Sunday, February 28, 2016

Girls recap: Season 5, Episode 2, "Good Man"

The “white man!” cry of alarm directed at Ray (Alex Karpovsky) by a non-cisgender barista after he insults her, first by assuming she's male and then by asking if she's female, echoes throughout the entirety of “Good Man.” Hannah (Lena Dunham) and her friends all have their awkward moments as they alternately embody or encounter the blurring of gender and sexual boundaries that have continued to accelerate since their college days, but it's the straight—or until recently passing as straight—white men among them who struggle hardest to adapt.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Girls recap: Season 5, Episode 1, "Wedding Day"

The season-five premiere of Girls is a microcosm of the series as a whole. It mercilessly flays its four female leads and the men who love them, autopsying their narcissism, unearned self-pity, blindered entitlement, and youthful arrogance with a precision so clinical it can be hard to watch when it isn't slyly funny. But if they're easy to condemn, the characters are hard to dismiss, as their just as honestly depicted insecurities, intermittent acts of kindness, and deeply felt, if inchoate, love for each other lead to moments of hard-earned grace and connection.

Thursday, February 18, 2016


Stephen Hopkins's Race is a complication-smoothing take on Jesse Owens's elegant riposte to Hitler's racism at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where the legendary track star won four gold medals. The film's hackneyed mode of storytelling is evident as soon as Owens (Stephan James) is seen heading off to college, with the expository dialogue suggesting bullet points accumulating on a PowerPoint presentation. In quick succession, the audience is informed that Owens is so poor that he has only one shirt, that his mother is sure he's destined for greatness, that he's the first in his family to go to college, and that he helps support not just his unemployed father, Henry (Andrew Moodie), but his young daughter, Gloria (Kayla Stewart), and her mother, Ruth (Shanice Banton), who he plans to marry as soon as he can afford to.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Within Our Gates

The earliest known surviving feature directed by an African-American was probably a response to the racist Birth of a Nation. Pointed contrasts between South and North (the first intertitle places the characters in the North, “where the prejudices and hatreds of the South do not exist—though this does not prevent the occasional lynching of a Negro”) and cuts back and forth between often harrowing scenes make genteel schoolteacher Sylvia Landry (identified in the credits as “the renowned Negro artist Evelyn Preer”) a symbol of her people’s suffering. Her story encompasses lynching, the rape of black women by white men, and the abject kowtowing to powerful whites and casual betrayal of their own people of figures like a gossipy servant and a hypocritical preacher.  Written for Brooklyn Magazine

Monday, February 8, 2016

Touched With Fire

A film about bipolar lovers who bring out the mania in one another, Touched With Fire is overheated yet oddly inert, constantly invoking impassioned inspiration without ever quite evoking it. The film gets its title and its main theses from a scientific study of the link between bipolar and creativity by Kay Redfield Jamison. Marco (Luke Kirby) fetishizes the book, name-checking many of the bipolar artists it investigates (Lord Byron, Emily Dickinson, Van Gogh, Tchaikovsky…) and insisting that his condition is not an illness but a kind of benediction, a state of enhanced sensitivity and creativity that inspires the (crappy) poetry he prides himself on, a form of improvised rap.