All Articles Tagged "black movies"
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.”
Some movies are so good, you never really stop talking about them. We’ve gathered a list of the classic movies we all love to quote. Add your favorite lines in the comments below!
By now we’ve learned that a movie doesn’t have to be Oscar-worthy for you to enjoy it. Every once in a while, there’s nothing wrong with being able to predict a story line and laughing anyway. These are the films that aren’t exactly good but we love them anyway.
When it comes to the big screen and accolades, many black films do not get the same attention as the competition. This can happen for many reasons that range from lack of funding to the simple fact that some people (both moviegoers and industry higher-ups) are turned off at the idea of a “black film.”
This is why it’s so important that we support the progress of screenwriters, directors, producers and actors who try to put out memorable films. This year has a ton of promise with great pictures in the queue to make their box office debut (“Put Your Money in the Box Office: Upcoming Black Films You Need to See“). Let’s take a look at black movies that did better than anticipated at the box office.
Some describe Brown Sugar as a game changer when it comes to black, romantic comedies. Described as the urban When Harry Met Sally, the film incorporated Hip Hop, professional black folk and a friendship turned love story that we just could help but love. You know the plot. You probably still bump the soundtrack, but we doubt you know these behind the scenes secrets.
Everyone loves a good book, but with so many options it’s hard to figure out what might be good based on the cover alone. There are titles and types galore – history, memoir, true crime, ‘literary’ fiction, urban fiction, comic books – that it’s hard to decide what to grab and dedicate brain cells to. Last year I made a little chart of books based on your favorite TV show. To make the book selection process easier this summer, here are a few book picks based on classic black movies. Do any of your favorite books remind you of movies? What books do you have lined up for this summer?
Medicine for Melancholy – if you like your books with emotional depth and charm, then Danielle Evans’ debut book Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self is for you. Incisive, heartbreaking, and filled with longing, these short stories explore the modern lives of black women who are navigating an America that is sometimes at odds with their full humanity. Want something non-fiction? Baratunde Thurston’s memoir/satire How To Be Black offers up a witty take on being a black millennial, and chapters like “How to Be the Black Employee” and “How To Speak for All Black People” pokes fun at the ridiculousness you face when you are the only black person on your job/in your class/at a conference. It’s balanced with the heartwarming story of Thurston growing up and making it out of crack-era DC.
Glory – Want a story that covers the historical roots of blacks in the American South? If you’ve got the time, Alex Haley’s Roots is a girthy but captivating read. If you are a little more pressed on time and want a more global story, consider Edwidge Danticat’s body of work. In particular The Dewbreaker is a great choice. Set in the US and Haiti, this book digs into the implications of violence in the name of political and personal gain, and what happens when a murderer attempts to move on from his past.
Ride, Friday, I Got The Hook Up – ok, so you like a little edge in your entertainment. If you enjoyed any of the above movies, then you’ll be able to appreciate the hood sensibilities of Nikki Turner’s Project Chick 2: What’s Done In The Dark or Sister Souljah’s Coldest Winter Ever. They are laced with roughnecks, and hustlas, and if you need an escape from your day to day cubicle grind then these hood tales might be what you need.
Devil in a Blue Dress – Any of Walter Mosley’s 12 Easy Rawlins mysteries. This is a no brainer, since “Devil in a Blue Dress” is based on Walter Mosley’s debut novel of the same name. Mosley has been writing Easy Rawlins since Devil was released back in 1990, and it looks like Easy Rawlins is still kickin’ A$$, taking names, and solving mysteries in seedy sections of LA. Looking for a murder mystery set in modern times? Check out Attica Locke’s The Cutting Season, a gripping story about a black woman with a deep family history on an old Louisiana plantation working to solve a cane worker’s murder and keep herself from being killed.
Cabin in the Sky or Carmen Jones – If you are into old school black and white movies, check out The Return of Simple, a collection of Langston Hughes’ hilarious and thought-provoking Simple Stories. Written after he came into public consciousness during the Harlem Renaissance, these short stories follow everyman Jesse B. Semple as he riffs humorously on black life in Harlem. Wrapped in Rainbows is a non-fiction treasure, which follows the life and adventures of the preternaturally crunk writer and sociologist (and Hughes collaborator) Zora Neale Hurston.
2002 was a year of firsts for the people who would come together to create the film based on the life of a man named Antwone Fisher. The screenplay, written by Fisher was his first, it was the first time Denzel Washington stepped behind the camera to direct and it was the first feature film for rising star Derek Luke. And though there was a lot of new talent blossoming, the film about a man with a troubled past struck a chord with critics and audiences alike. You remember how the movie impacted you, you might have a copy of the DVD at home; but we bet you didn’t know the behind the scenes secrets of the film. Check them out on the following pages.
In 2006, when black movies usually dealt with themes of drug deals, poor choices and the ghetto, Akeelah and the Bee represented a stark contrast. The film, which featured heavy hitter actors Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett, was uplifting and inspirational. It was a message audiences of ages, races and backgrounds could enjoy. We’re sure you remember this movie, but we bet you don’t know
Though Akeelah took years to come together, once the funding and the actors were in place, the movie was filmed in just 31 days. The film was relatively small budget at just $6 million dollars. During it’s opening weekend, it made that back and 3 times that much ($18, 811, 135) when it closed in July of 2006. Filmed in 31 days with a budget of $6 million.
We all love our classic films. We love to see a good story beautifully told through the vehicle of film. But every now and then, it’s alright to…indulge in something that’s a little less high brow and a little more ridiculous. That film is Booty Call. You probably haven’t seen it since it was released in 1997, so to refresh your memory, check out the trailer below.
Now that you’ve been updated on the storyline, let’s get into the behind the scenes secrets.
From The Grio
Whether you love him or hate him, it seems as though Tyler Perry is the only game in town these days when to comes to movies targeted specifically at black audiences.
His melodrama Temptation is set to hit theaters this weekend and will surely do big business, but will its success be a tribute to Perry’s popularity or largely a reflection of a minority movie-going audience that feels underrepresented and under-served?
Director Spike Lee, who once averaged about one film per year, has become far less prolific in lately. And his colleagues like John Singleton and the Hughes Brothers have transitioned from making epic urban films to helming big budget genre pictures with multiracial casts.
What is a “black film”?
Meanwhile the definition of a ‘black film’ has grown more fluid in the age of Obama.
It’s now no longer groundbreaking for an African-American A-lister like Denzel Washington or Halle Berry to anchor a film by themselves. And while the smash hit Django Unchained touched on distinctly black themes with a bevy of African-American stars, its appeal was broader because it reflected the vision of its white director, Quentin Tarantino.
Just twenty years ago, the multiplexes presented a very different picture of black Hollywood.
There were a variety of choices for black film fans: There were star vehicles (Sister Act 2, Philadelphia,The Pelican Brief), biopics (What’s Love Got to Do With It), comedies (CB4, Cool Runnings), action (Demolition Man) and hard-hitting dramas (Poetic Justice, Menace II Society).
In comparison, last year there was the romantic comedy Think Like a Man, the WWII drama Red Tails, and three different Tyler Perry vehicles. Perhaps it’s no wonder that black audiences are frequently nostalgic for the 90s.
Read more at TheGrio.com