Friday, August 31, 2012

Blaxploitation as Man Movie

Hey, you jive-ass turkeys!  Man Movie Guide is back and looking to lay down some more wisdom on you.  The 70s were a funky time, and the cultural climate had begun to swing from free love and grass to a bleaker, generally more urban reality.  We won’t get into a history lesson here, but let’s just say that the evolution of the civil rights movement and the black power movement had taken the experience of black people in America to new heights in the public’s consciousness... and banking on that, reflecting and warping that experience, was bound to put some asses into theater seats.  Blaxploitation movies can typically tackle any genre of film: they can be comedies or action movies, drama or horror.  What sets them apart is difficult to encapsulate in a tiny little primer like this, but here we go:

·         The movie features a primarily black cast, or at the very least, a black protagonist
·         The movie tends to be smothered in 70s-era fashion and style (although exceptions do exist)
·         Race, racial tension, racism, or even slavery tend to be motifs… if not the backbone of the   

·         There is more made-up sounding slang than a David Mamet script
·         The soundtracks are often funk or soul in nature (and usually awesome)

And so we get to Blaxploitation as Man Movie.  Not all Blaxploitation films are Man Movies; far from it.  There is, however, a strain of films in the category that feature the following: a strong and macho lead who is cool as shit, violence, sexings of hot (and sometimes afro-ed) women, heists, chases,  drug dealing, gangs, and the mob.  This isn’t to mention all the revenge films that Blaxploitation bred as a way of cinematically getting back at white folk (even if the movie was an attempt by white people to callously cash in on the racial landscape of the era).
“I can dig it,” you say.  And then you find yourself wondering to yourself why all Blaxploitation movies that conform to this mold aren’t Man Movies.  The answer is simple: most of them are awful!  While you’re bound to get an occasional stray brilliant line or good car chase or a fantastic set of tits in virtually any title of this breed of Blaxploitation, you will likely have to sit through the following to get to it: atrocious writing, unsightly and stilted acting that is either too hammy or sounds like the actors are reading right off the script in front of them, actors accidentally looking directly at the camera, gaffes and bloopers that were just kept in the movie, continuity issues in the editing, long and awkward silences brought on by a sparse soundtrack, poor lighting, improperly mic’d scenes, and budgets so low that it makes your local high school play look like Waterworld.
Now’s where things get groovy.  You don’t have to watch all Blaxploitation movies to find a Man Movie gem.  We’ve done all the heavy lifting for you.  Don’t thank us at once.  We consider our guide a heavily curated one.  For some reason, some really and truly bad movies have kept a name for themselves on through the decades.  Most of the Blaxploitation movies you can name off the top of your head are not only bad, but sometimes completely unwatchable.  We will shoot you some Blaxploitation movies for you to scope out as time goes on.  Just keep your peepers glued, ya heard?

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