All Articles Tagged "Django Unchained"
“Nobody Ever Says There Are Too Many Holocaust Stories”: Alfre Woodard Responds To “12 Years A Slave” Criticism
Most of us fell in love with Alfre Woodard during her role as Carolyn Carmichael. Known for not taking nonsense from her five boisterous children and laid back musician husband in the Spike Lee classic, Crooklyn, Carolyn Carmichael became one of our favorite mothers in the black film canon. Recently, Woodard added another layer to the black woman’s 19th century identity by becoming a privilege slaved on a New Orleans plantation in the critically acclaimed fall movie, 12 Years A Slave.
As you know, this movie has received as much criticism as it has praise, and in a recent interview with Uptown Magazine, Woodard shut down all of the negativity as she discusses how Django Unchained compares to 12 Years a Slave, post-racialism, and modern-day slavery. Here are her insights as she shared them with Uptown when prompted on the various topics:
Slave narratives.. “are vital for us to have our feet on balanced ground in the future. I think it’s a chunk of our history that we are in denial about and that we don’t accept. And it is the root, I would say, of our contemporary domestic problems.”
Nobody ever says… “There are too many Holocaust stories,” or “There are too many gangster movies.” But we tell three stories [about slavery] and they want us to be done.
Today… “there are more slaves held around the world, sexual and domestic, than even in the mid-1800s. But that’s all in the shadows, and it’s right in our suburbs and everywhere around us.”
If you’re a racist… “or not is absolutely off the point that the manifestation of 300 years of a slave economy is present in everyday [life]. If you’re going to deny that, you’re going to be constantly wondering why you’re anxious and off the tracks.”
Post-racialism… “brought the boil up. And now we just have to lance the boil, clean it out and heal the wound. People [mistakenly] thought, Now I don’t have to feel like I’m carrying the weight of something [that] happened when I wasn’t even alive. We are now forced into conversations. If we don’t have them, we’re going to be really sick.
Django Unchained is… “to 12 Years A Slave [what] the Atlantic Ocean is to the Pacific Ocean. We need a lot of oceans. One does not negate the other, and one occupies a different territory. And [they are] fed by different rivers. They’re absolutely different genres; they’re absolutely different filmmakers. And they’re different stories.”
Pictures like 12 Years a slave… “give us a common language, a common emotional experience, whether you’re British, West African, West Indian or American.”
Read more of Woodard’s wise thoughts, here. What do you think about what she said?
Gravity is out of this world! The film has solidified its place as No.1 for three consecutive weeks. “The movie featuring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney has joined Lee Daniels’ The Butler and Fast & Furious 6 as the only pictures to claim three weekend crowns,” this year, USA Today added. The box-office hit raked in a total of $170.6 million.
But the real story might be 12 Years a Slave, the film about a Black man kidnapped into slavery starring Chiwetel Ejiofor. The critically-acclaimed movie was only been shown in 19 theaters and still pulled in $960,000 in total. Each location grabbed $50,000 – ”one of the top averages ever for a movie opening in that number of theaters,” The Hollywood Reporter says.
Many critics agree with CNN’s label of 12 Years a Slave: “agonizingly magnificent.” While the pain-filled portrayal of slavery may cause the viewers to grimace, audience members are captivated by the protagonist Solomon Northup. ”It’s Ejiofor’s extraordinary performance that holds 12 Years a Slave together. He gives Solomon a deep inner strength, yet he never softens the nightmare of his existence. His ultimate pain isn’t the beatings or the humiliation. It’s being ripped from his family,” CNN said.
After The Help, The Butler and Django Unchained there might be some surprise that yet another race-conscious film is capturing audience attention. ThinkProgress explained it best:
Unlike Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis), the housekeeper in The Help, who goes from quiet acceptance of her lot to speaking her mind, or Django (Jamie Foxx), who begins Django Unchained in irons and ends it galloping off towards freedom with his wife, Solomon spends much of 12 Years A Slave traveling an opposite trajectory.
While the main characters from The Help and Django Unchained were somewhat bound in the beginning of the film, Solomon — being born a free man — lived and breathed liberty until he was forced into the brutality of slavery in 1841.
