Eve’s Bayou

Another gem from the Horror Noire list and this one is delicious, I tell you. Written and directed by the wonderful Kasi Lemmons – best known in my heart as Helen’s BFF in the best film ever made – it follows the trials and tribulations of the Batiste family as they deal with the infidelities of their patriarch, Louis.

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Atlantics

You may recognise this week’s film from my Horror Noire post last month. Jill picked it and I for one am delighted. I’ve been looking forward to it ever since I read the synopsis and now it’s here… well, read on and I’ll let you know exactly what I think. Read More

Been So Long

I’m obsessed with Michaela Coel so it was a no-brainer to choose this film. And there’s been a lot of horror and emotion the last few weeks so it’s nice to focus on something a little less dramatic. Been So Long is an adaptation of a musical play of the same name and although it still covers serious subject matter, it’s set against a joyous Camden backdrop (probably where I would live if I lived in London) and it’s very sweet.

While its director isn’t Black, she is a woman of colour and while the screenplay was written by a white man – Che Walker – the film does boast an almost entirely Black cast so I’ve fit it into our Films by Black Filmmakers category, frankly because it belongs there.

I don’t know about you but sometimes on the weekend, all I want to do is watch things that make me smile and snack, so this was a good fit.

Been So Long (2018)

A dedicated single mother who, on an unusual night on the town, is charmed by a handsome yet troubled stranger.

Directed by: Tinge Krishnan
Starring: Michaela CoelMya LewisArinzé Kene

*Spoilers*

Simone (Queen Coel) is a single-mum who lives alone with her disabled daughter Mandy (Lewis). Her best friend Yvonne (Ronke Adekoluejo) is keen to get her out on the town as she hasn’t had any action “since MySpace” but Simone is reluctant. Wholesome mothering is all she’s interested in, thankyouverymuch. Luckily, Yvonne prevails this night via the power of song – which contains a verse about sitting on someone’s face – and it’s a good thing really because at the bar she meets Raymond (Kene).

Fresh out of prison for a non-violent crime, Raymond is slowly settling back into outside life. Back home with his mum and doing a job he’s not particularly proud of, Raymond is ready to rebuild his life. When he meets Simone, it seems this could be possible. So it’s a shame when she sees through his cover story and, after she makes an insensitive comment about his prison experience, he ends their first meeting prematurely.

Fate takes care of their situation though when the pair end up unwittingly sitting next to each other on the same bus home. They exchange numbers and Simone seriously considers the possibility of letting a new man into hers and her daughter’s life. If he can convince her he’s good to his mother and respects women.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Raymond, he is being stalked by a knife-wielding white boy – and the father of Simone’s daughter is back on the scene, and keen on establishing a relationship with her.

Can Simone open her heart enough to let love in? Is Raymond the decent bloke he seems to be? And what does the kid from 1917 (George MacKay) want with Raymond?

Thoughts

If this review seems a little light on the ground I guess it’s because honestly, the movie’s pretty light on action. It’s sweet enough but there are a lot of side stories going on that make it messy and took me out of the main story. We’re I’m here for the brilliant wit of Michael Coel – maybe a few upbeat ditties and some strong female support in the shape of Yvonne and we do get some of that but not nearly enough.

I didn’t really follow George MacKay’s arc because it starts dramatically and then never goes anywhere. He’s got beef with Raymond over a girl he’s secretly in love with but it’s never made clear what her relationship was to Raymond and why George is so murderously against him. Likewise, there’s an unwanted pregnancy story for Yvonne that seems to be tacked on just to give her something to do during a period of not speaking to Simone. Oh, and there’s also some comment on gentrification when their friend Barney’s (Luke Norris) inherited bar is threatened with closure.

I can just about stomach the Mandy’s father story line as it explains a few things about why Simone is so protective but it’s not particularly exciting. It would also be remiss not to mention the songs. They’re all pretty forgettable and not really for me. That said, Ms Coel has a banging voice and once again proves there’s nothing she can’t do. If anyone’s seen recent series I May Destroy You then they’ll already be aware of that.

I don’t want this to be a MC appreciation post but I feel very strongly that she – and Adekoluejo who plays Yvonne – are the strongest links here and all I wanted to see. They’re kind of wasted in a mediocre landscape which is admittedly attractive and vibrant but never really takes flight.

3/5

What does my one true blog love think of this one? Would she sing songs of love for it in public or stay silent? Find out here.

Down in the Delta

This week’s film is directed by the legend that is one Dr. Maya Angelou. I’m not going to speak about her in the past tense because she lives on always and has been one of the biggest constants of my life. My mother recently gave me Letter to my Daughter and it’s just perfect.

