Matt writes: RogerEbert.com publisher Chaz Ebert’s grandson, Joseph London Smith, was killed this past August at age 30. She paid tribute to him in a powerful, picture-filled essay which can be read in full here. Below are the first few paragraphs of her article…
The day after hip hop artist Takeoff of the Grammy award-winning group Migos was shot and killed at a Houston bowling alley, a YouTube video went viral showing Deion Sanders, the NFL Hall of Famer and coach of Jackson State University’s football team, telling his players in Houston for a game: “Y’all ain’t leaving the hotel until further notice.”
I don’t blame him for reacting that way. Takeoff, whose birth name was Kirshnick Khari Ball, was reportedly the unintended victim of gunfire that erupted at a private gathering following an altercation over a dice game. He was 28 years old. Sanders went on to warn the players to thoughtfully consider who’s around them and the situations they put themselves in.
“People who are influential are leaving us consistently,” Sanders continued. “You cannot kick it with the same dudes . . . They can talk about you, ridicule you, clown you, but you’re going to have to disconnect. So, get that in your spirit.”
I understand coach Sanders wanting to keep those young men close to be on the safe side. Proximity to individuals who do not value life, who would fire a weapon over a minor falling out, can have deadly consequences, particularly for Black men and boys. Tragically, my grandson, Joseph London Smith, became one of them. He wasn’t kicking it with some bad dudes on the night of August 13, but a bullet that wasn’t meant for him found him anyway.
Joseph was a photographer and produced short films and music videos through his J. Smith Films Company. He was scouting locations to film a music video that night and checked out a club in northwest Atlanta. He had arrived back at his car when shots rang out. According to Atlanta police, there was a spat outside the club over a parking space. Joseph, whom most people called JoJo, had no part in it. But because of growing gun violence, Joseph, a father, a son, a grandson, a brother, a nephew, a cousin and a friend, died at the scene. Two other people were shot. A suspected accomplice is in custody, but the shooter is still at large.
Because it remains an open homicide investigation that is all I can say about it.
November 7th was Joseph’s birthday; he would have turned 31. That day, his mother Shenna and his siblings and friends in Minneapolis celebrated Joseph’s life with a prayer, a balloon release and a dinner in his honor. My son, Joseph’s father, Josibiah (“Jay”), and other family members celebrated him in Arizona. They refused to allow the shooter to deprive us of honoring the beautiful soul who graced this earth for 30 years.
We should have heard Joseph utter the parting three words he always said whether we were talking on the phone or in person, “I love you.” Instead, my family has joined countless others grieving a loved one lost to gun violence, huddled in pain and asking, “When will this senseless killing end?”
It has taken some time for me to be able to share this heartbreaking grief. Remembering Joseph on his birthday hasn’t made it any easier. But I want people to know who he was and that he loved deeply and was deeply loved and cherished by his family.
The Whale (2022). Directed by Darren Aronofsky. Written by Samuel D. Hunter. Starring Brendan Fraser, Sadie Sink, Hong Chau. Synopsis: A reclusive English teacher attempts to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter. Debuts in the US on December 9th, 2022.
Empire of Light (2022). Written and directed by Sam Mendes. Starring Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward, Colin Firth. Synopsis: A drama about the power of human connection during turbulent times, set in an English coastal town in the early 1980s. Debuts in the US on December 9th, 2022.
Joyride (2022). Directed by Emer Reynolds. Written by Ailbhe Keogan. Starring Olivia Colman, Charlie Reid, Lochlann O’Mearáin. Synopsis: A headstrong solicitor’s plan to offload her new born baby to her sister, is derailed when a vulnerable but opinionated teenager steals their taxi. Debuts in the US on December 23rd, 2022.
Magic Mike’s Last Dance (2023). Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Written by Reid Carolin. Starring Channing Tatum, Salma Hayek, Nancy Carroll. Synopsis: The last installment of the “Magic Mike” saga. Debuts in the US on February 10th, 2023.
80 for Brady (2023). Directed by Kyle Marvin. Written by Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Kyle Marvin and Michael Angelo Covino. Starring Sally Field, Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno. Synopsis: A group of friends made it their life-long mission to go to the Super Bowl and meet NFL superstar Tom Brady. Debuts in the US on February 3rd, 2023.
Sr. (2022). Directed by Chris Smith. Synopsis: Follow the tender but appropriately irreverent account of the life and career of Robert Downey Sr., the fearless and visionary American director who set the standard for countercultural comedy in the 1960s and 1970s. Debuts on Netflix on December 2nd, 2022.
Enys Men (2023). Written and directed by Mark Jenkin. Starring Mary Woodvine, Edward Rowe, Flo Crowe. Synopsis: Set in 1973 on an uninhabited island off the Cornish coast, a wildlife volunteer’s daily observations of a rare flower turn into a metaphysical journey that forces her as well as the viewer to question what is real and what is nightmare. Debuts in the US on January 12th, 2023.
Inside (2023). Directed by Vasilis Katsoupis. Written by Ben Hopkins. Starring Willem Dafoe, Gene Bervoets, Josia Krug. Synopsis: Nemo, a high-end art thief, is trapped in a New York penthouse after his heist doesn’t go as planned. Locked inside with nothing but priceless works of art, he must use all his cunning and invention to survive. Debuts in the US on March 10th, 2023.
