Movies I’ve Recently Seen: Gunda | Demolition Man | Drums Along the Mohawk & Summer of Soul

Another set of films I’ve recently seen – two new ones and two classics. And only one of them have I seen on the big screen.

A- Gunda (2020)

The non-fiction version of Babe is an amazing feat of cinematography. Viktor Kosakovskiy’s camera crew captures farm animals like no other, bringing us the emotions of creatures that we usually think of as food. Most of the film focuses on a mama pig and her large herd of adorable babies. We see them playing, enjoying the sun, and growing up. We also see some curious chickens, one of which has only one leg, and a lot of cows. At the end, we see mama pig, alone and wondering where her children have gone. The black and white photography captures the critters’ expressions masterly. In beautiful black and white.

I wish I had seen it on the big screen, but as far as I know, it never came to an East Bay theater. I saw it via virtual cinema through the Rafael.

B+ Demolition Man (1993)

You usually don’t expect humor and satire in a Sylvester Stallone action movie. Hero John Spartan (Stallone) and bad guy Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes) are frozen, and then defrosted decades later into a future where they don’t belong. The many action sequences are well done but not original. But what makes this movie worth watching is the satirical view of the future. All restaurants are Taco Bells, all songs are 20th-century commercial jingles, and sex doesn’t involve touching. The characters have telling names like John Spartan, Simon Phoenix, Dr. Raymond Cocteau, and Edgar Friendly. And best of all, a not-yet famous Sandra Bullock, playing a cop named Lenina Huxley, steals the movie.

B Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)

Another western by John Ford…or is it really a western? It’s set during the Revolution, which puts it a century before when most westerns take place. The men wear three-corner hats. They only got as west as upstate New York. And it’s the redcoats that are riling up the Indians. Yes, it has the racism that’s in so many of Ford’s westerns (but not all of them). Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert play the main couple, surrounded by many of Ford’s regular stock company. This was Ford’s first color film, and, sorry, Searcher fans, but Ford always worked best in black and white.

B Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (2021)

If you go to see this concert documentary only for the music, you’ll be disappointed. I don’t think there’s a single song played from start to ending without interruption. The film is much more about race issues than music. It’s primarily a record, shot on primitive, 1960s video, of a free concert in Harlem just weeks before Woodstock. But each act is interrupted with someone talking about the artist, or the African American situation then or now. But the musicians, who include Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly and the Family Stone, Mahalia Jackson, and B.B. King, are fantastic. Just remember that the music takes backstage to the issues.

I saw this one theatrically at one of the better auditoriums at the Shattuck.

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