. And he’s a good actor! Lazaro Ramos however is excellent. That one scene where he replies to a racist insult is quite powerful. The story though, that’s another weak point. It’s a collection of stories happening during the days before Carnaval. They do intertwine, but it’s nothing like Crash or Short Cuts where they merge.

Again, it’s not really clear what the director wanted to tell. It’s both a lot and nothing at all.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0895777/

Mudbound – **(*)

Posted: December 26, 2017 in 2017, Social Drama, USA, XX1/2

So, Netflix, I’m finally a client!

First movie is the ‘Netflix Original’ Mudbound, nominated for two Golden Globes and maybe up for an Oscar as well. It did get a limited theatrical release in the States, but it was made for television.

It’s good. Just not as great as the buzz makes you believe. Maybe if you’ve followed Mary J Blige’s career, you may be impressed by the fact that she doesn’t look glamorous in this picture. But looking less glamorous doesn’t make you deserve an award. Her role is very small and nothing more than just plain good. If someone from the cast should get a nomination it should be Rob Morgan !

Both play Mr and M Jackson, who work on farmland that isn’t theirs and dream of owning a piece of rural land at one point in their life. They are descendants of slaves and live in poor conditions, but seem to be happy. They have several kids and one of them is fighting nazis in Europe. New tenants, the McAllans, arrive to live on the farm however and the atmosphere changes. They are also quite poor, but they are white and privileged. Mr McAllan (Jason Clarke) just wants to run his farm successfully and Mrs Jackson (Carey Mulligan) tries to support her husband, while raising two daughters. They do have a racist elder living with them. Things definitely change when the war is over and both welcome back a family member. Ronsel Jackson helped liberate Europe and was welcomed with respect and joy in the old continent, but is confronted with racial issues and subordination once back home. Jamie McAllan was an air force pilot dropping bombs, but comes back traumatized and starts drinking. Especially after his dad calls him a coward for not having looked the enemy in the face when killing them. Both Jamie and Ronsel feel out-of-place and easily bond. But this is the South of cotton fields and the KKK, where blacks and whites don’t ‘bond’…

It’s a good movie. The acting is good. The cinematography is great. The setting is interesting. It’s all very intriguing. The bond between the army guys feels real. They share a similar experience. It makes total sense that they bond. It’s not a best buddy bond. It’s not a forced black & white bromance bond. It’s just a natural bond. The relationship between the Jackson and the McAllan households also feels real. There’s some kind of respect between them, but they are also not the best of friends. It would have been more intriguing if they had focussed more on those relationships. Now the story leads to a dramatic moment that is negative, shocking and depressing. Fine. That story needs to be told. But it kind of felt like the story was going to lead to something more positive.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2396589

Ae Fond Kiss – **

Posted: November 14, 2017 in 2014, Romance, Social Drama, UK, XX

For a movie made in 2004, this Ken Loach film still functions well in 2017. Nothing has changed in 13 years. A sad conclusion. The premise still intrigues these days. Can a catholic, female music teacher and a muslim accountant find happiness as a couple in modern-day Western society? Yes? No? Maybe?

Ae Fond Kiss feels like it was made by a debutant graduating from an unknown film academy. Which is not a bad thing, apart from the fact that it’s made by an experienced and award-winning director. The script is so predictable. Of course the catholic school environment will be depicted as being as old-fashioned as the Pakistani tradition of arranged marriages. The social commentary is too gentle. If you want to confront viewers with racism, don’t do it by just mentioning it. Go for the uncomfortable feeling! Some scenes don’t make sense. Like the moment where the guy discovers a tattoo on the body of his new girlfriend, which he has been licking and kissing all night long a few days before. Duh! The acting of most of the cast is non-professional. Which is fine. Eva Birthisle is quite remarkable as the teacher. Atta Yaqub looks lost as the Pakistani accountant. But playing the character as a bit of a shy loser, makes him more sympathetic. The rest probably didn’t even get paid for being extras with lines.  It has a terrible end. Totally opposite of what any rational person would conclude. But the whole experience is worth the watch. A Scottish movie to recommend!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0380366