9 October 2017

The Times They Aren't A-Changin'

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Kathryn Bigelow's latest film Detroit deals with the race riots of the 1960's, with particular focus on the horrors of one particular night. Whilst staying in a cheap and shitty hotel, several innocent black characters and two white girls find themselves lined up against a wall by the police who then proceed to beat, humiliate, and occasionally murder them. Suddenly I don't feel I can moan about how crap my night in a Travelodge was, even though there was a bit of shit on the shower curtain and some snot on the pillow. Some people might wonder why Bigelow chose to make this film now. After all, slavery was abolished over 140 years ago and, bar a few minor blips like this film depicts in the 60's and 70's, I think more or less everything has been plain sailing for black people since then. I mean, sure, they're still getting shot by the police in America for having done literally fuck all, and the leader of the free world does seem to be a racist fuck-wit that's supported by a group of small-dicked Nazi's that he refuses to condemn. But you know, “there's blame on both sides”; black people for understandably desiring equal rights and opportunities, and racists for having the IQ of a dying skunk's stagnant faecal matter.

Detroit is one of those films that's going to annoy everybody. Either you think it's terrible how black people have been treated or you're a fuck-nut racist that'll get pissed off when some of them don't get shot. Watching the movie is an intense experience because its structure is similar to that of a fat man with a tape-worm. It starts off large by setting up the city-wide riots and tensions before getting slimmer and tighter by focusing on the events of one particular night, and then finally the effect it had on a handful of those involved. The last time I walked out at the end of a film screening as angry as I was after this one was The Hitman's Bodyguard.. but that was less to do with racism and more to do with a dumb motherfucking audience laughing at a comedy that was about as funny as an inflamed herpes rash on an itchy anus. However this structure has been criticised as missing the point of the films own title. Why call the film Detroit and then only focus on the events of one particular building and on one particular night? They ask. I can only imagine that these critics must have spunked their one star reviews all over The Wolf Of Wall Street which promised a lot more lupine based bullshit than it ultimately fucking delivered.

In response to this critique however I suppose I would argue that although the film's central set-piece does focus on the one night, the set-up does make pretty fucking clear that this probably isn't an isolated incident. The one night in that hotel represents a societies decline in which this kind of thing can be allowed to happen, with the court-set aftermath showing the failure of the system as a whole. Going back to our fat man from before, and assuming his tape worm didn't work, if we wanted to make a film about how his obesity killed him then we could tell the story of every heart-destroying meal he's consumed. But surely there's no need? In the way that the opening of Detroit depicts the racial tension in order to contextualise the one night in the hotel, we can also see that our fat man has bigger tits than a balloon model of Pamela Anderson and has probably been eating like a fucking pig for some time. In the way that this film just focuses on the one night you could just focus on that one final meal of 10 slices of bread, fourteen sausages, three different types of cheese, and lard for butter, and I think the audience would probably understand that this likely wasn't his first slice of suicide-sandwich.

Some critics also pointed to the lack of moral ambiguity in the hotel scene, with the racists being very broadly depicted as psychopaths and the victims being nothing more than victims. Although I really don't know what the problem is here? Were they hoping that one of the victims would turn out to have been a Nazi prison guard and I'd suddenly feel confused as to whether or not I agree with police brutality? I agree that Will Poulter's leading bastard in blue doesn't really have the origins of his world view explained in too much detail, but fuck me.. how long do people want this film to be? First the film is criticised for focusing on one building and on one night instead of presumably every building in years of tragedy. And now the problem is that we don't get to see a life time of psychology for those involved. Surely the point of the film isn't to explain racism but depict the fact that it's allowed to flourish, which therefore also helps my previous point about this incident being symbolic of all the bullshit in the city at that time. The film doesn't aim to explain the sickness of one person but of Detroit as a whole, and what better way to do that than by depicting the extremes of what was allowed to happen? At the end of the day I don't need to see the sweet-corn in our fat man's shit to know that he probably ate okay occasionally, when the real problem is simply how bad things were allowed to get when he was deep-throating hot-dogs and meatballs.

The final main criticism that I could find about this film was the fact that despite setting itself up as a film with aspirations of social commentary, it ultimately lowers itself by descending into horror. One review even slagged it off for being Straw Dogs, meets the Milgrim experiment, and with some racial torture porn thrown in for good measure. However I think the mistake here is to assume that somehow horror is of a lesser genre than anything else. Let's ask the real people involved which genre they'd put the incident in and I'm going to guess that it's probably not going to be a knock about comedy. Unless it's a comedy written by the decidedly unfunny and completely racist Bernard Manning which, to be fair.. I would also argue would be closer to fucking horror. Also I get the Straw Dogs thing because of the home-invasion feel of the hotel scene, I get the Milgrim thing too, with less strong willed police officers doing as they're told by the louder prick in a uniform. However racial torture porn? The film depicts the violence that took place in that building, but to call it torture porn would surely imply that what's on screen was designed to be a thrill? The first Saw movie is good because you suffer the masochistic terror of the victims whereas the Saw series after that is shite because it aims to give you a sadistic thrill from watching the victims suffer. I hate to judge.. but the kind of person that thinks you're meant to be deriving pleasure from Detroit is the kind of person that would confuse our 'dying fat man with a tape worm movie' with a fucking cookery show.

However, although these criticisms were echoed in several different reviews, it's worth noting that Detroit is getting predominately glowing reviews from everywhere else. I loved the film, if that's the right way to explain the experience, however it seems that some of the people I was watching it with weren't as sold on it. Rather than write about why I thought the movie was so good, I thought I'd read the bad reviews in order to see if anything was raised that would help my see it from their alternative point of view. Essentially I tried to carry on the argument with my friends despite them not being in the room or raising their own points with me. I'm an only child though, so these negative reviews have only served to reinforce my natural stubbornness and force me to double down on my original appraisal of Detroit as being one of my favourite films of the year. From open to close, the tension is up there with Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing, with the film telling a story that I'd never heard, and that despite having happened fifty years ago could easily have happened yesterday. The only difference is that now we're all fitted with cameras and have access to social media in order to share what's going on a little more effectively. President Trump might not have much sympathy for this subject, which is a shame, however if we ever do make a film about a dying fat man then perhaps the small-handed, lard bucket could be considered for the part. Thanks for reading, motherfuckers and see you next time.

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