Sleep has been a dependable commodity for me for a few months now, but last night the lack-of-sleep demons returned – for a brief sojourn, I hope. So I watched what’s probably the most underrated movie ever, John Sayles tale of complicated life at the Texas-Mexico border, Lone Star. I had just read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Atlantic magazine essay giving his reaction to Paula Deen’s less-than-contrite comments about the Civil War, racism, economic opportunity, and her casual use of what is now euphemised as the “N-word.”
Sayles, in his brilliant portrayal of culture clashes on both the personal and societal levels, takes on much more than Coates ever has – whites, blacks, and Hispanics elbowing for personal liberties, romance, family comfort, and new beginnings.
While Coates’ perspective is all too true, by the nature of his literary vehicle he’s forced to deal with these societal handcuffings by calling attention to the symptomatics and hoping for the best. Sayles’ art, though, has much more impact by not dealing in political and social abstractions. Rather, he graphically depicts the ways each of these cultural groups bind themselves, hold down themselves and one another, preventing the “hope for the best” future Coates always seems to reach for. If we’re to truly progress as a society, art must be the catalyst. If not, I fear we’re lost.
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