Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

Old School Friday

Borrowing from the "
old school Friday" music meme I've seen on other blogs, every Friday I'll feature an "old school" film favorite - specifically those that were seen by very few of us, and still aren't as well known as I think they should be.

This week, Chameleon Street (1989) a film I've already talked about ad nauseam in previous incarnations of this blog, as well as on my podcast. If you know nothing about the film, look it up! It was largely unavailable after its Sundance premiere in 1990, until about a year ago, when it finally saw a DVD release, available on right now, for $12!

There were rumors that Will Smith wanted to star in a remake of the film, but, Wendell B Harris, the writer, director and star of Chameleon Street refused. To my knowledge, nothing is in the works. However, there's a famous Rubik's cube sequence in the film that Smith supposedly mimicked in a couple of instances in his own work - once in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and again in The Pursuit of Happyness.

Watch the trailer below first, and then, watch the Rubik's cube expose beneath it.

Here's the trailer:

Here's the Rubik's cube expose:

Blackbird - The Web Browser For Black People

It's called Blackbird, and is described by its creators as "the web browser for the African American community," supposedly making it easier for African Americans to discover relevant content on the web, and to interact with other members of the African American community, online, by sharing stories, news, comments, videos, and more...

The browser displays a pre-set news ticker on top, pulling in relevant news content from Google News that might be of interest to African-Americans, and features a section with video content from online TV sites like UptownLiveTV, NSNewsTV, DigitalSoulTV and ComedyBanksTV.

Other than that, there’s a lot of integration with the most popular social networks (Facebook, etc), something called a "Black Search," preset "Black Bookmarks," and more.

There’s also a "Give Back" program that streamlines donations to a number of non-profit organizations (Blackbird intends to donate 10% of its 2009 revenue to these partners as well).

It's a free download, by the way, paid for with lots of targeted advertising - no surprise there.

So, the question begging to be asked is, do we really need a "Black web browser?"

I'm content with Firefox, especially with all the customization tools that are already built into it, as are in most recent versions of all the popular browser applications.

But kudos to the team (all African American engineers) for taken on the endeavor, and seeing it all the way to fruition; however, I just don't think it's warranted. I understand niche products and marketing, but this one seems completely unnecessary.

Why not just create a competing browser, as opposed to a "Black browser?"

Although, I suppose one could ask that question about other ideas - for example, why not just create a film, as opposed to a "black film?" Or why not just create a blog or podcast dedicated to film in general, as opposed to a blog/podcast dedicated to "black film?"

Questions... questions...

There's a difference... I can't imagine how exactly this "black browser" will improve on my web surfing experience, enough to make me switch from the browser I currently use. Finding the content I need (whether it's "black content") has never really been a problem for me; and, as I said above, today's browsers come with enough customizable features that make it quite easy for me to navigate the world wide web, and connect with whatever my wants and desires are.

It'll have to provide me with some obvious elevated experience, or some advantage over its competitors, to make me want to consider using it. And, from everything I've read about it, and taking my limited experience with it into consideration, there's absolutely nothing of the sort.

In addition, the timing of it is all wrong, with so many browsers already crowding the marketplace. It's several years too late, I think, and would have had a much better shot at success if it was built 5 years ago.

No immediate word on how much interest there is in the Blackbird browser. It's been in existence for about 3 weeks, in beta, so you can check it out for yourself here: BLACKBIRD.

And let me know what you think about it.

What's New? - Will Smith


I'll do my best to update you all on the upcoming films of our stars, big and small, on both sides of the camera.

First, the biggest and most polarizing of them all - Will Smith.

Here are some newly announced productions of note for Mr Smith, along with my commentary.

My Wife Hates Your Wife

Cast attached: Will Smith
Synopsis: Two best friends' wives get into a fight and declare that the husbands are prohibited from seeing each other.
Distributor: Sony

Tambay says - I'm guessing it's a comedy.

Taharka (aka The Last Pharaoh)
Cast attached: Will Smith
Synopsis: A sweeping epic about the last Nubian pharaoh of Egypt.
Distributor: Sony
Writer: Randall Wallace

Tambay says - Hmmmm... Will Smith as a "Nubian pharaoh of Egypt," AND in "sweeping epic" style? Ok. We'll see. It's worth noting that the writer, Randall Wallace, has some solid work on his resume - Braveheart, We Were Soldiers, and the currently in production adaptation of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (starring Angelina Jolie) - all what you might call "sweeping epics," notably the first 2, which both starred Mel Gibson, by the way.

