Sunday, January 22, 2012


Two years ago I recommended the film Precious, which is about an African-American teen girl in New York City. Today I'm recommending Dee Rees' "Pariah", which is about an African-American teen girl in the same city. However, the similarities end there. Claireece "Precious" Jones was obese and illiterate and had endured horrendous physical and sexual abuse from her hideous family. Alike (Adepero Aduye) is slim, attractive, a good student, and a very good poet. She comes from a loving middle class family. Her problem is that although she has not yet had sex, she knows absolutely that she is a Lesbian, but she can't figure out how to come out to her family.

Her father is a NYC cop, her mother (Kim Wayans) is an office worker and a very fervent member of a fundamentalist church. Alike's dad is oblivious to Alike's sexuality. Her mom has suspicions, but believes that she can will her daughter into being a good straight girl. Alike puts off the inevitable confrontation with her mother by leaving the house in girl clothes and changing into the boy clothes that she feels comfortable in. At one point Alike's mom forces her to hang out with the daughter (Aasha Davis) of one of the other women in the church. This girl turns out to be a lot more complicated than she first seems. Alike's best friend (Pernell Walker) is also her guide into the world of African American Butch Lesbians.

This film is well cast, well acted, and very well made, with a good mixture of humor and drama. I recommend it. Dee Rees is another young director to keep an eye on. Her second film will be interesting to see because "Pariah" is based on her own experience coming out and her next project will presumably be material not quite so close to home.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

Jane Eyre

The bureau chief has decided that from now on he will watch any film that Cary Fukunaga decides to make. His first film, "Sin Nombre", takes place in the dangerous and violent world of criminal gangs and illegal immigrants in contemporary Mexico. It's an excellent movie. For his second film, he decided to make something different, if you consider Jane Eyre different from Mara Salvatrucha.

It's also an excellent film. A quick glance at the IMDB indicates that the first version of Jane Eyre was made in 1910 and they've been been making versions steadily, in film and on TV, ever since. Fukunaga gets to cap off the first 100 years. Mia Wasikovska plays Jane and Michael Fassbender plays Rochester. They are very good as is the solid supporting cast of English actors. Fukunaga successfully evokes the intense passion between the leads, but also portrays the unfair treatment and cruelty of Jane's upbringing. Jane's anger at injustice and her strength are present from childhood on. Fukunaga doesn't ignore the Romantic and Gothic elements in the book or its critique of religious hypocrisy. I hadn't remembered the latter elements and started rereading the novel.

They're all in there. I last read it five or so decades ago and didn't remember it very well. One of the advantages of getting older is that you get a lot more out of works of art although you can't gobble them up at the rate you did when you were young. I accept the tradeoff. But I digress, it's a really good film so watch it on DVD or stream it and keep an eye on Cary Fukunaga.