COMING OF AGE

Watch it!

Kris

Can't decide what to watch?FollowTheThread.
Each week Elma and I give you 5 opinionated but culturally relevant choices, based on our experience of curating smart sticky stuff for Ovation, Trio, Bravo, A&E, Sundance, Fuse, and others.
Watch it!

Latest posts by Kris (see all)

 

Nobody gets through life without bruises. 

As our own kids hurtle toward the precipice that is teenager-hood, we’re suddenly realizing how impossible it’s going to be to shield them from “The Heart-ache and the thousand Natural shocks that Flesh is heir to..” 

 No matter how well adjusted, how smart, how rich – everybody gets knocked around by life. 

 Most of us survive.  But not without a few black eyes.  It’s one of the things all of us here with our feet on this planet have in common. 

— One reason why the new indie film Moonlight is pegged as an awards contender.  Its hero is at the far end of the knocked-around spectrum – a poor gay black boy/man growing up in the Miami hood.  But even though the exact circumstances may be alien to most of us, the core of his experience is one we all share.   

  

 moonlight
MOONLIGHT (2016)

 The director Barry Jenkins grew up in Miami, raised by a mother who was addicted.  He based his movie on a play by another Miami native, Tarell Alvin McCraney with a more poetic title: In The Moonlight, Black Boys Look Blue.  Although Jenkins and McCraney both grew up in the same part of Miami, they never met growing up.

Jenkins embraced the fact that McCraney’s youth was one degree more alienated than his own – on top of the other challenges, he’s gay.

Moonlight is a little like Boyhood – it accelerates forward through the boyhood of the main character, Chiron.  But the technique is more traditional – three different actors play Chiron at three different phases.  The three faces are composited in the poster image above.

It’s in limited release this week, goes wider next. We could go on about the movie, but the trailer is really compelling – take a look:

YouTube

 

medicine-for-melancholy
A MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY (2008)

Eight years ago, Jenkins made his first feature on a truly miniscule budget, supported by crew from his film school, Florida State University.

Two young black people wake up together in an expensive bed in an expensive town — San Francisco.  They hooked up without even getting to the point of finding out each other’s names.  He’d like it to lead somewhere; her, not so much.

They end up spending a day together, playing at being boyfriend and girlfriend.  The film is deceptively understated.  It’s about many things – race, class, cultural assimilation, gentrification – and about one thing; two people discovering how they fit together.

It’s a three-hander. Wyatt Cenac (The Daily Show) and Tracey Heggins play the couple.  The third character is San Francisco, shot in radically desaturated near-black-and-white.

The film was a SXSW favorite – it’s kind of amazing that it took so long for Jenkins to come out with another feature.  But even though the two films are very different in many ways, the family resemblance is strong.

iTunes Amazon

 

boyhood
BOYHOOD (2014)

Moonlight and Boyhood are alike but very different.  Alike in that both are understated and universally accessible coming of age stories.  Different in that one is set in the white suburbs and one in black urban neighborhoods.  Moonlight, more lyrical; Boyhood, more of a prose poem.

Of course the landmark element of Boyhood is the way Richard Linklater shot it, filming in yearly bursts over a period of ten years with the same cast.  The movie skips forward so that you see the actors actually age in fast motion as the boy grows into a young man.

Our favorite Linklater films are the ones like Boyhood, extraordinary in its ordinariness.  It’s that feeling you get when Facebook sends you a photo from the past – a moment that seemed so simple at the time now seems saturated with happiness and pain.  You suddenly become aware of how life just slips through your fingers while you’re not watching; when you look back it becomes so precious.

Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette play the Mom and Dad.  Ellar Coltrane is the boy and his sister is played by Linklater’s own daughter, Lorelei.

YouTube Google PlayAmazoniTunesVudu

 

400-blows
THE 400 BLOWS (1959)

Francois Truffaut was 27 when he made 400 Blows (Jenkins was 29 when he made Medicine, 37 now).  This is the most personal of Truffaut’s films, and the one that catapulted him from a leading critic to auteur.

Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud would appear as Doinel in 4 more films and a total of 11 for Truffaut) is Truffaut’s fictional version of himself – a neglected 14-year-old who lies, steals, and is sent away; but also builds a shrine to Balzac in his bedroom cubby.  The black and white film is inventive but intimate and honest.  Like Moonlight and even Boyhood, it draws its power from being meticulously economical and specific.

It can be a bit of work revisiting a classic like this, and we’re not always in the mood – but every time we do, it turns out to be incredibly worth it.

Vudu YouTube Amazon iTunes Google Play

 

precious
PRECIOUS (2009)

Lee Daniels is less a poet than a prodigy.  After building a successful nursing agency by age 21, the openly gay Daniels sold the business and set out to conquer Hollywood, working his way up from talent management (Wes Bentley) to film production (Monster’s Ball) to directing (Shadowboxer, Precious, The Butler), and TV (Empire).

For someone who has so successfully conquered the establishment, Daniels’ choice of Precious as his second film would have seemed opportunistic – if the result hadn’t been so audacious and accomplished.

If you’d asked us when we first read poet/novelist Sapphire’s book Push, we would have said it was unfilmable, on many levels.  Its heroine is an illiterate 300-pound black teen who is pregnant with her second child after being raped (repeatedly) by her father.

It’s a brutal story, leavened with elements of humor, melodrama and fantasy.  But what holds it all together – and what it has in common with Moonlight — is how Daniels and his screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher don’t let any of the imbedded issues take over, but keep the movie firmly grounded in character.

The result is that what could have been a horror of a film is not only bearable but redeeming.  You come away impressed most of all by the humanity of the characters and by the extraordinary performances – across the board, but most notably by Mo’nique as the monster/mother and the mind-boggling Gabourey Sidibe as Precious.

Google Play YouTube iTunes Amazon Vudu

 

dope
DOPE
(2015)

Dope’s hero is a black nerd obsessed with 90’s hip-hop and “white people stuff”, like getting into Harvard.  It’s a traditional coming of age movie with twists on all the standard tropes –Malcolm and his friends stumble into possession of a backpack full of  guns and “Mollie” (MDMA) that they must unload  for bitcoin.

Dope is the second film director Rick Famuyiwa set in his hometown, Inglewood.  His first feature was Wood, an affectionate, funny, and more autobiographical coming-of-age-story.  It sounds like Famuyiwa himself was that geek kid.  Raised in a quasi-suburban Inglewood neighborhood by Nigerian immigrant parents, he went to USC film school then laid the groundwork for Wood while at Sundance Director’s Lab.

Dope premiered at Sundance last year, and received love it/hate it reviews.  Both sides essentially said the same thing – at its core this is a very formulaic coming of age story.  Those who liked it were charmed by the characters and by the clever twists on the standard genre beats.  Those who hated it thought that made it a sell-out.

Since he finished Dope Famuyiwa has directed Kerry Washington as Anita Hill in HBO’s Confirmation and has been signed as director of mega-budget superhero movie Flash.

Vudu YouTube Google Play iTunes Amazon

 

CLIMATE CHANGE IS NOT A HOAX

Elma Cremin

Co-Founder at Followthethread
A long-time fixture of New York’s glittering social scene, Miami’s jai lai courts, and the interstate highway system’s “big rigs,” Elma Cremin has spent her life absorbing all things pop culture.Movies, cult tv shows, documentaries, art, fashion—you cut her and she’ll bleed out in the colors of an Andy Warhol Brillo Pad box. Finally, after years of working inside the system with such networks as Sundance, Trio, Fuse TV and Ovation, she went “ghost protocol” and co-founded FollowTheThread in order to work outside the petty restraints of the industry and share her remarkable knowledge.

Latest posts by Elma Cremin (see all)

Donald Trump has repeatedly said that he thinks climate change is a hoax and has pledged to undo the government’s climate initiatives, including the Paris climate agreement and the Clean Power Plan. He’s also promised to expand fossil fuel exploration.  

With the release of Before the Flood we are highlighting documentaries that should dispel any lingering doubts of climate change deniers.

beforetheflood BEFORE THE FLOOD (2016) 

Future generations will judge us by how we deal with climate change. Before the Flood is a call to action from environmental advocates Leonardo DiCaprio and Fisher Stevens. The film follows the Titanic star as he travels to multiple countries bearing witness to climate change on a scale that no one should deny.