Uptown Saturday Night
Cast attached: Will Smith
Synopsis: A remake of the 1974 hit that starred Bill Cosby, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Flip Wilson and Richard Pryor, directed by Poitier.
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Writer attached: David Dobkin

Tambay says - Will has talked about doing this for awhile. If I remember correctly, the remake of Oceans 11 encouraged him. This could be a fun romp, if done right... of course. Casting could also be interesting. I recall Martin Lawrence's name being thrown around as one co-star. Not sure who else will get a look - after all, they've got at least 5 starring roles for black men in there. It would also be nice if he got a black director to helm the production (for a change). The attached writer's resume leaves a lot to be desired: Shanghai Nights, Wedding Crashers, Fred Claus... bleh... Come on Will. If you're going to remake this film, at least do so in the same spirit in which the original was made - a film written by a black writer (playwright Richard Wesley), starring a black cast of stars, and directed by a black man (Sidney Poitier). As he was putting the production team together, one of Sidney's goals was to create work for his fellow African American performers, both in front of, and behind the camera. He was the biggest star of the group, at the time; and without him, the film may never have gotten made - all things that I'm sure he was fully aware of. So, it would be REALLY nice to repeat the sentiment. You can begin by removing this David Dobkin fellow from the team.

This Means War
Distributor: Fox
Synopsis: Two best friends who are spies compete for the same woman.
No cast attached.

Tambay says - there's no cast attached to this yet, but it's listed as a collab between Overbrook Entertainment (Will Smith's production company) and Fox, acting as studio distributor. So, I'll guess that Will will star in it, as one of the 2 best friends.

Joe Louis
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Synopsis: The story of America's entry into World War II set against Joe Louis' two fights against Max Schmeling; Overbrook producing with Irwin Winkler.
Cast attached: N/A

Tambay says - Same story as This Means War above. Overbrook is producing, Warner Bros is distributing. Although, I'm not sure if this is the same Joe Louis pic that Spike Lee has been wanting to make for awhile. He and Will Smith really haven't been very chummy, especially after the Ali fiasco. So, I don't think this will be a teaming of the two. And, I can't see Will Smith playing another legendary boxer. Maybe his company is producing, Spike is directing, and someone else will star.

That's all I have for Mr Smith...

Others names will follow!

"Whopper Virgins" - Good Friday Morning!

The story goes... Burger King's new controversial ad campaign dubbed "Whopper Virgins," spotlights people in remote areas of the world who have never heard of, nor eaten hamburgers before.

They hired director Stacy Peralta (Dogtown and Z-Boys) to document what became a 20,000 mile international journey to find these so-called "Whopper virgins" to perform “the world’s purest taste test."

Thirteen planes, two dog sleds and one helicopter later, they produced a short documentary, advertising their journey, which you can watch below.

Here's to exporting America's obesity problem one Whopper at a time.

Anyone else bothered by this?

Cool Movie Posters - 1960s

A 1960s heist movie with the names Jim Brown and Diahann Carroll getting top-billing on the marquee over Gene Hackman and Ernest Borgnine, produced by Irwin Winkler, and I've never heard of it?

Anyone? Anyone?

Film Finds - Complexion

In response to an email I received regarding my "Film Finds" category posts on this blog, I should be clear that I haven't seen any of these films, and thus I'm not recommending any of them! 

Instead, think of each post as an FYI on upcoming films by and/or about people of the African Diaspora that have, for one reason or another, generated some buzz on some circuit (usually the festival circuit). It's entirely up to you to do what you like with the information.

For this entry, the story goes... Derek meets Tracee, and the two immediately form a special bond. From a distance all seems perfect in their relationship. However, we learn there’s something that’s keeping Derek from truly falling in love with Tracee – her skin complexion. Even though they’re both black, his preference is to be with black women that he considers “light skinned.” Both Derek and Tracee’s friends try to make sense of what would make a person feel this way, but by dissecting this controversial topic they learn that everyone has preferences, including them. Powerful, thought provoking, and unforgettable, Complexion evokes rare emotion that forces us all to surrender to its power.

Resume: 2008 American Black Film Festival, 2008 African Diaspora Film Festival

Here's the trailer (as always, share your thoughts below):

Filmmakers Cashing In On YouTube


I've certainly had my share of ideas for a YouTube program series, but, for one reason or another, I've never acted on any of them. 

However, it's encouraging to see that there are others who did act, who are now enjoying the financial rewards of all their hard work.

So... filmmakers, I encourage you to take heed, if you haven't already. The Internet, specifically highly-trafficked sites like YouTube, present some unexplored opportunities. Don't rest your hopes on achieving success via the traditional route - festival entries, a distributor pick-up, followed by a theatrical release, and then on to home video (DVD). Perhaps it's time to consider creating content for the tube - in this case, YouTube!

Yes, it'll be a challenge attracting eyeballs, but, as the gentlemen in the article below demonstrate, a little hard work can go a long way - and a catchy idea, of course. But, think of the amount of control you'll have over your work and its distribution, that you likely would not, if you opted for the tried, but not necessarily true path.

Read on from the New York Times:

Making videos for YouTube — for three years a pastime for millions of Web surfers — is now a way to make a living.

One year after YouTube, the online video powerhouse, invited members to become “partners” and added advertising to their videos, the most successful users are earning six-figure incomes from the Web site. For some, like Michael Buckley, the self-taught host of a celebrity chatter show, filming funny videos is now a full-time job.

