DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Baadasssss!

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Elliott, Aug 30, 2004.

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  1. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    Baadasssss!


    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]/[​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]




    Studio: Columbia/Sony Classics
    Year: 2003
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 108 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
    Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
    Subtitles: English, Spanish. Portuguese
    Retail Price: $24.95





    Rated X By an All White Jury

    That there was just one of many ad lines for the 1971 cult classic Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, a film director by Melvin Van Peebles who wanted to break into the mainstream and the only way he could was by breaking all the rules and in return, creating the blaxploitation genre, which would give us other cult faves such as Foxy Brown, Shaft and Blacula. Thirty-two years later, Melvin’s son, Mario Van Peebles decide to pay homage to his old man and the groundbreaking film that started it all.

    Coming off a moderate hit in Watermelon Man, director Melvin Van Peebles (Mario Van Peebles) wants to move onto his next film but the studios are wanting more comedies about funny black men. Remembering how he was a child and watching fake images of black people, Melvin comes up with the idea of having a black leading male be the hero who takes on some racist cops and gets away in the end. The studios and his agent laugh this right out the door because white audiences don’t want to see a black man doing anything except being funny. But Melvin plans for this movie to aim for the black audience members so he sets out to produce the film independently and breaking all the rules as he goes.

    When I first heard Mario Van Peebles was going to be playing his father in a film about the making of a film his father made, my first thoughts were an actor down on his luck who was going to try and pay homage to his father and make his father out to be some sort of icon. I expected a film that showed how great Melvin Van Peebles was at black power and we’d see a film showing what a wonderful man he was. Some of that is true in Baadasssss! but make no mistake—this is far from being a picture just to show how great someone is.

    Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song was a revolutionary film for its day and I can’t help but feel the same way about Baadasssss!. I believe you should wait at least ten years before calling a film a classic so I won’t do that here but I will say Mario Van Peebles has created a masterpiece that works wonders throughout its running time. I’ve seen many films that deal with the making of movies and they usually show the high points and a few low points. Tim Burton’s Ed Wood is the perfect example of this but Mario’s film takes a different look at things. For once, we get an accurate account of a film being made by someone who was actually there.

    The basic concept of the film works out like a documentary because Van Peebles takes us from the pre-production all the way up to the premiere and in between we’re taking for one hell of an exciting ride. We’ve seen this type of stuff in countless films but here we are seeing it for the first time because we actually get to see the director not only dealing with losing his film but also losing his family, friends and possibly his life. Low budget filmmaking has always been a dream of many but I’m sure several of those dreamers might think twice after seeing this film because it doesn’t paint moviemaking as some beautiful, sexy job. Instead, we see the moviemaking as something that eats into your soul.

    However, the film’s greatest aspect is the relationship between the father Melvin and his son Mario. Once again, there have been many films that dealt with the relationship between father and son but this is a rather unique one because the relationship is rather ugly in many ways. Director Mario doesn’t sugar coat some very serious issues dealing with his father’s anger, cheating and other cruel things. If you’ve seen Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song then you remember a shocking scene where a young boy loses his virginity to a woman. This young 13-year-old actor was Mario Van Peebles and it’s interesting to see Mario, as the director of this film, look back at his father’s incredible stupidity of forcing his young son to get naked and force him into a sex scene at an young age.

    Those scenes between the father and son are very touching, honest and interesting to view because we know they’re real and it’s all the more interesting seeing the director of this film work out problems on camera that he had with his father. Another interesting thing the film tackles is why Melvin wanted to create an independent film when he had offers from major studios. Black people in American movies were always used as comic relief, usually appearing on screen bug eyed and telling silly one-liners followed up by “yesss sir”. The film has some wonderful flashback scenes where we see these stereotypes being played out in a theater with the white children laughing at them and the black children hiding their head in shame because they know what they’re seeing on screen isn’t how black people really act.

    Mario Van Peebles, the actor, turns in the greatest performance of his career and easily one of the greatest performances I’ve seen in quite some time. I’m sure he knows his father inside and out but I’m one who believes it’s not easy playing someone you know or playing yourself. Van Peebles does a brilliant job at showing off various emotions and the scenes where he has to rally his crew is full of such monumental force that you can help but get pumped up. The best scene in the movie involves the father falling on the ground only to have his young son come to his help. The way Van Peebles plays this scene is quite unforgettable and should certainly earn him an Oscar nomination.

    Baadasssss! is a beautiful love story from a son to his father but thankfully Mario doesn’t sugar coat anything and instead delivers a film, which certainly looks and feels like the truth. In the film Melvin is shown as a hero for starting the blaxploitation genre but the film never hides the fact that he did a lot of bad things and certainly shows the bad things he did to his kids. This movie took a lot of guts to make and it took more guts by showing things how they really were. Every singe frame of this film is shot and told with loving detail and if the Academy doesn’t recognize this film then that should be the nail in the coffin on their credibility. Baadasssss! is a one-on-a-kind film that should be viewed by any fan of cinema.


