ATL (2006) Film Review

Feature Image Source: Alchetron

From the outset, ATL seems like another adolescent film that examines the African-American experience in a lower-class neighborhood of Atlanta; however, this is not necessary the case with this film, it is so much more than that.

ATL is a beautiful film written by Antwone Fisher and directed by Chris Robinson, which if I ever write a film, I will make sure Robinson directs it. It stars rapper T.I Harris, Lauren London, Evan Ross and Outkast rapper Big Boi. The film primarily focuses on four working-class teenagers who, throughout the film, are pure at heart and have goals to grow and strongly distinguish themselves from crime and negative influences in their community. As the friends look forward to new horizons after high school, they face challenges on and off the rink that bring about turning points in their lives. 

Robinson is not a known film cinematographer as he only directs rapper T.I’s music videos. This is the first time Robinson has directed a film and did a phenomenal job at it. He is the only amateur director that I have and will praised in this blog. One of my favorite scenes is the intro of the film where T.I characters narrates the location of his home. He refers to it as “middle of the city, center of the universe,” at this moment Robison zooms in the characters home and and quickly switches over to a shot of the blue sky as soon as T.I says “center of our universe.” An element that I praise Robinson for is the use of text. There is a montage scene where all the skate teams are being introduced and Robinson creatively designs a text to compliment each groups individual aesthetic.

For a long time, films about the African-American experience have been documented on film through white screenwriters and directors. I praise this film for providing an accurate representation of the African-American community. I especially enjoy the pure protrayl of the main group of friends. Whenever these four men hang out, it’s filled with laughter and loyalty, a unique element that is not always found in such films. The surround themselves in their humble community and give each other a hard time, an element that all can relate to regardless of race or social economic class.

What I especially enjoy from this film is the narration. We received insight of Rashad’s (T.I.) character. Some of the script beautiful narrated, such as Rashad describing skating as a prominent activity by stating, “sometimes I feel like out there all by myself, floatin’ above it all, no lies, no pain, and no worries what tomorrow might bring.” This is a significant statement coming from a character living with resentment in a troubled community. He mentions, “Inside here, it’s like all our problems don’t exsist. Its the only place where we all felt like we could be free.” The reality being, “school sucks, rent past due, your girl left.”

atl

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures (Source: 2020)

What is most prominent about the film is its ability to also demonstrate the lifestyle of the wealthy, white Americans. One of the characters, Esquire, goes to school with the children of the wealthy 1 % that resides in Atlanta. At the verge of graduating, he seeks a letter of recommendation to received financial aid to pay for the ivy league school he just got accepted to. The film pans through a affluent neighborhood as we learn that Esquire desire to leave “the ghetto” and rise to a higher social economical class. This transition of poverty to wealth can also be seen in the films intro. I provided the clip below. Be cautious of the images.

Video Provided by YouTuber syndromestudio

This film not focus on all pure and humble characteristics in the community, it also demonstrates the dangerous influences that lurk beneath it all. T.I character’s brother Ant, played by Evan Ross, is taken under the wing of a local drug dealer that leads him to a dangerous path of life or death. After the climax of the film is reached, the rising action is granted with a gorgeous poem from Big Cube, Love’s Deceit. I provided a clip of the scene below, it makes me cry every time I listen to it (which is every time I run).

Video Provided by YouTuber ZAI ENT

I hope you enjoy these clips and hopeful take an interest in the film.

Advertisements

O.J.: Made In America (2016) Review

oj

Promotional Poster Credit: ESPN Films (Image Source)

Oh, the glove, the infamous glove!

After watching this film, I understand why it won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. For those of you are not familiar with the O.J. Simpson murder, here’s a comical, animated, re-enactment created by the T.V. show Family Guy

The murder of course is no laughing matter. Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ron Goldman  were murder a year before I was born, so I was not present to experience “The Trial of the Century.” I have seen various films about O.J. Simpson, the murder and the trial; however, out of all the films I have seen, this documentary tops them all. If you only see one film about O.J. Simpson, I urge to see this one. It is divided into multiple parts and it will take you and entire day to watch the whole documentary but it is VERY informative.

For some time, I have become obsessed with the O.J. Simpson case. An American legend turned tragedy. All the evidence points to Simpson but because of the hostile social climate in California, he was acquitted. Reasons behind his acquitted is summarized perfectly by a juror in the case that said, “we looked after our own.” That juror is an African-American woman that believed Simpson was not guilty. California in the 1900s is define as a prominent decade of police brutality against the African-American community. I read various books about the matter and seen dozens of films. The experience is complete heartbreaking. Stories of innocent, weaponless, African-American women being shot and killed in front of their young children, police breaking into homes and wreaking the entire place and leaving citizens completely homeless, and most infamous of all is Rodney King’s.

The Rodney King incident was the biggest reason behind Simpson acquittal. Multiple white LAPD officers accused of beating African-American taxi driver, Rodney King, were acquitted and this ignited the 1992 Los Angeles riots, a massive civil disturbance, caused by enraged African-Americans. I watch witness the incident unfolding in the documentary, I could understand and sympathize with the African-American community that day, as I too became a victim of police racial prejudice. It is understandable that the African-American felt the need to look after people from their own race; however, the documentary explains that O.J. Simpson did NOT associate himself with the African-American community. Simpson was able to break the ceiling for African-Americans in sports. He was widely accepted by the white community because of his charismatic personality. It is an amazing concept to be seen as an equal if not, as a hero. But with this kind of power, Simpson rejected the African-American community. He refuse to participate in the long list of athletes that refuse the neglect felts by African-Americans.

