February 19, 2010, - 4:01 pm

Weekend Box Office: Lackluster “Shutter Island,” Revisionist “Blood Done Sign My Name”

By Debbie Schlussel

I wasn’t crazy about either of the two new releases at the box office, this weekend, but if you must go, the so-so “Shutter Island” is okay (for adults only).  Here are my reviews:

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*  “Shutter Island“:  I have mixed feelings about this one.  It isn’t my favorite Martin Scorsese film (“The Departed” is–read my review).  It was okay–decent, but not great.  For what it is supposed to be–a psychological thriller, I suppose it’s good, in that it accomplishes its goal.  It was long, somewhat boring, and mostly a giant trick played on you that, if you’re smart, you’ll figure out (or, at least, have an inkling of it) by half-time.  Yup, it’s a set-up.  And if you figure it out, then it’s a waste of time.

Plus, I definitely could have done without the constant moral equivalency dialogue, implying that the U.S. government is testing mental patients and doing Mengele-style experiments on their brains “just like the Nazis and the Soviet gulags.”  Come on.  Even in this completely non-political thriller (that wasn’t that thrilling), they couldn’t resist in trying to make it political.  Plus the flashback scenes of Leonardo DiCaprio liberating Dachau and ice-sculpture trees of dead Jewish bodies was cinematic Holocaust-porn that had no place here.  At two hours and 19 minutes, this movie could have been trimmed . . . a lot.

That said, I can’t say that–despite all my complaints–it isn’t an entertaining movie.  It is . . . somewhat.  And even though I was very tired and the movie was long, it was entertaining enough and well-told to the point that I managed to be completely engaged the entire time.   The acting was great on all fronts.  So was the cinematography.  It was beautifully shot and masterfully directed.  At first, I found the repeated flashbacks and visions distracting, but later, they are important to the plot.

DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo play U.S. Marshals sent to an island which houses a mental institution for the criminally insane–murderers who are so bad, no normal mental facility can handle them.  The institution is headed by Ben Kingsley–very good in this role–and the second in command is a German doctor played by the talented Max Von Sydow, who is great here.  It is the 1950s, and DiCaprio and Ruffalo arrive at Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of a female patient who murdered her children.  And, while the staff and patients of the hospital give little help in the investigation, the two Marshals spend several nights stuck there because of horrible weather, some of it exploring the island and its “C Unit,” which houses the worst of the worst.   DiCaprio is a veteran of World War II who liberated Dachau and can’t get it out of his head.  His wife died in a fire set by an arsonist.

I can’t say much more because it would give away the movie.  But know this:  the plot twist isn’t novel.  It might have been a decade or two ago.  You’ve seen it before.  Still, as I noted, the movie is entertaining and fine for an escape.  But there is much violence, blood, and some dead bodies.  And it’s creepy, like it’s supposed to be.  It’s not for kids or even young teens.

Definitely not “The Departed.”  Not even close.  But it’s good enough for an escape at the movies.  Still, you may feel cheated at the end . . . if you haven’t figured it out.

ONE-AND-A-HALF REAGANS
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*  “Blood Done Sign My Name“:  This movie, starring Rick Schroeder, is yet another reminder of America’s past in racism that doesn’t necessarily need to be told yet again.  I fail to see how it serves America’s moving forward by constantly focusing on racism past, when we now have racism present and future, in the form of affirmative action, minority set-asides, and racist Black-on-White crimes galore.  And, while it is a true story, there is a scene that could be seen as incitement to more of those things, when we really need to move on and forward.  Yes, racism existed and still does in America.  But it exists in all ethnicities, including the Black community against non-Blacks.

That’s not to mention the fact that this movie provides only a tiny, select slice of life about a very hateful Black civil rights activist, Benjamin Chavis Muhammad.  He’s an uber-racist in his own right, but this movie shows him at a point in time in his life when he was a peaceful protester of racism, as opposed to the Jew-hating, Farrakhan acolyte and hip-hop purveyor that he is now and has been for about two decades.

Today, Chavis has behind his belt, the racist, anti-Semitic 1995 Nation of Islam “Million Man March,” of which he was the primary organizer (acting as NoI leader Louis Farrakhan’s right-hand man), and the Million Family March, which he also organized in 2000.  Chavis Muhammad–who is only identified as Chavis in the movie, even at the end when the closing credits discuss his “achievements.”  Muhammad was fired from his position as Executive Director of the NAACP for sexually harassing a female employee, embezzling $65,000 in hush money to pay her off, and blaming “right-wing Jews” when he was fired for this by the Black board members of the organization.  That part, of course, isn’t mention in the closing credits.  Today, Chavis Muhammad heads the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, a hip-hop political organization that embraces anti-Semitism and Israel hatred, which he co-founded with mogul Russell Simmons.  I wrote about the organization’s extremism in the Jerusalem Post (the column is reprinted here).  But, again, you would not know it from this movie.

