“Us” (2019)

Pogo daily strip from Earth Day 1971. The famous quote “We have met the enemy and he is us,” is most applicable to the movie “Us.”

Jordan Peele’s Us taps into our deepest fears. Fear of losing our children. Fear of death. Fear of annihilation. Fear of other people. Fear that our addictions, vices, and demons will overtake us. And in this movie, all of that pretty much happens.

In 1986, a young Adelaide (Madison Curry) has a terrifying experience at a Santa Cruz beach, which haunts her for life. Fast forward to the present day. While vacationing at her family’s summer home, that singular terror comes back to haunt adult Adelaide
(Lupita Nyong’o) in a murderous way.

Doppelgängers of herself, her husband Gabe (Winston Duke), daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph), and son Jason (Evan Alex), show up in their driveway wearing red jumpsuits and gold scissors. What follows is two hours of terror. Not only is this family fighting for their lives against their shadowy selves, everyone else around them is getting killed by their own doppelgängers. Hmmm.

Rather than giving away the plot of this excellent film, or deconstructing the minutia of it like everyone else on the internet, I offer my interpretation and what I loved about Us.

Click to watch the trailer. And no, it doesn’t reveal too much. Go see the movie!!
Courtesy Universal Studios/YouTube

Interpretation

Fear of the “other,” other races, genders, religions, languages has led to violence for millennia. Fear of the other is what leads to black folks having the cops called on them while they take out their garbage, throw parties, walk a disabled client down the street, or leave an AirBnB (all real examples in the United States). Jordan Peele says, “Oh, no you don’t. While one finger is pointing at another person, four fingers are pointing at yourself.”

I have been saying for decades that self-analysis is the most painful process a human being can endure. Looking at your own shit, the mistakes you’ve made, how you’ve treated people, the havoc you have wreaked, is wicked difficult. Yet it is necessary for your salvation, however you define it. I define salvation as growing up and taking responsibility for your life and actions, freeing yourself from your past. In Us, the dark parts of ourselves rise up, literally, to destroy us. Self-destruction is what happens when the darkness inside is not healed.


Lupita Nyong’o in dual roles as Red and Adelaide Wilson in Us.
Universal Studios/Everett Collection

What I loved about Us

  • Lupita Nyong’o is a goddess and deserves all the award nominations coming her way. This is the meatiest role she’s had since Patsey in 12 Years a Slave, for which she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
  • Winston Duke, who I fell in love with in Black Panther, is perfect as her husband and plays the clueless dad to the tee.
  • Madison Curry (young Adelaide) gives an amazing performance.
  • A dark-skinned family is the lead in a major Hollywood movie. #first #blacklove
  • Turning a trope on its head, the black people don’t get killed off early in the movie. #itsaboutdamntime
  • Yes, Virginia. Black people do indeed have summer homes.
  • It’s not only terrifying. Us has moments of comedy.
  • I put my comfy recliner down to sit on the literal edge of my seat the ENTIRE time. I have never done that for any movie, ever.
  • I must see this movie again. Us had twists, turns, and subtleties that I missed. Like The Sixth Sense, I was like, “OH, SNAP!!” at the end. All of you are going to want to see it a second time.
  • Jordan Peele turned “I Got 5 On It” into a horror movie score. That is some genius shit.
Courtesy Real Hip Hop/YouTube
Click to watch the music video for “I Got 5 On It.”

Us gets an enthusiastic Ten out of Ten Mocha Angels. Super good.

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Up next: This is Us (NBC): The end of Randall and Beth? Wednesday, March 27th.

Oscars 2019: In a Night of Firsts, the Ghost of Miss Daisy Rides Again

Academy Award winner for Best Picture and Best Actress (1989) “Driving Miss Daisy
starring the late Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman.

First, I was 20 for 24 in my Oscar predictions. That’s 84% correct! Go me!

Second, the awards were a wonderful night for diversity. African-Americans, Asians, Latinos, and Caucasians from all parts of the world were represented. It’s hard to overstate the importance of last night. But…I’ll get to that later.