While I know her life experiences could not be more different to mine, her words still speak to all women and I can’t think of a more powerful, beautiful voice. How is she as a movie director though? Let’s see, shall we?

Down in the Delta (1998)

Rosa Lynn sends her druggie daughter Loretta and her children Thomas and Tracy away from the big city to live with their uncle Earl in the ancestral home in rural Mississippi.

Directed by: Maya Angelou
Starring: Alfre WoodardMary AliceWesley Snipes

*Spoilers*

Sometimes, the last place you expected to be is the one place you’ve always belonged…

Rosa Lynn Sinclair (Mary Alice) lives in a Chicago housing project with her troubled daughter Loretta (Woodard), and Loretta’s two children: two-year-old Tracy and 13-year-old Thomas (Kulani Hassen and Mpho Koaho). The poor woman is trying desperately to keep her family together but unfortunately, unemployment is rife, gang violence is a very real concern – and Loretta is very much off the wagon.

Thomas helps care for Autistic Tracy but it’s not very fair on either of them, or on Rosa – especially when Loretta is out living it up until the early hours. Everything looks bleak but for a moment there, Loretta is hopeful when she spots a Help Wanted sign at the local grocery store. The family pin all their hopes on the new job which will keep her out of trouble but also give them a much needed second income, maybe even get Loretta out of her mother’s tiny apartment and into a home of their own.

Alas, it’s not meant to be and a crushed Loretta falls back into old habits. When Rose goes to retrieve her from the local crack house, it’s the final straw. She decides it’s high time her grouchy brother-in-law Earl (Al Freeman Jr.) takes them on for the Summer. Earl lives in Mississippi in the family home and he reluctantly agrees to take his niece and her children for a while but only because Rosa blackmails him. More on that later.

One long Greyhound bus ride later and the family arrive at their destination. Thomas has been promised interesting wildlife and fields in which to run free – and as a budding photographer, he’s not against this change of scenery.

Meanwhile, Earl is civil enough but the poor man has his own heartache to contend with: his lovely wife Annie (Esther Rolle) has late stage dementia and needs round the clock care.

Well, the pace of life is infinitely different in Mississippi, and Earl will suffer no fools. Loretta is expected to get up early and help him at his chicken-only restaurant, first making sausages in the kitchen, then moving up to working the till and waitressing. And what do you know? She’s a bloody natural.

Without the demon drink and drugs, Loretta is free to thrive – and when she reconnects with Earl’s son Will (Wesley Snipes), she starts to dream bigger, learning the definition of entrepreneur. When the local chicken factory – and the biggest employer in town – announces its closure, it’s Loretta who gees everyone up to fight back, much to Earl’s delight.

Thomas and Tracy too settle into rural life, and Loretta questions whether or not she can go back to Chicago now, despite her mama being settled there. Will there be good enough reason to stay?

There’s a lot of focus throughout this story on a silver candelabra named ‘Nathan’ which is a bone of contention between Earl and his sister-in-law Rosa. The roots of this thread and what this talisman represents is incredibly moving – and once understood, roots Loretta back into her rich family history.

Thoughts

Oh God. I am a great believer in a good cry and this got me good several times. It’s just lovely and although there are no surprises, it moves at a pleasing pace and knocks out some brilliant performances. Alfre Woodard in particular brings nuance to the character of Loretta and even though she makes questionable life choices, my sympathies are always with her.

I would have liked more one on one time with her and her daughter though. Part of Loretta’s deal is the constant guilt she lives with, blaming herself for Tracy’s condition – and although things get better, I want to see more of it. It’s so touching when Tracy says her first words: “Bye bye”.

My stand out might be Thomas though, that kid seems to have the patience of a saint and treats everybody around him with a kindness I’d struggle to muster in the same circumstances. He has his own entrepreneurial streak, earning money taking pictures of tourists when he should be in school. It’s devastating to think kids like him IRL don’t have many opportunities and have to fight extra hard to change their circumstances.

At one point Thomas speaks very candidly about his plan to get a gun to protect himself in the projects, much to Earl’s shock and dismay. What different worlds the two of them live in.

Down in the Delta actually left me feeling a little sad personally. Loretta, as she bonds with Earl and unravels her family’s personal history, learns to appreciate where she came from and where it could take her.

Roots are so important and while my family history is by no means comparable, it reminded me of all the stories our elders take with them when they go. My grandparents never shared much of their stories with us growing up and I never knew my grandparents on my father’s side at all – now all their stories are gone forever.

