This week I watched a video of a police officer being beaten with all manner of weapons, including a pole wrapped in the American flag, until he was unconscious. An angry mob around him passionately chanted "U.S.A." as they beat him. It's an image I've been unable to shake…the irony of it all. For years I've heard my father proclaim in his thick patois accent "America a go dung di gully". I always thought he was being hyperbolic, succumbing to media sensationalism. I hadn't really given much thought to why he, who 20 years ago upended his comfortable life to move his entire family to start over from scratch in another country, would proclaim his new country's downfall. This week, perhaps like my father, I came to realize that in so many ways America is not living up to the ideals we moved here for.
My original plan for the introduction of this newsletter was a short review of The King of Staten Island which I recommended last week. But that didn't feel on the mark after Wednesday afternoon. I haven't been able to avert my eyes from the feed of videos, pictures, bad takes, and endless analysis of the insurrection at the US Capitol last week. What stands out most to me is how easily it happened. How easy it was for an angry mob to chase America's elected leaders in the highest levels of government out of their offices. It was easy for that mob to weaponize their privilege to storm what should be one of the most secure compounds in the world.
Privilege is the access or opportunities a person or group of persons have that is not shared by others. In modern American cinema, the kind of privilege that we saw on Wednesday - white male privilege, is the freedom to tell their unique stories without the context of historic oppression from another group. Black stories in American cinema don't have that privilege because of the long tail of racism in this country. Black stories, if they are authentic stories, have to present the context of racism. It's because the legacy of that oppression is so much a part of the black experience in American life. Even in 2021. Whether rich or poor. Regardless of where you live. Most times in subtle ways and sometimes not. To tell a black American story without the context of the legacy of racism is to tell fantasy. As an immigrant, I can tell you that this phenomenon is uniquely American.
Here is a list of the best new movies to watch together being released on streaming this week. The list includes One Night in Miami, a film about four notable black men from the 1960s in America. As noted before, like most black stories in American cinema, this story is told in the context of America's racist legacy. My hope in watching it this week is that it's a film that is able to rise above its context.
One Night In Miami (2021)
Available Friday, January 15 on Amazon Prime Video
One Night In Miami follows the fictional story of four black American icons -Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown coming together to discuss civil rights and to find the role they play and want to play in that movement. This movie is the feature directorial debut of Regina King, a familiar face in TV and film. One fun fact - the writer of this film also co-wrote Disney Pixar’s Soul released last month.
Outside the Wire (2021)
Available Friday, January 15 on Netflix
Netflix seems to be investing heavily in “B” action movies and this one looks like it fits right into that category. The story is about a soldier in the near future that gets an assignment to work together what turns out to be an android. They have to work together to - guess what - stop a nuclear attack. More than a little cliche, but if you want to turn your brain off and watch things blow up, Outside the Wire will likely take care of that for you.
The Ultimate Playlist of Noise (2021)
Available Friday, January 15 on Hulu
The Ultimate Playlist of Noise is the ultimate date night movie. It’s about a music loving high schooler who learns that he’s likely going to be deaf after doing a surgical procedure. So he makes the very logical decision of the doing a road trip across America to record all his favorite sounds and turn it into a playlist. Of course, along the way he meets a girl, who happens to be a musician, who decides to tag along with him on his adventure. Cute.
Other fun movies available this week
Earth Girls Are Easy (1990) on HBO Max
Isle of Dogs (2018) on Disney+
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) on HBO Max
A Monster Calls (2016) on Netflix
Get Carter (1971) on HBO Max
The Man Who Would Be King (1975) on HBO Max
Meatballs (1979) on on HBO Max