As Trump supporters keep “winning” and orgasming over “liberal tears,” the rest of us grow increasingly worried about the future of the country that seems set to only be fit and safe for white men with money and the women who submit to them.
In case you missed it, a wealthy and woefully inexperienced Betsy DeVos is now Education Secretary, barely squeezing in after a deadlocked battle. And probably-most-likely racist Jeff Sessions slithered his way into becoming U.S. Attorney General. To add insult to injury, an attempt by Senator Elizabeth Warren to oppose him was silenced, quite literally.
If these developments don’t concern you, then perhaps knowing that some mentally ill individuals will be able able to get their hands on firearms without much hassle will.
That’s enough to cause anybody anxiety, cannabis-induced or not. We don’t blame you if you feel like curling up in front of the TV and watching kids shows just to deal. But, afterward, we’re all gonna have to face reality.
Anyway, Valentine’s Day is next week, and Lord knows we could all use a little bit more love in our lives. With that in mind, a few selections below could be watched with that someone special….
Warning: May contain spoilers.
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013)
Starring: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Ben Foster, Keith Carradine
Director: David Lowery
Genre: Drama, Romance
Summary: An escaped convict attempts to reunite with his wife and daughter in Texas.
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, like Hell or High Water, is a modern-day western, but unlike that Oscar-nominated film, it never drew a sizable audience. That’s probably because it’s a “slow” movie and not as action-oriented. Plus, Hell is about a struggling white Southern family robbing the same bank that’s trying to take their home, which speaks to a certain demographic in today’s America.
Saints is indeed calmly paced, any comparisons to auteur Terrence Malick are quite understandable. There are robberies and shootouts, but they are not presented here as visceral thrills. If anything, this film is about the realities of living life after making the wrong choices.
Both Saints and Hell share actor Ben Foster, who plays such different, contrasting roles, you might not realize for a while that it’s the same guy. Like the rest of the cast, which is lead by Affleck and Mara’s stoic presence, he’s somebody who has kept a lot bottled up inside. Equally as good is Carradine, who convinces you he is that sleepy town store owner with a shady past. (The film also features Nate Parker, who along with Affleck, has been embroiled in controversy. Ironically, Parker portrays a friend helping Affleck elude the law.)
Taken as a western, Saints has the dusty elements all in order: People communicate via letters, issue get-out-of-town-by-sundown ultimatums, and dispatch a posse to track down its prey. But this is an art film version of a western where the beautiful cinematography bathes everything with the brilliance of natural light and folks contemplate what could have been.
Imperial Dreams (2014)
Starring: John Boyega, Glenn Plummer, Kellita Smith, Keke Palmer, De'aundre Bonds
Director: Malik Vitthal
Summary: A young man struggles to take care of his son after getting out of jail.
There’s a mindset in this country that poor people have to get focused and work hard because this is America and if you bust your ass you’ll eventually get ahead.
Well, it is a nice outlook to have, believing that in this life you get what you earn. But, even if people don’t realize it, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is a myth that dates back a long time. Yes, you’re going to find success stories, but the truth is that the wealthy tend to stay wealthy and the poor stay poor.
The lack of upward mobility is even worse for people of low economic backgrounds who have been incarcerated. Once branded a criminal, that jacket is hard to pull off. This is illustrated in Imperial Dreams, a sobering drama that overcomes some subpar dialogue to effectively tell the story of an ex-con who comes home to his old Watts neighborhood ready to make a better life for his him and his son.
Bambi (Boyega) wants to become a professional writer but is stuck in a cycle with no escape hatch. As he tries to get back on his feet, he’s faced with various hurdles, which include being targeted by cops, trying to get around red tape, and avoiding the pitfalls that got him locked up in the first place. Through it all, he must not only keep an eye on his dreams, but also make sure that his son can develop dreams of his own.
Cuban Fury (2014)
Starring: Nick Frost, Rashida Jones, Chris O’Dowd, Ian McShane
Director: James Griffiths
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Summary: A thirtysomething former salsa dancer falls for his boss.
