What happened? 'The Birth of a Nation' getting mixed reviews.



I remember watching Nate Parker's "The Birth of a Nation" at Sundance this past January and everyone fawning all over it. I wasn't going to have any of that. The film was essentially riding on the #Oscarssowhite movement which was happening that very month. People were getting suckered by the hype and it just got the best of them. That's alright, but hate to say I told you so. Only Jeffrey Wells over at Hollywood-Elsewhere was joining me in my counter reaction to the film. At the film's premiere they gave Nate Parker a standing ovation before the movie had even started.  I have never seen that before at a film festival. Of course the film went on to win the festival's top two prizes and Oscar buzz was all over the place for the movie.

An excerpt from my Sundance review:

"Was the buzz and acclaim that the film has received merited/justified? Of course not. Parker makes mistakes in his filmmaking and those mistake do end up costing him. Portraying Turner as Jesus-like figure doesn't help, nor does the fact that he fumblingly sets up his story in a lame almost skittish way. Also, the actual rebellion, the most interesting and exciting part of the film, only happens near the end. Bad decision. Parker isn't yet fit to carry such a heavy subject matter as a director, his amateurish mistakes are absurd and almost too naive to comprehend, but, of course, his mind and passion are in the right place and his movie relevant as ever, which is why so many were suckered into praising this film to the Gods just a couple of months ago.

Parker means to make an "epic," but there is no "epic" feel to his film. It feels flat and devoid of any artfulness. It doesn't feel cinematic. One might wonder the potential of such a relevant and important story in the hands of an Ava DuVernay or Spike Lee. That would have made for a more fully fleshed out and reflective film than what Parker gives us."


It seems like all the lavishly drawn-out praise that happened in Park City this past January has tamed down a bit. Is it because Parker is now involved in controversy, having to do with a previous rape case, that has mired his reputation? Or is it that people have come back down to planet earth and realized, meh, it's not that good of a movie? Probably a bit of both, but it goes to show how gullible some film critics truly are. "The Birth of a Nation" is not going to win any awards, nor is it going to be remembered over time. What will be remembered from all of this is something Parker would rather you forget.

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