Opinion

Film & Opinion & Reviews

Michael on Movies: Meet the Blacks

Surprisingly, very good (for something I thought would be very NOT good). There is so much behind-the-scenes stuff happening, it’s actually incredible, when you stop to think about it. So many people dismissed this movie when it first came out as just another spoof movie but, wait up! And look at this shit: 

  1. Snoop Dogg appears in the first five seconds;
  2. You have Paul Mooney as Klansman #1;
  3. RZA does the music;
  4. Mike Tyson suddenly materialises as a character named James Clown (with full makeup and wig);
  5. Michael Blackson is Mr. Wooky (and it’s never really explained who the character is actually supposed to be or its purpose, in the world of Meet the Blacks);
  6. George Lopez is the president of the United States;
  7. And Charlie Murphy literally plays his heart out as a drug dealer fresh out of jail!

I could go on and on, here. Essentially, what I love most about this film is the zany world-building that takes place, which, in and of itself, already requires so much effort that it totally did not need to be in a film of this calibre, but here we are! Everyone and everything sort of follows the same internal logic (and if you can accept that, from the very beginning, you are going to looooove this film). That’s pretty much a guarantee.

I would describe it as a spoof of spoof films. So in the realm of spoof films, you have the OG: Airplane, and then Amazon Women On The Moon and The Kentucky Fried Movie (cause, why not?). Scary Movie comes along in the early 2000s to change the game, but before all that even, there’s Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the HoodFriday (which is less spoof and more, original comedy, but still worth mentioning), and then, Meet the Blacks. (I purposefully omitted the truly horrible examples, like Date Movie and Epic Movie because they don’t even exist, as far as I am concerned). It’s a very unique brand of lowbrow humour, here, and you have to go in knowing that. You think it’s catered toward a certain type of movie-going audience, but that’s just thinking inside of the box. Meet the Blacks actually tries so hard to be offensive (to everyone) that in the end, all of it is so silly and ridiculous, you’re going to laugh at half a dozen jokes (at least) even if you don’t think they’re funny, because it’s so absurd. It’ a nice exercise in finding out who you truly are. (Another good film for this is Edmond, 2005). I laughed at some jokes that on paper, I would have never laughed at. And there’s something to be said about Mike Epps’ delivery (and even though he is not a great actor, I appreciate his stage presence).

Overall, the spoofed-out parts are done brilliantly. There’s several bits where scary music is playing and you can hear the spooky echo of children laughing off in the distance (you know the sound effect) and then there’s the obligatory jump-scare–something a lot of shitty (recent) scary films do. Meet the Blacks wouldn’t be as good if we didn’t have so many terrible modern horror film tropes to harp on. And what’s brilliant is the writers absolutely know this (like full-on mad genius level) and take advantage of all of the inconsistencies that exist in what are essentially releases that are remakes of remakes, marketed as serious films.

I feel that Meet the Blacks is trying to say something–provide a message in the same way Get Out claims it was trying to provide a message. I am not sure I know what the message is, but I feel Meet the Blacks is way more sincere and open about what it is trying to say. There is an odd ambiance to the sound design too! In a few of the scenes, you will hear wind in the background, as the characters are talking and just existing, and this wind is something that was clearly added in post-production. It has no business being there, because it doesn’t add anything to any of the scenes, other than announce its presence. It’s actually pretty David Lynch, and it’s a bit strange, to see/hear in a film like this. It’s these small sort of if-you-aren’t-paying-attention-and-you’re-totally-dismissing-this-film-by-doing-another-sort-of-activity-like-folding-your-laundry… you’re not going to notice. And maybe that’s the point? Like a cool little unnecessary Easter Egg? (Aren’t all Easter eggs unnecessary?)

If you pretend this movie was made by someone you know and they made it over the course of an entire weekend and they didn’t have a lot of money to begin with, but for some reason felt they had a wholly unique vision and the only way to fulfill that vision was to make this film and now that the film is done, they really want you to watch it–this is that film. Meet the Blacks has some of the best use of wacky sound effects I have heard in a long while. Just as a quick aside, and to further cement my disdain (yet again) for many modern films… I would watch this over any of the Bourne films, again and again and again. Meet the Blacks breaks down all of the walls (whatever that means)–something I feel we need more than ever, especially right now, in our current socio-political-COVID-whatever environment/moment. This is a film that wants you to remember that it’s okay to sometimes laugh at something because it’s 100% stupid and doesn’t entirely make sense. ‘Cause life’s just life, y’know? Who gives a damn if you’re not making as much money as you think you should be making? Or that your dream publisher seems to just not want to ever publish you. Or that bad things keep happening in the world and that’s just never going to end. Stop living in the future and come back to the present. Enjoy the now and just slow down for a little bit, yeah? Breathe in. Cool. It’s Meet the Blacks. A high three out of five, from me.

