If Beale Street Could Talk reviews

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Re: If Beale Street Could Talk reviews

Postby Big Magilla » Wed Jan 30, 2019 11:24 am

danfrank wrote:I, too, was confused by the reference to Beale Street being in New Orleans. The reference to New Orleans wasn’t in the novel (I recently read it), so this epigraph was something Jenkins came up with, perhaps based on some other writing of Baldwin or just biographical information. I found the following article online, which has its own speculation: https://www.nola.com/entertainment/2019 ... leans.html


Thanks for that, Dan.

I got the reference even though I had no idea Beale Street was in Memphis, not New Orleans. I did know it wasn't in Harlem.

On the other hand, I knew King went to Puerto Rico to track down the woman Fonny was accused of raping, not Cuba, but I totally missed Tee's error.

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Re: If Beale Street Could Talk reviews

Postby danfrank » Wed Jan 30, 2019 10:08 am

I, too, was confused by the reference to Beale Street being in New Orleans. The reference to New Orleans wasn’t in the novel (I recently read it), so this epigraph was something Jenkins came up with, perhaps based on some other writing of Baldwin or just biographical information. I found the following article online, which has its own speculation: https://www.nola.com/entertainment/2019 ... leans.html

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Re: If Beale Street Could Talk reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Jan 30, 2019 1:56 am

ITALIANO wrote:Oh, and Mister Tee... No American in the 70s could have gone to Cuba, of course :) ... It's Puerto Rico. Completely different history. But yes, they speak Spanish too.

The perils of writing about a movie weeks after you've seen it.

Speaking of geographical mistakes: How did everyone's audiences react to the initial Baldwin quote, locating Beale Street in New Orleans? I did a "wha....?" take. My brother lives in Memphis, and he said his audience just about hooted at the screen. I presume it ad to be an intentional error, but what was the point of it?

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Re: If Beale Street Could Talk reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Tue Jan 29, 2019 3:18 pm

It's a sweet little movie, made with evident honesty - which is not bad these days. Yet, I mean, it's really not much more than that. Structurally, it's quite messy - not the flashbacks, of course, they have become by now even too predictable - but there are scenes which go on forever and rather pointlessly so, and other scenes which are even too short or too undeveloped (the same applies to the characters too - for example, respectively, to the lead's best friend, who has a VERY long scene and suddenly disappears, and to the white policeman, who's evil in a B-movie way). And the ending is truly unsatisfying.
It's possible that this is due to excessive fidelity to Baldwin's novel - which I haven't read - but, of course, film is a different medium, and Jenkins, as a screenwriter, should know it. As a director, he's better, showing a not-condescending sympathy for "common people", but occasionally overdoing it: the two leads are well-directed, but are even too beautiful, and the 100t close-ups Jenkins grants them get a bit cutesy.
The music is good though, as is Regina King (not Oscar-worthy, but good).
Oh, and Mister Tee... No American in the 70s could have gone to Cuba, of course :) ... It's Puerto Rico. Completely different history. But yes, they speak Spanish too.

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Re: If Beale Street Could Talk reviews

Postby Okri » Sun Jan 27, 2019 11:23 pm

If that was for me, I don't think I was. It's not so much about collusion, but I do think there is a degree to which the proscribed narrative takes hold and the centrality of the Oscars and the Oscar race to the discussion.

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Re: If Beale Street Could Talk reviews

Postby OscarGuy » Sun Jan 27, 2019 11:08 pm

I'll ask again: stop ragging on critics groups. From personal experience, running such an organization, there is no collusion to follow some prescribed narrative.
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Re: If Beale Street Could Talk reviews

Postby Okri » Sun Jan 27, 2019 6:12 pm

Sabin wrote:I don’t understand why Regina King is sweeping the awards.

I do understand why the score is [almost].


1. Amusing comment to post on the night of the SAGs.

2. Honestly, I think we have to catch up to Tee here and realize just how deeply the critics groups (both old and young) have taken the precursor thing to heart and become advocates.

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Re: If Beale Street Could Talk reviews

Postby Sabin » Sun Jan 27, 2019 3:46 pm

I don’t understand why Regina King is sweeping the awards.

