By George Rose
November 26, 2009
The Carter (2009)
Those of you who are not as obsessed with New Moon as I am must be really tired of all the Twilight talk. We all know the feeling, when a product or person is so overhyped that it can never live up to expectations and ultimately ends up feeling like a major nuisance (for some, this means New Moon; for me, this means James Cameron). This concept also works in the music industry. No matter how great I think Lady GaGa is, I want to rip my hair out when I hear the same song of hers playing on two different radio stations. This happens a lot, since she has several singles floating around the airwaves. But this movie recommendation is targeting one artist in particular, and that's Lil Wayne. Okay, fine, he's one of the greatest rappers of all time, but his fame makes me resent him. His music is moderately entertaining, at best, to a gay white boy like me, but I'm not given the chance to fully appreciate or desire his music when he has a new single out every two weeks and his music is cluttering the radio stations. Unfortunately, my good friend is obsessed with him. Lil Wayne is all he plays on his computer and he forces me to listen to it during every car ride. Really, though, it's not fair, because I couldn't pay him to go see New Moon with me.
In my one last effort to find a reason to appreciate Lil Wayne, I let my friend convince me to watch his documentary, The Carter. Since Lil Wayne is a big fan of giving his products away for free, my friend had no problem downloading the movie. Yes, I know, I should have paid like a good viewer. But if my friend won't let me pay for him to see New Moon so I won't have to see it alone, I'll be damned if I spend even $1 on Lil Wayne. Much to my surprise, the movie was quite good, which explains its presence at the Sundance Film Festival. There really isn't much of a plot, it's just Lil Wayne abusing mind-altering substances and showing the world how he freestyles his music. And since it's much easier to understand what he's saying when he's not speed-rapping and talks at a slower pace (by slower pace, I mean stoned out of his mind and drinking soda full of cough syrup). It really is interesting to see how this man shuts down his brain, connects to the music matrix via drugs, and projects whatever comes to his mind through the mic. I have a newfound appreciation for the man himself, but I remain firm in my position that his music is overplayed and only diehard fans who listen to it on repeat can understand the words enough to relate. As far as I'm concerned, The Carter is the best thing Wayne's name is attached to (though I do like Jay Sean's Down, which Wayne is featured on).
On a side note, the movie begins with a message to the viewers. It claims that the documentary started with Wayne's blessing, but after filming was completed he withdrew his support. It might be because of how he is presented, as a raging pot head and syrup addict. Or maybe it's because The Carter isn't something the radio can overplay and make you hate. Either way, with or without his support, The Carter is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at an eccentric true life we'll never get to live for ourselves.
Not all life stories need to be true to be moving. Anyone who has heard Oprah or Tyler Perry talk about their new film, Precious, knows that. Heck, anyone who has read a review of the movie knows that. Precious has been getting a ton of pre-Oscar buzz, for its stars and the overall film. This past weekend, I didn't just see New Moon. A friend of mine wanted to take me to the movies, and because The Blind Side wasn't playing at the time we needed (which upset me, because I really, really love Sandy B) and he hadn't yet seen the first Twilight, we decided to see Precious. Since there are now ten openings available for Best Picture nominations, I knew I should probably start watching the eventual nominees now. I guess Hollywood's marketing ploy to attract more people to more movies just worked. I'm such a sucker for marketing.
As you probably know at this point, Precious is about a 16-year-old girl nicknamed Precious, who is uneducated and pregnant with her second child... conceived by her father! If you think that's bad, you have a small imagination. The movie recounts a year in the life of Precious and is unrestrained in showing the abuse by her mother (both verbal and physical) and the rape forced upon her. If it wasn't for the cut-scenes of Precious' lively and fame filled dreams, the movie would be utterly depressing. Seriously, aside from those flashes, the movie is one giant knife to the heart. Making the pain bearable are stellar performances from newcomer Gabourey Sidibe and Mo'Nique as her mother. Since Sidibe is so new, it's hard to tell how much of her acting is range and how much is her normal personality, though the difference between her beaten teenager and imaginary celebrity is enough to know she does have talent. Mo'Nique, on the other hand, is known for her stand-up, in-your-face comedy. I was blown away watching her throw a TV at her daughter and lie to the authorities about her welfare and parental standing. While I'm pretty sure Precious will be nominated for Best Picture, I have no doubts whatsoever that Mo'Nique will get a Best Supporting Actress nod, if not the win. Heck, if Jennifer Hudson can win an Oscar for doing what she already did on American Idol, then Mo'Nique should be getting a lifetime achievement award for her broad talent across many mediums.
When asked by my brother which movie I liked better, Precious or Slumdog Millionaire, I chose Slumdog. It didn't matter how depressing that movie got, because in the end the guy wins the game show and gets the girl. In Precious, there is no happy ending. Just when things start to turn around for her, after educating herself in an alternative school (which, because of her classmates, is the only location in the film with laughs) and breaking away from her household, one more massive bomb is dropped. Right before the credits. I can hear Oprah saying, "Thanks for coming everyone! Now go on about your day feeling like absolute crap, where the only way to feel better is to watch my show." While everything about Precious screams acclaim and moves you completely (though usually to sadness), I was left in a funk the rest of the day. You feel bad for Precious, you feel bad that you ever complain about your own life, and you feel bad she isn't real enough to help. At this point, the only thing that will make me feel better is if it DOES win some Oscars, but I have a feeling that's what Oprah and Perry had in mind when they made it. It wouldn't be the first time a movie won for pulling at some broken heart strings. Oh well, as long as James Cameron doesn't win another Best King of the World Oscar, I'll be happy.