THE HANDMAIDEN

Finally saw this tonight and it didn't disappoint. In fact, it exceeded my expectations. Park Chan-Wook does it again. It's a twisted and twisting tale of love, lust, betrayal, revenge, swindle, sadism, class, patriarchy. The cinematography is extraordinary: the textures and palette make you feel like you're caressing her shoulders, enveloping yourself in silk, descending into hell.  Please go see it in the theaters, for yourself and to support Asian cinema.

My people, my people! I love seeing myself and my brothers on screen: beautiful, sexy, sensuous, cunning, powerful. For me, the movie is ultimately a testament to female empowerment. Kim Tae-ri and Kim Min-hee are gorgeous, especially when they are naked, exploring, and intertwined in bliss. The first thing I said when the lights came up was "That made me want to be with a woman."

MOONLIGHT

MOONLIGHT is the most powerful movie I've seen this year. As widely reviewed, the acting, writing, directing, and cinematography are all remarkable, but the film was also sonically brilliant. The score was minimal and disciplined; unlike so many modern movies whose overbearing score hits over the head with the orchestral hammer, exhorting us to to feel sad, or scared, or triumphant.

And then there were the needle drops; my favorite being the use of Goodie Mob's "Cell Therapy." The ominous piano intro and booming bottom, brought to us by Organized Noize, signaled Chiron's transition and chapter in ATL's dirty south. And finally, the quietude and silence. Barry Jenkins did not feel the need to fill up every dialogue with words, understanding that the unspoken can be just as, if not more powerful, than the words uttered.

The film is a ultimately a love story--one of unrequited love, depicted as masterfully as in REMAINS OF THE DAY and IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE. The dull and constant ache of longing for a fruit which is forbidden but in painful proximity is portrayed with deft constraint by the amazing Trevante Rhodes. And bravo to Mahershala Ali, whose range, I've not witnessed in short order: from the relatively two-dimensional comic book villain Cottonmouth in LUKE CAGE, to the deliciously complicated and nuanced father figure here.

I look forward to seeing the film be rewarded many times over next award season. 

MANY RIVERS TO CROSS

Jimmy Cliff first wrote and recorded this classic in 1969 and sang it countless times throughout his career.  For me, this version, that he performed live on Jools Holland in 2012, 43 years later, is my favorite. His voice is still clear and strong, but it's the ad libs that start at 2:35 that add new depth and dimension: "love is my foundation, wisdom is my capital, struggle is my motto, truth is my redeemer, sorrow is my companion, love is my foundation." Love, the foundation of all.

THAT'S WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR

I am defined not by my job nor professional accomplishments, but my family and friends. I have worked diligently, sometimes painfully, to maintain my friendships with a close group of remarkable. I send this to them. This version is the perfect storm of flawless composition, improvisation, monster vocals, deep affection, mutual respect. It bring tears to my eyes every time I watch. And now half of this brilliant quartet is no longer here. RIP Luther and Whitney.