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MOVIES: SOME OTHER FAVORITES

Although I thought there were very funny scenes in "Rush Hour", like the one above, it's not one of my picks. So many movies have scenes that the producers use to get your butt in the seats, but they just fill in the rest and figure you have already spent your money by the time you realize you've been hoodwinked, bamboozled, and run amuck.

We are spending more time going to Blockbuster than to the movie theather, because in New York City, an adult ticket just went to $9.50.... Bump That. Inside of 4 months its on video. Okay, movies like Titanic have a special use of the wide screen, and I really like the theater experience. But they are just too greedy.

These videos I like because my culture is reflected in them. I like "Something about Mary" but I know I am an outsider looking in. I did enjoy that the character Mary's step father was black, and that it didn't seem to figure in prominently as a joke in itself. How many of you, when he first opened the door, thought he obviously had the wrong house? I did. Its ingrained in my mind as well. Remember "Back to the Future 2"? When Marty comes back to his house in the period when things have deteriorated badly, with junk cars, trash in the street. He finds the door locked, and climbs in through the window. He falls on a bed, and awakens a little black girl who starts screaming. OK, it was part of the shock that things were not like it used to be, but damn, the association of blacks with the shitty neighborhood, that was a low blow. As usual, everyone white I pointed that out to didnt think it was a factor, and every one black said we got off easy, and can point out so many other scenes where the old stereotypes are worked in. I prefer to highlight on this page those films that I can identify with. These movies below feel like home. Blacks are portrayed as cartoons of themselves, sidekicks and one dimensional. Its appropriate to start it off with the man who led the charge into the mainstream. His movies aren't perfect, but where would African-Americans be in the modern cinema if he didn't kick it off.

I am talking about Spike Lee and his film
"She's Gotta Have It"

Nothing fancy, no big budget, just excellent dialogue on the give and take of how men and women deal with each other. This film could be about any people, any culture. The film had critical praise when it was released in 1982, but was ignored by a large part of the public. Even today, a film with a predominantly black cast is shelved as a "black movie". But a similar movie, like a talkie called "Reality Bites", which was decent, is not regarded as a racially categorized film. The film's "normality" is understood. That's the dual world's that blacks deal with everyday. If its people that look like you on screen, you are more interested.

"Boyz" was John Singleton's entry into the spotlight, and it seems dated already, but it has a secure place in the way it portrayed the emergence of a black man just trying to survive the everyday hassles. The venting of his anger after being man handled by the police hits home with it's frustration, and is very well done. Same with trying to become a man sexually, same with having a friend like Ice Cube's character. The constant police helicopter activity at night was a deft touch. It was groundbreaking to see it told just that way. It proves that the black filmmakers tread boldly into territory they know first hand, and portray it fearlessly.

Colors was one of the first films to go hardcore on the violence of street gang culture, especially in the interaction with the police. Watching it the first time, I felt that anything could happen as the story unfolded. It wasn't the kind of story that was predictable. One of the notable moments was after the final shootout of the movie went down, the main gang character, who was set up as a kind of jovial sidekick to Sean Penn and Robert Duval's cop characters, was smiling as he was arrested. Smiling after a shootout, in such a bizarre environment, it seemed strangely appropriate. Ironically, the actor who played that character, years later died under suspicious circumstances while in police custody.

Jason's Lyric. Interesting casting with Alan and Jada. Alan was smothered by Wesley's lead role in Black Jack City. He gets to shine here. Two people trying to find a way out of dismal surroundings is an old story. I like the way you didn'y know Treach and Jada's characters' relationship to each other until later. Meanwhile, Bokeim Woodbine was so good in his role as the wayward brother, that he is in danger of being typecast. Woodbine gets the spotlight later in "Caught Up" I'm sure one day, the brother will have a role that doesn't put a gun in his hand. I am sure he could blow us away in an attorney guest role on "Law and Order", or something that showcases his acting versatility. Too many bro-ham in the 'hood roles makes the casting directors overlook you for the range of roles that are out there. I think this is the first time I saw Lisa Nicole Carson, as Jada/Lyric's friend. There is hope for an actor showing their versatility when you consider the next movie starred Larenz Tate, who played a stone killer in "Menace To Society".

