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Subject: "Armond White's review of Black or White" Previous topic | Next topic
Cam
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Fri Jan-30-15 04:56 PM

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"Armond White's review of Black or White"


  

          

He gets crazier and crazier.

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/397561/black-or-white-jacksonian-dream-armond-white

JANUARY 30, 2015 12:00 PM
Black or White: A Jacksonian Dream
Kevin Costner handles racial questions with integrity rather than showbiz moralizing.
By Armond White

Kevin Costner’s Black or White is sentimental in a good way. After all, it works in the spirit of Michael Jackson’s 1991 single “Black or White,” the most uncompromised of all uplifting pop songs. Jackson declared “I’m not gonna spend my life being a color!” And when he sang “I ain’t scared of your brother / I ain’t scared of no sheets,” he opposed the antinomies of either ethnic solidarity (Afrocentric “blackness”) or ethnic hostility (Ku Klux Klan–style white supremacy).

Costner applies Jackson’s pop principles to playing the role of Elliot Anderson, a wealthy white Los Angeles lawyer. Elliot’s recent bereavement leaves him as guardian of his biracial granddaughter Eloise (Jillian Estell), which means he already lives America’s blended-nation experience, not the fatuous “post-racial” notion but a reality that confirms Jackson’s dream of unity as memorably shown in the iconographic sequence of his extraordinary “Black or White” music video — still the finest achievement of that genre — that morphed all mankind’s ethnic and sexual physical characteristics.

The title of Costner’s film makes a statement; yet, like Jackson’s hit record, it also poses several questions: First about family, then character, then social values, and lastly about race. That may seem like backward priorities, given the way race has recently dominated film culture (race keeps coming up, always as a controversy). But the order of the film’s interests suggests Costner’s integrity regarding showbiz moralizing.

It is through the middle-aged attorney’s responsibility for a young girl’s education, grooming, and well-being that Black or White conveys facts of equality, acts of loving. Ethnic difference becomes a dilemma when Elliot is brought to court by the child’s paternal grandmother Rowena (Octavia Spencer), a black working-class woman from L.A.’s inner city, who makes a counter-demand for custody. Elliot is confronted by race problems that he has managed to avoid, being protected by his class advantages, but they are imposed by society’s ideological pressure.
Writer-director Mike Binder contrives trial scenes with an Oprah-like judge and a subplot about Rowena’s son Reggie (Andre Holland), the junkie who changed Elliot’s family structure then failed his duties as both son and father. But these scenes are not totally conventional; there’s a complex, Jacksonian ethic to Rowena’s warm matriarchal family life (when she brings Eloise’s cousins for a pool party at Elliot’s mansion, it idealizes the public-pool controversy of Terence Howard’s fact-based civil-rights film Pride) juxtaposed with Elliot’s law-team strategy (a Southern-accented lawyer advises, “We can get uglier than they can”).

The historical echoes of these scenes are cleverly updated when Elliot vents his anger to Reggie (“Goddam crackhead inconsiderate asshole, heh, heh”) and when Rowena tells Reggie, “Pull yourself together!” adding violent emphasis. Elliot’s humor and Rowena’s anger display a dual exasperation that authenticates Black or White, making it the first movie to dramatize the modern phenomenon of grandparents stressed with guardianship when the intermediate generation has failed — a national, even global, phenomenon of family strain and social breakdown that politicians rarely address.

Instead of appealing to the politically correct fallacies of Selma and 12 Years a Slave (where mere topicality passes for complexity), this film reminds Americans of the humanity they have in common. Even its hoariest cliché (a white being saved by a ne’er-do-well black) supplies a sink-or-swim metaphor that appeals to the audience’s best thoughts. Black or White doesn’t sanction white or black self-pity. It de-sensationalizes Hollywood’s hot-topics habits. Even Elliot and Rowena’s interpersonal tension (his drunkenness versus her overbearing righteousness) comically balances their particular generational tension. Emphasizing character over easily exploitable social and racial topics is a sign of Costner and Binder’s sense of decency.

