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Friday, March 24, 2017

I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO


I Am Not Your Negro is brilliant and disturbing and educational and poignant and enlightening and sobering and infinitely captivating. This documentary film directed by Raoul Peck is based on James Baldwin's unfinished manuscript Remember This House, and is masterfully narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. It explores the history of racism in the United States through Baldwin's reminiscences of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. 

I first became aware of James Baldwin when I read his semi-autobiographical book 'Go Tell it on the Mountain' in high school, and was fortunate enough to hear him lecture in person some time later (around 1985) at what was then Dekalb College. This was just a couple of years before his death in 1987, and I remember that he was just as relentlessly and unapologetically outspoken that day as he had ever been...just as he had been in the TV interviews from the '60's that I had seen with him. Much of the material in his lecture was difficult for me to listen to because it was so brutally honest and indicting of American history and of white culture, but he was so intelligent, articulate and even poetic in his delivery that I could have sat there all day and heard even more. His mastery of the English language and finesse as a wordsmith made it easier to absorb the sword of truth from his lips.

'I Am Not Your Negro' does an expertly commanding job of using movie clips, archival news footage, and clips of interviews with Baldwin to illustrate the powerful words of his manuscript, and much of it serves as a compelling time capsule that somehow resonates with uncanny accuracy and relevance for today. His words, written decades ago, ring quite sadly prophetic as it relates to our present reality.

Baldwin was incredibly and unflinchingly courageous, not just as an man of color who fearlessly gave a voice to the voiceless, but also as an out gay man who embraced his sexual orientation without trepidation. He is therefore an icon in several communities, including the literary community, and IANYN is a powerful tribute to his work and legacy on every level.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

MOONLIGHT


So I finally saw ‘Moonlight’ last week, about 24 hours after it won the Academy Award for Best Picture in the most bizarre Oscar announcement of that category in history, and I was blown away by it. 

It has been on my list of films to see for months now, during which time I've continued to receive a steady stream of recommendations for it from friends and acquaintances, but I just never got around to seeing it until now for some reason.

I think I was subconsciously putting it off, maybe even dreading sitting through it a little, because I knew enough about the subject matter to know what films like that can do to my psyche, and I just wasn't ready to experience that yet. The movie presents three stages in the life of the main character, Chiron, and explores the difficulties that he faces with his own sexuality, and the physical abuse he receives because of it, and on a personal level, seeing young people suffer because of homophobia can be just too difficult for me to watch sometimes.

And in a broader context, I'm not really that drawn to films with a gay theme, in general, because I rarely find them to be realistic in their portrayals of what it really means to be gay. But I actually found 'Moonlight' to be surprisingly life-affirming and authentically relevant, and, as much as I loved 'La La Land', I'm glad that it won Best Picture.

It's a lyrically beautiful piece of work, and very well cast. Each of the three actors who play the main character at different ages...Alex R. Hibbert ("Little"), Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes ("Black")...delivers an extraordinary performance, as does Mahershala Ali, who won a well-deserved Best Actor award (I was personally rooting for Dev Patel for "Lion", but there were a lot of Oscar-worthy performances this year)...

There are a lot of places the makers of the film could have taken the story, but their restraint and economy on several levels make for a much better film. It's neither gratuitously violent, nor sexually explicit, and completely avoids portraying gay stereotypes (as in the assumption that all gay people are promiscuous).

It's regrettable that the producers of 'Moonlight' were denied the time to give their full acceptance speeches at the Oscars show because of the mix-up at the end, but no one can take away their win...that's permanent.
Kudos to 'La La Land' producer, Jordan Horowitz, for handling the mix-up in such a classy way.

Great film. Congratulations!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

LION


We've been trying to catch 'Lion' for over a month now, but haven't been able to work out a time to see it together until today, and, well, it lived up to all the hype and then some! In a word, it's BREATHTAKING...

I just can't find any fault in this film...powerful and compelling true story of a young Indian boy who gets lost somewhere in the vastness of his country, and finally reunites as an adult with his mother and sister in the tiny and remote village from which he originated...stunning cinematography...every frame is beautifully shot...the ever-charismatic Dev Patel is as engaging as always here (he's excellent in everything in which I've seen him)...Nicole Kidman definitely deserves the Oscar nomination she received for her moving performance...the emotional reunion at the end reminded me a lot of the ending of 'The Color Purple', and affected me just as much, and in the same way...


But the real take-away for me is adorable young Sunny Pawer who plays the lead character as a boy...his is the most hauntingly understated performance that I've ever witnessed from a child actor...just absolutely heart-breaking and astounding...side note: I read that we has unable to attend the premier because he wasn't granted a visa... :-(


Anyway...

Loved it.

Recommend it. 
Bring kleenex...

Sunday, January 29, 2017

PATRIOTS DAY


'Patriots Day' isn't the kind of film you enjoy...in fact, the whole experience of watching is pretty brutal...but it's well done for what it is, which is an informative and compelling film about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, and the subsequent terrorist manhunt that followed it. Based on the book Boston Strong by Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge, and starring Mark WahlbergJ. K. SimmonsJohn GoodmanKevin Bacon and Michelle Monaghan, it covers the story of that day from the perspective of many of the people who were a part of the story, including the Tsarnaev brothers.

Whatever your political persuasion and paradigm of the problem of terrorism in America, you can find something here to reinforce and buttress your viewpoint. If you hate the bombers, you're going to hate them even more after seeing this. If you think that immigration isn't the problem, then this will confirm your world-view. I really didn't get the impression that there's a political agenda here...the story seems to be told pretty fairly and evenly...but people will no doubt see what they want to see here and respond accordingly.


