The #OscarsSoWhite protests around the 2015 Academy Awards were trying to tell us something. So was Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale. So were the entire filmographies of Oscar Micheaux and Charles Burnett, in Micheaux’s case beginning a century ago. And yet current events show us that not enough people were paying attention to the stories of African Americans. There’s a way to remedy that. Here’s a list of 17 exceptional Black-themed movies previously reviewed in these pages, in chronological order by publication date. Most if not all are available for streaming.
Queen & Slim
https://eastbayexpress.com/oakland/run-baby-run/Content?oid=28043668 One of 2019’s most provocative films is powerful stuff, neatly wrapped in realistic yet mythological terms by the players and their director.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco
https://eastbayexpress.com/oakland/hes-not-alone-the-last-black-man-in-san-francisco/Content?oid=26483222 One of the saddest movies of this or any other year, and yet one of the kindest. A high level of forgiving togetherness distinguishes this poetic film.
https://eastbayexpress.com/oakland/lets-talk-about-us/Content?oid=25571869 A horror/thriller masterpiece with subtle (and not-so-subtle) subtexts. Drop whatever you’re doing and run to see Us. You might recognize someone you already know.
If Beale Street Could Talk
https://eastbayexpress.com/oakland/if-beale-street-could-talk-is-suffused-with-love/Content?oid=23978400 Director Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel aims for the timeless in its story of a pair of Harlem lovers. It’s a breathtaking miracle.
https://eastbayexpress.com/oakland/spike-lees-blackkklansman-is-a-brilliant-anti-hate-drama/Content?oid=18890662 Spike Lee’s surprisingly humorous anti-hate pic tells a true-crime story with a happy ending, plus a warning that happiness is not guaranteed. One of Lee’s finest.
https://eastbayexpress.com/oakland/blindspotting-is-one-of-the-most-important-movies-of-the-year/Content?oid=18226487 Audiences looking for a film that expresses all the vitality — and everyday struggle — of life in contemporary Oakland, search no more.
Sorry to Bother You
https://eastbayexpress.com/oakland/sorry-to-bother-you-is-the-rarest-of-satires/Content?oid=17773569 The rarest of satires, filmmaker Boots Riley’s feature debut is a nimble, imaginative bucket of social indignation.
https://eastbayexpress.com/oakland/in-black-panther-ryan-coogler-combines-fantasy-with-politics/Content?oid=13296400 Director Ryan Coogler follows up Fruitvale Station and Creed with a big-budget blowout that offers just enough real-world meaning to satisfy audiences bored with the usual screen superheroes.
https://eastbayexpress.com/oakland/in-black-panther-ryan-coogler-combines-fantasy-with-politics/Content?oid=13296400 A tale of strong emotions, raw injustice, and courage, from deep in the heart of the Great Depression and the Mississippi Delta.
https://eastbayexpress.com/oakland/wheres-the-outrage-in-detroit/Content?oid=8185324 Where’s the outrage? 53 years after the bloody riots in the Motor City, we’re still asking that question. Detroit is not a relaxing, fun-filled evening at the movies. It’s a cavalcade of injustice. But it’s one of the most meaningful films of 2017.
I Am Not Your Negro
https://eastbayexpress.com/oakland/see-i-am-not-your-negro-and-pick-up-some-knowledge/Content?oid=5098123 If we had to name one documentary that is absolutely essential to understanding the perennial curse of American racism, director Raoul Peck’s terse cinematic framing of author James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript is it.
https://eastbayexpress.com/oakland/see-i-am-not-your-negro-and-pick-up-some-knowledge/Content?oid=5098123 The remarkable, unhurried, true-to-life story of a young Black man, Barry Jenkin’s Moonlight is as straightforward as a hundred-dollar bill, but completely imbued with love.
https://eastbayexpress.com/oakland/miles-ahead-captures-miles-davis-lightning-in-a-bottle/Content?oid=4738811 After watching Don Cheadle’s meditation on the pain of pure creativity and unapologetic Black-ness, you’ll never listen to a Miles Davis cut in the same way again.
Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
https://eastbayexpress.com/oakland/right-on-the-black-panthers-vanguard-of-the-revolution/Content?oid=4517083 Straight outta Oakland. Right on!
https://eastbayexpress.com/oakland/it-happened-in-oakland/Content?oid=3647247 Ryan Coogler’s dramatization of the life and death of Oscar Grant will break your heart.
The Black Power Mixtape
https://eastbayexpress.com/oakland/the-black-power-mixtape-1967-1975/Content?oid=2993526 What Nixon and the FBI didn’t want you to see. A Swedish TV crew uncovers the reality of Black life in America, circa 1967-1975. Said the doc’s original filmmaker: “The people in the film changed the world for the better. Not only for Black people in America, or any marginalized group, but for all people.”
https://eastbayexpress.com/oakland/other-shades-of-the-hood/Content?oid=1073374 An appreciation of the films of Los Angeles writer-director Charles Burnett (To Sleep with Anger, Killer of Sheep), from 2004.