Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

'Pink Panther 2' - Minus Beyoncé

As if the first one wasn't bad enough, they're giving us a second one.

I like Steven Martin most of the time. Shopgirl was a quiet, quaint, absorbing little film, and he's restrained performance in it was unlike much of anything he'd done before. But Peter Sellers he is not! This is one franchise that should have been left untouched.

Those who haven't seen the Peter Sellers originals should make every effort to do so. It's Sellers at his peak, right after Lolitaand immediately preceding Dr. Strangelove (both directed by another master, Stanley Kubrick). You can check out the 3 film set by clicking HERE.

The Steve Martin sequel hits theaters in February 2009. Beyoncé wisely sat this one out.

Teaser trailer below...

Early Preview Of 'Miracle At St Anna'

On Thursday at the ongoing Silverdocs Film Festival taking place in Silver Spring, Md, where he received the festival's Charles Guggenheim award, according to this dispatch article I read over at, Spike showed an "extended reel" of footage from his upcoming WWII epic, Miracle At St Anna. The article doesn't say how long the reel was, but apparently there was enough for the writer to come up with a brief review of the film, which follows below. It doesn't reveal much we don't already know, but you can definitely feel the writer's excitement for the film.

From IndieWire:

"The relationship of editing to theme bleeds into Lee's narratives as well, a factor demonstrated by the extended clip reel from his upcoming World War II drama "Miracle at St. Anna," which focuses on African American soldiers in Tuscany around the time of the Sant'Anna di Stazzema massacre in 1944. The film opens decades later, when one of the former fighters commits a public murder and the public investigation generates widespread chaos. Ten years after "Saving Private Ryan" revitalized the commercial war movie, Lee appears to have recontextualized the genre from his distinctive vantage point: Suddenly, fleeting nondiegetic inserts give way to a full-on flashback to the war, revealing the details of the grunts' experiences. The preview proved that the film moves fast -- not only in terms of action on the battlefield (of which there's plenty), but tonally as well. One moment, guns erupt across sprawling planes and shouts fill the air; then, a scene of quiet intimacy and unexpected humor, when one of the black soldiers discovers a young Italian boy in an abandoned home. The boy's reaction to his visitor: "A chocolate giant." The story comes from James McBride's novel, but there's no doubt that "Miracle at St. Anna" is a Spike Lee Joint."

'Ballast' Filmmaker Backs Out Of IFC Distribution Deal!

This was a bold move...

Back in February, I reported that Sundance darling, Ballast, the Mississippi Delta drama that follows a family shattered by suicide, was picked up for distribution by IFC Films, in a six-figure deal plus gross backend participation.

Now, I just read that writer/director Lance Hammer has backed out of the deal with IFC to instead take an apparently smaller offer from the lesser known Strand Releasing distribution company.

Why? Hammer says that he "wasn't dissatisfied with IFC but wanted to retain control of his movie."

How often does that happen? A filmmaker turning down a lot of money to take a lot less money so that he/she can maintain control of his/her work... rarely, in my experience.

IFC's statement in response was, "Obviously, we're disappointed, but how can we not support him if he tries to take control of this himself... We wanted the movie... we think that we would have done really well with it. It's the first time that's happened with us."

But Hammer seems to know the business well enough that he's willing to take the risk, stating, "The budget was big enough that it would be hard in the current model to see that money back... In the old days, when distributors gave a larger minimum guarantee, that would have been a totally different story. Nobody can afford to do that anymore."

Ahhhh... the business of cinema.

Strand Releasing plans release the film in New York in the fall, before expanding to other markets.

For those of you in the L.A. area, Ballast screens this weekend at the Los Angeles Film Festival, along with two other films I mentioned in previous posts below - Prince of Broadway and Medicine For Melancholy. I'm envious. I wish I was in L.A. right now. I'm sure each film will make its way to New York, and I'll get my chance to see them then. By the way, it's worth noting that Medicine For Melancholy, as I posted on Thursday, just got picked up by IFC Films for distribution. So, they lose one, and then gain one. Maybe IFC Films is becoming the go-to distribution company for black cinema :o)

Read the entire Ballast/IFC article HERE.

Remember When?

'Hancock' Reviews - Twist Revealed!

Warning: LOTS OF SPOILERS AHEAD, so proceed at your own risk.

Still here?

You sure?

Ok, you've been warned!

I just read a few reviews from a number of people who have seen test screenings of possibly the biggest movie this summer with the world's biggest star in Will Smith, Hancock, and the vast majority are negative. Some overwhelmingly so! You can read my spoiler-free review HERE, otherwise keep reading for more of the juicy stuff!

There's a major plot twist that happens about midway through the film, which you'll either hate, or simply go with. It's shifts the tone of the film considerably; but apparently, without it, the film would simply be traveling in circles. Not good!

The trailers are certainly misleading, because this is less an action movie and actually more of a love story - a love story between Will Smith's character (Hancock) and Charlize Theron's, with the super-hero bits operating more as background material.

The film really should have gone with the R-rated version, and included a lot more of the "mature" content than was apparently cut out of the film to ensure a PG13 rating to reel in the younger demographic.
I guess that explains the re-shoots (SEE my Hancock In Ratings Trouble? post from last month for more on that).

Ok, so here's the big Hancock twist revealed halfway through the film:

At this point, I think we all know what the one-sentence synopsis of the films is - a hard-living superhero (Will Smith) who has fallen out of favor with the public, falls for the wife (Charlize Theron) of the public relations professional (Jason Bateman) who's trying to repair the superhero's image.

The midway twist? Charlize's character is a superhero too!! But no one knows this - not Hancock, and not even her husband, Jason Bateman. She reveals her powers in a scene when she and Hancock are alone, and he tries to kiss her, when she suddenly picks him and throws him out the window of her house, sending him flying several hundred feet, before finally slamming into a car's windshield.

Wait, there's more!

