All posts tagged “Morgan Freeman

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Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta, Richard Grant (2015)

Grant’s an itinerant English writer who got beguiled by the memory, amnesia, beauty, and ugliness of the Mississippi Delta region and wound up buying a house and spending enough time there to develop some relationships with people and a better-than-facile understanding of the place, its culture, history, and inhabitants. I would hope any undergrad fresh from Anthropology 101 could shoot this book full of holes easy as shotgunning a speed limit sign outside Itta Bena. Grant is white, educated, urbane, and for God’s sake British; we can easily question both his capacity to understand and his right to speak. To his credit, he cops to all that, not in a self-flagellating way but with amiable candor. Some will surely say he is too quick to grant himself permission and authority. I found myself trusting him. No, that’s not quite true; I don’t trust him, but he’s resolutely well-intentioned and a seductive storyteller, so I was willing to bracket my resistance for a spell and enjoy his anecdotes. It helps that he’s resolutely in the mode of first person memoir with occasional gestures toward cultural analysis. The claims are less “here’s how things are” than “given my experience, this is what I think might be so.” (Geoff Dyer’s The Missing of the Somme, which my next post will be about, inverts this pattern.)

I’ve spent some time in the Delta as a tourist, and every time I go I feel a little more confused about why I’m there. Like other tourists, I went the first time because it’s where American music was born. I also wanted to see the cotton fields I’d only imagined, and to put my hand on the rails that carried the Great Migration from Greenwood to Memphis to Cairo to Chicago. Given its history, the Delta is arguably the most American place there is. But sadly, being the most American place there is also means it is a place of enduring inequality, injustice, poverty, and utter resistance to change. The Delta loves to “celebrate heritage” with museums, memorials, cultural centers, ersatz juke joints, roadside markers, and the like. In recent decades, some of these gestures — the Emmett Till Center in Glendora, for example — have done much to bring attention to the evil which runs through that heritage like arteries through a body. But I think many visitors, myself and Richard Grant included, are too easily tempted to turn from the evil and focus on the charm, or what appears to be charm. A simple thought experiment: If Grant were everything he is — British, educated, urbane, gregarious, etc. — and also black, how would his reception in the Delta been different?

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Lucy, Luc Besson (2014)

Beginning with La Femme Nikita, in 1990, Luc Besson has done one thing for twenty-five years. He puts beautiful vulnerable young women in mortal danger, and then he gives them the power to annihilate their enemies. It’s his kink. I suppose you have to admire the consistency.

This one’s garbage.  At least back in 1990 you got a little Jeanne Moreau to add some depth to the fluff. The Obi Wan role this time goes to Morgan Freeman. He must have spent days on set staring wide-eyed in amazement at a green screen, since about 65% of this movie is CGI nonsense. (Do you know what she’s doing in that picture up there? No, she is not playing a laser harp. No, she is not checking out an awesome fiber-optic lamp at Spencer Gifts. She’s seeing the matrix, dude! She’s seeing it!) Even with all the padding Besson can’t quite 90 minutes out of his plodding and novelty-free script; you’ll get 89 only, and lucky you.

Oh weird, I just noticed there’s a another picture of this actress just a few posts down from this one. A lot of what I said there goes double here. Both times out, Johansson is at once all-powerful and completely without human affect. Why would filmmakers think a character with those characteristics would be engaging for audiences? Discuss.