Decency is what we’ve lost in the current era, when filmmakers try to shame audiences into praising the exacerbation of our nation’s historical racial tensions. (That’s why Black or White was dismissed in the current Oscar race; despite a one-week qualifying release last December, it lacked Selma’s trendiness.) Costner’s career includes many films (Dances with Wolves, Field of Dreams, The War, Thirteen Days, Tin Cup, 3000 Miles to Graceland, Swing Vote) with respectable humanist perspectives. Here, Costner and Binder articulate the issue of racial identity as a universal concern but, again in the spirit of Jackson, with a personal solution.

It takes bravery like Jackson’s for Costner and Binder to go up against the strange phenomena of whites who no longer believe in themselves but assume guilt, and of blacks who assume entitlement. Both are typically disingenuous and untrustworthy progressive positions on racial problems, as in Selma. (Mpho Kaoho playing a polyglot African immigrant who tutors Eloise and says, “I don’t watch television. I’m afraid for me it is not a nourishing form of entertainment” ,may be a satire on this Obama-era tendency. It was Costner’s Swing Vote that had the immortal joke “I can’t be racist; I voted for Obama.”)

In tribute to Michael Jackson’s dream, Rowena’s bid for family ethnic continuity is no more valid than Elliot’s; securing his granddaughter’s happiness doesn’t need defense. For that very humane reason, Elliot can meet unfounded accusations of racism with startling, confident honesty: “How am I supposed to respond to that?” Costner’s authenticity is part of his finest film work in years.

— Armond White, a film critic, writes about movies for National Review Online and received the American Book Award’s Anti-Censorship prize. He is the author of The Resistance: Ten Years of Pop Culture That Shook the World and the forthcoming What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about the Movies.

  

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Topic Outline
Subject Author Message Date ID
tl;dr but the movie looks interesting
Jan 30th 2015
1
One of the worlds greatest Trolls
Jan 30th 2015
2
I can never guess which way he is going to go with his reviews.
Jan 30th 2015
3
      This one was obvious before it came out.
Jan 30th 2015
7
           Ah...
Jan 30th 2015
8
           I don't get it. I thought his shtick was black radical.
Jan 31st 2015
9
                That's how he postures.
Jan 31st 2015
12
                     To some degree he has a point
Jan 31st 2015
13
                          I kind of get that, but praising Meet Dave, Norbit and Little Man?
Jan 31st 2015
14
                               3 of thos are good movies. the other 3 i haven't seen
Jan 31st 2015
15
blacks who assume entitlement-- had to stop there
Jan 30th 2015
4
How he weaves MJ throughout the piece is...impressive
Jan 30th 2015
5
White, at one point, was a truly terrific writer.
Jan 30th 2015
6
I wonder if White is his real last name
Jan 31st 2015
10
jacksonian ethics
Jan 31st 2015
11
this guy is such a piece of shit.
Jan 31st 2015
16

Binlahab
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Fri Jan-30-15 04:59 PM

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1. "tl;dr but the movie looks interesting"
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

Worst fears of YT throughout history has been a mongrelization of the race, where everyone is beige and poor...we slowly getting there


does it really matter?

for all my fans who keep my name in their mouth: http://i.imgur.com/v2xNOpS.jpg

  

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BigReg
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Fri Jan-30-15 05:01 PM

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2. "One of the worlds greatest Trolls"
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

He's decades into this shit, you gotta respect the man.

  

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Buddy_Gilapagos
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Fri Jan-30-15 05:11 PM

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3. "I can never guess which way he is going to go with his reviews."
In response to Reply # 2


  

          


**********
"Everyone has a plan until you punch them in the face. Then they don't have a plan anymore." (c) Mike Tyson

http://blackpeopleonlocalnews.tumblr.com/

  

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Frank Longo
Member since Nov 18th 2003
83406 posts
Fri Jan-30-15 07:00 PM

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7. "This one was obvious before it came out."
In response to Reply # 3


  

          

He hates most contemporary films by black filmmakers about the victimization of blacks. Seemed obvious to me that the film by two white men about how we all need to get over race was going to be the subject of an Armond rave.

