“Coward, take my coward’s hand”: Mudbound (2017) and the legacy of Hollywood’s anti-racist returning veteran films

On a dusty, unpaved main street veteran Jamie McAllan (Garrett Hedlund) leaves the local general store serving the outpost Mississippi Delta community near his brother’s farm. Suddenly, he drops to the ground. The noise of a car backfiring has returned him to his recent combat experience as a bomber pilot. As local men eye him suspiciously, help is offered in the form of the outstretched hand of Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell). The offer draws reproach from the onlookers for its disruption of local customs and hierarchy. It is 1946 and, while Jamie is white, Ronsel is black. Continue reading

Film Review: Trumbo (2015)

It would be naïve to expect a biopic to comprehensively cover the competing interests, shifting alliances and distinct beliefs among those blacklisted, greylisted, or progressive Hollywood more broadly. However, Trumbo comes to conclusions about courage and cowardice without context and, as such, its oversights are worth exploring. Part of the problem is that Trumbo seems uncomfortable with Dalton’s politics. How else to explain a film with such a curious lack of interest in its protagonist’s beliefs beyond that in the sanctity of the First Amendment? Continue reading

Documentary Review: The Black Panther Party: Vanguard of the Revolution

Newly released documentary The Black Panther Party: Vanguard of the Revolution shows a lesser-seen side of the Black Panthers that marries the stylised, swaggering interpretations of Party members with the role of J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO and the frequently overlooked Survival Programmes. Continue reading

Film Review: In P.T. Anderson’s Inherent Vice Pynchon’s “Badass” prevails

Pynchon mentions, and praises, the “Badass” in one of his few essays: “when times are hard, and we feel at the mercy of forces many times more powerful, don’t we, in seeking some equalizer, turn, if only in imagination, in wish, to the Badass… who will resist what otherwise would overwhelm us?” Ultimately breaking noir convention, Inherent Vice does turn, if only in part, to the Badass detective. Bigfoot’s diligent respect for his deceased police partner’s memory, which further distances him from any thug-cop stereotype, leads him to have a very personal stake in Doc’s case and he ends up working more or less alongside the stoned PI. Continue reading