Mr. Buckley quit his day job in September after his online profits had greatly surpassed his salary as an administrative assistant for a music promotion company. His thrice-a-week online show “is silly,” he said, but it has helped him escape his credit-card debt.

Mr. Buckley, 33, was the part-time host of a weekly show on a Connecticut public access channel in the summer of 2006 when his cousin started posting snippets of the show on YouTube. The comical rants about celebrities attracted online viewers, and before long Mr. Buckley was tailoring his segments, called “What the Buck?” for the Web. Mr. Buckley knew that the show was “only going to go so far on public access.”

“But on YouTube,” he said, “I’ve had 100 million views. It’s crazy.”


Granted, building an audience online takes time. “I was spending 40 hours a week on YouTube for over a year before I made a dime,” Mr. Buckley said — but, at least in some cases, it is paying off.

Mr. Buckley is one of the original members of YouTube’s partner program, which now includes thousands of participants, from basement video makers to big media companies. YouTube, a subsidiary of Google, places advertisements within and around the partner videos and splits the revenues with the creators. “We wanted to turn these hobbies into businesses,” said Hunter Walk, a director of product management for the site, who called popular users like Mr. Buckley “unintentional media companies.”

YouTube declined to comment on how much money partners earned on average, partly because advertiser demand varies for different kinds of videos. But a spokesman, Aaron Zamost, said “hundreds of YouTube partners are making thousands of dollars a month.” 

Mr. Buckley, who majored in psychology in college and lives with his husband and four dogs in Connecticut, films his show from home. Each episode of “What the Buck?” is viewed an average of 200,000 times, and the more popular ones have reached up to three million people. He said that writing and recording five minutes’ worth of jokes about Britney Spears’s comeback tour and Miley Cyrus’s dancing abilities is not as easy as it looks. “I’ve really worked hard on honing my presentation and writing skills,” he said.


Cory Williams, 27, a YouTube producer in California, agrees. Mr. Williams, known as smpfilms on YouTube, has been dreaming up online videos since 2005, and he said his big break came in September 2007 with a music video parody called “The Mean Kitty Song.” The video, which introduces Mr. Williams’ evil feline companion, has been viewed more than 15 million times. On a recent day, the video included an advertisement from Coca-Cola.

Mr. Williams, who counts about 180,000 subscribers to his videos, said he was earning $17,000 to $20,000 a month via YouTube. Half of the profits come from YouTube’s advertisements, and the other half come from sponsorships and product placements within his videos, a model that he has borrowed from traditional media.


“I didn’t start it to make money,” he said, “but what a lovely surprise.”

Show me the money!!! 

Read the entire article from the New York Times here: YOUTUBE LOOT

Should We Pay Black Kids To Learn?


Not specifically about black cinema, but still somewhat related...

Carmen Dixon over at the Black Voices blog just posted an entry about a controversial new experiment, helmed by Harvard professor Roland Fryer, that "pays black and other disadvantaged and underachieving school kids for good grades and staying in school."

She writes:

It's a controversial approach. Many ask why kids should be paid for something they are required to do?

On the other hand, kids in affluent homes are routinely paid allowances and given graduation trips of cars, trips and/or cash as rewards for acknowledgment of jobs well done. Fryer is simply determined to try anything to stem the out-of-control dropout rate and to close the achievement gap between black and white (and Asian) students.

Fryer's theory, to pay kids to do better in school, comes from many years of research and his own sense of desperation.

"The theory here is to try innovative things that will help children achieve," Fryer says. "In our urban centers, we're spending $12,000, $15,000 a kid, and we're not getting any results. So we must do something."

According to the post, the early reviews of this experiment appear positive, with some school officials and kids responding enthusiastically. For example, from the
Times Online:

The scheme is still in its first year, but previously skeptical teachers have already begun to report marked improvements in their children's attendance and attention.

"I have to say that my first reaction when I heard of this project was, 'I can't believe they are doing this'," said Sheila Richards, the principal of the Brooklyn school. "I'm old school – I worked hard for good grades and no one ever gave me money."

Yet Richards has seen a "very good" increase in her students' grades and is thrilled that many of them are choosing to open bank accounts to save their earnings. "It's more than just an incentive," she said. "It has taught them the value of saving."

And Washington, DC Schools Chancellor,
Michelle Rhee, advocates the program, stating:

The reality for so many of our kids is that there are a lot of incentives to do all the wrong things out on the street, and we believe that having positive incentives for doing the right thing is a good counter balance to that.

So, what do you think? As Carmen asks, should we pay kids to learn?

My thoughts? As I stated on the Black Voices blog...

Controversial indeed! As the saying goes... desperate times call for desperate measures.

However, this idea frightens me for a lot of reasons - notably, whether many of these kids will develop a false sense of entitlement as they age, expecting monetary reward for accomplishing mundane, everyday tasks.

