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DAR Films: The Best & Worst Of Black Film In 1998

By @TrueGodImmortal


1998 is a legendary year in music and we have covered both the R&B and hip hop side of things, as well as the general cinema landscape. The film world for black cinema was such at a high level that there were films coming in left snd right into the theater. Some were successful, others not so much and that is what we are here to discuss today. The best and worst in black film during the year 1998.
Films such as Blade, Rush Hour, and a few others do not apply due to their cast being more so equal or even more white than black. That's not a knock on those films, they just miss the list here, but there are more than enough choices to choose from. Let's get into it.

*The Player's Club


-So, this film is one of those movies that falls into middle of the pack. It is not a great piece of cinema and the premise itself is a bit silly, but there are some good performances here. Lisa Raye finally gets her shine after years of music video stardom, and she does well enough as Diamond. Jamie Foxx is solid here but the real star of this movie is Bernie Mac as the incomparable Dollar Bill. The strip club life never seemed so wild and scandalous from the outside looking in, but the "reality" of it is brought to life here with a star studded black cast.

*How Stella Got Her Groove Back


-Angela Bassett is one of the greatest actresses of all time. Her roles in various movies are well known and touted, but every now and then, she has a role or two that is more lighthearted than Academy Award nominated worthy and her performance in How Stella Got Her Groove Back is one of those. Based on the Terry McMillan novel, this movie features Angela in a more free flowing comedic role, with Whoopi Goldberg having one of her best roles as well as her best friend. Taye Diggs makes his official introduction to the world of black film as well, which would become a goldmine for him in the years following. How Stella Got Her Groove Back is not a favorite of mine, but it is a slightly enjoyable comedy that shines bright due to the performances from the actors involved.

*I Got The Hook-Up


-It is still a shock that this film was released in theaters, but in my ways, it is a cult classic. At the time, No Limit was the biggest force in the world and the most popular label from the South. Master P wasn't much of an actor but he was a visionary, and with that, the world was gifted with the film I Got The Hook-Up. Starring A.J. Johnson and most of the No Limit crew, this movie has some laughs throughout and is a simple hood classic. While the movie itself is nothing special, in terms of black cinema, this is a low budget comedy classic that is unfortunately getting the most unnecessary sequel 20 plus years later.

*He Got Game


-So, Spike Lee is known by many as one of the best black directors ever and rightfully so. His filmography is extensive with a number of great movies to speak of, and He Got Game adds another solid cinematic piece to his list. Denzel Washington stars alongside Ray Allen, who was not the best actor himself, but served the role as Jesus Shuttlesworth very well. Denzel is solid as Jake Shuttlesworth and the time that these two share on-screen is actually somewhat magnetic. Rosario Dawson has a solid role here, but I admit that there was no need for the Dakota storyline, but that's Spike Lee for you. There will be other storylines inside the main storylines, some of which that don't need to be there. Still, all in all, He Got Game is an enjoyable film from start to finish.

*Beloved


-I have always been a fan of Danny Glover as an actor, though I will admit he makes some peculiar film choices. I am not however a fan of Oprah and the films she is usually behind and Beloved was no different. The movie was extremely long for an excruciating watch and while I love to see Thandie Newton, this movie was not the best time to look at her. I mean, of course, she is still beautiful, but I'm just saying, this movie just had her play a rather crazy role that was her introduction to the film world on a major level. She had made small appearances before, but this was her breakout role. The film, based on the Toni Morrison novel, is nearly 3 hours and it has an element of horror buried within the drama. Beloved was a critical success but a commercial failure and I still remember reading that Oprah ate 30 pounds of Mac and Cheese while in depression over this movie failing. There is a lot to unpack there, but just know, this somehow speaks to the way I feel about this film.

*Hav Plenty


-So, I have mixed feelings on this movie. I was never a fan of the movie growing up and in my adult life, I do not find this movie to be anything special. It has some beautiful black women in it, which is a plus as always, but as a whole, the movie teeters in that odd space between overly corny and witty. It is funny in spurts, but just misses the mark a lot of times. That could be in part to the star, director, and creator of the film, Chris Cherot having his first go at it. This film is actually based upon his real life romance with a former Def Jam A&R executive, and while the story itself is a bit cluttered in how it is paced, there are some moments of entertainment. The biggest takeaway from this film to me is that it made about 3 million dollars on a budget of 65,000, so in that respect, it was a success. The film also a long list of excellent cameo appearances and the women starring in the movie do all the heavy lifting on the acting side of things.

*Dr. Dolittle


-So, in terms of black cinema, perhaps considering Dr. Dolittle as a black film is a slight reach, but it features a mostly black cast, and the soundtrack is actually pretty solid for the most part, geared towards hip hop and R&B. Eddie Murphy stars as the doctor that can speak to animals and as a kid's film, this is probably Eddie's best work in that regard. Eddie is funny here in spurts and while this is far from one of his best projects, it does provide some entertainment. I would consider Dr. Dolittle a success considering the flops that Eddie had during this time, which was the darkest time of his career, at least up until that point (just look at his hair).

*Caught Up


-Man, I really hated this movie. It had a solid cast, featuring cameos from Snoop and LL, and I was always a fan of Cynda Williams, but going with Bokeem Woodbine as a lead actor? Bad idea. On so many levels. The story? Confusing. Cynda Williams plays two roles. Two women. Who look exactly alike. Then, Bokeem goes through a maze of deception and nonsense, and once the movie ends, you'll be left confused wondering what the hell you just watched. Caught Up is a movie that you watch once, maybe twice as a guilty pleasure, and disregard forever. Bokeem Woodbine as the star of a damn motion picture. How dare you??!!!

*Why Do Fools Fall In Love


-So, this film was always interesting to me. It is not perfect by any stretch and has some flaws, but does feature some great performances from several of the actors involved. Lela Rochon, Vivica Fox, Halle Berry, and Larenz Tate all carry this movie, which is based on the life and times of Frankie Lymon, including the fallout after his death and everything surrounding the women in his life that mattered the most. Larenz was magnificent in this role and is the best part of the film to me. If I had to make a choice, I would say this movie is in the better side of the list.

*Belly


-So, of course, we arrive at this movie. The final movie we will discuss. This movie is a cult classic that is also regarded as a terrible movie and so many people have differing opinions on it. Starring DMX, Nas, and Method Man, among others, Belly is the simple hood story film that tries to succeed at telling a coming of age tale of sorts about two friends going in different directions while living the same street life. While the story and the ending are both uneven in a way, there is much to be said about the visuals in the film, and some of the dialogue teeters on the unintentionally hilarious side. Belly is a cult classic but also a pretty subpar film that feels like an extended music video instead of a movie.

-True

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