Category Archives: Jeffrey Wright

American Fiction-2023

American Fiction-2023

Director Cord Jefferson

Starring Jeffrey Wright, Issa Rae, Sterling K. Brown

Scott’s Review #1,421

Reviewed February 11, 2024

Grade: A

American Fiction (2023) is an intelligently written expose of black culture and a poignant family drama mixed as one. Cord Jefferson makes his feature directorial debut with the satirical comedy-drama which he also wrote.

The film explores how perceptions of black people, mostly by white people but even amongst themselves, are categorized into neat little boxes.

Usually, the negative stereotypes are assumptions of bad grammar, poverty, and hardships in ghetto situations.

While some may be sympathetic these beliefs are either conscious or subconscious and they are propelled by the media. In the case of the film, through literary works.

Are white people intimidated by intelligent black people, the film questions. How do the intelligent black people feel about themselves?

American Fiction is a witty, smart, funny, and poignant film that will make you laugh as often as it makes you think about the perspectives offered.

Jefferson brilliantly offers up both an education and powerfully drawn black characters. In the middle is a sentimental family storyline that had me enraptured by almost all the characters.

The writer/director bases his film on the 2001 novel Erasure by Percival Everett. Thelonious “Monk” Ellison (Jeffrey Wright) is a highly intelligent African-American upper-class writer and professor living in Los Angeles.

He is a frustrated novelist-professor who doesn’t make much money or sales from his serious works.

Needing money after moving back to Massachusets on a leave of absence, he decides to write an outlandish satire of stereotypical “black” books, only for it to succeed by mistakenly thought of as serious literature and published to both high sales and critical praise.

He struggles with keeping his alter ego a secret while questioning the lack of intelligence with people assumed to be the liberal elite and the general public.

Wright is great and leads the charge of a dynamic cast. He makes his characters believable and their motivations clear while still showing Monk’s conflict. Monk has lived a privileged life with education, social status, and success.

His experience as a black man is different than other black men and he is smart enough to know this while still wrestling with his feelings.

Wright is dynamic at showing many emotions.

To make the film even better, the supporting characters are delightful with their own stories, making me fall in love with them. Special call-outs are for Sterling K. Brown and Erika Alexander who plays Monk’s brother and girlfriend, respectively.

Brown as Cliff is a successful surgeon but lives a conflicted life as a newly ‘out’ middle-aged gay man. He dabbles in drugs and promiscuous behavior but all he wants is approval by his family.

Alexander is a successful public defender and neighbor of the Ellison’s going through a divorce. She relates to Monk while challenging him on his bullshit and is a richly carved character.

Also, Leslie Uggams Monk’s mother suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, Ellison’s housekeeper Lorraine (Myra Lucretia Taylor), and Issa Rae as Sintara Golden are weaved into the canvas seamlessly and with purpose.

The film’s ending left me scratching my head and caught me off guard. While clever, it made me wonder if what I had just seen was reality or fantasy. Providing three different endings as adapted film options it’s tough to know which if any actually happened but maybe that’s the point.

I left the movie theater having laughed out loud, thought, and been entertained.

American Fiction (2023) made me feel like I had seen something relevant that would help me understand people better and give me insight into what other people feel.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Picture, Best Actor-Jeffrey Wright, Best Supporting Actor-Sterling K. Brown, Best Adapted Screenplay (won), Best Original Score

Independent Spirit Awards Nominations: 2 wins-Best Film, Best Lead Performance-Jeffrey Wright (won), Best Supporting Performance-Erika Alexander Sterling K. Brown, Best Screenplay (won)



Director Oliver Stone

Starring Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks

Scott’s Review #1,130

Reviewed April 7, 2021

Grade: B+

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again- the United States political landscape forever changed with the dastardly 2016 presidential election. Presidents pre and post-2016 are held to a completely different standard.

We didn’t see this coming.

That said, the film W. (2008) is a biography and satire of George W. Bush, the forty-third president of the United States, who held office during the deadly 9/11 attacks.

Thought by some to be a moron, director Oliver Stone is careful to ease up on the obvious mockery and barbs that are usually thrown at Bush. There is some of that but surprisingly the film contains some sympathetic moments.

For example, a clever addition is a complex relationship between father and son, something shadowed from the spotlight. At least I was never aware there was any friction between Dad and Son.

Fans who lean or are conservative may not like the film. It’s not exactly pro-Bush but neither is it anti. It simply tells a good and accurate story.

Stone wisely features an all-star cast and offers a retrospective chronicling the life and political career of George W. Bush, from his troubles as a young adult through his governorship of Texas and to the Oval Office.

It’s well-made because it provides the uninformed viewer with an important history lesson.

The lineup is juicy featuring an array of elite Hollywood stars. Josh Brolin sinks his teeth into the title role while Elizabeth Banks is more low-key as former First Lady Laura Bush.

In support, James Cromwell and Ellen Burstyn play George H.W. Bush and Barbara, while Richard Dreyfuss is fantastic as Dick Cheney.

Finally, Thandie Newton is as delicious as Condoleeza Rice.

Flashbacks are key to his life events revealing the rise of George W. Bush from ne’er-do-well party boy and son of privilege to president of the United States. After giving up booze for religion, George mends his restless ways and sets his sights first on the Texas governorship, which he achieves, then on the presidency.

By a fluke, he achieved this too but lost the popular vote, forever a bee in his bonnet.

