Sunday, October 25, 2015

Fast, Loose and Oh-So Smart

I have discovered the Sunday morning holy grail and it's hash and dope.

The Afrikana Independent Film Fest and Feast RVA were doing a Movies and Mimosas family brunch and screening at Candela Gallery. Ticket in hand, I was practically the first guest to arrive, although it didn't hurt that it was four blocks from home, either.

Somehow, I'd never been to a Feast RVA event, 'though I was well aware of how they worked and their higher purposes (supporting up and coming start-ups). Today there was a Mimosa bar courtesy of Saison and a sumptuous brunch buffet that covered all the important bases.

Finding a good seat was paramount because we'd be watching a movie after brunch, so I staked out a front seat and was soon joined at my table by a fascinating woman who works at Tricycle Gardens and with whom I had loads to talk about.

Of the many things we agreed on, one was that we were both starving, so we made sure to get in line early to get the brunch ball rolling. Returning to the table, her handsome brother - another Tricycle Gardens staffer - joined us and I got to enjoy watching sibling banter after he asked me for some romantic places I liked to hang out in the evening.

No sister could hear that question and not wonder what woman her bro wants to romance, but after that tangent, I brought it back to laughter, which I always find romantic.

Having piled my plate high, I'd chosen from fried chicken from Lee's (if only there had been waffles), an absolutely killer hash of crispy Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and onions from Ellwood Thompson's (there was a buzz going around the room about that hash), fried fish and grits from Croaker's Spot, two kinds of quiche (I chose kale) and an assortment of sweet breads, cinnamon rolls and freshly-baked cookies, the latter courtesy of my new friend.

The three of us ate ourselves silly and then it was time for "Dope," a movie I hadn't even heard of, although it was apparently a darling at Sundance and played here briefly this summer.

Ridiculously funny, appealingly smart and with a casual attitude about three black high school geeks in the L.A. suburbs who only want to ace their SATs and move on to college, the movie dished up satire to dispel every black movie cliche.

Riffing on our time, one kids suggests, "How about small batch craft-brewed malt liquor?" How about it?

With the improbable name of Malcolm, complete devotion to '90s-era hip hop music and a flat top, our hero plays in a punk band (hilariously called Oreo) with his geeky friends, studies hard and is a virgin. Cheerfully irreverent, the film doesn't try to teach any hard lessons or point out any inequities, instead portraying a black coming of age story for geeks.

When the drug Molly unexpectedly enter Malcolm's circumscribed world, in his backpack, no less, he deals with the situation just as a smart kid would: with foresight, false bravado and the assurance that he can problem-solve his way out of it.

Humor was pervasive, like when Malcolm's gay buddy Diggy shares that her parents took her to church to "pray away the gay" or he defends his college application's personal statement with, "If Neil Degrasse Tyson was writing about Ice Cube, this is what it would be."

A protracted conversation between white and black characters about the usage of the "n" word was riveting for delving into the various connotations the word has to different people.

I don't know what I found more satisfying about "Dope," the atypical characters (who were undoubtedly more common than the media acknowledge) or the lack of moralizing about the situations they found themselves in. Life happens and you deal with it and hopefully you still get into Harvard.

Post-movie, the crowd had a lively discussion about it, with many people justifying not having seen it at the theater because of a mistaken perception of what "Dope" was about. Some thought it got little attention because it's not a view of blacks that whites want to see (I disagree) and others thought that blacks like to keep great black films like this on the down low.

Personally, all I cared about was that I got to see such an interesting movie on the big screen after stuffing myself silly at brunch and making a couple of new friends. And I really dug the hash.

If it's okay for white people to use the "d" word, I'd call that a pretty dope morning.

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