Friday, June 6, 2008

Coming attraction: ‘The Express’

I am so fed up with those “inspirational” Hollywood movies that combine dreamy celebrations of African-American athleticism with paint-by-numbers evocations of old-timey racism.

The whole formula just reeks bullshit. It’s a kindergarten simplification of American history, human social dynamics and black protest. (Yaaay, dark athletes! Boooo, pale bigots!)

Add an early death by cancer, and what... I’m supposed to cry too?

Coming in October is “The Express,” the story of Ernie Davis, the first black winner of the Heisman Trophy.

The trailer is below. Tell me... doesn’t it seem like you’ve seen this flick before?


Malcolm said...

If they could add the wise old black man who teaches the rich white kid some spiritual/philosophical truths, it would have everything

Invisible Woman said...

A bit crotchety today? Somebody may need a dirty :-)

The Obenson Report said...

I didn't even have to watch the trailer to know how it would flow... but I did watch it, if only to confirm my initial suspicions.

Confirmed! I'll pass!

Granted history lessons like this are necessary, but so are current events. We tend to see more studio films about the lives of black people from yesteryear than we do about the lives of black people in the present day. I think we need more contemporary stories about us - rich, complex films about contemporary African American lives. We existed then, but we also exist today!

Undercover Black Man said...

A bit crotchety today?

Ain't it a shame, IW? And I got every reason in the world to be feeling good about life.

But still... in the name of all that's holy ... no more inspirational movie speeches by college football coaches!!

Undercover Black Man said...

We tend to see more studio films about the lives of black people from yesteryear than we do about the lives of black people in the present day.

And I wonder why. Because it's "safe"? Or just imaginative laziness?

Kellybelle said...

I agree with you on the sports thing. There are so many stories to be told. Why not Harriet Tubman's story, Nat Turner, Sam Cooke, Madame CJ Walker, and on and on? And don't just tell it all episodic-like, tell it with humor, show their flaws, show what made them great. I guess it's easier to get mainstream audiences to cheer for a Black man scoring rather than a Black man slaughtering all the whites in a county.

Anyhoo, have you seen "Cover" by Bill Duke yet? Be interested in your take on it.

Invisible Woman said...

Actually, I more than agree with you UBM :-)

I also agree with Kellybelle; I've brought it up on my blog more than once my weariness with these stories, and called for films about our other heroes like Madame C.J. Walker and Harriet Tubman. And you're right, a story about Harriet would not be "safe", even 150 years after it happened.

Undercover Black Man said...

... and called for films about our other heroes like Madame C.J. Walker and Harriet Tubman.

Part of it, I think, is a more generic American lameness when it comes to historical subjects in cinema.

The British have a rich tradition of storytelling regarding its kings and queens of bygone eras. Those historical figure, first and foremost, are great acting roles!

Aside from JFK, I can't think of a past president who has been the heroic focus of a Hollywood feature film since I've been an adult moviegoer. (Anthony Hopkins as "Nixon" wasn't heroic; Nick Nolte as Thomas Jefferson was a British-made film.)

So Americans don't really know how to bring our past heroes to life. Hollywood might truly screw up a biopic of Harriet Tubman on an artistic level... aside from the fact that Hollywood hasn't trained the audience to expect such movies.

How about even going a level deeper than mere heroism? How about a movie about the antagonism between W.E.B. Du Bois (played by Jeffrey Wright) and Booker T. Washington (Laurence Fishburne)?

It'll never happen. Unless the Brits decide to make it.

Dougfp said...

I remember Ernie Davis. He was a hell of a back for Syracuse, won the Heisman, then died of leukemia. It was pretty sad at the time. Everyone was predicting a Hall of Fame career in the NFL.

Unfortunately, since "Terms of Endearment", I've sworn off movies where I'm supposed to be "inspired" by someone dying of cancer.

ItAintEazy said...

I'd rather see a black version of "The Waltons". Now that would be interesting.

Undercover Black Man said...

Anyhoo, have you seen "Cover" by Bill Duke yet? Be interested in your take on it.

Haven't seen it, Kellybelle. Is it even out? Have you seen?

Kellybelle said...

Isn't it was a straight to DVD? I saw it. Topic great; execution, not so much.

GenevaGirl said...

Kellyebelle, I agree with you: A movie about Harriet Tubman would be great. I've actually thought about what that movie would be like. Imagine the chase scenes! Imagine the which actresses would fight for that plum role. David, why don't you write that one on spec?

Joe said...

Gotta agree with you UBM; the whole "inspirational sports during the civil rights era" thing is kinda been-there-done-that already. Not that Ernie Davis' story doesn't deserve to be told, but there needs to be a healthy blend of historical Black stories and more contemporary Black stories brought to the screen.

Sure, I'd love to see movies about Harriet Tubman & Madame CJ Walker (a Nat Turner movie would scare the living daylights out of white America, but I'd love to see one anyway just because of that), but I'd also love to see biopics about Dr. Benjamin Carson, Barbara Jordan, Dr. Mae Jemison, somebody like that. "Antwone Fisher" was an example of what I'm talking about. This business of making movies about either sports and/or the civil rights movement, while appreciated on its own merits, has had the unexpected effect of perpetuating the "racism is in the past/we're in a post-racial world now" nonsense.

Michael Murray said...

I am not sure why seeing the formula repeated for this type of movie is worthy of a blog entry. 90% of all movies follow a strict formula. I was just watching To Sir with Love yesterday and was thinking about the 50 movies about the teacher with the heart of gold teaching the poor ruffians how to respect themselves.