Monday, February 05, 2007

CSA. which Kevin Wilmot made. Not Spike Lee.

Confederate States of America
Spike Lee
KEVIN WILMOT, BY GOD! NOT SPIKE LEE! I WAS LIED TO! just read the goddamn thing anyway.

Or wait, don't read this. Just go out and buy the dvd NOW, is how good it is. They ought to show this in schools, is how good it is. Starting in fourth grade and every year thereafter.
Attendance should be mandatory. Grades should count on it.

This movie answers the question ' What if the South had won the Civil War?' and explores the subsequent journey of a Confederate America up to the present day, one which functions with all the original Confederate institutions and policies in place. In particular, slavery. It is presented as a made-for-television 'documentary', complete with lead-in graphics and cheesy music. The backstory: Produced by the 'BBS' (BBC) and banned in America at the time it was originally released, it is being re-broadcast at a later date on American television, with American commercials interspersing the acts, and updated American 'expert commentary' spliced in.

A lot of people my age in the U. S. probably remember a regrettable television comedy series called 'McHails Navy' that aired back in the late 'Sixties...'CSA' is harder to watch than McHails' syncophantic P.O.W. Fuji Kobiaji was.

Remember Hop Sing? The cook at the Ponderosa? This is WAY harder to watch than Hop Sing was, scuttling around the ranch blustering in Cantonese with his queue and a frying pan. (I'm not going to include any of the NA from F Troop because I thought they were awesome. They controlled the stereotype. Or they'd get bored and tell one of the other 'braves' in 'Indian lingo' to 'find out what this fuckin' blanco wants; I'm going to go check my investments' kind of a thing. Plus their 'Indian lingo' was Yiddish.)*

The craft quality of the piece is definitely 'film school project with moderate funding'. I wonder if that was something (WILMOT, not Lee) used consciously, in order to throw the irony into higher relief, or if it really was produced on the cheap with a bunch of interns. In any event it doesn't particularly detract from the experience, unless you were expecting something on the order of 'Mo Betta Blues' visual dexterity. Because this is by Kevin Wilmot, who didn't do Mo Betta Blues, not Spike Lee, who did. Which is why.
Um, yeah.

One one level CSA is played straight. The research is accurate. Racism is the issue under attack, but revisionism is the enemy being exposed here.
On another, it's made to entertain. ( WILMOT, not Spike) has no problem with admitting that some of this shit is funny. He's laughing too. It isn't 50 minutes of undiluted rage.
Fucking A, Spike, how many years has it been? You finally got it right!

Or, uh, no, Wilmot got it right. KEVIN WILMOT.

Now Lee has to sit at his feet and take notes because he still doesn't get it. Here's why.
In the past Spike has been content to send his audience home in a state of guilty despair. At 8$ the theatre Quite frankly if I wanted to pay for that kind of treatment I'd still be a practicing Catholic. Bitterness, guilt and contempt are valid emotions, but they work better as a goad, not as an end in themselves. (big edit here.)
Now, while CSA entertains, it isn't 50 minutes of har de har har, either. The same thing you're laughing at (so hard that tears are running down your face and you're spitting chunks of biscuit at the screen) is usually something that is eliciting outrage and shame.
It pisses you off, then it hands you a weapon.

That's what raises it above the crowd of 'new conscience' movies.
That's what makes it GREAT instead of merely clever or cool.
That's probably why I never heard about this when it was first released.

Did you?

* This is why so many Americans my age have a love affair with British television from the 'Sixties-'Seventies period. Those are only two examples of the type of shit we had to grow up with. Put it this way: Britain made stuff like The Prisoner, the single most excellent television show ever made ever in the whole world, and the whole universe and Mars and all the asteroids and Haleys' Comet, AND the whole universe AND infinity.
We had Lost In Space.

God bless public television. Public television snuck us the good stuff. Public television brought to our shores the blessings of Monty Python's Flying Circus, Doctor in the House, Masterpiece Theatre, The Six Wives of Henry VIII and all the rest. And while you may argue with my taste, you can't argue with the evidence. Compared to cathode offal like My Mother the Car, Father Knows Best, and The Patty Duke Show, Benny Hill slapping a little bald guy on the head is still nuclear science.


  1. I now have the Benny Hill theme going round in my head

    ****Beast being chased round the kitchen by Frobisher , Mr C . a nun , a saucy nurce and a bishop****

    Benny Hill is an accurate depiction of life in Britain , more of a documentary really

  2. Sounds like something I'd want to see.The movie, not the CSA outcome! was bastardised Yiddish that all those Apache and Cree and Inuit were speaking?To each other, yet!
    PS Join the campaign for a re-run of "The Prisoner."

  3. I seem to recall hearing about a book that operated on the same premise, but i never heard about the movie. was this movie based on a book?

  4. beast: i never doubted that for a moment. oo, oo, do the thing where you stand behind a tree with a watering can! I love that one!
    dinamow: is there such a thing? because if there is, i am there. send me a link!
    cb: I remember reading a science fiction collection written on that theme years ago. Otherwise, gotta say 'duh'.

