Category Archives: Movies

Surviving Compton

I’m a huge Mary J Blige (MJB) fan. I will never forget when her video debuted on Video Soul (old heads will know what I’m talking about). She had me at “you remind me…” So it pains me to have to besmirch her name. Just a little. While Blige has been credited with being the iconic voice of the merging of hip hop/soul music, spanning a 20+ career of record sells and awards, technically the honor should go to Michel’le.  Michel’le’s self-titled album was released three year’s before Blige’s in 1992. She really is the first r&b singer whose sound was heavily infused with hip hop music. This can probably be attributed to her boyfriend at the time, rapper/producer Dr. Dre.

Over the years, Michel’le has talked about her tumultuous relationship with Dr. Dre, stating he was very abusive towards her. When the film “Straight Out of Compton” came out last year, the allegations resurfaced. Most folks told Michel’le (and Dee Barnes) to shut up about their violent encounter(s) with Dr. Dre. Many felt that they should “let the past be the past” and that Dre had right to have his life story told.

Thank goodness neither Michel’le or Barnes listened to that nonsense. Barnes had an opportunity to tell her story via an online interview and now Michel’le will tell her side of things in the upcoming Lifetime movie, Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Me.” The movie will premiere this upcoming Saturday, October 15th.

Fitting it comes out during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Finally, one of the first female contributors to hip hop/soul music, is getting her due.

Hidden Figures

March is Women’s History Month. It’s a great opportunity to promote the upcoming film “Hidden Figures.”

“Set against the backdrop of the Jim Crow South and the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America’s space program—and whose contributions have been unheralded, until now…Segregated from their white counterparts by Jim Crow laws, these “colored computers,” as they were known, used slide rules, adding machines, and pencil and paper to support America’s fledgling aeronautics industry, and helped write the equations that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.” http://io9.gizmodo.com/janelle-monae-will-co-star-in-a-movie-about-the-women-b-1763634154

The movie will star Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and singer Janelle Monáe.  I’m happy that Henson will get a chance to play a different black woman character. While I usually enjoy her work, she tends to be typecast. I was pleasantly surprised to hear about the addition of Monáe. She has a song on her album “Electric Lady” dedicated to Sally Ride, the first American woman to go into space. Obviously, she was made for this role.

Kevin Costner will portray the head of the space program, so there will probably be some white savior element to the film, but overall it appears the story will focus on these three amazing women. I hope the film is as promising as it sounds. “Hidden Figures” will be released in January 2017.

Christine+Darden_glam
Photo from: http://margotleeshetterly.com/hidden-figures-nasas-african-american-computers/

 

 

 

Nina

Last year, black folks were  concerned when it was announced Zoe Saldana was cast as the iconic, Nina Simone. Folks worst fears were confirmed when the trailer for “Nina” was released this past weekend.

A lot of the criticism has focused on Saldana basically engaging in black face to portray the high priestess of soul. It’s considered offensive because Simone’s music was dedicated to speaking out against the marginalization of black folks, specifically darker skinned black folks. The (hideous) makeup job makes a mockery of her life’s work.

My other issue with the trailer is the story line of an “out of control” Simone. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging the mental health struggles of Simone. Honestly, I did not know this was something that affected her life, until recently. It’s not talked about when folks praise the legendary singer. I think mental health needs to be discussed more in the black community. Two groups I follow do an excellent job supporting black folks and mental health (No More Martyrs and Black Mental Health Alliance for Education & Consultation, Inc.)  Artist Erykah Badu recently highlighted bi-polar/depression at a fashion show. So, folks are working hard to bring more awareness to this important issue.

However, I find it interesting the writer-director decided to focus solely on this aspect of Simone’s life. It was not surprising to learn that the writer-director is a white woman (Cynthia Mort). It makes sense why she used black face to represent Simone. White women tend not to relate to the beauty struggles black women, particularly darker skinned black women, face under white supremacy. It makes sense why Mort zeroed in on the “breakdown” of Simone. She could not see the brilliance of Simone without framing it in a stereotypical “crazy” black woman caricature. Simone was regarded as a child progeny. She had to deal with harsh racism  while growing up. Imagine the pain navigating oppression when you are a gifted black child. I’m sure Simone’s mental health problems were exacerbated dealing with the daily abuse of white racism. But a film like that probably wouldn’t get the green light.

As far as Saldana, she should know better. Simone’s daughter has defended her in this role. I’m sure some of it is genuine support, but Simone’s daughter also has not found closure with her mother. She has talked about Simone being an abusive/neglectful parent.  It’s probably hard for her to look at the bigger picture of why Saldana was not a good fit for this role. Celebrities like Queen Latifah and Paula Patton have stood up for Salanda, but they are doing so in case they ever want to look ridiculous on film. You know celebrity egos.

The problem is Saldana tends to flip flop on the subject of racism (colorblind rhetoric). And yes, she’s tends to say she is a “black Latina,” but often celebrates her Latina side/declare she is more than “just black.”This is not someone who needed to represent Nina Simone, a consistently proud black woman.

