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And the award for most forgettably titled film of 2013 goes to Things Never Said, the (indifference-) inspiring story of long-suffering streetwise poetess Kalindra (Shanola Hampton), a female exemplar of the elusive but far-from-endangered species Africanus cinematicus, or Hollywood black person, a versatile, unfairly pigeonholed, and defiantly ascendant figure who makes a sassy point of demolishing racist stereotypes by quoting Shakespeare, sipping wine, and eating salads, but who – make no mistake – still got it goin’ on.

Thrill as Kalindra, even after the pain of an unsatisfying marriage and a miscarriage, perseveres and self-actualizes, composing her verbal artworks and treating ethnomasochistically enthused poetry slam audiences to such profundities of expression as, “If you think my voice carries the hate of my ancestors, you’re wrong; it doesn’t carry hate, but the frustrations of the disappointed”; “The hate you thought you heard coming from us was nothing but the echoes of your own white mind”; and, even more gasp-inducingly poignant: “Who the fuck gives a fuck? Does someone give a fuck about me, my pain, my shit? I’m sicka bein’ a bitch for you, motherfucker.”

Shanola Hampton shines – no politically incorrect pun or other poetic device intended – in the moody role of Kalindra, particularly during roller coaster recitations of her poetry. The best scene in the film, however, belongs to an unknown actor, uncredited at IMDb, who brings a nasty naturalism to the minor role of Lem, a character written as an antagonist, but who manages with swaggeringly sleazy charm to swipe this reviewer’s affection. Lem is an old friend of Kalindra’s working schlub of a husband, Ronnie (Elimu Nelson), and represents the retrograde black ghetto culture Kalindra seeks to escape through art. Lem, who appears to view her poetry as some kind of ersatz style of rap, aims to humiliate the protagonist by worrying aloud that Kalindra wants to make Ronnie into a “new millennium ol’ sof’ ass nigga. What, you gonna buy him some skinny jeans next?”

Convincing moments of this variety are unfortunately few, more often yielding to Lifetime Network level feminist wallowing in degenerated and self-absorbed womanliness.

2.5 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Things Never Said is:

8. Pro-miscegenation. Extras include an interracial couple in a café. There is, however, a palpable tension and racial resentment on Kalindra’s part when she catches lover Curtis (Omari Hardwick) out on a date with a yellow cutie.

7. Pro-wigger, multiculturalist, and pro-immigration. A white wannabe ‘hood bard self-loathingly apes ghetto inflections at one of the slams, which bring together people of different backgrounds, including a “New Yorican”. A women’s support group is peopled by sisters of various hues.

6. Anti-white. Curtis recommends the “dead white motherfuckers that aren’t very interesting but they teach us how to be better poets.” Kalindra holds whites collectively guilty as a race for Africans’ lack of achievement when she gripes, “My ancestors never had a voice. They were too busy listening to you,” she explains, righteously bitch-slapping the audience of liberal hipsters that has come to hear her.

5. Anti-Christian. “Maybe the Bible’s fuckin’ wrong,” Kalindra sasses her mother. Better to go in for new age spirituality and “listen to your soul”. One of her vulgar poems also contains the lines, “Not some negro spiritual shuffle; this is what I truly give a fuck about kind of dance, like I’m dancin’ on a cloud, a cloud of groove and pussy wet and slow jams . . . Can you hear it? Poo-poo-shh, poo-poo-poo-shh . . .”

4. Pro-slut. “Until I can find a decent motherfucker who will love me and also my kid, then [the less than ideal] Steve’s all I got,” Kalindra’s friend Daphne (Tamala Jones) explains. “You know I love that dick, girl, especially when it’s good,” she adds. Kalindra launches into an affair with fellow poet Curtis after he ignorantly compares her to non-black African queens Nefertiti and Cleopatra, “two women whose names are our history”, and finishes with the romantic flourish, “Tell me sumpin’: can I fuck wit you?”

3. Misandrist. Men are “children that never wean.” Simple, blue collar Ronnie stands in for the typical man when he goes ape and beats up Kalindra. More attractive, clearly, is the sensitive lover Curtis, a preposterous figure who could only have been contrived by the feminist imagination: a tough, muscular, and tattooed but reformed and emotionally brittle litterateur with a sensitive heart of pure black gold.

2. Anti-marriage/anti-family. Marriage is equated with slavery. Kalindra’s husband Ronnie, who has a history of beating her, also has the male chauvinist gumption to wish that she could cook! Who can blame her for wanting to have an affair? Her miscarriage, it would seem, was serendipitous, saving her from having this monster’s child. Who needs a “shithead husband” anyway? Kalindra’s mother was also a victim of spousal abuse.

1. Feminist. “Sometimes we focus too much on how we’ll be seen and judged.” Things Never Said instead celebrates the strong woman living only for herself. “Do I feel guilty about how I live my life? Fuck yeah. But not the guilt you think. You low piece a shit.”

