Tag Archives: Black and White

Film Review: Spider Baby (1967)

The Merrye family suffers from a rare genetic disorder called Merrye Syndrome that causes mental, physical, and emotional regression. After the death of the family patriarch, the family chauffeur Bruno (Lon Chaney Jr.) looks after his children and tolerates the brutality and madness of the three Merrye siblings; spider-obsessed Virginia (Jill Banner), Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn), and Ralph (Sid Haig). But protecting them from the heinous crimes becomes almost impossible when the relatives of the building owner arrive with their lawyer and secretary to claim the ownership.

There was a time for the spooky and horror films that achieved cult status in Hollywood and Europe in the 1960s followed by Giallo films of Italy in the same decade until the late 1970s. This was a special wave created by some innovative filmmakers who believed in setting trends of the genre.

Two prime examples to make my point is Robert Aldrich‘s Whatever Happened to Baby Jane and Alfred Hitchcock‘s Psycho. But those films were directional classics of the genre and their production budgets were around $1 million. This Spider Baby was a low-budget film with a production investment of hardly $60-70 thousand. Maybe the reason is that director Jack Hill was making exploitation films in those times and this kind of film had a relatively low budget because, from the business point of view, they were never able to compete with the biggies of those times.

Spider Baby’s accomplishment is the presentation of the elements of black comedy and horror. The story itself was unique for the audience. Plus the actors of that syndrome did a lot of justice with their crazy portrayals. I was completely sold at the beginning scene where Virginia suddenly arrives in the room with two butcher knives and a rope which she calls her ‘web’ and brutally kills the visitor. The camera work and Jill’s body language were phenomenal. So was the main theme of the film that gives you a very exciting gothic feeling.

How good is it? Well, it definitely is not a masterpiece due to the low budget but an easy visit to the spooky genre for entertainment. Spider Baby will be remembered for its story and horror elements.

Ratings: 5/10

Film Review: Passing (2021)

I swear I never knew the word ‘Passing‘ has a racial meaning and that is unsurprisingly connected to American history. Passing is a term that is used for light-skinned Black Americans who can assimilate into the White majority or in other words, they are accepted or perceived as ‘White’.

This film is based on Nella Larsen‘s 1929 novel ‘Passing‘ about two light-skinned Black American friends who meet each other after a long time in the Harlem neighborhood of New York in the 1920s. Irene (Tessa Thompson) is married to a Black doctor while her friend Clare (Ruth Negga) has passed as ‘White’ and is married to a wealthy white man John (Alexander Skarsgård) who ranks and regards Black people low. Clare rediscovers the truthfulness of life in Irene and tries to gather more with her friend until she ‘pass’ out.

The film is slow-burn but the emotional application is more burning on Clare’s side. The revelation and denial are shocking as it looks disturbing when Clare agrees with John that she is white. Although it is dramatic, the story is executed in the right direction so that the audience gets to feel how difficult it was for a Black to be accepted in a society most of the Whites more than a hundred years ago.

Passing is a technical brilliance with a delicate sense of crafting of the screenplay and direction. The subject was given its piece of thoughtful tribute to that generation who were divided in color concentration. Thompson and Negga were brilliant, especially the latter made us feel heartbroken with her remarkable body language. I am surprised Passing got not a single Oscar nomination. At least Negga deserved the nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Ratings: 7.5/10

Film Review: King Richard (2021)

King Richard reminds me of a few references like the legendary cricketer Viv Richards because he is often called King of Cricket since his 1987 documentary and William Shakespeare‘s plays Richard II and III. For the South Asian audience, King Richard will make them think of the film being the American answer to Bollywood’s Aamir Khan-starrer Dangal, also based on a real-life story.

For me, as a huge tennis fan, who was blessed to watch this beautiful sport on television since 1992 and was lucky to have watched many great legends since then, I do understand the contribution of the William sisters who dominated in tennis for more than a decade especially Serena. Therefore, a film about them became necessary to watch. But for me, the surprising factor was that the film was centered around their father Richard Williams so I assumed that the real-life story has to be that compelling to focus on him rather than his daughters. I had never known the backstory before they became the legends and now after watching the film, I am touched.

King Richard is basically about a crazy-a** visionary paterfamilias who had, believe it or not, devised a 78-page plan about his two daughters to transform them into highly successful tennis stars, wait for it, even before they, I mean Venus and Serena, were born. Yes, there is a father who wrote a success story even before bringing them to the earth. How insanely willful, confident and determined will he be?!? The film shows his strict personal and sports discipline and training about his daughters, how he shapes their careers, and what difficulties, racial problems, and Compton’s rough life does he face during all that time.