The film, which was released by Fox Searchlight in select theaters, reached primarily two types of audiences: African-Americans (of course) and the art house and cinema-nerds. However, this critic-favorite plans to reach different targets as it expands to 100 theaters next week.
If you’re wondering where the movie Carrie falls in with the movie frenzy, the thriller landed at No. 3 behind Captain Phillips, Tom Hanks’ maritime thriller.
Have you seen any of these? Tell us what you thought!
Folks complained to Hollywood about the lack of black actors/actresses getting roles in film and television and Hollywood has responded with enough slavery-themed projects to keep the brothers and sisters employed for quite a while. Well, at least they are getting a paycheck – unlike their ancestors.
Blame it on the first black president, whose election has inspired a renewed interest in race. Or, as speculated by the black film website Shadow & Act, Hollywood’s decision to revisit the nation’s dark past might have something to do with marking the 150 year anniversary of the Civil War this year. But definitely, I think we can all agree that the success of Django Unchained has brought about a renewed – or even new – interest in the slave narrative.
As reported by Shadow & Act, there are a number of other slavery-themed films planned for the near future. Brace yourself, the list is long:
Starting the season is Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave, which stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brad Pitt, and Alfre Woodard, among others, and it’s the true story about a free-born black man named Solomon Northup, who has been kidnapped and sold into slavery in Georgia. Also on tap is Savannah, which also stars Eijofor, and is loosely based on the book Ducks, Dogs and Friends, which tells the real-life tale of a white hunter who spends his days shooting fowl by the river with his best friend, a freed slave named Christmas Moultrie. Cuba Gooding Jr. attempts to free his family from a tobacco plantation in the upcoming flick, Something Whispered, while Former NFL linebacker Jeremiah Trotter will play escaped slave Big Ben Jones in The North Star. Not to leave our mulatto half-brothers and sisters out, there’s also the tale of Belle, about the trials and tribulations of a mixed-race girl living in the 18th century. Rounding out the Year of the Enslaved is the Civil War drama The Keeping Room; a fugitive slave hunting drama The Retrieval; and Tula: The Revolt, which stars Danny Glover and is based on a true story about a slave uprising on the island of Curacao.
And if you haven’t quite had your fill of upcoming black oppression on the big screen, don’t fret. Hollywood is also working on bringing the chattel to the small screen by way of two slavery-themed miniseries, including ABC’s miniseries based off of Paul Jennings, a black man who was a slave for President James Madison. The other series, which is said to still be in talks, hopes to bring the unlikely duo of Martin Scorsese and Harry Belafonte together for the purpose of telling the notorious true story of Belgian King Leopold II. His deadly colonization over what is now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), was responsible for the biggest genocide of people in world history.
Now I know folks might be wondering why we can’t we move past…well, the past already, but I’m actually not all that bothered by slave narratives. And in actuality, some of the films listed I am actually looking forward to seeing, like 12 Years A Slave. Tula: The Revolt sounds promising. And if it ever gets made, the King Leopold miniseries sounds like a good one. We shouldn’t shy away from the slave narrative, after all, it is part of our legacy. And in some respects, a few of these stories might actually be beneficial, particularly in educating and reminding folks about what the legacy of slavery has meant for our community. But I would also be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that some of the slavery-themed content we have seen as of late has been problematic–including the ill-conceived Harriet Tubman sex tape skit.
Not to mention the clichés. Who isn’t sick of the white savior angle dressed in a historical slavery depiction, where all the white folks learn valuable lessons about themselves at the expense of black bodies? Or the benevolent servant, who gets tortured and sexually assaulted for 90 minutes – only to be rescued and freed with the help of the aforementioned individual? Quite frankly, I’m just not interested in watching that. Matter of fact, if I want to sit and watch black suffering brought on by the hands of institutionalized white supremacy, I’ll just open my front door and take a walk around my neighborhood. And instead of just exploring slavery stories that speak about plantation life, the sometimes congenial relationship between master and slave, and the general horrors of the peculiar institution, I want to see more about the stories of those who said “forget this crap!” and took their freedom. I’m not just talking about those who ran from the plantation, but also the ones who burned, pillaged and fought back against the institution itself. Those folks are national heroes too.
And it’s not like there isn’t enough source material, including these three examples:
- Nat Turner’s Insurrection: After many moons of speculation about the story coming to life on-screen and being a “must-make” movie for quite a few respectable lack folks, the fact that this story has not been turned into a feature-length film is deplorable.