Naturally, everyone prefers a pleasurable moviegoing experience to a sharply unpleasant one; and yet, as adventurous, seasoned, and discriminating cinephiles already know, there is something instructive and salutary in an occasional trip to cinema’s Dark Side and a philosophically minded sojourn in the Movie House of Pain.  This is the tenebrous, nightmarish place (think Hellraiser and picture hooks and chains slowly swaying and clinking in unfathomable darkness) where nothing worthwhile is ever projected, where filth alone adorns the screen, and where Boredom and Loathing wait like lewdly lip-licking Cenobites to bind and eviscerate the viewer.  These are the experiences, after all, which give good and great movies their significance, just as, without the darkness, light itself would be impossible.

A case in point is Betty and Coretta, a Canadian-made Lifetime Network movie about Betty Shabazz (Mary J. Blige) and Coretta Scott King (Angela Bassett), the respective widows of martyred rabble rousers Malcolm X and Martin King.  Superfluous beyond belief, this most recent hosanna out of the Martin King Cult is exactly the film one would expect it to be: a stoic, vapid, stylistically sterile, and self-congratulatory cardboard reenactment of highlights from the lives of two not particularly fascinating women as they bravely continue to live their lives whole decades after the touted events that made them even tangentially relevant to anyone other than themselves – much of it punctuated, of course, by a soundtrack of the obligatory soulful moaning.

Considering the inconsequential nature of the women’s stories following their husbands’ deaths, Betty and Coretta understandably suffers from a lack of interesting event or forward narrative momentum.  Follow Coretta Scott King as she boldly faces reporters who have the nerve to question her about the FBI recordings.  Follow Betty Shabazz as she bravely raises a daughter troubled by nightmares after her father’s murder. Follow Coretta Scott King as she graciously gives multiple inspiring speeches and lobbies to get a holiday named after her husband.  Follow Betty Shabazz as she boldly hosts her own radio talk show.  Follow Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz as they admirably persevere, eat lunch, exchange brave mothering insights, move on up, and boldly shop for shoes together.  Betty’s public accusation that Louis Farrakhan (Alex C. Askew) had a hand in Malcolm X’s murder is as confrontational as the movie ever gets, and even this subplot fails to engage.

Worse, screenwriters Ron Hutchinson and Shem[p?] Bitterman’s script is rock-hard stale bread all the way, with Coretta Scott King sounding every time she opens her mouth as if she suspects the pious stenographers of black historical destiny may be hiding behind a curtain and recording her every word, calling her husband a “vessel for greatness” and arguing that “we need to consecrate his legacy.”  Angela Bassett’s wooden performance perfectly mirrors the empty verbiage she recites, and Malik Yoba is just as boring as Great Doctor Junior Himself.  Mary J. Blige fares better in her role, coming across much more naturally, but the dialogue does the actress no favors.  Lindsay Owen Pierre is unworthy of note as Malcolm X, and Ruby Dee, who narrates the film as a pseudo-documentary interviewee, gives evidence of incipient senility as she delivers her lines in halting, awkward syllables and sometimes even appears to read from cue cards as her eyes dart unsettlingly from side to side.

A star and a half.  Ideological Content Analysis, after being stretchered out of the Movie House of Pain like a wounded and bloodied trooper, indicates that Betty and Coretta is:

8. Pro-bastard.  Betty’s daughter keeps it real and skips the marriage bit.

7. Anti-gun.  Betty’s daughter has nightmares about men with guns.

6. Anti-miscegenation.  Betty’s daughter’s white live-in guyfriend, as if wiping his nose before offering to shake hands with Betty is not bad news enough already, also turns out to be a dastardly spy for the FBI.

5. Selectively anti-state.  The FBI is an antagonist, as are the congressmen who oppose the creation of the national King holiday.  (All the FBI probably needs, though, is a quota system, for it to become a tool for progress.)

4. Egalitarian.  Coretta campaigns for “economic justice” and identifies poverty as one of the evils plaguing America.

3. Statist/pro-NWO.  “Can you believe it?” Betty says, exasperated.  “Another round of budget cuts.  When are taxpayers gonna learn?  Pay a little now or a whole lot later.”  The film opens with witness to history Ruby Dee gushing at the momentous dedication of a King statue by President B.O.  Coretta longs for “a new world [order], a just world, a world dedicated to fayuhness and equality for awl.”  The UN is referenced as a weapon for forcing social change in America.

2. Feminist/black uber alles.  “You don’t need a man to survive,” Betty tells a student.  “You just need some trainin’ so you can get a good job.”  Addressing herself to black women, Coretta defiantly intones, “Weeee awwww a powuhful fawss.”

1. Anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn).  Imagine that.  And yet, in an unintentional irony, as soon as Betty has enough money, she gets “a nice home, away from the city [and her fellow blacks, presumably], where Betty could give her children the sheltered life she had dreamed of.”  Still, “Every time a neighbor see us, they think we gone blow somethin’ up.”  Bigots!

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