“A woman in Harlem embraces her pregnancy while she and her family struggle to prove her fiancé innocent of a crime.”
End of the year is when all Hollywood studios tend to churn out their award-worthy films often stemming from novels, true stories and period themes considered more high-brow think pieces of art than your typical movie. The one that really caught my eye was the trailer for If Beale Street Could Talk which was helmed by the great cinematographic eye of Moonlights director, Barry Jenkins.
The first thing that was apparent was the palpable chemistry between Kiki Layne and Stephan James. James’ character, Fonny Hunt, did an exceptional job spearheading the relationship between himself and Layne’s Tish Rivers boasting an undeniable affection that melted off the screen.
The supporting cast which included Regina King and Colman Domingo as Tish’s parents were an inspirational model of parents who would do anything to keep their families close knit and mentally healthy.
The film was broken into two halves detailing the units lives before and after Fonny Hunt’s incarceration, and knowing little about the plot initially, mid-way through I wasn’t clear about the direction the film was going in. It all started coming together once details were revealed, so patience is required as the plot unfolds.
My only criticisms of the film were the scenes that seemed to linger a bit too long, or felt like it didn’t add to the movie. It was effective in some parts, but in others it came off like like they were trying to stretch the film. Also the ending was abrupt and somewhat unsatisfying, but I understand the purpose of it based on the material.
Overall Grade: A-
The story and acting in this film were phenomenal and often times felt like a stage play. Learning that it was based off the novel penned by the eloquent, late James Baldwin gave more context on the energy this film encapsulated. Definitely worth a view!
White Right: Meeting the Enemy
Deeyah Khan puts herself in real jeopardy in White Right: Meeting the Enemy, confronting the whitest rightest supremacists and Neo-Nazis with the oldest trick in the book; she becomes their first friend of color. No shit. You’ll be amazed as Deeyah proves racism is born from miseducation and a total lack of experience. Sure, not everyone becomes a believer in the end, but you sure will.
Ray Romano’s Dad Comedy Hits Home
For his latest Netflix special, comedian Ray Romano returns to the Comedy Cellar doing two surprise gigs for unsuspecting fans.
Roma: Return of the Auteur
Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma is easy on the eyes yet sometimes hard to watch, which is a credit to the Director and that connection he creates between viewer and heroine – in this case Cleo, the family maid and emotional heartbeat of the film. We love and sympathize with Cleo immediately. There’s no way she’s making it to the end unscathed.
Cleo is part of the family, yet could be fired any minute for, say, not cleaning up after the dog the day Dad leaves the family forever. That uneasy precipice between acceptance and utility has made her a warrior that handles each situation with a compassion lacking in the noxious men around her. She’s the Marge Gundersen of Mexico City – insofar as she spends much of the film pregnant, making all the right moves within a world where the options are questionable.
Cuarón does more with silence than most do with tons of exposition and editing. There’s a reason he’s the only person to be nominated for Best Director and Best Cinematographer in the same year.
Like some of the 1969 sci-fi movie Marooned referenced within the film, Roma moves at a snail’s pace – allowing the story to seep into being rather than seem forced upon you. Underlying anxieties of race and toxic masculinity bubble beneath the surface, tethering the zeitgeist of 1971 Mexico City to the here and now.
What Yalitza Aparicio brings to the role of Cleo is astounding. She has an unassuming charm yet commands the screen. A masterfully presented scene of Cleo in labor does something few films ever do: get me to suspend my disbelief. I’m always hyper-aware that there’s a sound guy holding a boom mic off camera and a slew of crew itching for craft services. It’s a curse that keeps me from enjoying movies like most folks do. But there are moments in Roma when I forgot I was watching people pretend. It’s a great trick if you can pull it off, and Roma does so with grace.
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