Charlize's character later reveals that she and Hancock (Will) are descendants of Gods. She also reveals that they were once husband and wife! We also find out that they are each others respective kryptonites. The more time they spend together, the weaker and more mortal they become, so they need to stay apart. Apparently, she was at the movies with (Hancock) 80 years ago. They were on the road to mortality when Hancock saw a man getting mugged. Hancock intervened and got knocked in the head causing him to loose his memory, and Charlize's character decided to disappear from his life because the world needs one hero -- Hancock!

That's it - the end :o)

You can read one entire spoiler-filled review HERE at AICN. It pretty much runs through the entire film, so, again, read at your own peril. I should point out that it is a month old review, and this was from a test screening, meaning, some things could change before the film opens on July 1st, in 11 days. However, I don't think a major plotline like the "Charlize Theron as superheroine" bit will change.

Ya know, as I watched the trailers, before reading these reviews, I did wonder what the film was really about. The trailers and clips show him performing various super-heroic things, but not much more. I always knew that there was a love story in there, and I did also wonder why none of it is played up in any of the trailers. But I realized that the studio releasing it (Sony I believe) wants to make it seem as accessible as possible to as wide an audience as possible, so, it makes sense to silence that part of the story, and instead play up the action sequences. That's just the nature of the game, I suppose.

So, over all, nothing terribly special! I'd catch a matinee or wait for the DVD!

Jill Scott (In A Fat Suit) And Idris Elba Star In 'The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency'

This might be old news, but I haven't seen it posted around much, and I'm just now learning about it, so I thought I'd share just incase.

The television program is called The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and stars Jill Scott as Mma Ramotswe, who owns the titular Botswana-based agency. It made history as the first major production to be filmed in Botswana, the landlocked nation in Southern Africa.

The Botswana government reportedly provided five million dollars of funding for the project which has some powerhouse names behind it, like The Weinstein brothers, who are signed on as producers of the series, and directed by the late British director, Anthony Minghella.

A 2-hour pilot was produced in 2007 of a story that is based on a set of novels by the same name, written by Rhodesian-born author, Alexander McCall Smith (who's white, by the way).

Minghella purchased rights to the novels in 2004, after being introduced to them, and apparently fell in love with the story of this young lady, Precious Ramotswe (Jill Scott's character), who, with her natural inquisitiveness and intuition, decides to put her talents to use by becoming her country's first ever female detective, using the little wealth left by her dead husband.

The 2-hour pilot premiered on March 23rd, 2008, Easter Sunday, on Britain's most popular TV channel, BBC One, to tremendous audience response, inspiring the Weinsteins to convince HBO to pick up 13 episodes based on the series of novels, for American viewers.

Also starring are Anika Noni Rose, who has acted on just about every stage - theatre (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Terrence Howard and others), Television (Third Watch, 100 Centre Street), and film (Dreamgirls, notably).

Idris Elba costars as well. I think we all know who he is.

From all I've read about the program, those who've seen it have had nothing but good things to say about it. However, I can't help but feel like Jill Scott's character is simply another contemporary rendition of the "mammy" stereotype. One article I read from March, on the UK Guardian website made me cringe a little. In the article, Jill Scott is interviewed, and she talks about how the creators of the show, asked her to get bigger in size to play the lead role. The article is appropriately titled, " Gimme those cheesy rolls: Soul singer Jill Scott tells Elizabeth Day how she ate up the part of Mma Ramotswe in the TV version of The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency." I'm sure you can infer from the title alone the contents of the article. In it, Jill Scott says, she put on 30lbs for the role by eating AT LEAST 2 or 3 Philly cheesesteaks a week, and despite that heart-attack inducing diet, the producers of the show wanted her even more plump, so they added padding to her hips, ass, arms and the boobs!

OK! Just how big does this detective have to be? Doesn't that in some way hinder her ability to solve cases? Keep in mind, of course, that this was a series of novels written by a white Rhodesian-born author.

I should mention that there are some good things one can say about the development of a project like this, so I don't want to seem like I'm already dismissing it before actually seeing it. For example, given that it's shot entirely on location, in Botswana's capital city, Gaborone, a lot of local talent was used in the production. In fact, I read that the majority of the crew were native to the country. Also, this lays the foundations for future film productions, as government officials hope to generate a local film industry.

If anyone - I suppose those of you in the UK - saw the March 2008 BBC-One airing of the program, do share your thoughts. I'm definitely curious, and I'll certainly tune in to watch it when HBO finally decides to air the 2-hour pilot, followed by the 13 episodes they ordered. According to Variety, The Weinsteins and HBO aim to launch The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by the first quarter of next year. The show is expected to go back into production on the remaining 13 segments by August this year, with shooting probably taking place in London and Botswana. No word on who the director is going to be for the 13 episodes, although there may be more than one, as is often the case with TV serials.

I couldn't find any useful video clips on YouTube, which was a surprise. But you can learn more about the series at the BBC website HERE. There were 3 video clips listed there, but I couldn't get any of them to play. Someone else might have better luck.

Why So Serious?

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm REALLY looking forward to seeing this:

Friday Funnies!

Did you know that the original title for Will Smith's Hancock was Tonight He Comes? Well, it's true.

A friend of mine jokingly pointed out the coincidental phallic references evident in both titles, wondering if the creative minds behind the film were indeed aware, implying that maybe
the name change wasn't so coincidental... hmmm...

HanCOCK and Tonight He COMES... obvious emphasis on the bolded capitalized words.

Get it?

They could have just called it Cock Comes! :o)

Yeah, I know, it's silly and immature, but it's Friday, so WHATEVER!

Happy weekend!

Are You An 'Afro-Punk?'

I'm actually ashamed to admit that in the 5 years I've lived in New York City I've never once attended the the 4-year old Afro-Punk Festival, even though it's always been in my borough, Brooklyn, at venues that are literally within a 20-minute bus ride from my apartment.

