Epi 9. And The Nominees Are…

In episode 9 Jordan and Adam discuss their hot takes on this year’s 9 best picture nominees and, of course, what would a bougie conversation be if there wasn’t a debate on The Shape of Water vs Three Billboards? Hit us on Instagram and subscribe on iTunes! Stay tuned for a very special Black Panther episode of A Bougie Conversation. Peace!

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Epi. 6 : The Golden Globes is a Comedy

The Golden Globes is truly a comedy. On this episode we discuss Get Out running as a comedy at the Golden Globes, as well as Lady Bird, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. Adam shares his experience on set for Orange is the New Black.

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A Bougie Podcast Epi. 5: Tie-ee-kah Wah-tity

‘Taika Waititi’ is the word of the day in this episode. We held this one in the chamber for a while to give you all a chance to see Thor: Ragnarok before we broke it all the way down with our special guest Arseni (Arsehol3 on the gram).

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REVIEW: Good Time

The Safdie brother’s crime drama could have been a heavy, brooding piece. The brothers however, opt for style, and a little bit of fun along the way.
Robert Pattinson plays Connie Nika, a man who’s character can be summed up by the first three letters of his name. After a botched bank robbery lands his mentally challenged brother Nick (played by Benny Safdie himself) in Rikers, Connie finds himself in an adrenaline fueled night as he races against the clock to get his brother out of Rikers.

Months back, when I first caught wind of Good Time, this crime drama where Robert Pattinson moves through the New York grit as he attempts to get his brother out of Rikers, I immediately dismissed it. I saw the synopsis, accompanied by a photo of a bleach blonde Robert Pattinson, running through the street wide-eyed and wearing an Ecko hoodie. The optics were just all wrong for me. However, I can admit it when I’m wrong about a film, and I was wrong about this one.

The Safdie brothers portray New York City in a way only New Yorkers can. The film displays a deep knowledge of the city’s beat and dark crevices, trading in the skyline with its towering skyscrapers, for the street level grunge complete with back alleys and shady businesses. Hell there’s even a scene that takes place in an access-a-ride bus. Their realistic depiction of an often unseen side of NYC will be eye-opening for many viewers, in a way that I imagine Scorsese’s Taxi Driver did in 1976 for those blissfully unaware of NYC’s dark side.


While yes this film is quite literally a good time, by nature of its plot, the film finds making commentary on some of the critical issues we face as a nation: healthcare, race, the prison industrial complex, specifically Rikers island (because this is a New York film). Every character we see on the screen in Good Time is a product of at least one of those crumbling pillars of American life. As an audience, we know Connie is a scumbag (albeit a very charismatic one), but on at least two occasions we see him use his whiteness to get out of situations with the law. Scenes like these reaffirm our settlement on labeling him a scumbag, but he’s no fool, he knows how the system works and what his weapons are.

The cinematography is remeniscient of a Cassavetes film, with offscreen dialogue, and suffocating close-ups during conversations make every situation feel like some kind of trap. Cinematographer Sean Price Williams, constantly shifts the focus, as if trying to latch on to something, as we see Connie working the gears in his mind trying to worm his way out of a bind. The score, by Oneohtrix Point Never, blends beautifully with the trippy visual style of Good Time, keeping the film moving as the adrenaline builds and keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout.

So yes, in short, see this film. It’s not playing all over the place but, if you have to go a little out of your way, you won’t be disappointed seeing Good Time in a theater. And I’m almost certain that A24 is gonna really push this film for Oscar considerations. Not that that means anything besides the fact that you should see it now, before the Academy’s pomp and circumstance ruin the Good Time. 

‘I Am Not Your Negro’, Alamo Drafthouse, and the shared communion of the cinema.

