Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Something Is Killing Tate

Black men are complex. And there are so many reasons why. Some of the reasons are just below his surface, many are imbedded in him and others are external.

In the film Something Is Killing Tate, a powerful film from emerging director Leon Lozano, we find Tate struggling with his future mainly because of the ills afflicted upon him in his childhood. Thus on the eve of his birthday and just weeks away from his wedding day, Tate unsuccessfully tries to escape it all. Afterwards Tate is visited at his home, along with his goldfish, by a series of friends, relatives and his future wife. Each visit and person peels away a layer forcing Tate to confront the real demons and one true demon in his life.

Tate is played by Jocko Sims. Sims is a brilliant actor with old school Hollywood leading man good looks and presence. He is a mix of Denzel and Snipes with the depth of Day Lewis and charm of Portier. It is so frustrating to know Jeff Bridges won an Oscar for his portrayal of a damaged man when Sims is the real deal. Sims is fascinating. This character has never been so masterfully executed without stereotype and melodramatics. From start to finish you want to know what exactly is killing Tate and more importantly, how can I help Tate? Tate seems like a nice person and in the end you get to this truth.

Something Is Killing Tate is what filmmaking is all about, making the elements compliment each other and bring out the best even under the worst of circumstances.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Catfish - A Movie, A Doc or Just a Facebook Experience

Yesterday, I finally returned to the movie theater after the 2010 summer blockbuster season. First up was a movie I having been reading a lot about given its usage of Facebook as the other bigger social network film is in theaters everywhere. The movie is called Catfish. And it's nothing like the Friday night fish fry at Auntie's house.

Catfish is a "documentary" about Yaniv "Nev" Schulman, a 24-year-old photographer. After having one of his pictures published in a magazine, he receives a painting in the mail from Abby, an eight-year-old girl in Michigan. Nev finds Abby through Facebook, thus a new friend and start of a relationship. Soon enough, Nev becomes a close friend, not only with Abby but with her mother, Angela, and older sister Megan. As Nev starts a relationship with the family, his brother, Ariel - a filmmaker, and friend, Henry, decide to capture it all only to realize that things aren’t as they seem.

Catfish is an indie and film festival movie. At its core is a creative idea steep in modern technology and current popular behavior, trends and mores from all involved in an internet relationship. However, it is very hard to believe or accept any of this as reality. Facebook is really a facade. People are not still getting caught up and believing anything behind the post. It has all become an advertising, marketing tool and self promotional vehicle for the masses. The people behind the Facebook pages are not there - really. It's all avatars.

Thus, as Nev entering into an e-relationship is next to impossible to believe. Seeing the big city hipsters trekking to the micro tiny town in Michigan, Catfish is not engaging and the few laughs here and there drive this point home. You just want to send Nev a text: GOOGLE.

Catfish is superficial, hollow and it’s something that’s becoming more common in today’s society, contemporary cinema and human nature. The reality is that Nev is in love with himself, his reflection glaring from his screen, any Facebook page, but Nev is never in love with a real person. Catfish is perfect cinema the internet the internet. It should have played on the internet exclusively and truly been groundbreaking.

The belief that websites like Facebook and are bringing people closer together and engaging unions is laughable as all of the social networking that exist online basically existed offline and when there was no internet. It was called the church social, happy hour, the classified ad or a mixer. Please note that real live people interacting face to face were not always as honest was they should have been. So today sitting in front of a screen we are not so close, we simply now exercise more options quicker, face no real wardrobe challenges nor have to worry about drinking too much.

Maybe it is all too advanced or modern for Nev and the Catfish crew. Maybe I'll just fax them. . . . .?ver!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Love your father? Udaan is an amazing coming of age story about a Rohan student, 17. We met Rohan at boarding school with his three best friends as they sneak out of boarding school one night to see a movie, they find their school administer in the audience as well. The boys are all expelled. Rohan returns to his small town where he learns that his father, whom he has not seen in eight years, has remarried and has another young son, Arjun, but the new wife is long gone.

The father quickly puts Rohan to work in his steel factory and gets him matriculated into an Engineering program at the university. Rohan is a naturally gifted writer and wants to pursue that against his father's wishes. After an incident at school, Arjun finds himself in the hospital upon the father's strict discipline. It is there Rohan begins to bond with his new brother. Away from the father in the sanctity of the hospital Rohan can share his writings. He starts to read to Arjun, then Arjun's neighbor and shortly thereafter the entire hospital including patients are listening to Rohan's writings.

Along the way Rohan turns eighteen, a man, and starts to understand the real meaning of manhood and father - a term Arjun nor Rohan are allowed to called their father. Luckily, Rohan has ready learned from his expelled companions the meaning of love, friendship, responsibility and family.

Netflix does it again, as I am always on the lookout for fresh, innovative and entertaining movies and Udaan is perfect. The cinematography is nurturing, the acting is compelling and the story is modern. Udaan definitely too me on a journey worth taking.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Jonesing for Love Jones

Yesterday I bought the Love Jones dvd at a vintage store in San Diego. Love Jones consistently ranks near the top movie of 25-45 year-olds Black Americans.

Love Jones is more than a rom-dram. It is an expose of middle-class Black urban life amongst the educated, complicated, sophisticated, upwardly mobile, articulate, attractive, well dressed, coiffed, employed, love seekers. This intertwined with a love story between the recently singled Nina (Nia Long) and cool renaissance man Darius Lovehall (Lorenz Tate) makes for neo soul cinema, the soundtrack even enlists Maxwell, Dionne Farris and Lauren Hill. In between the strikingly melodic cinematography, jazz playing, behop dancing, dance hall gyrating, famous quotes spewing, poetry readings, photography sessions, novel writing, Amtraks trips to New York, visits to an old-school record shop to purchase vinyl albums and typing on an actual typewriter - the story of Nina and Darius clearly gets played out. While it may all sound tiring and pretentious, it isn't.

Thanks to the directing of Theodore Witcher, it is not pretense at all. After all, this is how many young adults have designed and customized their lives, by embracing and shaping the American dream and all of its offerings to make a good life for themselves. And here lays the problem, Love Jones is like an architectural project rather a film, encapsulating Nina and Darius' love story rather than unfolding it. Their environments seems a bit unfamiliar to them. These are intelligent worldly people acting like adults in a professional world but their actions are a cross between a classic hollywood movie and a high school romance.

When I first saw Love Jones, I was the only person who was underwhelmed, so this time I watched with fresh eyes and an open mind. Most of the things I noticed the first time around still resonated like Lorenz Tate looked very young. While Tate definitely brought Darius to life fully, I still felt like Madd Dogg, his Menace II Society character, was still there - the gesturing and delivery. Nia Long was perfect. She was desirable, beautiful, human and wanting it all - love and a career without talking about it or singling one or the other out. Very well written and acted female role. After watching this time around, I wonder why Nia Long did not scoop Halle Berry? She really is lovely.

Love Jones is a movie that may be too perfect for its own good. Watching it is like looking a jigsaw puzzle with all of the pieces neatly laid out in front of you but not yet connected. Right from the start, you see where they go, how it will work and what is next -- the big picture. But where is no pay off? I don't even care if they get together or what the end is. This is no love jones - it is a crush. An adult crush complicated by all of the nice things and stuff that make up grown up life.