Monday, November 22, 2021





Dir. by - Miguel Sapochnik 
Prod. by - Craig Luck, Daniel Maze, Kevin Misher, Ivor Powell, Jack Rapke, 
Miguel Sapochnik, Robert Zemeckis  
Written by - Craig Luck, 
Ivor Powell
Director of Photography - 
Jo Willems
Edited by - Tim Porter
Production Design - 
Tom Meyer
Music - Gustavo Santaolalla
Run Time: 115 mins.  
Release: 11/5/2021

Production Companies - Amblin Ent., Reliance Ent., Walden Media, ImageMovers, Misher Films

GullCottage rating
(***** on a scale of 1-5)

     Well, obviously less a question and more a statement disguised as one, far as this guy’s concerned the answer is a resounding “Hell yeah!”. Funny thing, though, is as soon as some of you saw the phrase “family friendly” - admit it - you kinda made that face, didn’t you? Uh huh. But I’m not talking a “so-called” family film in that beat-to-death and clichéd THE BOATNIKS, NORTH AVENUE IRREGULARS, HERBIE GOES TO MONTE CARLO way. And not that those aren’t enjoyable films with lots to offer. But they’re “so-called” in that they’re not so much “family” films as they are “kids” films. Get my meaning? Over time that’s become the defacto … and wholly inaccurate ... definition of “family film” / “family friendly”. And at the outset, before diving into the surprisingly unique, heartbreakingly-magical-and-hopeful-yet-at-the-same-time-dark-and-mature, … and genuinely special! ... FINCH, I’d like us to be on the same page about that.  

(L) Dir. Miguel Sapachnik  / (R) Producer Robert Zemeckis
                                                                     Around the time of the release of BACK TO THE FUTURE III, director Robert Zemeckis, who also happens to be one of the producers of Miguel Sapochnik’s visually and emotionally gripping FINCH – at it’s core a straight up Rod Serling-esque treatise on both the light and dark nature of individual humanity - set the record straight on what a true “family film” should be, … which is (I mean, duh, right?) one in which not only little kids can become engrossed, but one which every member of the family – the young’ens, dark and moody teens, and even Moms, Dads, Grandmoms and Grandpops – can find themselves enjoying. And coming from the guy who knows a thing or two about grabbing the attention of every demographic within a single film – be it with one of his BACK TO THE FUTUREs, ROGER RABBIT, ROMANCING THE STONE, FORREST GUMP, CAST AWAY or whatever – I’d say he hit that nail precisely on the head. 

     This is what we have with FINCH, an often disturbing yet ironically at the same time hopeful post-apocalyptic cautionary sci-fi yarn cum road trip. Think DAMNATION ALLEY without the flesh-eating cockroaches, or MAD MAX: FURY ROAD sans the guitar flamethrower, and with enough LOGAN’S RUN-esque light at the end of the journey to rope in, entertain and, yes, remind all (hey, I did say it’s Rod Serling-esque, remember?) of what in the long haul, both individually and for humanity’s future in general, ultimately matters as being most important. And isn’t this something many have been mulling over and making life change choices about since the COVID pandemic upended every-single-effin’-thing in everyone’s life over these last couple of years? 

     In the not-too-distant future a major solar flare has punched enough sizable holes in the earth’s ozone layer to make the planet uninhabitable for most life - be that life human, animal or plant – with the average daytime temperature reaching approx. 150 degrees F. Among the few survivors within this near literal hellscape is Finch Weinberg (Tom Hanks), a former engineer whose intellect has allowed him to survive for years within the underground laboratory of his former employer company – a bunker out of which he regularly ventures to scour abandoned malls, etc. for food and other essentials that he might sustain the existence (one can hardly call it “life”) of himself, his dog Goodyear, and a small utility robot, kind of an advanced Mars Rover, named “Dewey”. And, oh, a nice shout-out to Douglas Trumball’s SILENT RUNNING there with “Dewey”👍. Anyway, … 

     Not only has the ozone decimation created a mostly scorched earth itself. But it triggers sudden and catastrophic atmospheric pressure shifts – shifts which regularly generate outbursts of hurricane-like dust storms carrying multiple tornadoes and slicing sand and debris within; the combination of which - factoring in the excessive heat as well - can flatten entire city blocks and rip to shreds anyone or anything unfortunate enough to be caught on the streets. In fact the film opens with a wowzer of an action / suspense sequence with Hanks and Dewy scrounging for supplies at the ghost of an old Dollar Store (while Don McLean’s “American Pie” heartbreakingly wafts from the old-school cassette player in Finch’s converted all terrain vehicle) and such a monster storm rolls into the city. 

     Finch and Dewy find themselves in said vehicle attempting to outrace the storm back to the safety of Finch’s bunker as the micro hurricane overturns abandoned vehicles and blasts to bits the remains of entire city blocks. In it’s pacing, editing, tone and uber-realistic realization of it’s visual effects (both practical and CGI) it’s surely among the most breathtaking filmic sequences of the year, and – all talk of Denis Villeneuve’s DUNE aside – this is one scene I truly wished I could’ve seen on an IMAX-sized screen rather than the – yeah, impressive, but not nearly the same thing – HDR tv screen in the home viewing room.  

     Now, while FINCH opens with that impressively nail-biting sequence, and while it does contain a few heart-palpitatingly suspenseful others within the confines of it’s 115 min. running time, it is most assuredly not an action suspense sci fier. So, one shouldn’t enter into it with that mindset. If you do you’ll most likely come away disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, director Miguel Sapochnik sure as hell knows how to wrap his audience around the finger of a killer action / suspense sequence, as evidenced by some of the mind boggling JOHN WICK / JOHN WOO-like razzle dazzle of his underrated 2010 future-world action flick REPO MEN with Jude Law and Forest Whitaker, as well as with some of those grand scale battle scenes he over the years staged for GAME OF THRONES. But FINCH rather quickly reveals itself to at it’s core be a more laid back, character-based “road movie” peppered with a couple of such suspense set pieces rather than an action or suspense film for the simple sake of one. 

Sapochnik's REPO MEN (2010)

     As mentioned earlier FINCH isn't DAMNATION ALLEY or THE ROAD WARRIOR. And, even though it’s certainly more tonal and thematic kin with say David Lynch’s THE STRAIGHT STORY (1999) with Richard Farnsworth, or Roger Donaldson’s THE WORLD’S FASTEST INDIAN (2005) with Anthony Hopkins, it’s not quite as “laid back” as those films either. It falls somewhere in-between – perhaps a little closer on the cinematic tone shelf with John Hillcoat’s 2009 adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD with Viggo Mortensen, … only not quite as nilhistic. Hope I’m zooming in on the right tone here without giving away anything. Oh, yeah, one very important thing too …

     A few critics have opined that “… while well made, and while Hanks performance is quite good, FINCH brings nothing new to the genre of post apocalyptic films”. But I’m gonna swim against that stream and say this is a superficial and narrow-minded observation born of today’s simplistic Film 101-esque “Wow and surprise me with Tsui Hark action, James Cameron FX, and Rod Serling / M. Night Shyamalan-like plotlines and surprise twists, … or this film isn’t worth it” mindset. No, FINCH isn’t a George Lucas, Christopher Nolan or even Alex Garland-like “narrative freight train” where “This happens, then this happens, then the story shifts in this direction, then this happens, then this happens and if shifts again and …”.  No. And it really doesn’t expand the genre anymore than LOGAN’S RUN, THE OMEGA MAN or THE ROAD did. It has no intentions of doing so. So, if one wants to hang the “doesn’t add anything new” millstone around FINCH’s neck, then you also kind of have to do the same for those three aforementioned (and other) films as well. 