4 Comments
September 4th, 2020 / 10:31 am

Retreat Left

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This is going to be long. I will discuss politics in the dangerous context of business and try to compare Seattle and New York, but I will go astray. You’re warned. I spent a long time to fix the structure of this essay. This first bit is about my vocation and leads into a bit about leaving New York. I think I wanted to give the political parts a level of context. It’s hard to read about politics if you don’t know what it comes out of. 

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Bath & Opinion / 1 Comment
March 29th, 2017 / 4:29 pm

Starving the Left’s Political Imagination

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In the USA, the political left survives not on the wages of raw fear and liquid capital but on a pleasant wealth of public imagination that must be constantly updated to reflect changing political and economic circumstances. It is a mild sort of collective futurism with very murky outlines that propels everything from political art to individual vocation to government legislation.

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Opinion & Technology / 21 Comments
February 13th, 2017 / 11:27 am

Literature of the Final Interaction

A browser window of playful digital innovation has closed. Like a light wind that dies after sunset. We see the cursor move, a soft click, the tab vanishes.

Something like a literature of the web was born and then almost immediately died, along with the most ambitious social lives traversing our generation – the last generation to experience the world before pervasive digital media. Blogs (Gawker, Hipster Runoff, HTMLGIANT(?)) were like… this thing that happened and then became either institutional, irrelevant, or crushed by political detractors. Comments sections became essential and then as quickly: perverse, violent. At some point, Pitchfork became Pitchfork. Reification.  READ MORE >

Opinion & Technology / 17 Comments
January 24th, 2017 / 2:52 pm

i love you, we’re dead meat

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My student apologized to me for voting for Donald Trump. He regretted it, he said, because he hurt me, and he never thought it would hurt someone like me.

The week before, he sat with me for almost an hour in my office, and we bonded over poverty. He told me how hard it was to be in college with rich friends, to be so different than them. He felt alone.

He’s talented, and I told him so. He’s funny, and aside from some trouble with comma splices, he’s a good writer. He told me that he’s majoring in business, but he wants to be a journalist. I encouraged him to do that.

He’s talented, and he’s sensitive, and he voted for Donald Trump.

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Opinion / 38 Comments
November 16th, 2016 / 3:13 pm

The Strickland-Needleman Carousel

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Hey guys, it’s “ZZZIPP,” from the comment section here. I wrote the following essay for HTMLGIANT in December, but never sent it along to anyone. It’s a response to all of the Garrett Strickland misogyny stuff that was happening then, but it is also really personal which maybe explains why instead of ever sending it along I sat on it like a scared dumb bird.

HTMLGIANT has meant a lot to me over the last six years (I was lurking at the very beginning), and I want to pay tribute to that somehow. I think in some ways this essay is relevant to certain discussions which have taken place since it was announced that HG was closing (i.e.: the idea that it is “better” for indie literature to have the “HG boys club” shut down) (because fuck that).

Thanks again, though, everyone. This was a great community. I really can’t stress enough how important HTMLGIANT was to me, in all kinds of ways, even if I mostly engaged as a “photon.”

***

I haven’t read Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans, but for a while I think I wished Stein was my grandmother or my encouraging older neighbour, and I bought a lot of her books all at once and took the rest out of the library. They sat on my coffee table and on my couch and I liked to think that their mere presence was making me a better person and a better writer. I read a few of them, but I never made it very far in Americans. One day I hope to. I must have read the first page twenty or thirty times.

Once an angy man dragged his father along the ground through his own orchard. “Stop!” cried the groaning old man at last, “Stop! I did not drag my father beyond this tree.”

It is hard living down the tempers we are born with. We all begin well, for in our youth there is nothing we are more intolerant of than our own sins writ large in others and we fight them fiercely in ourselves; but we grow old and we see that these our sins are of all sins the really harmless ones to own, nay that they give a charm to any character, and so our struggle with them dies away.

When I told the woman I was seeing at the time that I wished Gertrude Stein was my grandmother or my aunt she told me that she thought everyone did at some point in their life. I felt pretty good about that, because she was five years older than me and because she used to be my teacher, and I thought it meant something that I had said something that had resonated strongly with her.

Now I can see all of the problems with that.

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Opinion / 37 Comments
October 24th, 2014 / 1:41 pm

My Contribution, by Shaun Gannon, age 27

Finally! After years of toiling in the disgusting machinery that is Alt Lit, I’ve become a contributor to HTMLGiant!

