Category Archives: Films

Not to be old-fashioned but

Yes, ma’am, I have a past
I was young and overly optimistic
that first love or young love
would be forever.

Yes, ma’am, I have grown up
I have done right by biological crafting,
I mean, what kind of man would I be
if I had done anything less?

Yes, ma’am, I’m walking on the outside
Though, I know you have fast reflexes
and not to be old-fashioned but
can we lay out some promises?

No, ma’am, I don’t intend on dying
but you never know when dire circumstances
come crawling and I want you
to be taken care of
if the battle takes me down with it.

Yes, ma’am, I’ll eat more than a caesar salad
I can wait for a lavish ceremony
and even when the whole room needs me
I’ll find my way to you.

In the form of paper or a painting
or a bundle of red balloons.

— yiqi 26 March 2022 8:39 pm

This poem was inspired by the film A Journal for Jordan (Denzel Washington, 2021).
JFJ
Pic cred: Amazon

Men in Suits in the 90s aka Jerry Maguire 26 years later

I should be going to sleep.  I’ve already brushed my teeth.  If I read for fifteen or twenty minutes, my eyelids will grow heavy.  Am I going to bed now?  No, because Jerry Maguire (Cameron Crowe, 1996) is on Turner Classic Movies at half-past midnight as part of its annual 31 Days of Oscar programming event.

JM1

In Ben Mankiewicz‘s intro to the film, he mentions the lines of dialogue that became infinitely quotable:

You had me at hello.”
“You complete me.”
Help me, help you.”
“Show me the money.”

“That’s more than a dress, that’s an Audrey Hepburn movie.”
“Don’t cry at the beginning of a date. Cry at the end like I do.”

I was expecting Ben to mention the one about “the human head weighs eight pounds,” but he didn’t.

JM3

I watched Jerry Maguire a few times when I was writing my master’s thesis many years ago.  There are many narrative and mise-en-scene elements that faded from memory but for some reason, I remember disliking Kelly Preston‘s character.  This TCM-faciliated rewatch has allowed me to appreciate her intense performance, especially in the scene where Jerry (Tom Cruise) dumps her.

Other observations that I hadn’t perceived before or forgot about:
~ Jonathan Lipnicki was so cute!
JM4

~ What was it about men in suits in the 90s that was distinctively 90s?  Was it all the earth tones?
JM6

~ Check out these cell phones! Within five years of the film’s release, most mobiles would come with cameras.
JM5

~ Renee Zellwegger was really good in this film.  The way she looks at Tom Cruise in that scene at baggage claim, you can tell she’s already in love with him.
JM2

~ The characters in this film utilize every communication tool available to them (except for email and web-based instant messengers): landlines, cell phones, pay phones, fax machines.

I looked through my notes and thesis because I wanted to remember how I interpreted it.  I included it in my analysis of professional football films.  Quoting myself here:

In addition to the meta-textual components of professional football as a business, Jerry Maguire argues that friends and family are integral aspects of an athlete’s support system and depicts the collision of business life with private life (or lack thereof).  It is peculiar that in the entire film, there is not one shot or scene showing an actual touchdown being made, which suggests that at the professional level, the priorities and definition of victory for the players rest primarily in other facets of their world such as commercial viability, contracts, and avoiding injury as much as possible.

Jerry Maguire is a genre-hybrid comprised of a football movie on one hand and a romantic comedy on the other.  Tom Cruise plays the title character, a sports agent who undergoes a philosophical revelation that compels him to quit his job and retain only one client, wide receiver Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.), [and] connects the football narrative with the romantic comedy.  Although Dorothy Boyd (Renee Zellwegger) works for the same sports agency as Jerry, she never appears alone with the key players of the football world.  When she is in the same scene or on screen at the same time as Rod, it only occurs when Jerry is there, when Rod wears normal clothes that do not signify his football player identity, and when his wife Marcee Tidwell (Regina King) is also present in the same scene.  Avery Bishop (Kelly Preston), Maguire’s fiancée, however, is seen in the company of other sports professionals because she works in the industry.  Jerry dumps her because they cannot be together if he is to have his redemption…

What is particularly striking about the parallel storylines is that Dorothy might work in the NFL in a meta-textual industry sense, she might work in the same company as Maguire (and then follow him when he starts his own company), but she is not in the football movie portion of Jerry Maguire.  Dorothy occupies a familial space that is generically tied to the romantic comedy.  Throughout the majority of the film, whenever she and Jerry are in a scene together, they are rarely in the same frame.  In their first two scenes together, they are not in the same shot until there is something that can serve as an intermediary—Dorothy’s son Ray (Jonathan Lipnicki), (airport baggage claim), and the goldfish (Jerry takes from the agency).  In the third scene they have together, where Dorothy drives Jerry to the airport, they are in the same frame; Ray also happens to be sitting in the back seat.