     Nah, FINCH is much more 1970s and 80s era old-school in that, just as back then how writer / filmmakers such as Robert Towne, John Sayles, John Milius and others used “Old as the hills and twice as dusty” tropes like film noir, westerns and more to make clever (and often pointed) commentary / observations on issues of the day, … and how, y’know, LOGAN’S RUN used the post apocalyptic genre to at it’s core tell an old-fashioned love story of one-to-one commitment during the era of “free love”, how THE OMEGA MAN used it’s “Last Man On Earth” post apocalyptic scenario to comment on the need for individualism in an increasingly “homogeneous” world, and how SOYLENT GREEN quite literally spoke to “social cannibalism”, etc., … . Yeah, so to also does FINCH use the tried and true (some might say “played out”) post apocalyptic filmic milieu / genre to do what is essentially a more intimate and sci fi-ish take on the biblical story of Noah’s Ark – one which, lo and behold, happens to perfectly dovetail with more than a few global warming issues of the day as well as a number of sociological concerns of our COVID era. But like LOGAN'S RUN and OMEGA MAN it does it in an entertaining and non-preachy way. Well, ... like LOGAN'S RUN does, anyway - haha! 😉

     Early on in FINCH, … in fact right after Finch and Dewey outrun the hurricane / sandstorm and make it back to Finch’s underground bunker, … we learn that Finch has been digitizing books while constructing an android, an android which later chooses as it’s own name “Jeff”. Jeff has been created so that if anything should happen to Finch, Jeff can become a receptacle or “message in a bottle” (if you will) of certain things – and one task in particular! (no spoilers here) – concerning mankind’s past / existence. While Finch is in the midst of doing so, weather detection indicates a massive hurricane / dust storm is on the verge of rolling in, a storm the likes of which has never occurred. Estimates are that it will last not for a few hours, as is the norm, but for 40 days, … and you don’t get more Old Testament biblical than that! Realizing he, Dewey, Jeff and Goodyear won’t be able to outlast the storm within the bunker, Finch makes the decision to load up a retrofitted (and truly bad-assed) RV / mobile home – sort of a less militant version of DAMNATION ALLEY’s “Landmaster” – and to head north towards San Francisco, a city which, for some reason hinted at via old postcards from family, holds personal significance for Finch. 

     Finch, the dog and the bots load up in the RV, head north and, while braving deadly storms, human marauders and (perhaps the most dangerous of all) crippling memories from Finch’s own past, Jeff is taught how to drive (some truly funny sequences there!), how to care for dogs, and (kind of as if Pinocchio or STAR TREK’s Data had received a crash course) not only taught how to sort / sift through voluminous amounts of factual material concerning physics, biology and human history, but about the nature – both light and dark – of what it truly means to be human. In essence, while not doing the “bringing two of each animal species aboard the ark in order to replenish the earth” thing, Jeff becomes the “two by two” vessel which, in the ultimate event of Finch’s demise (and he’s only human and will die one day) will help to replenish (“Be fruitful and multiply” if you will) a sense of old-world humanity into a currently cut-throat, socially (and at times literally) cannibalistic, violent, “I got mine - you get yours”, “dog eat dog” world. So, once again a very sharp / on-point analogy (intended or not, who knows?) in the COVID era where a year ago people were ready to one up, roll over, out jockey and physically fight one another for something as simple as toilet paper. Heaven help us if we ever got / get beyond TP and to the point of basic survival supplies like food and shelter as most of the world of FINCH finds itself.

FINCH's "road movie" thematic kin: (top) DAMNATION ALLEY (1977 / dir. - Jack Smight) /
(bottom) THE ROAD (2009 / dir. - John Hillcoat)

      So, all said, if one wants a “new” twist on the post apocalyptic genre, well, this is a remarkable one – a character and biblically thematically based one! I’m from the 1970s where – from CHINATOWN, to BLAZING SADDLES, to THE GODFATHER and even STAR WARS -  this kind of “using a cliched genre to make a new point” was the purpose of so many films. And FINCH, co-written by ALIEN / BLADE RUNNER producer Ivor Powell and (truly a Hollywood success story) Craig Luck – who just a few years ago was an on-set assistant / go-fer on films such as MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROUGE NATION, SOLO, DOCTOR STRANGE and ANNIHILATION - deliberately harkens back to that 70s brand of uber-intelligent and subtextual sci fi filmmaking we got in movies like the aforementioned LOGAN’S RUN and THE OMEGA MAN, as well as others like SILENT RUNNING, the original PLANET OF THE APES series, ROLLERBALL and more.  

FINCH's "road movie" tonal kin: (top) THE STRAIGHT STORY (1999 / dir. - David Lynch) /
THE WORLD'S FASTEST INDIAN (2005 / dir. - Roger Donaldson)

     As for the intriguingly “family friendly” aspects of this film … . Well, first off, nailing down the casting of Tom Hanks is a super important primary aspect as he automatically brings an honesty and integrity to the proceedings even before he opens his mouth. He’s an actor (and perhaps even more so nowadays) a personality / persona which, Walter Cronkite-like, is – across ethnic, political, religious and geographical boundaries - beloved and trusted by men and women of all ages and from all walks of life, and with whom children (even very young ones) have a natural affinity and warmness towards; those last qualities a large part of the reason for the success of films like the TOY STORY series and even the otherwise kinda / sorta creepy THE POLAR EXPRESS. But the stunning realization of the android Jeff is another all important family friendly aspect as well.

   I remember working at a large independent video store in Philadelphia back during the 1980s / early 90s. And, while it was expected that kids would come in with mom and dad, glance over the shelves and go sugar-happy-ballistic-bouncy seeing the boxes for THE LITTLE MERMAID and AN AMERICAN TAIL, etc., it was genuinely surprising to see them almost have the same reaction to seeing the box for Fred Schepisi’s 1984 drama ICEMAN with John Lone, Timothy Hutton, Lindsay Crouse and Danny Glover; or Carroll Ballard’s THE BLACK STALLION from 1979. These weren’t / aren’t “kids movies”. But the main characters in those films - from John Lone’s 40,000 year old man revived and alive in the modern world, to the titular wild Arabian horse of Ballard’s film, are primal “outsiders” among more (so-called) “have it together” adults. And there’s a connection / familiarity / point of identification which small children had / have with them.

     This is a rare and ethereal thing because you never really saw that kind of “affinity” from kids for Jeff Bridges’ similarly primal and childlike STARMAN. But you do also see it in how to this day small children react to the character of THE INCREDIBLE HULK (the most popular comic book character with very small kids) and even to Robert Zemeckis’ CAST AWAY, … in particular the “character” of Wilson the inanimate volleyball – who (well, actually which) is brought to “life” more from Tom Hanks’ performance opposite him / it than anything else. The same exact thing with Hanks and the android Jeff. 

