“Fight the Power” with these flicks!
As you all know, an African-American man named George Floyd was killed by some white cops in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This continued an on-going strike against police brutality in various states. I’d like to use the time to recommend some movies about African-Americans going against the broken system, and how they either win or lose.
“Do the Right Thing”
Spike Lee’s 1989 masterpiece closed with a riot outside the local Brooklyn pizza place, where white cops suffocate an African-American protestor, whom they bring into custody. This is an ode to the relationship of African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and Whites in their Brooklyn neighborhood.
We get dialogue so fearless and outspoken, characters so flexible and real, humor so honest, and ambitions so true, this movie has to be seen. The cast features Lee as a slacking pizza boy Mookie, the recently departed Danny Aiello as the pizza owner, John Tuturro as his racist son, Rosie Perez as Mookie’s girlfriend, and Samuel L. Jackson as the main DJ.
This began Ryan Coogler’s open-minded movie career, before “Creed” and “Black Panther.” He retells the story of how white BART cops killed a young African-American man named Oscar Grant III. Michael B. Jordan gave one of the best performances of his career as Grant, Melonie Diaz is his girlfriend, Octavia Spencer is his mother, and Chad Michael Murray and Kevin Durand are the racist cops.
This is a movie about harsh realities, and the people that live in them. But really, it’s about an innocent man, who never deserved this murder. Neither did George Floyd.
No racist cops here, but there is an evil white family (Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, Allison Williams, and Caleb Landry Jones), who kidnap African-Americans and basically transfer the souls of their deceased loved ones into them. So think of it like the ending to “Being John Malkovich” with John Cusack’s bad character.
This not only earned writer/director Jordan Peele the Oscar for Best Screenplay, but it also redefined him as not only a comedy star, but also a filmmaker with ambition and courage. And he also guides Daniel Kaluuya as the only man who can penetrate their wicked system.
“Get Out, Get Out, Get Out!”
Denzel Washington was nominated an Oscar for his performance as Malcolm X (1925-1965), who came from hard times, and went on to become a minister and Human Rights activist. Director Spike Lee uses his activism and skills to convince us Washington is the real-life figure, and how he wanted to make a difference in reality.
Also with Delory Lindo, Angela Bassett, and Christopher Plummer, “Malcolm X” is a Black History movie like no other-one that shows us the activist’s strengths, weaknesses, commitments, and ambitions. The dialogue here is powerful in the ways the characters are outspoken and brave, and other than the KKK, nobody here is scared. And seeing the violence and protesting threatens me. This is a f*cking fearless movie, and I loved it.
“Queen & Slim”
This movie doesn’t guarantee a happy ending, but it does promise you that it wants to fight against the broken system of racist cops. I know that not every cop is evil, but there are those who deserve what’s coming to them.
In this case, the story, written by Lena Waite and James Frey, turns a good-natured couple (Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner Smith) into Bonnie & Clyde, because they kill a racist cop, who pulls them over for failing to use the turn signal.
From beginning to end, you’re rooting for them to dodge the feds, because you hate all the evil in the world. But most importantly, good people don’t deserve to be treated like this. It’s a non-stop thrill ride with positive messages and fresh, distinctive performances.
“The Hate U Give”
I wouldn’t recommend you watch it more than once, because of how irritable it gets with the parenting and law. But I do recommend you see it for believing in the right people. The main girl would happen to be Starr (Amanda Stenberg), who witnesses her friend (Algee Smith) get killed by a white cop, and she must testify against him. That is unless she wants to deal with a drug lord (Anthony Mackie) the young lad worked for.
“The Hate U Give” is gripping and honest in the ways it views segregation in urban areas, and the people who want to battle it. The recently departed Audrey Wells and director George Tillman, Jr. both adapt Angie Thomas’ novel at the right moment, a moment when society will never bring racism to an end. In this or any other generation, people are willing to fight, and so does the movie.
