Traffic Stop Death Triggers Revolt in Black Lives Matter Drama
Joseph Grant (Toussaint Morrison) was riding in a car with his brother Cole (Malick Ceesay) and BFF Derek (Geoff Briley) one afternoon when they suddenly found themselves being tailed by a police cruiser. Although they hadn’t violated any rules of the road, they were inexplicably pulled over by a couple of overzealous cops (Addison Pennington and Matt Cedarberg), ostensibly for merely “driving while black.”
Sitting in the back seat, Cole asked the officers for an explanation for the stop, if they weren’t being profiled. Their response was that he matched the description of a suspect they were looking for.
After being asked for his ID and ordered him out of the car, Cole lost his temper. The next thing you know, he wound up on the ground with a pistol to his head. And the bigot with a badge in control of whether he lived or died yelled, “What you looking at, boy?” before callously pulling the trigger.
Witnessing the senseless shooting of his only brother leaves Joe traumatized and Derek is understandably shaken, too. But the two have distinctly different feelings about what to do next.
The former has no faith in the criminal justice system, given the long history of police being found not guilty for the deaths of unarmed African-Americans. So, he would just like to get some guns, recruit an army, and lead a violent revolution against the U.S.
By contrast, Derek is interested in mounting a traditional protest, like a Black Lives Matter march. After all, he has no confidence Joe will be able to find any followers, especially since blacks are so brainwashed they mostly kill only other blacks, not whites. The ensuing debate of how to respond to Cole’s untimely demise sits at the center of Black, a thought-provoking morality play written and directed by David J. Buchanan.
Besides the badinage between the buddies, the film intermittently takes a break from the drama for brief, revealing tête-à-tête with real-life black folks about their first encounters in life with the cops. The heartfelt recollections shared in these mini-documentaries combine to paint a widespread pattern of discrimination and abuse on the part of the police.
A compelling polemic revolving around a grief-stricken sibling relentlessly making his case, like a latter-day Nat Turner, for armed insurrection!
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 80 minutes
Production Studio: BLACK Productions
Studio: We-Co Films
OPENING THIS WEEK
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
For movies opening February 22, 2019
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (PG for action and mild rude humor) Final installment in the animated fantasy trilogy finds Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless embarking on an epic journey to protect their peaceful village from the darkest threat it has ever faced. Voice cast includes America Ferrara, Cate Blanchett, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, Gerard Butler, and Craig Ferguson.
INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS
The Changeover (Unrated) Adaptation of Margaret Mahy’s young adult novel, set in Christchurch, New Zealand, about a 16-year-old girl (Erana James) drawn into a battle with the evil spirit draining the life out of her little brother (Benji Purchase). Supporting cast includes Timothy Spall, Melanie Lynskey, and Lucy Lawless.
The Iron Orchard (R for profanity and some sexuality) Depression era drama chronicling a young man’s (Lane Garrison) effort to work his way up the ranks from laborer to wildcatter in the oilfields of West Texas. With Ali Cobrin, Austin Nichols, and Lew Temple.
Prosecuting Evil (Unrated) Reverential retrospective about Ben Ferencz, the sole surviving prosecutor of Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg trials. Featuring commentary by Alan Dershowitz, Wesley Clark, and Fatou Bensouda.
Run the Race (PG for teen partying and mature themes) Sports saga about two teenaged siblings’ (Tanner Stine and Evan Hofer) struggle to survive in the wake of their mother’s death and being abandoned by their father (Kristoffer Poloaha). With Mykelti Williamson, Frances Farmer, Mario Van Peebles, Tim Tebow, and Eddie George.
Total Dhamaal (Unrated) Third installment in the zany action series revolving around a small-time crook’s (Ajay Devgn) attempt to recoup his losses after being double-crossed by his partner in crime (Manoj Pahwa). Cast includes Arshad Warsi, Javed Jaffrey, and Anil Kapoor. (In Hindi with subtitles)
The Envelope Please: Who Will Win, Who Deserves to Win, and Who Gets Snubbed?
2018 was a banner year for black cast films, including BlacKkKlansman, Black Panther, Green Book, and If Beale Street Could Talk. Might Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman) finally win the Best Director and Best Picture Oscars which have eluded him over the course of his 40-year career? Not likely, despite the Academy’s history of rewarding overlooked legends more for their body of work than for their latest offering.
How about Black Panther, the highest-grossing ($1.34 billion) superhero movie of all time? It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, but only in one major category, Best Picture. None of its actors were recognized. The snub is reminiscent of how in 2001 none of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon‘s cast members received nominations, although the film landed 10 overall.
If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins’ critically-acclaimed adaptation of the James Baldwin novel of the same name, wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture, though Regina King is the favorite to win for Best Supporting Actress. The crowd-pleaser Green Book might have had a shot at Best Picture, were it not for the Mexican drama Roma.
It looks like the semi-autobiographical, black & white adventure, written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron, is destined to garner the most glory on Oscar night, including Best Picture and Best Director. Why the Academy lavished Roma with 10 nominations and Crazy Rich Asians with none is beyond the ken of this critic. Two of my other faves, Eighth Grade and Private Life, were also totally ignored.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Below, see my picks to win in each major category, followed by which nominee is the most deserving, followed by the best pictures and performances not even nominated. The Oscars will air live on Sunday, February 24th at 8 pm ET / 5 pm PT on ABC-TV. The show will have no host, since the producers couldn’t find a replacement for Kevin Hart, who withdrew in the wake of condemnation for some homophobic tweets.
Will Win: Roma
Deserves to Win: Green Book
Overlooked: Crazy Rich Asians, Eighth Grade, Private Life
Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron (Roma)
Deserves to Win: Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman)
Overlooked: Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians), Bo Burnham (Eighth Grade), Tamara Jenkins (Private Life)
Will Win: Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody)
Deserves to Win: Rami Malek
Overlooked: Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther), Paul Giamatti (Private Life), Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians)
Will Win: Glenn Close (The Wife)
Deserves to Win: Yalitza Aparicio (Roma)
Overlooked: Viola Davis (Widows), Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade), Nicole Kidman (Destroyer)
Best Supporting Actor
Will Win: Mahershala Ali (Green Book)
Deserves to Win: Mahershala Ali
Overlooked: Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther)
Best Supporting Actress
Will Win: Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Deserves to Win: Regina King
Overlooked: Michelle Yeoh (Crazy Rich Asians), Letitia Wright (Black Panther)
Best Original Screenplay
Will Win: The Favourite
Deserves to Win: Green Book
Overlooked: Eighth Grade, Private Life
Best Adapted Screenplay
Will Win: BlacKkKlansman
Deserves to Win: BlacKkKlansman
Overlooked: Crazy Rich Asians, Black Panther
Predictions for the Rest of the Categories
Animated Feature: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Foreign Language Film: Roma
Documentary Feature: Free Solo
Costume Design: The Favourite
Production Design: The Favourite
Film Editing: Vice
Makeup and Hairstyling: Vice
Original Score: If Beale Street Could Talk
Best Song: “Shallow” (A Star Is Born)
Sound Editing: First Man
Sound Mixing: A Star Is Born
Visual Effects: Avengers: Infinity War
Animated Short: Marguerite
Documentary Short: Black Sheep
Live Action Short: Bao
Top Ten DVD List for February 19, 2019
1. A Star Is Born
2. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
3. Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask
6. Narcissister Organ Player
7. The Return of the Vampire
8. Sgt. Will Gardner
9. Robin Hood
10. Iceman: The Time Traveler