The Third Black Christmas (2019)

This movie succeeds in doing something it absolutely had not intended: It shows the concept of patriarchy as paranoid and silly. The intention may have been fourth-wave feminism, but the result is to illustrate a fear and in doing so expose its irrational panic. While it is a five million dollar budgeted Blumhouse film and it made Eighteen million worldwide and is therefore profitable, the imdb rating and scores on rottentomatoes for both critics and audiences tell a darker story than the one on screen. The movie had a reputation of being the “woke” version of Black Christmas, reflecting the sensibilities of the safe space generation. This remarkably turned off both audiences and critics.

In fairness, the movie is well executed. There is nothing wrong with the way director Sophia Takal places the frame. Then image quality is solid and the performances feel natural. As is often the case with movies going wrong today, it is the controlling ideas that sink it. The commentary track mentions “the cause” the movie is fighting for, and also references Scooby Doo as a tone they wanted to avoid, but they might as well have leaned into it. The professor (Cary Elwes of The Princess Bride) has the word “swine” on the chalkboard behind him as he shoots down the attitudes of a student by quoting Dr. Camille Paglia. Paglia represents the other kid of feminism besides Gloria Steinem’s brand, but it is placed here as if it is the code of the enemy. I agree with Paglia more often than not, so it is a matter of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Might something be wrong with this professor and will he curse those meddling kids?

One of the male friends the internet would call a “soy boy” questions their outrage and their decision to provoke the bullies with an anti-rape song, he is shouted down until he has to say, “not all guys are misogynist” or something to that affect and his girlfriend shows him the door. The scene is devoid of any self-awareness. The movie spends time talking up a petition to get the professor fired and another push to get something other than straight white male authors on the curriculum. The audience is likely to say if you don’t like the reading list, go to another school. One element the Bob Clark original from 1974 and the 2006 remake had going for them was Andrea Martin appearing in both. I wonder what she might have brought to this otherwise often unintentionally funny variation.

Ultimately, the original written ending for this version was re-written during the shoot and the story behind the masked, hooded figure was changed. What they ended up with expects us to believe a premise like the black sleep of Kali in Temple of Doom where in this case a black goo smeared on a participant can turn that person into an unthinking maniac who nonetheless has a confidence and competence firing arrows. So in that way the young men are absolved of their actions by a cluttered and reactionary ideology of the writers.

When the quazi-heroine makes a gesture to dispatch the baddie and says a line that was censored in the final cut for PG-13 consideration, “Suck my cl**!” Cary Elwes should have replied, “As you wish.”

Do the Talent Thing

When I have a run-in with woke folks on social media, as recently happened in a writing group triggered by Stephen King saying that he doesn’t consider diversity – only talent – when deciding who and what films to nominate as a voting member of the Academy, what comes to mind are two movies: Alien (1979) and Do the Right Thing (1989).

I  fairness I’ll say right off the bat that the go-to terms like SJW, NPC, or Woke are not ideal designations or classifications for those with whom I clash but we make do with what we have at hand in the current state of discourse (a sorry state).  I might place myself just left of the middle of the political spectrum but have no respect for either the extreme right or extreme left.  That out of the way, onto the point.

A pivotal moment in Alien is when John Hurt’s character has been attacked and the crew want to bring him inside but Ripley says no as he should be quarantined and it could be a disaster to bring him in.  The (spoiler alert) android takes the position that the right, moral and compassionate thing to do is to let them in with John Hurt.  Ripley was the ranking officer on board and it was her call, but the android defies her for ostensibly humane reasons and opens the door.  The android in this case could be a stand-in for the Woke of today.  Ripley would be the more pragmatic left of center common person who was willing to make the hard choice and be viewed or judged as cold and insensitive.

In Do the Right Thing, the worst outcome is that (spoiler alert) Radio Raheem is choked while resisting arrest by police.  Before and after this movie, obviously police violence has claimed many lives. Arguably, the message alone is not the reason to respect the film. From the color scheme suggesting a single hot summer day to the performances to Earnest Dickerson’s achievement of images conceived by director Spike Lee.  The movie is seen as a soap box, but the filmmaking is the reason to celebrate it.  We still have the evils it depicts.  The inciting incident is that longtime patrol “Buggin’ Out” one day does a double-take to the wall of the Pizzeria (Sal’s) he has come to all his life and he is suddenly offended that there are only photos of Italian American celebrities framed up there despite the restaurant being located in Harlem.  He protests that there should be representation of black celebrities on the wall.

He stirs the pot to the point of initiating a boycott of Sal’s.  Most people don’t take him seriously. When Sal closes for the night, Buggin’ Out and Radio Raheem show up and implore him to let them in for a slice.  He is kind enough to do so, but Raheem has been radicalized by Buggin’ Out and he blasts the volume of his radio on the counter.  Sal asks him to turn it down but he turns it up more.  Sal sees that he is being tested and brings up his baseball bat again demanding the radio be turned off.  As a last resort, Sal bashed the radio and Raheem is devastated by this.  He leaps at Sal and tries to strangle him.  The fight makes its way into the street and police turn up and pull Raheem off of Sal and try to put him into their cruiser. Raheem resists and is choked out and collapses dead.  Spike Lee himself as Mookie the pizza delivery guy reacts by throwing a trash can through the pizzeria window. The film’s mumbling pyromaniac sneaks off and starts a fire.  Some discussion of the film, according to one of the commentary tracks may be divided between those who talk about the destruction of property and those who focus on the loss of life.  But the more interesting question is who should be held responsible.

Mookie’s actions were part of being eventually radicalized.  But by the time he is fifty, according to Spike’s movie Red Hook Summer, he will sill be delivering pizza for Sal.  Sal himself might be blamed by the Woke because of his refusal to change the photos of his Italian-owned Pizzeria and only including Itallians on the wall of fame.  It is my interpretation, regardless of Spike’s intentions, that Buggin’ Out is 100% responsible for the death of Radio Raheem.  Buggin’ Out has a loser complex and a chip on his shoulder which he believes he can fix by imposing his will on Sal and the loyal customers of the pizzeria. He has a sense of entitlement.  He is the self-righteous permanent victim who frankly would not be “represented” even if there were black celebrities on the wall because those celebrities would be winners quite unlike Buggin’ Out.  He would then have to vent his frustration elsewhere and torment or bully someone else.  When John Savage accidentally rolls a bike wheel over one of his sneakers, Buggin’ Out shows him the foot farthest away that could not have had the when roll over it.  He just wants to express outrage. That makes him the perfect representation of the self-styled Woke.