  5. Sorry if I misled you...I might be the only campaigner! But try this site for further links.Hell's teeth! If they can foist rubbish re-runs on us surely we can ask politely(Yeah!)for good stuff.Especially if some bozo wants to do a remake NOT in Portmeirion...that setting was half the appeal, dammit!

  6. Great review FN, except...uh...Spike Lee didn't make this film.

  7. Benny Hill was the best show next to coronation street to wank to.

  8. I'm sorry - I won't hear a word against "Lost in Space". Dr. Zachery Smith was an early role model for the young Frobisher.

  9. It's very like the Prisoner where I live. I even own a pin-striped suit.

  10. dinahmow: I'm there!

    WARRIOR2: oh holy crap, THANK YOU! jeeziz keeist.*googles; cries*
    I'll say in my defense that I watched this at a friends house; they told me it was a Spike Lee film. I got so carried away with how good it was that it obviously never occurred to me to check.

    Warrior2 rocks!
    This little muk is grateful.
    *passes bong of peace*

    knudie: it was the ladybirds, wasn't it? that one with the glasses on...mmmmmmm.
    frobi: for what, freaky eyeball-having? cuz Smith had some freaky eyeballs going on. (beautiful voice, though.)
    billy: tell me you ride around in one of those tall bicycle deals with the striped canopy!

  11. What about Twin Peaks....that was American and fantastic

  12. Did you ever watch that ever so long movie that came on about 50 bajillion vhs tapes called "North and South" had this really goodlooking guy in it that looked like Patrick Swayze....yummmm!

    I think I watched that movie about 50 times one week. Had to get my fix. Dude was handsommmmmeee!

  13. I think Dr. Zachary Smith was at the forefront for inspiring most child molesters.

    Ahem.. Movie sounds interesting, even if Spike Lee didn't do it. In fact, that might make it better.

    And when i was a kid, PBS's BBC shows helped teach me about men liking to watch women on the toilet.
    Silly Brits.

  14. beast: Twin Peaks kicked ass! Gotta agree; American entertainment-type television at its best. also NYPD blue and....*gulp* Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Which was written by a brit. So that might not count.
    awaiting: that WAS Patrick Swayze! Kirste Alley was in there too sashayin around. didja see the Ken Burns PBS special a few years ago? That was astounding. the theme song was so haunting. 'asokan lament'.
    claire: hey, thanks to the BBC I saw my first televised full frontal nekkid man winger-dinger EVER. Yay! (On the Queen Elizabeth series.) Also Jeremy Irons' bare ass (Brideshead Revisited). Which was not so yay. But it was bare and thats what counts! Also Helen Mirren, if I'm not mistaken, with her tits out, buffing the silver. anyone know what I mean? it was some piratical looking thing, kinda tom jonesey.

  15. British TV used to be shite with the occasional gem...the Prisoner, The Avengers, Monty Python. Now it is shite with the occasional gem...Spaced, Green Wing, Prime Suspect. Plus ca change.

  16. Anonymous4:10 PM

    Ive not seen Confederate States of America - but amazingly I did have a bit part in The Prisoner!! I also appeared in 2 Monty Pythons...

  17. Thanks for the movie review/heads up. And easy on lost in Space "Danger Will Robinson" is still a tagline used to reel my kids back in. Dr. Smith rules!

  18. aw sheesh, no groveling necessary, but I will take that hit {sshwoooooshhp}*&^%thanks man*&^$%

    mutley--no.way. nowayyoudidn't! I'm averting my eyes oh lord...

  19. Oh yes Buffy , was brilliant especially the twisted story line where she wakes up in a mental institution and the psyciatrist explains away the last six seasons as a deranged girls coping mechanism , and they never resolve the story stuff......altho making Willow a lesbian was a HUGE mistake.....I was gutted

  20. realdoc: you can say that cuz your're SPOILED. american television had nothing worth watching up until All in the Family. Which we stole off you. Before that, fugeddaboudit.
    muttley: see, i only recall you from The Magic Christian. you were full of something there too.
    G: we use that too! ok fine; i'll give you Dr. Smith. but sheesh; penny? and that leper poodle monkey thing she was always hauling around? gak.
    w2: virtual bong hits and virtual grovelling; id say you made out like a bandit here today. do you have a blog? hows about letting us in on it?
    beast: yeah, that was lame. doesn't mean that the rest of the thing sucked, though. except for the buffybot. remember that? and spike trained it to..? yeah. spikey goodness.

  21. Ok, go make me rent North and South again.

    You know I will get my rocks off...dang you!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. Anonymous7:54 AM

    i've always wanted to watch north and south. thanks so much awaiting. now i have to watch it with you.

    oh, what i can't stand is when yankees make films or shows that portray southerners (of any color) as some forest gump hick who is dumber than a box of chocolates with a 2nd grade education. now THAT is what gets me going.

    but some yankees still treat southerners like that over the phone too.

  23. Mutley 说谎! 他没出现在二monty pythons 。他是在所有! 好因此他演奏了树!
    Mutley lies! He has not appeared in two monty pythons. He is in all! Good therefore he has played the tree!

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