Go back in time

Show more

Chasing the Scream


Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the tree to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop

Strange Fruit is at the core of The United States vs. Billie Holiday, the movie that just earned Andra Day a Golden Globe for her portrait of Billie Holiday. And I can understand why they gave it to her over let's say, Viola Davis for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (another movie you've GOT to see). The movie has been called 'disjointed' and 'lacking on focus' but for me, it definitely nailed what it was set to do: showcase Billie's talent while making sure it left clear that racism has always been at the core of the 'war on drugs' in the US. 

Oh, I think the movie is visually stunning. Andra Day is a beautiful woman and she looks incredible in the film. I literally gasped many times during the movie because in my head, she WAS Billie Holiday. The art direction and costuming are fantastic and Andra does her own singing, sounding so uncannily like Billie, that to my untrained ear, she seemed to be doing the most fantastic lip sync of them all. Shanté! you motherfucking stay. But no, Andra -an accomplished singer herself- sings Billie's songs in her own voice and it adds to the realism of the piece. Is it a perfect movie? Probably not. But it works. I know critics are going to go for the minutia, but that does not matter to me, the garden variety moviegoer. And that's what counts, no?

To me, what stood out was the light the movie shone on the real reason Billie was so hounded by the Feds. Billie refused to stop singing Strange Fruit, the song that according to Harry Hanslinger, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics Chief, incited people to think about racism. In the United States. In the forties and fifties. The fact that he also considered Jazz to be the 'devil's music' is just icing on the cake. He's an avatar for whiteness in the movie. The war on drugs is a war on Black people and communities of color in the United States. Oh, you thought that the war on weed was to protect the kids? I'd laugh if I were not busy typing this. 

The US vs. Billie Holiday (based on the fantastic Chasing the Scream book by Johann Hari) connects the dots for the uninitiated. So tell me, how much do you know about the war on drugs in North America? Some people only remember those DARE commercials. But in this movie we see Billie was hounded by the Feds because she was a Jazz singer. She was hounded by the Feds because she was a Black woman and she was hounded by the Feds because she refused to stop singing a song that she considered needed to be heard and the racist establishment thought it needed to be silenced. And they caught her using the only weapons they had against her: her penchant for terrible men and her drug use. 

The war on drugs was used as a last resort (after banning her from clubs, accosting her lady friends and sending her to jail for a year) to silence Billie Holiday. But she kept singing Strange Fruit. Even after her life fell apart in pieces. Billie died of cirrhosis at age 44 handcuffed to a hospital bed. The Feds handcuffed her in her deathbed as a last attempt to silence her. And they have not been able to achieve that. More than fifty years after her death.

So if you have Hulu, make sure you stream the movie. If you don't have Hulu, read Chasing the Scream. And if you have Billie's records, make sure you sit down and listen to them. Especially Strange Fruit. Because many things have stayed the same since she recorded that song in the late thirties. Especially racism in the United States. Don't believe me? Well, the US House just passed and anti-lynching law. One hundred years after it was introduced. It does take nerve. 

XOXO

P.S. here's Trevante Rhodes, one of Billie's men. In case you needed some more motivation to watch the movie. You may remember him from Moonlight




Comments

  1. Trevante Nemour Rhodes
    born in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, February 10, 1990.
    here his wiki bio

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, he's dreamy. And talented.
      I hope we see more of him.

      XOXO

      Delete
  2. Interesting. I don't know if it was pointed out or not, but Strange Fruit was recorded in the 1930's, not later, or that she died of cirrhosis at the age of 44.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, they talk about it in the movie. I understand someone turned her on to the song in the late thirties and then she made it her own. And one of the last scenes in the movie is her in the hospital, when she was there because her liver gave up.

      XOXO

      Delete
  3. Racism is alive and well in the US. See CPAC and all of the voter restrictions working there way through state houses across the land. Unfortunately I don’t see a resolution anytime soon. That’s why movies like this are important. That’s why people, ALL people, need to continue to speak out.

    And this is on my watch list.

    XOXO 👨‍❤️‍💋‍👨

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Evey restriction the Repugs put in place is driven by racism. That's a very simple fact. And I like movies like this because they drive home a point that may be difficult for some (white) people to get any other way.
      And I know you'll like it, bae. It's a good movie.

      XOXO

      Delete
  4. We haven't seen it yet. But, of course, we will at some point. We have seen "Ma Rainy's Black Bottom" and Boseman's win was not a surprise. Andra's Globe win was not a surprise, either. Now, all eyes will be on her for the Oscars. How many years after "Lady Sings the Blues" and Diana Ross' ridiculous loss to Liza? How's that for Oscar So White and the continuing racism that permeates our society? As for the war on drugs...all of our "illicit" substances have become illegal due to racism. XOXO

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I recommend it, Big.
      And Ma Rainey was very good. Chadwick and Viola eat it up. But like the Billie biopic, it packed the punch of Black people responding to white supremacy. And Audra may be a good contender for the Oscar. After all, she sings here, too. And there's no Cabaret in the list this year.
      And if Oscars so white, the Golden Globes are not far behind. Tina Fey and Jane Fonda mentioned that. Somebody had to.

