Film Clips

5 Dec

‘The Inspection’

Elegance Bratton’s autobiographical account is about Ellis, a gay Black man (Jeremy Pope) joining the Marines because his mother (Gabrielle Union) kicks him out and, as a homeless Black man, he decides his time on the street is something of a death sentence. Pope’s Ellis tells us he’s going to make his life mean something, but this is during the don’t-ask, don’t-tell era, when a whiff of “gay” would mean being hazed in brutal ways you’ve seen in other boot camp dramas such as “Full Metal Jacket” (1987) and “A few Good Men” (1992). “The Inspection” is not on par with those films in terms of production and scope, but it is deeply personal and moving. Pope does so much behind the eyes to convey the pain of enduring cruelty and repressing his identity during a hateful time, and Bokeem Woodbine sparks fire as an unrelenting drill sergeant, propelling the film the way R. Lee Ermey and Louis Gossett Jr. did in “Metal Jacket” and “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982) respectively.

‘The Fabelmans’

Steven Spielberg’s nostalgic and self-indulgent semi-autobiographical tale – a theme this week – frames a young filmmaker coming of age during the end of the Great Age of Hollywood in an America rife with antisemitism. We begin with a young Sammy Fabelman (Mateo Zoryan, replaced as the character ages by Gabriel LaBelle, of the “American Gigolo” television series) reluctantly taken to his first film by doting parents (Paul Dano and Michelle Williams). The film, “The Greatest Show on Earth” (1952), and the experience spark an awakening as Sammy becomes obsessed with the film and recreating the train crash scene with miniatures, concocting something of a home movie studio. Then, because dad lands a dream job with IBM in California, the Fabelman clan relocates to the cauldron of cinematic wonders; Sammy, surrounded by blond Adonises, is bullied regularly for being Jewish, but instead of folding Sammy takes up a camera. The results, often shared with the community, is more a uniting salve than a harsh light on inequities and othering. It’s an odyssey of self-definition and embracing one’s inner passion that moves poetically in chapterlike strokes and gives insight into one of the most creative cinematic minds of our generation, a jagged, bittersweet sojourn that made Spielberg the visual fable spinner he is. The solid ensemble includes a gruff Judd Hirsch and Seth Rogen as extended Fabelman kin and a quirky, deft cameo choice as the aged John Ford (not to be named, as it’s a ticklish surprise that should not be ruined, but I will say the person is named elsewhere in this column). It may be the most inspired casting of the year.

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