“Trust Love All the Way”: Go See If Beale Street Could Talk

If Beale Street Could Talk, the Barry Jenkins movie based on the James Baldwin novel of the same name, is a fantastic, beautiful, political, loving movie. Trish Rivers and Fonny Hunt are a young Black couple in love and expecting a baby when Fonny is arrested for a rape he didn’t commit.

Barry Jenkins and James Baldwin have one thing in common. An image/prose language that is both realistic and, at the same time, incredibly poetic. Compared to Moonlight, the outstanding 2017 Academy Award winner, Beale Street is comparatively conventional in parts, but similarly terrific. The beauty of the love between Trish and Fonny, the support of Trish’s family is in contrast to the ugliness of the racist system.

The acting of the entire cast is exceptional, Regina King as Sharon Rivers deserves winning all the awards this season, including the Oscar for best actress in a suporting role. The two young lead roles, Kiki Layne as Tish and Stephan James as Fonny are great, particularly their close ups were tremendously heavy or heavenly light, depending on the scene. The breathtaking dialogues at the window in prison reminded me of the intensity of the prison dialogues in Steven McQueen’s Hunger.

Once again, Glenn Weldon of NPR’s Popculture Happy Hour podcast also sums up this movie together perfectly: “If Beale Street Could Talk has a gorgeous urgency.” 

I saw it as a Valentine’s Day preview at Zebra Kino Konstanz. The movie will be released more widely in Germany on March 7th, 2019. Go see it if you have a chance.

The Oscars Love Racial Reconciliation Movies.

Wesley Morris sums up the problem with Oscar-winning movies like The Green Book for the New York Times:

The money is ostensibly for legitimate assistance, but it also seems to paper over all that’s potentially fraught about race. The relationship is entirely conscripted as service and bound by capitalism and the fantastically presumptive leap is, The money doesn’t matter because I like working for you. And if you’re the racist in the relationship: I can’t be horrible because we’re friends now. That’s why the hug Sandra Bullock gives Yomi Perry, the actor playing her maid, Maria, at the end of “Crash,” remains the single most disturbing gesture of its kind. It’s not friendship. Friendship is mutual. That hug is cannibalism.


What a stunning, important, moving, magnificent film. It might have not won the Oscar, but it will surely enter collective cultural memory and countless syllabi. 

The entire ensemble of actors and actresses was great, lead by a brilliant David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. Great directing and cinematography, too. For me, the “4 little girls” bomb attack particularly stood out, but there were so many less showy, more mundane or domestic moments that were well done, too. Ava Duvernay  did a really good job, I think, at showing Martin Luther King as a human – not a saint – and how important others were for the movement – John Lewis and SNCC, Coretta Scott King, the SCLC, but also local women and organizers in Selma. It’s hard to compare three so different movies as Boyhood, Birdman, and Selma, but Selma is the more important movie. If it’s better than Birdman (which I haven’t seen yet because I live in a cave) or Boyhood (which I also loved) I don’t know, but it’s certainly not worse. 

Leading up to the Oscars, an anonymous Academy member claimed that Selma isn’t “art.” In a way, that is even true – if you think of “art” as “l’art pour l’art.” The skilled, artistic work in Selma was not its own end, but is used to create a profound impact and to tell the story of a struggle. A struggle that in many ways is still going  on today. Watching the 1st Oval Office scene in which LBJ tells MLK that other issues are more important than the Black vote, I couldn’t help but think of the discussion going on on Twitter between certain White Feminists™ and people of color – particularly Black women –  who criticized Patricia Arquette for her backstage remarks and the way Arquette’s framing erased Black women. After people (of color) pointed this issue out, they were immediately called divisive and told to focus on “bigger fish” like wage equality. 

Many scenes of the march, particularly when the State Troopers put on their gas masks and clubbed men, women, clergy, and youngsters, immediately brought the last summer in Ferguson to mind. The story Selma tells isn’t over, yet, and the film makers know that. That makes the movie so important and so great.


Doppelgängers as characters seem to be in vogue at the moment.

There is of course the magnificent series Orphan Black, starring Tatiana Maslany as half a dozen clones. Richard Ayoade’s The Double, starring Jesse Eisenberg and based on the  Fyodor Dostoyevsky novella, is getting a wider release this summer.

Tonight, Zebra Kino in Konstanz is showing Enemy, directed by Denis Villeneuve and based on a José Saramago novel. The thriller pits Jake Gyllenhaal against Jake Gyllenhaal. The trailer (above) really focuses on sex and spiders, but I hope there is more to it. Tonight is the last screening at 9 pm, so you might want to join me there if you’re interested and in the region. 

Somehow, Wes Anderson has become the Niles Crane of contemporary cinema. He’s transformed himself from an oddball perfectionist into a snooty, pompous fussbudget. Though he still arranges gorgeous color palettes, striking geometric frames, and era-blending visions that are part French New Wave, part Vogue photo shoot, when he sticks his characters into those shots, he barely even lets them move. Human flesh and noise and body language—the stuff that most of us are used to thinking of as “drama,” and the reason we refer to films colloquially as “movies”—have become unwelcome intrusions in Wes Anderson’s relentlessly pretty and static universe.

‘Budapest Hotel’ Is Too ‘Grand’ To Function – In These Times
Sady Doyle takes Wes Anderson’s new movie the Grand Budapest Hotel apart. I haven’t seen it (yet) but I feel like it’s spoiled by Doyle’s valid commentary if I do see it at some point. (Including actual spoilers)
I don’t have a real problem with that, but you might want to proceed to the full article with caution.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Last night I finally saw the acclaimed movie Beasts of the Southern Wild. It’s one of those films that are literally breathtaking and it needs to settle before I can finally decide what I really think of it. One thing is clear: Oscar-nominee Quvenzhané Wallis (Hushpuppy) is amazing, her on-screen presence is tremendous. I don’t want call a young girl of color a “force of nature,” but it felt that way. She is strong and unique and in a pivotal scene the world appeared to stop just by the impact of her acting. It’ll be exciting to see what she goes on to do. Dwight Henry, in the role of Hushpuppy’s abusive, violent, drunk and gravely ill father Wink, is also brilliant.

Speaking of staging people (of color) as forces of nature and basically savage “beasts of the southern wild:” A.O.Scott of the New York Times wrote about the movie: “Let’s all agree: This movie is a blast of sheer, improbable joy.” I can’t agree. bell hooks wrote an essay critiquing the movie. I don’t share her view that Hushpuppy was eroticized, I think the bottom of a walking child can be in the center of a unsteady shot without eroticizing it, even considering that the child is a WOC and the problem of too early sexualization of girls of color. She definitely was exoticized.. In this very specific case, I don’t think that it’s a problematic myth that white people and POC live together in this case without talk of race: The inhabitants of “The Bathtub,” the small outsider bayou community on the wrong side of the levee are a community of fate, brought together by their status as very poor outsiders, who (nevertheless?) are proud and stubborn about their home and their position. But I understand why these things can be read as problematic and the essay does bring up a lot of important issues and is well worth a read. It brings up all the elements of the movie that prevent it from being a joyous, feel-good movie. The violence. The neglect of children. And the staging of the people as basically savage beasts, especially Wink.

It’s  a strong movie, a well-made  movie, an impressively acted and directed movie. But it’s not a pretty movie. It’s not a nice movie. It’s not a joyous movie.