Clay Cane is a New York City-based writer who is recognized for his contributions in journalism. Clay is a regular contributor for various print and online publications such as The Advocate and BET.com. He is the author of the highly anticipated novel Ball-Shaped World, which is a fictionalized account of the black and Latino ballroom scene. Also, he is the Entertainment Editor at BET.com and a member of New York Film Critics Online. He can be reached at claycane@gmail.com.


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    Wednesday, October 17, 2007

    What an appropriate title—Lawd knows we almost lost Halle Berry in the box office flames of Catwoman, Gothika and Perfect Stranger! I had just about given up on Berry’s choices of movies, but she is finally back as if she knows this is her last chance to prove that her dramatic skills weren’t just a one-hit wonder in Monster’s Ball.

    Halle Berry and Oscar winner Benicio Del Toro star in Things We Lost in the Fire, a story of two destroyed souls brought together by unlikely circumstances. Berry is Audrey Burke, a privileged, suburban mother of two whose husband is killed by a random act of violence. Del Toro is Jerry, a downtrodden drug addict who was childhood friends with Berry’s deceased husband.

    The human spirit is stretched beyond the limit as Audrey and Jerry are brought together in an emotional tug of war. Things We Lost in the Fire is a complex story of extreme loss, emotional addiction and what we never can reclaim, but only remember, after the fire.

    At first glance I thought, “Here we go, an overly emotional Halle Berry whining about someone dying again!” However, by the first millisecond of this film you notice Audrey Burk is a different character for Berry. Berry encompasses every molecule of Audrey with a controlled energy down to the blink of her eyes to the deadpan daze to even the tone in her voice while exploding at her children.

    Berry sizzles with no remains of Monster’s Ball or Losing Isaiah. While this is undoubtedly her best performance, I doubt she will win another Oscar and I’m even unsure of a Golden Globe. Monster’s Ball was a particular time in Halle’s career, Denzel Washington was also nominated and Sidney Poitier was honored. It was Negro night at the Oscars!


    Whatever the case, no one should ever utter the words that Halle Berry cannot act; she is one of the greatest actors of our time.

    Benicio Del Toro is the true standout. Del Toro’s role as a relapsing drug addict was gut-wrenching and so believable that at times I felt like I was sitting in the room with him rather than in a theatre. Without a doubt Del Toro will receive an Oscar nomination and if he doesn’t it would just be a new low in the Academy Awards ignoring Latin actors. Someone of Latin descent has not won a best actor or best actress Oscar since the legendary Jose Ferrer in 1950.

    Things We Lost in the Fire tells its story with amazing cinematic and directorial choices. There are a sequence of flashbacks, shots of a dilated eye, or quick cuts that punch right in the gutter of the characters’ emotions. Many films can easily get murky in this risky type of storytelling, but not once does the movie become lost in lofty artistic endeavors (Beloved). The movie takes its time to deliver—the woman next to me was gripping the armrests and her entire body was reverberating with racking sobs!

    I'm sure there will be a few rants about race, but I think it's pointless. The movie was originally written for a white character, Berry begged for the role and luckily she got it. Actually, outside of her husband and her husband's family, the only other white people in the movie are drug addicts. I never once felt race needed to be addressed, it would've felt pushed, unrealistic and, most importantly, unnecessary. Any complaints that Halle plays too many roles with interracial couples doesn't know her career and is just reaching...there are more racial and stereotype issues with Tyler Perry's films than anything in Things We Lost in the Fire.

    Many black folks yell to support black films and trekked out to see Tyler Perry last weekend—I truly hope they can do the same for Things We Lost in the Fire. It is rare to have a black woman and a Puerto Rican man star in the same film. Also, we have stunning performances from the youngest of the cast, Alexis Llewellyn and Micah Berry, who reminded me of the children from Eve’s Bayou. There are several other performances from unknowns like Paula Newsome and Omar Benson Miller, names we should all remember if we truly believe in “support”.

    Why Did I Get Married? was an enjoyable film that supposedly represents “positive” black people. On the other hand, Things We Lost in the Fire is an exquisite piece of humanity that offers intelligent, well-done and thoughtful performances from people of color. Let’s hope those who holler “support” will support…remember, in 1997 Booty Call grossed over 20 million nationwide while Eve’s Bayou only brought in 14 million.

    Normally, I do movie reviews on Friday, but I decided to do this one a few days early so you can buy your tickets in advance! Put your money, or your date’s money, where your mouth is!

    Things We Lost in the Fire opens nationwide this Friday.

    4.5/5 stars

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    Posted by Clay :: 12:00 AM :: 10 comments

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