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Thursday, October 25, 2018

First Man, A Star is Born, and the Beginnings of Rap


I watched First Man yesterday morning, or what would more aptly be called "Seven Years in a Movie Theater".   This was a painfully long movie, which probably is another way of saying that it wasn't good.  If a movie is really good you don't complain about the length, right?

The final scene has stayed with me and makes me more angry the more I think about it.  In the scene, Armstrong's wife (Claire Foy) is allowed to see him after he comes down from the moon, and he's quarantined in a room, kind of like it's a jail visit or something.  And the two of them just stare at each other for a really long time, and she might even get down on her knees or something and press herself against the glass at him.  It's just so awful.  It's the kind of scene that you want to walk out of a movie during, it's SOOOO affected.  

The movie had many LONG scenes of this ilk with precious little dialogue.  Although I did like the way children were portrayed throughout; the scenes where Armstrong's wife interacts with her children seemed realistic; and that's a rare feat on screen.

Somehow the movie left me resenting Damien Chazelle.  One reviewer said that Hollywood's given him carte blanche to do whatever he damn well pleases, and with the artistic liberties he's taken with this movie you get the feeling he's gone hog wild.

A Star is Born, on the other hand, has me liking it, and Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, more and more the longer I've distanced myself from it.

Now there's a telling difference!

I like Lady Gaga; there's something genuine and real about her, and she's also genuinely talented.  Bradley Cooper--I like him too.  It compelled me to watch The Hangover, a movie I'd sort of vowed never to watch since I felt that it glorified men-who-never-grew-up, and I liked him in that movie, too.  

It's good to see, however, that his career has developed.  His role in The Hangover was just sort of the nice-guy, the eye-of-the-audience sort of character.  In Star is Born he's much more complex.

Looks like the box office is reflecting my impressions as well; so far First Man hasn't broken even at the box office and A Star is Born has made four times it's budget!  (They were both released around the same time).

Back to First Man; the filtering in the movie was a little too romantic.  Images of kids in pools with the kind of filter that makes you feel like you're looking through a photo album where all of the photos have faded to yellow.

One thing that really did fascinate me from the movie was the brief excerpt of Gil Scott-Heron's "Whitey on the Moon".  I had never heard this poem/song before and it made me realize that rap music started way back in the 60s!

I thought it was SO FUNNY at the same time that it brought up a very penetrating message about class and race issues in the US.  It really demonstrated the way that rap is a medium that communicates music, poetry, and a social message.

"Whitey On The Moon"


A rat done bit my sister Nell
With Whitey on the moon
Her face and arms began to swell
And Whitey's on the moon

I can't pay no doctor bills
But Whitey's on the moon
Ten years from now I'll be paying still
While Whitey's on the moon

You know, the man just upped my rent last night
Cause Whitey's on the moon
No hot water, no toilets, no lights
But Whitey's on the moon

I wonder why he's uppin' me?
Cause Whitey's on the moon?
Well i was already given him fifty a week
And now Whitey's on the moon

Taxes takin' my whole damn check
The junkies make me a nervous wreck
The price of food is goin up
And if all that crap wasn't enough
A rat done bit my sister nell
With Whitey on the moon

Her face and arms began to swell
And Whitey's on the moon

With all that money i made last year
For Whitey on the moon
How come I ain't got no money here?
Hmm, Whitey's on the moon

You know I just about had my fill
Of Whitey on the moon
I think I'll send these doctor bills
airmail special
(To Whitey on the moon)

On a positive note, I felt like the cultural references to the time weren't heavy-handed they way they so often are in movies from that period.  No Bob Dylan singing "A Hard Rain" or anything like that; just some chanting about "LBJ How many kids did you kill today", and another scene with Peter Paul & Mary singing er what was it now?  This Train?  No, it was 500 Miles.  It's nice that Chazelle did this subtly.

Perhaps this is because he's not a baby-boomer so doesn't have the same heart-felt attachment to the 60s that directors like Oliver Stone or Robert Zemeckis have.

"60s-lite" I'd say, ha ha.

Well there you have it.  Oscar Season is in full swing now.  Hopefully there'll be some better movies coming down the pike.  Really looking forward to Clint Eastwood's.

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