Before heading to the theater, check in with Cineast for the latest movie previews. This week, Cineast examines Selma and Amityville: The Awakening.
Comparisons have been made between the film Lincoln and Selma, the new film about Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil-rights movement. Both films employ the strategy of focusing on a short but crucial period in U.S. history and those periods’ most critical heroes, conveying through the recounting of these successes not only events that changed the country but the massive talents and brave efforts of the people involved. Selma takes place in 1965 when the civil-rights movement is at a crossroads—civil-rights laws are finally working their way through Congress, thanks to the legislative genius of Lyndon Johnson, but the South remains mired in racial violence. Oppression continues in the form of a culture of fear and threats. The killing of African Americans in the South is still alarmingly routine, and often goes unpunished. But perhaps more damaging is the daily indignity of continued segregation and the continuation of the Southern states’ policies of blocking African American access to the vote. Martin Luther King Jr. understood that, in order for real change to occur, the conscience of the nation would have to be awakened by daily exposure, in the form of horrifying television coverage, to irrefutable evidence of the South’s refusal to enforce the law and its willingness to authorize police brutality in defense of its “way of life.” Selma promises to be an instant classic.
Amityville: The Awakening
It’s funny. People who don’t live on or ever visit Long Island usually think that Amityville is a fictional town. The name “Amityville” doesn’t SOUND like the name of a real town, after all. It’s a name that could very easily have been dreamed up by some Stephen King wannabe trying to conjure a creepy-because-slightly-too-sweet-sounding suburban place name. And yet, there Amityville is, squeezed into the overbuilt sprawl of western Suffolk County, its residents probably sometimes wishing they could change their town’s name to avoid identifying their hometown with the series of horror films that have regularly appeared since 1979’s Amityville Horror. Alternatively, these residents probably hope that horror movie producers would finally decide to leave poor Amityville alone and start picking on another suburb—surely there could just as easily be haunted houses in Ronkonkoma. Of course, there is the flimsiest basis in fact when it comes to Amityville: there was the father who murdered his family at 112 Ocean Avenue, and the family that subsequently bought the house at 112 Ocean Avenue but quickly moved out saying it was haunted. Thus was Amityville’s fate sealed, and it will likely be identified with bone-chilling screamfests well into the future. Amityville: The Awakening is the latest entry in the series, and features lots of sudden, loud noises guaranteed to make you spill your popcorn.