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Showing posts from November, 2016

Up Above: Denis Villeneuve's "Arrival" and Barry Jenkins' "Moonlight"

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Moonlight opens with darkness as Boris Gardine's "Every Ni##e$ is a Star" seeps through the blank screen. From the get-go, there is a signal that this is a different black film, a different LGBTQ film. Moonlight doesn't compromise for celluloid the harsh reality of the bubble in which these characters wander. Although Gardine's anthem was recently used to open Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly, an album where the black American experience was reexamined with Lamar's unapologetic, vibrant prose, Jenkins' film explores the complexity of black masculinity and sexuality while pointing the lens on the community itself.

While familiar narratives that have been explored in Oscar winning films such as Precious serve as tent poles in Moonlight, Barry Jenkins has directed a poignant, soulful picture that marries the rawness of Hustle & Flow with the grand homoerotic beauty of Brokeback Mountain. In the character Chiron, who is intimately portrayed at thr…

Lost & Found: The return of A Tribe Called Quest

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After the ending of Michael Rappaport's documentary Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest (2011), it seemed doubtful that the historic hip-hop group would ever reunite for a new album. Whereas their last album, 1998's The Love Movement landed with a thud and a Source Magazine cover anticlimactically announcing their break-up, their 2016 return is a sneak attack that is more Sneakers than Expendables.

After the sudden death of Phife Dawg, who had long suffered from diabetes, in March, another Tribe album seemed as likely as a Smiths reunion. Much folly can be made about ATCQ being from a bygone era of rap, with technology and trends rendering them passe. But We got it from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service flips the script on veteran rap comebacks.

In 2015, Dr. Dre finally released new material with Compton, which like ATCQ was his first new album since the previous millennium. Aside from sharing guest spots from Kendrick Lamar and Anderson Paak, We got it…

A Real Hero: Mel Gibson's "Hacksaw Ridge" (2016)

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As Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield was the web slinging acrobat who was more convincing and amazing than Toby Maguire, but in Hacksaw Ridge, Garfield plays a man of uncompromising belief that redefines cinematic heroics. Garfield portrays the mild-mannered Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who was awarded the Medal of Honor for saving soldiers in the Battle of Okinawa, notably using nets and ropes to help lower wounded men from atop the 350 feet high Maeda Escarpment.

By choosing such a morally righteous protagonist in Doss, the once scandalized Mel Gibson eases back into Hollywood with his comeback film and shows no shines of rust, as the director's WWII epic is just as brilliant and brutal as 2006's Apocalypto. Gibson's attention to detail and fluid storytelling in the riveting Hacksaw Ridge is strengthened by the wonderful performances of Garfield and the supporting cast.

Although the film opens with a white-knuckled battle sequence bursting with carnage and chaos, th…

"Nat Turners with Burners" --- Nate Parker's "The Birth of a Nation"

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The fate of The Birth of a Nation may rest with the old adage of don't shoot the messenger.

In today's age of the knee-jerk over-reaction and hot take editorials, Nate Parker's passion piece has been rushed to judgement because of the current political climate and the director's own cloudy personal history. It's unfortunate because The Birth of a Nation is a noble effort executed with enough gusto to push it beyond simply giving Parker credit for trying to tell the largely unknown story of the slave rebellion led by Nat Turner. 
There are two narratives in the lead-up to this film's theatrical release: hype and controversy. Showered with awards at Cannes in 2016, The Birth of a Nation was purchased by Fox Searchlight for a festival record bid. Amid glowing early reviews, Parker's past acquittal in a 1999 rape case began to overshadow the film's release as the movie was snubbed for screenings and online activists called for boycotts. 
While Parker was f…