     Jeff is essentially a newborn child who has to learn everything. And as such he’s got a zillion questions, is often eager to please – sometimes dangerously too much so, occasionally impetuous, has his feelings easily hurt; and needs the patience, understanding … and at times firm hand … of a loving parent. Realized as partially a live on-set performance by X-MEN: FIRST CLASS / GET OUT actor Caleb Landry Jones in a “robot suit”, and partially via motion capture and CGI, in FINCH Jeff not only emerges as arguably the most engaging and lovable android since R2 and 3PO escape-podded their way into our hearts almost 45 years ago. But the relationship between him (yes, I'll use that word) and Hanks becomes the perfect eternal Father’s Day gift from the cinematic gods (yeah, this definitely goes on the “Best Father’s Day” movies list alongside A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT, A BRONX TALE, THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS and LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL) as both kids and adults can - perhaps paradoxically - tap into the reality at hand within a larger than life science fiction based tale. The reality of love, protection and direction from a very imperfect parent seeking to prepare loved ones for a day when the parent will no longer be there, and the young’ens will have to care for themselves in a harsh / cruel world.      

     Suspenseful, funny, mysterious and scary, and with a dog, robots and more! ... .  Hey, that’s a road movie for the entire family. And in it’s intelligence and heart – for me at least – one which just might rate as the best film - sci fi or not, for families or otherwise - of the year period



More @ ...




 FINCH trailer (2021 / 2:41 mins.)


THE FILM AND WHY IT CHANGED (2021 / 16:25 mins.) 

Jimmy Kimmel Live: TOM HANKS ON GOING TO 


Vaulted Treasures is part of The GullCottage / Sandlot - a film blog, 
cinema magazine, growing reference library and online network 
"Celebrating The Art of Cinema, ... And Cinema As Art"

Explore The GullCottage / Sandlot @

Monday, August 30, 2021





     With trenches being dug in recent days over the “canceling” of everything from Pepe LePew and that handful of Dr. Suess books, to THE MANDALORIAN’s Gina Carano and more, an intriguingly apt (if somewhat off-color) analogy occurred to me the other day – cuck porn. For those unfamiliar with the term (… or those pretending to be unfamiliar with it), I’ll let the esteemed GQ magazine define it as their verbiage is considerably more “journalistic scholarly” (or at the very least more polite) than mine. 

     “Cuck has its roots in cuckold, an old-fashioned term for a man whose wife is having sex with another man. Because everything is porn eventually, this soon became an X-rated genre of its own with a (usually white) guy watching impassively while his wife has sex with another guy, who's often, but not always, black. Porn with racial tension that plays to a white man's insecurities about his ‘possessions’ being taken from him?” 

     Now, we could end this piece right there and the point would be made quite clearly. But let’s add another link to this chain – an economic / historical one. After 9/11 Paramount Pictures decided to yank DVD copies of it’s 1976 Dino DeLaurentiis’ version of KING KONG from stores, and to replace the jacket sleeve image - that famously awesome John Berkey poster art with Kong astride the World Trade Towers, surrounded by helicopters and fighter jets, with Jessica Lange in one hand and an exploding plane in the other - because it felt that image might be uncomfortably troublesome for many still sensitive to the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attack. So, was that “cancel culture” (long before the term was coined), or a corporate decision by an intellectual property owner maybe partially doing it out of genuine altruistic social concern, but certainly, ... undoubtedly, ... and mostly concerned about how the marketability of their product, if unchanged, would now fare in a world which had changed? 

     We could end right there too. But for the hell of it let’s add even a few more links. At any rate, none of this is new, and, contrary to the cries of many - in regards to (so-called) "woke-ness" and the demand for a more balanced depiction in media regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation -  not much has actually changed over the last 50 or so years. If anything it seems that only the colors, be they white, black, yellow, … but mostly green, … have.  

Original 1976 KING KONG poster campaign (art by John Berkey)


    I stand 6’5”. Years ago I worked at a restaurant as a waiter, and there was a span of about three months where I noticed that whenever I entered the kitchen I was stooping because some of the large ventilation and air conditioning duct work was ever-so-slowly beginning to lower from it's ceiling brackets. Over the weeks (and months) I noticed I was stooping more and more, and I mentioned this, ... and that concerning duct work ... to management, yet nothing happened. Well, nothing happened until, ... haha! I was off for about three days, came back, noticed the duct work had finally been corrected (and it looked damn nice!), and I made what I thought was a joke, saying, “What happened, did it finally get low enough for one of the managers to hit their head, and they decided, ‘Yeah, we’d better get that sh*t fixed?’”. When everyone looked at me with that look I realized that’s exactly what had happened. OOPS! So, yeah, it’s kinda unfortunately the lamer part of human nature to not really notice (or sometimes even give a damn) about something until it affects us personally. Which brings us back to the “cuck” analogy. 

The LGTBQ lifestyle is "dangerous" and "not to be trusted" in

     Many - and, yeah, some of you reading this right now - love bitching and moaning about how  “nowadays” movies and audiences do (or don’t do anymore) this or that. Y’know, looking back fondly on a time before (how does it go?) “Hollywood became the home of chickenshit, apologetic, cancel culture virtue signaling”, etc. But I gotta tell you it cracks me up how (I’ll use the word too) nowadays many of these same people - most often white hetero men - put their ignorance on display by “fondly looking back” on a film industry time which existed before many of them were even born, and of which they've only recently become "aware" because last night they happened to catch a film on TCM, Showtime or Prime that got them all fired up. Yeah, there are older whiners too, also usually white hetero men. But the younger ones are really hilariously irritating in proving the old adage that "A little bit of information can be a dangerous thing". 

    Case in point, in the last year I’ve read a few postings by people who after recently seeing films such as Richard Rush’s FREEBIE AND THE BEAN (1974) or William Friedkin’s CRUISING (1980) went on hubris-filled, piss-and-wind tears about how “In today’s Hollywood, with all the virtue signaling, you just couldn’t make a film like this”. Well, I love FREEBIE AND THE BEAN too (not so much CRUISING), but technically you really couldn't make those films back then either. I mean, I remember when they opened. Both were box office bombs, critics tore them apart as being among the worst films ever made by those respective filmmakers (particularly CRUISING, which was kind of the flip side of Friedkin's acclaimed THE BOYS IN THE BAND ten years prior), and both were very publicly and loudly protested for their depictions of the gay community. So was the 1968 Frank Sinatra film THE DETECTIVE, by the way. The only difference is that back then no one gave a leapin’ sh*t about the opinions of those doing the protesting.


     Today, however, it’s not just the “white heterosexual male dollars” which drive the economy. And if there’s any kind of “woke”ness going on, it’s simply the age-old one of companies waking up to the fact that certain demographics – be they Black, women, Asian, Latino, LGTBQ, etc. - represent a huge buying block which (because of skewed metrics) they never realized or chose to acknowledged before. So, not taking anything away from those in corporate leadership positions who truly want to enact more positive social change. But more than anything, though, it’s a simple "1+1=2" matter as to why now corporate entities are more open to listening to the concerns of those demographics when once upon a time they weren’t nearly as inclined to do so. It’s more about bottom line bucks than it is about “wokeness”. So, how ‘bout deleting that lame-assed defacto argument from your gueue, because it's a rather impotent one these days? 

