Archive for November, 2013

‘Black Nativity’ Review

Jacob Latimore as “Langston,” Angela Bassett as “Aretha Cobbs,” Jennifer Hudson as “Naima” and Forest Whitaker as “Reverend Cornell Cobbs” in BLACK NATIVITY.

Jacob Latimore as “Langston,” Angela Bassett as “Aretha Cobbs,” Jennifer Hudson as “Naima” and Forest Whitaker as “Reverend Cornell Cobbs” in BLACK NATIVITY.

When assessing the merits of a film, there are two lines one can take. Some films are to be judged on the strength of their technical prowess, in the quality of their narrative, on the cohesiveness of the cast, and on the stylistic choices employed by the director. Certainly, this is a valid way to rate a film, and in truth, it is probably the approach that I take most often in my analyses. However, it is also acceptable, and in some cases even preferred, to assess a film purely on the emotional responses it seeks to draw from its intended audience. In a lot of ways, my mind and my heart are at odds on how to rate the Kasi Lemmons holiday film Black Nativity.

Black Nativity is a love-letter reinterpretation of Langston Hughes’ classic musical, which itself is a retelling of the Nativity story using an all-black cast. Whereas the musical focuses primarily on a combination of faith, rousing gospel music, and African-inspired percussion, Kasi Lemmons’ film adaptation strives to blend these elements with a more modern tale filled with family melodrama and themes of poverty and crime. The attempt is incredibly ambitious, but the delivery is muddled and clunky, falling well short of what the director likely intended. Read the rest of this entry »


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12 Years a Slave – Review

12 Years a Slave

Note: Very, VERY minor spoilers are contained within this film review, although nothing that isn’t shown in the trailers or heavily implied by the context of the film. Still, disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer. 

There really is no way around it; 12 Years a Slave is one of the most brutal, uncomfortable films I’ve seen in quite some time. This is by design. Director Steve McQueen aims to bring us a story of suffering and of helplessness in the pre-Civil War slave trading days, and boy, does he deliver.

The film follows Solomon Northrup, played expertly by Chiwetel Ejiofor, who is a free black man living in upstate New York in the years prior to the Civil War. The film makes no illusions about him and his family having a status of equality within the Northern society, but compared to the scenarios Northrup finds himself in throughout the rest of the film, his life is about as ideal as could be imagined. After making a business deal with a pair of shifty men, Northrup finds himself drugged, kidnapped, and subsequently sold into slavery, where he spends the next 12 years of his life.

Read the rest of this entry »

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