Mark Walhberg definitely deserves some recognition for delivering a very respectable performance, and there is at least a message of survival and overcoming that is quite powerful at the end.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

LA LA LAND


I actually was going to post something this time last week about not understanding why I seemed to have no interest in seeing this film. I mean, I really like Emma Stone. I really like Ryan Gosling. I really like John Legend. I really like most musicals, and I really like jazz! My indifference about it just didn't add up, other than the fact that it kind of seemed too arty, even for me, and I just wasn't planning on sitting through it. There were other flicks that I was more interested in enjoying during this Oscar season.

But then it garnered 14 Academy Award nominations, tying with my beloved 'All About Eve', which received that many in 1950 and held the title for Most Noms until 'Titanic' matched it in 1997, so I finally decided that I needed to check it out, if for nothing else than to discover what all the fuss was about.


Well, we saw it last night and were blown away!


I don't remember ever using the word "transcendent" to describe a movie, but I'll definitely use it for this one. I've never seen anything like this, and I'm somehow under its spell, still feeling the atmosphere of it this morning.


It's basically just a simple story of a musician and an aspiring actress who meet and fall in love in Los Angeles, but to my surprise, this completely original work of art totally works on every level. On the surface as portraying "La La Land" (upper case) it's a visual delight, and made me want to buy a ticket this morning for the City of Angels, and possibly move there. On a deeper, darker note, its an examination of "la la land" (lower case),  as in the figure of speech for people who are out of touch with the realities of life. In other words, people in La La Land, living in la la land.


The music is haunting and beautiful, and I will be acquiring the soundtrack asap.


Many themes are touched on here...the consequences of our decisions, and how life plays out in the big picture...the complication of relationships...the conflict that most artists face when it comes to maintaining creative integrity and authenticity and having to possibly sell out to make a living...the exploration of parallel realities and living with regret about what might have been...


What sets this story apart, however, is that there doesn't seem to be an attachment to a best-case scenario in love and life. It all just is what it is, and La La Land somehow strikes a beautiful balance between looking at every bit of it with realistic eyes, while maintaining the romance of it all. In fact, this is one of the most truly romantic films that I've ever seen, and it has the happiest "sad" ending that I've ever witnessed. I related to that part deeply, and still left the theatre feeling exhilarated. Hence, the word "transcendent".


I'm still trying to figure out how they filmed the opening sequence of people jumping out of their cars and dancing and singing in the middle of an LA traffic jam. You have to see it to understand what I mean, but that part is really a technological marvel.


I'll be very surprised is this one doesn't sweep the Oscars.



Frances Martin I wasn't sure if I wanted to see it but now after reading your review..I think I will.
LikeReply9 hrs
Donna-Renée Martin I've felt the same way about seeing it. Maybe I will do now.
UnlikeReply19 hrs
Carrie Rodriguez I keep planning on seeing it but than something comes up. I'm going to try tomorrow. I can't wait!
UnlikeReply19 hrs
Matthew T. McDonald I cried like a baby after watching that film.
UnlikeReply29 hrs
George Sandler We saw it last week. I have to admit, sometimes I'm not the biggest fan of musicals, which in and of itself could be considered odd since I AM a musician. But I really liked La La Land. The modern setting coupled with the old school (for lack of a better term) choreography really worked for me. Not to mention the music was very cool. Being a true romantic (surprise, surprise) the end stung a bit but I agree with you....it is fantastic and should garner a lot of awards.
UnlikeReply19 hrs
Tony Roberts Well said!
UnlikeReply29 hrs
Lisa Smith Pomeroy Well, okay then... now I guess I'll just have to go. Can't even remember the last time I saw a movie on the big screen  I'm guessing you saw "Allied." Did I miss your review of it? Love, love, love Marion! And of course, Brad isn't exactly hard on the eyes...
LikeReply9 hrs
Jim Swilley Haven't seen that one...
LikeReply9 hrs
Lisa Smith Pomeroy Jim Swilley K. If you do, give us a review 
UnlikeReply19 hrs
Becky Rose Very well said! I agree completely.
UnlikeReply19 hrs
Chris Hess Tovey thank you! My partner and I started it and stopped after about 10 minutes - we will definitely give it another chance!
UnlikeReply19 hrs
Chris Hess Tovey He's a member of SAG so we have the dvd... 
UnlikeReply19 hrs
Jim Swilley Chris Hess Tovey Oh wow...how cool!
LikeReply18 hrs
Matthew Crawley I loved it!!!
The historic record of nominations seems overdone to me, just the same. It wasn't even my favorite film this year. Still, I adored the movie and want to see it again.
UnlikeReply19 hrs
Jackie C Jenkins You are spot on. I saw it early being a musical aficionado but was blow away. Musical next level! 💓
UnlikeReply19 hrs
Jim Swilley Indeed
LikeReply8 hrs

Jim Branday Wow. Now I want to see this!!

Angela Allan Ok, you convinced me to buy a ticket 
UnlikeReply16 hrs
Ken Marshall Excellent review and Excellent movie ! A MUST SEE ! Loved it !
UnlikeReply26 hrs
Irma Crump I am not usually a musical lover but I chose to watch it because I like Jim like all the main actors in this film. I can't tell you how pleasantly surprised I was with this movie, other than the (to me and only to me) the boring beginning,it astounded me. I would invite anyone to see it. You will not be disappointed.
UnlikeReply24 hrs
Dotis Ratliff Elder Just saw it......absolutely loved it......on so many levels!
UnlikeReply33 hrs

Thom Williamson · Friends with Tony Roberts
Awesome movie. Lots of iconic LA scenes to enjoy.

Kelly Trewolla First off I absolutely love " All about Eve"! Second I saw this movie last week and loved it! The music I could not get out of my head.💜
UnlikeReply255 mins

Jim Swilley I know, right? I've been singing 'City of Stars' all day...
LikeReply144 minsEdited