music friday: cooley high

I watched Cooley High yesterday. Its soundtrack was noteworthy ... here are a few songs from that movie:

A song that later became a standard sung by another group was introduced in Cooley High. It was written by Freddie Perren and Christine Yarian, and in the original version was sung by G.C. Cameron:

In 1991, Boyz II Men released their debut album, with a title that paid homage to Cooley High: Cooleyhighharmony. It was a monster hit, going 9 time platinum and spawning several singles, one of which was "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday":

african-american directors series: cooley high (michael schultz, 1975)

Cooley High is a landmark in 1970s Black cinema, and an early showcase from some top figures. Director Michael Schultz followed Cooley High with another landmark, Car Wash, and is still active today, mostly in television. Glynn Turman is one of our finest actors, and Cooley High was one of his first films ... he was later a part of the great cast of The Wire. Soon after his performance in Cooley High, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs was a frequent visitor into America's living rooms as a main character on Welcome Back, Kotter. And Garrett Morris followed up this film as one of the original members of the cast of Saturday Night Live. Cooley High is often compared to American Graffiti, and like that film, Cooley High started many careers.

I wish I liked it more. It's amiable enough, and its import with the black community is obvious. It has funny scenes, and an honesty that is as important now as it was in 1975. There's a melodramatic turn near the end of the movie that feels too abrupt ... it's not that it is out of place, but the ground hasn't been laid for it, so it sticks out in the wrong ways. Having said that, the ending is powerful.

And the soundtrack is wonderful.

In a timely but sad coincidence, I watched this just days after the death of Norman Lear, who received an enormous number of memories from people talking about his great career. Cooley High was written by Eric Monte, who had worked on several sitcoms with Lear.

For me, John Amos as husband/father James Evans on Good Times is one of the best depictions of fatherhood I've ever seen, and Eric Monte is the person who created that character.

geezer cinema: napoleon (ridley scott, 2023)

It's a movie about Napoleon, so it's supposed to be big, IMAX big. It's more than 2 1/2 hours, and even that isn't enough ... apparently Ridley Scott has another hour-and-a-half that he'll add when the movie goes to streaming ... the film coast $200 million, it comes from Apple Studios, you could say it's an Apple TV show that got a few showings in theaters (much like Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon). This is a big movie, commensurate with its subject.

It's also a comedy. Honest, Ridley Scott said so. I admit to wondering if Scott saw people laughing in the theaters and only then pronounced that it was meant to be funny.

I don't care much about the historical inaccuracies. But it matters that Joaquin Phoenix is too old for the part of Napoleon. Napoleon was 51 when he died; Phoenix is 49. Not so bad. But at the beginning of the film, Napoleon is 24, and Phoenix is ... 49.

And considering it was more dialogue than action, I'm not sure it was worth the extra bucks to see it in IMAX.

And the action sequences are impressive. But I had recently re-watched Red Cliff 1 & 2, and a few times, I was reminded of a similar scene in Red Cliff that was 100 times better.

On a scale where Ridley Scott at his best is Thelma and Louise, and Ridley Scott at his worst is Black Rain, Napoleon is House of Gucci.

film fatales #189: proof (jocelyn moorhouse, 1991)

This is the fourteenth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2023-24", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 9th annual challenge, and my fifth time participating (previous years can be found at "2019-20", "2020-21", "2021-22", and "2022-23"). Week 14 is called "Living in Obscurity Week":

Top 10 (or 50, or 100, or 250), Best of, and All-Time Greatest lists are all well and good, but sometimes the discerning movie-watcher desires the sweet thrill of discovery, of stumbling upon an obscure gem, of uncovering a magnificent concoction few others have. There is nothing wrong with those lauded collections of films—they are well-known and revered for good reason. But think about this: by some estimates, there are nearly 5 million films out there in the world! It's like a bucket of LEGO containing pieces of every size; all the little bricks sink to the bottom while the bigger ones rest on top. Movies, it seems, are no different.

This week, let's plunge our hands deep into the movie bucket and shun the measly 1% of films (if we're being generous) that get the most attention. However, 4.95 million films are a bit much to sift through. Luckily, Letterboxd makes our task easy: just pick a title from The Most Obscure Movie Recommendations List Ever as compiled by independent online film journal Bright Wall/Dark Room. Voila! Happy discovering!

Proof was the first feature for writer/director Jocelyn Moorhouse, and it was successful on the festival circuit, opening doors for Moorhouse's subsequent career. I've seen her later movie The Dressmaker, which was also highly regarded, although I felt it didn't add up to much. You could say Proof doesn't fit clearly into any genre, or that it crosses several genres, but in any case, it's just different enough to be surprising throughout. It's a study of a blind man, it's a buddy movie, it's a romantic triangle, and no one can every quite trust anyone else. Trust is at the center of the film ... the blind man can't trust what others say because he can't see evidence of what they are talking about. He takes photographs of everything, and then asks people to describe what they see. He compares their descriptions to what people said when the events took place, and can then know who is honest ... the photographs are his proof.

There's some nice acting going on. Hugo Weaving doesn't overplay his character's blindness, and is all the more believable because of that. Russell Crowe is impossibly young (he was 27), with a pleasing charisma. Geneviève Picot rounds out the triangle, and her character is written almost like a femme fatale from a noir picture. Picot makes it work.

Proof won't knock you off your feet, but it's a solid film and a strong start for Moorhouse.