Love Jones. Man, this movie was nice. I love those positive films, where black folks are showing love and respect to each other, without a racial crisis being the incentive. Very well written, filmed, and well acted. I am waiting for a better movie. It may be a while. Again, the best movies are those you can relate to, no what what your culture. Here, the afrocentricity of the poetry joint was an added feature. We all think we are cool and smooth, think we can lay down a mellow rap that impresses friends and strangers. If you saw it, you know what I mean. It was a basic good romantic story. I just hope there's more like it to come.

THE FIVE HEARTBEATS... By far, Robert Townsend's best movie. I'm sorry I waited until it hit video to check this out. The box office bucks are what the studios use to measure a film's success. In the case of those films with major black talent, one film's failure can affect the future funding for a whole host of other projects. It shouldn't be like that of course, but hey don't get me started. This story of a singing group's rise in the music business does it better than the recent Temptations story. I can almost forgive Townsend for "Meteor Man", and "BAPS"..... but seriously, the story has been done before. This is just a good acting job all around.

UPTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT You know I had to go to the old school! The two legends at work! It's a crime that they had disputes that led to never working together again. They were dead-on as the characters they played in this movie, and in the second and last one, "Let's Do It Again", which I thought was even funnier. The pre-Pryor humor was plain and simple. If it's funny, it stands on it's own. I love Richard Pryor though, he inspired many great entertainers of today. There is just that there's a lot of imitators, thinking that enough profanity will add up to funny material.

"Set It Off" showcased female roles that are as hard-edged as they get. Again, every critic except Roger Ebert slept on this, but the ladies kicked it with the acting and the action in this one. Linda Hamilton's role in Terminator 2 was the only female action role that was more intense, and that relied heavily on the special effects.


Speaking of Pryor, this is not a movie, but I have to put this in here. Richard Pryor's "Is It Something I Said?" (1977) is my favorite comedy album. Nothing even comes close. Eddie Murphy has had good ones, but he has said himself that he's at best, a chip off the block of Pryor. I talk about age and the years gone by a lot but man!, its been more than 22 years since this came out!!

It did not win a Grammy like his album "Bicentennial Nigger" did the year before, but it's his best Mudbone story, and every few seconds, on every part of this, I was laughing loud and hard!! If you havent heard this album, you haven't heard Pryor at his very peak. You really haven't heard comedy at its best either. Before you get any other album, buy this; a cassette version should be cheap enough. I would even send you a tape, but that would mean giving up your addy to a stranger on the WWW. Just know what people talk about when you hear his name. "We are.....gathered here todaaay...." (I even started laughing as I typed that!) Richard Pryor was a one man Def Comedy Jam, and ten times as funny. (I know I am talking in past tense, and the man isn't dead. But his prime is gone, and went sadly, like when you say Magic Johnson WAS a great ballplayer, or Ali WAS the greatest boxer)

BACK TO THE MOVIES

I just saw this one recently. It was produced like one of those made-for-cable movies, and Blockbuster has exclusive video rights. It starred Sidney Poitier and introduces his daughter to the screen. He plays her reluctant tutor as she tries to better herself and rise up out of the projects. There's that storyline again. I liked it overall, but there's two things that made it hard to digest as realistic. First, that the movie found itself running out of time near the end, and tied up a ton of loose ends into a nice knot way too quickly. The second thing, probably due to the fact that it was father/daughter acting, there was way too innocent a relationship between this man that lived alone and this 18 year old girl from the projects. Even in the film, "187" Sam Jackson's character had an awkward moment with the girl he was trying to help out with extra study at his house. In "Eden", she's coming and going from his house, coming to his office, and not even any of the people around them; his co-workers, HER MOM, her girlfriends, no one even wonders whats up with this older man, younger girl bonding. Toward the end, when they were having a birthday party at his house and her two girlfriends are there with his co-worker (played by Robert Hooks) I realized that with this casting, and with the story they are trying to tell, if there has to be a departure from reality, the positive moral of the story has to win out over the sexual connotations.



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