I do understand why the score is [almost].
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Re: If Beale Street Could Talk reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Jan 04, 2019 12:25 am

I saw a few movies during the busy pre-holiday stretch and never found time to set down my thoughts. Before I forget too much about this particular effort:

I'd say I about 85% loved the movie. It's got a wonderfully moody feel, a great score, some excellent dialogue (including a goodly amount of voice-over I assume is direct from Baldwin), and a number of powerful, well-acted scenes (starting with that feisty standoff between the two families). Barry Jenkins has a singular visual style, one very different from many of his directing contemporaries. Where, say, Cuaron or Scorsese use the camera to take in vast environments, Jenkins zeroes in closer on his characters. I can't recall a recent movie that has as many close-ups of actors, or that employs them to such strong effect. Stephan James and Kiki Layne, in particular, have great screen faces, and Jenkins -- the most humanist of current directors -- concentrates on them to let us see how clear and deep their love for one another runs.

When you think about it, the movies have never been all that good at conveying the power and simplicity of young love. In the 30s/40s, it was all camouflaged (delightfully so) by the snappy banter between couples (typified by Nick and Nora Charles). In the 60s/70s, we got those Elvira Madigan-induced romps in fields (building a snowman became practically a wedding substitute). And of course, post-late 60s, we got semi-explicit sex scenes, which frequently well conveyed animal magnetism, but didn't that often capture unadorned affection. I'd argue that Jenkins, with his lengthy final Trevante Rhodes/Andre Holland encounter in Moonlight, and multiple James/Layne scenes in this film, has captured that simple but elusive thing as well as anyone as in a long time.

So, the 15% I don't love? For one, the film's narrative spine is a bit wobbly. I was mostly engaged within scenes, but at certain points the overall thread got more lost than usual, and I found myself squirming. A small example: Regina King, down in Cuba, spends what seems 3-4 minutes arranging a wig. I presume the scene is meant as some sort of comment on identity-seeking, but it’s a narrative cul-de-sac, since she eventually decides to ditch the effort (and, in fact, doesn’t look much different without it). The whole thing felt like a waste of the audience’s time.

I felt the same, to a greater extent, about another scene…and here I’m going out on a limb, because I’ve heard others praise the scene highly, and our own flipp has singled it out: Brian Tyree Henry’s monologue about what happens to black men in the justice system. I’m not at all critiquing Henry’s delivery – it was eloquent – nor even the words themselves, which were potent. But I sat there just getting more and more uncomfortable, because nothing was happening in the scene; the drama went totally flat. It seemed to me even Jenkins had an inkling this was the case, since at one point he cut away to Kiki Layne outside on the street -- a cut that served no purpose except to break up a scene which felt like it was going on forever. I’m not attempting a hot take here; simply expressing my feeling about a moment where I feared the film would fatally lose me. Fortunately, it soon got back on track, but that moment really shook me.

One other, not-insignificant flaw: the ending really fell kind of flat. I guess I’m glad things didn’t end in full-on tragedy – which it easily could have, given the subject matter. But the resolution felt anti-climactic (especially with the key info delivered in voice-over), the abrupt appearance of newsreel footage had a “Suddenly I’m Spike Lee” feel, and the soundtrack choice for the fade-out was as heavy-handed as anything I’ve seen since Ethel Merman closed out All That Jazz.

To get back to the positive (because, truly, I loved most of this): the actors are pretty terrific across the board. I don’t know why Stephan James isn’t getting any mention in this year’s weakish best actor field; for me, he makes far more impression than John David Washington does in BlackkKlansman. Kiki Layne is a wonderful fresh face, and carries the film beautifully. And Regina King is easily deserving of any awards consideration. No, it’s not a Mo’Nique-like audience-grabber of a role, but it’s a full-bodied, substantial character, and she’s got very strong moments. I assume people will single out her Cuba confrontation as an Oscar scene, but I think she does equally well in her bedtime comforting scene with her daughter – the “Love got you into this” speech is beautiful. The whole cast should be up for SAG Ensemble (along with The Favourite cast – god, SAG botched it this time around).

Bottom line: despite the elements that gave me problems, well worth seeing, and, in fact, by default one of my three or four best films of the year.

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Re: If Beale Street Could Talk reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Sat Nov 10, 2018 2:20 am

I wasn't an extreme acolyte of Moonlight -- I found it a smaller, less emotionally overwhelming experience than many did -- but my second viewing of that film made me realize my initial response was more a reaction to the hype than a fair evaluation of the movie itself, which is certainly a beautifully filmed and sensitively rendered piece, deserving of praise and the work of a clear filmmaking talent.

