Jonesing For Some Of That

lovejones_1Love Jones is the first review for our Black Love Fest. An authentic qualifier for a “black film” is a movie that is from the perspective of someone living the black experience. Love Jones is that, but it’s also a film that would be universally appreciated because of its love story, friendship, and artisan quality. I love the fact that the movie displays a beautiful black love story without constantly reminding the audience that it is a “black film.”

It is with a smile on my face that I listen to the movie’s opening song, Hopeless. The melody makes me want to cuddle up, and French kiss. Cinematically, the song matches the opening scene of black and white images of real people (non actors). The initial images are of an industrial area with a dreary backdrop of Chicago’s Hyde Park. The images are of non-smiling faces and a neighborhood that depicts poverty. But then there are images of children, friendship, love, and genuine laughter.

The movie opens up with the female main character, Nina (Nia Long), standing by a window while it is raining outside. She is having the typical, “I’m done with men” conversation with her girlfriend, Josie, played by Lisa Carson.  The scene then cuts into an evening girls’ night out. Nina and Josie go to The Sanctuary, a poetry spot that features local poets and musicians. The viewer is immediately pulled into the scene of live jazz music while a group of friends are sitting at a table. There are four men: The Writer – Darius (Larenz Tate), Married Intellectual – Savon (Isaiah Washington), The Poet/Showcase Host – Eddie Coles (Leonard Roberts), The Playboy Jerk – Hollywood (Bill Bellamy), and one female, The Dancer – Sheila (Bernadette Speakes). They are at the table joking and laughing and swapping stories on being romanced. Throughout the movie the depth of the characters and their personal struggles are revealed.

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Love Jones (1997)

lovejones_2Starring Larenz Tate, Nia Long, Isaiah Washington, Lisa Nicole Carson, Bill Bellamy, Leonard Roberts, Bernadette Speakes, Khalil Kain, Cerall Duncan

Directed by Theodore Witcher

Expectations: Moderate.

threehalfstar


I knew Love Jones was going to be different right from the start. A laid-back groove played over the New Line Cinema logo and the first images on-screen were a series of black & white shots showing us the city of Chicago. This gives way to images of black neighborhoods, and then the smiling, unburdened faces of youth. These people are not our characters, they are merely the canvas that their story is painted on. It could be about them, but it happens to be about Nina (Nia Long) and Darius (Larenz Tate). The black & white vignette gives way to the first real scene of the film, as Nina is coming out of a long-term relationship and declaring that love is played out.

Given the genre of the film, it’s clear that someone is going to come along and change her mind. Darius is the clear candidate for that part when the two meet at a poetry reading in a downtown bar. Darius is all hot-fire and sexual energy, declaring to his friends (before he meets Nina) that romance is all about possibilities. When they’re exhausted, the relationship is over. While his explanation is poetic, it’s also short-sighted. Relationships are work, and possibilities can be renewed.

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The Postman (1997)

1997-the-postman-poster1Starring Kevin Costner, Will Patton, Larenz Tate, Olivia Williams, James Russo, Daniel von Bargen, Tom Petty, Scott Bairstow, Giovanni Ribisi, Roberta Maxwell, Joe Santos, Ron McLarty, Peggy Lipton

Directed by Kevin Costner

Expectations: Low, but as a fan of Dances with Wolves I’m hopeful.

twohalfstar


2013
The Great Salt Flats of Utah

The last of the great cities died when my father was a child, victims of yet another war. He told of the plagues that followed and how the living hid themselves, scattered in tiny hamlets in hopes of surviving whatever new madness conspired to rob them of the little that remained. In those days, he walked alone, a solitary witness to the chaos that reigned. The earth itself had fallen victim to the insanity. He told stories of the three-year winter and how the dirty snow never stopped falling. He saw the ocean, barren, poisoned, near death. And how they watched the sky for 16 long years, praying for the great lungs to start working again. He said it was as if the ocean had breathed a great sigh of relief.

The Postman tells the story of a lone drifter, walking through the desert with only a few supplies and a burro to keep him company. He dreams of watching Monday Night Football and admires the sunset from the roof of an old Unocal 76 station. The post-apocalyptic setting is complete, but unfortunately star/director Kevin Costner decides to leave all of this iconic imagery quickly behind as he tells us a tale of a western, Civil War-inspired version of the future. I don’t imagine that if the world ended I’d move into the nearest ghost town, but that seems to be exactly what the survivors of the plagues and the wars did in their world.

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