Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Messiness of 70s Movies

On the whole, I don't like American movies made in the late 60s and 70s, the ones created by the new wave of filmmakers that portrayed the grittiness of life. I've seen the classics: Taxi Driver, Midnight Cowboy, etc., and I watched them more because they were classics than because I dug them.

But I just saw The Great White Hope. It's a movie based on a play (often the best movies). It's a riveting story loosely based on Jack Johnson. The first black heavyweight contender (played by James Earl Jones) at the beginning of the 20th century and a white woman (played by Jane Alexander) fall in love. America responds by basically running them out of town and destroying their lives.

Surprise, surprise. That's not what's brilliant about this movie. What is so great is how it portrays the blatant racism of American society. It was(is) ugly, and the movie showed it totally bare bones. There was this one great scene that personified my theory of how the powerful stay powerful in this society. Jack is down and out in Mexico; he's a fugitive, no one will box him, he and Eleanor are living in the slums. A federal marshal shows up with the jefe of the Mexican village. The marshal barely says a word in the scene, but his presence pits the Mexican sheriff and the black man against each other. The brown men are ready to kill each other to protect their interests threatened by the white man barely saying a word.

This movie so couldn't be made today. White people are saying lines like a great white hope needs to win a fight with a horizontal n****r at his seems like only black people can say the n-word in movies today. Jack beats Eleanor with a shirt to avoid punching her. At the end of Jack's last fight, his bloody mouth guard falls out. It was a deep flick. Make sure you see it.

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