Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
There must be fewer experiences more wounding to the heart than for a parent to look at a child and fear for its future. In inner-city America, where one in every 21 young men will die of gunshot wounds, and most of them will be shot by other young men, it is not simply a question of whether the child will do well in school, or find a useful career: It is sometimes whether the child will live or die.
Watching her bright young son on the brink of his teenage years, seeing him begin to listen to his troublesome friends instead of to her, the mother in “Boyz N the Hood” decides that it is best for the boy to go live with his father. The father works as a mortgage broker, out of a storefront office. He is smart and angry, a disciplinarian, and he lays down rules for his son. And then, out in the streets of south central Los Angeles, the son learns other rules.
As he grows into his teens, his best friends are half-brothers, one an athlete, the other drifting into drugs and alcohol. They've known each other for years - and have steered clear, more or less, of the gangs which operate in the neighborhood. They go their own way. But there is always the possibility that words will lead to insults, that insults will lead to a need to “prove their manhood,” that with guns everywhere, somebody will be shot dead.
These are the stark choices in John Singleton’s “Boyz N the Hood,” one of the best American films of recent years. The movie is a thoughtful, realistic look at a young man’s coming of age, and also a human drama of rare power - Academy Award material. Singleton is a director who brings together two attributes not always found in the same film: He has a subject, and he has a style. The film is not only important, but also a joy to watch, because his camera is so confident and he wins such natural performances from his actors.