Every year, since the first time I found out about its existence, I've always told myself that I would go to some of the festival's events, but some opposing force pulls me in another direction. I suppose that's one of the challenges (if I may call it that) of living in a city like New York. One feels overwhelmed with the preponderance of available public (and private) activities - so much that often I don't partake in anything at all :o)

But that's no excuse for not attending the festival created by Mr Afro-Punk himself,
James Spooner, writer and director of the critically acclaimed 2003 documentary film, Afro Punk: The Rock N Roll Nigger Experience. And this year, I WILL attend the festival of film screenings, live musical performances, parties and more. That's a promise, so feel free to hold me to my words! And I will report on my experiences afterwards.

I of course mention all this, because the Afro-Punk festival is coming, for its 4th year, to Brooklyn, NY, in 2 weeks - specifically, July 4th to July 13th - with a new slate of films, musicians, and other live events.

I'd like to be able to say, from firsthand experience, that it's a worthwhile experience, but I can't, since I've never attended. BUT, I will say that I have the trusted opinions of close friends who have experienced the festival, and they all say that it most certainly is worth your time and money!

So, for those of you in the New York area, or those planning on being in the New York area for the first 2 weeks in July, do yourself a favor and check out the Afro-Punk Festival taking place at several Brooklyn indoor and outdoor venues.

I WILL be there this year.

Go to for all the glorious details on what films are screening (a lot of really interesting films from yesteryear - many that I will review on this blog), what musicians are performing, and where all the parties are!

Spike On Katrina Revisted, Kobe Doc, Michael Doc, Obama Doc, MLK Film, Tyler Perry

Feels like Spike's been keeping himself in the news quite a bit lately, doesn't it? With good reason I suppose. He's got an epic WWII movie coming to theaters in a few months, and other projects soon after that. So, I suppose every bit of publicity helps. Yesterday at the Silverdocs Film Festival in Silver Spring, Md, where he received the festival's Charles Guggenheim award, he had lots to say on a variety of subjects...

Here are highlights From The Hollywood Reporter Article:

- He's considering revisiting the area where Katrina struck in the next 24 months for a potential follow-up to When The Levees Broke. "I'm going to go back, not just to New Orleans but to other areas affected, because it's not over," he told audiences.
- "What the press is not really talking about is the mental state -- suicide, self-medication," he said.
- Lee also said he thinks there's room for a scripted feature about post-Katrina New Orleans and tipped that The Wire creator David Simon may be working on such a pic.

- Lee's day-in-the-life documentary on Kobe Bryant would kick off the NBA season on ABC/ESPN this fall.
- His documentary about Michael Jordan's last season could see a Cannes 2009 debut.

- His longtime editor Sam Pollard is involved in an Ed Norton-produced documentary about Barack Obama.

- Said he'd love to see a great film on Martin Luther King, but, "I don't think I can do it. I can't do everything. I've got to leave something for Tyler Perry." (Haha!)

Presenting: The YouTube Screening Room

In continuation of an entry I made yesterday on YouTube's move into full-length film screenings... YouTube made it official today by revealing what it calls The YouTube Screening Room.

As printed on the screening room website:

The YouTube Screening Room is a platform for top films from around the world to find the audiences they deserve. Every other Friday, you’ll find four new films featured in the YouTube Screening Room. These films always appear with the permission and involvement of the filmmakers, so be sure to rate, share and leave comments. This is your chance to not only watch great films from all corners of the globe, but also to converse with the filmmakers behind them. While the majority of these films have played at international film festivals, occasionally you’ll find films that have never before screened for wide audiences. All films playing in the YouTube Screening Room are displayed within our High Quality player to give you the best viewing experience possible. Be a part of a new generation of filmmaking and distribution and help us connect films and audiences in the world’s largest theater!

At the bottom of the page is a request for filmmakers and producers with films to contact YouTube if interested in having their works play in the YouTube Screening Room. Send an email with information about your film to

Length requirements aren't specified, so I suppose both shorts and features are welcome.

Today's film debuts include
Are You the Favorite Person of Anybody?, a 2005 short written by Miranda July (Me and You and Everyone We Know), directed by Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl) and starring John C. Reilly, Mike White and July; The Danish Poet, which won the Oscar for Best Animated Short in 2007; Love and War, which is a stop motion opera from Sweden; and Our Time is Up, which was nominated for Best Live Action Short in 2006 and stars Kevin Pollak.

So, obviously all short films, and as I'm sure you've noticed, all films with either recognizable names, or impressive resumes, specifically award-winners. I expect that to change with time, and we'll see more and more projects created by and starring relative unknowns.

Go to the YouTube Screening Room to watch each film, and participate. I'll certainly be monitoring this and following up with my observations.

Film Festival Highlight - 'Prince of Broadway'

The Los Angeles Film Festival started today, and I've been keeping my eyes and ears alert for any projects worth mentioning, specifically those by and/or about people of the African Diaspora. I already mentioned Medicine For Melancholy below this post, which just got blessed with a distribution deal thanks to IFC Films, and will be screening thrice at the festival, which runs from the 19th to the 29th of this month.
Here's another one: It's a fictional narrative called Prince of Broadway.

The synopsis: Lucky rules New York. Well, at least the short strip of sidewalk where he runs a nonstop spiel hustling wary tourists into the back room of a clothing store to sell them all manner of knock-off designer merchandise. Watching Lucky work his magic, anything seems possible for the Ghanaian immigrant - right up until his ex-girlfriend drops their 2-year-old son in his arms and disappears.

The trailer for the DV feature follows below.

My quick thoughts: I've still not entirely acclimated myself to the cold, harsh edges of digital video. I'm a celluloid snob, I know :o) But I did shoot my feature, Beautiful Things, with a Sony VX2000 Mini-DV camcorder, although I did almost everything I could to mash the quality of the images so that they looked, not necessarily like film, but as unlike DV as possible. I think I succeeded mostly... some audiences were fooled!

When I watch trailers like this one for Prince of Broadway, I can't help but feel indifferent about what I see, regardless of how compelling the content might be. I press the play button, and I immediately turn cold and apathetic thanks almost solely to the visual presentation. It's not the film nor the filmmaker's fault, mind you. It's me and my "elitist" preferences. Like I started off saying, I'm a celluloid snob... but I'm coming along... slowly... gradually... I realize that once I'm able to get past the look of "prosumer" digital video footage, I'll be able to fully enjoy what films produced on that format have to offer.