However, the country’s involvement in the Iraq war affects his reign and decreases his approval rating.

The historical accuracy appears to be valid and most details are taken from non-fiction books. That’s why the film is perfect for those who wish to brush up on their history or who are intrigued about the life and times of a modern president.

Just be prepared for a bit of comedy.

To be fair, there are moments in W. when it feels like a long Saturday Night Live sketch and the characters are caricatures. It’s not exactly a parody nor is it a documentary either.

Sort of a hybrid.

The heart of the film belongs to Josh Brolin (reportedly he stepped in for Christian Bale at the last minute). Major props go to Brolin for a nuanced, spot-on characterization of the former president.

He’s got the mannerisms down and turns of the head, his walk, and speech patterns. He is careful to take a controversial public persona and portray him with both humor and humanity. Never completely silly but not as a straight man either. The real Bush always had a bit of a devilish aww shucks persona.

Post 2016 it’s tough to care much about W. (2008) though. It’s sort of an “of its time” film.  Too much has happened since the Bush years, or even since 2008 when the film was made.

Donald Trump made so many things irrelevant. I can’t wait until a satire emerges about him. You know one is coming.

Only Lovers Left Alive-2014

Only Lovers Left Alive-2014

Director Jim Jarmusch

Starring Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston

Scott’s Review #237


Reviewed April 24, 2015

Grade: B

Only Lovers Left Alive (2014) is a bizarre trip into the strange and unusual world of vampires.

The film, moving slowly, becomes hypnotic, grabbing me into the plot, though the plot itself seems almost secondary to the gothic mood and dark ambiance of the film.

Thanks to the wonderful Tilda Swinton, who I find mesmerizing in every film role she appears in, the methodical film never completely bored me and, at times, even fascinated me.

Set in present times, Swinton and Tom Hiddleston play vampires named Adam and Eve, who are lovers separated geographically. Adam is a musician living in a vast Victorian house in Detroit and Eve resides in Tangier.

Realizing that Adam is lonely and suicidal, Eve makes the international trek to the United States to be with her love. While they begin enjoying a quiet existence immersed in music and thoughts, Eve’s rebellious sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) from Los Angeles adds havoc to their lives.

Also cast in the film is John Hurt, who plays Marlowe, an ancient vampire assisting Adam and Eve, who succumbs to sickness due to tainted blood.

The film is a creative, atmospheric offering from edgy independent film director Jim Jarmusch, known for such left-of-center fare as Broken Flowers (2005) and Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), which are visual and visceral achievements.

While I did not completely love this film, feeling that the actual story is the weakest area, the magical and beautiful arrangements almost make up for any shortcomings.

Set entirely at night (when vampires are awake) and featuring several shots of Adam and Eve posed naked or almost naked in lovely, artistic angles, I think the film is going for a “look” as much as for storytelling and not completely centering on the plot.

It is also a lovely romantic film, though not in the typical sense of silly misunderstandings, and comical moments, but rather in romantic artistry, as Adam and Eve connect spiritually.

Married hundreds of years ago, Adam and Eve have been inexplicably separated by thousands of miles and coasts, though the reason is not explained.

Why are they the few remaining vampires alive? Does the human race know they are vampires or think they are odd-looking people? They both have money to burn and pay a high cost for being vampires as they either pay a contact to steal blood from hospitals to survive or obtain the blood elsewhere.

They are tempted to bite humans but resist those urges. The film does not explain why they are two of the few vampires left in the world or other questions. Adam, supposedly a famous musician, is wealthy beyond words and lives in a haunted-looking mansion surrounded by music and musical instruments.

The plot holes, of course, are secondary to me. None of them matter.

The film has beautiful moments- it is musically centered and Adam and Eve on more than one occasion engage in beautiful, tender dances the film is a pure love story, but a very left-of-center one.

I admire the film’s creativity and going where most filmmakers do not dare to go. Jarmusch dares to be different and deserves much praise.

The negative for me was the pacing of the film- the story almost does not matter as the film feels more like an experience in art than a “mainstream” film containing strong plot points and focus.

Only Lovers Left Alive (2014) is a different type of film and one worth admiring.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Female Lead-Tilda Swinton, Best Screenplay

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire-2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire-2013

Director Francis Lawrence

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson

Scott’s Review #1


Reviewed June 16, 2014

Grade: B-

I confess to not having read any of the Hunger Games books, so I am critiquing the film on its film merits only with no knowledge of the books.

Interestingly, I graded the first Hunger Games (2012) film a B- and that is what I am giving this one, almost for the same reason.

The first hour sets up the second hour, but it is unnecessarily drawn out. At times it’s slightly dull.

The meat of the film then takes off and the film is quite good though the film still does not completely hold my attention throughout.

First and foremost, Jennifer Lawrence is the best part. She has the charisma and likability to carry it off.

The chemistry between the two leads (Lawrence and Hutcherson) is there so there is rooting value for the couple.

The third part of the triangle is weak (Liam Hemsworth has far too little screen time to make him a viable rooting factor).

Donald Sutherland is wonderful as the evil President, but Philip Seymour Hoffman seems to phone in his performance and the character is not all that intriguing.

The mood of the film and visuals (fog, train sequences) are great because there is modern darkness, and the premise and wondering who will die next during the games are interesting.

The somewhat twist at the end was effective.

To summarize nice characters/acting, great looking film, mediocre story, and slow pacing in the first act.