- The Maroons of Jamaica, Surinam, and the Americas too: Not everybody stayed. In fact, slaves ran away by the tens of thousands during the antebellum period. From North America to South America, and also through the Caribbeans and through Central America, these runaways, or maroons, took to the jungles, the mountains, and the marshy swamps in order to avoid being chattel. They started free black communities of their own and in many instances, created hybrid settlements with other threatened ingenious people. To maintain their freedom, they took up arms and fought often times triumphantly against colonizers. In fact, some of the maroon tribes still exist and fight to maintain their autonomy. This is not to say that we should rewrite history to fashion a much more heroic past. However, in addition to learning about the ones who literally slaved in quiet dignity, we should also get to know more about the Black Seminoles of Florida, Cimarrons of Panama, the Quilombos in Brazil, among many other maroon settlements too.
- Harriet Tubman or Sojourner Truth: Come on. This is a no-brainer. Tubman personally lead more than 300 enslaved blacks to the promise land with a shotgun, and Truth was a fierce abolitionist and champion of women’s rights, including authoring the ever-poignant speech, Ain’t I A Woman? So why has Hollywood slept on any real attempt to breathe cinematic life into our most treasured icons outside of being a tasteless joke or the sidekick to a vampire hunting, slave-freeing president?
Unfortunately, this is Hollywood, and black Hollywood too. We can cite line and verse all the reasons why we are unlikely to see these narratives make it to either the big or small screen. But these stories are no less an important part of the fabric of this country, and they have an audience too.
In an op-ed piece for The Hollywood Reporter, director John Singleton spoke about the problem with black stories in Hollywood being told without the help of black folks behind the scenes, and particularly, black directors being an afterthought. In recent years, white directors have been bringing to life a lot of the big films that have done well at the box office, and while Singleton lauded the movies that got it right (Taylor Hackford directing Ray, Norman Jewison for The Hurricane, and recently, Brian Helgeland’s 42), he shared some inquisitive thoughts about the importance of black folks being the behind the scenes to authentically share the stories of our icons and our people in general. Here are some tidbits from the piece that definitely stood out:
Hollywood’s black film community has always had a one-for-all-and-all-for-one attitude, openly cheering the success of any black-driven movie in the hope its box-office success will translate into more jobs and stories about people of color. But, at the same time, the success of black-themed movies like The Help and this year’s 42 points to a troubling trend: the hiring of white filmmakers to tell black stories with few African-Americans involved in the creative process.
What if the commercial success of “black films” like 42 and The Help, which also had a white director, are now making it harder rather than easier for African-American writers and directors to find work?
That is exactly what people in certain Hollywood circles are debating. When I brought up the issue with a screenwriter friend, he replied, “It’s simple. Hollywood feels like it doesn’t need us anymore to tell African-American stories.” The thinking goes, “We voted for and gave money to Obama, so [we don't need to] hire any black people.”
…I could go on and on about the white directors who got it right and others who missed the mark. But my larger point is that there was a time, albeit very brief, when heroic black figures were the domain of black directors, and when a black director wasn’t hired, the people behind the film at least brought on a black producer for his or her creative input and perspective. Spielberg did that on The Color Purple(Quincy Jones) and Amistad (Debbie Allen). Tarantino had Reggie Hudlin on Django Unchained.
…But now, that’s changing; several black-themed movies are in development with only white filmmakers attached, including a James Brown biopic. That’s right, the story of “Soul Brother No. 1, Mr. Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” is being penned by two Brits for Tate Taylor, director of The Help…it gives one pause that someone is making a movie about the icon who laid down the foundation of funk, hip-hop and black economic self-reliance with no African-American involvement behind the scenes. One of Brown’s most famous lines was, “I don’t want nobody to give me nothing; open up the door and I’ll get it myself.” How is that possible when the gatekeepers of this business keep the doors mostly locked shut in Hollywood?
What Hollywood execs need to realize is that black-themed stories appeal to the mainstream because they are uniquely American. Our story reminds audiences of struggles and triumphs, dreams and aspirations we all share. And it is only by conveying the particulars of African-American life that our narrative become universal. But making black movies without real participation by black filmmakers is tantamount to cooking a pot of gumbo without the “roux.” And if you don’t know offhand what “roux” is, you shouldn’t be making a black film.
