geezer cinema: napoleon (ridley scott, 2023)
music friday: cooley high

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.


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