Introducing Your Partner of a Different Background to Your Parents? Prepare Them With This

Sometimes I get lucky when attempting my challenge of watching all films featured in the American Film Institute’s top 100 movies of all time like this weekend when just as I was wondering how I’m going to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon I came across a film which needed to be ticked off my list. Actually my brother came across it after trying to give a Danny Dyer and Martin Kemp flick a shot, but only lasting ten minutes before changing the channel (what did he expect it to be? A masterpiece?). ‘Guess who’s coming to dinner? (1967: AFI, 1998 #99) couldn’t be further away from a British gangster film set in the noughties. Firstly there is hardly any action and most of the movie takes place in one location, the house of Mr and Mrs Drayton played by arguably the greatest screen couple to have ever graced the silver screen; Spencer Tracy and the most successful female Oscar winner of all time (yup, even more successful than Meryl Streep, would you believe?) Katherine Hepburn.

Trailer for the 1967 Oscar winning movie ‘Guess who’s coming to Dinner?

Set in an affluent  white upper middle class neighbourhood  in San Francisco in the 1960s the story centres around the Drayton’s whose liberal tolerance gets tested when their daughter introduces them to her black fiancé played by Sidney Poitier – who is the first black actor to win an Oscar (although not for this role, but ‘Lilies in the Field). The plot is simple and hardly shocking by today’s standards, but for the time when racial tension in North America was at an all time high it was perhaps a surprise that Stanley Kramer’s movie was a critical and commercial success. Even more startling is that it was well received in the notoriously racist Southern States and released just a year before Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. There is even a scene where the family’s black maid Tillie who is clearly the most offended by the presence of Poitier sarcastically asks if “The Reverend Martin Luther King” is coming to dinner too?

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Maid Tillie interrogates Poitier

The movie definitely deserves its spot on the AFI’s top 100 films of all time list – it highlights the deep rooted racial prejudices even the most tolerant people have. Kramer wanted to make Poitier’s character Dr. John Wayde Prentice Jr. flawless – he is well educated, respectful and does not believe in sex before marriage – he is a perfect suitor for Joey. The only that is preventing her parents from jumping for joy is that he is black.

The subject matter of this blockbuster is sadly relevant in today’s society. Even though interracial relationships are more common than ever there is a still a stigma attached to them. But naively I was under the impression that in the UK non-black ethnic minorities were the only group who still found it difficult introducing their families to their partner from a different background and that black and white people were better integrated. But after watching the British comedy ‘Chewing Gum (2015)’ I realised some black people found it hard tell their parents they were dating a white person as protagonist Tracey (no relation to Spencer) does throughout the first series. Perhaps roles are reversed and ethnic minorities are now the ones who seem to find it hard to accept other races into their families rather than just white people.

Although ‘Guess who’s coming to Dinner’ had the happy ending we liberal people of the Twenty-First Century hoped for I couldn’t help but feel sad knowing that this was Spencer Tracy’s last movie before his death – he died only two weeks after completing the film. So his heartfelt speech where he declares that he accepts the relationship is even more poignant as it feels this is farewell to his onscreen and real life lover Hepburn and to the world as he knew his time was drawing an end.

Spencer Tracy gives his memorable speech weeks before his death

Nevertheless the legacy of Tracy and his unforgettable character Mr Drayton still lives on; not only was his last role considered one of his finest he was also the inspiration for lovable Carl Fredricksen in Pixar’s classic animated ‘Up! (2009). For the exceptional characters and acting from the crème a La crème of Hollywood as well as the topic that is still a subject of conversation today  – I give this flick 4.5 out of 5.

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Lead character in ‘Up’ is inspired by Spencer Tracy

The movie can also be a useful tool to show to your parents before bringing someone home they may not approve off as suggested by my brother – I wonder who he’s planning on bringing home to meet the folks

 

Kubrick Asks Can You Cure An Psychopath ?

I thought I’d probably seen every episode of ‘The Simpsons’ to date, so I pleasantly surprised when I came across a Halloween Special that I’d never watched before. In my opinion the show is the king of parodies and they have put their yellow magic on some of the prominent films featured in the American Film Institute’s top 100 films of all time – from ‘Rear Window’(1954: AFI 1998 #42, 2007 #48) to ‘Citizen Kane’ (1941: AFI 1998 #1, 2007 #1). This time they took their spin on classic horror ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971: 1998 #46, 2007 #70)  with the programme’s darkest character Moe befittingly playing disturbed Alex DeLarge in Stanley Kubrick’s terrifying British (but partly funded by an American studio which explains why it is eligible for the AFI list) masterpiece.

For the American Film Institute to consider a movie for their 1998 and 2007 coveted list it has to have significant and lasting cultural impact – ‘A Clockwork Orange’ definitely fits into this category with artists like Kylie Minogue (yup, it doesn’t get more commercial than that), My Chemical Romance and Blur paying homage to the terrifying villain played so well by Malcolm McDowell. The film which is set in a futuristic London centers around lead character Alex and his group of thugs called ‘ Droogs’ who perform violent crimes including rape whilst high on drugs. When his luck runs out and he gets caught for murdering a woman the sociopath is sent to prison where he is a participant of an experiment to cure his bad behaviour. This involves him being subjected to hours of violent footage and images whilst having his eyes clamped open.

‘A Clockwork Orange’ movie trailer from 1971

Unsurprisingly the film was surrounded by controversy when it was released and it’s still pretty shocking by today’s standards – the rape scene is pretty gruesome, only Kubrick can take an innocent and cheery song like ‘Singing in the rain’ that is beloved by millions of people including me and totally change the mood of the song as McDowell eerily sings it whilst torturing his female victims. Apparently Gene Kelly was so disgusted by Alex DeLarge’s rendition of the classic musical number he ignored MacDowell when he approached him at some showbiz event they both attended.

Alex DeLarge and his ‘Droogs’

But violence is key to explaining the plot of the movie, without it you will never get a sense of how twisted the lead character is. We are in an age where films are brutal for the thrill or shock factor without adding anything particularly to a piece – take for example ‘American Psycho’(2000). For years my friend told me the film was a masterpiece and it was a must see (although he did use to show me some disturbing violent videos on his computer when I went around to his for tea after school – the film must have been pretty tame by his twisted standards) so this weekend me and my brother, Sati decided to watch it. It was highly entertaining and Christian Bale did a fine job playing disturbed Patrick Bateman but the ending of  the movie left us feeling unsatisfied. Did he or did he not really kill those people in the over the top, unrealistic fashion or was it in his imagination? If it was the latter than the gory violence seems pointless and the film appears to be lazy because there are so many things left unexplained – it all seems rather pointless.

Malcolm McDowell speaks on the genius of Stanley Kubrick

With ‘American Psycho’ you begin to question whether the villain is in fact a victim of capitalist society, but in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ the answer more definite especially with Alex’s final words. The movie feels more complete, there are no loose ends and hence the piece has more purpose than a majority of the bloodstained and brutal flicks that have been released in recent years. For the gripping plot and Kubrick’s attempt to answer the ever relevant question ‘can someone be cured of evil?’ I give this movie a 5 out 5.