The biggest plus about the film is that about 90% of the screenplay, the incidents, and the important events are all historically accurate making you trust the presentation. The film is majorly plotted from Richard Williams’ autobiography Black and White: The Way I See It. Therefore the film is compelling and the pace keeps you attentive to the continuity, especially in the middle of the film.

Will Smith for his leading role as Richard Williams is considered highly certain to take the Best Actor award at the upcoming Oscar function. Honestly, to my surprise, the performance wasn’t really that wow to consider him one of the best from 2021. I have watched better performances from Will before, most significantly The Pursuit of Happiness was a far better performance than this. He didn’t meet any challenging segment of performance in the entire film, besides the scene where the Child Protective Services enter their house. In fact, it is Jon Bernthal‘s supporting role of Rick Macci that has me taken aback. The usually tough-guy image of Jon is completely switched to a friendly ever-smiling softhearted coach and I cannot believe how well did he perform this. This performance is quite different than he usually does.

Although I find the film very touching and impresses me with its being accurate, unfortunately, there are some strong issues that drop this real-life sports drama at loose ends. Let me explain to you why. The film focuses on Richard Williams as a dedicating father but does not touch on his ‘other’ issues like his role in business, his past marriages, and his fatherly role for the other daughters. Venus-Serena chemistry is horribly lacking. Despite the fact that the father prioritizes career of Venus over Serena, there is no sign of emotional breakdown between the sisters. Their being besties, even in such difficult changing times, look flat, no changing gears. The other daughters were completely extras and hype girls, absolutely no sign of their role as sisters. There should have been some detailing about why the parents preferred to focus more on Venus and Serena than the rest of their children. Maybe the film misses all these points deliberately because the William sisters are the executive producers.

But it is not like if Richard Williams is depicted as the holy father with no indication of making wrong choices. There are heated exchanges of him with his wife where we discover his dark side. The film shows his anger and stubbornness. His controversial decision to pull his daughters out of the junior tennis circuits is dramatized in a way that looks like his father did make a wrong decision about their careers and lives.

But the message of the film is conveyed to the audience. The cinematic portrayal of this father and his dedication and building two legendary careers from the courts of Compton was highly paramount.

Ratings: 6/10

Film Review: The Birth Of A Nation (2016)

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The Birth Of A Nation is a salvage of the fates of Black American community in the chapters of slavery from the American history. The Birth Of A Nation is the reminder of the bondages, brutalities and the tortures, and the vengeance which falls rebel to them and deaf to the manipulated ears.

This perhaps is the second black slavery film in last few years (the other being Twelve Years A Slave). But my honest opinion is that this not only betters Twelve Years A Slave but in my opinion is ‘perhaps’ the best film of 2016 so far.

The darkest of the subjectivity is the naked eyes of Nat Turner witnessing the cry of freedom in despair whose soul is imprisoned and the least the poor slave can do is drop or hold some tears, the scenes are heart-shattering but remarkable picturising. Another object of protest is the use of the Bible among the whites and the blacks. The understanding of the holy book playing the cruel game of offending the slaves; and the rage and revenge committed through the read has a severe impact.

With all the cruelty in the display, the film missed the tricky part of not showing the rape scene of Nat’s wife. The brutal beating which began a birth of the rebellion in Nat’s heart was much of a demand which secluded the luxury of the torture to be like icing on the cake but missed.

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The violence of the revolt was the arrival of omen on the establishment; as per the records in the history books, the black rebels even went on to kill white women and children but fair enough to limit the graphic violence. If the excellence of filmmaking had enough potential to grow on the viewers, the last attack on Jerusalem gives you the best Oh Boy! moment with a highly impressive camera work. This ultimate face-off is another ingredient of the artistry in the making of this film. Conclusions are painful but the final 15-minutes especially the fate of Nat Turner are jaw-dropping technical finishers.

I would like to pass my huge compliments to Nate Parker for this very important project for which he wrote the screenplay and directed to the utmost effort. Also did he finance the film and played the titular role of Nat Turner. All the performances were appealing; camera work and film editing were far superior.

Keeping the controversy that bombed their box office result aside, The Birth Of A Nation is a spectacular film enriched with the most dynamic presentation of pain and loss dreaming towards the freedom in agony. It is a cinematic brilliance.

Rating: 9.2/10

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