All Articles Tagged "Hollywood"
It seems that Hollywood loves a good biopic, particular on Black people. What can we say, we’re just that entertaining and interesting. Currently there are several biopics in production including a flick on Jimi Hendrix, Richard Pryor (said to be directed by Lee Daniels) and even a film on Nat Turner called Birth of A Nation. This is on top of a list of about 50 biopics about Black people, which are said to still be in consideration.
This is great but what about made-up stories? I’m talking about films based on literature produced by Black people. As many of us know, there are so many great Black writers out there beyond the likes of Morrison, Walker, Baldwin and other favorites. And their novels and stories have yet to receive the Tinseltown treatment. And just for some perspective here, Hollywood has turned 33 books into film last year. None of them were written by an African American.
So in an effort to help the status quo help us, by producing content outside of another Dr. King or even Nelson Mandela biopic, I present a list of 10 classic books written by Black people, which would make great films. For reference purposes, I made this list partially using the African American Literature Book Club list of Favorite 100 African American Books of the 20th Century as inspiration.
So Michelle Rodriguez put her foot in her mouth this past week – or did she?
According to TMZ,
“Rodriguez was cruising out of Katsuya Friday night when she shot down rumors she’s in talks to play the Green Lantern … while also throwing shade at minorities who play white superheroes.
Michelle has evidence it’s happening. Cases in point … Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury … and the online campaign for Idris Elba to become Bond.”
Naturally folks got upset about the comments, particular the part about “minorities” supposed appropriation of White artistry. And eventually Rodriguez issued an apology, if she offended anybody, and explained that she has a tendency to speak without filter. And just like people who don’t know they are already in a hole, she continued to dig even deeper by elaborating on her theories about the rampant misappropriation of White culture being committed by minorities:
“What I really meant was that ultimately at the end of the day, there’s a language. And the language that you speak in Hollywood is successful franchise. And I think there are many cultures in Hollywood that are not white that can come up with their own mythology. I mean, we get it all from the same reservoir of life, the fountain of life.
And it doesn’t matter what culture you come from. I’m just saying that instead of trying to turn a girl character into a guy. Or trying to turn a white character into a black character or latin character, I think that people should stop being lazy and, you know, and that people should actually make an effort in Hollywood to develop their own mythology. And if American is your mythology and the American culture is deep embedded into who you are and what makes you, or the archetype you are trying to portray, in a hollywood feature or a comic book, so be that…”
Girl, just stop!
But she didn’t. Instead she waxed poetic about all the different “minorities”that are represented in Hollywood – and she even did the air quote thing around the word “minorities” too. And then she advised those same “minorities,” concerned about the lack of characters representing them in Hollywood, to “start focusing on my making that a serious priority. You know?”
No girl. We don’t know about you. Also who are you, now? What happened to the raspy New York accent we had grown to love? Now, she sounds like one of those condescending whiny-voiced yuppy White girls pontificating on all that colorblind and post-racial, airy New-age crap over grass wheat and chai shots at the local Yoga Pants bar.
I don’t know where Rodriguez has been (probably hanging with those whiny-voiced White girls at Yoga Pants bars), but folks, particularly the minorities, have been making the lack of diversity in Hollywood a priority for a long while. Likewise, the whole “why don’t you make your own”-mantra folks like to throw out there to excuse their own apathy fails to consider how the lack of investment – as well as access to distribution platforms -acts as major barriers for why we don’t get to see those mythologies based around people of color on the big screen.
The last I checked, Danny Glover is still hoping to one day get his “epic” film on Haitian revolution leader Toussaint L’Ouverture made and distributed. The same could be said for any of the production teams behind this list of 50 biopics on Black figures currently in limbo. That list includes such notable figures as Paul Robeson, Lorraine Hansberry, Oscar Micheaux (the father of Black cinema) and Mahalia Jackson.