I Am Not Your Negro is a film that I’ve written about, and discussed, at great length. To say that I am a fan of James Baldwin would be an understatement. I can’t begin to explain just how much his writings and his lectures guided me and kept me steady in fragile times. Whenever I’ve questioned the direction of my life, or felt as if I had come to a crossroad of sorts, the answer always laid in a Baldwin book. Whether it be one of his novels or an essay, I have always felt that he was communicating something to me. Something that became clearer and clearer with each piece I read. And so I Am Not Your Negro is a special film for me. It’s the first film that I feel I had the scoop on. I was lucky enough to see it in its festival circuit-and I mean really reaching into my contacts to get my hands on two tickets for the US premiere. I was genuinely happy when it got an Oscar nomination for best documentary. It was grueling to have to wait 4 months to see it again in its theatrical run, and since it released on February 3rd, I’ve seen it twice. So, altogether, I’ve seen this film three times. On the third, but in no way the last time, I decided to see it at the Alamo Drafthouse.

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The Alamo Drafthouse is an interesting theater experience. It’s interesting because, as a lover of cinema, I can admit that it probably shouldn’t work, but somehow, it does. It mixes the gimmick with a true love for the art-form. For example, waiters do their best to stay quiet and out of sight when taking your order, tables between each seat come with a dull light underneath so you’re never in total darkness when trying to eat your food. But after the trailers end the theater becomes a no-talk/no-text zone. Patrons are not even allowed to enter the theater after the film has started. So, for all the add-ons that may detract a film lover like me (clanging plates, the waiters, lack of total darkness), I can’t help but love Alamo Drafthouse’s commitment to go the extra mile in creating a space conducive to watching films. That’s a difficult task given what the Alamo seeks to offer, but so far, it’s working for them. Not to mention the fact that the food is genuinely good. I can admit that you probably want to save your Alamo Drafthouse experience for a film that requires less thought than I Am Not Your Negro, but either way, it is a fine environment to watch a film.

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Anyway, I’ve said all that. The film finishes, my friends and I are floored and, after we manage to work up the nerve to leave the theater, we found ourselves outside in a circle discussing the film.

A woman interjects herself into our circle to ask for a cigarette.

I give her one, but she isn’t finished yet. She puts the cigarette in her pocket and asks what film we just came out of. “I Am Not Your Negro” I told her.

She asked, “Did you bawl?”

To which I replied: “It’s my third time seeing the film”. Come to find out, it was her second time. My friends and I are native New Yorkers and we’re all black. The woman was white, and although I can’t possibly know for sure where she’s from, it would come as a great shock to me if I were to find out she was from New York. This is important only because, after a few moments of awkward conversation, she said “okay I have to ask.” Uh oh here it comes was what everyone in my circle began to think. After dancing around it for some time, she finally got to the question.

“I realized, I’ve never hung out with black people… I guess I wanted to ask you guys, do you hang out with white people?”

A silence hung in the air for a moment, and a few awkward looks were exchanged. My friends and I said we did indeed hang out with white people. “So am I just a piece of shit” she asked. “Why am I such a piece of shit?”

“You’re not a piece of shit,” we feebly tried to assure her, but she had already seemed to settle on the fact that she was. Suddenly it was as if we were bearing witness to someone’s inner torment, spilling out of them in front of total strangers. Tears filling her eyes, she fumbled with her words and apologies for never having spent time with black people, as if it really affected us. Shortly, her husband came and told her their car had arrived. She kept going until, again he said, “honey, our car is here.” What a funny way for a story like that to end. As she walked away I jokingly suggested that she ask her Uber driver his name.

“I always do!” she cried.

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I’m not sure what the moral of this story is. But if anything, it’s a testament to the power of film. Some films are so powerful that a person that has supposedly never ‘hung out’ with black people, can feel compelled to walk into a group and start a conversation. And sure, while she might of revealed herself to be incredibly naive, she was also taking a great leap into the unknown, because a film- a 90 minute film- made her question her entire life thus far.  It’s a testament not only to the words of Baldwin, and not only the power of film, but a testament to the power of seeing a film in the theater. The images on the screen encompass you amid strangers who you may not communicate with, but are undoubtedly sharing an experience with. It’s that shared experience that makes the theater such hallowed ground for a film lover. And it may just inspire you to reach across the aisle and ask a question you’ve never considered, to a person you’ve never known.

Oscars are more diverse, and more tone-deaf than ever.

