Reliably a month behind on the blog, this was the first movie we watched in 2019. I maybe shouldn’t have read a (different) James Baldwin book right before watching this, since his language is never going to come through in a movie, but Jenkins tries hard to replace it with rich visuals. He gave the movie a “happy ending” which is that Fonny sees his family on weekends while doing years in prison on a trumped-up rape charge, so I wonder how he ends up in the book.
Our young couple is KiKi Layne and Stephan James (of the new series Homecoming). Her parents are Regina King (voiced both brothers in the Boondocks cartoon, played wives of Ice Cube, Will Smith and Cuba Gooding in the 90’s) and Colman Domingo (the Bishop’s accuser in Red Hook Summer), with sister Teyonah Parris (star of Chi-Raq, Coco in Dear White People). Fonny’s parents come over for the big announcement and get in a major fight – the movie has some surprisingly badass insult dialogue. Fonny’s restaurant bud is Diego Luna, Dave Franco plays a decent white(ish) landlord, and on the day of the crime they are hanging out with Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta), who presumably betrays them in exchange for a deal on his own arrest. Cops do not come across well in this movie, nor in most movies. Despite the cops, the prison, the rape, the uncooperative witness, the systemic abuses – the movie is pure loveliness.
As awards continue to be thrown at Moonlight, we watched the director’s first feature on MLK weekend. It’s a low-key drama in mostly b/w that seems to contain a few pale colors. At first we thought it was the TV, or an optical illusion, but apparently they shot in color then extremely desaturated most scenes.
Wyatt Cenac (The Daily Show) and Tracey Heggins wake up together after a party, and after she embarrasedly tries to bolt he doggedly convinces her to join him for breakfast, then they roam San Francisco Before Sunrise-style, going to a museum and each of their apartments, talking about gentrification and relationships and the loneliness of being a black indie dude (TV on the Radio comes up), slowly warming to each other but remaining critical. They end up sleeping together again, sober this time, which is kind of the perfect ending even if she goes back to her white, art-critic boyfriend when it’s all over.
It becomes more of a test-drive of a possible life together. Neither seriously expects to lead such a life, but it’s intriguing to play. At one point they go to Whole Foods. When a newly-met couple go grocery shopping together, they’re playing house.
It’s 2017 but I’ve still got eighteen 2016 movies to catch up with. I won’t spend much time on this one since it was everybody’s favorite and there’s a ton of writing about it. Three episodes in the life of Little/Chiron/Black, played by different actors. First he finds a substitute family with Miami drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali) and his wife (Janelle Monae), then he begins discovering his sexuality with a friend named Kevin, and finally he’s a drug dealer himself in the image of Juan. As with Certain Women, the third part is overwhelmingly great. Trevante Rhodes as the oldest Chiron gives a sensitive performance that allows his shy younger selves to slowly bleed through the gangster facade as he reconnects with Kevin.
Bonus points for “Classic Man” and the Hokusai poster, right after we rewatched Kubo over Thanksgiving, making this the fourth Hokusai-referencing movie of the year. We listened to an interview with the director discussing Chiron’s mother’s similarity to his own mother, and marveled at the fact that Naomie Harris appears in all three episodes and shot all her scenes in three days.