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Friday Film

 
 


Review: Diary of a Mad Black Woman

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About halfway through Diary of a Mad Black Woman, you receive your first hint that this movie may not be what you thought you signed up for: Love-worn Helen lists her new boyfriend’s perks via voiceover: “He’s strong…he’s kind…he’s Christian…”

    It’s a subtle reference, but only the opening volley in what quickly accelerates into evangelistic nuclear meltdown. If you’re unfamiliar with the play that it’s based on — in which a woman learns on the eve of her eighteenth anniversary that her husband is kicking her out of their mansion — you’re probably not expecting an onslaught of faith-based agitprop. For the unprepared, Diary feels a bit like trickery, warming you up with fun handgun-wielding senior citizens and alcohol-and-prescription-drugs hijinx, before it dives crucifix-first into redemption, prayer, a Jacuzzi baptismal, and a final scene ripped from the traditional-values playbook where, in the house of God before a howling choir, a heroin addict casts off her tourniquet and a cripple literally walks.

    The script calls for overwrought performances, and Kimberly Elise and Steve Harris turn them in handily as the angelic wife and pure-evil husband. Writer Tyler Perry is formulaically amusing as fat grandma Madea, and Cicely Tyson oozes pious intimacy. But decent performances throughout can’t squelch the overly simplistic good/evil paradigm that suffocates the film, and those viewers not comfortable with the Jesus Saves clusterfuck run the risk of feeling alienated — and lectured — with righteous indignation. — Will Doig

Date DVD #21: Nausicaa
 
Certain dates — ones I’ve ruined, anyway — will hum along, through drinks, through dinner, and handholding during the movie, only to have the romantic machinery grind to a halt as the credits roll. It’s at that point that the anxiety attack sets in: Am I being tested? If I don’t absolutely love Fellini’s Satyricon does that mean I’m getting dumped? If I don’t have a pithy observation to make about euthanasia and Hilary Swank, will I be judged?

    Sometimes, there’s nothing better than an argument over movies, but for the easily ratttled, it can be reassuring to pick a nice pocket of cinema on which almost anyone can agree: Catwoman, bad. Hayao Miyazaki, brilliant.

    Miyazaki, the Japanese animator behind Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, is beloved by nearly all humans — and, by the looks of his holistic films, all beasts, too. His reputation will only be burnished by the DVD debut of three films (The Cat Returns, Porco Rosso, and Nausicaa) previously unavailable here in the States. The Cat Returns is a simple film about a girl who gets friendly with talking felines; it delivers a great girl-power kick at the end. Porco Rosso is more for the boys: it follows a talking pig fighter-pilot who cracks wry jokes and tromps from scene to scene, sniffing up the scenery. But Nausicaa, the story of a tough princess who saves the world from war and giant toxic beetles, is a brilliant piece of future fantasy. A predecessor to Princess Mononoke in theme and style, it’s the kind of film that’s so inarguably good, you and your date will both grin and gush and completely agree with each other. At least this once. — Logan Hill



 
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