6. "Saw it over the weekend. It was aiight." In response to Reply # 0
I heard really good things so I may have set my expectations too high. The writing could've been tighter. For the recent crop of Black Bay Films (Sorry To Bother You, Blindspotting), this sits firmly in third for me.
-- "You can't beat white people. You can only knock them out."
"There is only one god and his name is death. And there is only one thing we say to death: not today."
7. "I watched this on Saturday night" In response to Reply # 0
It took some time for me to formulate my thoughts because the movie was affecting although not overpoweringly so.
Obviously, the story is about a young man's hold on family and his place in the world stripped from him over the years, mostly stemming from his immediate family's loss of their home. That story is told so well and watching Jimmy's loneliness and isolation grow throughout the movie is sad to see.
But what struck me most was the care that Black male friendships and relationships were portrayed. The tender, loving relationship that Jimmy and Mont were refreshing to see. I think I feel about their fictional relationship how many people reacted to seeing Black Panther on screen. The friendship in The Last Black Man in San Francisco was remarkable in their emotional honesty and mutual respect and love for one another. It's unfortunate that male to male relationships like this is rare to see. I'm lucky enough to have had relationships like this with my blood brothers and the movie made me that much more appreciative of them.
The contrast between Jimmy and Mont's friendship and the friendship of the 'Chorus' couldn't be more stark. While the Chorus' joneing on each other was fun at times, it was difficult to see any real reason why they were together. I didn't have friendships like that growing up. I was too sensitive and shy to go all-in on someone like that. Looking at them, now as a forty-two-year-old, I can see the fun within their barbs. But at the same time, it was clear to see how unprepared they were when tragedy struck them even though they only way they could survive in their environment was to toughen each other up (I won't spoil the twist for you.).
I liked how the script drew the character of Jimmy's father so was a tough piece of work by any stretch of the imagination. The actor playing the father communicated the cold edge of a man hardened by life. Watching the performance made me wonder what failing of life caused him to turn on everyone, including Jimmy.
The movie also is an also an ode to San Francisco, at least the San Francisco which gentrifying and the city's myth-making would rather outsiders forget. Having lived in San Francisco about twenty years ago, watching the visuals of the Tenderloin and the Fillmore and other parts of the city brought up nostalgia and the sense of possibility that the city holds for some. It also brought up the anger I felt back then watching people of unbelievable affluence walk around so blithe to the plight many people live within if only because there's so much money spread around to so few people.
It was sad to realize that the city I lived in, which was already being transformed or lost because of the influx of tech wealth became even more, now. Like other critics have mentioned, that displacement of cultural and familial heritage and identity is universal among many cities dealing with gentrification. My sister, who is a movie head, mentioned that during film screenings, folks from outside of the US were able to relate to this movie because that theme resonated with immigrants and refugees.
One last note, if you didn't hear already the director is White. I was listening to The Reel (the LA Times movie podcast) and one of the film critics mentioned that some African-American critics and movie heads are taking umbrage at Tolbert's acclaim for having told a very Black movie. Speaking only for myself, I have to say that I can see the rationale for that viewpoint. But I don't hold it for myself.
If Tolbert didn't already have a keen eye for authenticity and Black relationships, his long-time relationship with the actor who played Jimmy obviously guided his eye and filmmaking process and everything on screen seemed authentic and true to what, in my personal experience, are the type of Black relationships and conversation which happen every day but just aren't captured on film.
Would the movie have been told even better by a Black filmmaker? Possibly. I thought about that after listening to the criticism. All I can say that if a Black filmmaker had made this movie, the difference would only seem negligible. The relationships and characters are well refined.
All in all, I say I was moved more by the emotional impressions than the plot or the performances. But that's not to say that either one of them wasn't top-notch. For first-time filmmakers, this movie is a marvel and I am interested to see anything involving anyone who had their hands in this movie. From the editing and cinematography to the score to the writing and characters, this is a great movie and it wouldn't surprise me to see it get some Oscar love. The cameos were great as well. Miek Epps was dope. Danny Glover was great. But Tichina Arnold especially. I would like to see her get some love during award season because the few scenes she was in are affecting.