Category Visual Arts

The Tragicomedy of “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.”

Many critics are lumping Adamma Ebo’s “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” into the comedy genre, and suggest the movie should have stuck to its lane in drawing laughs at the hypocrisy and thinly disguised greed on display with a certain kind of evangelical megachurch pastor who at best has his hands in your pocket and at worst isn’t looking only for money when he’s fishing around in there.

Yes, there are plenty of cringey laughs at the usual sendups of avaricious preachers in expensive suits and palatial homes pounding away at a “prosperity gospel” that reserves most all the prosperity for themselves.

But Ebo’s film debut, in conjunction with her twin sister Adanne as producer, is much more notable for its dark and tragic elements that underscore the dismal con job such ostensible conduits to the divine perpetrate not only on their flocks, but on themselves, too...

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Melanie, the BuddhaChristLamaDoormat of “Gone With the Wind”

“Gone With the Wind” is an alternately enchanting, preposterous, compulsively readable/watchable turbo-charged romance of seduction, goodness and cynicism. Along the way, it is also top-heavy on the myth of a doomed Southern nobility fighting to preserve its way of life against the “invading hordes” of abolitionist heathens.

Watching the movie version the other night for probably the fifth or sixth time thanks to the cultural treasure of “Turner Classic Movies,  I was struck more than once with cynical guffaws and groans as scenes of wildly extravagant balls and untold riches played out under a patina of honor and chivalry that was in truth built upon the backs of slaves.

That said, I was also struck as never before by the character of Melanie Wilkes, the noble Ashley’s golden-hearted, ever-faithful wife.

Melanie contends with main character Scarlett O’Hara’s long-running obsession with stealing Ashley a...

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Protest and Patriotism: Kota Ezawa’s “National Anthem” Video

A row of black men clad in black uniforms is down on one knee, their arms interlocked along the sideline of what is obviously a football field. Their heads are bowed, while behind them stands a row of racially varied men in casual, mostly identical civilian clothes, their arms also hooked together as they stare into the near distance.

It commands a kind of tender patriotism that asks: What is it to love one’s country, and, for that matter, to love anything?

Music from deep mournful cellos begins to play as the scene comes to life, though the figures and subsequent scenery from around the stadium are animated, and in a rich palette of colors.

It is impossible not to notice that no words are ever spoken, either from the figures on screen or any narrator. It is left to the cellos to carry the entire audio load.

But the pacing and texture of the sounds are just different enough from the original song being rep...

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Who Would Be on Your Train? A “This Is Us” Tribute

A  beautiful woman—the matriarch in the sprawling, multi-generational television show “This is Us”—is sitting alone, gazing out the window of a luxurious passenger train car. What appears to be a porter—well-dressed and dignified—looms over her shoulder, but before he says anything, she informs him she is waiting for someone.

But then she launches into an impromptu reminiscence on her long-dead father’s love of such trains, and his promise that someday the two of them would journey on one. Whereupon she looks happily up at the porter and invites him to “sit with me.”

Soon, she is asking him to recite a poem they both apparently know, and it becomes obvious they are familiar with each other. Then, courtly as it is possible to be, he asks, “Would you like to go to the bar car with me, Rebecca?”

Now she repeats that she is waiting for someone, and he replies, “I know.”

And he rises, inviting her to f...

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Thanks, But No Thanks: Lisel Mueller’s “Monet Refuses the Operation”

We’re not much given to ecstasies, visions or fantastical disruptions of form, light and sound in the workaday world. Observe the social conventions, show up in the conference room at the appointed hour, monitor your in-box, and don’t say anything stupid or offensive on social media from the confines of your cubicle.

Keep that up for 40 or so years, let the IRA compound, then hunt for the perfect landing place—single-story, welcoming and with a woodsy name—to ensure your own version of domestic, senescent tranquility.

And then there are artists, whose creations, in the words of 20th century French philosopher George Bataille, inhabit “a minor free zone outside action, paying for its freedom by giving up the real world.”

I’m not sure artists “give up” the real world so much as they challenge the very foundations of what most people claim the real world is...

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