The John Singleton Collection (Boyz N the Hood, Poetic Justice, Higher Learning)

 
9780767870658: The John Singleton Collection (Boyz N the Hood, Poetic Justice, Higher Learning)
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Boyz N the Hood (1991, 112 min.) - Three friends grow up in a South Central Los Angeles neighborhood, where friendship, pain, danger and love combine to form reality. "Poetic Justice" (1993, 109 min.) - A mismatched pair pushed together on a road trip fr

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Review:

Boyz N the Hood
John Singleton, at the age of 23, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his debut film, Boyz N the Hood. The film stars Laurence Fishburne, Angela Basset, Ice Cube, and Academy Award-winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr. in his first starring role in a feature film. Gooding plays Tre Styles, a teenager growing up in South Central Los Angeles. His father, Furious (Fishburne), is divorced and living away from Tre and his mother (Basset), but he's still involved in Tre's upbringing, teaching him the values of right and wrong and responsibility. Meanwhile, Tre's childhood buddies Ricky (Morris Chestnut) and Doughboy (Ice Cube) are living their lives in terms of the epidemic of violence and poverty that has plagued their neighborhood. Ricky, a talented football player, strives to get a full athletic scholarship to college. If only his SAT scores were higher. Doughboy lives a life full of crime but still remains true to his friends. The obstacles that these three young men come across result in dire consequences, devastatingly avoidable and inevitable at the same time. Boyz N the Hood is a landmark film beyond its commercial success, presenting a portrait of South Central in the late '80s and early '90s as painted by Singleton (who grew up in that neighborhood), achieving accuracy and dramatic resonance in this story of at-risk youth. --Shannon Gee

Poetic Justice
Director John Singleton (Boyz N the Hood, Rosewood) made an earnest effort in this, his second, film to say a great deal that is true and relevant about living and loving in a violent, difficult time in American history. Janet Jackson plays a beautician and poet who withdraws into herself after her boyfriend is murdered by gangsters. The late Tupac Shakur plays a postman who tries to get through to her, and the two travel on a course through urban America, connecting with family and community. Singleton has so much on his mind that the film comes out a terrible muddle, but there is a certain integrity peeking through the fog. Shakur makes a startlingly good impression in his film debut, and Jackson strips away her star veneer to play something like a real person--and entirely succeeds. Maya Angelou wrote the poems that pass as those penned by Jackson's character, and she also appears in the film. --Tom Keogh

Higher Learning
This ambitious 1995 film by John Singleton (Boyz N the Hood) doesn't quite succeed at painting the illuminating, collective portrait of college life in the '90s that the director seeks. But Singleton does do a fine job of defining some conflicting impulses for young people on the cusp of adulthood, particularly the desire to broaden horizons on the one hand and circle the wagons with like-minded allies on the other. Students in the film's Columbus University divide themselves along lines of race, sexual preferences, ideology, and, most dangerously, levels of paranoia. Among the fine cast is Michael Rapaport, who portrays a loner drawn to a local community of neo-Nazis. His resultant problems with the school's African-Americans takes over the story at the expense of other, parallel dramas, but Singleton's insights into race hatred on campus--a microcosm of the surrounding culture--is not to be dismissed. --Tom Keogh

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