I just can't quite fathom how this kind of commercialization of a child's education can be a good thing for both the child and the system of education in the long term.

What could this lead to? A hierarchy of payment incentives? Super-star students, like super-star athletes enjoying fatter "paychecks" than star students who aren't as "super" as the super-stars? Students eventually demanding more for their efforts? Parents deciding on which school to send their children to, based partly on the kinds of cash incentives each school gives their students?

And on... and on...

I'm all for encouraging children (and adults) to learn, especially those underachievers; but, surely, we can come up with a better solution than this?!? At least, I'd like to think so...

Tyler Perry Gets Off


Actor-screenwriter Tyler Perry has emerged victorious in a federal copyright infringement lawsuit brought against him by a woman claiming his film "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" was based on her play.

Jurors in Marshall, Texas found that Donna West did not provide enough evidence to support her claim, according to the Associated Press. In her lawsuit filed in May 2007, West argued that Perry could've lifted material from her play "Fantasy of a Black Woman" when it was performed three times in 1991 in Dallas, or gained access to the script in 1998 when he presented his plays at the Dallas Black Academy of Arts and Letters.

Perry, who testified during the trial, insisted that his screenplay is an original work.

"We are very pleased that the jurors understood that Tyler Perry is an incredibly talented person who has no need to copy the work of others," attorney Veronica Lewis said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

West, who lives in North Texas, asked for damages and profits made from Perry's 2005 film, which earned some $50 million in theaters. Her attorneys plan to seek a new trial.

Just give it up folks! I don't think this is one case you're going to win. Unless they're hoping that Perry decides it's all not worth the trouble, and decides to settle out of court, meaning, lots and lots of money changing hands, which is ultimately what everybody wants!


66th Annual Golden Globe Nominations + My Thoughts

And. Here. We. Go.

Guess what? It's awards season...

Seen as a precursor to the granddaddy of them all, the Oscars, I present to you the 66th Annual Golden Globe Awards nominations, along with my guess on who/what will win in each category:

Best Picture - Drama
'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'
'The Reader'
'Revolutionary Road'
'Slumdog Millionaire'

Tambay says - I've only seen 2 films on the list, but I'll go with the overwhelming critical and audience favorite, Slumdog Millionaire, which I did finally see yesterday, but wouldn't consider it the best I've seen this year.

Best Director
Danny Boyle, 'Slumdog Millionaire'
Stephen Daldry, 'The Reader'
David Fincher, 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'
Ron Howard, 'Frost/Nixon'
Sam Mendes, 'Revolutionary Road'

Tambay says - well, more often than not, I think the director of the film winning in the "Best Picture" category takes home the "Best Director" prize as well. So, I'll give it to Danny Boyle. Interestingly, 3 of the above 5 names are Englishmen. I'm always looking for any reason to say, "The British are coming... the British are coming..." :o)

Best Actor - Drama
Leonardo DiCaprio, 'Revolutionary Road'
Frank Langella, 'Frost/Nixon'
Sean Penn, 'Milk'
Brad Pitt, 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'
Mickey Rourke, 'The Wrestler'

Tambay says - I haven't seen Milk yet, but I think this one belongs to Sean Penn. The timing is just about perfect, with the 800-pound gorilla known as Prop 8 consuming the thoughts of many, especially in Hollywood's home, the state of California, where the title character played by Sean Penn (Harvey Milk) made and left his mark.

Best Actress - Drama
Anne Hathaway, 'Rachel Getting Married'
Angelina Jolie, 'The Changeling'
Meryl Streep, 'Doubt'
Kristin Scott Thomas, 'I've Loved You So Long'
Kate Winslet, 'Revolutionary Road'

Tambay says - I'll be seeing Doubt this weekend, so I'll get to witness the sublimity of a Meryl Streep dramatic performance; but I'm going to go out on a limb (or maybe not really) and give the award to Anne Hathaway, for her work in Rachel Getting Married. Why? I haven't seen it, and really have no interest. But, I've heard and read many a kind word written or spoken in her favor - not necessarily pounding drums, but just enough to tickle ones ears.

Best Supporting Actor
Tom Cruise, 'Tropic Thunder'
Robert Downey Jr., 'Tropic Thunder'
Ralph Fiennes, 'The Duchess'
Philip Seymour Hoffman, 'Doubt'
Heath Ledger, 'The Dark Knight'

Tambay says - Are you fucking kidding me? 2 nominations for Tropic Thunder? Get the hell outta here! I heard about the viral campaign for a "Best Supporting Actor" award for Robert Downey Jr, which I posted an entry about earlier this week - one that I don't think he deserves, certainly not for Tropic Thunder! The addition of Tom Cruise to the mix is silly! So, I'm just going to pretend that I don't see either of their names on this list, narrowing it down to just 3 candidates. And of those 3, I'll go with the obvious favorite, Heath Ledger. I'm counting on a strong performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt, when I see it on Saturday; but, I think it will be difficult for the Globes not to give it to Ledger. I can almost hear the thunderous "boos" that will fill the air if an actor other than Heath Ledger wins this award. In fact, if the name of one of the other candidates is called, I can picture whoever that person is, standing behind the podium, accepting the award, but then, in front of millions of TV viewers, immediately relinquishing the title, and offering the statue to Ledger and his family.