I guess that’s another lesson: cherish what you have and build your foundations around it.

Unsurprisingly then the answer to the above question – how is Maya Angelou as a film director? Bloody brilliant, that’s how.

4.5/5

What does my wife think of this one? Would she put it up for the Summer – or put it up for the Summer AND MOAN ABOUT IT THE ENTIRE TIME? Find out here.

Bones

Last week’s pick was a lot of fun and with a heatwave sweeping the UK, I wanted to keep it lighter still with our first foray into Black horror. Where better to start than in the hands of possibly the best dressed demon ghost I’ve ever seen? And Pam Grier as a psychic badass babe.

That’s where we find ourselves anyway, in a supposedly bad neighbourhood haunted by the urban legend of Jimmy Bones. But what happens when the youths move in to turn old Jimmy’s gaff into a nightclub – and they ignore all sensible advice to let sleeping dog(g)s lie?

Well…

Bones (2001)

Over 20 years after his death by a gunshot, Jimmy Bones comes back as a ghost to wreak revenge on those who killed him and to clean up his neighborhood.

Directed by: Ernest R. Dickerson
Starring: Snoop DoggPam GrierMichael T. Weiss

*Spoilers*

This Halloween, unleash the Dogg.

The year is 1979 and Jimmy Bones (Dogg) is a respected member of the community. Sure he’s a numbers runner and original G, but he’s a kind one who’s nice to kids and protects his ‘hood. One night though, he’s double crossed by a corrupt cop and the local drug pusher because he’s not into what they’re offering. Lupovich (Weiss) and Eddie Mack (Ricky Harris) shoot Jimmy, then have his associates, including girlfriend Pearl (Grier) stab him one by one, killing him to death.

Pearl FYI is a powerful psychic who reads Jimmy’s palm before this fateful meeting and seeing it end abruptly, begs him not to go. How different life may have been had he listened to his woman…

Fast forward to 2001 and buddies Patrick (Khalil Kain), Bill (Merwin Mondesir) and Maurice (Sean Amsing), along with Patrick’s little sister Tia (horror angel Katharine Isabelle) are scoping out the rundown old brownstone that used to belong to one Jimmy Bones. I mean, not that they know this yet.

Bizarrely, the entrepreneurial gang want to turn it into a party house/club which is probably the least believable thing about this plot. Regardless, they’ve bought the building and go to check it out for the first time.

Along the way they meet Pearl, who, having failed to escape her surroundings, lives in the same apartment and still fucks with the supernatural for a living. She lives alone with her lovely daughter Cynthia (Bianca Lawson), who catches the eye of Patrick. There’s a question mark over the identity of Cynthia’s father but it’s rather obvious if you ask me. It is cool though.

Anyway, Pearl warns the kids that they’re dickheads to be messing round these parts and that they should hightail it out of there if they know what’s good. Oh, did I mention that they find a rottweiler guarding the building and take him home with them?

Meanwhile, Patrick and Tia’s dad, Jeremiah (Clifton Powell) seems to have something to hide and when Lupovich turns up on his doorstep, it seems all the more apparent he had something to do with Bone’s murder way back when.

When the team discover a skeleton – Bones – in the basement, they make the decision to leave it be until after their first party at the weekend. Which will probably be a big mistake but what do I know?

Jimmy Bones: Dog eat dog, brother.

As with any good horror movie, the house – which seems to be coming alive before their very eyes – soon claims the first member of this crew (Maurice learns a stone cold lesson about grave robbing). What do you know, blood and flesh seems to be the house’s life force – and who’s that physically manifesting his fine arse in the basement?

Well, Jimmy has every reason to be pissed and his vengeance will no doubt be as smooth and stylish as his wardrobe. But who deserves to die and who doesn’t – and how discerning is old’ Bonesy anyway?

Thoughts

The costuming is absolutely top notch and Snoop cuts a very fine figure as Jimmy Bones. I can understand why this film has a cult following as the set pieces are really satisfying. I love the overall aesthetic which is hardly surprising as Ernest Dickerson is a long time Spike Lee collaborator, and was a cinematographer on Do the Right Thing.

I did enjoy myself but I would have loved more Bones’ one liners and maybe some more depth to his relationships with Pearl and Cynthia.

Maybe I’m overthinking here but I wanted more from Bones because it gave me light Candyman vibes. While Bones is a real character, I would have loved more focus on his legend and it’s hold on the neighbourhood that died with him.

