Blog Archives

Flash Movie Review: Summer of Soul

I AM SITTING IN A TINY NIGHTCLUB at a time when people could still smoke inside. The air is hazy, making the stage look like it is behind a translucent veil. Everyone in the place is squeezed around small black tables; I can barely get my hand up to take a sip from my drink. I agreed to go the club to see what magazines were referring to as an “up and coming” comedian. When he got to the stage, the crowd was still somewhat noisy with conversation. It did not last long. He quickly commanded everyone’s attention with his ability to quickly change from one dialect to another in his stories and jokes. At one point he was speaking like a Russian; he then quickly changed to a British accent before talking like an innocent 5-year-old. It was extraordinary to witness the lightning speed he jumped from one character to another, all the time zinging out joke upon joke. The crowd, including myself, was mesmerized with his performance. Sweat had formed on his forehead and was slipping down his face while his shirt darkened with the sweat being generated over his torso. The evening was a major triumph; I thought for sure this guy was going to be a major star. It was not a long wait before my thought became reality. The comedian was soon after performing at major concert halls, starring in movies and even became one of the founders of a televised charity event. I felt so lucky that I was a witness to his historic rise.     I AM NOT SURE EVERYONE FEELS this way, but I love being a witness or participant at an event that becomes historic. Having been part of a peaceful march that became a bellwether to changing times makes me feel honored and proud. Something as simple as a museum exhibit’s record-breaking run gives me joy when I can say I was there. There is an iconic singer who has sold out the world’s biggest stadiums, who starred in film and even has been the subject of a Broadway musical; that I can say I saw her when she was a warmup act. I was there at the beginning; I like the way that sounds. The other aspect about this that gives me such pleasure is the randomness of it all. One might not know they are becoming a witness to a monumental event. Think about those who were at the Berlin wall when it toppled or saw Elvis’ last concert or saw The Beatles when they first were starting out in Liverpool; it absolutely excites me to no end. I feel the same way about this documentary; how I wish I could have been there live to see history being made 100 miles away from the Woodstock festival.      ON A HOT SUMMER DAY, A PROMOTOR created and put on a festival in a park in Harlem. What was recorded at that time has never been seen before, until now. Directed by musical artist Questlove (The Roots), this movie was a treasure trove of gold star musical performances. I thought for a directorial debut Questlove did an amazing job of mixing the footage with current scenes; especially when the current artists were seeing themselves from 50 years ago. Some of the musical acts shown were Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, The 5thDimension and Nina Simone. I loved everything about this musical picture; the way it weaved in history, politics and the magic of music. The thing that I found most startling was the fact that this festival footage has never been seen before. Nowhere in history have I ever heard about this festival that was created to celebrate African American music. I hope the entire concert footage comes out on DVD or streaming; I would love to see what took place back in that park in 1969. Too bad, I no longer have any bell bottom pants to wear.            

4 stars     

Flash Movie Review: Sylvie’s Love

I KNEW HER WHEN SHE HAD dreams of being an artist. She delved into the art world with inks, paper, feathers and stamps; eager to create a line of cards filled with characters and creatures she would copyright one day. I was the recipient for several of her cards; they usually had to be delivered with 2 stamps on the envelopes. If someone were to ask me what her style of art was like, I think I would have a hard time explaining it. There were some figures that had a Victorian flair to them, but then there were others that were almost animal like. I do not mean this in a disrespectful way but for my tastes, I would say her cards were frilly. The addition of buttons or crystals or fringe for me, gave it a frilly look. I will say she was passionate about her craft, going to various workshops and conventions to practice and hone her skills. Besides getting texts with photos of her latest works, we would talk on the phone and she would tell me about her latest creations. She even looked the part, if there is such a type. With hair dyed in various vibrant colors based on the season, she wore funky jewelry; some even made by her. In other words, one could consider her a walking billboard for her products.      WHEN SHE INTRODUCED ME TO THE man she was going to marry, it never occurred to me that she would alter her game plan for her art. However, after they were married for a few months I noticed the texts became fewer and farther between, the phone calls were not as consistent as they once were; I was not hearing about her latest creations. When we talked, she still would mention something about a new stamp she bought or some fun card stock; however, I now would infrequently hear about the finished product made from these items. It was not like her husband discouraged her; it was her choice as far as I could tell. I did not hear anything negative about his feelings towards her creative side. It just seemed as if her passion for art was transferred to her passion for her new husband. It had been a long time since she had been married. And that was okay with me if that is how she truly felt; I only wanted her to be happy. I had known other people who got into a relationship and the things they were passionate about had to be curtailed because their spouse was not supportive or did not understand the importance it played in the person’s life. Having a dream and making it a reality are two different things; see how it works in this film festival nominated movie.     SYLVIA PARKER, PLAYED BY TESSA THOMPSON (Creed franchise, Men in Black: International), was obsessed with television. Her dream was to become a TV producer. While helping at her father’s record store, Sylvia met someone who also had a dream. With Nnamdi Asomugha (Crown Heights, When the Streetlights Go On-TV) as Halloway, Eva Longoria (Dog Days, Overboard) as Carmen, Aja Naomi King (The Birth of a Nation, The Upside) as Mona and Jemima Kirke (The Little Hours, Ava’s Possessions) as The Countess; this drama was as smooth as fine satin. Set during the 1950s in Harlem, I thought the sets and costumes were spot on and I thoroughly enjoyed the musical score. Tessa and Nnamdi had a palatable chemistry that grew along with the story. The script had a game plan like other romantic films I have seen before; though, I thought the ending lost a bit of steam here. I mean this as a compliment; this was a good old-fashioned romantic drama with a good douse of jazz music thrown in. 