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, 'Doubt'
Penelope Cruz, 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona'
Viola Davis, 'Doubt'
Marisa Tomei, 'The Wrestler'
Kate Winslet, 'The Reader'

Tambay says - My heart says Viola Davis, for obvious reasons. Although, this is a strong category this year, I think. She's got some competition. Each of these actresses has shown up on one critical favorites list or another (well, maybe except for Amy Adams), so I think they all have a legitimate shot at winning. But, I'm going with Viola! Again, I'll be seeing Doubt this weekend, so I'll know much more afterwards. 

Best Screenplay
Simon Beafoy, 'Slumdog Millionaire'
David Hare, 'The Reader'
Peter MOrgan, 'Frost/Nixon'
Eric Roth, 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'
John Patrick Shanley, 'Doubt'

Tambay says - This is a toughie actually. How about a game of eeny meeny miney moe? Frost/Nixon has to win something (I did see it, and mostly enjoyed it). So, I'll give this one to Opie and company.

Best Foreign Language Film
'The Baader Meinhof Complex' (Germany)
'Everlasting Moments' (Sweden)
'Gomorrah' (Italy)
'I've Loved You So Long' (France)
'Waltz with Bashir' (Israel)

Tambay says - well, since I'm only familiar with 1 film on this list, I'll have to go with that one - Waltz With Bashir (which is actually on my list of films to see).

Alright, that's my shortened list! The entire list of nominations is about 3 times the length of what I have here, but, frankly, I don't have the will to go through every single item.

The Golden Globe Awards Ceremony airs exactly one month from today, January 11th, 2009 on NBC.

You can find the rest here, if interested: GOLDEN GLOBES.

Damn! NPR Cancels Only African American-Themed Program

This was a bit of a shocker, reading the story this morning while prepping to get to work. 

I've been a regular listener of the program for the last 2 years, and rarely missed an episode. It was on the News & Notes section of the NPR website where my October 2007 op-ed piece on the need for a black owned and operated film studio was printed - an occurrence that generated more interest in my work than any other opportunity I've exploited. 

This is (was) NPR's sole program that focused entirely on the experiences of black people worldwide - not just in America. It's really unfortunate that it has become a victim of failing economics, and I'm sad to see it canceled. 

It likely will not be replaced - at least not in the foreseeable future.

The story goes...
straight from the source:

NPR News announced Wednesday that it is canceling two daily radio programs — Day to Day and News and Notes — as part of a broader effort by the company to close a projected budget shortfall of $23 million for its current fiscal year. Overall, NPR will cut 7 percent of its work force and slash expenses further around the company.

The two shows will go off the air on March 20, and 22 journalists working for them will lose their jobs, including hosts Madeleine Brand and Farai Chideya. The shows are both based in Culver City, Calif., at NPR West, a major satellite operation.

Day to Day was designed as a midday complement to mainstays Morning Edition and All Things Considered, while News and Notes, a successor to The Tavis Smiley Show, was intended to draw more African-American listeners. Beyond the two shows, another 12 journalists will lose their jobs throughout NPR News.

Companywide, NPR is laying off 64 people and eliminating 21 other positions that are currently vacant. NPR News will still have more than 800 employees on staff, including about 300 journalists.

"It is important for you to understand why we chose to cancel 'News & Notes' and 'Day to Day,' and the implications for programming strategy and commitments," NPR's interim CEO Dennis Haarsager said in a memo to employees. "Neither program was attracting sufficient levels of audience or national underwriting necessary to sustain continued production under these tough financial circumstances."

So it goes...

From what I hear, this was just as unexpected for the hosts of each program, as the announcement came without warning. News like this, along with all the other recent reports of massive, nationwide job cuts from every section of industry, should make every still-employed person a little uncomfortable. I'm certainly anxious.

As expected, a petition has been created to encourage NPR executives to keep New & Notes on the air. You can find it HERE.

This is a moment that's begging for a hero! In some alternate universe, one (or several) of our many wealthy African Americans in media would ride in to save the day - or in this case, save the program - by opening up their seemingly bottomless wallets.

Maybe that'll happen... maybe...

Good Thursday Morning!

You know what they say about idle hands...

Cool Movie Posters - 1970s

What's it about? I have no idea! All you need to know is that it's "Your Kind Of Black Film!"


Film Finds - Gospel Hill

Hmmm... This just landed on my desk, Giancarlo Esposito's directorial debut. It's called Gospel Hill.

First, the star-studded trailer:

The story goes...

In the town of Julia, the residents of the black neighborhood of Gospel Hill, are being forced out of their homes to make way for a multimillion-dollar golf course development.

