All Articles Tagged "black movies"
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.
A couple of months ago I attended a screening of “Baggage Claim” here in New York which featured a Q&A with the actors in the film and director David E. Talbert immediately following the viewing. As the discussion took off, a great deal of the chatter centered on the idea that “Baggage Claim” was not a “black movie,” despite having an all-black cast — save for the hilarious flight attendant side-kick of Jill Scott — but rather a romantic comedy and should be referred to as such.
As I listened to the lengthy explanation I internally rolled my eyes, thinking why are we always trying to run away from our blackness and fit into the mainstream? But after seeing the reviews that rolled out for “The Best Holiday” in its opening weekend, I can finally say I get it.
I should preface this entire article by letting you know “The Best Man” is near and dear to my heart. I grew up watching the movie obsessively and fantasized that the experiences they had would be what my life would be like (the good parts at least) when I became an adult. Despite the sequel just coming out on Friday, I’ve already seen it twice. And I’ve watched the original flick four times this week alone. It would be an understatement to say I wanted “The Best Man Holiday” to win in its opening weekend; and it did. For obsessive fans like me, the numbers this sequel did 14 years after it’s original debut likely weren’t surprising, but as I’ve read in reviews over and over again this weekend, it is apparently still shocking that (a) black people go to the movies, (b) black people like to see themselves on-screen when they go to the movies, (c) Tyler Perry is not the only writer/producer/director who can draw black audiences, (d) a movie featuring all black people doesn’t have to be about “black stuff.”
I’ll focus on that last point first as I examine USA Today’s embarrassing faux paus this weekend. Yesterday, the newspaper wrote a review acknowledging “The Best Man Holiday’s” stellar box office performance which read, “’Holiday’ Nearly Beat ‘Thor’ as Race-Themed Films Soar.” Keeping in mind that I’ve seen this film twice, I sat for all of 0.2 seconds trying to figure out the race theme being referred to before I realized it was nothing more than the fact that the movie had an all-black cast. Looking at the headline alone, one would get the picture that “Best Man” was the sequel to “12 Years a Slave” if he didn’t have half a brain. Thankfully, USA Today found their other half when Twitter went in on them for their ridiculous word choice and they changed their headline to “‘Holiday’ Nearly Beats ‘Thor’ as Ethnically Diverse Films Soar.” I still could’ve done without the “ethnically diverse” reference there, but all I’ll say to that is you have to crawl before you walk and this was indeed a baby step.
Aside from that misstep, something else that rubbed me the wrong way over and over, and unfortunately, over again was the fact that every single review I read had to reference Tyler Perry when critiquing “Best Man.” Now I’m no anti-Perry radical, but I know the cinematic excellence of Malcolm D. Lee far surpasses anything Tyler Perry has been able to do. The two aren’t even in the same category in terms of comedy, particularly if we’re bringing Madea into the discussion. And though I could handle a comparison to “Why Did I Get Married?” because there are similar elements, when blanket statements like “Best Man Holiday is expected to play primarily to African-Americans, similar to Tyler Perry’s pics,” I get frustrated. Tyler Perry appeals to a particular segment of the African American community and while those fans would likely enjoy the “Best Man Holiday” all the same, the crowd that favors the latter would likely not have the same affinity for a TP production. A more accurate comparison would have been Will Packer’s “Think Like a Man,” the similarities between which some reviews did acknowledge, but this all still falls under the assumptive guise that these films portray black experiences to which no one else can relate and that simply isn’t accurate.
Looking at these incidents, it was evident to me that identifying something as a “black movie” means two things in the world of film: Tyler Perry and race baiting. I personally wouldn’t pay $16 for either of those experiences and I’m black, so I’m not surprised white people don’t run to theaters to watch these movies when they’re framed as they are. Forbes reviewer Scott Mendleson said it best when he wrote, “It’s well-past time we noticed that black audiences like seeing themselves onscreen. More importantly, and this is arguably the key, they really like seeing black characters onscreen in starring roles in films that don’t necessarily revolve around racially-based adversity.” I would go a step further to argue white people like seeing black characters on screen in starring roles that don’t necessarily revolve around racially-based adversity. Hello Will Smith and Denzel Washington! I personally saw “The Best Man” and it’s sequel as introspective explorations of the male ego more than anything else, and yes, what appealed to me even more was that in experiencing that, the people on-screen looked like men I know. You could call that the icing on the cake, I suppose, and I won’t apologize for that. White people have had their cake and been eating it for years, let’s let someone else get a piece.
If America wants us all to buy into this whole “we are one” ideal when it comes to diversity, they’re going to have to do some heavy PR when it comes to cinema. These reviews almost pull a black card when there is none and alienate movie goers who would see so-called “black films” if they weren’t being set up to see black pride fists and women dressed as men before they even get a chance to see what the flicks are really about. And while I’m not one to ever want to pander to white audiences, I can certainly appreciate more of their dollars being directed towards black filmmakers, which will in turn allow more black actors to be employed and more of said movies to be made– and hopefully some diversity lessons instilled as well.
All that said, “Best Man Holiday” is an excellent romantic comedy and “12 Years a Slave” is a phenomenal historical drama. Labeling either of these flicks with a watered down title such as “black movies” does them no justice and it’s high time we stopped doing so — at least in the company of “others.”