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One Night in Miami

Regina King directed this film that provides a fictionalized account of a celebration meeting between four Black men – the singer Sam Cooke, who was at the height of his career; Cassius Clay (aka Muhammed Ali), who that night had become the world heavyweight boxing champion at 22; Malcolm X, who was in the middle of his rift with the Nation of Islam and its leader Elijah Muhammed; and James Brown, the best running back of his time (and now widely viewed as one of the greatest of all time). The film uses the meeting of these four men as a focal point for a fascinating dialogue between these 4 men, who were all great in their own ways, on how they each were dealing with the oppression of Black people in America. The dialog is sharp and highlights the different ways people experience oppression and how they rise up to meet it. The acting by all 4 is outstanding, and especially by Leslie Odom, Jr, who plays Sam Cooke, sings all of the songs, and even created a song for the movie, Speak Now, which is really wonderful. I am sure he will clinch a Best Supporting Actor nomination. I don’t always like the adaptions of plays to film, but this one works better than some because of the additional context that is provided into their lives, especially during the scenes at the beginning. Yet, I felt like a “fly on the wall” listening to each of them and how they experienced their lives right at that moment in time. This is a wonderful dialogue film and a reminder of how much work there was to do then and how much there is still left to do. Big thumbs up from me.  (2020; 4.5 Stars)

About Gary Burkholder

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