8 Best Movies to Watch by Samuel L. Jackson
Eve’s Bayou is a Southern Gothic tale of spirituality, family, secrets, and the ties that bind them together. The story follows the awakening, both spiritual and emotional, of young Eve Baptiste. The middle sibling of the Baptiste family, 10-year-old Eve, navigates childhood while enduring the tumultuous relationship between her mother and father.
What lurks beneath a seemingly ordinary marital conflict is an insidious betrayal that could tear her entire family apart. Eve’s Bayou should be considered one of the greatest Black American epics of the past 25 years. I adore this film because it is unflinchingly real - and honest about the sometimes rocky reality of familial bonds.
Filmed with a perfect blend of realism and embellished style, Fresh is a coming-of-age story set in the poverty of the New York City projects, wherein the protagonist "grows up" only by learning to become dangerous and losing his sense of self. There's no satisfaction in watching 12-year-old Michael (or "Fresh," as he's called) use his supposed innocence as a tool to manipulate his way to a safer position. The system continues to reign supreme and Fresh only buries himself into a deeper hole. Boaz Yakin's direction is direct and expressive, the city stirring to vibrant life in every scene, and the tremendous performances from Giancarlo Esposito and a then-teenage Sean Nelson drive home the tragedy with full force.
Already featuring some of the desperation and melancholy that would go on to characterize most of his work, Paul Thomas Anderson's Hard Eight manages to draw palpable suspense and drama out of, essentially, three characters and a couple of seedy locations. We learn perhaps too little about these characters and why this veteran gambler is drawn to a young homeless man, but there's also something intriguing about how Anderson suggests much larger and much crueler stories going on just out of sight. It truly feels like these people are just trying to hold on to the smallest things that ease their pain—which works because of incredibly compelling work from Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, and a young Gwyneth Paltrow already at the top of her game.
Revolutionaries come in many forms. Some prefer to rally in the streets, while others, like the businessman Bernard Garrett, championed race equality in his field of finance. Discreetly and rather dangerously, he purchased buildings and offered loans to his fellow Black men at a time when they were denied these rights and more. It was an ingenious plan hatched at a precarious time, and the film captures how Garrett (Anthony Mackie) managed to pull it off (for the most part).
The Banker doesn't get as thrilling as it could be, but it is fueled by a smart script that unapologetically gets to the nitty-gritty math of it all, as well as engaging performances by Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson, and Nicholas Hoult. The film effectively revives Garrett's inspiring story for a modern audience, turning it into an important piece of American history that won't soon be forgotten.
A deep dive into African-American cinema in the 1970s, Is That Black Enough for You?!? may at times feel like an extended audiovisual Wikipedia article, but it convincingly sets up its ideas in breezy, entertaining fashion. And it successfully argues that Hollywood today just hasn't cashed in on the wealth of innovative Black art that already existed 50 years ago. At the center of this talking heads documentary is director and narrator Elvis Mitchell, who elevates the assembled footage with frank commentary that isn't afraid to make things personal or to throw shade at other filmmakers who've made a career out of appropriating Black film traditions.