Independent filmmakers go broke trying to produce content outside of the Hollywood structure. We can talk about Kickstarting a film all we want, but once you get it made and produced, where is this independent film going to screen? Why there aren’t enough church basements at a person’s disposal, which could produce a return worthy of the investment. So if Black filmmakers (and those doing projects on Black subjects) can’t even get support for these projects about real-life human beings, then what chances does a mythological superhero have? Probably as much chance as Spiderman at a Raid factory.
And we’re talking about producing an independently-created minority superhero. I have no doubt that this character and it’s lore would be pretty bad-ass. But the only way a film about a minority superhero, which doesn’t involve a White savior, will ever see the light of day is if a crazed Black man with a gun highjacks the projector room in an actual movie theater and runs the flick himself. And before any starving Black filmmakers get any ideas: Do not do that! You’ll be dead before you could reach for your popcorn during the opening credits.
More to the point, Rodriguez should know how hard it is for a “minorities” and woman to find work outside of racialized characters. Seriously, she hasn’t starred in a film since Girlfight and we barely see her in supporting roles either, outside of the Fast & Furious franchise or some bit part in another action flick. And when she is working, she is typecast as the hard-as-nails sexually ambiguous Latina chick from New York, who knows how to take a punch as good as she can give one. I’m talking, this is her character in every single film. Surely she can see the lack of diversity in that? But some folks are just happy to be working, I guess…
Although I will say that Rodriguez does have a decent point:
The whole color and gender cast-switching trend, which has become so pervasive in mainstream filmmaking, is all kinds of wack. I wrote before of my outright disdain at the idea of a Black James Bond, mainly because the Bond character is kind of a racist. Therefore, why would we want to put a Black face on that? Not to mention that studio or production company will use color/gender swapping in film as a way to deflect criticism about its true lack of diversity, which often happens behind the camera.
Still, it’s those rudimentary and dismissive views of racism as well as sexism, which irks me the most. And if she as well as others like her (and yes, I’m talking about Anthony Mackie) weren’t so self-involved, spaces for Black filmmakers to dream up, produce and eventually distribute their products might open up in Hollywood.
Like Rodriguez, I would rather see new characters on screen which have been created from the minds and in the voices of real “minorities.” However I also don’t think it is rather lazy to blame the “minorities” for trying to move-in on White people’s game, while completely ignoring the fact that it is the studios who are making these color and gender swapping decisions in the first place.
Does Hollywood always play fair? Actress Mo’Nique has been outspoken about her post-actor struggles. And these former Hollywood hitmakers say she’s not alone. They too are among a long list of stars blackballed after their big hits.
Yesterday, when we watched Sheryl Lee Ralph’s “Access Hollywood” interview, discussing Mo’Nique being blackballed in the industry, we left scratching our heads. Ms. Sheryl has always been a pretty uplifting and philanthropic figure in our community; and these words, seemed to be a bit out of character. So, in an attempt to get to the true intent of what she was saying we spoke to Ms. Ralph today on the phone. And she clarified a few things.
See what she had to say.
After the media started picking up your interview, you reached out to Mo’Nique last night via Twitter, what did you want to let her know.
You know sometimes media can make things seem like what they ain’t. And I was just like girlfriend, ‘Now you know…’ And she was like ‘Diva, now you know I know.’ And then she made me laugh. She made a reference to my very first film, Piece of the Action. And the character Barbara Hanley has a very famous line in terms of when people try to turn things on you. So she made me laugh out loud. In fact, I told her I’m rolling on the floor, laughing out loud.
What was your intention going into the “Access Hollywood” interview?
We all know that in every walk of life–I don’t care if you’re sewing dresses, I don’t care if you’re an adjunct professor, I don’t care who you are–there is a game of life to be played. What might it be? They were talking about the fact that Mo’Nique had done an interview saying that she had been blackballed and Lee Daniels said ‘Look, you’ve been blackballed or you’ve done some things and maybe you didn’t campaign as strongly for Precious and folks remember that.’ And I thought it was very interesting how, in this game of media, she’s being chastised, blackballed–whatever you want to call it– for not being able to promote the film. And I just said you never ever know what the state of someone’s mind is and their ability to do the job you need done at that certain time. And you heard me say it. Would they have done the same thing to Tom Hanks? It’s a different game for women, no matter what color you are. And it’s different, especially when you put color on it. We know this. I just want folks to know that sometimes folks can’t always do what people are expecting of them. You can’t.