While the height of the romcom has come and gone, there’s always going to be interest in movies in which love brings together two unlikely people. In this case, the two unlikely people are lonely Bruce (Shaun of the Dead’s Frost) and Julia (Jones, doing her smart, nerdy hot girl thing), who is Bruce’s new boss at an engineering firm. Over 20 years ago, Bruce was a rising salsa star who was beat up by bullies for wearing flamboyant costumes and thus never danced again. But now he sees a possible in with Julia after discovering she’s a salsa fan.
For the most part, the film sidesteps the can of worms an employer-employee romantic relationship entails. But then again, things between Bruce and Julia are more on a friendship level. And although any sane person knows that Julia is out of Bruce’s league, you end up hoping he at least gets friend-zoned since he’s such a nice guy and could use some positive female interaction. Actually, the entire main cast is quite likable in their own way, especially O’Dowd as Drew, an obnoxious co-worker who violates half a dozen HR regulations every time he opens his trap.
Cuban Fury manages not to be ethnically offensive, which is a major achievement in most movies starring white people that deal with nonwhite culture. It’s not the funniest flick you’ve ever seen, but it entertains for its duration and has some great music, as would be expected, since it would be kind of hard to mess up a soundtrack full of salsa.
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arterton
Director: Neil Jordan
Genre: Drama, Fantasy
Summary: Two women in search of a new home have a secret (and deadly) past.
It’s not every vampire flick that can bounce from a neon lit strip club to a 19th Century bordello with such ease. If that makes Byzantium sound like some sleazy offering that is certainly not the case. In fact, it’s quite a classy, romantic affair with the occasional graphic beheading. And besides, any movie called Byzantium is probably gonna be some serious-ass shit.
Vampires Eleanor (Ronan) and Clara (Arterton) have been undead for over 200 years. They’ve maintained their youthful appearances, but life hasn’t been easy, as they’ve continuously been on the move. Clara works as a stripper (and a lady of the evening) not just for money but to find fresh victims. The younger Eleanor, meanwhile, is unhappy, wishing to come clean about her secret life as a vampire. Clara, her protector, is adamantly opposed to this.
In several ways, Eleanor’s story is not much different from any teenager who feels like the world doesn’t understand them, and who is growing into a different stage of their life. An unending thirst for blood, however, naturally complicates things for Eleanor.
Byzantium director Jordan also helmed Interview with the Vampire (1994). He obviously has a handle on elegant presentations of bloodsucker lore. Here, he upholds vampire tradition by subtly pointing out things like Eleanor and Clara having to wait until they’re invited into people’s homes before entering. In one scene, we see Clara smirk when she’s told a building she’s just entered has had all the mirrors removed. To some degree, the film also takes on the age-old question of whether someone with eternal life might not after a while begin to lament their existence.
Perfect Sense (2011)
Starring: Eva Green, Ewan McGregor
Director: David Mackenzie
Genre: Drama, Romance, Sci Fi
Summary: A man and woman meet just as a disease that causes humans to lose their senses is discovered.
Perfect Sense is about the end of the world as we know it, but those searching for a beat-the-clock countdown to total annihilation would be advised to stay clear.
Green is an epidemiologist and McGregor is a chef who hook up despite both having some problems with commitment and intimacy. They meet at a time when some sort of unexplained global illness is happening; people are having unexpected instances of deep sorrow and grief followed by the immediate loss of smell.
Perfect Sense doesn’t rely on quick-cut action sequences, instead opting for a sensitive voice-over to move the story along. The film’s focus is on human interaction and not chaos. Knowing this beforehand may allow some viewers to get something out of the film that they might not get if they go in expecting explosions and human debris.
In the end, the film’s message, that we shouldn’t wait for the end of civilization to start caring about each other, might come off as ham-fisted or preachy to some. Others might feel things stop prematurely short of the devastation the movie seems heading towards. But, in a world that has become desensitized to wreckage and ruin, it’s probably better to have our attention be on the tragedy of personal loss and not personal property. And to remember that, whether we like it or not, we’re all connected.
(Oh, and by the way, the song that stands out in the middle of the movie is the Castanets’ “No Voice Was Raised.”)
Written on February 10, 2017 by
Gabriel Alvarez has written about rap music and movies for over 20 years. He’s from Los Angeles.