Now Streaming | The Best of Samuel L. Jackson
One of the major controversies of the week was the rigmarole over the lack of racial diversity at this year’s (and last year’s) Academy Awards. One of the most-cited snubs was Samuel L. Jackson’s performance in Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, wherein he played a mean-spirited bounty hunter of dubious moral standing. Of the titular eight, he, Walton Goggins, and the actually-nominated Jennifer Jason Leigh are being called out the most.
Samuel L. Jackson, luckily, is so prolific – not to mention talented – that even if he is snubbed for awards this year, he’ll have a dozen performances next year to parse over. Over the years, Jackson has appeared in huge blockbusters, modest bombs, soulful indies, spirited cartoons, occasional crap, and everything in between. He’s been the muse of Spike Lee and Tarantino. Last year alone, he starred in six features. And, at age 67, he shows no sign of slowing.
Want to watch some of him right now? Of course you do. And of course you can. Now Streaming has found the following great performances available immediately.
The Caveman’s Valentine (Watch it on YouTube)
In Kasi Lemmons’ The Caveman’s Valentine, Samuel L. Jackson plays a homeless man named Romulus Ledbetter, a former professional New York pianist who never managed to get on his feet, thanks to his crippling mental illness. Romulus is a paranoid schizophrenic who has arguments with graffiti, think people are following him, see the Chrysler Building as some sort of antenna broadcasting evil into the world, masterminded by something he calls Stuyvesant. The Caveman’s Valentine is a noir film about how this man – so often ignored and marginalized – becomes embroiled in what might be a murder mystery. Jackson seems to really understand the movement and the minutiae of mental illness, and doesn’t make light of it, nor explain it away. It’s one of Jackson’s stronger performances.
Black Snake Moan (Watch it on Showtime Anytime)
In Craig Brewer’s Black Snake Moan (named after a Blind Lemon Jefferson song) it is argued that nymphomania can be cured by Mississippi blues and a small bout of bondage. Christina Ricci plays a troubled married woman whose husband is abroad in the military. She has become a hard-partying sex addict who, in a stupor, falls in the path of Lazarus Radd (Jackson), who seems to have the solution. He will cure her by chaining her up in his house, praying for her soul, and playing her some of the best damn blues music heard in a modern movie. It’s a very odd film, but deeply moving. You’re never sure if Lazarus Radd is a maniac or a sage. Jackson plays him as someone in between.
Jungle Fever (Watch it on Starz)
One of Jackson’s many collaborations with Spike Lee, Jungle Fever is about the intense romance between a black man and a white woman, and all the race and gender politics that play into such a relationship in the early 1990s. Wesley Snipes plays the lead, Flipper Purify. Jackson doesn’t have a huge role in Jungle Fever – he plays Flipper’s brother Gator – but his scenes are notable. Gator is a crack addict who is an emotional and financial drain on Flipper, and who lacks any semblance of sanity or charm. Jackson is better known playing intense or crazy, so it’s kind of astonishing to see him play a character who is so desperate and understated.
Django Unchained (Watch it on Netflix)
Jackson doesn’t appear until late in the proceedings of Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, so it’s a bit of a surprise when he does. He plays Stephen, the elderly house slave to Leonardo DiCaprio’s amoral plantation owner. Stephen is a complicated character to modern audiences, as he plays a slave who is perfectly content being a slave. Indeed, he seems to have a better standing with his master than many of the film’s white characters, and he ends up betraying the title character. Stephen is also, in the words of the Kerry Washing character, scary. Stephen has a lot of power in this house, and has no problems using it for villainous means.
Pulp Fiction (Watch it on Amazon Prime)
Because, of course.
Top Image: Paramount Vantage
Witney Seibold is a contributor to the CraveOnline Film Channel, and co-host of The B-Movies Podcast. He also contributes to Legion of Leia, and Blumhouse. You can follow him on “Twitter” at @WitneySeibold, where he is slowly losing his mind.