All Articles Tagged "black movies"
When you say the title Monster’s Ball, you’re liable to get a few reactions. Some people will immediately and only remark on the sex scene with Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thorton. Others will tell you how, aside from all the hoopla, it was actually a really good film; and others think it was completely overrated. Everybody’s got an opinion. It’s something like a polarizing film, particularly in the Black community. But we’ll get into that later. Check out some of the lesser known facts behind the making of this movie.
Everybody knows Imitation of Life. It’s the movie plenty of Black families reference when they speak about the original tearjerkers. When you think about it, it’s amazing that a movie that handled subjects such as race and class in such a real way was released during the beginning of the Civil Rights era. And surprisingly the version most of us know and love, the one with Mahalia Jackson, is a remake of a remake. Check out some of the little known facts behind the making of this classic film.
Just last week, Charing was lamenting the fact that most of the films featuring predominately Black casts have been sub-par, a reworking of White or mainstream movies with faces of color. She wrote that she hadn’t seen nuanced, complex and Black characters since Medicine for Melancholy.
Well, there might be a bit of a solution on the horizon in the form of the release from this new UK short film called Ackee and Saltfish. The film, which is set to be released online later this summer, takes on a free-form type of plot where a majority of the action comes from conversation between the two leading characters, best friends Olivia and Rachel.
The trailer for the film was released recently and in addition to being humorous and intriguing, it reminds me quite a bit of something that would happen on an episode of “Seinfield.”
The plot is quite simple. The two friends, played by Michelle Tiwo and Vanessa Babirye, go out to get some food after Rachel forgets to soak the saltfish. Our West Indian readers know how egregious an offense that is. On their way to get the food, the two talk about everything from celebrity crushes, wanting to be adopted by Solange. And they also play games which highlight their individual personalities.
For those of you who are wed to plot, just take a look at the trailer below.
It appears that I am not the only one, who was just not feeling a sequel to Think Like A Man.
In the piece entitled, Why Think Like A Man Too is proof that Hollywood fails black audiences, Dominick Mayers explains how despite Hollywood’s sudden interest in black film over the last five years, very few of these films are “particularly original” or even ambitious in plot. More specifically, how Think Like A Man 2 felt just like The Hangover for black people and how Ride Along, which came out earlier this year was just like Beverly Hills Cop and how the Best Man Holiday was like every Tyler Perry film he has managed to don a dress in.
Mayers also writes about this formulaic and predictable treatment of black films by Hollywood:
“In this respect Think Like A Man Too is all the more disconcerting. The vestiges of progress (a film with an almost all-black cast, the follow-up to a sleeper hit, coming out during the hottest time of year for big-ticket movie releases) are ultimately undercut by a film that’s at turns derivative of already existing films, as though assuming the target audience would only watch The Hangover if Kevin Hart were in it, and centered around telling the least culturally specific stories possible.
Grantland’s Wesley Morris puts this imperative in focus: “No one who ends a movie with Hart fighting another character for money that’s rained from an actual Steve Harvey slot machine cares about charges of literalism and redundancy — only getting more.”
It’s not that these films are just bad — or derivative. It’s that they’re homogenizing the black film to a point where anybody could sit down and enjoy it, lest audiences be asked to relate to characters that may not be completely identical to their own lives and ethos. And in a film market where 12 Years a Slave underperformed, where the towering Fruitvale Station barely saw a prominent release, this isn’t a solution, or really even progress. It’s a means of avoiding larger issues of audience identification.
If this still seems like it’s not an issue, let’s speak simply: it means we’ll keep getting more phoned-in Kevin Hart movies. And nobody wants that.”
I agree: death to the black romantic comedy – or at least a nice long moratorium until we figure out how to make the topic fresh again. As of right now, the genre of film is stale and overwrought with cliches.
I think Hart is funny; however, I agree: I have no interest of seeing Hart in a billion and one films, doing the whole “I’m little so laugh at me” routine. And I pretty much penned a piece expressing this very point before. I have also written several pieces about the lack of diversity in Hollywood-backed black cinema. It’s what I was thinking when I wrote about the lack of adventurous black women with a passport in film and or as I wrote most recently, why we can’t have sexually liberated black women on television without it being a threat to our virtue?
But above all, it is the lack of originality in the black romantic comedy, which gets under my skin the most. I’m tired of seeing stories about the career-centered and power-hungry black woman and the struggling, no-good black man, which seems to plot every Tyler Perry production? How many times can we see sequels and remakes to black rom-com films we should have left in the 80s? Why are so many of these films devoid of anything, which is culturally black? And where are all the diverse faces of black love on screen?
The short answer is Netflix:
That’s where I found this unique piece of black cinema called Newlyweeds, which is basically about a couple love affair with each other – and the sticky icky. Yes, this film is a black stoner comedy. Written and directed by Shaka King, focuses on Lyle (Amari Cheatom) and Nina (Trae Harris), a young, unmarried couple living in Brooklyn whose penchant for pot gets in the way of their personal and romantic ambitions.
The film itself is okay. At some points, I wasn’t quite sure if this was supposed to be a comedy or a serious drama – and even as both, it didn’t quite flow as smoothly as perhaps the writer/director intended. However not since Medicine for Melancholy have I seen such diverse portrayals of black love and people on the screen. What’s cool about this film is their total lack of upward mobility. Like, Nina is no cold-hearted, high powered executive; instead she works as a tour guide in a museum. And while she is from an middle class background, Nina, with her long dreads, is constantly dreaming of a wanderer’s life abroad. And Lye, with his scruffy beard and unkempt afro, repos cheap rent-to-own furniture for a living. Neither seems to be hard-pressed about their status and succumbing to middle class values as money to these two, is only meant to get them from one aim to the next – in this case, buying weed.