Oh yeah, remember that Bruce Springsteen song from the film?

Pix creds: IMDB

How to Make a Play More like a Movie in One Night in Miami

Regina King‘s feature-film debut as a director, One Night in Miami… (2020), received the Criterion treatment in 2021.  It’s based on Kemp Powers‘s play and exemplifies how to adapt a work of theatre into a cinematic text, infusing it with the kind of movement and multiple perspectives that plays lack.  It’s been on Amazon Prime for over a year but the motivation to watch it didn’t accelerate until it was Criterioned.

ONIM5  ONIMCRT

The film’s premise in a pistachio shell: Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) get together in a hotel room in Miami, Florida and discuss and debate the state of being who they are in that moment in time and as part of the struggle to be treated like human beings.  One Night in Miami… feels like watching memories unfurling, sliding into the memories of a time and place.  It’s beautifully filmed and acted.  One scene in particular stayed with me.  It happens on the rooftop of the hotel, soon after this moment where Malcom X takes a picture of his friends with a Rolleiflex 3.5, a German twin-lens reflex camera.

ONIM3

ONIM4

Malcolm X: You’re performing in-in places where the only Black people not on stage are the ones serving the food.
Same Cooke: Don’t you think I know that? Can’t tell you how many times I wanted to reach out and punch somebody, but you —

Malcolm X: Then…then strike with the weapon that you have, man! Your voice! Black people, we-we standing up…We-we speaking out. Sam, you have possibly one of the most effective, beautiful outlets of us all. Y-you’re not using it to help the cause, brother.
Same Cooke: The hell I’m not. I got the masters to my songs. I started a label. I’m producing tons of Black artists. Don’t you think my determining, my creative and business destiny is every bit as inspiring to people as you standing on a podium trying to piss ’em off? Oh, wait a minute, I forgot. That’s all you do!

Malcolm X: Sam, I do plenty.
Sam Cooke: Oh, do you suck at sports…Can’t sing. Damn sure can’t make shit out of no peanut.
Malcolm X: Is there a point to this rant, Sam?
Sam Cooke: My point is that sometimes I feel like you’re just like all the rest of them people out there, obsessed with the stars…Look around, look around. Which one of us don’t belong?

Malcolm X: Don’t belong?
Sam Cooke: Don’t belong.
Malcolm X: Brother Sam, the only person here white people seem to like — that would be you.

~!~

This screenshot comes from a scene near the end of the film where Malcolm X has just taken a few pictures of Cassius Clay in a diner/bar.  He happens to look out the window next to this neon Budweiser sign… and I find it mesmerizing but I don’t know why.

ONIM1

I loved this film and am glad I waited to get the Criterion DVD.  One of the special features consists of Regina King, Kemp Powers, and Gil Robertson talking about the film for the Criterion Collection.

King remarks that “One Night in Miami… is an actor’s piece” and if she were a man, she’d have wanted to audition for the role of Malcolm X or Sam.

Powers notes that “I’ve always been a huge cinephile, and in the case of One Night in Miami…, I’d really have to go back to watching 12 Angry Men [Sidney Lumet, 1957]. That was really the film tjat I was just like ‘whoa, this is a film of words that has more action in it than like the biggest action film.”

I look forward to what Regina King will do next.

Another special feature details how each actor prepared for the role he’d play.  Aldis Hodge watched this interview of Jim Brown appearing on The Dick Cavett Show:

Notice that Truman Capote was also a guest on this episode where the then-governor of Georgia, Lester Maddox, left the stage because he didn’t like where the conversation was going.

