Daily Archives: March 29, 2007

Standing Silent Nation

Suree Towfighnia’s well-made video documents the ongoing struggle of a Native American family to grow industrial hemp on its reservation in South Dakota. The plant’s THC content amounts to less than 1 percent, but that doesn’t stop the DEA from destroying the White Plume family’s only major cash crop every time it’s ready to be harvested. Given the Justice Department’s spotty enforcement of antitrust laws, its crusade against hemp, which in this case entails breaking at least one treaty, seems like persecution of an already beleaguered people. 53 min. (JR)… Read more »

Hell And High Water

From the Chicago Reader (March 29, 2007). — J.R.


In this propagandistic but well-paced cold-war adventure (1954), a mercenary submarine captain (Richard Widmark) helps foil a Red Chinese plot to drop an atomic bomb on Korea from a U.S. plane. Fox hired director Samuel Fuller to shoot this in a few days, partly to prove that CinemaScope could work in tight spaces and on a limited budget, and he did a pretty good job with it. He even got to rewrite the script, defiantly giving Widmark a variant of the salty, unpatriotic line that J. Edgar Hoover had already tried and failed to get Fuller to delete from Pickup on South Street: “Are you waving the flag at me?” With Cameron Mitchell, David Wayne, Fuller regular Gene Evans, and Bella Darvi, the mistress of studio chief Darryl Zanuck. 103 min. (JR)


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Do The Right Thing

With the possible exception of his cable miniseries When the Levees Broke, this 1989 feature is still Spike Lee’s best work, chronicling a very hot day on a single block of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, when a series of minor encounters and incidents lead to an explosion of racial violence at an Italian-owned pizzeria. Sharp and knowing, though not always strictly realistic, it manages to give all the characters their due. Bill Lee’s wall-to-wall score eventually loses some of its effectiveness, and a few elements (such as the patriarchal roles played by the local drunk and a disc jockey) seem more fanciful than believable. But overall this is a powerful and persuasive look at an ethnic community and what makes it tickfunky, entertaining, packed with insight, and political in the best, most responsible sense. 120 min. (JR)… Read more »