AUNT JEMIMA brand's (at the time) newly revamped ad campaign,
launched at the 1933 World's Fair

     The same exact thing with other “problematic” corporate properties like THE SONG OF THE SOUTH, the name “Washington Redskins”, the depiction of the do-ragged, mammy-like AUNT JEMIMA, Christopher Columbus statues, Confederate flags outside state and federal office buildings and more. None of these protests are new. People have been raising Cain about them for decades and beyond. Only now, with an acknowledgment of the economic power of the dollars of these once ignored groups, have these concerns finally reached a point of being addressed. So, just like with the duct work in the restaurant and the managers, just because you may have only now noticed the controversy behind some of these things because it’s had an effect on something close to you, doesn’t mean any of this is new or represents “wokeness”, “kowtowing”, “virtue signaling” or anything else. It just means you didn't know, weren't aware and / or just didn't give a damn either way until today. So, that's more a factor of your own personal ignorance, and not that of a suddenly "woke" society. Let's be very clear on that. 

(left) SONG OF THE SOUTH - 1946 / (right) Well, ... you get the idea. 

     Once again this brings us back to the “cuck” analogy wherein it’s all about “a (usually white) guy watching impassively while his wife has sex with another guy, who's often, but not always, black. Porn with racial tension that plays to a white man's insecurities about his ‘possessions’ being taken from him. Only in today’s entertainment industry the analogous “wife” is the corporate entity / studio, the “black man” is the demographic previously ignored but now pleasuring her to multiple orgasms, and the insecure “husband” terrified at his loss of what back in “the good ‘ol days” was his power is / are those who are “fondly looking back” on a time when that economic power / influence wasn’t (oh, what the hell) as flacid as it is today. Yeah, perhaps a bit too Freudian an analogy. But it’s not an entirely inaccurate one, is it? Don’t take my word for it, though. How ‘bout we crunch some actual numbers? 


     Once upon a time  (back in the 50s - 60s, and even to a degree into the 70s and 80s) the world media economy catered to what it felt was it's largest and most powerful demographic - those aforementioned white heterosexual males. Y’know, the bread-winner. The one who put the gas in the car. Hell, the one who bought the car, the lawn and the lawnmower and the house upon which it all stood and / or around which it was all centered. But in recent years the world has become much smaller – one where (as we’re primarily talking the entertainment industry) the average studio film will now pull in 70% (and sometimes more) of it's revenue from countries outside the U.S. In fact in 2018, the year of A STAR IS BORN, BLACK PANTHER, BLAKKKLANSMAN, INFINITY WAR, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY and GREEN BOOK, of the $41.66 billion taken in at the global box office, $29.8 billion of it was non-domestic (came in from foreign territories). (2014) How the global box office is changing Hollywood - BBC Culture / (2019) 2018 Global/Overseas Box Office Studio Rankings, 2019 Forecast – Chart – Deadline . Also keep in mind that recent economic projections have been zooming in on the fact that the continent of Africa and the region of Southeast Asia have been deemed two of the largest potential growth markets of this century in general, and not just in relation to the entertainment industry, ... which (of course) in time ultimately becomes a part of that assessment. 

2018's record breaking BLACK PANTHER

     In the U.S. it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes or Miss Marple to deduce how the conception of economic demographics has drastically shifted over the last, hell … 20 years. Simply take a look at how many prime time TV commercials (and not just those on “specialized” networks like BET, LIFETIME, etc.) are selling everything from cars to pizza to home mortgages with spots featuring interracial, same sex, Asian, Latino and other non-white / non-hetero couples. Yeah, once upon a time corporate industry and media felt it didn't have to give a damn about the complaints of many “minority” groups. But now to continue to adhere to that ancient attitude is economic suicide. Many have been protesting and raising hell about GONE WITH THE WIND, Pepe Le Pew and more for the last 50 years. This isn't new. The only thing that is new is that corporations are finally starting to take those complaints seriously because they now know where their financial bread is buttered. And, oh, hey, I hate, hate, hate to say it, … but it’s an age thing too. Yup, we're talkin' about those goddamned Millennials! 

     Say what you will about that smartphone-addicted, “touchy, feely” cultural cabal of young’ns born after 1980. But did you know that in 2020 Millennials surpassed the Baby Boomers as the largest living adult population, and clocked in with a buying power estimated to be approx. $1.4 trillion annually? As the old saying goes (my old generation’s saying, I guess), “That ain’t chicken feed”. And while, yes, you certainly have Millennials as culturally tunnel-visioned as any of their parents or grandparents, on the whole they tend to be more open minded and desirous of change when it comes to social, racial, environmental and economic issues. As such, one has to realistically ask “Are the changes happening now simply ‘virtue signaling’ and uber PC-minded ‘cancel culture’”, or are they- like Paramount’s decision on it’s KING KONG World Trade Center imagery - simply wise corporate decision making? 

     Let’s be totally straight-up, common sense for real here, huh? With over $40+ billion annually at stake, and most of it coming in from so-called “minority” demographics (LGTBQ, women, Black, Asian, Latino, etc.) around the world, do you honestly think any rational and intelligently thinking corporate exec will risk a nickel of that because of the dumb-assed statement or action (using the “N” word, referring to someone as a “f*g”, being busted as a sexual harasser, flying a Confederate flag on their social media page, making a joke about rape, take your pick – there are so many!) of some actor, singer or other individual? Would you risk it with your money!? Going back to those many years in restaurants, I can pretty much say, “Hell, no!”, most wouldn’t. The average Joe or Jane Schmoe (and not just some Hollywood corporate exec) is pretty damned particular, careful, ... and often downright stingy ... when it comes to their own hard earned nickels and pennies. Hell, I’ve seen customers poorly tip the waiter because they were pissed they were seated next to a table which was too loud (something outside the waiter’s purview), or who refused to tip - or even wanted fired - the hostess or coat check girl because they felt she didn’t smile enough. And this is for a check under $100, and not a $41 billion corporate purse. So, can we please just knock off the faux righteous indignation posturing? Oh, and in conclusion (yeah, finally – haha!), as for that ever-recurring bitch / moan, faux "just and righteous" complaint about how “All of this ‘virtue signaling’, ‘cancel culture’, etc. is the death of artistic integrity”... . Please! Do you wanna really go there? Okay, ... 


     It’s ultra-ironically-hilarious (that is, when it’s not so enraging) to hear cucks … . I’m sorry, I mean to hear those complaining about “virtue signaling” and “rampant canceling” attempt to use the final option, “Hail, Mary”, can’t-pull-anything-else-out-of-the-basket excuse of how this “new culture” will be / is the death of artistic integrity and free speech, and that it’s censorship, blah, blah, blah. Ehhhh, … no. Cut the b.s. and back up off of that! As said earlier, none of these complaints concerning the depictions of minorities, gays, women, etc. is anything new. They’ve been around since forever. You and others just never gave a damn until they finally started to threaten the status quo of something you enjoy. So, there’s that. But when you try to fly the “artistic integrity” and “anti virtue signaling” flag when a film is remade or a franchise character’s race or gender is altered from previous versions, … but you never said a damn thing about how until Antonio Banderas in 1998 the character of Zorro had never ever been portrayed by a Latino (but by white actors) in an American film or tv series, … . Or how (with a few notable exceptions) Shakespeare’s legendary Moor character OTHELLO was seldom portrayed by a black man, but rather by white actors in blackface (such as Olivier, Welles, etc.) in both major filmic and stage productions over the last century … . Or how Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo from 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA had in every major American film until 2003’s THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN been altered / changed from Verne’s conception of a character of Indian ethnicity to an erudite Englishman portrayed by the likes of James Mason, Herbert Lom, Michael Caine, etc. ... .  And how it wasn't until after nearly 100 years of Nemo being portrayed in film that THE LEAGUE finally featured an Indian actor - acclaimed stage and screen performer / director Naseeruddin Shah - in the role ... .  Well, if you really want to talk about truly canceled cultures, then, yeah, okay, let's do so. And we can start right here and now by asking the question "Where were your 'artistic integrity' concerns while all of this and more was going down every time you turned on the tv or bought a movie ticket over the years?". Artistic hypocrisy's a cold and ironic little bitch, isn't she?    

