…and the quest to see everything

Scenes: John Singleton’s Shaft

Search ‘cluster fuck’ in the dictionary and you will find John Singleton’s ‘re-imagination’ of the 70’s classic Shaft. The movie tries to deliver an all-star cast into a violent pool of bullets, beatings and stabbings. Ryan G. Helms was just talking about this. This is especially true around the movie’s sixty-five minute mark with a scene portraying Shaft’s botched rescue of mysterious star witness Diane Palmieri (Toni Collette). She lives in a pier, for some reason. Anyway, I also love how she’s wearing a leather jacket at home, coincidentally well-prepared for any time like now when she has to escape. When she does, all she does is react to the violence around her, as anyone else in the same situation would.

The swift close up zoom on her is reminiscent of the 70’s camera work and aesthetic. We the audience also get the earlier decade’s vibe from the amentioned leather jackets and the music but it feels as if the movie just tacks on these motifs. Calling this movie Shaft sort of elevates this movie. Without the title it would look like a directionless action/crime movie that came a year too late.

“Yo get the BROAD in the fucking car in!” Ok, Busta Rhymes as Rasaan, a second generation Trinidadian or an American with Trini affectations. You’re such a worry wort.

Hey look! There’s also Peoples Hernandez played by Geoffrey Wright. In both the actor’s incarnations as the gangster and the nerd, he will always be the poor man’s Laurence Fishburne. But only Wright had the body and the audacity to pull off a white outfit like that, with histrionic wailing and self-stabbing, reacting to his brother’s accidental and instant death.


“It’s fucked,” Dan Hedaya weighs in with unintentional hilarity. The most exciting four minutes of those people’s lives, thirty seconds of which is Diane and Shaft crossing a street.

And the thing is Christian Bale isn’t even in this scene. He is in others where his character deals with Peoples and his drugs and a memorable one that stuck out when I was younger. The one in the beginning taking place in a lounge/restaurant, playing Walter Wade Jr., a pompous, rich yet crass character that a younger James Marsden would have played. He throws remarks across the room to where Trey Howard (Mekhi Phifer) is sitting, his racism seeming both out of the decade’s context yet timeless, like many tensions between groups of people in any fictional world. Blame the third world child of my past for that skewed perspective.

When Shaft enters the crime scene, he sees blood on Diane’s chin. She doesn’t talk because she seems like she’s also hiding things on her own.

8 responses

  1. Oh my this was a bad movie huh?

    All I remember about it is the bad guy ranting on about his top being made from Egyptian cotton (or was it silk)….that is ALL I remember!!

    November 16, 2011 at 5:24 am

    • It wasn’t too bad. I admire it for bombarding the senses but I still can’t take it seriously.

      Peoples or Walter said that? That almost makes me want to watch this movie again for the camp possibilities. Almost.

      November 17, 2011 at 1:42 am

  2. As an aside, I want Vanessa Williams back in movies….well, in a good movie, cinema has wasted her talents except…possibly Soul Food.

    November 19, 2011 at 10:45 am

    • The best role she’s ever had is probably in Ugly Betty, which is surprisingly complex. But if she’s gonna do movies again, I’d say she should work for John Waters or if Almodovar made a movie in English.

      Anyway, she was famous before Angela Bassett, right? How did she screw that up?

      November 19, 2011 at 1:27 pm

  3. I don’t know if she screwed it up definitively, but I know she went the theatre route. Had some some high profile replacement roles, got a Tony nod, and as you said was brilliant in Betty (consistently snubbed of an Emmy) and now here we are and I’m thinking damn…was it her children which screwed her up? I remember she lost out a major role on Broadway because of pregnancy.

    November 19, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    • Come to think of it she was singing Sondheim songs when she was a guest at The View. This is during the time when I actually was awake enough to watch the view. This is how lazy I am.

      The Broadway/missing out part also reminds me of the time when Cate Blanchett was supposed to be in Closer but couldn’t because of her pregnancy. She cried and moved on. Bette Davis would have aborted. How did we get here lol?

      November 19, 2011 at 11:13 pm

  4. Hahahaha. Oh, you dog. But, eh…I can make a good case for children of movie stars ruining their careers….or at the very least, not helping them. Bening missing out on Catwoman among others…and I always wonder, with all the “gender equality” why is always the women and men whose careers get derailed?

    November 21, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    • Meh, Annette Bening was too cool to be Catwoman anyway, but that image of her wearing the leather suits are now etched within my dreams.

      November 22, 2011 at 1:27 am

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