For beer lovers: http://thebeertravelguide.com
For movie lovers: http://russellhainline.com

  

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lfresh
Member since Jun 18th 2002
92693 posts
Fri Jan-30-15 07:07 PM

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8. "Ah..."
In response to Reply # 7


  

          


~~~~
When you are born, you cry, and the world rejoices. Live so that when you die, you rejoice, and the world cries.
~~~~
You cannot hate people for their own good.

  

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Buddy_Gilapagos
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Sat Jan-31-15 08:19 AM

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9. "I don't get it. I thought his shtick was black radical. "
In response to Reply # 7


  

          

So he is so radical that he hates film by black filmmakers and likes black movies by white directors?


**********
"Everyone has a plan until you punch them in the face. Then they don't have a plan anymore." (c) Mike Tyson

http://blackpeopleonlocalnews.tumblr.com/

  

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Frank Longo
Member since Nov 18th 2003
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Sat Jan-31-15 01:16 PM

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12. "That's how he postures. "
In response to Reply # 9


  

          

But, as he's made clear over the recent years, he believes that films by black filmmakers about the victimization of blacks over the years are no more than self-pitying anguish porn, which he feels Big Hollywood loves and black people love even more.

He believes that movies that aren't about the victimization of blacks (read: movies in which white people are not blamed for the problems of black people) are far more "radical."

Which is... a stance. One I'm sure some people would agree with.

For beer lovers: http://thebeertravelguide.com
For movie lovers: http://russellhainline.com

  

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Atillah Moor
Member since Sep 05th 2013
13825 posts
Sat Jan-31-15 05:34 PM

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13. "To some degree he has a point"
In response to Reply # 12


  

          

I have a feeling though that Hollywood only wants a certain type of black movie though.

______________________________________

Everything looks like Oprah kissing Harvey Weinstein these days

  

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Buddy_Gilapagos
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Sat Jan-31-15 07:00 PM

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14. "I kind of get that, but praising Meet Dave, Norbit and Little Man?"
In response to Reply # 13


  

          

It's a strange POV that Next Day Air, Cadillac Records, Meet Dave, Norbit, Little Man, Akeelah and the Bee and First Sunday are all praised for the same reason.


**********
"Everyone has a plan until you punch them in the face. Then they don't have a plan anymore." (c) Mike Tyson

http://blackpeopleonlocalnews.tumblr.com/

  

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astralblak
Member since Apr 05th 2007
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Sat Jan-31-15 07:16 PM

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15. "3 of thos are good movies. the other 3 i haven't seen"
In response to Reply # 14


  

          

.

  

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Atillah Moor
Member since Sep 05th 2013
13825 posts
Fri Jan-30-15 05:29 PM

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4. "blacks who assume entitlement-- had to stop there"
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

but almost made it to the end. The movie looks ok though.

______________________________________

Everything looks like Oprah kissing Harvey Weinstein these days

  

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Niq96st
Member since Jun 16th 2005
8396 posts
Fri Jan-30-15 05:35 PM

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5. "How he weaves MJ throughout the piece is...impressive"
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

I really hate the internet when I read things like this.

_______________________________
Maintain chill at all times.

  

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Frank Longo
Member since Nov 18th 2003
83406 posts
Fri Jan-30-15 06:58 PM

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6. "White, at one point, was a truly terrific writer."
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

I know terrific writers with conservative ideals.

His problem is the constant needless negative references to popular beloved films. He used to be able to prop up films like this without shitting on the Selmas and the 12 Years a Slaves of the world. He can't anymore.

For beer lovers: http://thebeertravelguide.com
For movie lovers: http://russellhainline.com

  

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legsdiamond
Member since May 05th 2011
67573 posts
Sat Jan-31-15 09:35 AM

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10. "I wonder if White is his real last name"
In response to Reply # 0


          

  

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Riot
Member since May 25th 2005
14612 posts
Sat Jan-31-15 11:27 AM

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11. "jacksonian ethics"
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

He had to be pinching his nipples and laughing himself silly by the time he got to the end of this, no?



)))--####---###--(((

bunda
<-.-> ^_^ \^0^/
get busy living, or get busy dying.

  

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astralblak
Member since Apr 05th 2007
20029 posts
Sat Jan-31-15 07:18 PM

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16. "this guy is such a piece of shit."
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

but it's not only Blacks either. he hate white indy films too

  

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