“Mississippi Burning” 1988 Dir. Alan Parker

With Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe, Frances McDormand, Brad Dourif, R. Lee Ermey, Stephen Tobolowsky, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Kevin Dunn and Michael Rooker

“You know, [baseball] it’s the only time when a black man can wave a stick at a white man and not start a riot”

    “Mississippi Burning” is an agenda movie. Plain and simple. The film is made by Alan Parker, who also directed the liberal guilt ridden film, “The Life of David Gale” which made an extremely strong case against the death penalty. Here, Parker unapologetically shines a light on America’s worst trait – racism.

    Taking place in Mississippi in the 1960’s, the most fertile landscape for birth of America’s decline as a Great Society, Parker fictionalizes the true story of three civil rights activists, two white and one black, who are killed by the KKK. Two FBI men are sent in, Willem Dafoe as the by the book bleeding heart liberal, and the realist played by Gene Hackman.

    The two men turn the small southern town upside-down, trying to find the three “missing” men. They both use different tactics. Dafoe, being the “outsider” calls in a slew of FBI and naval reserves to comb the rural landscape for any clues to the men’s disappearance. All the while Hackman uses a much different and more successful tactic, brute intimidation.

    The band of Klansmen are made up of a plethora of great character actors, stemming from Brad Dourif, R. Lee Ermey, Stephen Tobolowsky, Pruitt Taylor Vince to the scariest of all of them, Michael Rooker. Each actor paints a cliché yet realistic portrait of the American bigot.

    Gene Hackman turns in a career highlight of a performance as a former Mississippi sheriff turned G-man who has a complete understanding of the racial issues that plague the American south. His performance is a more heroic turn of Popeye Doyle from “The French Connection”, the performance that earned him his first Oscar, and also set the typecast and tone for the rest of his career.

    “Mississippi Burning” is an agenda film, but that doesn’t take anything away from the powerful and moving story about the American Experience fused with the good cop/bad cop genre movie. Alan Parker is an incredibly talented filmmaker who is able to construct multiple bodies of work, consisting of the “liberal guilt” films, music films (“Pink Floyd’s The Wall”, “The Commitments”, “Evita” ) and the very dark portraits of humanity (“Angel Heart” and “Midnight Express”). “Mississippi Burning” is a film that still holds up true to this day.

“Mississippi Burning” is available to watch on Netflix Instant.

Rating: 8.5/10


Netflix Original Programming: “Lilyhammer”

With Steven Van Zandt, Trond Fausa Aurvaag, Marian Saastad Ottesen, Fridtjov Saheim

    Today Netflix has unveiled its first “original” programming titled “Lilyhammer”. The entire first season, all eight episodes, are available all at once. I recently watched the pilot, and I have to say, the show is rather odd, but also really enjoyable. Don’t let the poor cover art turn you off.

Stevie van Zandt, best known as Silvio on “The Sopranos” and as Bruce Springsteen’s lead guitarist on The E-Street Band, plays Frank “The Fixer” Tagliano who turns states evidence against a newly appointed mafia boss who tried to kill him. Tagliano would only turn states evidence under one condition: that he’s sent to Lilyhammer, Norway under witness protection. Why? Because Tagliano loved watching the 1994 Winter Olympics that was in Lilyhammer.

Sound strange? Well yeah, so is the show. The first fifteen minutes or so of the pilot is set in America, with incredibly low production value and Van Zandt is surrounded with almost horrid wooden acting. I was a little worried. But once he arrives in Norway the show picks up. Both with acting and with its production value, shot all in Norway.

    The show’s characters are fun. They’re generic, but fun. There are two brothers, one is a bus driver and other is working the system. Ahhh, the joys of living in a welfare state! The show also plants the seeds for Van Zandt’s love interest and his “enemy”. The show doesn’t seem to want to take things too seriously, which is alright, because the misadventures of a mobster in Norway were fun to watch.

Van Zandt doesn’t really stray too far away from his trademarked Silvio character, and he doesn’t really have too. He’s exactly what you’d expect him to be, and that’s fine. He’s a tough motherfucker who is now living in Norway, trying to adapt to his new electric car and Norwegian television. I couldn’t tell if this show was going to be a drama or a comedy, but from the looks of the pilot it seems to me it’s going to be later.

I have to admit I’m impressed with both the show, and Netflix’s decision to distribute this show. Netflix had announced, about a year ago, that they are going to distribute “House of Cards”, a Kevin Spacey/David Fincher political thriller set in the English Parliament, where Spacey stars as the House Whip who’s wielding his power to become the next Prime Minister. Now that sounds good. The production hasn’t gone underway yet, but the show should start shooting soon.

I enjoyed the pilot, and I like the idea of Netflix releasing the entire show at once, and not week by week, which would probably allow me to not really be interested in following it up. After I post this review, I’m going to go onward to the next episode and see where that takes me.

Rating 8/10