From the toxic tar sands of Alberta to the frequently flooded streets of Miami Beach, from the smog-choked avenues of Beijing to the incinerated forests of Indonesia, DiCaprio meets with scientists, politicians, and activists to face the facts: natural disasters are becoming more frequent, wildlife is vanishing and communities are being destroyed. What is to be done?

Before the Flood reminds us of the beauty and diversity of our world. It also galvanizes us to do whatever it takes to save the planet.

YouTube

11th-hourTHE 11TH HOUR (2007)

Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, The 11th hour is symbolic of the final moment when change is possible. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and former CIA director R. James Woolsey along with more than 50 other scientists, scholars, and leaders discuss pressing issues facing today’s world. Specialists reveal how human actions impact the Earth’s ecosystems and what can be done to reverse or slow the damage before it is too late to save the planet.

Of course, comparisons will be made to An Inconvenient Truth, which came out a year earlier. What sets this film apart from its predecessor is that, after pointing out the dangers of climate change, real concrete solutions are suggested: a great deal of the film is focused on renewable energy possibilities that are quite encouraging.

iTunes    Netflix    Amazon

inconvenientAN INCONVENIENT TRUTH (2006)

Director Davis Guggenheim weaves the science of global warming with Mr. Gore’s personal history and lifelong commitment to reversing the effects of global climate change. A longtime advocate for the environment, Gore presents a wide array of facts and information in a thoughtful and compelling way.

“Al Gore strips his presentations of politics, laying out the facts for the audience to draw their own conclusions in a charming, funny and engaging style, and by the end has everyone on the edge of their seats, gripped by his haunting message,” said Guggenheim.

An Inconvenient Truth is not a story of despair but rather a rallying cry to protect the one earth we all share. “It is now clear that we face a deepening global climate crisis that requires us to act boldly, quickly, and wisely,” said Gore.

iTunes    hulu    Netflix    YouTube

extinctionRACING EXTINCTION (2015)

Louie Psihoyos brings us Racing Extinction—an eco-thriller that examines mankind & its possible role in mass extinction.  Scientists believe we have entered the sixth major extinction event in Earth’s history and predict we may lose half the species on the planet by the end of the century. Number five took out the dinosaurs.

This era is called the Anthropocene, or ‘Age of Man’, because the evidence shows that humanity has sparked this catastrophic loss. We are the only ones who can stop it, too. An unlikely team of activists is out to expose the two threats endangering species across the globe: the first threat comes from the international trade of wildlife. Bogus markets are being created at the expense of creatures which have survived on this planet for millions of years. The other threat is all around us, hiding in plain sight.

iTunes    Amazon    YouTube

darwins_nightmare3DARWIN’S NIGHTMARE (2005)

Hubert Sauper’s documentary is about the Nile perch, a species introduced into Lake Victoria as an experiment in the sixties. The Nile Perch, a voracious predator, extinguished almost the entire stock of the native fish species. Ironically, the new fish multiplied so fast, that its white fillets are today exported all around the world.

Huge ex-Soviet cargo planes come daily to collect the latest catch in exchange for their southbound cargo—Kalashnikovs and ammunitions for the uncounted wars in the dark center of the continent.

This booming multinational trade has created an ungodly globalized alliance on the shores of the world’s biggest tropical lake: an army of local fishermen, World bank agents, homeless children, African ministers, EU-commissioners, Tanzanian prostitutes and Russian pilots.

Amazon    Netflix    YouTube

chasingCHASING ICE (2012)

Climate-change deniers will have a hard time ignoring the photographic evidence presented in Jeff Orlowski’s documentary. The film follows scientist James Balog and his team as they attempt to record the melting of the ice caps in Greenland, Iceland and Alaska through stop-motion photography.

Balog’s hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. Traveling with a team of young adventurers across the brutal Arctic, Balog risks his career and his well-being in pursuit of the biggest story facing humanity.

As the debate polarizes America, and the intensity of natural disasters ramps up globally, Chasing Ice shows a heroic photojournalist on a mission to deliver fragile hope to our carbon-powered planet.

iTunes    Amazon    Netflix    Vudu