 

Dope

I remember the buzz surrounding “Dope” last year. I mentally put it on my list of films to watch, but kind of forgot about it. The film popped up on my Google Play recommendations so I decided to give it a shot. “Dope” is an amusing tale about high school senior Malcolm. Malcolm hangs out with fellow “geeks,” Jib and Diggy. He wants to attend Harvard, but finds it’s not easy coming from a disadvantaged environment/home life.

While there were plenty of chuckles and moving moments in “Dope,” I’m still processing the film. It seems like another story of a young black kid wanting to get out of “the hood.”  Yet, actually subverting/mocking that stereotypical story line. The film doesn’t necessarily fit into a box, similar to the character of Malcolm. Or rather it’s “complicated.” The movie in some ways reminded me of the 1994 drama “Fresh.” 

The one thing I can say is that the black women characters were underdeveloped/blah.

  1. the single brown mother (the underused Kimberly Elise)
  2. the light skin crush (the bland  Zoe Kravitz)
  3. the film did try to be unique by including a gay female character, but she was mostly there for the guys to talk about ***** and show her breasts to get into a club (the curious Kiersey Clemons)
  4. and finally the drug snorting/sex kitten (the okay Chanel Iman)

Overall, an interesting indie film that will definitely make you think while giving you a fun ride.

 

Black Future Month #3

A few days ago, actress Aunjanue Ellis was spotted at an awards show wearing a dress with the words:”TAKE IT DOWN MISSISSIPPI.”

The actress was protesting Mississippi’s state flag which includes an image of the confederate flag. I was introduced to the beautiful Ellis after watching the film “Book of Negroes.” A relative was always trying to get me to watch the movie, but I would decline. I think it’s important slavery movies are made. But I tend to be weary of most slave films as they tend to consist of the same narrative of the downtrodden/beaten slave. I thought for sure it was going to be another one of those depressing tales.

However, I was pleasantly surprised. The “Book of Negroes” tackled the issue of slavery from a unique perspective. The fictional movie is based on a novel based on a true account of black slaves called “Black Loyalists.”

“The Book of Negroes is a historical document which records names and descriptions of 3,000 Black Loyalists, the African-American slaves who escaped to the British lines during the American Revolution and were evacuated by the British by ship to points in Nova Scotia as freed men. ” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Negroes

Ellis plays Aminata Diallo, a young African girl stolen from her family. She is sold into slavery and experiences the horrors that fell upon many slave women (abuse, rape, and children sold away). The story takes a turn as Aminata, who was taught to “catch” babies or help birth babies by her mother, has adventure after adventure due to her talent. She is also admired for her intelligence and literacy abilities.

I enjoyed “Book of Negroes” because it brought a freshness to the slave story and features a courageous black heroine. What I also liked about the film, it showed what happened when some slaves were able to make it back to Africa. It was rather heartbreaking, as they were not returning as the same people and struggled to adjust. It was foreshadowing of the conflicts that often happens between African-Americans and Africans today.

While black folks look to our future, we definitely should never forget our past. There are so many people who had to suffer for us to live today.

 

The Oscars

Initially, I wasn’t going to write about the hoopla surrounding the Oscars. I agree there needs to be more diversity/embracing of characters/stories of color. And while it’s fun to see your favorite actor/actress of color win the coveted statue, in the end it’s another self-congratulatory award show for overpaid celebrities. When you have poor folks becoming sick from contaminated water due to heartless city officials, in the grand scheme of things the Oscar boycott was meh to me. Particularly, since there has been criticism of how the Oscars are racist since forever.

But then some white actors/actresses started running their mouths. The one good thing that tends to come from controversies like the Oscar white out, is that folks show you who they really are. Folks who you thought were “liberal” and “colorblind” turn out to be clueless racists. The common complaint from these white actors/actresses is that maybe black folks just weren’t good enough to be nominated. This tends to be a typical response by many white folks when called out on the lack of diversity in work environments, etc.  Of course, they had to be mediocre, because white folks performances are always top notch *eye roll.*

Another amusing comment was made by actor Michael Cain. He said black folks just needed to be “patient.” What is this…1916 and not 2016? Has the whole Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM) been invisible to him? Black folks are refusing to wait. This was recently illustrated by a BLM protestor who interrupted a news conference holding up the sign #LaquanMcDonald‬People aren’t playing anymore.

The most offensive comment was made by actress Julie Delpy.

“It’s funny — women can’t talk. I sometimes wish I were African American because people don’t bash them afterward.”