So, all that to say, given my celluloid bias, I'm not sure if I'm fully qualified to say how good this trailer makes the film look. The story seems primed for lots of tender, comedic moments and feels vaguely familiar - a single, independent, usually immature man's life is suddenly shaken up by the emergence of a young child he never knew he had, thrusting him into a life he likely eschewed up until that point, and in the end forcing him to, essentially, grow up - from boy to man! At least, that's what I gather from the 2 1/2 minute trailer below.

I will still see it if it comes to my neck of the woods. Given that it's playing at the Los Angeles Film Festival is definitely a plus, because it gives it a certain prestige that I wouldn't afford it, if I was instead talking about the American Black Film Festival or the Hollywood black Film Festival! Sorry ABFF and HBFF... it's just one man's opinion, of course!

Learn more about the film at its website HERE.

Anyway, here's the trailer for Prince of Broadway. Whadaya think?:

'Medicine For Melancholy' Gets Picked Up By IFC!

As a filmmaker, I'm often simultaneously supportive and envious when I read news like this. Supportive because I'm happy to see another black filmmaker get the kind of opportunity that many of us (regardless of skin color) dream about; and envious for the same reason :o)

After much festival play and awards won, Medicine For Melancholy, a film I've talked about at least once before on this blog, has finally been picked up for distribution by IFC Films, buying up world rights to writer-director Barry Jenkins' San Francisco-set love story.

For those unaware, the film is described as "a love story of bikes and one-night stands told through two African-American twenty-somethings dealing with issues of class, identity, and the evolving conundrum of being a minority in rapidly gentrifying San Francisco—a city with
the smallest proportional black population of any other major American city."

It stars 2 relative unknowns, Wyatt Cenac and Tracy Heggins.

According to Variety Magazine, IFC plans to release the film in 2009, on its day-and-date (simultaneous theatrical and video-on-demand) distribution program. I'll most certainly be looking out for it!

You can read the PDF press release from the film's website HERE. Go to for everything you need to know about the film. Check out its lovely trailer HERE.

A Bollywood Controlled Dreamworks? Why Not, Says Spielberg!

I'm sure most of us have been following the Spielberg/Geffen/Dreamworks/Paramount feud making headlines in recent days. For those unaware, Steven Spielberg and David Geffen (both co-founders of Dreamworks SKG) are clearly intent on leaving Paramount once their contracts allow them to (which will be at the end of this year) and reinventing Dreamworks sans its current parent Paramount (owned by Viacom).

Paramount outbid NBC Universal in 2005, paying $1.6 Billion for the then independent Dreamworks SKG.
Now, after years of tension between the Spielberg/Geffen team and their new Paramount bosses, the former are desperately seeking relief in the form of an escape clause in their contracts that allow them both to terminate their individual agreements with Paramount at year's end, partly in an effort to regain the independence they once enjoyed - an independence that apparently wilted away post the Paramount sale. And apparently, along with that loss of independence came a healthy dose of humility.

Let's face it, when you're Steven Spielberg, an award winning, practically iconic, well-respected figurehead, with a resume that even his strongest dissenters would envy, you come to expect a certain level of respect, and maybe even kowtowing from other industry personnel, no matter their ranking. Being dissed publicly, as Viacom Chief Philippe Dauman did when he "dropped a bombshell" last September, stating at an investor conference that Spielberg and Geffen are "completely immaterial" to Viacom's bottomline, certainly isn't the kind of treatment a man of Spielberg's ilk will expect nor tolerate - hence, his current aggressive attempts to regain control of Dreamworks.

That he's reaching out to a Bollywood based financier is somewhat ironic, I think. And who he's courting for the deal is even more interesting to me, mostly because I've talked about this pair of men on this blog previously. Of course I'm referring to the Mumbai-based Ambani family, Anil and his brother Mukesh, both in the top 10 Forbes-listed billionaires in the world - number 6 and number 5 respectively, with a combined worth of roughly $90 Billion!

My introductory post to the Ambani dynasty came in the form of a semi-rant on wasteful spending, titled
From The "Screw Your Poverty" File..., in which I mention Mukesh's $2 Billion home; the second post titled, Bollywood & Hollywood - A Fledgling Love Story discussed Bollywood's aggressive moves into Hollywood, with Anil and his Reliance Entertainment leading the charge with a $1 Billion investment.

The latter is where Spielberg is hoping to attract $1 Billion in equity for his Dreamworks reinvention, with
500 million to $600 million coming from Ambani's Reliance. Regardless, with a half-billion-dollar-plus investment, you can guarantee that Ambani and Reliance will have a significant controlling stake in the revitalized Dreamworks, so Spielberg's "independence" won't entirely resemble the word as it's defined.

However, we can assume that an agreement with Reliance includes various outlined stipulations on control of the company and its content, and is likely more attractive than anything that the relationship Paramount has been or will ever be able to provide.

If this deal with Reliance goes through, it will be a case of just another foreign company with substantial controlling equity in an American corporation... business as usual, I suppose. Another little tale of a globalizing world.

Despite his last effort - the horrible 4th installment of the
Indiana Jones series - I've always been a fan of Spielberg and his work, and likely will continue to be. An "independent" Dreamworks doesn't necessarily excite nor depress me. I just don't know what the fruits of the reshaped company will bear. One can however argue that Dreamwork's output pre-Paramount trumps all output under Paramount's umbrella, both critically and financially. A quick glance at, and comparison of the films produced during both eras tells a revealing tale.

Before Paramount: Saving Private Ryan, Gladiator, American Beauty, Cast Away, Minority Report, The Ring, Catch me If You Can, the first 2 Shrek movies (the best of the bunch), and many others.

After the Paramount purchase: Things We Lost in the Fire, Transformers, Shrek the Third, Disturbia, Blades of Glory, Norbit, Dreamgirls, Clint Eastwood's 2 WWII films, and many others.