It was a night of firsts.

Spike Lee finally won an Oscar!!

An elated Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, and Brie Larson. He won for Best Adapted Screenplay for “Blackkklansman.” Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Ruth Carter won for Best Costume Design for “Black Panther.” YES!!!! Those were the most original costumes ever seen on film. Carter has been around a long time. She designed costumes for “Malcolm X,” “Do the Right Thing,” “Amistad,” “What’s Love Got to do With It,” the pilot episode of Seinfeld, and much more in her 30 year career.

Ruth E. Carter
Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images

Hannah Beachler, along with Jay Hart, won for Best Production Design for “Black Panther.” Her credits include Beyonce’s Lemonade, “Creed”, and 2017 Best Picture winner “Moonlight.”

 Jay Hart and Hannah Beachler, winners of Best Production Design for “Black Panther.”
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Both women are the first Black women to win in their categories. They are also only two of three Black women to win in a non-acting category. In 1984, Irene Cara won for Best Original Song “Flashdance….What a Feeling,” which she also co-wrote.

Irene Cara at the 1984 Oscars.
Courtesy of the Academy of
 Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) /YouTube

Peter Ramsey, the first Black director nominated for an animated feature, won for “Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse.” (YES!!!)

Courtesy ABC/YouTube

Becky Neiman-Cobb and Domee-Shi won for the Pixar animated short film “Bao.”


Becky Neiman-Cobb and Domee Shi, winners of Best Animated Short Film for Bao.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Rami Malek, a first generation Egyptian-American, won Best Actor for “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Rami Malek
Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock

Mahershala Ali won his second Best Supporting Actor award for “Green Book.” (I’ll get to that movie in a minute.)

Mahershala Ali
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

And Regina King, who I’ve followed since she was on 227, won Best Supporting Actress for “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

Regina King
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The host-less show was moving along. The energy in the room was electric. The audience was still in shock over Olivia Colman winning Best Actress out of nowhere. (What does Glenn Close have to do to win an Oscar??) Best Picture was anyone’s game. Could “Black Panther” actually win Best Picture??

And then Julia Roberts said, “The Oscar goes to….”Green Book.” The energy went flat. I prayed to the Gods that she had opened the wrong envelope a la Warren Beatty. No officials came from backstage to give Julia the correct envelope. That’s because the ghost of Miss Daisy snatched Best Picture out of the hands of more worthy contenders.

(I predicted this win. I wrote if “Roma” won Best Foreign Language film, “Green Book” would win Best Picture. “Roma” was not going to win in both categories. That is exactly what happened.)

The ghost of Miss Daisy asked Hoke drive her up to that microphone and said, “F@#! those self-sufficient Wakandans. “Black Panther” is a fantasy. Ya’ll need us to show you all how to behave. Best Picture goes to my grandbaby “Green Book!” Hoke, step on it before they catch us!”

Black people do not need to be shown by white people how to experience our blackness in this here United States. Now THAT’s a fantasy. And that is the ridiculousness “Green Book” presents.

Nor do we need to be the Magical Negro who show white people the way back to themselves. I’m talking to you “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Green Mile,” “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” “Field of Dreams,” and a hundred other movies. That antiquated attitude is, and felt like, a dinosaur after a beautiful awards ceremony of inclusiveness. 

Also, Donald Shirley deserved a movie about HIM. About HIS life. Not the guy who drove him around. To make a movie about THAT guy is a travesty.

And Mahershala Ali deserves better too. (And so does Morgan Freeman.) I’m thrilled he won Best Supporting Actor. He deserves more complex, meaty roles like the character of Wayne Hays in HBO’s True Detective, which he will indeed win an Emmy for later this year.

#OscarsSoWhite was not this ceremony. Thank God. But it was a two steps forward, one step back moment. Congratulations to all the winners…except one.

This is America.
Reuters

Up next: the documentary Backs Against the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story