What did I like about this movie?  That not all the White characters were bad.  Just most of them.  Schroeder plays a real-life Christian minister, Rev. Vernon Tyson, who is not racist and who welcomes Blacks and Black preachers to his church.  And he imparts his opposition to racism to his children, including son Tim Tyson, on whose book this movie is based.  He’s a very righteous and moral man, who preaches non-violence and tries to get the Blacks in the community in Oxford, North Carolina to engage in peaceful protest, rather than the rioting violence that occurred just after a murder of a Black Vietnam Veteran at home on leave.  And he is successful.

Schroeder is very good in this film.  It’s just that I’m not sure this film’s entire story needs to be told . . . again.  The story of Schroeder’s character does need to be told because it’s important for Black Americans to remember that White Americans were also part of the civil rights movement and sacrificed so they could have equal rights.  Sadly, I think that message may be lost on moviegoers of all races.  And I’m sad that the current message and true life character of the racist bigot extremist Benjamin Chavis Muhammad was given an extremist makeover.  And we don’t get the full picture of what he became.  It wasn’t all lollipops and cotton candy–what came out of the civil rights movement.  But, at least, the film is honest and open in showing us Golden Frinks, a civil rights organizer who admits he is a “stoker.  They send me in to heat things up.”  He means, to rile up the Black communities and make them angry.

I interviewed Rick Schroeder by phone, this morning, and will try to put the interview up over the weekend or early next week.

TWO-AND-A-HALF MARXES
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20 Responses

“It’s just that I’m not sure this film’s entire story needs to be told . . . again.”

I disagree. There is not anything wrong with doing films on history, and the murder of this Viet Nam veteran was a legitimate, significant historical event. The truth is that there are a lot of legitimate stories from that period that haven’t been told, such as the Orangeburg massacre, where state troopers fired on and killed UNARMED black South Carolina State College students, and none of them spent a moment in jail because “they felt threatened.” (The SCSU students posed no threat whatsoever. They weren’t throwing rocks, rioting, looting, breaking anything, screaming … it was just a peaceful nonviolent march.) It really is shocking how recent some of these incidents have been, with all white juries acquitting murderers up until the 1980s.

The problem is that the lack of movies and stories being told about the other side. For instance, the total lack of movies about white victims of hate crimes. For instance, the first person convicted under the federal hate crimes statute were these black members of the Nation of Islam (though the Nation of Islam denied they were actually members) who beat a homeless man to death. I also do not believe that a movie has been done about the Colin Ferguson subway shooter incident, which the media actually successfully transformed from being an issue of Ferguson’s racism against whites to being a gun control issue. Also, the Gary Graham fellow who went on a racist crime spree against whites in Texas … the media amazingly made him into an anti-death penalty cause celebre (and the main witness in Graham’s capital murder trial was a black woman). No movie has been made about the Mumia Abu Jamal case from the perspective of the police officer that was murdered either.

The list goes on (and on). There is nothing wrong with telling the truth … people opposed to it generally have a problem dealing with the facts involved. So, if a person is one of the types who only wants to limit the discussion of race in America to welfare, black crime and affirmative action, “Blood Done Sign My Name” is inconvenient to that person’s agenda. Well, that is a problem who only wants to distort the issue and not of the movie itself. What we need in addition to movies like “Blood Done Sign My Name” is movies that are equally inconvenient to liberals by examining cases of appalling black racism against whites, and also discussing how black “civil rights groups” and black “leaders” systematically and purposefully refuse to address it.

Gerald on February 19, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Movies today are dumned-down for a teenaged audience. Most adults with any education and means have home entertainment centers and don’t go to crowded theatres very often. Expect to continue seeing old plots endlessly recycled and supported by lots of jerky camera motion, loud explosions, and characterless characters spewing four letter words and dull platitudes.

The Terrorist's Advocate on February 19, 2010 at 4:37 pm

You wrote concerning Blood Done Sign My Name: “This movie, starring Rick Schroeder is yet another reminder of America’s past in racism that doesn’t necessarily need to be told yet again.” This perfectly sums up my POV. Jew-hating Benjamin Chavis Muhammad’s apparent talent as explicitly stated in the movie lay in artfully and strategically “stoking” up anger against whites; I wonder how much enthusiasm there would be if a white, Jewish, Asian or Tea Party leader, for example, were shown “stoking” up anger against some possibly more privileged minority group, for whatever reason, justified or not. Like Ang Lee’s last film Woodstock, the film nostalgically distorts and prettifies the enormously damaging attitudes–in this case the ones based on hate and identity politics–that arose in the 60s and 70s. Increasing numbers of these types of movies may be self-reinforcing for liberal baby boomers, but in my opinion they poison the public well.

As for Shutter Island, I was slow to warm up to the movie (I despise DiCaprio and am not an ardent fan of Scorsese), but enjoyed it increasingly as the film advanced. It really is a film which, for a change, does not intend a social message; it’s a movie about character, atmosphere (which is effectively scary), and (like Mystic River which Lehane also wrote), cleverly sophisticated psychology. Like you, I was annoyed when the film began to detour slightly into a subplot where the evil American government appeared to be conducting “experiments” on mental patients, but by the end of the movie, I was convinced that there was nothing politically correct here intended; how refreshing that was!! Incidentally, unlike you, I did NOT guess the end even though I had forewarning there would be a surprise.