3 stars 

Flash Movie Review: If Beale Street Could Talk

ONE CAN NOT HELP BUT FEEL special as they walk into the building. The heavy glass doors with the gold trim are the first clue that one is about to enter a place that cannot be considered ordinary. The vestibule has a sturdy tiled floor; the low ceiling is held up by walls covered in deeply colored damask fabric. The material is framed in portions with an intricately carved plaster, painted in gold to match the trim of the doors. Entering the main lobby is not so dissimilar from walking into a grand hall of a European palace. Marble floors replacing the tile in front, there are huge crystal chandeliers that are longer in height than width. They look like oblong, translucent candy wrapped with intricately patterned, colored wrappers with the ends twisted shut. There are matching grand staircases both front and back with red velvet covered steps and oversized, limestone balustrades. One can only imagine they are used by royalty. Spaced equally between the two staircases are doors that all lead into an amphitheater. Undulating rows of seats perched on a sloping floor descend to a stage where a red colored curtain blocks everyone from seeing anything behind it. Only when the lights dim does the curtain rise to reveal the actors who were waiting behind it.      THERE IS A FEELING OF INCLUSION when one goes to see live theater. You could be sitting in the middle of a packed auditorium of strangers but feel as if the actors are bringing you into their story. I am a huge fan of seeing staged shows; there is something about seeing actors in the flesh compared to the big screen. Actors on stage have no chance for a retake; whatever happens they must be prepared to “go on with the show.” Seeing their emotions on display adds authenticity to the performance that I find connects me in a different way from actors in movies. Neither one is better than the other; it is simply a different form of communication. As you know I can get lost into a movie where I feel I am part of the movie; this is part of what I need to give a film a 4-star rating. At a play or musical the actors have more time to form relationships that carry them through the entire production. It connects them on a deeper level than acting in movies where they can do take after take of one scene. When I saw today’s film I felt I was at the theater watching a live performance.      WITH A BABY ON THE WAY Tish Rivers’, (played by relative newcomer KiKi Layne), joy was short-lived when the baby’s father Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt, played by Stephan James (Race, Across the Line), was arrested for a crime he did not do. This Golden Globe and film festival winning romantic, crime drama also starred Regina King (Ray, Enemy of the State) as Sharon Rivers, Colman Domingo (Selma, Lincoln) as Joseph Rivers and Michael Beach (Aquaman, Soul Food) as Frank Hunt. Based on James Baldwin’s novel, this film slowly unfolded to reveal a real-life portrayal of two families in Harlem. The acting was outstanding from every actor; I especially enjoyed the chemistry that KiKi and Stephan poured into their roles for each other. With a beautiful soundtrack and thoughtful cinematography, this was another achievement for writer and director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, Medicine for Melancholy). Scenes seemed to be grouped into a series of acts, where I felt I was watching entire and complete feelings between the characters. I honestly believed everything I was seeing was totally real. There is nothing more I need to say, except this picture was a perfect conduit between film and theater.

 

4 stars

%d bloggers like this: