Jan 23, 2009

Notorious (2009)

The climax we all knew was coming but began expecting painfully early (such was the tragedy of B.I.G.'s life) arrived on time to coincide with Big Poppa's new release. Only when it arrived on the silver screen, something else was miraculously present, a cohort if you will; tear-jerking emotion. The final moments of Notorious finds itself in unfamiliar biopic territory as I find tears brimming in my eyes. Reliving the nightmare of hip-hop is no easy feat but yes, you will brave the death of an icon once more. Between the life-like performances of figures we've all heard of before and the redefining of re-enacted concert footage, Notorious thumps and pulses life into someone that is never forgotten.

Between the coastal rap war of Biggie and Tupac that spread throughout every urban environment, I found myself braving the side of the East coast. I'm not necessarily a fan of Puffy but the Notorious B.I.G. made my allegiance of the utmost loyalty. With my condolences to Tupac, I never got into his style of music making or his "revolutionary" tactics. The legend of Tupac Shakur is rarely listened to or experienced first hand. His spirit and memory lives on thanks to crude airbrushed shirts at your local farmer's market and his Makaveli brand of clothing. Perhaps one day, a biopic in his name will give him justice but until then I'd rather be hypnotized by Biggie's presence.

Few of you might have seen Robin William's film The Final Cut. The concept of this film follows "cutters" - cold film splicers who take a hard copy of memories and the vision of a persons entire life and trim them to make a fitting eulogy. This may seem like a departure from the topic of a deceased rapper but the tale is an unintentional philosophizing commentary on the subject of a biopic. Much like "biopics", the "producer" must pick and chose the struggles of a man and his saving grace, so to say that in the end, Christopher Wallace would appear a good and justified man. The truth might be farther than we know. While he represented the busted niggas, he was also a womanizing, drug-dealing piece of meat. But who's to say any of those are negative things?

On the topic of the music behind the film, Danny Elfman conducts the powerful theme of Notorious. Backed with classic hits from Biggie and the occasional departure such as the tune from Slick Rick the Ruler's Children's Story, Notorious is in no way malnourished in the arts of music. Notorious works in such mysterious ways that it presents songs that we've heard time and time again, but revives them. I can now listen to "Hypnotize" and "Juciy" and think to myself how fresh these tracks are, regardless of the decade gap. The concert footage is absolutely breath-taking. Early on from the trailer, I noticed the surreal like shots from behind Biggie's outline. The camera does his larger than life figure, literally and metaphorically, justice and the hues of dark blues and bright fluorescents light up the dancing crowd. As Biggie once said, "Dumb Rappers need teachin". This statement weaves perfectly for our era of Soulja Boy's and Rico Todriquez Wright's.

Notorious is a film that touched me. The fact that I let my guard down to this marvelous character who is faulted by none of his own is a progressive piece of instinct to me. Jamal Woolard is a highly qualified actor to star as Hip-Hop's departed titan of lyrical terror. Although the cast is mainly full of beautiful people to fill the roles of ugly people, mainly Lil' Kim, such is the ways of the Hollywood machine. I feel the greatest asset this film has is the young appearance of Biggie's son filling the shoes as the Notorious B.I.G. as a child. The pain conceived behind this film is entirely evident. Although this is only the perspective of the East coast on the war and the West coast is still not documented in a visually provoking way, I find solace in the fact that these facts are true. Who knows who killed B.I.G. and Pac? The world will never know.


1 comment:

Soiled Sinema said...

Below is a copy/paste review from an IMDb user. Notice that he expected this film to be related to an Alfred Hitchcock film and also "thinks" that this film is "supposedly" based on a true story. Either this is the greatest troll or someone who has been living in a cave.

"The only things in common between this movie and its 1946 namesake is the title. Any other similarities, of which there are none, is purely coincidental. This film is so bad that it is difficult to decide where to start. But start we must. First, the acting. The actor playing the main character had to be reading his lines off a prompter. His performance has to rank as one of the worst acting jobs in any major feature motion picture. Second, the main character. The main character has no redeeming personality characteristics. According to the movie, which is supposedly based on a true life story, the main character is a drug dealing, coke snorting, woman abusing gangster who disrespects his mother - and he stays the same throughout the movie. This guy has no qualms about selling crack to a pregnant woman. Third, the use of the N word. If anyone has any objections to hearing the N word, and hearing about five times every minute, then you better stay away from this movie. Then again, if you happen to be a fan of the N word, then this movie will leave you enthralled as African-Americans bandy that word around like a ball in a volley ball game. This movie does its utmost to present use of the N word as being an acceptable part of normal, everyday speech. In fact, this movie actually portrays the use of the N word as a token of honor and respect, a title to be bequeathed upon the royalty of the street who ply their various criminal trades for the almighty buck. Fourth, the music. There is rhyming and then there is noise that masquerades as rhyming. This movie contains a huge dose of the latter. But even with all these drawbacks, the movie would have still deserved at least a passing grade, albeit a low passing grade, if it weren't for item number five: the inherent racism that permeates this movie. In this movie racial stereotyping abounds. Every African-American character is portrayed as being a gangster, drug-dealer, drug-abuser, or whore, or a combination of two or more thereof, and completely incapable of functioning within the norms of mainstream society. This movie goes so far to portray an entire community as being populated by a bunch of gangsters, thereby stretching plausibility to an extreme. Okay, Bedford-Stuyvesant had more of its share of social problems, but c'mon, people still lived there, worked there, had families, went to school and got by. It's bad enough when non-African Americans produce slanted, racist images of African-Americans but when African-Americans themselves produce the same images then that is just pathetic. "