     Now, are there those who take P.C.-ness to ridiculous heights? Of course there are. And there have always been such people. I remember growing up in the 70s when there were parents groups circulating petitions to get THE THREE STOOGES banned (or at least edited) on local tv because of the “violence” in them.  And certain groups have since forever been attempting to have books like THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, THE ADVENTURES OF HUCK FINN and others banned. This isn’t new either, but has been going on damn near since these classics were first published. But for every one bass-akward school district or library which attempts to do so, another 20 libraries and school districts celebrate those and other novels by having annual "Banned Books Celebrations" to encourage people to read them for themselves. But that's not what you see or read within the echo chamber of social media when the cucks complain about “cancel culture”. No, to them this is all a new (and therefore dangerous) phenomenon. The same with movies being presented with some kind of contextual introduction.                                                                                   
     Anyone remember the "disclaimers" which ran during the first network tv airings of THE GODFATHER (in November 1977) and DePalma's SCARFACE (January 1989) - placed there when Italian-American and Cuban-American groups raised concerns about the films’ depictions of the respective races? Even during it’s production SCARFACE was something of a socio-political hot potato – especially in the Miami, Florida locations where much of it was filmed. It’s amazing how these relatively not-too-long-ago examples are conveniently forgotten when bitching and moaning about the “alarming new trend” of “virtue signaling”. (April 2018) Revisiting The Controversy Surrounding Scarface ( . And as for films presented / broadcast with a contexualized introduction, and how such an intro is supposedly “demeaning to the audience, and assumes they aren’t sharp enough to ‘get it’ on their own”, well … 

(left) THE GODFATHER - 1972 / (right) SCARFACE - 1983

     That’s what they've been doing on TCM and other networks for the last 30 years with every film anyway - y'know, with intros by Ben Mankiewicz, the late Robert Osborne and even guest hosts like Martin Scorsese, Sydney Pollock, Ellen Barkin, Spike Lee, Hugh Hefner, Tom Ford, Whoopi Goldberg, Alec Baldwin, David Mamet and others. Ever step out of your narrow social media echo-chamber where everyone speaks the same thing, I mean, just long enough to hear Scorsese talk about the racism of John Wayne's character in THE SEARCHERS? Or about the technical mastery but thematic / philosophical disgust with the racism of D.W. Griffith’s BIRTH OF A NATION? This ain't new. And Scorsese - since his career began - has always been very vocal about the need to view these kinds of films within the proper context. And he loves THE SEARCHERS! It's one of his favorites. 

     So, how 'bout we not just automatically toss everything under the convenient (and wholly inaccurate) umbrella of "cancel culture" or “virtue signaling” when the actual accurate truth is that every situation is unique unto itself. Yeah, I know actually taking the time and effort and energy to really, genuinely think sometimes in shades of gray, and not just simplistic “either / or” black & white, can be cumbersome and time consuming, … and may even ruin a great meme which on the surface seems to roll off the tongue. But if you really want to make a valid point (and not just guzzle your own backwash), then that kind of critical thinking is a necessary adjunct. And as for those occasions when sometimes over / uber P.C.-ness seems to be taking things to extremes? … 

(left) John Ford's THE SEARCHERS - 1956 /
(right) D.W. Griffith's BIRTH OF A NATION - 1915

     Yeah, on those occasions you call that extremism out. But you do it intelligently – using history and economics and more - and not just by whining like the proverbial little bitch because you heard talk through the grapevine, or you read a posting that someone shared … which was shared by another, then shared and shared again ad infinitum like the online version of whispering something to the person next to you on the school bus, … that a cartoon or movie you last saw maybe twenty years ago is having an intro attached to it. By “intelligently” I’m also talking about understanding that umbrella of what I’ve over the years come to refer to as “The Rubberband Effect”. This is when things have been to one extreme for sooo long, that when that bias is finally snapped, things tend to catapult to the opposite direction to an equal extreme until eventually over time reaching a real world / actual / accurate / mid-point stasis. 

"The Rubberband Man" (1976) - The Spinners, ...
Sorry, couldn't help it - haha! Now you've got the song running
through your head, don't you?

     Take for example how for many years Blacks were depicted in films as mammy maids and midwives, “Stepin Fetchit” types, railway porters, bug-eyed comic relief in old-school zombie flicks, and members of what Mario Van Peebles once referred to as the “Moteesa” tribe, … as in those shuffling, slow-witted butler characters in movies who always said “Mo’ tea, Sir?”. But when SWEET SWEETBACK’S BADASSSSS SONG and SHAFT snapped that cord, things went to the opposite - but equally extreme and unrealistic - end of the cinematic arena with (what Richard Pryor once called) the “Super Nig*er” movies of the 70s blaxploitation era. This till finally reaching a more equal / more realistic depiction of a race and culture in tv shows like LIVING SINGLE, BLACK-ISH and others. 

(left to right) From Stepin Fetchit (1934),
to BOSS NIGGER (1975), to BLACK-ISH (2014)

     We see the same “Rubberband Effect” paradigm with the depictions of Asians in film - going from buck-toothed FU MANCHU-esque villains, comic relief laundry boys and asexual buffoons (remember Mickey Rooney in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S? 😳), to super martial arts kick-asses, then finally to more realistic depictions in films like THE JOY LUCK CLUB, THE FAREWELL, and tv series such as FRESH OFF THE BOAT. The same with Native Americans, Latinos, LGTBQ characters and more as well. To a degree we’ve go to expect / anticipate a certain amount of “The Rubberband Effect” as part and parcel of social (and by extension entertainment industry) evolution – remembering that by definition evolution is a series of (sometimes traumatic) mutations which eventually converge to make the species (and, in this particular case, artistic industry) stronger as a whole. 

(left to right) From BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S (1961), 
to ENTER THE DRAGON (1973), to THE FAREWELL (2019)

     Anyway, those are my points in regards to this whole “cancel culture” discussion. And while you may still not agree, I think you have to admit that I’ve made some of those points in a pretty damn valid manner. I welcome any discourse and / or disagreement. But if you do I demand that you too also use actual historical, economic and other precedents to make your point, and not just run off on a-not-very-well-thought-out emotional tangent. Because, be it concerning politics, religion, contemporary culture or whatever, … 

     Contrary to what many believe today, saying something loudly and with a great deal of sincere conviction isn’t the same thing as making a valid point or being right. 

     Let’s try to remember that as we often limp and stagger into a more evolved future. 

