Friday, February 25, 2011

The Road to Mandalay

Manderlay: Sequel to Dogville, and I actually liked it better than the first film. It's a story about a rich white woman who encouters a plantation where the slaves have apparently not been told about the Emancipation Proclamation, and sets about trying to turn it into a collective farm. The results, firstly, skewer white liberal reformist attitudes (as Grace's efforts bear fruit in some areas, but lead to starvation and death in others, and she is ultimately forced to confront the uncomfortable similarity between herself and the plantation's former owners as regards their relationship with the black workers), and secondly, poses deeper, Enlightenment-philosophy-style questions about the complicated relationship between individual freedom/rights, collective freedom/rights and the law.

The Roaring Twenties: Justifiedly famous James Cagney gangster-picture with a political message: made in 1939, the film pins the blame for the rise of gang activity in the 1920s on, firstly, America's involvement in WWI; secondly, the government's failure to provide for the returning soldiers in its aftermath; and, thirdly, the enactment of prohibition laws. Cagney plays a young man who returns from the war to find all jobs taken, but the criminal underworld open to employment for intelligent young men with mad gun-wielding skillz. The plot which develops also has a strong moral message, as the "good," "innocent"-seeming characters are actually responsible for some of the most calculated acts of amorality in the story, while Cagney's character, despite being a criminal, also tries to do what's right by his friends and girlfriend. A clear influence on Boardwalk Empire.

Movie count for 2011: 33