Arthur News School of Fish
Stills from the films starting top right: Detroit, The Greasy Strangler, I Am Divine, Glengarry Glen Ross.

All-American Flicks from the Trent Film Society

Written by
Madeleine Barberian
November 16, 2020

Many of us watched the US election on the edge of our seats and have strong feelings about the results. This is not the first time in the last four years that the US has managed to grab the world’s attention through any means possible. In honour of everything American, here are some picks that couldn’t have been set anywhere else other than the land of the free. They show the beautiful, the weird, the disgusting, and the dark. So if you want to continue to gawk at our neighbour to the south, these flicks are for you.

All-American Flicks from the Trent Film Society
Stills from the films starting top right: Detroit, The Greasy Strangler, I Am Divine, Glengarry Glen Ross.

Glengarry Glen Ross [Kanopy] Have you ever thought what if The Wolf of Wall Street centred on washed up real estate salesman in Chicago? Me neither, but somehow Glengarry Glen Ross manages to be just that and pull off the humour of businessman machismo with the sobering reality of such a precarious job. Three of the four main characters, Shelly, Moss, and George are struggling to make any sales and are at risk of losing their jobs. While they frequently berate each other, lie to potential buyers about their wealth, and use bad faith practices, you can’t help but want them to succeed in what seems to be an impossible task. With only 9 actors, the movie manages to feel like a play at times, except for the playful cinematography cutting quickly between two characters discussing the hypothetical prospects of robbing their office to steal the good “leads” without really saying anything. This film embodies an average outcome of the American dream of hustling for success and looking for high risk-reward situations. The dream of freedom, land, and opportunity they try to sell buyers on is paralleled in their own belief they could make it big again and get a sale. But beyond the imagery and sentimental scenes, you should watch to see caustic and flamboyant pissing contests that don’t have anything to do with the future of American democracy.

Detroit [Netflix] This film is a 1960’s crime drama and retelling of the real event of the Algiers Motel Murders in Detroit, Michigan. I want to make it clear that this film is incredibly graphic in its depiction of police corruption and brutality against Black Americans and the impacts of this brutality. If you have been brutalized by police or live in fear of this because of racial profiling, feel free to watch but you are not Detroit’s intended audience. This movie is meant to be a reminder that systemic racism and violence towards BIPOC communities was and is alive. The Algiers Motel Murders took place during the 12th street riot, one of the bloodiest racially charged riots in Detroit’s history. The movie depicts the indifference and contempt riot squads and police officers held towards all black people, via the incident at the Algiers Motel, where police abused 9 residents over a miscommunication. The film is unflinching in its depiction of individual and systemic racism as well as the intergenerational trauma of being black in America.

The Greasy Strangler [Kanopy] When The Interview with Seth Rogen came out in 2014 my extended family were celebrating Christmas and decided we should watch this new funny movie, without really doing any research, with my elderly grandparents…we turned it off after 5 minutes but the memory is forever in my mind. So when I mention that this movie is offensive and genuinely gross what I mean is; you probably do not want to watch it with grandma or with anyone who doesn’t have a strong stomach. If ridiculously large fake penises on old men and gross out humour sounds like a good time to you, this is the pick you’ve been waiting for. I kept trying to understand the value of this move and why our co-editor picked it (and why he didn’t tell me not to eat before or during) but once you surrender to the weird, it actually becomes much more enjoyable. The Greasy Strangler is set in San Francisco and centres on a grown father and son who give tours of old disco clubs. They fight for the attention of a very sexual woman who attends their tour all while a murderous monster called the Greasy Strangler is killing off locals and tourists alike. The movie does not make sense, it functions on dream logic and uses base humour for almost all its laughs… I regret to say, I was not above laughing and enjoying such a weird and raunchy film. 

I Am Divine [Netflix] Divine might be the most famous person you haven’t heard of and if you do you might know her, or her performer Harris “Glenn” Milstead, for all the wrong reasons. While this documentary focuses on the life and rise to stardom of Divine, the internationally famous drag queen and muse of director John Waters, it is also a glimpse into the lives of gay people in America from the 60’s to the 80’s. Though Milstead died in 1988, it’s clear this 2013 film is a response to the rising popularity of Drag and the culture surrounding it. The story is lovingly told by friends and family of the life of a born performer whose vanity, generosity beyond their means, and chaotic disposition coloured the lives of those closest to Divine. The character of Divine received international attention for shocking acts, caustic wit, and unapologetic individuality, this however was a character. Milstead was a complex individual and artist who had range beyond the roles he was typically given. This film is the lightest of the picks this week and if you only have time for one, I suggest I am Divine. We could all use a bit of that intangible confidence some people have that turns insecurities and flaws into quirks.


Glengarry Glen Ross — English audio and Closed Captions

Detroit — English audio and Closed Captions

The Greasy Strangler — English audio and Closed Captions

I Am Divine — English audio and Closed Captions

—Content Warnings—

Glengarry Glen Ross — prolific use of course language and arguing, racial profiling against South Asian people especially Indian people as being bad clients, outdated sexist opinions of women. 

Detroit — Graphic police brutality, physical abuse and homicide, gunshots and gunshot wounds, blood and gore, use of racial slurs and coarse language, explicit racism, substance use, mentions of prostitution, vomit.

The Greasy Strangler — frequent comic gore and eventual cannibalism, frequent coarse language, intentionally revolting food and ingestion imagery, frequent nudity including fake genitals, frequent graphic sex and masturbation, stereotypical affectations of South Asian characters and mild fatphobia played for humour.

I Am Divine — coarse language, light cinematic gore, intentionally revolting ingestion imagery, use and abuse of substances, content made by LGBTQ people that may be dated in its interpretation and performance of queerness but not intentionally malicious.

Arthur News School of Fish
Arthur News School of Fish

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