SXSW 2018 Review: 'Sorry To Bother You'

SXSW 2018 Review: 'Sorry To Bother You'

Exploring racial dynamics in America through surrealism.

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Coonery, buffoonery, toxic masculinity, feminism, identity, and Black lives matter are among the many themes tackled in Boots Riley's directorial debut film Sorry To Bother You. Think of this as an avant-garde, dystopian, social satire that uses racial dynamics in the workplace as a catalyst for exploring how people of color navigate within an oppressive system. Some have compared the movie to Jordan Peele's 2017 hit, Get Out. That's an accurate comparison but it reads like Get Out if directed by Michel Gondry.

The film follows Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield). A cunning and sensitive and deep thinker who spends equal time finding a job as he does try to unravel the secrets of the universe. In an opening scene, Cassius uses his wits to scam his way into the telemarketing job--and it works. To get a sense of the on the job training, Riley transports Cassius all over the world in a literal sense as he lands in the kitchens, bedrooms, and bathhrooms of customers.

Now Cassius isn't having much luck on his assigned calls until an older officemate (Danny Glover) explains how to build customer trust through the 'white-voice' approach. "Not Will Smith white," he says, but David Cross white. With the new voice change, Cassius sees instant monetary success, but at what cost? Susceptible to any influence that reaps a modicum of elevated status, thankfully his girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) Is there to level him out. Once Cassius reaches the point of no return, Detroit, along with all of his friends and coworkers begin to jump ship.

It's easier to think of Detroit and Cassius as ideals representing extreme ends of a spectrum. One side caters to its oppressors in the name of greed. The other wants to dismantle a racist, corporate system by any means necessary. On an even larger scale, they represent a current split within Black American society and shows how it's nearly impossible to co-exist without unification on one or more issues.

Sorry To Bother you exist somewhere between reality and fantasy where it grounds it's characters, while simultaneously getting you to believe Equetrians are a thing (you'll have to see the movie for an explanation). Riley's borrowed style aesthetic doesn't get in the way of the execution or story. He makes all subjects feel equally important as they offer different points of view on white supremacy and capitalist culture. I don't want to go into specifics on how Riley tackles each issue, as it will spoil the surprise.

This film includes extraordinary talent. Lakeith Standfield has a prestigious and varied body of work that spans television and film. There is no role he can't tackle.

After her role in Thor Ragnorok, Tessa Thompson is one of the rising stars of this generation. That's no stroke of luck, its Thompson and her wide range of talents.

Steven Yeun who offers the biggest surprise as Squeeze. He isn't stereotyped, and in fact is one of the heroes and considered a heartthrob. Yuen is treated as a person, and not a caricature of Asian culture which he pulls off with finesse and charm.

Boots Riley concludes the movie in such a way that it can be ongoing or self-contained. I guess whether or not we see more storylines in this universe depends on how the film community receives it. The film will leave many confused. It may require a second or third viewing. It could even divide audiences---but no matter what people think, Sorry To Bother You will undoubtedly create conversation.

Like, Get Out, Sorry To Bother foregrounds a series of metaphorically based scenarios that display the challenges facing African Americans in a white-dominated society. Reminding you that no matter how the story is spun, the narrative will always hold true for those living that reality.

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A Letter To My Angel, Amanda

Rest Easy Angel 11.07.18

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Amanda,

Your death has been the hardest thing for me to accept because every day I knew you, you were so full of life. You were radiant. Your presence lit up every room you walked into and your infectious laugh filled it. You cared for everyone and put others before yourself. You were one of my first forever friends.

You accepted and loved me for everything I was and everything I was not. You kept me company whether we were sitting in my basement doing nothing at all or spending the day in New York City. You were constantly making me laugh and were always there for me.

I scroll through my camera roll and your Facebook all the time and there are so many random pictures of us that I can't place, that I can't explain, but they're my favorite pictures because they remind me that we have so many memories together that it's impossible to remember them all.

But every time I think of you I'm overwhelmed with seas of memories that I can remember every moment of. Do you remember when we went to your farmhouse for the weekend and spent hours melting crayons with a hair dryer to make our own board? Well, that picture ended up being my Dads background for about 6 years, I still can't tell you why.

Or the day I found out I was moving back to California and you held me while I ugly-cried and told me that we would be friends no matter how far apart we were because you knew that was my biggest fear? And then moving day when you came over and drew notes in sharpie over all of my boxes and we made a mattress slide?

I have countless memories that include you that I'll cherish forever, from playing Just Dance with you in the basement to sharing our 13th birthday party.

These past two months I've been full of anger. I've been angry at the world for taking you and angry at myself for letting life and distance get in the way. I'll probably hold a piece of that anger for the rest of my life but I'll also hold eternal appreciation and admiration for you.

I want to tell you that I appreciate that you were always there for me when I needed someone. I appreciate that you could make me laugh until I couldn't breathe even on my worst days. I appreciate that you accepted me for all my flaws and never expected perfection. I appreciate that you were always supportive and encouraging and most of all I appreciate that you were the most amazing friend.

I want you to know that I admire your strength. I admire how you were always able to find the good in everything and see the best in everyone. I admire how selfless you were, always putting others before yourself. I admired how nonjudgmental you were, you always gave the best advice. I admire how hard headed you could be, never giving up until you reached your goal but more importantly I admired you for being you.

Remembering you is so easy, it's having to miss you that's so hard. My life is better because you were a part of it and I'm far from the only one. There is an army of people that miss you every day that will carry a piece of you forever. Rest easy, angel.

I love you.

Shea.

You are forever in our hearts. 

Amanda Aujero

"Amanda was one of my only friends starting high school and was there with me through family dinners, sleepovers, breakups, SAT's, and graduation. She was a light and such a beautiful person. We laughed so hard together that we would pee our pants. I miss her like crazy and plan on visiting her and talking to her for the rest of my life. She taught me to live with no regrets." -Mary Skrzypczak

"One thing I loved about Amanda was that she had such an open-mindedness I could tell her anything with no judgements." -Avery Zulauf

"My favorite memory of Amanda is us driving down the main road in LBI and laughing our asses off. I have known Amanda for years but her last 2 1/2 years on earth, I feel as if we got the closer we had ever been and I'm internally grateful for that. I love you Amanda." -Catie Keating

"There's a billion amazing words I could use that perfectly describe Amanda, but the one that I think differentiates her from most people is "real". She was real. That girl was truly one of a kind; irreplaceable. I knew from a young age when we became friends in elementary school that I could lose all of my friends but if I only had her I would be okay. It even felt that way at times but she and I were happy having just each other. One of my favorite memories with her was when I moved to Florida to start my freshmen year in high school. We were both upset we weren't experiencing high school together and we promised that we would never stop being best friends. I was scared starting at a school in a new state and not knowing anyone, and you know what Amanda did? For the first week or so before I made friends she would FaceTime me at lunch everyday so I wouldn't eat alone. Now that's true friendship right there. When I moved back it was like I never left. I always thought of her as a sister who just happened to be my best friend too. If you learn one thing from this it's that everyone should have an Amanda in their life. And if you don't, then don't settle because if you have that relationship with someone it outweighs having hundreds of friends. Having that special relationship with someone regardless if you're both here or not will never die. It lives on and it's something that I will cherish forever." -Selena Gonzalez

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