It’s no duh that Quentin Tarantino would make another 4-star masterpiece like this 2012 hit. This one spices up the “Django” story by crafting Jamie Foxx as a slave, who teams up with bounty hunter Christoph Waltz to kill slave masters. Their next target happens to be Leonardo DiCaprio, who holds Django’s wife (Kerry Washington). Even Samuel L. Jackson has to be the bad guy, here.
As always in a Tarantino movie, it uses its words (including some unmentionables) with a razor-sharp intensity, and its violence with grip and risks. You couldn’t have asked for anyone to top Foxx in the role, because that would be impossible. He delivers the goods in ways you can’t imagine. And the movie itself doesn’t take “No” for an answer.
“Monsters and Men”
Writer/director Reinaldo Marcus Green introduces us to three characters, who are all affected by the same situation: Officer Dennis Williams (John David Washington), a young father named Manny Ortega (Anthony Ramos), and a young baseball champ named Zyrick (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.). This similar situation involves you know what.
It doesn’t finish some sides of the story, but it does battle racism during the Trump era. It has situations involving people filming cops at the scene of a crime and protests, which look and feel realistic; and the acting from Washington, Ramos, Harrison, Jr, and Rob Morgan (as a loving father) keeps things in check. This wasn’t exactly a hit, but you should still see it for what it wants to fight about.
Director Ava DuVernay retells the Selma to Montgomery marches with such skill and heart that you’re able to see the struggles and horrors of what went on in America at the time. This is about fighting hate, and it reminds us of that tremendously.
David Oyelowo provides one of his finest performances as Martin Luther King, Jr. who had a dream. A dream about everyone seeing the light, and two worlds setting aside their differences. But you already knew that.
You also get an all-star supporting cast, including Tom Wilkinson, Carmen Ejogo, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Giovani Ribisi, Common, Andre Holland, Tim Roth, and Oprah Winfrey. Why must I repeat myself? Violence has been going on in this world for years. It has been and always will. But there are those who wish for a better, nicer future. I myself am sick of all this, and we need reminders like Martin Luther King Jr. to teach us that.
“Straight Outta Compton”
Hands down, F. Gary Gray delivers one of the best music biopics of all time (even more so than the overrated “Bohemian Rhapsody”). It tells the story of how N.W.A came to be, how they dealt with police brutality in LA, and how they went their separate ways.
O’Shea Jackson Jr. portrays his own father Ice Cube, Jason Mitchell is the late Eazy-E, Corey Hawkins is Dr. Dre, Aldis Hodge plays MC Ren, and Neil Brown, Jr. is DJ Yella. These actors know who these rappers are, where they went in life, and how they dealt with things. This music group has inspired most people in the world of music and freedom with the lyrics and intentions. And this 2015 opus is a love letter to N.W.A.
In 2018, Spike Lee returned to his profound form in the true story of an African-American cop impersonating a racist on the phone to a KKK leader, and having a white cop portray the man in the process. John David Washington is the caller, Adam Driver is the actor, and Topher Grace is the racist. This was in the 1970s for the record.
This film explodes with such risks, laughs, and dangers. The movie has a blaxploitation quality that makes it a perfect film. You can tell by the brilliant dialogue, whether it’s for or against African-Americans, the true dramatization, and Spike Lee’s ode to the racist society.
I’m peeved off you people let this masterpiece from director Kathryn Bigelow get away. And you know what I mean by “you people.” You movie-goers. I didn’t love this movie because it scared a few African-American audience members. I loved it for its brutal and scary narrative of what went down in Detroit in 1967.
John Boyega plays the only African-American cop on the force, Will Poulter and Jack Reynor play the racists cops, and Algee Smith, Anthony Mackie, and Jason Mitchell are among the victims of the Algiers Motel Incident. The fact that it was a box office failure and never got an Oscar nom made me nearly forget about this movie. It deserves another look people.
May George Floyd rest in peace. He may have committed a crime, but he still didn’t deserve that suffocation by the police. Black Lives Matter, and don’t you forget it.