Race relations are strained just as they were thirty years ago when Peter Malcolm (Samuel Jackson), a black civil rights activist, was assassinated. Dr. Ron Palmer (Giancarlo Esposito), an influential black community leader who runs the emergency clinic in Gospel Hill, is supporting the golf course development and helping to push people off their land.

Peter Malcolm's brother, John Malcolm (Danny Glover), withdrew from the community and the fight for civil rights after his brother's assassination, haunted by feelings of hatred for Jack Herrod (Tom Bower). Herrod, the towns bigoted, ex-sheriff, was responsible for letting the investigation of Peter's murder dissipate with no one charged.

Meanwhile, Sarah Malcolm (Angela Bassett), Johns wife, takes it upon herself to battle Dr. Palmer and reveal his profiteering to the whole town, exposing him for the greedy man he has become.

Jack's sons are Carl Herrod (Adam Baldwin), an iconoclastic lawyer, who is having an affair with the doctors' wife (Nia Long) and Joel Herrod (Taylor Kitsch), who has tried to distance himself from his father's name and reputation. Joel has a struggling landscaping business that flourishes when he begins to work for Dr. Palmer, but when he falls in love with Rosie (Julia Stiles), a school teacher helping Sarah fight Palmer, the conflict of interest becomes too present to ignore.

These characters lives intertwine as Dr. Palmer obtains real estate and pushes the development to the cities approval; Sarah struggles to get John involved as she fights to expose the doctor; Joel deals with his fathers increasing animosity; Jack Herrod, discovering he is terminally ill, has secretly reopened the case of Peter Malcolm's murder; and John Malcolm begins to realize that the fight for equality didn't die with his brother, that it continues in every breath the town takes, and he knows that if Sarah continues to stir the hornets nest that the town of Julia has become, he will be thrust into the position he shared with his brother thirty years ago.

Did you get all that? :o)

Sounds like something that would make Robert Altman smile.

Anywho... I'm intrigued by what I see in the trailer, and in the extended synopsis above.

The film has been traveling the festival market circuit since February, picking up several awards along the way; it even screened at the Democratic National Convention!!

According to IMDB, Twentieth Century Fox owns both theatrical and DVD rights, although no release date has been set.

Might it be coming to a theatre near you any time soon? I'll guess not. Instead, look for it at your local video rental store, or online, via Netflix.

For more, visit the film's website, which is loaded with content:

Cool Movie Posters - 1970s


(Click to enlarge)

Sundance Blues...

I haven't been to the Sundance Film Festival in 6 years, so visiting their website in search of information on how one should go about purchasing individual tickets to festival events was quite a chore, as well as an eye-opener!

Boy, how expensive a trip to the festival has become! Not that it was significantly cheaper the last time I went, in 2002, but I don't recall being this shell-shocked!

It's quite clear that they prefer attendees purchase one of the pricey packages or festival passes (all in the hundreds and thousands of dollars), as opposed to individual tickets to specific screening events.

Purchasing advance tickets to individual screenings requires several steps: First, one has to register just to be allowed the opportunity to buy individual advance tickets, within a given window of time. And they make it quite clear, during the registration process, that registering guarantees nothing, as tickets are limited and demand is high!

Second, after registering, you are told that after the registration period is over, each registrant will receive an email, which won't happen until December 23rd, indicating whether or not you were assigned a purchase timeslot. If you were assigned a purchase timeslot, your email will include the website to use when purchasing your advance tickets. It doesn't say what will happen if your email does not assign you a purchase timeslot - I'd guess that it would mean you'll be unable to buy advance tickets?!?

The purchase date, the website says, will fall sometime during the second week of January 2009.

This baffles me for obvious reasons! The festival begins on the 15th of January, the second week of the month; so, in essence, you won't even know whether you'll be able to get the tickets you want until the week that the festival begins!

That stinks!

What this means is that, someone like me, who wants to go to the festival, but who isn't rich enough to afford one of their pricey packages or festival passes, will have to blindly book my flight and lodging, uncertain of whether I'd even be able to get tickets to the films I want to see, or panels I want to attend, during the period of my already planned and paid for flight and hotel stay. So, I could very well get to Park City, only to discover that I won't be able to see any films, or attend any panels, because there aren't any tickets available for those few days that I'm there, which would be extremely annoying, and a near-complete waste of my time and money!

I don't think I want to take that chance!

I understand what's going on here... after all, it IS the Sundance Film Festival, and all that the name signifies to film enthusiasts everywhere. So, of course, they can operate this way.

And, not surprisingly, hotel room prices are outrageous for those 10 days of the festival, most requesting minimum night stays, and full payment at the time of registration, which, by the way, is non-refundable!

They have become quite the elitist affair, haven't they? The message seems to be: if you're "poor," don't even bother. Just stay home and follow the festivities on the Internet, just like the other "average" Janes and Joes.