SO LET’S BURN IT DOWN.

And I am going to do so in the most fitting way that I could conceive.

I could first tell you how this webbed site gave me a chance to connect with some amazing people across the world at a time when I was otherwise surrounded by toxic people in a small, dying town — but I won’t, because I don’t feel like burdening the world with another story of an awkward white male using the Internet, as that is not fucking interesting at all.

I could also talk about how the filth that washed up on this site (meaning, the pieces of shit written by larger, animate pieces of shit) was surrounded by posts written by people who truly cared for one another, posts where they shared their feelings, concerns, and insight in the hopes of making a connection, but I don’t feel like defending a corpse. It’s not my job to champion some abstract thing’s legacy. I’d prefer to spend my time living.

At first, I thought I could talk about a number of individuals I’ve recently disassociated myself from, both professionally and socially, but I couldn’t, because of my rage.

I had forgotten the unique feeling that comes with this kind of rage — one that stems from having your core shaken; distrust seeps in and boils the blood. It’s a woozying sort of anger that I hadn’t felt since I was in middle school, when my father was revealed to have molested multiple children over several, if not dozens, of years — an anger that was compounded by the lenient treatment he received from society and the justice system because he had been a police officer. Looking at someone who is a criminal, or something worse, and knowing that justice will never come summons something inside me that I try hard not to look at for too long. As such, I felt if I wrote another sentence in that train of thought, I was going to explode. (To be fair, this is the first time I’ve shared any of this information in a public venue.)

So ultimately, I’ve decided that the best way I could honor-kill this site would be to write about something that means so much to me, in the way that HTMLGiant does, or did, or whichever tense you’re supposed to use with dead things, and so, I present to you READ MORE >

Opinion / 16 Comments
October 23rd, 2014 / 3:55 pm

Thoughts on the Shit Show

Blake and Gene.

I don’t know if you would be willing to put this up, but I figured I’d send it and see. On August 3, underground writer Gene Gregorits was arrested for sexual assault on a 17 year old girl. You can read an article about his arrest here.

He’d posted about the young woman he was arrested for assaulting that night on his Facebook page. He put up a picture of her, under a Facebook status update that said, “The teenage porn star tourist cunt has arrived appx. 8 mins late. And I still fucking hate her. I am going to do things to this woman that Cletus from Moose Snout would not do to the family cow in the depths of a meth binge.” The picture and status update were removed from his page the next day, one assumes, by the Florida police, but many people took screen shots of it when he posted it.

I have promoted Gene’s work for years, always under the auspices that there is something very important about pushing boundaries when it comes to art. I wrote the attached essay about my feelings about his arrest, and the disillusionment I’d been feeling as someone who was such a big proponent of his work beforehand. The essay delves into persona, and the leeway we often give our favorite artists when it comes to their behavior.

***

Sick of being decent, he craves another
crash. What reaches him except disaster?
–Frank Bidart

Author Gene Gregorits recently did a small tour of New England with Lisa Carver, where he was promoting his newest book, Do You Love Me: The Gene Gregorits File. The first night of the tour, a naked Gregorits accidentally- on- purpose slashed open his forearm with a knife, the resulting wound requiring close to 50 stitches. Anybody who is friends with Gregorits on Facebook has seen pictures of the festering wound, above or below photos of his injured cat, posts pleading and bleating his friends for rent money, and a relentless barrage of diatribes against:

  1. Those who haven’t bought his books
  2. Those who have, but haven’t written reviews about them
  3. Women
  4. Other writers and artists who have taken a more conventional path to success, and been rewarded for it.

I haven’t seen the video of the show, as YouTube keeps flagging it, but from what I’ve been told, most of the attendees either ran off, horrified, or dipped their just-purchased copies of his books in his blood as a souvenir as Gene was taken to the hospital. On his Facebook page a few days later, a somberly reflective Gregorits seemed saddened by the audience’s reaction, which I found surprising. Connecting the dots on the Gregorits persona, one would have thought he’d be proud. People always take souvenirs of that which thrills them, and what else could Gregorits have been seeking when he’d disrobed and grabbed the knife? Police had to stop souvenir hunters from removing Clyde Barrows’ fingers after he’d been shot. There have always been rumors that a plaster cast was made of John Dillinger’s dick at the morgue. Surely in someone’s curio cabinet, there is a piece of 1990’s toilet paper with GG Allin’s fecal matter on it.

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Opinion / 28 Comments
October 10th, 2014 / 11:28 am