Content warning for homophobia.
Civilization (or what’s left of it as of this writing) thrives because there are many people who work towards an idealized world…or at least are put to work by people who have that vision in mind. But within this society, we somehow always make a spot for those deemed worst among us. We do this in the form of prisons, elaborate shaming rituals, documentation of said shaming rituals (which is then used to shame the person over and over until they are dead), late-night commercials starring D-list celebrities who support Donald Trump, and in this case, a habit picked up by movie buffs around the globe: finding the worst things committed to celluloid/video and mocking them within inches of their life. I indulge in this habit quite a lot. After all, who hasn’t seen an episode of the TV show, “Mystery Science Theater 3000”, or experienced their offshoots like Cinematic Titanic and Rifftrax?
But it’s one thing to mock the bad acting, poor direction, laughable special effects and terrible writing of the movies, quite another to dig underneath them and find an ugliness that reminds us that the world we’re living in is not ok. Which brings us to the movie, “Cover”, a movie that will inflict pain upon the viewer with poor moviemaking and an ugly message. It will also bring shame upon any thinking black person (including this writer) who ever dared to feel inspired by the works of The Hughes Brothers, Ava DuVernay, Aaron McGruder, Spike Lee and many others whose morning bowel movements have more value than every milisecond of this movie. You’ve been warned.
The story? Well, say it along with me: a heartbroken woman finds the man of his dreams…who is not quite who he says he is, and so she investigates only to find an ugly truth that could shake her and her family/community. Ok, so not exactly innovative, but it is at the very least a foundation for some interesting character drama. Hell, throw some good to great actors in the mix, you could have a decent movie to see in a theater or lounge on the couch with. Also, the movie has Vivica A. Fox! The lady who was a badass killer in, “Kill Bill”, and also in, “Independence Day” as the proud sex worker married to Will Smith. Surely she’ll be good in this…but she’s not. Oh, god, she is not. Unengaged and unengaging, Vivia A. Fox in this movie looks and sounds like someone who was just rushed into the set with no knowledge of what the movie is about or any real direction beyond, “Be this emotion because the script says you should be that way”. But they are not the only thing wrong with this movie.
A fact about moviemaking is that every individual element needs someone to help prop it up, and people to guide those elements together. A director is nothing without their crew and vice versa. Sadly, before the movie shows it’s ugly heart, it’s apparent that the moviemakers are out of their element. The acting is stilted due to poor direction and blocking, the cinematography is network TV bland and so is the music. What especially destroys it, however, is the editing. Entire scenes have an average of about 3 jarring cuts, in areas that make no goddamn sense. One sees movies like Spike Lee’s, “Girl 6”, Luis Bunel’s and Slavador Dali’s, “Un Chien Andalou”, and Jean Luc-Goddard’s, “Breathless” as better examples which play with editing to create a sense of rhythm, psychological tension, and anarchy, but few movies employ such an art with frustrating ineptitude like this. The editing occurs at some of the most awkward places, like the editor just had a bunch of outtakes and stitched the, “good” parts of those outtakes together as opposed to just using the good takes as well as they could.
Oh, and as for how the movie uses this poor technique to forward it’s plot? Well, it turns out the man the woman turns out with…is a downlow brother. Ok, let’s dive into what that means. A, “downlow brother” is described as a gay man who pretends to be straight and sleep with women because…because they’re bad, apparently. It’s an ugly concept like The Willie Lynch Chip that turns things into an overblown conspiracy to destroy black people while papering over actual ugly aspects in real life. In this case, the, “downlow brother” twist leads into an ugly turn into HIV/AIDs. Because, you know, only homosexuals get those things, and they’re trying to spread it to the normal straights because of a grand conspiracy to destroy the black race from within. Yes, people actually believe this shit, to the point where there is a fucking, “Law & Order” episode where Ice-T somehow manages to explain this concept without punching himself in the face.
But I’m getting off track. Now, to be fair, the movie does try to push back at this…through an insulting, cloying sequence in a church where a group of women talk about the homosexual menace with all the grace of a drunk on stilts. But wait! A gay man is amongst these people, proclaiming that he is not a bad person, and exclaiming that he loves god…and then an older woman barks back at him, “But does god love you?”, with the other women jeering at him along with her with self-righteous fury. Once again, this is the grand theme this title’s inept moviemaking is put in service of.
The movie then slides further down. A murder occurs. The woman has AIDS, then dies. The father of the woman who dies chases the man into a courthouse and starts to beat him and yell at him, with dramatic music meant to convey tragedy but instead giving off the subtlety of an airhorn to the face. The man is jailed, and a gaping hole is left in the community. This is meant to be a story about the costs of deception and of not being cautious, but the movie is so inept and toxic that it is more like propaganda about the evils of the gays and of STDs. What’s that, what about compassion and an understanding of the damage homophobia/stigma does that causes such events (however contrived) to occur in the first place? Who needs that when there are so many Wille Lynch-style conspiracy theories to prop up said homophobia and stigma. Blacks may not be the most privileged class as of this writing, but the most oppressed amongst us are people who don’t fit into straight, patriarchial norms, and “Cover” spends over an hour and thirty minutes flipping them off.
There is good news from all of this. The movie apparently cost over $3 Million to make (not including the cost of advertising), but only made $79,436 during it’s entire theatrical run. For real. Of course, that doesn’t call into account money made from DVD/Video purchases, On-Demand and other means, and a movie this vile has undoubtedly found life amongst the worst of us, people for whom life only has meaning if everyone was as paranoid and bigoted as them. Who ever said that black people are one big monolith, agreeing with each other on every single issue, and protecting each other in the name of unity? Movies like, “Cover”, for better and for worse, exposes the myth of racial unity amongst black folk in America, if only because of some very old fashioned problems that even supposed enlightened folk like President Barack Obama flipped-flopped on in the name of political advantages (not that the alternative was any better).
Such is progress, but may we forever keep marching forward so that movies like, “Cover” keep failing…at the expense of the psychological well-being of movie buffs like myself who look at this trash to begin with. Hey, don’t look at me, I borrowed this.
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