     Peace. ✌️ 


© Copyright 2021 The GullCottage / Sandlot 

Vaulted Treasures is part of The GullCottage / Sandlot - a film blog, 
cinema magazine, growing reference library and online network 
"Celebrating The Art of Cinema, ... And Cinema As Art"

Explore The GullCottage / Sandlot @

Saturday, May 9, 2020





Dir. by - Reginald Hudlin 
Prod. by - Brian Grazer, Warrington Hudlin  
Screenplay - Barry Blaustein, 
David Sheffield
Story by - Eddie Murphy 
Director of Photography - 
Woody Omens
Edited by - Earl Watson, 
John Carter, Michael Jablow 
Production Design - 
Jane Musky
Music - Marcus Miller
Run Time: 117 mins.  
Release: 7/1/1992

Production Companies - Imagine Entertainment, Eddie Murphy Productions
Dist. by - Paramount Pictures

GullCottage rating
(**** on a scale of 1-5)

     Uh huh! I can hear the voices already - "Yeah, BOOMERANG's a funny movie and all, maybe even a damn good one; but the 'Changing the world' thing is a bit much, isn‘t it?". Well, ... not really. Now, hear me out. I remember a couple of occasions, both many years ago when I worked at a large Philadelphia video store. One was when after years and years a co-worker finally saw BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, and another when someone else (or it may have even been the same person, I don‘t remember) finally saw THE FRENCH CONNECTION. And both reactions were "Yeah, it's a good movie, BUT ...!". In the case of BUTCH & SUNDANCE the "but" was "... it's really just another buddy movie, though, isn't it?" and with THE CONNECTION it was " … ultimately just another gritty cop flick".

Director Reginald Hudlin / 2017

     My response to both were, "You're overlooking the fact that this genre didn't really exists as we now know it until ..." the aforementioned BUTCH & SUNDANCE and CONNECTION. For, while both were indeed damn good movies upon their initial releases, ... and critically acclaimed and the whole nine yards, yadda yadda, ... the passage of time went on to etch their respective places in cinema history as ultimately much more. They became benchmarks or touchstones - certainly in relation to the films which would follow in their wake. And only the passage of time can reveal a particular film as such. I  mean, hell, look today at 48HRS., LETHAL WEAPON, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE or whatever, and you can almost see the umbilical - pumping blood, oxygen and everything else - leading right back to the prenatal womb which is BUTCH & SUNDANCE.

     And, while (duh?) police procedural films certainly existed before THE FRENCH CONNECTION, most were either very noirish or at the very least highly stylized. Even films like BULLITT and SHAFT were very slick, cool and fashion conscious. But after CONNECTION crime films were given visual and tonal license to be down & dirty and realistically near pseudo-documentary profane (see the soon to follow THE TAKING OF PELHAM, REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER and SERPICO); and they began to take place more and more in that “grey area” landscape where there existed a very thin line between the psychology of the cops and the crooks. And in this regard think of the later PRINCE OF THE CITY, BLACK RAIN, TO LIVE & DIE IN L.A. and others.

Changing the cinematic vernacular:
THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971 / bottom)  

     Similarly, while it may be hard to remember almost (Wow!) 30 yrs. later!!!, Reginald Hudlin's BOOMERANG was very much a similar (what I like to call) "fulcrum shift" film. In this case it was a game-changer in the acceptance by a major studio of African-American characters in a film by an African-American director which became a mainstream hit for that studio. Now, does being a financial hit make a film a classic or "fulcrum shift" pivot point? Of course not. But (and this is the really important part here) BOOMERANG's success would help to insure that other such mainstream films would be made by other African-American directors in the future. Films like Forest Whitaker's WAITING TO EXHALE, Malcolm Lee's THE BEST MAN and all the way up to Tim Story's BARBERSHOP - wherein the lives and lifestyles of workaday African-Americans (and not just super cops or young people attempting to escape the horrors of the 'hood) became known to the rest of the world. Now, while this may also be hard to remember, this was not always the case. Yeah, even as recently as 30 ago.


     Keep in mind that when it comes to color, … and while there is still (I mean, let's be realistic) more than a fair share of ignorance and prejudice walking around in Hollywood's halls of power, the color which in the end most encourages or discourages the average studio isn’t necessarily black, white, red or yellow, but ultimately green … or the lack thereof. Combine that with the famous film industry axiom that "It's always easier and safer to say 'no'", and you've got the recipe as to why for far too many years far too many studios fell back on the oft repeated mythical b.s. safety net mantra that "Movies by ethnic filmmakers aren't big hits with crossover audiences".  BOOMERANG finally took that excuse (and that's all it was all along) away. 

The members of the First Artists production company -
(L to R) Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Barbra Streisand and Sidney Poitier

     What about something like Gordon Parks' SHAFT or the comedies of Sidney Poitier (UPTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT, LET'S DO IT AGAIN, etc.)? Well, not to drift too far off the subject, ... though in reality it actually isn't, ... SHAFT was made by a studio - MGM - on it's last gasping breath, and during a time where many studios on the brink of receivership were trying every "Hail Mary" gambit they could think of once the small-budgeted and youth-oriented EASY RIDER knocked things outta the park.  And the Poitier films were actually the product of the First Artists production company founded by Poitier, Barbra Streisand, Steve McQueen and Paul Newman specifically to make films which major studios originally didn't want to get behind - among them THE GETAWAY, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN, UP THE SANDBOX and POCKET MONEY. The First Artists films (including Poitier's) were then distributed by Warner Bros., but not initiated by them.

The Eddie Murphy "Golden 80s Trifecta" of (L to R) 48HRS. (1982),

     Moving later down the line some might point (as did many studio execs back then) to the huge piles of green raked in by earlier Eddie Murphy films like COMING TO AMERICA, the aforementioned 48HRS. and BEVERLY HILLS COP as examples of "black films" which beat BOOMERANG to the punch in that regard. But a) the Murphy characters in those films were more highly stylized, tropish and / or very genre-based - which is to say not realistic, ... or even as in the case of COMING TO AMERICA a deliberate fairy-tale concoction of sorts. And b) all of those films were (and, yeah, I know I’m running the chance of getting into potentially sticky ground here, but this is very important) by white filmmakers. In fact it was this particular aspect which made many studio execs at the time feel the films were safer and less risky. 

     No! I don't hold with the belief that only people of color should make films about people of color, or that films about any people should only be made by a filmmaker from that same group of people. But I do believe a member of a particular group can often bring to a film a great many more little known insights and observations which someone not of that group can bring. Insights and minute cultural details (of both small and large significance), the existence of which the non-group person may not even be aware.

(top) SMOKE SIGNALS (1998 / dir. - Chris Eyre),
(bottom) THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT (2010 / dir. - Lisa Cholodenko)

     As such / and for example one of the many great things Clint Eastwood's FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS (2006) does is to paint a vivid portrait of a Native American (real life Marine Corporal Ira Hayes, portrayed by Adam Beach) caught between ethnic assimilation and racial prejudice in America. But Native American filmmaker Chris Eyre's 1998 film SMOKE SIGNALS (also starring Adam Beach) does it even better, ... and with a great deal of humor to boot. And while films by non LGBTQ directors like PHILADELPHIA (from Jonathan Demme) and AMERICAN BEAUTY (courtesy of Sam Mendes) feature sympathetic / positive depictions of LGBTQ characters, a film like Lisa Cholodenko's HIGH ART (1998) or THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT (2010) feature (c’mon, let's face it) much more well rounded / people-next-door-type depictions. All of which brings us back to Reginald Hudlin's BOOMERANG. Whew!