      XOXO

      Delete
  5. That movie has popped up in my queue as "movies you may be interested in"....and now I'm interested.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh you should watch it and let us know what you think.
      You'll love the songs and the art direction.

      XOXO

      Delete
  6. Gorgeous looking film about one of my all-time favorite singers, and a song that makes me literally weep whenever I hear it. The way white America tore Billie down because of a song, no matter how right and painful and hurtful the song might be, is disgusting.
    A great book about the song--often called the FIRST protest song--is David Margolick's Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday, Cafe Society, and an Early Cry for Civil Rights.
    Sidenote: whkattak is so right: Diana was robbed in '72.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They did a great job with it.
      The fact that they came for her because she was a Black woman with a platform was shameful. And I'm going to have to look for that book!
      And yes, Diana could have gotten that Oscar then.

      XOXo

      Delete
  7. Watched the Golden Globe Awards and, all I can say is... 😏 Really happy Rosamund Pike received one because she was amazin' in that seriously awesome movie I Care A Lot. 👌🏻 By now, probably everyone & their mother have watched it. Such a good thriller, full of twists. 👏🏻

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! The whole night had some kind of Big Lesbian Energy.
      Rosamund Pike was fantastic in the movie.

      XOXO

      Delete
  8. Mr. Rhodes is gorgeous. He's worth sneaking behind my husband's back for (I'm just a slut at heart). Sorry I don't get Hulu.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, he's a delight.
      He showed some of that potential in Moonlight. He should be in more movies. Preferably naked.
      And yeah, it's a Hulu movie so I don't know if it'll go to other streaming services. It's a pity.
      XOXO

      Delete
  9. I've lived in Cali forever, and have yet watch a awards show. I don't have the attention span , would rather watch something entertaining, and Im not really sure why we need to award just one person an award in selected categories . Who's really to say one preformed better then another...when it's all art and meant for entertainment purposes? It's always confused me. I don't feel art can be judged. We did catch it the movie though...it was excellent.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OMG same!
      I have seldom watched the whole Oscars or the whole Golden Globes. Awards shows seem to go on and on, and on!
      Glad you guys liked the movie! I also thought it was great.

      XOXO

      Delete
  10. Ummm... he look good in those Calvins. Just saying. Interesting post. And I agree. It's time this nonsense re: drugs stops. It's a waste of money, focus and manpower. Legalize, legislate, and tax it. And here's what I think we be wonderful. And maybe I am missing something here, but let me know what you think. I think we should legalize it and then do what we did with the casinos. We handed over control of the casinos to various Native American tribes as a means of making reparation's. I say we do the same thing with legalized drugs and hand all that money and power over to the black community. The thing is... people - people from all walks of life - are going to do drugs, just like people from all walks drink. You don't want to participate? Don't. But don't stand in the way of those that need a little something now and then to get over. Anyway... that's wishful thinking on my part. We still have old azz white dudes standing up and saying gateway drug and fearmongering like its Reefer Madness time anytime we try to legalize it here in MN. And we're educated people. Well, at least they are relaxing some drug laws. That is a step in the right direction. Thanks for this thoughtful post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, he looks good enough to eat.
      And the thing with drugs is the same as with alcohol. Like you said, people are going to do them. The idea they've had with legalized pot also tends to favor white people, though. There needs to be a middle ground. And get the good old white boys out of politics once and for all.

      XOXO

      Delete
  11. Poor Billie Holiday.

    Can't those bastards just let the poor woman even in death rest???? Strange Fruit I listen to a lot. Some don't enjoy it...because they know it hits close to calling out their bigoted ways.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Go ahead, give it to me.

Translate

Followers

Popular Posts

En otra lengua

  • Culpa contagiosa - Parece inevitable, las olas de culpa y contagio son coincidentes en todas partes. Y el plural se usa de forma automática para los golpes de pecho: “...
    5 days ago
  • Con-sentimiento - Ya lo dije: el impostor está ganando. Y como el impostor está ganando, cada vez me siento más ajeno al trabajo que hago y pocas cosas han ocurrido para ...
    6 days ago
  • Cómo maté a mi padre - Mis subrayados al libro *Cómo maté a mi padre*, de la escritora colombiana *Sandra Jaramillo Klinkert:* - …en el mundo real no hay tres vidas, co...
    1 week ago
  • MI MOMENTO ZEN - Ya comenté en su momento que como tantos y tantos otros humanos, una vez se activó el "Pandemia-Mode" encontré una forma de ocupar el exceso de tiempo - ...
    3 weeks ago
  • - En los días que se han convertido en años, en tiempo que transcurre y sin entenderme a mi mismo en mis angustias, en mis silencios, en mis ruidos que no c...
    1 year ago

Restricted to Adults

Restricted to Adults
Under 18? Beat it. Now.