The 2016 Academy Awards will forever be remembered as , and for good reason too. There wasn’t a single black actor (or non-white actor of any kind) nominated for any of the Academy’s acting categories. Sure, worse things happened in 2016 but let’s not get it confused: the Academy Awards is a cultural institution, and while they may not represent the most popular films, they should at least recognize bravery in filmmaking, along with those films that push the needle. Performances like Idris Elba’s in Beast of No Nation, or films like Straight Outta Compton getting no love showed a failure on the Academy’s part on a few levels. They failed to not only be inclusive – for inclusivity is not inherently required of the Academy – but more importantly, they failed to recognize films that changed the cultural landscape and created conversations. So, with the 2017 Academy Awards approaching, we waited to see how the Academy would treat this year’s slate of films which were undoubtedly some of the rawest, and boldest, to be released in quite some time.170124092033-oscar-nominees-2017-best-supporting-actor-super-169

This year the Academy nominated 6 black actors, as well as Moonlight, Fences, and Hidden Figures in the Best Picture category. While the Academy patted itself on the back for its recognition of films that otherwise deserved it, they also displayed their reluctance to be confronted with anything remotely real. What I am talking about is the reason behind all the praise for films like La La Land and Nocturnal Animals. Sure, films like Moonlight and Fences are getting nods, but it already seems as if they stand no real chance of winning against La La Land, not because it is a better film – it certainly isn’t – but because Moonlight shows you harsh realities while La La Land shows you the perfect dream.brody-theoscarnominationsdontmatterbutthemoviesdo-1200

Now, Nocturnal Animals is high-art drab, but people like it for the same reasons: all of the unpleasantries in the film are knowingly not real. A large part of Nocturnal Animals is a story within a story. Susan Morrow (played by Amy Adams) spends much of the film reading a book written by her ex-husband. As the story of the book plays out on screen, it gets dark and gritty real fast, however, the audience is comforted by the fact that it is just a book, and the only thing ‘real’ is Susan’s depressing life – which Tom Ford tries to convince us is the real tragedy. I didn’t quite understand that when I initially asked why do people like Nocturnal Animals? but watching La La Land made this point abundantly clear: more than ever, people are looking to films for an escape

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Don’t get me wrong, films have always been a vehicle for escapism but, a new class of filmmakers have begun to use their films not to provide an escape, but instead, to shine a light and illuminate those very societal ills that people once sought to use movies to get away from. You can go see Moonlight and be made aware of how a poor, gay, black kid must live to survive in this country, or watch Fences to see the trials and tribulations  of a black family living hand-to-mouth in the 50s; and then there’s Hell of High Water, an action-packed heist film about the ruin that the greed of big banks have wrought on small town America. Of all these eye-opening and staggering films, which does the Academy shower with praise and can’t seem to get enough of? La La Land, the film that has nothing to say at all.

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Don’t get me wrong, La La Land is a good movie, but what purpose does it serve? Fences, Moonlight, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, all of these films are showing you something that you must see, they are drawing back the veil, La La Land says ‘shhh’ and assures you everything is fine and dandy! And the Academy is chomping at the bit when it comes to this film that glorifies old Hollywood, numbs you from the issues with song and dance, putting nothing but beautiful people in front of the lens, and puts Jazz at the center of its story without incorporating any black people. This year while Hollywood pats itself on the back for being inclusive, it still manages to praise a film that is dangerously tone-deaf and serves as opium for the masses.

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Perhaps the escape people are so desperately seeking has to do with a certain newly elected government official, his xenophobic travel ban, and his dense, ignorant, wall. But the  Academy, and movie goers everywhere should not encourage this escape from reality, not at a time like this. Everything is not okay, we won’t be saved by song and dance and beautiful people. In fact, the only way we have a chance is if we lift the veil and acknowledge what is going on around us. Sure films can be trivial but they don’t have to be. They can illuminate, they can inspire, and they can light a flame under the weary and oppressed. There are films nominated this year that I guarantee will do that if you watch them, but don’t be so easily led into the theater that will hush you into la la land.