It does have something to say about community though and the interference of outside forces, AKA drugs and police corruption. As well as poverty, lack of community support and unwanted gentrification. Although in fairness the kid’s might be looking to get people to the house but they do fuck all to make it nicer.

That said, I do adore the Hammer Horror-esque haunted house that literally drips blood and brings ghosts back to life.

Fun.

Jimmy Bones: I’m on a high… A supernatural high

3.5/5

What does my beautiful wife think of this bad boy? Would she gentrify the neighbourhood or burn it to the GD ground? Find out here.

Horror noire: ‘to watch’ list

It’s no secret that horror is my jam, so it will be no surprise to anybody that I’m about to use the Blog Collab as an excuse to watch a load of films I’ve had on my to watch list for ages – all in the name of education, obviously.

I’ve spent the morning putting together a list of films I’d like Jill and I to explore over the rest of the year, mixed in with non-horror titles. There are just so many interesting films by Black filmmakers to pick from – we’re spoilt for choice, truly.

It would be remiss of me not to mention my favourite film of all time – which is absolutely and obviously included on the list. Jill and I have reviewed it before as part of one of our Halloween seasons but maybe it’s time we did a rewatch to coincide with the remake – or maybe even a side by side comparison. Interesting…

Here’s my list, in no particular order:

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Technically not by a Black director, however it is often sited as one of the original horror movies to tackle the subject of race and has been an obvious influence on the Black horror genre. Even Jordan Peele has credited it as the reason Get Out exists. Plus, come on, who doesn’t love Romero?

Blacula (1972)

This looks so fun and I was lucky enough to watch the original trailer in 35mm before a viewing of The Lost Boys at the Duke of York’s in Brighton. It’s been on my radar for a while because of that and I’m excited for it. The aesthetic is stunning and I’m really down for the Blaxpolitation/B-movie vibe.

Atlantics (2019)

This movie sounds absolutely banging and director Mati Diop is the first Black female director to have had a film in competition at the Cannes film festival – which is actually shocking. It didn’t win but has been bought by Netflix so I very much hope to catch it soon.

Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (2019)

The definitive guide to Black Horror and just brilliant. Comprising interviews with everyone from The Craft’s Rachel True to Candyman himself, Tony Todd (who follows me on Twitter, no biggie) – this is a must for any horror fan.

I have seen it before and I’m up for watching it again.

Bones (2001)

Jimmy Bones is shot to death in his neighbourhood but returns as a ghost to wreak havoc and get bloody revenge – and who isn’t all the way in based on that synopsis alone? Throw Snoop Dogg and Pam Grier into the mix and it’s honestly a no brainer. This is definitely my next Blog Collab pick – BRING IT ON.

Candyman (2020)

I could not be more excited about this re-imagining of Bernard Rose‘s absolute masterpiece. Honestly, I know 2020 has been rough on everybody but the most disappointing part has been the postponed release date for Candyman 2020*. But it’s coming soon and I am fully expecting it to be the best film I see this year – no pressure.

The trailers have blown my mind – including the heart-achingly beautiful animated version (which you can check out here). Nia DaCosta directed, Jordan Peele screenplay? Where do I sign?

What are you watching? Do you have any recommendations for me?

*I am kidding. I promise.

Shaft

This man needs little introduction honestly – but he does have his own (Academy Award winning) theme tune to do the job for him so, it would be rude not to share it – see end of post.

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She’s Gotta Have It

Sorry for the late post. I fell asleep after an eventful Monday and clean forgot to finish writing it.

But better late than never, right? And here we are this week chilling with sexually liberated Nola Darling as she juggles three demanding men and a divine Brooklyn apartment. I know which one I’d keep around.
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Fruitvale Station

I’m running a little low on intros for the films we’re watching lately. It just seems so empty to be continually expressing how inhumane it is the way minority groups are treated by the police – and of course, racists and society as we know it. Even now in 2020, when you’d think the world would be just a little more enlightened.

This week we learn more about the life of Oscar Grant III, who was shot and killed at the age of 22 by a police officer at Fruitvale Station, Oakland, California. A difficult, emotional story to watch but a hell of a lot harder to live/survive through, I would imagine.

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Da 5 Bloods

Welcome back to the Blog Collab. Thanks for bearing with us while I moved house and got to grips with adulthood. I did a little update here if you’re interested in hearing how that’s going.

This week we continue the theme of movies by black filmmakers with Spike Lee’s latest offering – currently streaming for free on Netflix.

I feel Mr Lee needs little introduction but I will say I was excited for this one after seeing the trailer recently – and off the back of BlacKkKlansman, which I really enjoyed. Anyway, without further ado…
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