For me, If Beale Street Could Talk confirms BOTH my feeling that Barry Jenkins is a noteworthy film artist, as well as my feeling that his work nonetheless keeps me slightly at a distance. I think part of this stems from the fact that Jenkins doesn't seem to be too interested in plot -- the nuts and bolts of the story were, for me, not where Moonlight truly shone (forgive the pun), and the exact beats of the plot in If Beale Street Could Talk are also a bit on the thin side. Which is to say, once you know the premise of the movie, there isn't a ton that surprises on a story level, and I generally find that the movies that affect me the most emotionally are the ones that make me feel like I've been taken on a real journey.

But to dwell on that too much would be to seriously underrate how captivating the film is as a visual and sensory experience. I co-sign everything Flipp wrote in his second paragraph -- the cinematography here is delicately gorgeous, accompanied by an achingly romantic score, beautiful costumes, and a tempo that balances languid long shots with startling cuts. Jenkins's focus on the faces and bodies of his characters -- and the way they interact physically and within their environments -- is evidence of a director with real visual gifts, who understands the way images reveal information about his characters that doesn't need to be explicated through words.

I've not read this work from Baldwin, so I have no idea if the structure is inherent to the source material or if it was Jenkins's invention, but the way the film builds its narrative is also quite impressive. As I said before, I don't think the plot (i.e. the specific events that occur) is necessarily the movie's strong suit, but the way the story events are all ordered makes for a tantalizing blend of past and present, fiction and reality, dream and memory. And I don't think it would be fair to say, well, if you put everything in order, it wouldn't be as interesting -- the fact that events are ordered THIS way brings out interesting layers in the material, as the film slowly lets the viewer in to understanding the full scope of these characters' lives, and how they got to their present moment. (In particular, kudos for pulling off the kaleidoscopic blend of flashbacks so well, making the film feel less like a present-day story and a past-tense one, and more an interwoven blend of moments that all accumulate.)

I'm assuming the voice-over is taken from Baldwin directly -- I thought Jenkins did a good job of weaving this in in a manner that didn't seem to rely on it too much, while incorporating clear European and Asian art film influences into his visuals. The effect is to take a story written by and about black Americans and filter it through styles of world cinema that have rarely focused on subjects such as these, allowing for a thoroughly fresh look and feel to this story of 1970s Harlem.

Both leads are charismatic and carry the movie well -- perhaps more importantly, they both have great faces for Jenkins and his camera to dwell on. I'm assuming best-in-show honors, though, will go to Regina King, who is generally good throughout, and then gets to carry one late-film sequence that builds to a clear emotional showcase for her.

All in all, a strong piece of work, in a year that's shaping up to have quite a few of them.
Last edited by The Original BJ on Sat Jan 26, 2019 11:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: If Beale Street Could Talk reviews

Postby flipp525 » Sun Oct 28, 2018 1:19 pm

I got to see If Beale Street Could Talk last night at the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. as the closing night event for the Smithsonian African-American Film Festival. Director Barry Jenkins and stars KiKi Layne, Stephan James, and the luminous Regina King were all in attendance which was exciting. It was in the very huge IMAX theater at the museum and it was really amazing to see on such a big screen.

Jenkins more than fulfills the promise of his surprise Best Picture Moonlight triumph. I think this is a very good film and is, at times, visually stunning. I love the way it was filmed. His ability to linger in moments and take advantage of non-verbal human contact is just as superb here as it was in something like the diner scene in Moonlight. The score is exquisite. The production values and the use of color are also note-worthy. It's a pretty narratively tight story, but Jenkins experiments with structure here in successful ways.

Layne and James have a very palpable chemistry and mostly sell the love story (it helps that they are both newcomers and you can almost wholly believe that they actually are these characters). However, I was most impressed by Brian Tyree Henry in a devastating cameo and Regina King who I would not be surprised to see becoming a strong supporting actress conteder for this. She turns in an excellent performance.
Last edited by flipp525 on Sat Nov 10, 2018 6:21 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: If Beale Street Could Talk reviews

Postby Precious Doll » Mon Sep 10, 2018 2:47 pm

Very good 4 out of 5 stars The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/s ... ance-soars
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Re: If Beale Street Could Talk reviews

Postby Precious Doll » Mon Sep 10, 2018 2:33 am

“Those Koreans. They’re so suspicious, you know, ever since Hiroshima.” Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange) from American Horror Story: Season One



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