The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

For some odd reason I have the urge to state publicly that I don't think there will be any huge reaction to Saddam's execution. Within 24 hours all of you guys might be laughing at me, but there it is, and I can't quite tell you the reason why...
Will Smith's "Pursuit of Happyness" is the story of a down-on-his- Will Smith's "Pursuit of Happyness" (yes, the misspelling is deliberate) is the story of a down-on-his-luck father, driven to homelessness, who has a desperate commitment to care for his son. I'm telling you that the emotional core of this movie is painfully strong to me. I really seem to have avoided talking about it--I saw it on opening day, weeks ago, and didn't get around to writing about it. It made me cry, and think, and commit myself even more strongly to caring for my family. A perfect holiday film, and a "B+." If only they had ever shown Smith and his wife (Thandie Newton) relating well, perhaps a flashback before the stress set in. Would one kiss have been too much?##
And speaking of that, "Dreamgirls," while a fabulous piece of movie making, is hurt by the same shyness about black relationships. The fictionalized story of the birth and death of the Supremes (Diana Ross was far more ruthless and ambitious than "Deena") is filled with music, glitter, and breakout performances (Eddie Murphy's career high, and a star-making turn for Jennifer Hudson, whose "I'm telling you I'm not going" is one of the great performances in all of musical film), as well as sly insider knowledge of Motown's politics, turned inside-out to avoid lawsuits. "Deena", for instance, objects to her husbands efforts to get her to play Cleopatra because the Egyptian queen would be 16 years old for most of the film. Hah! Diana Ross had Berry Gordy re-write "The Wiz" to allow a thirty-something woman to play a 15 year old girl. But Effie's relationship with their manager (Jamie Foxx) is never shown in any way, shape or form...not even a single kiss. Deena marries Foxx, and we see nothing of their courting or sparkin'. I've seen enough Broadway musicals to know that this is uncommon, and suspect that the filmmakers just didn't see the need. Sigh. The music is good, but like Motown B-sides you never heard, re-worked for Broadway. Kind of funny when they talk about "re-working" the music to make it whiter. It all sounded pretty white to me. A solid "B" but it could so easily have been so much better.
The last weeks have been stressful. My landlord is getting married, so we have to move out of our beautiful house. Damn. Ah well...but to look for that new house over the holidays...and then move in January during the same block of time I desperately need to work on a book due in March...arrgh. Well, this is one of those opportunities to find out how well my anti-stress techniques work, I can tell you! It will be lots of yoga, going to bed early, and getting all the hugs I can.
And to you, my friends and family and students and readers out there... I wish you the very merriest holidays, and a very very happy New Year! See you in 2007.

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