Film Review: TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM (USA 2019) ***

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am Poster

This artful and intimate meditation on the legendary storyteller examines her life, her works and the powerful themes she has confronted throughout her literary career.

This artful and intimate meditation on the legendary story- teller, TONI MORRISON examines her life, her works and the powerful themes she has confronted throughout her literary career.

For those unfamiliar with the literary world of Toni Morrison, Toni is a Pulitzer Prize winner for her novel Beloved and also the recipient of the the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993 with four novels in Oprah’s Book Club.  She is at present 88 years of age, and still as spritely as a young author, evident during her interviews captured on film.  She has been described more accurately as a legendary storyteller whose books are written from the black perspective. 

There cannot be enough praise for Toni Morrison.  Morrison has accomplished monumental orgs in her lifetime.  Besides her literary works, she also did the biography of Mohammad Ali.  On camera, she does not blow her own horn. But the other interviewees on camera like Oprah Winfrey, Toni’s friends and author Fran Lebowitz, author/activist Angela Davis, poet Sonia Sanchez, long-time editor Robert Gottlieb are others singing her praises.

Toni’s life, career and achievements are actually available for a good read on Wikipedia and one can learn just as much reading Wikipedia as it traces Toni’s lifelong journey from child to the present and how her life influenced her works.  But Greenfield-Saunders brings her life to the screen with lots of archival footage, such as grainy black and white film of black folk riding horse carriages in the old towns in America.  The film also puts her work and black folk into perspective.  It is revealed in voiceover that blacks were not allowed to be taught to read not even by the white folk.  Toni, who grew up in Loraine, Ohio, went to school and eventually to college.  She attended the historically black Howard University (where she faced segregation within the black community), to her stint as an editor at Random House (where she did ’70s-era book tours with Muhammad Ali).  She was also a single mother with two sons, rising at 5:00 am to write.

The film is directed by photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, who met Morrison in 1981 when he did a cover shoot with her.  For this film, he has Morrison looking directly into the camera, while he shoots the others in an “over the shoulder style.”  As a director, he’s known for his “identity” documentaries such as The Black List (inspired by Morrison).

The best part of the doc is Toni’s books been described on film as well as the reactions of the books when first published.  Mention is given of her works like Beloved.  Another book “The Bluest Eye” is described in detail.  This is the book she wrote every morning up at 5 am while bringing up her two children.   Oprah interviewed, described how she got and called Toni on the telephone, ending up making a film of BELOVED directed by Jonathan Demme.  There is no mention, however that the film was a box-office flop.

Though it is pointed out in the film that Toni has both the respect and readership worldwide of Mexicans and Asians, the film would be more directed towards Americans (both black and white).  After all, the black American is half and an important part of American history.  


Film Review: A WRINKLE IN TIME (USA 2018)

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A Wrinkle in Time Poster
After the disappearance of her scientist father, three peculiar beings send Meg, her brother, and her friend to space in order to find him.


Ava DuVernay


Jennifer Lee (screenplay by), Jeff Stockwell (screenplay by) | 1 more credit »


A WRINKLE IN TIME is the new Disney family fantasy based on the 1962 science fantasy novel written by American writer Madeleine L’Engle.   The book won the Newbery Medal, Sequoyah Book Award, and Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, and was runner-up for the Hans Christian Andersen Award.  This is Disney’s second film adaptation following the 2003 TV movie.

The film follows daughter, Meg (Storm Reid) who with the help of Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs. Whatsis (Reech Witherspoon) and accompaniment of adopted brother (Deric McCabe) search for her 4-year missing scientific father, known as Dr. Murry (Chris Pine).  They encounter different characters and strange animals and things before finally  rescuing the father after wining the fight of light vs. the darkness.

Music and soundtrack are not impressive.  The ending song “I believe (in me)” by DJ Khaled is the typical ‘America is great, I can do anything’ mentality that President Trump so often engages that non-Americans are sick of. The soundtrack has the ‘wowing’ sound that is supposed to enhance at the audience’s ’wow’ factor.  The music also goes up and down in mood as if to constantly remind the audiences how to feel during the film.

The script and film concentrate more on the rescue of Dr. Murry that on the universal fight of good vs. evil.  The result is a rather sappy film.  The family reuniting scene does not bring tears into the audience’s eyes as the film is bad that there is little emotion to be felt anywhere.

The film delivers mixed messages among them: “Be a warrior:” “I can do anything”; and others.  But unfortunately the negative message of putting work before family also comes through.  There is also an odd moment when the camera shows that Meg has forgiven her taunting schoolmate, Veronica.

The cinematography By German D.P. Tobias A. Schliessler is impressive and the film looks occasionally stunning though all this would be put better into perspective if the film was not all over the place.

The film is enough to give one a splitting headache.  Besides the screeching children – young actor McCabe has an especially high-pitched shrill voice.  If he not taunting his sister when ‘possessed’  he will certainly be taunting the audience with his voice.  The other scene is the bouncing ball scene whee a dozen or so boys in a neighbourhood simultaneously bounce their basketball as they go: “Thump, thump, thump…” indefinitely.

A WRINKLE IN TIME is noticeable for making a point of having a higher percentage of African Americans and women working in the film.  Director DuVaernay’s resume includes only one past documentary MIDDLE OF NOWHERE and SELMA, quite different for big budget sci-fi films.  Making the Murry family mixed, the husband white (Chris Pine) and the mother black (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) for no apparent reason except to be currently politically or racially correct, does not really work either.  

Disney has had a solid string of hits, the latest being the Oscar winning animated COCO and the box-office hit BLACK PANTHER.  A WRINKLE IN TIME, which is plain awful puts a huge wrinkle in this trend of hits.  It is noticeable worse than the second of Disney’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND movies and prove that good intentions do not necessarily turn out good movies.  The element of wonder is missing in this fantasy picture.


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