Missing (2023). Written and directed by Nicholas D. Johnson and Will Merrick. Starring Nia Long, Amy Landecker, Storm Reid. Synopsis: The follow-up to Aneesh Chaganty’s hit indie, “Searching.” Debuts in the US on January 20th, 2023.
The Old Way (2023). Directed by Brett Donowho. Written by Carl W. Lucas. Starring Nicolas Cage, Clint Howard, Kerry Knuppe. Synopsis: An old gunslinger and his daughter must face the consequences of his past, when the son of a man he murdered years ago arrives to take his revenge. Debuts in the US on January 6th, 2023.
The Apology (2022). Written and directed by Alison Locke. Starring Anna Gunn, Linus Roache, Janeane Garofalo. Synopsis: Twenty years after the disappearance of her daughter, a recovering alcoholic is preparing to host her family’s Christmas celebration when her estranged ex-bother-in-law arrives unannounced, bearing nostalgic gifts and a heavy secret. Debuts in the US on December 16th, 2022.
I Am Ruth (2022). Created by Dominic Savage. Starring Kate Winslet, Mia Threapleton, Cairon Pearson. Synopsis: A concerned mother who struggles to help her teenage daughter Freya as she becomes increasingly consumed by social media. US release date is TBA.
John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023). Directed by Chad Stahelski. Written by Shay Hatten and Michael Finch (based on characters created by Derek Kolstad). Starring Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård. Synopsis: John Wick uncovers a path to defeating The High Table. But before he can earn his freedom, Wick must face off against a new enemy with powerful alliances across the globe and forces that turn old friends into foes. Debuts in the US on March 24th, 2023.
Darby and the Dead (2022). Directed by Silas Howard. Written by Becca Greene. Starring Riele Downs, Auli’i Cravalho, Chosen Jacobs. Synopsis: Followed by Darby Harper, who is granted the ability to see ghosts after suffering a near death experience in her childhood. Then, she runs a side business counseling local spirits in her spare time. Debuts on Hulu on December 2nd, 2022.
Christmas with the Campbells (2022). Directed by Clare Niederpruem. Written by Barbara Kymlicka, Dan Lagana and Vince Vaughn. Starring Justin Long, Brittany Snow, George Wendt. Synopsis: When Jesse gets dumped right before the holidays by her boyfriend Shawn, his parents convince her to still spend Christmas with them, and Shawn’s handsome cousin, while Shawn is away. Debuts in the US on December 2nd, 2022.
Something from Tiffany’s (2022). Directed by Daryl Wein. Written by Tamara Chestna (based on the book by Melissa Hill). Starring Zoey Deutch, Kendrick Sampson, Ray Nicholson. Synopsis: Follows a woman as her life gets upended when an engagement ring that was for someone else leads her to the person she’s meant to be with. Debuts on Prime Video on December 9th, 2022.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022). Directed by Joel Crawford and Januel Mercado. Written by Paul Fisher. Starring Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Florence Pugh. Synopsis: Puss in Boots discovers that his passion for adventure has taken its toll: he has burned through eight of his nine lives. Puss sets out on an epic journey to find the mythical Last Wish and restore his nine lives. Debuts in the US on December 21st, 2022.
Elemental (2023). Directed by Peter Sohn. Written by Brenda Hsueh. Starring Mamoudou Athie and Leah Lewis. Synopsis: Follows Ember and Wade, in a city where fire-, water-, land- and air-residents live together. Debuts in the US on June 16th, 2023.
The Best Films of Peter Weir
Matt writes: In honor of his lifetime achievement Oscar, filmmaker Peter Weir is the subject of an essay by our contributor Daniel Joyaux, who spotlights his most essential pictures, including 1985’s “Witness,” featuring a career-best performance by Harrison Ford. You can watch the official “Siskel & Ebert” review of the film in the video embedded above.
Elegance Bratton on “The Inspection”
Matt writes: I recently had the honor of interviewing filmmaker Elegance Bratton about his achingly personal debut feature, “The Inspection,” which was praised by our Editor at Large Matt Zoller Seitz. You can read our complete conversation here.
Sex (1920). Directed by Fred Niblo. Written by C. Gardner Sullivan. Starring Louise Glaum, Irving Cummings, Peggy Pearce. Synopsis: A broadway actress uses her sex appeal to ruin a marriage only to dump her lover for a richer prospect.
Penny Serenade (1941). Directed by George Stevens. Written by Morrie Ryskind. Starring Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, Beulah Bondi. Synopsis: A couple’s big dreams give way to a life full of unexpected sadness and unexpected joy.
Watch “Penny Serenade”
They Were So Young (1954). Directed by Kurt Neumann. Written by Kurt Neumann and Felix Lützkendorf. Starring Scott Brady, Johanna Matz, Raymond Burr. Synopsis: A model agency in Rio de Janeiro is actually a front for a white-slavery ring that kidnaps European women and sells them on the South American sex market.
Watch “They Were So Young”