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West Orange — Letters to the Editor

A Critique of “The Best Man Holiday” and “Black Nativity”

June Giles Wigfall

Saturday, December 21, 2013 • 7:10pm

Two films were produced for our holiday entertainment, and as moviegoers we certainly need to enjoy, as well as critique what Hollywood sends as we spend our hard earned money. Before going to view the film, “The Best Man Holiday,” a sequel to the 1999 hit, “The Best Man,” two promotional scenes were shown on television that were titillating – both were hilarious and the other very entertaining.  The scene with Terrance Howard, who played the part of Q, where he abruptly crushed a cell phone before his friend’s wife discovered the pictures he had on the phone, caused a theatrical uproar, and the second scene in which the four pals put on a svelte dance routine clad in black suits and debonair hats also won the approval of the audience.   In this 2013 sequel, the men met again for a Christmas holiday week at the huge, grandiose mansion of a Giants star football player, Lance, (Morris Chestnut), whom he shared with his wife and three children.  (There were blue colored Christmas trees in every front window of the gaudy French home, and the foyer was so huge, it could double as dance hall, along with other larger than life rooms and bedroom suites).

The film is in beautiful Technicolor, which can be distracting.  Concentration was more on the scenic rooms, with its exquisite furnishings, the gorgeous women, the expensive clothing – than the story and more attention was paid on all of these appointments which caused the viewer to stare intently and lose lots of key dialogue, much of which was also mumbled principally by the male actors.  (One had no trouble hearing every line the female actors recite).  Everything looked so perfect, even the expensively clad perfect children.  After all of this was ingested, it still took a long time to see who cheated with whom in the past with most of the infidels being present.  Most (and the use of the N word in front of the children) was totally unnecessary.  Only one time was the reference of color needed, and that was when Q told of his being hired in one of his professional marketing jobs because he was light skinned, which was done to appease and appeal to the white world.

The football scenes were phony, especially when Lance, Mr. Football, after making an error, angrily ran to the sideline and one of his pals handed him the phone.  It was a personal phone call from his wife during a critical time in the game.  He had begrudgingly left her home in order to show up at the game, knowing how ill she was, and whatever she said to him, he dropped his anger and demanded to his coach to let him back in, where he made a spectacular touchdown, which resulted in the team victory.   The scene was entirely unbelievable and pure “Hollywood.” 

Another questionable scene was when the football player performed delivery of a breached birth of his best man’s wife in the back seat of a SUV.  The safe, uncomplicated delivery of a breached baby.  PLEASE!!!  This all occurred after he and his pal, with its fragile past relationship over the rebound involving the ailing wife, reconnected, and the heroic effort performed by Mr. Football further cemented their reconciliation.  

There was too long a wait for the viewer to see what the major point of the plot was, even though the theme was obvious.  The over-the-top life style of the rich, successful, ambitious people was what most people – old and young -  would like to have.  Once you have been drawn into the deep holes of embroiling wealth, many persons lose so much, but they also do not see what they truly need.  When the wife of a principal character, Mia, had to surrender to death, that was the only really deep emotion the plot allowed.  We want our African American actors to be just a successful or even better than their white counterparts in the movies and plays, but we must encourage our young people to pay more attention to the art of writing. 

When we think of writers, our minds immediately think of one of the greatest American writers – Langston Hughes.  Until recently, Hughes was the only writer of African American heritage who could rely principally on his writing for financial support, and he was a staunch representative of the Harlem Renaissance.

The film, “Black Nativity,” could be considered a gospel opera, because the singing throughout had heartwarming performances.  In short, the daughter of a respected minister had a baby out of wedlock, which caused a huge break-up between her and her parents.  She and her son fled from Harlem to Baltimore and eventually hit upon financial hardship and was forced from her home.  She put her teenage son on bus to Harlem to live temporarily with her parents, and it was then that we saw the hardship that estranged members of families incur, and the difficulty it can place on teenagers caught in the middle.

This film raised so many family issues to which many person can relate.  Principally, strong, older men are so essential when it comes to relating to stubborn, younger men, and strong women are essential for forming bridges to link people together.  “Black Nativity” was banned by several critics, claiming that the director, Kasi Lemmons, changed Hughes’ original story by expanding and rewriting it away from Hughes’ point of view.  However, the story fits well in today’s culture of family friction, economic struggles and failures, disappointing mothers and fathers who have good people that they fail to emulate.

Of the two films, “Black Nativity” provides a more meaningful lesson for moviegoers.  The more people see the value of preserving relations because of genuine love and sincerity rather than trying to live over-the-top with mansions, cars, clothes, and gorgeous mates, the more we can receive the beautiful gift that Christmas is meant to provide.  

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