     BOOMERANG's romantic comedy premise is fairly simple and "pick your era" malleable. So malleable in fact it's been repurposed, retro fitted, ripped off (take your pick of "r"s) countless times in numerous BET, Will Packer, Tyler Perry and other films since. In a nutshell "A Playa Gets Played ... and learns a lesson from it". Specifically in BOOMERANG Murphy portrays uber successful New York ad exec Marcus Graham - notorious for mackin' on and seducing the hottest women in the city, then loving and leaving them. Y'know, as some used to say back in the day, “He‘s all about the ‘Hit it, then git it!’”. That is until both his professional and personal lives are turned upside down when his agency is taken over by a larger corporate concern, and he finds himself working under (in more ways than one - haha!) his new superior (Robin Givens), who is very much the female version of Marcus.

     One of the many things BOOMERANG does well - and which many didn't expect - is that it refuses to be "The Two-Hour 'Eddie Murphy Comedy Hour'". While Murphy's Marcus is the central character, the film really is also something of an ensemble piece where all of the supporting players get their time in the narrative / character arc sun. They include Halle Berry - who had earlier roles in JUNGLE FEVER, STRICTLY BUSINESS and THE LAST BOY SCOUT, but who here burst forever into the hearts of an entire generation; Martin Lawrence, David Allen Grier, the aforementioned Givens, Grace Jones (and who the hell knew beforehand that she could be such a great comedienne, here spoofing Grace Jones?!), legendary actor / choreographer Geoffrey Holder, Eartha Kitt, Tisha Campbell (who'd later co-star with Lawrence in his long running tv series) and the irrepressible John Witherspoon ("You've got to co-ooordinate!").

     A young Chris Rock even gets in a few great lines as a mail room worker desperate to hustle his way up the company ranks. And there’s a hilariously loving shout-out to barrier breaking African-American director Melvin Van Peebles (SWEET SWEETBACK’S BAADASSSSS SONG) as a film editor who partakes in an Abbott & Costello-like verbal routine over whether or not a piece of footage contains a view of a woman’s nipple or just the shadow of one. Haha!

Among BOOMERANG's legendary "Old Guard":
(L to R) Eartha Kitt, Geoffrey Holder, John Witherspoon, Melvin Van Peebles

     By the way, in case that murderer’s row cast line-up didn’t tip you off, BOOMERANG is in some respects very much a loving cinematic passing of the mantle from an earlier group of barrier-breaking black artists (Kitt, Holder, Witherspoon, Van Peebles, et al) to the (then) young up-and-coming one charged with carrying on their legacy. In retrospect today it is now also a bittersweet passing of that mantle as within that group of older artists all but Van Peebles have since passed away.

Among BOOMERANG's (at the time) up-and-coming "New Guard":
(L to R) Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, David Alan Grier, Tisha Campbell

     While contemporary and R-rated, director Hudlin wanted to pattern BOOMERANG after the smooth old-school vibe of a Cary Grant film ... with a dash of Truffaut's JULES AND JIM inherent in the love triangle between Murphy, Berry and Grier. And as such - filmed in New York during the winter months, y'know, so the cast can cut striking images in those bad-assed winter coats - everything from BOOMERANG's cinematography (courtesy of Woody Omens) to production design (the legendary Jane Musky), score (by funk-jazz maestro Marcus Miller) and more screams near-James-Bond-cinematic elegance: the kind where the story's setting becomes every bit as important a character as any portrayed by the cast members. And released during the 4th Of July holiday week alongside Penny Marshall's A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN (another "fulcrum shift" film deserving it's own posted piece at another time), BOOMERANG was a hit with both audiences and critics.

Hudlin and Murphy on the streets of NYC

     There were, however, a few (hey, let's call them what they were) genuinely racist digs at the film. I particularly remember one controversy which erupted at the time wherein one critic (thinking they were being witty, I guess) referred to BOOMERANG as a "fantasy film" in that it featured very successful African-American business people. Hudlin responded by pointing out how such a comment displayed the ignorance many had (and still do have) of the history of black-owned businesses and black business people in America - from ignoring or not being aware of say the Johnson's Products corporation (an inspiration for the beauty products firm which takes over Marcus' ad agency), to the legendary Madam C.J. Walker - the first black female millionaire in America, and from whom Eartha Kitt's "Lady Eloise" character is partially inspired.

     Interestingly this same kind of "ethnic presumption" is exemplified in the film itself in a scene where Marcus (Murphy) and his two closest friends and business compadres - Tyler (Martin Lawrence) and Gerard (David Alan Grier) - shop at an Upper West Side men's clothing boutique and are not only tailed throughout the establishment by a suspicious salesperson. But when Tyler asks the price of a jacket, he's told "We don't have layaway". When the guys react to the comment in a justifiably offended manner, they're then told by the fearful employee in a "please don't hurt me" voice "We don't keep cash on the premises". The scene is both hilarious and enraging at the same time. And if you're an African-American there's a good chance it also has a tragic ring of familiarity to it as well.

     This is an example of that thing mentioned earlier: how "... a (filmmaker) member of a particular group can often bring to a film a great many more little known insights and observations which someone not of that group can bring; insights and minute cultural details (of both small and large significance) - the existence of which the non-group person may not even be aware". The fact that at the time of the film's release many non-African Americans found the scene shocking (though, yes, funny too as it was intended) proves the point of a certain part of the populace "not being aware" of certain things. As for the aforementioned critic's "ethnic presumption" in referring to Hudlin's film as "a fantasy" in which blacks are successful business people, Eddie Murphy himself took the particular journalist and others to task by penning a rare  op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times a couple of weeks after BOOMERANG’s debut.

     The fact-of-the-matter of the day (as unfair as it was) is that until BOOMERANG most films from African-American filmmakers, ... the only films which seemed to find distributors (or at the very least the ones able to grab the media and awards season attention)... were the "Hood films" cut from the BOYZ 'N THE HOOD, STRAIGHT OUTTA BROOKLYN, SOUTH CENTRAL mode. Sure, there was the occasional art house exception like Julie Dash's visually elegant (and visually eloquent) DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST (1991), or Spike Lee's sprawling MALCOLM X (released later in '92 as well). But the fact is Dash never made another theatrical feature film after DAUGHTERS. And Lee couldn't get Warner Bros. to fully fund the 3 hour film he wanted to make. So he did the back-then version of crowdfunding by getting celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey and Prince to financially get behind his vision of the project.

(top) Julie Dash / DAUGHTERS FO THE DUST (1991),
(bottom) Spike Lee / MALCOLM X (1992)
     And as far as T.V. "back in the day" of BOOMERANG ... . Well, while during the era of the late 1960s / early 70s Civil Rights and Black Power Movements there had been proactive / self-determining black characters in shows such as JULIA, ROOM 222 and Norman Lear's THE JEFFERSONS, by the 1980s era of Reganomics and the rise of what some would call "Yuppie-ism", black characters - even the leads in TV series such as DIFFERENT STROKES, GIMMIE A BREAK and BENSON - were often either orphans adopted by "rich white saviors" or were domestics working for them. And even mainstream hits like THE COSBY SHOW and A DIFFERENT WORLD were considered (this phrase always gets me!) "unicorns" in that such a crossover success - even a huge one like COSBY at the time - was considered too rare to be thought of as a new commercial norm or lasting paradigm.