    VIDEO---The movie is shown widescreen (1.78:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. For a recent, low-budget film Columbia has delivered a pretty nice transfer, although there are a few minor problems from time to time. The biggest problem is some moderate edge enhancement, which really isn’t too noticeable unless you’re actually looking for it. Those watching this on a small television probably won’t notice this and if you do see the EE it never becomes distracting. The rest of the transfer is strong and full of wonderful detail. The film has all sorts of lavish, bright colors showing off the 1970’s and this look incredibly well, especially the reds and the light blues. The black level is also very strong without any noticeable speckles or scratches. Contrast also appears to be right on the money as well.

    AUDIO---The only track offered is a Dolby Digital 5.1 and it suits the film just fine. This is mainly a dialogue driven film so don’t expect a track to fill up your entire room and shake things off the walls. The dialogue is crystal clear and up front the entire time making it sound very natural and bold. The Surrounds also get some nice usage during the production of the film where we can hear people in the background commenting on various things. The soundtrack also packs a nice little punch and the songs sound incredibly well. The music never interferes with the dialogue as they are perfectly mixed. The only slight problem I noticed was at the twelve-minute mark when there appears to be some static/hiss going on but this only lasts around seven seconds.

    EXTRAS---Up first is The Birth of Black Cinema: The Making of Baadasssss!, which runs just over twenty-one minutes. The first five minutes discusses the history of black cinema and how the times were changing when Melvin decided to make his movie. The featurette then goes into details about the making of this film and features interviews with Bill Cosby, John Singleton, Ossie Davis, Michael Mann and Mario Van Peebles. This is a highly entertaining look at the making of this film and we get some candid talk with Mario on why he wanted to make this film and what his father told him about doing it. Up next is a ten-minute featurette with interviews from the film’s premiere. Once again we get interviews with the cast, director, Melvin Van Peebles and Michael Mann. Most of this stuff is just talk about how well the critics are liking the film but it’s rather nice seeing Mario and Melvin together. Up next is a poster gallery, which features over twenty posters that were made up for the film. Next up is the 31-minute American Cinematheque Q&A with Melvin Van Peebles, which is a very nice addition to the disc. This here was recorded at the Egyptian Theater after a screening of this film and features Van Peebles being interviewed about this film as well as his career. The director tells a lot of wonderful stories and comes off very charming even with his baadasssss attitude. Finally we get an audio commentary with Mario and Melvin Van Peebles that’s worth the price of the disc. The two work very well together and the track never gets dull. The track starts off with Mario telling us that his father made him pay for the scenes from Sweetback’s that were used in this movie. The most interesting aspect once again deals with the scene where Melvin forced his son into a sex scene.

    We also get previews/trailers for: Baadasssss!, Carandiru, She Hate Me, Warriors of Heaven and Earth, Seinfeld, You Got Served, Breakin’ All the Rules and White Chicks.

    OVERALL---This is an incredible little film that manages to be very loving yet honest at the same time, which is rather hard to do. Fans of the original film will certainly love seeing how it was made but even those who haven’t seen it should love this due to the father and son relationship. The movie works on all levels and any fan of cinema should check it out. Columbia offers a very nice disc, video and audio wise but the extras are the main highlight.


    Release Date: September 14th, 2004
     
  2. LaMarcus

    LaMarcus Screenwriter

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    Wow, I didn't this came to theaters already and left. I planned on seeing this film. I wonder if it was a limited release.

    I will pick this up on dvd.
     
  3. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    It was a very limited release and never attracted much of an audience in theaters, which is a shame because it's one of the very best films I've seen in a long time. Michael Elliott's review captures a lot of what I found captivating about this film. I also loved the mock-documentary inserts, in which the actors playing some of the characters pretend to be interviewed about the making of Sweetback -- which are then replaced at the end of the film by the real people actually being interviewed (including Bill Cosby, whose loan saved the film). The final shot is of Melvin himself, calming puffing a cigar and looking out at the audience as if to say, "So?"

    It's a shame Columbia didn't include the Sundance Channel Anatomy of a Scene, which breaks down the technical challenges of shooting the sequence where Melvin locks himself in a room and writes the script for Sweetback. It's a great sequence, and it was fascinating to watch how Mario VP put it together.

    M.
     
  4. Wade M.

    Wade M. Extra

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    I believe that alternate titles to the movie were "How to get the Man's foot outta your ass" and "How to get the Man's foot outta your BAADASSSSS!"

    Three A's, five S's. Why'd Melvin decide to name it like that? [​IMG]
     
  5. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Watch it again this weekend and was impressed by how well it holds up to repeated viewings. Roger Ebert was right to call it one of the best films about movie-making, and it's also one of the most unusual. How many other films show a director beating up his editor in the editing room? [​IMG]

    One thing that probably doesn't get mentioned enough, and that's the comedy. I love the short scene where the Teamsters come to check out the initial dailies. (Melvin VP kept costs down by using non-union labor, and he threw the unions off the track by claiming the film was porno -- something the unions considered beneath them.) And the scenes with Melvin's secretary, who turns every entrance into an audition, make me laugh every time.

    M.
     

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