Pic creds: IMDB, Criterion, Amazon

Edible Architect Candyman

are some tragedies too dense,
too loud in their seasoning?
always simmering
in some kind of broth
and too much salt
in the veins?

do we all need a vessel
for retribution,
an avenger who can
be plucked forth
from the ether
by repeating his name
but only
in dire circumstances
and not as a game?

because it’s a 50-50 toss-up
whether he will climb
through the wall,
flash in to the here and now
reflected in
your foolish daring or fear,
to rescue you or
to make you squeal
and spray a crescent of liquid red
as a painted rainbow
fanned above your head?
— yiqi 19 February 2022 11:00 pm

This poem was inspired by a Candyman double-feature I watched because I felt like it.  I’d seen the 1992 version (Bernard Rose) many years ago and I’ve read the short story The Forbidden by Clive Barker on which it was based (in the fifth volume of his Books of Blood) and remember it being unsettling in atmosphere and action.

CM1992

I’m much more of a Hellraiser kind of gal, so I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing Nia Dacosta‘s 2021 version, but when I was running errands today, I came across a two-DVD combo pack and figured, “Oh, why the hell not?”

CM2021

I like both renditions of Candyman.  I might like the 1992 one slightly more simply because it functions better as a companion piece to the source material (Barker was an executive producer).  DaCosta’s film is less of an adaptation of The Forbidden and more of a conversation with Rose’s film.  You could watch each film as separate texts and enjoy them for what they are independent of intertextuality or you could consider them pieces of self-introspection in dialogue with each other.  Regardless of how Candyman (2021) was officially marketed, the audience gets to decide if what it just saw was a remake, a sequel, or a reinterpretation.  While the 1992 version necessarily examines the role of urban legends through the characters of Helen (Virginia Madsen) and Trevor (Xander Berkeley), specifically in the scene near the beginning of the film where he teaches his class that “They are the un-self-conscious reflection of the fears of urban society,” the 2021 version already knows that oral tradition is powerful.

Yahya-Abdul Mateen II does an excellent job at portraying a painter whose life holds a certain purpose that only reveals itself after he gets stung by a bee and he steadily becomes unhinged.  If Jordan Peele and Nia DaCosta ever wanted to make a movie exploring a contemporary Faustian bargain with the devil, Yahya should be Faust…or the devil.  Not that I think Stephen King‘s novel Misery needs to be adapted into a movie again, but, if it were given a TV mini-series treatment, he could be the James Caan or the Kathy Bates.
CM2021_5

I loved the sections with the silhouette animation, which were incorporated into the film whenever someone was telling a story of the past.
CM2021_2

CM2021_3

CM2021_4

According to one of the making-of featurettes on the DVD, Nia DaCosta cited David Cronenberg‘s The Fly (1986) as inspiration for how to get the right look for body horror.

~!~

What do either Candyman have to do with “Edible Architect”? Nothing.  It’s in this Bad Lip Reading video and if you need a good laugh, look no further.

Original pic creds: IMDB

Deep Cover Last Night in Soho

Deep Cover (Bill Duke, 1992). Two words: Watch it. (Specifically the Criterion edition so you get all the interviews).  Other than to confess there was a part of me that wanted Laurence Fishburne and Jeff Goldblum to ride into the sunset together, I shan’t even attempt to articulate why you should watch this film.  I’ll just send you this way so that Michael B. Gillespie can tell you more eloquently than I.

DeepC

As for Edgar Wright‘s cautionary nostalgia tale Last Night in Soho (2021), I’ve watched it twice on DVD and still neither like it nor dislike it.  I love the opening sequence, the scene in the library, enjoyed the humor much more the second time around, but I didn’t feel anything when I watched it.  In contrast, I felt many things while watching Deep Cover, which is arguably a more cerebral (though equally atmospheric) film.

LNInSoh

Minor spoilers ahead (highlight relevant words are your own risk):
~ Diana Rigg was much creepier during the second viewing.  Was it because I knew what was coming?
~ Does Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie) have supernatural affinities towards the 60s or just her dead mom and Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy)? Or, does she suffer from delusions of lingering childhood sadness that manifest itself through intense lucid dreaming and waking life hallucinations?  The film makes me think it wants to be both but not really, but also yes.
~ Michael Ajao was a scene-stealer for me.  There’s a pivotal scene in the mid-to-last leg of the film that I found disturbing the first time primarily for visual design reasons (lighting and makeup), but watching it the second time (after reading this Robert Daniels review), the implications made the scene more unsettling.
~ The special features on the DVD are great.

Am I going to have to watch Last Night in Soho a third time to know if the needle will move towards “liked it” or “disliked it” … or is it all right to have a lukewarm reaction to it?

Pic creds: Criterion Collection, IMDB