Full Title: Born On the Fourth of July
Director: Oliver Stone
Comments: This is one of greatest American stories ever told and one that needs to be heard. I think anyone that is considering joining the military should see this film or read the novel by Ron Kovic, which it is based on. Ronnie is easily one of the most admirable figures in American history. From start to finish he demonstrates immense courage; whether it is his unflinching attitude to immediately volunteer for the Marines, his tremendous bravery on the battlefield in Vietnam, his continuing determination (even after being paralyzed) to fight for his country whilst suffering in a horribly unfunded veterans’ hospital, to his new found awareness of the evil of government and war and his resulting militance as peace/anti-war activist/author/public speaker. I am always inspired by his character, even when I am incredibly frusturated by his ignorance and the way he blindly obeys the call to action to “Stop Communism.” The fact that he was able to stand up and take charge against the system that robbed him of so much (his ability to walk, his ability to reproduce, his faith in humanity, etc.) is remarkable. I love the way director, Oliver Stone, himself a Vietnam Vet, paints this wonderful picture of Americanism and tells the story of twentieth centruy America through Ron’s tale. Sometimes, especially at the beginning, it is kind of cheesy and cliched, but it works really well here, like it adds this made for TV movie feel to it that in many ways fits the ridiculous nature of American society as a whole. Kids had watched their fathers and grandfathers fight in “noble” wars and so when Vietnam came about, now it was their time to take up the arms and defend their country. Then they find out it was (and still is) all a lie- everything they were taught was a lie. Long live brave people like Ron Kovic, who can make such 180 turns after being so invested in the opposing side.
Full Title: Malcolm X
Director: Spike Lee
Comments: I CHARGE THE WHITE MAN FOR MAKING TOO MANY TERRIBLE MOVIES. I CHARGE THE WHITE MAN FOR BEING THE GREATEST PERVAYOR OF HORRIBLE TELEVISION PROGRAMS, OF BEING THE FAKEST SWINE TO WALK THE EARTH. Thank God, we have Spike Lee, an excellent Black filmmaker, and certainly this is one of his finest films. I would go as far as to say this is the best biopic to grace the silver screen, the model for all other biopics. Like Ron Kovic (except so much more), Malcolm X’s story needs to be heard. I would recommend y’all read The Autobiography of Malcolm as Told to Alex Healey (1965) as seen in the Recommend Reading section of this site before you watch this flick, but if you’re a little whiny bitch and you do not like to read or do not have the time then at least view this exceptional film. Malcolm’s story is the black man’s experience in AmeriKKKa. This is what makes him such a crucial figure, we see him rise through the shadows and darkness and into the light through prison. His militance transformed a whole generation of black people into liberators, truly emancipating themselves from their white oppressors. Now, I in absolutely no way can relate to that, but privileged (white) people, such as myself, can learn many lessons from the Minister’s teachings. He took everything and turned it upside down- whatever the white man said he sliced deep into and ripped out what lay beneath. One can do this with anything; take white man and insert government (though that’s basically the same thing) and peel slowly and see :) Denzel Washington steals the show as the title role and I love the way Lee moves beyond a simple “Malcolm X died on…. He was influential…” instead he provides one of the most heartfelt closers in the history of cinema: we see images of the real Malcolm and how he affected the world from the time of his death till present (then 1992) over Ossie Davis giving him his eulogy (if I am not mistaken). A powerful film for all to see.
Grade : A
Full Title: Walk the Line
Director: James Mangold
Comments: What else can be said about the Man in Black that hasn’t been said over and over again. This film does a great job of capturing the early Rock and Roll/Sun Records Memphis music scene. Here we see Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and Carl Perkins. Great performances from Joaquin Phoenix (Johnny Cash) and Reese Witherspoon (June Carter); I appreciate the fact that both of them did their own vocals as well. We see Johnny go through hell and back and at times he is not that wonderful guy we know and love, but that is precisely what makes him who he is. He knows the plight of the worker, the misery of the drug addict, and (to a much lesser extent) the frusturation of the prisoner. He represents and brings out the best in all of us. He is our American Badass- no matter what political, social, relgious group you belong to.