Their personal aesthetic is only added by the cultural diversity of Brooklyn itself, which features a microcosm of characters representing just about every facet of black life – from the drug dealing hustler, who steals your weed money through the mail slot on the basement security door of brownstone, to the more stately and dignified blacks, who live like Cosby’s the Huxtables on the top floor. Lyle and Nina walk and talk like black Brooklyn. And unlike Think Like A Man (and its other counterparts, which have hit the big screen recently), these characters are not black people dressing up like white folks, instead this film embraces all the cultural uniqueness of what it can mean to be black and in love – while high.
What’s most interesting is that as unique a concept as Newlyweeds appears on paper, it is not the only piece of black cinema, particularly the black romance film, which has sought to tell a culturally rich and original story about black folks contemplating love. An Oversimplification of her Beauty is one. I’m Through with White Girls (The Inevitable Undoing of Jay Brooks) is another. There is also Night Catches Us, Middle of Nowhere, Love, Sex and Eating the Bones, Restless City, Big Words, Things I’ve Never Said and a whole host of other films.
Contrary to popular belief, black people do support our own. And there are very little doubts that the black community would take to these films in the same ways they take to the monotony of black rom-coms like Think Like A Man. Thankfully Netflix appears to be at least willing to provide a platform to these independent features. However the problem has always been getting these films in places where the masses of black folks (as well as non-black folks, who just like good cinema) not only knows that they exist, but also has an opportunity to see them. And that can only happen when mainstream Hollywood expands its ideas of how they choose to envision black people and start offering their platforms to artistically diverse black content creators. And until that occurs, we will keep being fed the same old, tired and cultural-less romantic comedy plot and characters, which seem kind of written for white folks, but performed in blackface.
Bad hair can ruin a good movie. Well maybe that’s an overstatement but bad hair…or bad wigs, rather, can be so distracting that the sound of your laughter makes it impossible to hear the lines coming out of the actor’s mouths. And in some cases the hair looks so bad in the previews, it just might deter you from seeing the movie altogether. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about.
Get excited ladies and gentlemen. It’s no secret that there is a constant struggle to get quality films starring black actors to the big screen. But there’s good news. Writer and director Gina Prince-Bythewood, known for Love and Basketball, Disappearing Acts and Secret Life of Bees, is bringing you a new project called Beyond the Lights.
The film, originally titled Blackbird, will star a few of our favorites including Nate Parker and the rising star Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
Here’s the synopsis:
[Beyond the Lights] is the story of Noni Jean, a hot new artist who has just won a Grammy and is primed for stardom. But the pressures of success compel her to nearly end her life until she is saved by a young police officer. They fall hard for each other, despite the protests of their parents who want each to focus on their own career ambitions. But he might be the missing piece to unlock her artistic potential.
The film also stars Danny Glover and Minnie Driver as Gugu’s mother.
The film backed by Relativity Media and BET is scheduled to be released November 14, 2014. Afterward, it’ll have an exclusive television premiere in the U.S. and South Africa on BET.
According to an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the inspiration for the film came when Prince-Bythewood was listening to Alicia Keys perform “Diary” in 2007. She spent years developing the film, fighting with the studio to cast the right leading actress.
She told EW, “The studios wanted a big star, and I wanted the right person for the role.”
Prince-Bythewood ended up hiring her own casting agent to do the job properly.
“There is an innate vulnerability in Gugu. And you can sense her star power. That’s what we needed to believe–that she could be Rihanna or Beyoncé.”
Still Sony wasn’t convinced and Prince-Bythewood took matters into her own hands once again. She produced an eight minute sneak peek of the film with Mbatha-Raw in the role and found financiers at BET and Relativity Media.
“It was so nice to sit in a room and not hear that the lead is a black woman and she’s not going to sell.’ Rather they said, ‘We think she’s a star, who do you want for your male lead?’” Prince-Bythewood said.
Yes! I don’t know about you all but I’m ready for this one. I had the privilege of seeing a screening of Belle, starring Mbatha-Raw, and it was amazing as was she in the role. Plus it’s always nice to see black folk teaming up and using their forces for good. #Ready.
Take a look at the trailer below and some pictures from the upcoming film on the next page.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Lawrence Young covering “Fair Eastside,” the school song in the now classic movie, Lean On Me. And then I wondered, have I done a “Bet You Didn’t Know” article for this fan favorite? I had not. So it’s about time. And as luck would have it, 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the film. You know the plot, you love the soundtrack and Morgan Freeman’s portrayal of Joe Clark is something iconic. But we bet you didn’t know these behind the scenes secrets. Check them out on the following pages.
When I first heard that Steve Harvey’s relationship book was going to be turned into a romantic comedy, I have to admit I was a little skeptical. After all, the book didn’t have a narrative arc and a lot of people, specifically women on internet forums seemed to have real issues with some of the advice Harvey was doling out. But when I saw the trailer, and I found myself laughing within the first thirty seconds, I knew that it could work. But what I saw on screen surprisingly far exceeded my expectations. The movie was hilarious and I hope the sequel can live up to the hype. But until we know for sure, get into the behind the scenes secrets of the movie Think Like A Man.
Have you seen the hit, award winning movie Lee Daniels’ The Butler? You know the story and maybe if the story behind the story but we bet you don’t know these behind the scenes secrets.
Ladies, we bet you didn’t know the autobiographical film, Malcolm X, was 25 years in the making! It’s based on Alex Haley’s novel, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, but that’s NOT all the trivia there is for you. Let’s celebrate Malcolm X’s legacy on the anniversary of his assassination with the behind the scenes of the critically-acclaimed film that honored his life.