Big difference. Obviously, the pre-Paramount era wins this match handedly.

So, maybe a rebuilt Dreamworks, sans Paramount, offers promise of a previous winning streak. Time, of course, will tell whether this was a smart move on Spielberg's part.

The Wall Street Journal ran a piece about the battle for Dreamworks yesterday, which you can read
HERE. I'll keep my eyes and ears open for any advancements in the story.

CORRECTION: George Lucas is NOT Directing 'Red Tails'

On Tuesday I posted an entry about George Lucas's next directing gig - a WWII film retelling the stories of the 'Tuskegee Airmen.'

Anne Thompson's Variety Magazine blog clarifies for the rest of us that Lucas WILL NOT be directing the film, as many thought, based on the original Tuesday press release.

Here's what the blog partly states:

According to Lucasfilm... Lucas is NOT directing Red Tails... He is an a executive producer... (John) Ridley is writing... No other attachments yet.

They have not started talking to distributors and aren't yet talking about their plans for financing. Lucas could pay for the whole thing out of his own pocket... but that doesn't mean he will.

So, the speculation begins... who will end up in the director's chair? Who would YOU like to see assume the role? Do you give a shit? It would be an interesting twist of events if somehow Spike Lee ended up behind the lens. It all depends on what story (or stories) will be told, and what Lucas will go for in terms of style and content. Is he thinking of some bloated big-budgeted spectacle, with lots of war action sequences, or a more intimate, personal journey, that focuses mainly on character narration? It's anyone's guess at this juncture.

Freedom Of Speech - Just Watch What You Say

I don't know how the hell I missed this stupefying piece of news, given how much web surfing and reading I do daily; and also the fact that the incident took place right here, in my own backyard! I don't recall any local news stations carrying it, although that's partly my fault, because I don't watch much local television. Unless there was some covert intent to cover it all up... I don't know. And no one in my immediate circle of friends, also New Yorkers, mentioned nor talked about any of it!

Maybe I'm just too sensitive, and it's ultimately no big deal, and I shouldn't be shocked by any of this, since it's just business as usual in America (cue the Star-Bangled Banner).

A friend in Kuwait, of all places, sent me an email tonight, expressing her outrage at the news (she'd only just found out about it), cluing me in!

The story was posted on the New York Times weblog, which baffles me even more, because I read the New York Times online almost everyday, so I have no idea how I missed this!

It's 2 weeks old, but I thought I'd share anyway, for any others who may have missed it as well.

I just realized that this took place on the day Barack sealed the democratic party nomination, so it's possible that all the excitement surrounding that triumph silenced this almost completely.

Take a look at the 3 images below first, and then follow the link at the bottom to read the accompanying article, and see even more "interesting" pictures. Click each one for an enlarged (pun intended) view:

The story goes from the NY Times blog... June 4th 2008 - This morning, a Boston-born performance artist, Yazmany Arboleda, tried to set up a provocative art exhibition in a vacant storefront on West 40th Street in Midtown Manhattan with the title, “The Assassination of Hillary Clinton/The Assassination of Barack Obama,” in neatly stenciled letters on the plate glass windows at street level.

By 9:30 a.m., New York City police detectives and Secret Service agents had shut down the exhibition, and building workers had quickly covered over the inflammatory title with large sheets of brown paper and blue masking tape. The gallery is across the street from the southern entrance to The New York Times building.

See the rest of the story HERE.

The artist claims that he has the right to express himself artistically, under the Constitution, and is being censorsed, unlawfully. Once again, the somewhat ambiguous concept known as freedom of expression is challenged! How far is too far? Where does the demarcation lie?

Chiwetel Ejiofor Gets Behind The Camera

The film is called Slapper, and it's written and directed by cross-continental British actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor!

Before you get too excited, I should mention that it's a short film, not feature-length, and thus not likely to be coming to a theater near you anytime soon, if ever!

However, maybe what we have here is the beginning of something... the creation of a 'slasher'... a multi-hyphenate: Chiwetel Ejiofor - actor, writer, director, producer. Time will tell!

For now, we can continue to appreciate his efforts in front of the camera, although those of you in the area or close by can catch the film next week Tuesday, the 24th of June, when it will screen as part of the "UK Shorts" program at this year's Edinburgh film festival. I'll certainly be looking out for an eventual U.S. screening or a web download.

In a self-authored memoir, Ejiofor recounts a day of his experience as the director on Slapper. You can read all the intimate details right

'Method Man' - The Graphic Novel

I haven't picked up a comic book in years. But I'll likely always be a fan. I grew up consuming the material.

So I can't call myself an aficionado - not even close... certainly not as aware and involved as the members of the Wu Tang Clan. So, it should be no surprise that their enthusiasm for the art form would lead them to create their own brands - in this specific case, Method Man, whose very first graphic novel is scheduled to hit bookstores on July 23rd.

According to Entertainment Weekly, the graphic novel will be titled Method Man, and it will follow a character by the name of Peerless Paine, described as "a ninja-like ''murder priest'' pledged to fight the forces of evil, as he battles the infernal ancient spirit Lilith."

It's supposedly laced in mysticism - full of action and adventure.

Entertainment Weekly interviewed Method Man about the graphic novel, and his thoughts on the recent deluge of comic book/graphic novel movie adaptations (let's just say he despises them).

No word on whether we can expect a cinematic adaptation of his graphic novel, whether in live action form or as a cartoon.

You can read the entire interview as well as get an exclusive look at the graphic novel by clicking HERE. The image above is lifted directly from its pages.

Feature-Length Films Coming To YouTube

I'm still not entirely convinced of the viability of long-form video broadcasts over Internet airwaves, unless the provider gives the viewer the option to make the content easily and efficiently portable for viewing on multiple devices - from handheld PDAs with 3-inch screens, to home theater set-ups with gigantic wall-mounted displays. I just don't envision a future in which the average multimedia consumer will be content with the limitations that accompany watching anything longer than a few minutes of video on the average desktop or laptop screen. Certainly technology has made it possible to link your computer desktop or laptop to your 46-inch, wall-mounted Samsung LCD screen, but there's that nagging quality issue that you'll have to take into account, especially if the content provider hasn't made considerations for large format, high-definition viewing. It's an expensive endeavor for any provider, which is partly why it hasn't become as ubiquitous as it could be, or as many would expect, at this stage of broadband bandwidth use.