Like Dave Chappelle. He just could not do what people were asking him to do. He was not in that state of mind. And he had to walk away from a few million dollars. And everybody thought ‘Well, why would he do that?’ He had to do it to save himself. And sometimes people don’t understand that, they just want to throw you under the bus or throw you out there when really what you’re trying to do is take care of yourself.
Some interpreted that to mean you knew that she was in a bad mental space…
We don’t know what her state might have been. I’m just putting that out there, what if. I don’t know but what if. What if she needed a break after shooting a very intense film like that?
Folks should be paying attention because anybody who watched the interview, knew exactly what I was saying. Anybody who read a headline completely did not get what I was saying because the headline was misleading and taken out of context. So anybody went off of a headline and then just judged me on a headline has learned that sometimes you need to read, sometimes you need to dig deeper. Sometimes you need to look for the truth. But realize the game has started. And we are winning because people are talking.
You know how there is the Bechdel Test, that analyzes fictional film and television series to see if there are at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man? Well, I feel like we need one to help us gauge how we relate to Black women engaging in revolutionary acts.
Perhaps a comparable test would be: a Black woman, who can be defiant and oppositional to the status quo without championing for a Black man, and be called revolutionary?
Not saying that there aren’t any. However when we think of revolutionary Black women, we tend to envision women whose entire existence centers around Black men specifically, or the entire community in general. Rarely is it about women who look out for their own interests, or the interest of other women. For instance, we talk about Harriet Tubman risking and sacrificing her life to free all Black people, but rarely do we pay homage to her work for women specifically. The same could be said for Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King and a sizable amount of other revolutionary Black women.
This thought came to mind when I read Comedienne Mo’Nique Imes-James’ interview in the Hollywood Reporter. No, I’m serious.
I know she annoys folks and her name is not something we would normally associate with revolutionary. Heck, some of you might argue that her routine, career choices and personal philosophies around women and relationships might be a bit regressive. I won’t stand in the way of those arguments.
However, she has also proven to be pretty progressive in some areas, particularly around the issue of body positivity (both the heavier Mo’Nique and her recent weight loss are examples of that). And yet, when she told the Hollywood Reporter that she had been allegedly blackballed from the industry, even after winning the prestigious Academy Award, very few people came to her defense.
In fact, most folks I’ve seen have argued that she deserves her banishment from the Hollywood community. And the term “difficult” is the most cited reason why.
In particular, it was her remarks related to how she felt she should be treated after winning the highest honor in film for her role as Mary in the also Oscar-nominated film Precious:
“And that your husband was “outbidding you.” What was he referring to? You know what I learned? Never to think what somebody else was thinking. That’s a question you would have to ask Lee Daniels.* There have been people that have said, “Mo’Nique, she can be difficult. Mo’Nique and her husband can be difficult.” They could probably be right. One of the networks said to [Lee] that I was “really difficult to work with.” And I said, “Well, that’s funny, because I’ve never even worked with them, but OK.
Whoever those people are who say, “Mo’Nique is difficult,” those people are either heartless, ruthless or treat people like they’re worthless. And that’s unacceptable. They’re set to say, “Mo’Nique is tactless, she’s tacky.” That’s why I have my beautiful husband, because he’s so full of tact, ’cause I’m a girl from Baltimore. I come from a blue-collar town — and being from that place, you learn not to let anybody take advantage of you. You don’t let people mistreat you. You stand up for what’s right.”
As many have noted, the money issue might have been the central reason to why we didn’t see Mo’Nique actively campaign for the film. And as Roger Friedman in Showbiz 411.com writes: “ She’s blaming Hollywood. She says she was blackballed. She is completely incorrect. She blackballed herself. During the Precious Oscar campaign Mo’Nique thumbed her nose at the process. She demanded to be paid for promotional appearances. She didn’t turn up to accept other awards. She showed absolute disdain for everyone and everything associated with the process.”
