If Beale Street Could Talk and trailers beforehand

I’d been thinking based on most of the trailers I’d been seeing lately that 2019 is going to be a drought year, but this visit to the cinema made things seem a bit better.

If Beale Street Could Talk

An adaptation of the James Baldwin novel of the same name, this film tells the story of Tish and Fonny, a young Harlem couple in love in the 1970s. When Fonny’s arrested by a crooked (white) cop for a crime he didn’t commit, a pregnant Tish and both their families have to figure out how to confront the situation. If this sounds like a sociological film, on one level it is, and on another it’s not at all. Baldwin’s novel was originally written in the mood of “humanizing the black man,” and that task is perhaps urgent in a different way than it was when it was originally written. What in the 70s was intended as a searing indictment of what “justice” means to African Americans, meant to inform as much as to shock and move, seems more routine in our own day, as the politically aware viewer knows just how “normal” the situation of the film is — black men routed onto the path toward criminality, put in situations where making false plea-bargains is a rational decision, only to find out that the plea-bargain itself undermines their future credibility and chances.

I went to this film wanting to love it as much as I loved Moonlight (Barry Jenkins directed both of them). Besides the subject of twentieth-century African American lives, there are some similar aspects to this film — the colors and cinematography, the way the camera lingers on the actors’ distinctive faces (again I found myself thinking: why have I never seen most of these people in a film before?), and in particular, its meditative qualities. It’s the only thing that I really have to criticize about the film. Moonlight had been a stage play and had a very compact, economical structure, so the atmospheric aspects of the film enhanced a piece that already had excellent pacing. In comparison, this film drags, intermittently, despite a few tremendously compelling scenes (Bryan Tyree King as Fonny’s friend, narrating the story of his incarceration; Regina King as Tish’s mother confronting Fonny’s accuser; and a fantastic ensemble scene around Tish’s announcement of her pregnancy). Part of the problem is possibly Baldwin. His prose is searing and his imagery unforgettable, but he spends a lot of time telling in his books, a problem the movie solves with voiceover narration that I personally found interfered with the film’s flow. In order for us to be confronted effectively with the outrage of the injustice told in the film, we needed less explaining. As a viewer I was not incensed so much as resigned, and that’s not how a Baldwin novel typically leaves me feeling.

Here are reviews from our fellow fans Esther and KnightleyEmma.

Everybody Knows

I couldn’t really grasp from the trailer (despite subtitles) what the film was about, other than unexpectedly revealed secrets, but the trailer was very atmospheric. Also: Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem look very well together.

Verdict: Probably.

The Aftermath

In the immediate aftermath of WWII, a British officer and his wife move into the villa of a Hamburg Großbürger. Based on a novel I haven’t read. Pluses: Jason Clarke, who is slowly turning into a reason to see a film; a period of German history that I find fascinating and one that’s relatively understudied. Minuses: Keira Knightley; they didn’t film it in Hamburg.

Verdict: Probably.

The Mustang

A convict receives the opportunity to participates in a rehabilitation program involving wild horses. Everything about this leaves me ambivalent: the plot, the horses, Matthias Schoenaerts.

Verdict: Maybe, if there’s no alternative on a cheap day or I get triple reward points.


Why is Disney determined to rewrite every pleasant memory from my childhood? Also, superfluous Kenneth Branagh.

Verdict: Definitely not.

Fighting with my Family

A young woman from a family of professional wrestlers follows the family profession, with a certain amount of tension. Positives: young female empowerment, unconventional story line, “true story”. Negatives: likely to have a lot of stupid jokes, definitely has Dwayne Johnson.

Verdict: Probably not.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Cate Blanchett plays a mother who goes missing after her daughter proposes a family trip to Antarctica. Pluses: Cate Blanchett. Minuses: Cate Blanchett as a brunette. Also, the film’s release keeps getting delayed.

Verdict: Definitely.

~ by Servetus on February 1, 2019.

23 Responses to “If Beale Street Could Talk and trailers beforehand”

  1. Damn, Knightley seems to be everywhere these days


  2. I’m so excited to see this! I’m going to have to go back and read the book again. It’s been so long.


    • Same here — I put it in my library queue. I think I read it in high school. I was reading some of Baldwin’s reports from the civil rights movement last fall, though. He was so tortured and such a great writer.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Re: Aftermath you probably won’t notice Keira Knightly because you’ll be too overtaken with Alexander Skarsgard 🤤 lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • (shrugs) Jason Clarke is the incentive for me. I liked him a lot in Chappaquiddick and First Man this year. I see he was in Serenity, too, which I don’t plan to see.


  4. Thank you for those discoveries! For you just this new French series., it’s a thriller in a philarmonic orchestra . Women are leaders in this classic man world. Not too bad and innovative production!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I just saw The Mustang (Tuesday cheap day with nothing else to see) and it was a really solid film. There are some cliches but they don’t overwhelm the story. Would definitely recommend.


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