I don't recall how much I spent in 2002 - but, in 2009, if I do attend, I'd say a minimum of $1,000 is about what one can expect to shell out - for a 4-day/3-night stay, including air fare, event tickets and sustenance. $1,000 may actually be low. Unless, of course, you do what I know a lot of others are doing - share costs, by squeezing 5 bodies into a 1-bedroom suite, something I'm averse to doing. 2 bodies, maybe, but not more than that.

Call me a prima donna if you want... but I'm not doing it! :o)

I've received a few bunking offers from acquaintances planning on making the trip, some of them with films in the festival, and I'm considering them all; however,
as much as I'd like to go to the festival next month, the more I ponder it, the less likely it is to happen.

I just don't care for the entire scheduling process. Sure, I suppose I could spend $650 on "Ticket Package B," which guarantees me 20 tickets to screenings between January 21st and the 25th. But, that's a lot of money. Or I could spend just $400 on the "Adrenaline Pass;" BUT, as the stipulations state, with that specific pass, I'll only be able to see those films screening BEFORE 10AM, and AFTER 10PM. Great! And it's only $400? Wow! I should rush to purchase it right now!


It's just not the same anymore. With the likes of P Diddy, 50 Cent, Kim Kardashian, and Paris Hilton strutting down Main Street, it's clear to me that things definitely have changed... although whether for the better or worse is debatable.

I think I might have to skip the festival this time around... yet again!

But I can be convinced otherwise, with the right argument in favor.

PICS - Idris Elba & Beyoncé In "Obsessed"

Courtesy of Wilson Morales at AOL Black Voices... Sony Pictures has released the first images from Obsessed, a thriller starring Idris Elba, Beyonce, and Ali Larter.

What's it all about?

Derek Charles (Idris Elba), a successful asset manager who has just received a huge promotion, is blissfully happy in his career and in his marriage to the beautiful Sharon (Beyoncé Knowles). But when Lisa (Ali Larter), a temp worker, starts stalking Derek, all the things he's worked so hard for are placed in jeopardy.

Did I mention that Ali Larter is white? So, we've got a white woman stalking a black man... on screen. How often do we get to see that? Or maybe it's not such a big deal.

Although, I wonder if that was an intentional choice, and this premise could be the basis for some genuine deconstruction of race-based stereotypes and related long-held beliefs in this country. I wonder if the film will be bold enough to go where most mainstream movies of this kind would never dare tread, or whether the filmmakers will settle for yet another C-grade vanilla thriller, completely ignoring the opportunities the premise presents?!

With the film being produced by Will Packer who gave us films like
Stomp The Yard, I'll expect the latter.

By the way, Beyonce, along with her father Mathew Knowles are executive producers of the film, which will be released by Screen Gems on April 24, 2009 - also, not necessarily a good sign, since Screen Gems isn't exactly known for its challenging fare - specifically, it's a "specialty" arm of Sony's Columbia Pictures, which produces and releases smaller-budget science fiction, horror, teen movies, farce or "ETHNIC" films, with more centralized target audiences. Some of their previous releases: Two Can Play That Game, Love And A Bullet, Breakin' All The Rules, Resident Evil, This Christmas and First Sunday, amongst many others...

Can't wait...

DVD Spotlight - The Souls Of Black Girls

Out now on DVD!

The Souls of Black Girls
is a provocative news documentary that takes a critical look at media images - how they are introduced, established and controlled. The documentary also examines the relationship between the historical and existing media images of women of color, and raises the question of whether they may be suffering from a "self-image disorder," as a result of trying to attain the standards of beauty that are celebrated in most media.

Here's a review by syndicated African American film critic, Kam Williams:

Why have African-American women become so maligned by popular culture that we have a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Karen Hunter, writing a best seller seriously posing the question, "Are black women necessary?" And how has this shocking state of affairs affected the psyches of the sisters of the Hip-Hop Generation shaped during the dominance of gangsta' rap, an age marked by misogyny and an embracing of a European standard of beauty?

These are the questions posed by The Souls of Black Girls, a provocative documentary which suggests that African-American females are suffering from a form of self-image disorder. Produced and directed by Daphne Valerius, this provocative examination of a timely subject features sage contributions from such icons as actresses Regina King, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Juanita Jennings and Amelia Marshall, PBS news anchor Gwen Ifill, Public Enemy's Chuck D, BET producer Darlise Blount, Essence Magazine fashion editor Pamela Edwards, historian Dr. Lez Edmond and cultural critic Michaela Angela Davis.

These famous faces share screen time with several representatives of the demographic being discussed, articulate teens who weigh-in with their heartfelt feelings on hot-button issues ranging from their dating desirability to skin color preferences to hair straightening to absentee fathers to promiscuity to their weights and shapes.

Ms. King bemoans that we have "a whole generation of lost women who don't that it's okay to be you." Meanwhile, Jada reflects upon having herself gone "through a period of shame." Fortunately, the participants are ultimately optimistic and offer positive solutions, such as Ms. Ifill who proudly asserts "My beauty has value" and finds satisfaction when greeted by young aspiring journalists who see her as a role model.

