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November 06, 2009


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Steven Santos

If "Precious" had been directed by Steven Spielberg and starred Eddie Murphy (in fat suit and makeup) playing both Precious and her mother, Armond White would have declared it the best film of the decade.

Although the movie doesn't interest me much, I do wonder why the film (like many other films about non-whites) is being framed strictly by race in both pro and con reviews, making it seem as if it were a statement about Black America as a monolithic collective as opposed to being treated as just a story about a daughter and her terrible mother. It's not like the reviews of "A Serious Man" framed the movie as being representative of all Jews.

So we have reviews from critics who want to seem as if they're compassionate to African-Americans and then other critics who are obsessed with trying to call out those critics' hangups about race when they clearly have some of their own.


I was also struck by White's need to generalize/misrepresent Mike Leigh in order to make his point. While it's true that many of Leigh's films don't have the media profile of Tyler Perry's work (at least in America), White's folding of Secrets and Lies into that group ignores the fact that the film received several Oscar noms, including nods for best picture and best director, and was one of Leigh's bigger hits in the United States. Wouldn't that suggest it "penetrated the consciousness of the Oscarheads"?


"It's not like the reviews of "A Serious Man" framed the movie as being representative of all Jews."

I thought the negative ones did just that. Oh, what do I know...I'm finally seeing it tonight, and so far I've largely avoided the reviews.

Glenn, I avoided reading your noir thoughts, because I haven't seen either of the films in question. Damn it. Want box set...

The Siren

I can't seem to get Auteurs comments to post! So I will say here that it makes me happy that you share my regard for Beloved.


"Although the movie doesn't interest me much, I do wonder why the film (like many other films about non-whites) is being framed strictly by race in both pro and con reviews,"

Blame the marketing campaign. It's doing a probably-too-effective job in couching this movie entire in terms of race, and the movie was probably a loaded deck in that respect to begin with. Especially with the white-people targeted part of the campaign. "See! Look at all these black people involved! You like Oprah? She's involved. Tyler Perry? Got him! Mariah Carey? She's in here!" Sure, some of this is just showing people the movie stars, but still, yeesh.


Mentioning Tyler Perry in the marketing campaign counts as "targeting white people"?

John M

I disagree, Dan. The marketing campaign for Precious utilizes a pretty standard, treacly vision of hope and survival, but where is it "couching" everything in terms of race? There's no mention of race in the trailer. And the film itself doesn't take on "race," exactly. Most of the characters are black, yes, but its handling of race is implicit. What marketing have you seen that emphasizes race?

I don't think it's a great film, but it's not awful, either. Armond White, as usual, seems to be reviewing something other than what he's seen. On the flip side, A.O. Scott is far too easy on it. (It is the kind of movie he loves, unfocused and narratively dull, but full of grit and marginalia and teachable realism, like Sugar and Ramin Bahrani's stuff.)

In any case, if I were given a choice between the Oscar bait of Slumdog Millionaire and the Oscar bait of Precious, I'd gladly take the latter.

Still, I don't expect much from Lee Daniels. He's a clever casting director, I'll give him that.


Mariah Carey is black?


I'm not going to give Armond White any more ink, so I'll just say I thought THE LINE-UP and MURDER BY CONTRACT were, along with THE SNIPER, movies I enjoyed discovering on the film noir box set (THE BIG HEAT I've already seen, of course, and love, while 5 AGAINST THE HOUSE unfortunately drags along until Brian Keith's character changes direction in the film). Also worth are the extras - while Christopher Nolan's talk about film noir (on the disc of THE LINEUP) offers nothing new, Martin Scorsese, as always, is fascinating and informative when talking about THE BIG HEAT, THE SNIPER & MURDER BY CONTRACT (for the latter, he mentions the film's guitar score was a big influence on his decision to have THE DEPARTED scored with guitar), and Michael Mann's thoughts on THE BIG HEAT are also worth watching, particularly since he's primarily thought of as a "male" filmmaker, and yet he concentrates on how the women are portrayed.

Glenn Kenny

@lipranzer: Excellent points all. It's a little bit of a shame that the rock songs that dot "The Departed" tend to overshadow the score per se. But Perry Botkin's guitar score for "Contract" is a gem and an inspiration for sure. Interesting that at the same time Lerner did this, Louis Malle was bringing Miles Davis in to score "Ascenseur pour l'├ęchafaud" woth a small jazz group.

Botkin went on to become something of an avant-gardist and is still active today. His website is pretty wild:

Yes, the Noir Collection is well put together on ever level. Can't wait for volume 2!

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