Even if it were to suddenly become the standard, I think there'll certainly be a period of adjustment, because most of us are not accustomed to watching full-length material of say more than 30 minutes, on our computer screens. It's as if there's this innate assignment of roles that happens internally - i.e. when we think of the web, short-form video is the rule, and we instead relegate all long-form content to old media standards, specifically the theatre and the television. The mind doesn't quite yet want to make the leap and associate the web with feature-length material. That could certainly change in time - after all, the Internet is still a relatively novel phenomenon, still not yet fully exploited.

However, according to
Fortune Magazine, the folks over at YouTube (Google) seem to think a little differently, or at least, they are willing to challenge my theory by experimenting with full-length video. Why? Money of course, what else - to hopefully attract more advertisers.

They have already posted a handful of lengthy videos, including a feature film titled Howard Buttelman, Daredevil Stuntman, a comedy about "a small town tuxedo salesman who thinks he's the next Evel Knievel." The film is 1 hour and 35 minutes long. It's also racked up more than 1.1 million views since its July 2007 debut. Impressive numbers certainly - that's about as many tickets that were sold last weekend alone for the Sex And The City movie.

Despite those numbers, I'm still not convinced. I'd like to see this happen repeatedly, over a long enough period of time, with similar and even better results, before I'd be willing to buy stock in this.

But we'll probably see a lot more full-length features like this on YouTube, as they continue to experiment. It's clear that the company wants to expand its offerings, which is a good thing and necessary if it's to survive in the long term. And this seems like the most logical move, given its business model, as well as the fact that most major network content providers, ABC, NBC, Fox, et al, are combatting the free use of their programming on YouTube by cracking down on piracy challengers and creating video streaming sites of their own for their television shows, or making them available for sale on iTunes.

The Fortune article states that YouTube has been courting independent directors this week at the Los Angeles Film Festival, to consider showcasing their work on the website.

What's in it for the filmmaker, especially since the films will be made available for free viewing?

Exposure mostly. With the potential to reach YouTube's 69 million monthly users, or even just a fraction of that number, that can be enticing for any fledgling indie filmmaker, even though those millions of eyeballs wouldn't be paying a cent for the experience. My guess is that YouTube's plan here will be the same one that they offered the TV networks - content providers, in this case, the filmmakers, will share in advertising revenue made from the viewings of their film, which could be anything from $0 to possibly thousands, if not millions of dollars (that would have to be a very popular film). But, I suppose knowing that there's the potential for my film to reach millions of viewers as well as pad my bank account a little, can inspire any filmmaker to take the chance - especially when you're without many other options, like a distribution deal from a brick & mortar distribution company.

Browsing the YouTube page for Howard Buttelman, Daredevil Stuntman, I noticed that the filmmaker is selling the film on DVD for $15.50 on another website, with a link prominently displayed. I have no idea how many copies of the disk have been sold (I'll have to research that), but that's an attractive feature. Viewers watch the film on YouTube, and if they like it, they can buy the higher quality DVD version for $15.50. And I'm guessing that the filmmaker will pocket 100% of money from direct sales, although, YouTube certainly could justify receiving a cut of its own, after all, it's made your film readily available to millions of eye balls at no monetary cost to you. Even if only 10% of those 1.1 million views that Howard Buttelman, Daredevil Stuntman has received decide to buy the film at the $15.50 asking price listed on the sales site, that's more than $1.5 million in gross sales (granted, 1.1 million views on YouTube doesn't automatically mean that 1.1 million people have watched the film).

And lastly, there's always the possibility of getting the attention of a Hollywood executive, and signing on with a studio to write and/or direct future projects, whether commercial or personal.

You can read the entire YouTube article on Fortune's website HERE.

Michelle Obama Reintroduces Herself

If you haven't seen it - today's New York Times features a profile of Michelle Obama, the first of its kind I believe. The article is rather terse but clearly wants to endear its subject to its readers, painting a picture of the next first lady (yes, she will be) that counters much of the fear-filled rumor mongering that Obama opponents have, and continue to generate and distribute.

Indeed, she must have read Deepak Chopra's post on about the quagmire that is "truth in politics," as she attempts to reintroduce herself to America, as the New York Times piece intimates - essentially accentuating her more disarming qualities.

The "angry black woman" label that right-wing pundits have blessed her with (Fox News notably) obviously needs to be combatted, and an article like this one is a punch thrown in the right direction.

Then again, it is the New York Times, a publication many feel carries an unabashedly liberal bias. HOWEVER, it's called a national newspaper of record for a reason.

In closing, the fact that she needs to "soften" her image is understandable given the manner in which our laughable electoral process works, yet it annoys me. This "double-consciousness dance" that blacks in this country (in this case those running for political office) have to do is like a contemporary form of minstrelsy - doing the jig is still a requirement for acceptance into mainstream American society.
Be honest, just don't be too honest. Yes, you faced a lifetime of overt and covert racism, leaving you with battle scars that still sting even when lightly stroked or tickled, but just don't let that affect the person that you are or become. Or even if you do, keep that face and voice hidden from public display, especially when seeking the affirmation of the oppressive, oblivious majority.


You can read the entire story HERE.

Spike Goes Time Travelling!

Well, he's certainly keeping himself busy these days, which is a good thing I suppose, and diversifying his portfolio too - from a heist movie (Inside Man), to a documentary (When The Levees Broke), to a World War 2 movie (Miracle At St Anna), and now a sci-fi time travel spectacle! Go Spike!

