Sorry to bother you, but this week’s digital downloads (all available through Amazon) comprise a trio of superior, laugh-out-loud satires.
C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America trailer
C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America (2004)
C.S.A. explores what might have happened had the South won the Civil War, gained control of the United States, and kept the business of slavery alive and thriving. A film professor at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kevin Willmott devised this gutsy, ultra-low budget ($20,000!), and meticulously detailed faux documentary. Not since SCTV had this level of brilliant mimicry been achieved on such a miniscule budget. Atlanta-based Turner Broadcasting seemed the likeliest target to represent the telecaster, but Willmott instead went with the pretend British Broadcasting Service (BBS). (There’s nothing like a British narrator to add authenticity.) The obvious antecedent is Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, a reworking of Mel Brooks’s bad-taste Nazi laugh-getter The Producers. Lee was there when C.S.A. played Sundance, and was so impressed that he did the right thing by lending his name to the finished product. (Wilmot went on to co-write Lee’s Chi-Raq.) At-home viewing bonus: because it’s structured as a History Channel special, complete with commercials, it doesn’t suffer on the small screen.
Black Dynamite trailer
Black Dynamite (2009)
Even his mother calls him Black Dynamite. Forget about Jim Brown, D’Urville, The Hammer, Rudy Ray, and Richard Roundtree: part man-at-arms, part Father Flanagan, and 100% woman’s dream, Black Dynamite is the biggest, baddest, blackest mother of ‘em all. There have been several blaxploitation spoofs over the decades, most notably I’m Gonna’ Get You, Sucka, but BD refuses to stop at merely duplicating hairstyles and awkwardly staged fight scenes. Michael Jai White, no stranger to action or exploitation pictures, co-wrote the script and also stars. As authentic as the film’s trappings are, it’s White’s performance, coupled with an uncanny ability to shift vocal ranges, that holds the film together. Director Scott Sanders finds his greatest pleasure in lampooning the haphazard style in which these films were slapped together. The watchword is accuracy, from sloppy zooms that scramble to reframe the action, to synthesized stock music cues, to split screens, to flat lighting, to garish fight sound effects, to death by process shot. There’s even a purposely rank (and squarely executed) substitution of a double in mid-take.
Undercover Brother trailer
Undercover Brother (2002)
Undercover Brother (Eddie Griffin) is a modern-day Robin Hood with a plan to stick it to “The Man,” the sobriquet generally assigned that nameless, faceless symbol of racial oppression and modern day slavery that acts as antagonist in 90% of 70s blaxploitation pics. In this case, one particular (but shadowed) face (Robert Trumbull) personifies “The Man” and its owner is looking to take down America’s first African-American presidential candidate (Billy Dee Williams). Director Malcolm Lee (Spike’s cousin) counters Austin Powers with a comedy that’s leaps and bounds hipper and funnier than all three of Mike Meyers’ films combined. We can all look forward to seeing Dave Chappelle in what one assumes will be the Jack Carson role in Lady Gaga’s latest conjuring of A Star is Born. But was the last Eddie Griffin film to play town really — you should pardon the expression — Norbit? Here’s your chance to see them together in service of a satire worthy of their talents.