I Am Not Your Negro
March 2, 2017
I Am Not Your Negro (*** ½)
The struggles of African Americans in a country that prides itself in being the land of the free forms the basis of director Raoul Peck’s incendiary documentary, I Am Not Your Negro. Based on a proposed book project by the celebrated writer, James Baldwin, that would have told the history of race through the eyes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Medger Evers, Peck’s film connects the dots from the early struggles of civil rights up to the current Black Lives Matter movement. It’s an astonishing achievement that offers no easy answers but much food for thought in the interim.
Peck’s choice as to how to tell his story is quite unique. In giving audiences a history of our country’s troubled relationship with race, Peck has chosen to use the film as a way to finish the book that Baldwin never got around to completing.
I Am Not Your Negro based on James Baldwin’s work (center)
He simply envisions the project that Baldwin had in mind and, using excellently chosen archival footage, weaves together a tapestry on film that’s certainly disturbing but also very illuminating. At the screening I attended several audience members winced at various times during the film. That’s the kind of effect that the film has on you regardless of your frame of mind going into it.
Throughout the film we see lots of footage of the real James Baldwin, lecturing, debating and sometimes just commenting on the way he sees things. Samuel L. Jackson provides the voiceover narration for passages from Baldwin’s writings that serve as the underpinning for the provoking imagery onscreen.
At times, I Am Not Your Negro is an undeniably depressing experience in spite of Peck’s undeniable gifts as a documentary filmmaker. It pulls no punches and demands your attention. It offers no easy answers but then again the best documentary films rarely do, offering instead to show things simply as they exist. This is that kind of film.
Logan (** ½)
It’s old news by now that Hollywood studios are not renowned for taking chances. If something works they tend to bludgeon an idea to death until it dies from overexposure or, worse, audience indifference. With the runaway success of the first R rated comic book adaptation, Deadpool, early last year, it should come as no surprise that Fox, the studio behind that property, would try it again. Logan, which is both a new addition to the X Men film universe and also another chapter in the continuing series of adventures featuring the series’ standalone character, Wolverine, has also been given the R rating. And, I think it’s wise to note, that this film earns its R rating in spades. There’s a generous heaping of four letters words, particularly a frequent dropping of the F-bomb, and enough violence to satiate those who are curious to see what an R rated Wolverine film might look like. And that may be alone to satisfy those clamoring what has been billed as the final installment in the travails of the Wolverine character.
Taken on its own terms as a film, Logan will be more problematic for those who are not as invested in the X Men universe or comic book movie adaptations in general.
Patrick Stewart & Hugh Jackman in Logan
Those more schooled in these things will certainly love it. There’s obviously nothing anyone can say, myself included, that will dampen the geeky charms of the films for those who have been clamoring for its release. Heck, the sights and sounds of Professor X (the 77 year old Patrick Stewart) bandying about the F word will be enough to send long time fans into fits of chuckles and into geek heaven. For the rest of us, what we’re left with is a passable Wolverine adventure, roughly on a par with the last one in the franchise.
Logan’s plot is basically a road movie of sorts, a classic cinematic template that seems to always work when all other storytelling options have been exhausted. Here Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is passing the days away under the influence of alcohol as the film opens and sometimes taking care of Professor X, who’s been suffering crippling seizures. When he’s sober enough, Logan takes work as a driver for hire. He is approached by a mysterious woman and entrusted with the task of getting the woman’s daughter to safety, said child being cursed/blessed with abilities similar to Logan’s. Along the way, and with Professor X in tow, Logan must fend off those who are looking to kidnap the child for nefarious purposes.
The best thing about Logan is its connection to real people and real problems that most mortals deal with, as evidenced by his decision to care for the again Professor X, among other things. This type of thing is what makes Logan as relatively enjoyable as it is even if the film ultimately proves to be a mixed bag.
Questions or comments? Write Adam at email@example.com.