Of course, the usual audience for The Hollywood Reporter (predominately white folks) gave Singleton’s piece the thumbs down, but he makes some very honest points that black folks have been talking about for years. I don’t even have to always have a black director behind a major film (because directing is not for everybody), but the concept of doing a black story with no black people involved definitely sounds preposterous. But what do you think?
Check out his full piece over at THR.
Kerry Washington Talks Making History As Olivia Pope, And What President Obama And His Administration Think Of It
Somebody’s on top of the world aren’t they?
Scandal star Kerry Washington is covering the newest issue of Parade magazine, and inside she opened up about her very busy schedule (since she’s a very in-demand A-list actress these days), Scandal‘s off-the-wall storylines, if she’s asked President Obama what he thinks about the show, and the emotional toll working on Django Unchained had on her. Let’s see what she had to say:
Speaking on the scandalous storyline of ABC’s hottest show, and the reality that cheating presidents (and their mistresses) have been around forever:
“The story lines…push what’s possible. But there are stories on the news that change what we think is possible all the time. You hear about a governor who’s disappeared into the Appalachian trail because he has a South American lover, or somebody else’s behavior on Twitter. I mean, if you want to look at presidents having affairs—there are about four I can think of off the top of my head.”
On how draining it was to work on Django and how hard it was to get back to normal after the fact:
“I feel like I barely survived Django emotionally. The violence. Hearing the N-word every day. It cost me a lot psychologically, but it was worth it to tell that story. I had two days between finishing Django and starting up again on Scandal. It was nuts. That first day back I had to walk across the Rose Garden in heels. I thought, ‘I don’t remember how to walk like Olivia Pope anymore. ‘ I’d been barefoot in the woods for months playing a slave.”
On whether or not she knows if the president likes Scandal:
“I haven’t wanted to ask the president his opinion of the show. But I have lots of friends in the administration who love it. We make D.C. look s**y and exciting.”
Love her! Check out more from her interview over at Parade and let us know what you think of what she had to say.
This Thursday was meant to be opening day for Django Unchained in China, but abruptly and without full explanation, the film was pulled from theaters. In some cases it was pulled while audiences were actually in the theater.
China is very restrictive about the media that reaches its citizens, whether broadcast and print media, Internet news, or entertainment. According to The New York Times, American movies are routinely edited (read: censored) because there’s no ratings system and everything that’s pushed out has to be appropriate for children and adults alike. That means less blood and gore, no nudity, and less violence. Because movie makers stand to make a ton of money from the Chinese market, they go along with this. The paper says that Django director Quentin Tarantino actually played a role in altering the movie before it was sent to China. Nevertheless, a confused Sony spokesperson told Deadline Hollywood in an email, “We regret that Django Unchained has been removed from theaters and are working with the Chinese authorities to determine whether the film can be rescheduled.”
A moviegoer told The Wall Street Journal‘s China Realtime Report blog that about a minute into his viewing of the movie, the lights came on and “several people in suits” entered the theater and offered everyone a refund. That’s like something out of a movie that the Chinese government would never let its people see.
China Film Group and the State Administration of Press, Publications, Radio, Film and Television, the organizations that regulate films in China, aren’t talking yet. But bloggers are.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, online writers in China are openly saying that they’re going to get their hands on pirated copies of the movie and watch it on their own.
“While many bloggers have expressed surprise about the Chinese censors giving the film the green light – with its Chinese distributors, Sony China, confidently claiming the film will be released in full with just minor adjustments in the color and extent of blood being shed on screen – the news of the film’s sudden fall from grace still astounded many,” the article says. Some have said that the incident reflects poorly on the Chinese government, which is trying to put a good face forward internationally.
You can mess with a lot of things. But once you start fooling around with people’s entertainment, they take matters into their own hands.
I could say, “I know what you’re thinking, we’re still talking about Django??” But then again, you clicked so you’re probably interested. Though the movie was cast, filmed, put on DVD and Blu-Ray, won a few Academy Awards (including for Best Original Screenplay for Quentin Tarantino), the question was most recently posed by Entertainment Weekly as to why Will Smith, who was one of the first actors Tarantino allegedly met with for the film, passed on the opportunity to play the title character. His decline made room for Academy-Award winner Jamie Foxx to come through and embody (and kill) the role.
