Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People
In telling this story and exploring its meanings, Harris’ well-crafted film uses interviews with a number of historians and black photographers. But its greatest asset…
Editor's note: To give you a chance to get to know our writers better, we've asked them to respond to some questions. In coming weeks, we'll be posting their responses, which will always be available as a link from their contributor biography page. Here's Christy Lemire.
Where did you grow up, and what was it like?
Woodland Hills, in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles, in a totally "Brady Bunch"-looking mid-century modern, suburban tract house. This was during the 1970s and '80s, so "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" feels like a documentary to me.
My parents were hugely into movies and a massive influence on the career path I'd end up following. My mother loved Fellini and would drive 40 minutes out of her way to the video store in Silver Lake because they had better foreign titles. My father loved Humphrey Bogart and John Wayne and would sing along with all his favorite, classic musicals. They encouraged me to see everything, from back-to-back showings of "The Karate Kid" when I was 12 to "Rebel Without a Cause" in high school to foreign films when I'd come home from college on break.
What's the first movie you remember seeing, and what impression did it make on you?
In the theater, probably "Bambi." I recall feeling scared and sad in ways I couldn't fully comprehend or articulate. At home, repeated showings of "The Sound of Music" and "The Wizard of Oz," those usual childhood rites of passage. I still sing along with Liesl in the gazebo, and I'm still frightened of the flying monkeys.
What's the first movie that made you think, "Hey, some people made this. It didn't just exist. There's a human personality behind it.
"Gosh, maybe "Star Wars"? It's such a specific, personal vision and at that point it was unlike anything I'd seen before.
What's the first movie you ever walked out of?
The first "Saw" movie. It had gotten so much hype, I had to check it out. I wasn't reviewing it, though. So when the scene came up with the bad guy putting a gun to the heads of a trembling, sobbing mother and daughter, I was just like: "I'm out of here." I wasn't even a parent yet—I didn't even want to be a parent yet—but this felt gratuitous and exploitative to me in a way that was off-putting. I haven't seen a "Saw" movie since.
What's the funniest film you've ever seen?
What's the saddest film you've ever seen?
"Lassie Come Home." The original and the remake. I sob like a little girl, even though I know there's going to be a happy ending. (The fact that I had a collie growing up might have something to do with this.)
What's the scariest film you've ever seen?
What's the most romantic film you've ever seen?
What's the first television show you ever saw that made you think television could be more than entertainment?
What book do you think about or revisit the most?
Probably whatever I'm reading to my 4-year-old. These days, something by Mo Willems.
What album or recording artist have you listened to the most, and why?
Growing up: Depeche Mode, The Smiths. More recently: the Pixies, Radiohead.
Is there a movie that you think is great, or powerful, or perfect, but that you never especially want to see again, and why?
"Requiem for a Dream." It's just so draining.What movie have you seen more times than any other?
What was your first R-rated movie, and did you like it?
My mom let me see "Fame" when I was 7 years old. My friends and I all loved the music, but I also recall thinking how racy it seemed and how very grown-up I felt for having seen it.
What's the most visually beautiful film you've ever seen?
Anything by Wong Kar-wai. Specifically, "In the Mood for Love."
Who are your favorite leading men, past and present?
Humphrey Bogart, George Clooney.
Who are your favorite leading ladies, past and present?
Who's your favorite modern filmmaker?
The Coen brothers.
Who's your least favorite modern filmmaker?
What film do you love that most people seem to hate?
What film do you hate that most people love?
I certainly don't hate this movie, but I don't get the allure of "Synecdoche, NY," the way most people do.
Tell me about a moviegoing experience you will never forget—not just because of the movie, but because of the circumstances in which you saw it.
Rewatching "I Am Love" at the Virginia Theater at Ebertfest a few years ago was pretty great. It's such a gorgeous theater and seeing the film projected on that big, beautiful screen made the lushness of it all even more vibrant.
What aspect of modern theatrical moviegoing do you like least?
The need to text/tweet/check email during movies. The fact that it's a totally acceptable practice among younger viewers is very discouraging.
What aspect of moviegoing during your childhood do you miss the most?
The surge of independence that going to the movies without a parent provided.
Have you ever damaged a friendship, or thought twice about a relationship, because you disagreed about whether a movie was good or bad?
Not at all. Disagreement is part of the fun.
What movies have you dreamed about?
None that I can remember, surprisingly.
What concession stand item can you not live without?
I don't tend to eat while I watch movies! Maybe because I've reviewed them for a living for so long, and I usually need to have my hands free to write. But I won't say no if someone offers me a handful of peanut M&M's.
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