Note: Exodus is not on this list because, well, it just wasn’t that good.
And without further ado…
Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman – great film except the story’s entire emotional crux seems to be (unless I missed something) completely hinged upon one white man’s sense of his own privilege, and the world’s actualized effort, on behalf of his white privilege. The story CAN be boiled down to this, it would appear. Unless I missed something… Virtuoso filmmaking, but enough of you Birdman.
Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash– Amazing performances, incredible visuals, superlative edit, sound and story – so flippin good, I would have forgiven the whole “A Jazz Movie With No Black Men” thing as American melting pot fair game if it wasn’t for that ONE DANG shot in the beginning of the film when evil jazz professor Fletcher bursts into the groovy non-pressure jazz class to poach the young student Andrew, and we see the African-American groovy non-pressure jazz professor Kramer (Damon Gupton) allow Fletcher’s professional disrespect to take over his class but the film CUTS AWAY from Kramer’s facial expression so we cannot see his FACE and have ANY IDEA how this character Kramer actually FEELS about Fletcher’s disrespect or portent of his overall evil-ness.
I watched the film twice and the shot literally cuts to the black jazz professor Kramer with his back is turned as soon as Fletcher enters. Egregious. Even more so when it turns out Fletcher is the ONLY black male character in this film WHIPLASH – the fun dinner-scene flow about Charlie Parker doesn’t count. WHIPLASH is great filmmaking. I saw it twice. But funk off to THAT for its blithe whitewash of jazz. Black people have given America (and the world) 3 completely new genres of music: Hip-hop, which took about 30-35 years for the total white co-option it enjoys today. Rock, which only took a brief 4 years (the stretch between Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog” and Elvis Presley’s). And Jazz.
Jazz, a music (probably) 150 years old (jazz being the most elusive of beasts) and jazz will not, now nor ever, be co-opted. Shared? Yes. Of course. In thunder. But jazz will never see a white man will crowned “King.” Half the reason is there is no money in Jazz haha, but the true-true is becuz the greatest have already came and went, along with the america that created them. Bird, Miles and Coltrane. Ellington, Armstrong and Ella. To name 6 is to ignore thousands – of all colors. But who in Jazz is greater than Ella or Bird? No one.
In this way, The True Unsaid Spiritual Tension of Whiplash is not the much ballyhooed homo-social-sexual quality of Andrew and Fletcher’s relationship, but their character’s intrinsic knowledge of regardless how much they practice their craft, misbehave in class or draw blood getting into “only-a-white-boy-could-crash-a-rented-car-run-from-the-scene-and-get-away-with-it” situations, they will never be The Greatest of Jazz cuz they were born too late and, they are white. So even if Fletcher and Andrew were witness to the birth of be-bop, hard-bop or the cool – they could aspire to be like Jerry Mulligan, Bix Biederbecke, Chet Baker… Great. But that STILL ain’t Miles!
If Whiplash had allowed inside its tight hermetically sealed frame that note of sorrow, regret, and true lovin’ awe that only a white jazz cat could feel for a black jazz cat, it woulda been an important film, coulda been a masterpiece. ..
And now… the NUMBER 1! Best Film of 2014 with Egregious Racialization…
Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar!
Hathaway and McConaghey get to have fun riding roughshod over Crazy Ocean Tidal Wave planet, to execute a mission it turns out their trusty robot could have pulled off without trouble – meanwhile on the home ship, TWENTY THREE FRIGGIN YEARS GO BY where homeboy soul brother African doctor Romilly (David Gyasi) has been all alone – ALL alone – but when this scientific yet human fact – the Tragedy of Romilly, is dropped on Hathaway and McConaghey almost NOTHING is made of it. And to TOP it off, Romilly is totally chill, handing off some useful exposition and generally serving a reasonable show of sanity, vision and purpose despite his incredible hardship. Here is an incredible display of human fortitude, at least on the level of the love Hugh Jackman felt for Piper Perabo in Nolan’s THE PRESTIGE. Not a DRIP of interest from the film of this magnificent gentleman-who-happens-to-be-African and his intense existential strength – I can’t take it. Paging Dr. Romilly (David Gyasi)…
You can park your chewing gum on my instep anytime.