According to Shadow And Act, while Smith was a big fan of the screenplay, he once told media that he couldn’t do the film because he was working on Men in Black III, and didn’t have the time to sit with Tarantino to discuss and hash out different issues he had with the movie. However, he went in depth with EW and basically said that Django, despite the title of the movie, wasn’t the lead character. Therefore, Smith wasn’t trying to play second fiddle to anybody, including Christoph Waltz, who of course won an Academy Award for his role as Dr. King Schultz, the Best Supporting Actor role actually:
“Django wasn’t the lead, so it was like, I need to be the lead. The other character was the lead!”
“Smith says that before he left the project, he even pleaded with Tarantino to let Django have a more central role in the story. “I was like, ‘No, Quentin, please, I need to kill the bad guy!’”
“But no hard feelings: Smith was a big fan of the final product. “I thought it was brilliant,” he says. “Just not for me.”
While some would definitely say that Django was the lead, Smith might have a point. And did anybody else notice that come awards time, there really wasn’t much conversation or talk surrounding Foxx (who didn’t pick up any of the big nominations from the Golden Globes, Bafta, Screen Actors Guild or Academy Awards), but rather, just Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio? But either way, as Smith said, the role of Django just wasn’t working for him, and in the end, the role ended up in the right hands, so clearly there’s no love lost for anybody. But what we can learn from all this is that when it comes to Will Smith, he’s earned leading man status (see those box office numbers) and he’s not taking anything less than that. Not mad at him!
What do you think of Smith’s reasoning behind passing on the movie? Does he make a good point?
There was lots of controversy, but it looks like it paid off. The ratings are in and the Oscars reached 40.3 million total viewers, the highest number since 2010. The broadcast also saw an increase in the number of people in the all-important 18-to-49 age bracket who tuned in, and a 20 percent increase in viewers ages 18 to 34.
TheWrap gives credit to the host, Seth MacFarlane, who took a lot of flack for the length of the opening number and jokes that were seen by many as chauvinistic. Even an Academy member told The New York Times that he “winced” at some of the jokes. (Jewish viewers and family organizations weren’t too happy with some of the jokes either.) MacFarlane says he has no intentions of a repeat performance.
It also helped that many of the films that were nominated are doing well at the box office, with six of nine earning more than $100 million. The Los Angeles Times breaks down the top films: Lincoln ($176.8 million); Django Unchained ($158.8 million); Les Miserables ($146.7 million) and Best Picture winner Argo ($129.8 million). And the money keeps rolling in. While the comedy Identity Thief might be on top of the box office this week, Argo and Silver Linings Playbook showed staying power. New York magazine’s The Cut says the Best Picture nominees are on the path to $1 billion.
In general, people expect the Oscars to be a bore, but if you can hang throughout the entire three-and-a-half hour movie spectacle, you might just see some cool things. We imagine you might have tapped out a few times during last night’s 2013 Academy Awards, and if that’s the case, you probably missed more than a few of the highlights from the 85th annual celebration of cinema excellence. But don’t worry, we captured all the parts that really mattered all in one place, so go ahead and check out the best moments from last night’s Oscar ceremony.
Olivia Pope And The Depiction Of Multifaceted Womanhood: Why We Love Kerry Washington And Her Honest Portrayals Of Women
I haven’t heard this much criticism of a television character… ever. Kerry Washington’s role in the hit prime time drama Scandal as Olivia Pope, the boss yet internally conflicted “fixer”/mistress to the President of the United States has EVERYONE talking. And when I say “everyone” I do mean everyone. On Thursday nights at 10 pm EST, my Twitter timeline is rockin’ with Scandal hashtags by family, friends, politicians, athletes and actors alike, raving about the twists, the turns, the brilliant writing, the fashion, the flashbacks, the very different funky 70s soundtrack… Every aspect of the show seems to be something of a phenomenon, especially since it’s the first primetime drama with a black female lead role on a major network in years. Some of us see progression in that. Some of us see off-the-charts talent and entertainment.