From Variety Magazine:

Spike Lee will co-write and direct Time Traveler, a feature adaptation of a memoir by Ronald Mallett, one of the nation's first African-Americans to earn a Ph.D in theoretical physics. Lee acquired Time Traveler: A Scientist's Personal Mission to Make Time Travel a Reality with his own money and has set up the project through his Forty Acres & A Mule Filmworks banner.

Mallett, who wrote the book with Bruce Henderson, recounts his rise from poverty to a distinguished academic and scientific career, and it lays out the technical specs for what Mallett envisions as a workable time machine. Developing a time machine became an obsession for Mallett from the age of 10 after his father's death. His goal was to travel back in time to save his father.

This excites me for various reasons - mostly because we rarely get to see a film like this, told from a black person's perspective. I've always thought that a novel like Kindred, Octavia Butler's time travel exploration of slavery, would make a good movie, and even a somewhat commercial one, but despite several efforts from different independent producers who've optioned the book in the past, it's never been able to raise the necessary funds to see it through production. Maybe a successful Spike Lee time travel joint with Time traveler will make Kindred much more attractive to financiers.

The fact that Spike shelled out his own money for the rights to the book is a plus in my book! I appreciate that kind of aggressiveness, something black cinema needs more of. No word on production dates, casting, etc. It's probably too early for any of that anyway. A script first needs to be adapted from the material. And then there's always the challenging financing part. So, I'd say this won't be coming to a theatre near you for another 2 years.

I've never heard of nor read Mallet's Time Traveler, but you can guarantee that I'll be ordering my copy from ASAP, and you can too by clicking

I did a little digging on Ronald Mallet and found a few video clips of him talking about his book, including this one below from September 2007. I'm certainly inspired to learn more about the man, so expect more posts on this blog about him:

This Could Be Interesting...

Here's something to keep an eye on as the project develops...

From Variety:

Columbia and Spider-Man director Sam Raimi are reuniting on The Given Day, an adaptation of an upcoming novel by Dennis Lehane, an author who's seen 3 of his other novels adapted - specifically the Clint Eastwood directed Mystic River, Ben Affleck's Gone Baby Gone, and Martin Scorsese has nearly completed production on Shutter Island, with Leonardo DiCaprio in the starring role.

Raimi will direct the yet to be published, The Given Day, which tells the story of two families – one black and one white – "swept up in a maelstrom of revolutionaries and anarchists, immigrants and ward bosses, Brahmins and “ordinary” citizens, all engaged in a battle for survival and power, in 1919 Boston, with the city in turmoil as soldiers are returning home from WWI, having brought back an epidemic of Spanish influenza."

The novel is described as a “gritty," "political," "ambitious," and "epic," and will feature the most influential figures of the day – Babe Ruth, Eugene O’Neill, NAACP founder W.E.B. Du Bois, Calvin Coolidge and many others.

No word yet on when this will go into production, or which actors are being considered for what roles. The book hasn't even been published yet!! However, for obvious reasons, I'll certainly be interested in reading it when it is published by HarperCollins on Sept. 23. You can preeorder your copy HERE.

100 New Movie Classics

Starting yesterday, June 17th, Entertainment Weekly began its countdown of what it's calling the 100 New Movie Classics - specifically films released in the past 25 years that will live on as celluloid classics for generations to come.

The countdown started with the bottom 25 (number 76 to 100), and I suppose EW's plan is to spread the process over 4 days, unveiling the list a quarter at a time, until it's complete.

Notable mentions included in the bottom 25: The Hughes' brothers,
Menace To Society at number 92, and Glory at 97.

Check out the rest HERE

'Hancock' Premieres In Paris

No disrespect to my Parisian readers, all 3 of them :o), but how does Hancock, an "American as apple pie" movie, premiere over in Gallic territory, a full 2 weeks before we in George Bush land get to feast our eyes on it? I thought we hated the French... I kid, I kid... pardon moi! The demagogue known as Sarkozy must be partly responsible for this seemingly clandestine operation.

Anywho... during last night's Paris premiere, press photos of the film's stars who made the trip (including Jason Bateman, director Peter Berg and others) were of course snapped, including the one above. You can see more

'Baracknophobia' Is Taking Over America!

Classic hilarious clip from last night's Daily Show with Jon Stewart! In it, Stewart mocks the mass media's casual willingness to generate and propagate ridiculous rumors about Barack and Michelle Obama - liking their attempts to a fear-inducing disease he calls "Baracknophobia!"

Just watch with glee:

From Hotel Rwanda To Hotel For Dogs?

Phew! For a second there I thought I saw Don Cheadle in the trailer below at around the 1:36 mark... Wait a cotton-pickin' minute, that WAS Don Cheadle at the 1:36 mark! Boy, I sure hope he got PAID for this (nyuck, nyuck, nyuck)...

Just watch:

George Lucas Tackles 'Tuskegee Airmen' In Next Film

Wow, I guess "African Americans in World War II" movies are suddenly becoming de rigueur! Whoulda thunk it?

This time, billionaire George Lucas, the man who brought us all those Star Wars movies, and their shitty, irrelevant prequels, as well as being partly responsible for the abomination that was this summer's Indiana Jones movie, will assume directorial duties, with a script from John Ridley, the African American journalist/writer who brought us Three Kings (also a "war movie"), and lest we forget, Undercover Brother.

The film will be titled, Red Tails, and is currently in preproduction, with a late fall, early 2009 production schedule. No word yet on casting, but I should note that Laurence Fishburne did star in a 1995 rendition called The Tuskegee Airmen, which was produced by and aired on HBO, although it also got a very limited theatrical run.

So it looks like maybe Spike's got a little competition here - much better funded competition I might add; and even though both films will be released at least a year apart, and deal with different factions, I'm sure there'll be comparisons. I can't say George Lucas inspires much excitement in me. He's proven to be a better visionary than a director, although, I'm sure he'll throw a lot of money into this; so, at the very least, we can expect something of a spectacle.

I'm sure Spike will have something to say about this!

From Yahoo Movies:

The black airmen whose lives will be the basis of a George Lucas movie know the picture will highlight their record of successfully escorting thousands of U.S. bombers in World War II.