Ultimately, what the film does is tell the WHOLE life story of O.J Simpson, and that is what I love about this documentary.  From growing up in the projects of San Francisco, his raise of fame, to his complete down fall. It the audience know who exactly is this man, O.J. Simpson and how it lead him to commit this heinous crime.

I finally placed all the pieces of this story together and I now understand that he did this believing he would get away with it because he has his entire life. As a charismatic, entitled football player, he was able to obtain anything he wanted his entire life, including getting away with murder.

A Single Man

Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company

One of my favorite films of all time. Before Moonlight, this was the film that took my breath away. I was amazed of how this film was perfectly made. It contains all elements in my list of a perfectly executed film; it made me feel without relating to any elements in my life. Instead. It does it through outstanding cinematography. From beginning to end, the film is filled with beautiful statements that makes me wonder, did Tom Ford actually wrote this?

(For those of you who don’t know, Tom Ford is a fashion designer)

Through out the film, George struggles with the loss of his partner of sixteen years and has decided to end his life. Before he does, George has chosen upon himself to savor ever last second and through out this journey, encounters a new reason to live. The entire film’s gloomy lighting reflects George’s mood and as he slows down and appreciates what is often ignored, the whole world suddenly lights up in color. I reason I can relate to this film is the fact that I appreciate the little moments in life. As a college student, I am constantly busy, but I believe it is important to stop and smell the roses.

George is quite meticulous in the way he puts himself together. On the exterior he is highly polish, in fact he believe’s if he can keep everything together in his outer world, his inner world will be calmer than it is.

Another component that ties the whole film together and I am absolutely obsessed with is the score. This is coming from a girl who can care less about orchestral compositions. The score sets the mood of the overall film and its so amazingly done that I still listen to it today. I don’t believe I will stop listening to the score only because it seems to apply in this moment of my life. It may just be me, but I like to think that we all have moments of isolations, moments where we feel like we are sinking, drowning, overwhelmed, can’t breathe.

IMG_5068

If you would like to listen to the beautiful score, click the link below.

 

Moonlight: The Heart on my Sleeve

Image Source
Image Credit: A24

The Oscar nominated film premises on the life of Chiron,  a vulnerable, gay, poor, black man living in the heart of the Miami housing projects, struggling with his identify. This coming of age story is told in three stages, first as a child, then as an teenager and lastly as an adult. He is a good person that keeps quiet and wants to save his crack addicted mother and be accepted into society.

Growing up in the city of Milwaukee, I am able relate and sympathize with the films premise and characters. I have first hand experience in living a trouble neighborhood with the exposure violence, drugs, gangs and crime lurking behind the threshold of my home. I have friends that have succumb to these harmful circumstances and are currently addicted to drugs or deceased. This powerful film surrender me to tears and left reflecting on it for days.

What I absolute love this film, is that it captures the African American experience without resorting to stereotypes or the use of violence. This film manages to create a nuance and romp pretrial of an African American experience  which is historically absent in Hollywood. By that I mean, there are not many films that truly captures how life is like in the inner city and the challenges that both children and adult face daily. The closest film I was that accurately captured the African American experience and beautiful executed was ATL, a film written by Antwone Fisher and starring rapper T.I. Harris.

The film unique element is the incorporation of homosexuality themes. A new concept that is being introduce to films that portrait the African American experience. I noticed a pattern about myself; films that incorporate homosexuality in the protagonist plight automatically fall onto my category of favorite films. Moonlight is no exception. I may not be same sex oriented myself, but the romance and emotional predicament that is being portrait in these films are authentic and subversive.

No moment in moonlight is most subversive than the one in which Juan (Mahershala Ali) teaches Chiron (Alex R. Hibbert) how to swim. The film unrealistic beauty and definite feeling smashes stereotypes in which a grown black man teaches a young black a lesson about life. Having a prominent “father figure” is a new concept that this film brings. From the films I’ve seen in the past, African American men don’t have the benefit grown up with a role being or not being their biological father. I love how this film is able to change that stereotype. I am surprised to learn that Chiron role model, Juan, is a mid level drug dealer. What I enjoy about his character is that he is aware that being a drug dealer is wrong and doesn’t condone or persuade Chiron to do follow in his footsteps. Instead, Juan does not best to teach Chiron how to defend himself and to not allow others make him feel inferior because his sexual orientation.

But what I really enjoy most is the use of orchestral music. I am a HUGE fan film scores, in fact my favorite one is the score of A Single Man, which I listen to this day. Instead of stereotypically incorporating rap or hip hop music in this urban tale, director Barry Jenkins introduced the notion of incorporation classical, orchestral to set the tone of the story and to truly be mesmerized by the films beauty. Orchestral music is rarely used in urban films.

Having this film win best picture would essentially break bounders for minority writers, directors and actors, as well, would establish and represent a new voice and destroy inaccurate, hurtful stereotypes placed on the African American community.

Winning an Oscar for Best Film would mean EVERYTHING to me, my friends, and the minority community.

If you could only see one Oscar nominated film, I URGE you to see this one!

I would provide a link to the trailer here. Please click it and a sample of the experience