Thursday, December 25, 2014
"Black Nativity" goes against "It's a Wonderful Life" on Christmas Eve viewing
HBO was good enough to broadcast the overlooked 2013 musical “Black Nativity” (directed by Kasi Lemmons) on Christmas even (going against Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” on NBC).
The musical is adapted by the director from a libretto by Langston Hughes and has a lot of “soul music”, reminding me of the 1982 fest, “Say Amen, Somebody” (George T. Nierenberg). The latter film I remember seeing in Minneapolis in 1998 while recovering from my hip fracture, getting a lot of attention in a Landmark theater there.
“Black Nativity” tells the story of street-smart teen Langston (Jacob Latimore), raised by a single mom in Baltimore. In one of the songs early in the movie he describes himself as “motherless”. He hops on a Peter Pan bus to New York City to visit estranged relatives, Reverend Cornell and Aretha Cobbs (Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett). He resents the minister’s rules and gets in trouble with the law, trying to rob the father (Vondie Curtis-Hall). who had abandoned him in a climatic scene that seems over the top. He gets a measure of faith, even from a street prophet (Nas Jones).
The official site is here (Fox Searchlight and Maven).
As for the James Steward character George Bailey in the classic 1946 film mentioned above, I’ve always been impressed by how much difference one’s own life can make on others. I think that's still true of me. See other comments Dec. 23, 2007 about this classic. Note the "complete film" on the Paris Theater in New York City in he picture above (Sept. 22, 2014).