Toronto Film Festival: Da’Vine Joy Randolph Impresses in ‘Dolemite is My Name’ as ‘The Report’ and ‘JoJo Rabbit’ Make Their Premiere
Sunday at the Toronto Film Festival 2019 brought a nice little mix of films for me. It started with Netflix and Eddie Murphy telling the story of Rudy Ray Moore transforming himself into Dolemite. Originally, my plan was to go to the Press & Industry screener for the animated film Abominable but switched up to Dolemite is My Name and I’m glad I did. After that, I checked out The Report, the film about Daniel J Jones, the staff member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that put together the torture report that outlined the utter failure of the CIA’s ‘Enhanced Interrogation Techniques’ program. Seeing the premiere of this film was probably my greatest win of the festival because it almost didn’t happen. When I selected the 10 movies to use my complementary press tickets for, I inexplicably missed getting a ticket for The Report (Instead I somehow got 2 tickets for Sound of Metal). So on Friday I had to rush over to the Hyatt and try to exchange my extra ticket and hope there was still a ticket left for The Report. Luckily there was exactly one ticket left thus securing my first victory of TIFF.
The most surprising thing about Dolemite is My Name is how much of an uplifting and positive story it is. The uninitiated may think a story about Rudy Ray Moore’s transformation into a loud mouth, raunchy, blaxploitation figure like Dolemite would be the farthest thing from a positive, pro-black message but they’d be wrong. Right under the surface of the ridiculousness and the comedy is the story of a motivated middle-aged black man who didn’t let hearing “No” stop him from achieving his dreams. Rudy Ray Moore transformed himself into Dolemite, created his own comedy album and sold enough out the back of his car to get a record deal and climb the charts. Then he took that and made Dolemite into a movie, with zero experience and turned it into a hit. All of that on his own (well, with the help of his friends). On every level Rudy Ray Moore should have failed but this film shows how determined this man was to see his dream come to fruition.
If for some reason you still had faith in the inner workings of the US government to be fair, balanced and provide justice, The Report should strip that last bit of rose coloring from the glasses you’re wearing. If, like a normal person, you already know that 'truth & justice’ aren’t always convenient enough for politicians and the government, then The Report will be further confirmation that everything is terrible and maybe we should start praying a bit harder that the next near-miss comet does a bit of course correction to put us all out of our misery. Scott Burns pulls no punches in showing that the lack of consequences for those that argued for, implemented and then defended the CIA’s EIT program wasn’t a partisan issue but instead fault lays on both sides. Yes, the mess that the program caused lays squarely at the feet of the Republicans, but several Democrats, including the Obama’s White House failed to put in an appropriate plan to punish those that so clearly violated the law. This film does a great job of showing that there was failure across the board and that the only non-partisan thing to work in Washington is letting crooks get away with crimes (maybe even get promoted for them).
As I said above, you had to come into Jojo Rabbit knowing what you were going to get. This is an anti-Nazi satire and that was clearly Taika Waititi’s main goal and focus. While I enjoyed this film, I can see this being a mixed bag for others. Waititi use of humor to show just how childish and idiotic the Nazi were may be misconstrued as him taking the anti-semitism of the Nazi and their crimes too lightly. Personally, I don’t see it that way at all. Waititi describes himself is a Polynesian Jew and so the target of his humor isn’t to belittle Jews but rather show how small minded and ridiculous Nazis were (or rather…are…since…yes…in 2019 Nazis apparently still exist and we need to remind folks that they’re stupid). Now, does that make Jojo Rabbit a good film? For that you’ll have to check out my full review when I post it.
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