     The financial success of BOOMERANG, however (produced for $42 million and taking in $131 million), held it's own against other Summer of '92 hits such as BATMAN RETURNS, LETHAL WEAPON 3 and UNFORGIVEN, and signaled a change in the kinds of films black directors, writers and more were henceforth able to get into the mainstream. But it still wasn't an easy progression.

     I vividly remember Spike Lee's former cinematographer Ernest Dickerson (MALCOLM X, JUNGLE FEVER, MO' BETTER BLUES, DO THE RIGHT THING) catching flack from a (I guess) well meaning / well intentioned white film critic who felt that after making a stunning directorial debut with 1992's violent Harlem youth drama JUICE starring Omar Epps and Tupac Shakur, Dickerson was "wasting his talent" on genre fare like 1993's SURVIVING THE GAME (a modern take-off on Richard Connell's THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME with Ice T and  Rutger Hauer), and 1994's TALES FROM THE CRYPT  PRESENTS: DEMON KNIGHT.

Ernest Dickerson -
(L to R) JUICE (1992), SURVIVING THE GAME (1994),

     If I recall correctly Dickerson's response was to remind such self appointed "guardians of cinematic tastes" that African-American filmmakers can be (and are) just as diverse as their white counterparts; and similarly grew up loving to read classic novels and short stories such as Connell's, and comic books like those which inspired both the TALES FROM THE CRYPT tv series and his film. Y’know, reminding some of the critics at that time that we were reading, drawing, going to the movies and doing other things too as children, and not just dodging bullets and being beaten up by bad police.

     The statement evident in up-and-coming black filmmakers making such “popcorn flicks” - apart from the very pragmatic one that we can make a studio’s cash registers ring just as effectively as our less "melanin enhanced" cinematic brethren can - was that our lives and history consisted of both positive and negative aspects. And like any other filmmaker, African-American ones began to demand the right to tell all of those stories, and not just the ones a collection of Hollywood suits in a boardroom or pitch meeting thought were comfortably and commercially “urban“. I mean, look at the other important filmmakers who dove into those "less artistic" “popcorn” genres for the sheer pleasure of fun and homage - among them Richard Donner, Walter Hill, Robert Zemeckis, John Frankenheimer, William Friedkin, Freddie Francis and others - all of whom also directed TALES FROM THE CRYPT stories by way of the tv series which lead to Dickerson’s theatrical film.

     No! BOOMERANG didn’t single-handedly, superhumanly alter the course of African-American filmmaking the way the Man of Steel all by his lonesome lifted that car over his head on the famous cover of ACTION COMICS #1. Uh, uh! It arrived during an era which was already seething and fermenting with a desire for change. And it’s success was a major catalyst, … an added reagent (if you will) which finally helped that fermenting dough to rise and take shape. One of the trends / movements which always heralds a major social change is a prevalence of satire directed towards a long existing societal norm or socio-political mindset - a norm which many come to believe needs to be torn down and rebuilt.

Changing the social mindset via satire -
(clockwise) YOU NATZY SPY! (1940), THE GREAT DICTATOR (1940),

     During the rise of Fascism in the 1930s / early 40s in Europe - a time when many in America held isolationist views and felt it wasn’t “America’s business” to protest and get involved; mostly as it would harm U.S. business interests abroad - satirist fired the first loud volleys against that Fascism in the form of The Three Stooges’ YOU NATZY SPY! (1940), Charlie Chaplin’s THE GREAT DICTATOR (1940), and Ernst Lubitsch’s TO BE OR NOT TO BE (1942) - all of which, by the way, were criticized by many in the U.S. at the time as “stirring up trouble”. That is, of course, until Dec. 7, 1941, after which they were then considered “ahead of their time”.

Changing the social mindset via satire -
(clockwise) IN LIVING COLOR (1990), I'M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA' (1988),
     In the late 1980s / early 90s one could observe a similar fermenting of not only “artistic disenchantment”, but a general societal disenchantment / lack of tolerance with the current status quo in regards to the growing stereotypical depiction of African-Americans in film, television, news and more. And the creative ferment backlash against that mindset first began to make itself known via satirical outlets such as the ground-breaking sketch comedy series IN LIVING COLOR (1990 - ’94), and films like Robert Townsend's HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE ('87) and Keenan Ivory Wayans I'M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA! ('88) - all of which hilariously, and at times brutally, made mincemeat out of not only the popular media‘s depiction of blacks in America at the time (lampooning everything from the blaxploitation images of the 70s through the gang-banger flicks of the 80s), but also skewered the stereotypical images many blacks in America had come to believe about themselves.

     Hudlin’s BOOMERANG cleverly bridged comedy and romance (and, yeah, no kidding - even a little drama!). And it’s financial success served as a “See, we told you so” back up / justification / validation to the backlash which IN LIVING COLOR and the others had begun to stir up. It performed the “passing of the mantle” from the older generation to the next, and simultaneously set the stage in order that the next generation might take what it had inherited and carry it further in a more diverse depiction of African-Americans in both media and society from then onward.

     Now, did Hudlin, screenwriters Murphy, Barry Blaustein & David Sheffield and the others do / create all of this socially relevant “fulcrum shift stuff" consciously, ... deliberately? I honestly don‘t believe so. Generally speaking the average (and usually most effective) film artists aren’t those who are necessarily “trying to deliver a message”. Yeah, there are those “message films” which can and do strike a cord within the populace. But more often it’s those films which are just seeking to be entertaining - and in the midst of being entertaining happen to strike a nerve within the cultural / psychological zeitgeist - that ultimately end up as “sign posts” films within a particular era.

     This is because in seeking to entertain, the average creative individual tends to ask themselves “Hmmm? What’s really REALLY scary, romantic, funny, etc.?”. And the answer is usually highly subjective - dependent upon what’s happening outside that creative’s window at that particular time. As such what was funny, scary, romantic, etc. ten or five years ago (or even ten or five months ago) won’t necessarily be so now.

     In this regard Hudlin and Murphy’s BOOMERANG ends up both the culmination of a certain “fermentation of dissatisfaction” over an era, as well as the response to that dissatisfaction - a response which then served as a “fulcrum shift” point and launch pad into a new era. In the same way in which time is finally the one and only true litmus test of a crafted wine's structural quality (sorry, but a history of having worked in restaurants cause my analogies to drift there now and then - haha!), so has the passing of almost three decades set BOOMERANG apart as a seminal milestone in American film canon every bit as much as did earlier films such as BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, M*A*S*H, THE FRENCH CONNECTION, SHAFT, ENTER THE DRAGON, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND and a handful of others - all of which in their own unique ways did the same exact thing in altering (a little or a lot) the course trajectory of American film which would follow in their wake.

     So, yeah, changing the world can be hilarious business.

     Well played, Playa!



More @ ...


* New York Times - THE HUDLIN BROTHERS SET OUT TO PROVE BLACK IS BOUNTIFUL (7/26/92 - by Patrick Pacheco)

Vaulted Treasures is part of The GullCottage / Sandlot - a film blog, 
cinema magazine, growing reference library and online network 
"Celebrating The Art of Cinema, ... And Cinema As Art"

Explore The GullCottage / Sandlot @