Huh? She really would prefer to be black, eh? Anyway, isn’t Jada Pinkett-Smith a woman. She has been heavily criticized by folks, including this Delpy woman. Or does her womanhood don’t count because she’s an “African-American.” White feminists already failing in the new year. It’s interesting when speaking about women they are obviously only thinking about white women. From Patricia Arquette to Madonna they have framed their pro-woman rhetoric that exclude/insult black women/women of color. They don’t see us on the same level. Hmm…

In any case, it will be interesting to see how the Oscars turn out this year. It’s usually a snore fest so folks not showing up would at least give black folks a good chuckle when reviewing the YouTube clips.

oscar.jpg

Photo from: en.wikipedia.org

 

 

 

Lila & Eve

I found “Lila & Eve” on Google Play. Interestingly,  I heard never heard of the film before. After doing a bit of research, I learned the movie came out early last year. I guess it just didn’t get enough promotion. A shame because it’s rare to see a film featuring two women of color in lead roles. “Lila & Eve” is pretty predictable. I wasn’t surprised to see that it was produced by Lifetime. If you’ve seen one Lifetime film, you already know the deal 🙂 However, Viola Davis (as Lila) and Jennifer Lopez (as Eve) both give good performances. I wasn’t too surprised by Davis, but was impressed with Lopez. She’s usually hit or miss to me. The film follows Lila as a mother coping with the loss of her son to violence. She meets Eve at a gathering for grieving mothers. They form a bond and before you know it, exacting revenge on those who killed their loved ones. There is a twist (of course). It’s kind of obvious, because we have seen it a hundred times at this point. But the film is still decent. Something to watch on a lazy Saturday evening.

 

Lupita Nyong’o in Star Wars

I don’t give a damn about the Star Wars movie. It’s odd considering I love all things science fiction. While I liked the original Star Wars films, the new ones haven’t really peaked my interest. Even knowing my girl crush Lupita Nyong’o will be in the latest film, isn’t enough to propel me to the nearest theater. However,  I came across a great read that features the lovely actress. In the article “Lupita Nyong’o: ‘Under the makeup, Star Wars is just human wants and desires,'” Nyong’o talks about growing up privileged, her personal connection to the character of Patsey from “12 Years a Slave,” and her new off-Broadway play.

Nyong’o sure knows how to take gorgeous pictures. I wish her well in the Star Wars franchise.

12391205_933529143395653_2896493360627914619_n
Photo from: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/dec/12/lupita-nyongo-interview-star-wars

‘Underground’ TV Series

Really, slavery set to the background of rap music? It seems someone has watched Django too many times. The  new ‘Underground’ TV series features Jurnee Smollett-Bell the cute little girl from “Eve’s Bayou” (well, I guess she’s a grown woman now).

The show will debut in early 2016.

“Get ready for an escape drama like no other. Underground is set in the pre-Civil War South and follows a group of plantation slaves as they search for freedom, by any means necessary, with plantation owners closely following behind, and paying mercenaries for their return. The WGN America drama highlights the Underground Railroad, which consisted of a secret network of men and women who put their lives on the line to help slaves escape the South.”

I tend to have mixed emotions about slavery movies. I think it’s important to tell the stories from this time. Our country is too quick to act like slavery was just an “unfortunate act” and not the exploitation/abuse/rape of human beings for hundreds of years (and then subsequent years of anti-blackness/oppression via Reconstruction/Jim Crow/lynchings, etc.) or as Texas textbooks tried to rewrite history that slaves weren’t slaves just “workers.”

However, the chosen narrative tends to be that of the downtrodden slave. I don’t only want to see whippings/abuse of slaves, it often tends to border on torture porn. How about a film on slave revolts/rebellions? Nat Turner has still not got his due. Or women slaves who resisted rape/selling of their children by engaging in infanticide as depicted in Toni Morrison’s book “Beloved.”

Hopefully, ‘Underground’ goes in this direction. And please bring some dignity to the character of Harriet Tubman.

Barbershop 3/Giving Thanks

Okay, the first barbershop was decent enough. The second one I don’t even remember. Now a third one with no Michael Ealy? Blah. I guess the movies try to be positive, although Ice Cube got on my nerves this past summer with his “Straight out of Compton” anti-woman antics. The film comes out spring of next year.

This is the time of year folks post on Facebook “thanks-giving” lists sharing all the things they are grateful for in their lives. I usually find these lists annoying, but after this bizarre year of the rise of Donald Trump, the continued violence against black folks/folks of color, push back against reproductive rights, etc.,  I find myself also reflecting on the more positive aspects in my life/the world. You have to to stay sane in these increasingly cold-hearted times…

  • Thanks for my new little one. He brings me love, happiness, and no sleep all at the same time  🙂
  • Thanks for my recent birthday celebration. I usually bemoan another candle on the cake, but hell I could be dead.
  • Thanks to friends who supported me when I needed help with housing/relocation this year.
  • Thanks to the the three women who started #blacklivesmatter igniting a new wave of social justice/civil rights/student activism across the country.
  • Thanks to President Obama for telling folks to stop “popping off” at the mouth. I have my issues with him, but he does have a way of bringing flavor to boring American politics.
  • And last but not least love to the Native/Indigenous folks as we get ready to celebrate the colonizer’s holiday. Special shout out to Mrs. Universe Ashley Callingbull who refuses to let folks shut down her work for Native/Indigenous women. Go girl.

12289554_10208461694688200_8203445340393620498_n