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SMR 225: If Beale Street Could Talk

Rod and Karen discuss Barry Jenkins’ movie based off of James Baldwin’s work, “If Beale Street Could Talk.”



    My biggest regret from this movie, is I didn’t get the chance to see it twice in theaters, as I did for Moonlight. I’ve only two of Barry Jenkins films & I love this guy’s style of filmmaking & the way he, along with cinematographer, James Laxton, they shoot black people in a way that’s rich, elegant even. From scene to scene, visually, it’s masterful direction. Also, unlike a lot of indie directors, who tend to have “stuck up their ass” syndrome, he self-aware of the moment & doesn’t make it about him, just like Steve McQueen. The cast is in one: astounding. Stephan James is great here, but Regina King & Kiki Layne are dynamos here in their roles. It’s a story of ups, downs, racism, perservance & harsh realities. Damn shame this didn’t get an Oscar nomination. Maybe the Academy didn’t want to have the Moonlight v. La La Land moment, but if that’s the case, boo fucking hoo. Guess Hollywood likes to stay stuck in its antiquated ways. Hope this joint isn’t forgotten. Amazing film.

  2. ClassicRandBLover

    Hi Rod and Karen,

    What a beautiful film, so powerful and overwhelming. Barry Jenkins does it again. If Beale Street Could Talk does more than spotlight the heartbreaking realities of being black in America, it perfectly captures the voice of James Baldwin. No fake happy ending to the daily struggle that is our existence. I don’t know if you have read this story or any of Baldwin’s other works, but Beale Street is pure him. Baldwin didn’t write for the white gaze or white approval; all of his work is a love letter to black people. His work lets us know that someone sees us, understands us and cares. Watching If Beale Street Could Talk, it is easy to see how Baldwin’s poem, A Dream Deferred inspired Lorraine Hainesberry’s classic, A Raisen in the Sun. I hope this film brings Baldwin to the forefront again and that he receives the accolades he deserves. I wonder if the hoteps and those of that ilk will be able to embrace Baldwin’s ability to unflinchingly relate the realities of blackness in America given that Baldwin was gay. Beale Street is the kind of film they love to embrace, but will their assholery let them do it?

    As for the acting, while Regina King is rightly getting accolades because she is always top notch, the rest of the cast is amazing as well. Everyone from the largest to the smallest role was perfectly cast. It was especially nice to see Michael Beach in a role where he wasn’t the villain, it must have been an enjoyable rarity to him. Having said that, I wanted to take a moment to shout out Brian Tyree Henry. This brother has been killing the acting game; excelling in every role he plays regardless of the character he is playing and the size of the part. I hope to see more of him, perhaps in starring roles next. People keep looking for the heir to Denzel’s acting thrown and Brian Tyree Henry just might be it.

    • ClassicRandBLover

      Oops, sorry. A Raisin in the Sun was inspired by a Langston Hughes work, not James Baldwin.

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