Friday, November 25, 2011

Birth of a Nation is Only Half Racist

I'm quite behind in reading your posts. I'll confess that I feel less motivated when I haven't seen what everyone else has. BUT I watched Hugo tonight and am anxious to catch up so I can join the conversation for the first time in months! Hooray!
That said, I had to stop my catching up to say in an alarmed tone to Chris: You have the wrong idea about Birth of a Nation! The first half of the movie is actually a Civil War film that makes little to no racial commentary. It's the second half that's pretty much atrocious, and then not even the whole thing. But at that point you're invested in the characters and so sorting out your responses is more challenging. The reason to watch Birth of a Nation, however, is the cinematography, which was decades ahead of its time. It is definitely a masterpiece. A masterpiece with woefully misguided politics, but a masterpiece nonetheless.
As far as the stuff it's notorious for, it comes across more as a commentary on the times than a direct attack on my modern ethical sensibilities. At least to me. It's a treatise on the reasons Reconstruction failed (again, woefully misguided and utterly ignorant) which resulted in the disintegration of the traditional South, which Griffiths lamented and the loss of which permeates the second half. It's true that when I called my wife and son down to watch the courtroom scene, my son left before it ended, angry and upset. But that's because I made the mistake of showing it to them out of context. It's no less upsetting, but it becomes a part of a larger whole.
I don't know if I'm making any sense, but I'm tired of typing and retyping because I'm worried about coming across the wrong way. Just watch the damn thing, and see what you think for yourself.

Also, I didn't bother with the director's list because I've seen maybe one or two from a lot of them, if I've seen any at all. Here's my short list of directors whose work I've seen enough of to warrant rating them by preference (+) Favorite (-) Least Favorite (!) Underrated

Coen Brothers: Hudsucker Proxy (+), Intolerable Cruelty (-), Miller's Crossing (!)
Jarmusch: Mystery Train (+), Broken Flowers (-), Ghost Dog (!)
Gilliam: Brazil (+), Brothers Grimm (-), Tideland (!-woefully so)
Burton: Edward Scissorhands (+), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (-), Big Fish (!)
Allen: Love and Death (+), Melinda and Melinda (-), Scoop (!)
Scorcese: Taxi Driver (+), Gangs of New York (-), Bringing Out the Dead (!)
Kurosawa (I've only seen five): Seven Samurai (+)...well, I loved all of his that I've seen
Bergman (I've only seen six): Seventh Seal (+), Smiles of a Summer Night (!)...I've loved all I've seen
Spielberg: Schindler's List (+), Munich (-), Twilight Zone: The Movie (!)
Kubrick (I've only seen five): Full Metal Jacket (+), Eyes Wide Shut (-) anything of his underrated?
Tarantino: Kill Bill 1&2 (+), Sin City (-), Death Proof (!)
Cronenberg (seen six): Existenz (+), Spider (- liked it but didn't get it), Existenz (!)
Carpenter: The Thing (+), They Live (- I thought it was stupid and boring), Escape From NY (!)
Eastwood (seen six): Mystic River (+), Space Cowboys (-), A Perfect World (!)
Miyazaki: My Neighbor Totoro (+), Kiki's Delivery Service (!)...I loved all I've seen!

Okay, I guess there were more than I thought, but still... and they're mostly modern directors!

Back to catching up!

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