However in the HR interview, she contends that she simply did campaign for an award because she did not ask for it. And when you think about it, it totally makes sense. So because the Academy (and other behind-the-scenes politics) decided that you should get nominated, you have to interrupt your life and your job to go do press conferences, industry parties and butt-kissing parades, all so that you can persuade people to vote for an award you didn’t necessarily go after or even want?
Sounds like a page out of The Hunger Games series.
Nevertheless, Mo’Nique won on merit because she was just that damn good in the role. And as she tells the HR: “The members of the Academy proved it. They said, “You know what? We’re going to judge the performance, not how many parties she can come to.”
Winning on merit.
It sounds like something that is supposed to just happen. But in a world of privilege and favoritism, merit still remains pretty revolutionary. After all, this is the same industry, which regularly and frequently fails to put Black actors and filmmakers both in front of- and behind -the cameras. The same industry, which makes good-gobs of money off of ridiculing and distorting our image yet won’t allow us access to the platforms to create our own. And this is the same Academy Award that folks were ready to protest last night because of not only because of the Selma snub, but the continued lack of Black creatives listed on its nominating slate in general. There should be more of us refusing to bow to the status quo.
In fact, for years we have been advising our Black creatives to not take Hollywood’s crap and seek validation elsewhere. And yet Mo’Nique did that very thing. She did not campaign for an award that historically hasn’t cared about us. And now we’re saying that because she refused to play a rigged game, being banished from the industry is what she deserves? Something doesn’t quite add up right here.
In particular, the wrong here is how many of us have been unwilling to even consider the roles race and gender played in her banishment. Why, only a few months ago, were the studio executives calling Kevin Hart a “whore” for demanding additional monies to tweet? Although many of us have the same regressive thoughts about Hart, we also shouted him out for standing up for himself. We had no problem seeing the revolution in his individual act.
And just last month, we were raising our fists in the Black power salute for our brother Marshawn Lynch, running back for the Seattle Seahawks, who refused to answer journalists’ questions during mandatory team conferences, citing “I’m here so I won’t get fined.” Although Lynch’s act was purely self-motivated and self-serving, the collective we understood and appreciated his defiance to “playing the game.” As this editorial in Vox.com passionately articulated:
“He’s arguably redefining the traditional confines of a black player’s role. As Peter Odell Campbell, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh and an expert on public arguments about race and sexuality in the media, put it, this athlete’s selective silence has put him in control of his labor and freed him from the “racist double bind” that is black NFL players’ relationship with the press.”
None of Lynch’s actions affected the interest of the collective Black community. Yet no one called him “difficult” for his rebellious acts against the system – or if they did, they were immediately dismissed as Uncle Toms and coons. Instead, we all sort of rallied around him. And held him down and up as a symbol for authentic Black masculinity.
And yet Mo’Nique was a Black woman who was telling the studios to pay her what she was worth. They scoff. And for some reason, we scoffed with them. To conceptualize the words of Gloria Huff, Patricia Bell Scott and Barbara Smith: all the men are revolutionaries; all women are just difficult…
— Sony Pictures (@SonyPictures) November 29, 2014
There may be Black actors and actresses in major roles on television and in the movies, but when you walk around the offices of some of the big time entertainment companies in Hollywood you might be pressed hard to find a Black face–or even a women. A recent hack of documents at Sony Pictures Entertainment, one of the largest film studios in Hollywood, revealed not only full-length versions of five upcoming Sony Pictures films but also sensitive internal documents. There was even a spreadsheet containing the salaries of more than 6,000 Sony Pictures employees, including the company’s top executives.
The salary list, contained in a spreadsheet entitled “Comp Roster by Supervisory Organization 2014-10-21,” seems to have detailed data about the compensation plans of Sony Pictures employees, including employees’ names, job titles, home addresses, bonus plans, and current salaries.
“Based on the spreadsheet (and bear in mind that these numbers are unconfirmed – Sony Pictures didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment), the employees of Sony Pictures with the highest annual rates appear to be nearly entirely white men,” reports Fusion.