Burke on February 19, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Benjamin Chavis has been cozy with enemies of our country for a long, long time. In the early 70s he was a very visible part of the National Allinace Against Racist and Political Repression. This organization held a conference in Chicago in 1973 where the key spokesperson (sic) was Angela Davis. The whole thing was to build a Communist front group and stir up hostility against the United States, looking for a rabble-rousing cause once the Vietnam War was winding down.

You are right. Affirmative Action is indeed racism, and has become institutionalized. I am really sick of hearing distorted stories about how bad we were to the Indians, how imperialist we were, blah, blah blah. Nothing about the positive things our country has done to move world civilization forward. More pages about Joe McCarthy (distorted of course) than about James Madison.

Little Al on February 19, 2010 at 9:18 pm

After watching that trailer I think I figured everything out already. Looks like another Sixth Sense. When that lady disappears in Leo’s arm it practically gives the ending away. Trailers all suck these days.

Malik on February 19, 2010 at 11:41 pm

I have to ask…if someone said the story of the Holocaust didn’t need to be continually told (Boy in Striped Pajamas,Defiance, etc.), you’d say they were anti-semitic, wouldn’t you?

octomom on February 20, 2010 at 1:05 am

Gerald well said. It’s like all the massacres of the Indians that happened, and the guilt that still resides in the American consciousness over it. It’s all true and it remains largely buried in the American psyche, there is even disgusting denial over it (including by commentators here at DS).

What this film, “Blood done..” should have done, is continued the story with Chavis Muhammed and showed his turn to hate and fanaticism, if only in some kind of acknowledgment in the end. But this film is obviously one-track and to do that would have been unthinkable. Racism is racism whether it comes from blacks or whites or whoever, and not acknowledging present-day anti-whte racism in the form of affirmative action, black on white violence only serves to feed and justify reactionary sentiment. BOTH KINDS of racism need to be recognised, to shy away from either of them is to deny the reality and the truth.

Larry70 on February 20, 2010 at 4:18 am

“I fail to see how it serves America’s moving forward by constantly focusing on racism past…”

Everyone understands that unless blacks and other minorities continue to play the race card, and continue blame whites for their current inability to adapt, they will have to take responsibility for their own failures (or successes as the case may be). But inasmuch as reality is too painful for them to face openly, both they and their white liberal enablers must maintain the programme of fostering white guilt. This type of Gnosticism–i.e., the very denial of reality, is at the core of liberalism.

So, to answer your rhetorical question (which you of course already know the answer), it does not serve the “interests” of America, but, then again, who believes the best interests of a traditional America has ever been their goal?

Michael on February 20, 2010 at 7:16 am

And to take Gerald’s comments one sep further, not only movies about black racists attacking whites, but about how the elite in this country panders to these black racists.

Little Al on February 20, 2010 at 8:12 am

I’m glad to see your post on “Blood Done Sign My Name” And can’t wait to read your interview with Rick Schroeder. You should know the truth about the Author Tim Tyson and Jeb Stuart. It’s long and very detailed but well worth the public knowing the truth.

http://timothybtyson.com/

Alexis on February 20, 2010 at 9:10 am

Larry70, you wrote: “What this film, “Blood done..” should have done, is continued the story with Chavis Muhammed and showed his turn to hate and fanaticism, if only in some kind of acknowledgment in the end.”

Well said. Let’s face it, though, liberals for the most part are two-dimensional creatures and shades of gray disturb them.

Burke on February 20, 2010 at 9:45 am

“Movies today are dumned-down-The Terrorist’s Advocate”
Yay! I’ve found my typo of the year, and it’s only February!

Speaking of “Blood Done Sign My Name”, I just watched another Bio-pic which trimmed away unsavory elements of the subject’s life to show her in the best light: “Coco Before Chanel”.

Douglas Q on February 20, 2010 at 10:12 am

“b” is right next to “n”

Somehow, I don’t feel the least bit guilty about slavery or the massacre of the native Americans. I was born a century after slavery was made illegal and I had about as much to do with Indian massacres as I had to do with the assassination of William McKinley.

The Terrorist's Advocate on February 21, 2010 at 9:32 am

Since I’ve started thinking more like M. Night Shamalan, I’ve had a lot more luck in figuring out these twist ending movies. I pretty much got this one.

verbatim on February 21, 2010 at 12:41 pm

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT: The twist in “Shutter Island” IS NOT like “The Sixth Sense”. More along the lines of “A Beautiful Mind”, which may be saying too much.

Monty610 on February 22, 2010 at 12:33 pm

ok the guy is a racist evil but why did you ignore a question posted in comments
why is there a double standAND between jews and blacks why are we allowed to remember the holocast and tell stories about our past but blacks should forget their history and just get pass slavery you dont make sense

please surport my campagin to inteview debbie schussel i wrotte to her months ago no response if i sell the inteveiw 100 per cent of money will go to holocast education please lobby on my behal f

thanks

BEC on February 26, 2010 at 3:12 pm

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