5 Film Noir That Aren’t In The Criterion Collection (But Definitely Should Be)

There’s no way “BAPS” is anybodyis the top choice for Criterion status. I’ll admit that this badly maligned Robert Townsend comedy (whose most popular film, “Hollywood Shuffle,” also deserves some Criterion love) is my only selfish suggestion for this list. “BAPS” stars Halle Berry and Natalie Desselle-Reed as two home girls who travel from Decatur, Georgia to Los Angeles to become video girls. Their plans change when they end up scamming a white millionaire (Martin Landau), who likes girls so much he helps turn them into black American princesses.

To me, “BAPS” is a cute, campy Cinderella story in the vein of all avant-garde girl movies of the late ’90s – but for some reason (misogynoir, probably) it’s one of the most vehemently hated of the time. Roger Ebert hated it so much that he withheld any star of its rating, citing the film as a whole as tacky and garish. “I suspect African-Americans will be offended by the film,” he wrote in his initial review, “and white people will be embarrassed. The film will bring us all together, I imagine, in crippling boredom.”

It’s probably no coincidence that the most dismissive reviews for “BAPS” were written by white male critics. I’m not saying the movie is perfect, but it’s hard to accurately judge a movie about black women without a deep understanding of the black women’s experience. “BAPS” was one of the few 1997 films created almost entirely by black artists. The screenplay was written by Troy Beyer, an actress-turned-writer who wanted to write the roles she always wanted for herself. It might be cheesy, sure, and the ending is almost happy, but that’s why black women love it.

“BAPS” is a break from the endless cycle of suffering black characters endure on screen, a rare fairy tale for those who wouldn’t normally be considered for one. If nothing else, it’s like a time capsule for best of 90s camp, and an exhibition for some of costume designer Ruth E. Carter’s best work (Carter will win the Oscar for Best Costume Design for her work in “Black Panther”). at all less, “BAPS” deserves a second look. Plus, imagine how cute Criterion’s cover redesign would be.

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