Friday December 9th 2022

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Movie Corner Bonus: Candyman


Universal Pictures (2021)

★★★★ (4 out of 5)


'Candyman' Trailer: People Just Can't Refrain From Saying ...
Universal Pictures

If one says “candyman” five times consecutively in an audible voice one can expect a ghost from the past, a large Black man with a hook on his right hand who will kill anyone daring to repeat his name five times in a row. Director Nia DaCosta takes a slightly different take from the original Candyman, directed by Briton Bernard Rose (Frankenstein [2015], Paperhouse [1988]), whose horror film is referred to by some to be the Halloween of the 1990s. Behind DaCosta’s version is a steady and reliable hand of one the screenwriters – Jordan Peele.

         A 2020-21 look at the former Cabrini-Green neighborhood (still there in the 1990s but crumbling in desperate need of repair) which is “nicely” hidden by white developers and whites who have fled to the suburbs and exurbs. Candyman still hangs around, usually appearing to do people in that dare to call his name five times in a loud voice. Now, would there ever be a Candymanif in his past he had not been lynched in the 1890s for daring to paint a portrait of a wealthy white woman when the white neighbors find out?

      Cabrini-Green and Robert Taylor Homes, in particular, razed  for “better” housing didn’t wipe away African American poverty it just moved it around nearby. But I fast-forward to the present where in the lush art world, a Black artist, Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abul- Mateen), is coming up in the art scene with a girlfriend, Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris) he lives with in a plush loft. Ms. Cartwright is a well-to-do art gallery director. Not unlike Black NFL players who have to deal with white owners and mostly white general management, Black artists, curators and others in the art world face white critics and owners. And DaCosta doesn’t shy away from the hard political implications either. In her own way she choses a truism of white society’s irrational fear of Black men in a largely symbolic sense formed in the image of Anthony McCoy, who becomes obsessed with the image of CandymanAs such, the demonic force that seems to overtake him is not original by any means and is unnecessarily heavy-handed. 

     Da Costa uses her imagination well with the puppet imagery. I wish Candymanwould have been scary, adding to the horror. She didn’t want scary like the original, which I think is a mistake. Fine performances nonetheless.

      Da Costa’s stylish yet very dark picture of the cruelty of gentrification causes us to consider what it is doing (and has done) to much of urban Black America and the miasma of unarmed Blacks killed by white police officers or the shootings between gangs leaving children and other residents dead or seriously injured.

        Cinematographer John Guleserian (An American Pickle [2020], Before We Go [2014]) is to be commended for his work. In one scene of distress he doesn’t zoom in but he pulls the camera back.

Cast:Yahya Abdul-Mateen (Anthony McCoy), Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Troy Williams), Teyonah Parris (Brianna Cartwright), Colman Domingo (William Burke), Kyle Kaminsky (Grady Smith), Vanessa Williams (Anne-Marie McCoy), Brian King (Clive Privler), Miriam Moss (Jerrica Cooper), Rebecca Spence (Finley Stephens), Carl Clemons-Hopkins (Jameson), Rodney L. Jones III (Billy), Michael Hargrove (Sherman Fields), Heidi Grace Engerman (Haley Gulick), Ireon Roach (Trina), Breanna Lind (Annika).

Director: Nia Da Costa (Nia Da Costa’s first film LittleWoods[2018]).

Writers: Jordan Peele (screenplay), Win Rosenfeld (screenplay). 

Running time: 91 minutes,(R).

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