Still, the show has its vehement critics. Those not unlike CBS, Atlanta reporter Mo Ivory who breaks down Washington’s role as “no different than Joseline from “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta” or Kim from “Real Housewives of Atlanta” – she just has more expensive clothes, a higher paying job and tighter security.”
I don’t agree or disagree with Ivory’s thoughts. I’ve been so focused on Washington’s accurate portrayal (no matter how messy) of just a WOMAN in general that I haven’t had the time to bust down a list of the horrible characteristics.
I watch Kerry beast through her performance as Olivia Pope every week and think to myself that I have NEVER seen such a consistent powerhouse performance in primetime, week after week. As Pope, Washington peels back the layers of a very human woman who can clean up anyone’s, EVERYONE’S mistakes and hiccups around her but is just barely holding together the steadily unfolding mess that is her own life. I don’t see a black woman who is a mistress when I watch Olivia Pope. I see a woman in general who has issues just like the rest of the world and is trying to get clarity and peace of mind in the midst of a crap storm of confrontation and seemingly buried secrets. Kerry Washington executes the human-ness of the role flawlessly. That’s what I’m tuned in for.
Is she playing a mistress? Yes. I know, I know. That sets black women back hundreds of years and blah blah blah. I don’t agree with all that simply because for years, blacks have had to fight with screenwriters and directors and producers to allow us to be human beings on screen. Not caricatures. Not trumped up stereotypes. Not ALWAYS Mammys and drivers or harlots and drug dealers. Just everyday, normal human beings, whatever that entails. For this particular role, Kerry Washington unfolds a woman’s struggle with loving someone she cannot wholly have, being strong for everyone else all the time, working almost ‘round the clock, trying to cover past mistakes with present goodwill. Who of us haven’t dealt with at least one of the above?! She plays a human being, people! She shows the multi-faceted womanhood that many of us try to deny by criticizing roles like this or even everyday people like this.
About a month or so ago during her interview with Oprah, Washington drew parallels between Olivia Pope and her character of “Broomhilda,” a slave woman in the deep south spaghetti western Django Unchained, which opened as a box office hit with very mixed reviews. She expressed that her goal as an actress is simply to honor humanity by telling these stories in as real a way as possible. Washington also stated that she felt honored to play both roles because it showed how far we had come as a nation. Her ability to be able to play such a multi-layered character like Olivia Pope essentially was an answer to her character Broomhilda’s prayers that one day that kind of freedom would be possible for a black woman. She talked about the timeline of black acting, citing that in the beginning, everything was stereotypical if you wanted to be a black actor. Then, there was the era of “black perfection” where all roles taken on by black actors had to be pristine, no flaws. Now, we live in an age where we are beginning to be allowed to simply be human. Flaws and all.
That idea struck a chord with me as I reviewed Washington’s body of work from Save The Last Dance to Django. She has always chosen roles that some might say have made black folks “look bad,” yet they offered an honest look into the lives of honest characters. And what is a serious actor if not an honest vessel?
During her acceptance speech at the 2012 Black Girls ROCK! event, Washington said, “I get to honor humanity. We are all valuable human beings and all our stories deserve to be told.”
We, as freethinking human beings need to stop being so quick to judge the black artist. What Kerry Washington and Viola Davis and countless other black actresses are doing is monumental if we change our outlook. We cannot whittle down the idea of black art only to what makes us feel comfortable. Was Viola Davis’s role as a 1960s maid too painful a memory for some of us? Is Olivia’s role as a mistress (no matter how classy and fierce) too telling of many a modern day reality for some of us? I see Washington as a brave soul for pushing through and bringing a truth to television that has long been airbrushed to ease internal tensions. I see Washington as an example of the versatility black women have not been allowed to exhibit for so long. The honesty we have not been able to speak on or to portray without feeling some sort of way. I celebrate her courage to honor humanity even in the face of such opposition. If we’re more fixated on the flaws of the character rather than the honesty those flaws bring to entertainment, perhaps we need to do a bit more soul-searching and a little less judging.
La Truly is a late-blooming Aries whose writing is powered by a lifetime of anecdotal proof that awkward can transform to awesome and fear can cast its crown before courage. La seeks to encourage thought, discussion and change among young women through her writing. Check out her blog: www.hersoulinc.com and Twitter: @AshleyLaTruly.