Boyz n the Hood (1991)

Some movies, like American Graffiti and GoodFellas transcend their immediate narratives, serving as both a quality story as well as a cinematic time capsule, a window into a specific time and place. Boyz n the Hood is one such film.

It focuses on two friends growing up in South Central Los Angeles and the diverging paths their lives take; Tre is an intelligent, yet apprehensive, virgin who can’t wait to get out of Los Angeles, while Ricky is already a father, plays football, and has a 2.3 GPA. Most movies would let the story end there, and build up some condescension from Tre or resentment from Ricky, but there’s none at all – they go about their lives on their own, and all their interactions are positive, genuinely moments of friendship.

Nothing about Boyz n the Hood, frankly, is shallow or short-sighted. It’s a stunningly dimensional film, with a cast of well-rounded and believable characters: Tre’s father “Furious” who instills high values in his son while reminding him of the realities of societal prejudice; Ricky’s mother, both critical and optimistic for her son’s future; and most notably, Ricky’s brother “Doughboy” (portrayed by Ice Cube), an ex-con who sits around drinking all day but is so charming he steals the show.

It almost feels like 1970s Steven Spielberg could have directed this movie, with a rich “slice of life” foundation upon which the drama unfolds. One of my favorite scenes was Doughboy’s welcome home barbecue when he comes home from prison, with the men playing dominoes on one half of the backyard and the women congregate on the other. It’s comedy, sexual politics, and nostalgia all in one.

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Who wouldn’t invite them to their barbecue?

Even when the drama hits, it’s not straight from the immediate band of players – an omnipresent, yet mostly absent, threat finally attacks as an unexpected escalation. The enemy is not a participant in everyday life, but an indirect Other, a sleeping giant waiting to strike.

I applaud Boyz n the Hood not only for its steady change-over-time story about two friends growing up under difficult circumstances, but for how well it shapes its characters into fully realized human beings. These could be anybody’s neighbors, brothers, wives. Most of us don’t live in South Central, but this story can speak to anyone with its powerful portrayal of community.

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Weekly Round-Up: March 27 – April 02, 2016

  • The Manchurian Candidate (1962) – Fiercely brilliant political puzzle, following a troubled Korean War vet piece together what happened overseas as a senator’s sensational Communist accusations sweep the presses. Slightly slow at times but an overall masterwork, driven by sophisticated dialogue and genuine suspense. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
  • Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002) – Another one that’s easy to make fun of, but this chapter in the saga provides a nice glimpse into everyday life of the Republic and passionate music by John Williams (to accompany romantic dialogue of varying quality). RECOMMENDED.
  • Brooklyn (2015) – Steadily soaring in my favorite films of the past decade, this love story continues to wow me with its intelligent dialogue and nostalgic setting. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

What did you see three weeks ago?

Weekly Round-Up: April 10-16, 2016

Last week, I saw:

  • The Avengers (2012) – Epic superhero tale bringing together Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America (each of whom had their own films) with Black Widow and Hawk-Eye to save the world from invaders. It got kind of spacey for me, but I liked how much time we got with Black Widow over the other characters, who we presumably know (if we’ve kept up with the MCU). RECOMMENDED.
  • Love Affair, or The Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator (1967) – Slow-cooking erotic tale about a young woman who falls in love with a middle-aged man, and they spend a lot of the movie in their apartments. Wikipedia says this movie was controversial for its time (which I can understand), but the narrative wasn’t exactly groundbreaking even if its explicit content was. NOT RECOMMENDED.
  • The Jungle Book (2016) – Gorgeous visuals bring the classic story to life in a whole new dimension as the jungles of India are animated to spectacular detail. My favorite parts of this film were how it differed from the Disney classic, particularly in the savagery of villain Shere Khan and the sweeping narrative (making it feel more flowing and less episodic). RECOMMENDED.

What did you see last week?

Weekly Round-Up: April 03-09, 2016

  • Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005) – Certainly the strongest of the prequel trilogy, this chapter follows the young Anakin Skywalker on his path to becoming Darth Vader. Ian McDiarmid steals the show as Senator/Emperor Palpatine in all his cackling glory. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) – Spectacular sequel, with a terrific cast of new characters and respectful restraint for bringing back familiar faces. One of the finest films of 2015, and maybe just maybe my favorite Star Wars film. REQUIRED.
  • Beauty and the Beast (1991) – My favorite movie. Got to see this as a Throwback Thursday screening at El Capitan Theatre, with producer Don Hahn and directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise speaking about the film’s production. REQUIRED.
  • The Jungle Book (1967) – Bizarro yet truly inspired Disney film bringing together the dark romance of the jungle with swingin’ jazz music. Like Pinocchio, this features a cast of memorable villains, notably the dry wit of Shere Khan and the subtle predator King Louie. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

What did you see two weeks ago?

Weekly Round-Up: March 20-26, 2016

  • Beach Party (1963) – The one that started it all. Delightful pop musical introducing us to the cast of kids led by Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello in their prime, with a terrific soundtrack featuring the two leads plus Dick Dale and His Del-Tones. This isn’t a masterpiece, but a wholly enjoyable piece of 1960s kitsch. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
  • Thor (2011) – I couldn’t believe how much I liked this movie. The arrogant Norse god Thor is stripped of his powers and banished to Earth, but this “fish out of water” story is consistently endearing and compelling. His brother Loki is my favorite Marvel villain to date, and Natalie Portman also delivers a strong performance as a determined physicist. RECOMMENDED.
  • Eating Raoul (1982) – Still in love with this wacky comedy, one of the sweetest and cleanest movies about very adult subject matter. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
  • In the Realm of the Senses (1976) – A very dirty movie about very adult subject matter. This round (my third or fourth time watching), the musical moments stuck with me the most, melodies underlying the desperate passion the couple has for one another. RECOMMENDED.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – Complex and moving story of a “kid from Brooklyn” becoming a powerful hero. Like Thor, this movie is heightened by strong characters and a layered narrative. RECOMMENDED.
  • Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999) – I was reminded why people make fun of this one, but several moments (particularly the “Duel of the Fates” climax) are genuinely thrilling Star Wars moments. Definitely worth watching, even in spite of Mr. Binks. RECOMMENDED.

What did you see four weeks ago??

Delayed Reaction

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Sorry I’ve been M.I.A. the past few weeks – been a busy time filled with work, travel, and other reverie, but hope to get back on track to a steadier post cadence. May the catch-up commence!