The Game of Love

loveandbasketball_1FIRST QUARTER… early ’80s

The title Love and Basketball (LAB) is appropriate for this film; it’s about the deep love of two people and a deep love for basketball. The film chronicles the love story of two neighbors: Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps). The movie opens up with 11-year-old Monica moving in next door to Quincy “Q” in Baldwin Hills, CA. Monica joins a pick-up game with Q and his two friends. First words out Quincy’s mouth, “Girls can’t play no ball,” and Monica’s response is, “I ball better than you.” This becomes the theme of what will continue to be a conflict with both characters: Monica’s attitude and need to defend the pressures associated with being a female baller, and Quincy’s privileged idealism of being a baller, and son of an NBA player.

The film establishes all the characters and family dynamics within the first 10 minutes. I will stop and reiterate that most romantic comedies/dramas are similar; people meet, fall in love, and live happily ever after. What makes movies unique (especially black films) are the nostalgic factors such as identifying with characters, the music, and exposure to black culture. There are many examples throughout the movie. What stands out the most to me is the music, and the scene where Monica’s sister, Kerry (Monica Calhoun), is combing Monica’s hair. That is something I often did for my siblings growing up; “greasing scalps,” and “oiling” hair has always been prevalent in black culture. The music is authentic in mirroring the trials and tribulations of the actors. The song Candy Girl by New Edition is blasting in the background as they start their pick-up game.

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Love & Basketball (2000)

loveandbasketball_2Starring Sanaa Lathan, Omar Epps, Alfre Woodard, Dennis Haysbert, Debbi Morgan, Harry J. Lenix, Kyla Pratt, Glenndon Chatman, Boris Kodjoe, Gabrielle Union, Monica Calhoun, Regina Hall, Tyra Banks

Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood

Expectations: Moderate.

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When I sat down to watch Love & Basketball, I assumed I’d be in for two things: love and… Ukrainian field hockey! Hahaha, no, I expected the basketball, and I wasn’t let down. Love & Basketball is indeed full of both love and basketball, but what I didn’t expect was a side-by-side look at men’s and women’s basketball. For me, this was by far the most interesting part of the film because of what it brings to light about the differences between the genders through the game of basketball. It’s not just about the game, it’s about life. I know that sounds kinda hokey and clichéd, but it’s the truth and Love & Basketball does a great job covering these themes it sets out for itself.

Our story begins in 1981, when Quincy and Monica are both 11 years old. Monica has just moved next door to Quincy and they meet when Monica asks if she can play basketball with Quincy and his friends. Quincy isn’t exactly nice to her, but she still seems to like him anyway, and thus our tale of love in-between the hoops begins. The film is structured in four quarters like a basketball game, sometimes making time jumps of multiple years between quarters. So even though we start in their youth, we are only there for a small section of the film.

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Mini-Review: Think Like a Man (2012)

Think-Like-A-Man-poster-1Starring Michael Ealy, Jerry Ferrara, Meagan Good, Regina Hall, Kevin Hart, Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Jenkins, Jenifer Lewis, Romany Malco, Gary Owen, Gabrielle Union, La La Anthony

Directed by Tim Story

Expectations: High. I have it on good authority that this is funny.

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I don’t have much to say about Think Like a Man. It’s well-made, funny and engaging. It’s easily one of the best and most interesting modern romantic comedies I’ve seen in a while (not that I make it a habit to see that many). This could be that the male focus of the film led me to care more about the relationships at hand, but I think it’s more to do with the structure of the film. Instead of one relationship getting all the screen-time, Think Like a Man charts the course of several relationships at once, so at all times there is something new happening with our fun, interesting characters.

Due to this wide focus, the film’s relationships aren’t that complex and they’re somewhat unbelievable, but it’s a romantic comedy so whatever. It’s not about depth and believability, it’s about making you laugh and making you feel a swell of romance in the key moments. And Think Like a Man does that really, really well. The writing is especially snappy, and the entire cast performs admirably. It’s a shame that I don’t really know who many of the actors and actresses in this movie are, and hopefully that will change going forward. It was a treat to see so many positive black characters in one movie, complete with a token white guy! I loved that. It’s a total reversal of traditional Hollywood film casting, and I wish more mainstream films would echo that. The US is rather multiracial, doncha know.

Like all romantic comedies, it does fall into the formulaic trap of being obvious and ending just as you guessed it would at its outset. But where that might usually bother me, I was so taken with the characters and the quality of the comedy that I didn’t mind one bit. I think I finally understand how all the similar romantic comedies continue to do so well: if you connect with the film’s journey then its formula doesn’t matter. I guess that’s the same for all genre films, but for some reason I never considered it an option with romantic comedies. You learn something new every day.

Don’t worry, though, I’m not going to change the focus of Silver Emulsion to a chronological examination of the romantic comedy (although I have to admit, that does sound rather enticing to me), but I will definitely go into future romantic comedy films with a different mindset. Who knows, maybe I’ll become a big fan of them yet.

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