The leaked data shows there are 17 U.S. employees of Sony Pictures with “annual rates” of $1 million or higher. Amy B. Pascal, the co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment and chairman of SPE’s Motion Picture Group, is the only one of the 17 who is a woman. The spreadsheet shows Pascal’s annual rate is $3 million, the highest on the list, and the same amount earned by Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton.
And only one (Dwight R. Caines, marketing president at Sony Pictures Entertainment) appears to be African American. Fusion calculates that “the upper pay echelon of Sony Pictures is 94 percent male, and 88 percent white.” Also, under U.S. law, companies must disclose the pay packages of some high-ranking executives and board members in their proxy statements. But the Sony Pictures hack reveals something the public rarely gets to see – an uncensored picture at who’s making what within a large corporation.
While authorities don’t know who is behind the hack, a group calling itself “GOP” (Guardians of Peace) has taken credit for the leaks. Sony Pictures itself has yet to confirm or deny the veracity of the leaked documents but it is reportedly investigating whether North Korea could be behind the hack. “The theft of Sony Pictures Entertainment content is a criminal matter, and we are working closely with law enforcement to address it,” a company spokesman told the The Washington Post.
Sony Pictures isn’t the only major Hollywood company to have a predominantly White, predominantly male leadership. “But the numbers leaked in the recent hack – assuming they’re accurate – would mean that the top ranks of one major Hollywood studio are perhaps even less diverse than those of Silicon Valley tech companies and large Wall Street banks,” reports Fusion.
Would you leave Hollywood to become a contractor? Or to be a stay-at-home mom? Meet the stars who left Hollywood for regular jobs.
Jack Gleeson: Student
Everyone’s least favorite king of Westeros told Entertainment Weekly that he’s quit acting for good. Why? He says it’s just not fun anymore.
“It was always something I did for recreation with my friends, or in the summer for some fun. I enjoyed it. When you make a living from something, it changes your relationship with it. It’s not like I hate it, it’s just not what I want to do.”
What’s he up to now? The Game of Thrones star says he’s going to finish his final year of school and then get his graduate degree (but we think he’ll be back).
Now that we are slowly recovering from “Lupita Nyong’o fever”, it is back to the drawing board when it comes to the representation of Black actresses on the big screen. Yes, Lupita is lovely, and her Oscar win for her hauntingly beautiful performance in 12 Years a Slave, will never be forgotten, but what happens now? The Mexican-born Kenyan actress has managed to stay relevant through her various ad campaigns and cosmetic deals, and has also scored a major role in the upcoming Star Wars movie being helmed by director J.J. Abrams. Despite all the accolades, it’s hard to gauge what lies in store for Nyong’o in terms of career trajectory. As we all know, being an Oscar-winner doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you will be at the top of the list for every casting session. Halle Berry certainly did not fare too well after her Best Actress win for Monster’s Ball back in 2002. Octavia Spencer, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Help in 2012, has been steadily working, but it is clear that she will never be regulated to leading lady status.
In fact, it is hard to imagine why Black actresses are still not in a position to nab significant roles in films, unless they are being subjected to the tutelage of Tyler Perry or other Black filmmakers. A recent piece in Vogue Magazine highlighted the new breed of “Young Hollywood”, and as expected the ingénues were Caucasian, with no actress of color in sight. Is it possible that there are no young Black actresses under the age of 35, who are coming into their own, with beauty and talent to match?
