Things I've Been Watching Oct 2018

Media consumed in October is finalized. You can view here.

Quick notes:

Clint Eastwood


A terribly sad repositioning of the American West mythology and a clear-headed meditation on the unspeakable violence, racist and misogynist culture that sat at the heart of the American frontier.

Eastwood has become a politically polarizing figure and his films are co-opted or rejected through politically narrow readings.

While playing hyper-masculine, hyper-violent characters, Eastwood has also chipped away—in front of the camera and behind—at the empty symbols and rhetoric those characters represent.

“Escape From Alcatraz” (1979) was a critique of America’s prison system, “Heartbreak Ridge” (1986) and “In The Line of Fire” (1993) challenged America’s military-industrial complex, and his recent trio of films—“American Sniper” (2014), “Sully” (2016), “The 15:17 to Paris” (2017)—examine American heroism and its relationship—or lack of—to patriotic values.

“American Sniper” was poorly read by most of the country. Conservatives and progressives saw it as a reinforcement of conservative values and failed to recognize the challenge to those values that it really was.

The end of the film is pure Kyle fantasy. It is no accident that his body being paraded through the streets mirrored an earlier scene of an Iraqi insurgent being carried through the streets. Both were given a hero’s farewell and Eastwood is asking what, if any, is the difference between America’s fanaticism and those of its enemies.

Terence Nance

“Random Acts of Flyness”

Terence Nance made one of the great films of the new century with “An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty”. It’s depressing that his output is constrained by an industry that continually fails to reward filmmakers like him.

“Random Acts of Flyness” continues in a similar mode. Playing a fictionalized version of himself, Terence navigates the modern black experience, but expands upon his original cinematic work by inviting other writers and directors to create the work with him.

In Hannah Gadsby’s astounding comedy special, “Nanette” (on Netflix), Gadsby talks about the shortcomings of Picasso (who she reminds that she “fucking hates”). Her point is an artistic one. Picasso showed us that we could break open the world through the deconstruction of form and to see things from multiple perspectives. Picasso’s failure was that he thought he could represent all viewpoints.

Nance’s inclusion of Mariama Diallo, Darius Clark Monroe, and Jamund Washington as co-directors and co-writers is a correction to counter Picasso’s failure. By including female and LGBTQIA+ voices, Nance is showing us the kaleidoscope of perspectives that Picasso never did.

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