Degrees of Separation
Today, I inintentionally watched movies with common casts or characters: Straight Outta Compton (starring O'Shea Jackson Jr playing his father Ice Cube), Three Kings (Starring Ice Cube and George Clooney) and Ocean's 11 (Staring George Clooney)
Straight Outta Compton (2015)
Three Kings (1999)
Ocean's 11 (2001)
Straight Outta Compton
Watching this movie I had memories of growing up. Not of growning up in a dangerous neighborhood afflicted with gang violence and police brutality, but of having Dr. Dre's first solo album when I was in middle school. It was the first thing I had heard like it. Before that my only exposure to hip hop was mostly Chris Cross, Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer, and Tone Loc. I listened to Dre's album as a constant in our 5-disc changer until it was stolen from our house.
Years later, I remember listening to the follow up album in high school, mostly on a discman on the bus to track meets. An album I remember much more of the songs, and the songs told all kinds of stories and referenced back to many characters from Dr. Dre's life. I would listen and not really get who was being talked about our what the back story was, and was able to follow the more graphic fictional story that tied the album together. I always thought of it as an ultra violent, ultra sexual audible movie. I feel like Straight Outta Compton brings context to me of the earlier days of the founders of NWA while telling a story that is partially being reinacted today with video evidence sparking outrage over police brutality.
One important note to this film is that the filmmaker on the blu-ray extras notes that the violence in this movie, and highlighted in their songs, is all tragic. Gang violence is not romantic, and police violence is the acts of police officers sullying the names of the vast, vast majority of good police in the US. He also glossed over Dr. Dre's violence against women history that is avoided in the movie, because he wanted to tell a story to uplift people who think they have low status to see there are creative outlets. Dr. Dre did make a statement saying in effect that it was a hugely embarassing part of his life and nothing less than a terrible mistake.
This is such a small movie in its scope, so very few characters and in a remote location, but I think it's a movie that should be looked back upon as incredibly important for depicting the wars in Iraq. There are many filming tricks from this movie that are commonly copied now, the lighting in the desert to show the power of the sun and the heat, the effect of a bullet going into a body, and scenes of soldiers on the base partying (I feel like a lot that I remembered from Jar Head was really from this movie).
The one thing that stuck with me from this movie this time was the biggest part of the movie when it came out, the heist aspect of the movie. All I could think about was how oddly realistic it was that millions of dollars went missing during war time chaos and that seems to be a good symbol for what happened in Iraq during the second war when pallets of money went missing on a consistent basis.
The director of this movie, Steven Soderbergh directed Traffic, the first movie that made me realize how much there was to notice while watching a film. I think this movie could have been taken seriously as one of the best movies ever directed if the actors weren't recognizable and if film snobs weren't allergic to comedy. It's a beautiful movie, entertaining the whole way through, laughs through out, and filled with great direction.
There are a few scenes that really stood out to me. The shot set up of the remote control monster truck racing the real sized monster truck tricks the viewer with perspective creating a gag for the viewer but also seems to make a comment on films like Citizen Kane that plays with foreground and background perspective. I also took notice to the scene where Matt Damon's character is introduced as a pick pocket in a scene with a choppy slow motion (like from Reservoir Dogs) and still frames to show the quickness he works with to pick pockets. Even in that slowness there is a reveal in frame of another main character observing him working, also noticing the slight of hand the audience has been keened in on.
This is a movie that's always fun to put in, it might not be the first thing that comes to mind unless reminded subconsciouly by the movie I watched right before that I want to see more George Clooney in a heist.