They also feel it should tell of the trials they encountered stateside, like seeing German prisoners of war being treated better and afforded rights that were withheld from black American citizens.
Now that "Red Tails" is in preproduction, some of the airmen say they are excited their story is coming to the big screen but torn over how much it should devote to each of their two historic fights — against Adolf Hitler abroad and Jim Crow at home.

Lt. Col. Eldridge F. Williams, 91, wants the film to recount the discrimination they had to overcome in their own country. Williams, who served in the military from August 1941 to November 1963, said a white doctor's false diagnosis of an eye condition kept him from achieving his dream of being a pilot, though he became a navigator.

"I think the story that has not been told is stories like mine in which the home battle that was waged ... shall we say, helped open the door so that the unit could enter combat and demonstrate its capabilities and be successful," he said.

Read the rest HERE.

'Notorious' Video Diaries

Stumbled upon the blog for Notorious, the Christopher Wallace aka Biggie Smalls aka Notorious B.I.G. biopic, produced right here in my backyard, Brooklyn, New York.

The blog was set up by Fox Searchlight, the studio producing and distributing the film, which is set for a January 2009 release.

It contains a few production updates, including video clips like the one below, capturing moments of interest. There isn't a lot there at the moment, but it's probably not a bad idea to keep an eye on the site over the next 7 months, leading up to the film's eventual release, as I'm guessing more updates and video clips will be posted in time.

The clip below shows the starring cast and crew introducing themselves to the camera. We see Angela Bassett who plays Voletta Wallace (Biggie's mom), along with the real Voletta Wallace, as well as Anthony Mackie as Tupac, and of course, Jamal Woolard as the titular Notorious one. You can see more HERE at

Ever Seen A Grown Man Cry?

"Some of the men cried before I even finished loading the camera, but others found it really difficult. People can decide for themselves which they think are the authentic tears and which they think are fake. It's about the idea of taking these big, masculine men and showing a different side."

'Crying Men' is a collection of photographic portraits of famous film actors by Sam Taylor-Wood showing what it looks like when Hollywwod men cry. The portraits include Forrest Whitaker, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Robert Downey Jr., Robin Williams, Paul Newman, Ed Harris, Benicio Del Toro, Woody Harrelson, Willem Dafoe, and Kris Kristofferson, amongst many others. You can see the rest of the series HERE.

But first - cue Ralph Tresvant (Haha!):

3 Racially Insensitive Brand Mascots That Should Die!

It's amazingly uncanny how these age-old minstrel media caricatures have been effectively tenderized and simplified to allow for easy, comfortable mass digestion. They've become as American as rigged elections! Instead of planting seeds of outrage, they generate a silent, creepy, albeit unconscious kind of lighthearted, familial acceptance that I find rather disturbing.

On first thought, I wondered if I was just being too sensitive. But all it takes is one read of the origins of these mascots to reignite whatever flame of outrage burned inside of me initially. So, I think it's time we put these fictional images to death, once and for all, and bury them deep enough that they no longer exist tangibly (specifically as brands), but also aren't entirely forgotten.

With considerable help from Wikipedia, here are three of them:

1. Aunt Jemima - The direct inspiration for Aunt Jemima originates from a minstrelsy song of the same name, performed by blackface performers who wore an apron and kerchief. She was represented as a slave and was the most commonplace representation of the stereotypical "mammy" character. The character of Aunt Jemima also appeared in vaudeville, played by a white actress, who performed the role in blackface.

Nancy Green, born a slave in Montgomery County, Kentucky, was hired by R.T. Davis Milling Company to play the Jemima character from 1890 to her death in 1923. The likeness of Ethel Ernestine Harper (a school teacher) served as the basis for most remaining Aunt Jemima print advertising starting in the 1950s, until the Jemima character was changed into a composite in the 1960s.

The Aunt Jemima trademark has been modified several times over the years. In her most recent make-over in the late 80s/early 90's, as she reached her 100th anniversary she was transformed into a younger, thinner woman, dressed up, and her kerchief removed to reveal a natural hairdo and pearl earrings. This new look remains with the products to this day.

2. Uncle Ben - When white South Carolina planters were unable to make their rice crops thrive, slaves from West Africa taught planters new techniques for growing the crop. In the American South, whites once commonly referred to elderly black men as uncle even though they were not blood relatives. During the later 20th century, this was considered patronizing and demeaning and was widely deprecated. Moreover, during the 1940s, black people were popularly associated with rice.

Uncle Ben's image is that of an elderly African-American man dressed in a bow tie, perhaps meant to imply a domestic servant in the Aunt Jemima tradition.

After 61 years, in March 2007 Uncle Ben's image was "promoted" to "chairman of the board" by a new advertising campaign designed to distance the brand from its stereotyped iconography depicting a domestic servant.

3. Chef Rastus - Rastus is a pejorative term traditionally associated with African Americans. It is considered highly offensive. "Rastus" has been used as a generic, often derogatory, name for black men at least since 1880. Rastus - as any happy black man, not as a particular person - became a familiar character in minstrel shows, in books, in popular songs, and in films.

Rastus later appeared on packages of Cream of Wheat cereal in 1890, and is still the Cream of Wheat trademark today. The image is believed to be from a photograph of Frank L. White, a Chicago chef who reportedly was paid five dollars to pose in a chef's hat and jacket. His face has been featured on the box with only slight modifications until the present day.

All 3 of these mascots still exist today, unapologetically, in full bloom, omnipresent. Many of us see them everyday - at breakfast, lunch and dinner - staring at us, smiling, servile, in 2-D. And we smile back - that is when we even bother to notice that they are there. Maybe because they seem so harmless today, since each image has evolved over time, thanks to creative corporate marketing teams, to supposedly embrace the zeitgeist. But no matter how much we dress them up, no matter how much the package changes, the history that gave birth to each image - the intent, the meaning - will never entirely fade.

Is it time that we say goodbye to these images that really serve no purpose in contemporary American society, except to prolong racist and oppressive ideologies that once were pervasive throughout this country?