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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Boyz n the Hood (1991)

Starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., Morris Chestnut, Ice Cube, Laurence Fishburne, Nia Long, Tyra Ferrell, Angela Bassett, Redge Green, Dedrick D. Gobert, Baldwin C. Sykes, Tracey Lewis-Sinclair, Alysia Rogers

Directed by John Singleton

Expectations: High. I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to watch this.


Boyz n the Hood is hands down one of the best films of the ’90s. The fact that writer/director John Singleton was only 23 when he made it makes that fact all the more incredible. Jumping out of the gate with both feet running, Singleton creates one of the richest and thought-provoking inner-city films of all time. It might be boring to read a glowing review of a 21-year-old film, but I simply won’t be able to control myself. Boyz n the Hood is a masterpiece, plain and simple.

Boyz n the Hood is great because of its characters and the way Singleton treats them. I’ve always been a vocal supporter of black filmmakers telling black stories because I feel that it’s the only way to get to the heart of the matter. If a white man made Boyz n the Hood, he simply wouldn’t come at it from the same angle. I know I’m making broad, general statements and everyone is an individual, but all I’m trying to say is that I would rather invest my time in a story about a group of people if it’s coming from a member of said group, that’s all. Schindler’s List is Schindler’s List because of Spielberg’s personal connection to the material and Boyz n the Hood is no different.

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