There are few of them floating around, Yaya DaCosta, 31, could have easily made the list. The America’s Next Top Model alumn, has proven beyond a doubt that she is much more than just a pretty face. From The Kids Are All Alright to The Butler, DaCosta commands the screen with every appearance, and her latest venture will have her portraying the late songbird Whitney Houston for a Lifetime movie being directed by actress Angela Bassett. English actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw, 30, held her own opposite Tom Hanks in 2011’s Larry Crowne, and most recently wowed critics with her performance in Belle, where she played the title character Dido Elizabeth Belle to perfection. Former soap star, Tika Sumpter, 34, has managed to parlay her undeniable charisma to the big screen. Her notables include, Think Like a Man, Sparkle, A Madea Christmas and the summer hit Get On Up. It is somewhat hard to understand why Naturi Naughton, 30, former member of the girl group 3LW, still isn’t being adequately utilized. Her performance in the 2008 film Notorious, where she portrayed Lil’ Kim, was her first lead role and demonstrated her burgeoning talent. She has had other opportunities to shine but not as brightly as she deserves. Actress Adepero Oduye, 36, gave a stunningly heartbreaking performance in the 2011 film Pariah, which garnered her an Independent Spirits Award nomination and an inclusion in The Hollywood Reporter’s Next Gen Fastest-Rising Stars list for 2011. Since then she appeared opposite Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 years a Slave, and in the remake of Steel Magnolias. But despite her winning accomplishments, it is clear that the industry still doesn’t know what to do with highly-skilled actresses who are presumably not bankable.
There are many others that fall into the same category of “young, talented and underused”. And then the movies that present and all Black cast almost always feature the same faces. Regina Hall, Nia Long, Meagan Good, Taraji P. Henson, Sanaa Lathan and Gabrielle Union dominate the circuit while Zoe Saldana has been certified as the leading Black actress of the moment, even nabbing a role that many thought was grossly miscast. The 35-year-old actress was tapped to play the iconic crooner and civil rights activist Nina Simone, and the announcement did not sit well with fans, who feel Saldana’s physical attributes will not translate simply because both women do not share similar characteristics. The shots from set of Saldana with purposely darkened skin is evidence enough, and inspires the question of why a more suited actress wasn’t awarded the part.
The answer to that question is an infuriatingly long-standing one. Hollywood is a business, and actors are regarded as money-makers first which means that even though being skilled is a necessity, studio heads have to be convinced that you are viable enough for them to bet on you. When pitted against their White counterparts, Black actresses are still not able to prove their worth and are only allowed regulated access to sought-after scripts. The likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Shailene Woodley, and Emma Stone currently dominate the market for leading actresses, and the veterans like Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts, are not letting up because the hits keep coming.
There has been some progress made, but it is hard to be specific because so much more work needs to be done to help give Black actresses the chance to shine in the spotlight long enough for them to swiftly pass on the torch to the generation after them. In the meantime, secondary roles will have to do unless another Lupita is on the horizon, and since we are only allotted one shining star every few years, that is highly unlikely.
They’re rich. They’re famous. They’re some of the most beautiful women in the world. But unfortunately time has not been kind to their acting careers. Hints of promise have been overshadowed by Razzie-worthy performances in some truly awful flicks. But regardless of some stumbles along the way, we still have faith that at least a few of these sirens can step up their game and make themselves well-known for their performances on-screen, not off.
An interesting and sure to be controversial piece of street art appeared in the the Hollywood area of Los Angeles this morning, just as millions of Christians around the country prepare to celebrate Easter Sunday or the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In the mural, which was spotted for the first time this morning, Kanye has his arms spread and his feet, fitted with red Converse, crossed over one another. In this depiction he looks undeniably like Jesus on the cross. Oh, and he’s wearing a cloth around his waist. Next to the image are the words “The New Messiah?”
There’s no word yet one who might have done this.
The spray painting, which is six foot high, was perhaps a nod to the album title of Kanye’s latest LP Yeezus. Kanye has frequently referenced himself as divine with songs like “I Am A God.” And it looks like someone drank that Kool Aid.
I don’t have to tell you that this is more blasphemous than a little bit and I would be surprised if it remains up for too long.
Kanye? The Messiah? Please. The man could even save himself.
I wonder how Kanye would feel about this depiction. While he’s professed to being a Christian with Jesus being one of his idols, he’s not afraid to depict himself as the savior. And I’m not just talking about the album title, there was also the now infamous Rolling Stone cover where West donned a crown of thorns. But perhaps West believes dressing like Christ is not blasphemous but expresses his admiration.
I can’t call it.
Either way what do you think about this mural?