Last night was a two-fer. We watched The Ox-Box Incident, and then, with time to spare, I decided to sneak in a non-list movie and watched the documentary 13th. WELL …. turns out 13th is one of the 1001 after all!
It might be important to mention now that I have a total disregard for spoilers, so if these movies are on your must-see list, you might want to watch them first.
In The Ox-Bow Incident, Peter Fonda and Harry Morgan (of M*A*S*H fame) inadvertently get caught up in a posse who are heading out to capture a group of cattle rustlers and murderers. Despite orders from the sheriff to bring the men back for a fair trial, it’s clear the posse can’t be bothered with things like “justice” and “innocence”, and are actually just itching for a lynching. Peter and Harry scrape up some morals and stand in opposition, along with (not surprisingly) the only black man in the crowd, but the posse is hungry for vengeance and proceeds with their executions. It’s easy to think this movie could have taken place in the 80’s, when one of the last reported lynchings took place in the US, and you would be right. Except it was the 1880’s, not the 1980’s. The important clue is that the victims were white and hispanic, and not black like Michael Donald (murdered by the KKK in Mobile, AB in 1981).
13th is a scathing indictment of the US prison system, effectively arguing that a loophole of the 13th amendment allowed for black people to continue to be kept as slaves as long as they were in prison. There is no doubt there is a staggering number of black people in US jails compared to the overall population, and laws such as Three Strikes and Mandatory Minimum sentencing disproportionately impacts the black (and poor) populations. A compelling must-see documentary, especially as a gateway to understanding the Black relationship with police in the US, and the inevitable emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement.
In keeping with this general theme, we had also already watched In The Heat Of The Night. Five minutes into this movie, a white cop arrests Sidney Poitier for the crime of sitting in a train station waiting for a train and then accuses him of murder and theft based on the evidence of him having a wallet containing (gasp) money. Turns out Sidney Poitier is a cop, not a murderer. This movie, which seemingly could have been made yesterday, was made in 1967. *Nothing has changed!*. (Unrelated aside: proving a complete disregard for the rules, this movie won FIVE Oscars including the second-worst one, Best Picture. In Rule lore, the worst Oscar is Cinematography.) One tidbit from the IMDB trivia of this movie: Sidney Poitier, one of the best actors of his day, insisted the movie be filmed in the north because of fear of the KKK. Read the trivia here.