The film played at several film festivals over the last 12 months, and is now available for sale on DVD. You can read more about it, and buy the the documentary here: SOULS OF BLACK GIRLS.

Here's a video clip of an interview with the director, Daphne Valerius:

VIDEO - "Black & Sexy" Brooklyn Screening

This just in...

Video from the Brooklyn, NY screening of A Good Day To Be Black & Sexy - an event put together by Aaron Ingram (ActNow Foundation), Curtis John, and of course, me, myself and I.

Thanks to Curtis for compiling and edited the footage.



Viola Davis Talks "Doubt" & "Madea Goes To Jail"

Doubt is one of the few films on my must-see list before the end of this year. It will be released this Friday, the 12th, and I plan to catch it some time over the weekend, in time to review it on my podcast next week Monday night.

I'm not so sure I would have been as interested in seeing the film if Viola Davis wasn't co-starring in it - although, she reportedly is in just 2 scenes in the entire 104 minute film, based on the Pulitzer prize-winning play of the same name. However, her work in those 2 scenes must be astonishing enough to warrant the volumes of praise she's received from several critics, with many already handing her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Wilson Morales over at AOL Black Voices interviewed Davis about her role in Doubt, as well as working with Tyler Perry in his next debacle... I mean, his next film, Madea Goes To Jail. I didn't know she was going to be in that movie.

How is that for a dramatic shift - going from working on a film by a Pulitzer prize winning writer, co-starring with some of our most talented and respected actors and actresses, to playing an ex-prostitute in a Tyler Perry sideshow.

Read the entire interview here: DAVIS TALKS DOUBT

A Referendum: More Sex Scenes For Black Male Stars?

This just hit me suddenly after reading a recent article in which Will Smith explains his lack of interest in onscreen love scenes.

2 of our biggest African American male celebrity actors have, whether currently, or previously, acknowledged an aversion to performing in love scenes on camera. First, Denzel Washington did so some years ago (I'll have to look for a quote online), with his reasons seemingly being to honor his wife, or something to that effect. And now Will Smith - whom I only just realized hasn't really done any love scenes. Sure, he's had a few fleeting flirtatious moments with his female co-stars - whenever he does have a comparable one - and he's exposed his torso from time to time... but he hasn't done much else!

What's up with that fellas?

Not that I'm exactly dying to see either of them in a no-holds-barred romp on screen, but, when you compare them with their Caucasian counterparts - those white male superstars that dominate our screens (Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, George Clooney, et al) - Denzel and Will are severely lacking!

I think there's something at work (and at play) here that needs to be brought to light - specifically, the subjugation of black male sexuality in American mainstream media. There's no reason why 2 of our most prominent African American actors - both with global appeal - rarely have love interests in their movies, or express themselves sexually on screen, especially when one considers that their Caucasian pals seem to be falling into bed with some damsel (in distress or not) on screen, more often than they don't.

Granted, both men claim full responsibility for their lack of onscreen sexuality, giving their own individual reasons; however, I simply can't help but feel that there might be something - some idea, or some person or people, of greater influence partly responsible here.

I think the longer each man holds out, the more awkward-looking any love scenes they eventually do will be, simply because, we haven't become accustomed to seeing them in that manner, and might actually giggle more than gasp in those instances.

Then again, I suppose Will Smith has never really positioned himself as the proverbial "sex symbol." He's played it safe for the most part, and I think that's one reason for his global appeal.

Denzel Washington on the otherhand was at one time considered a sex symbol, and I think he still is thought of in that way, but I could be wrong.

His reason for shying away from sex scenes, from what I gather out of all the material I've read about him, are mostly an expressed discomfort with them, but also his belief that they, in some way, dishonor his wife.

I just read an article in which Will Smith gives reasons why he is rarely involved in a sex scene on screen, telling reporters last Friday while promoting his new film, Seven Pounds,

My grandmother was really firm about how men are supposed to treat women... So for me, my worst nightmare is for an actress to... feel like I'm taking this opportunity to get a little quickie feel – you know, some legal cheating going on! I just need, specifically women, to feel comfortable around me... I just don't want to feel like I'm that dude.

Apparently, in Seven Pounds, Smith has an intimate moment with co-star Rosario Dawson, one which he expressed discomfort with; that is until his wife, Jada, gave him the green light to go for it, stating,

Jada said, 'Listen, I know you're uncomfortable, but you better not embarrass me... She said, 'When you do that love scene, you better show 'em what you're working with!'


So, one thing that's become clear to me after all this is that the wives of both men are of heavy influence on their decisions! Whoulda thunk it?

Come on fellas! Give the people what they want! Not only do we need to see more black faces on screen, we also could do with more expressions of "black sexuality" within the medium - especially in the mainstream.


Kirk Lazarus For Best Supporting Actor?

Say it ain't so...

But it is...

Apparently, Dreamworks has launched a Best Supporting Actor campaign for "Kirk Lazarus," the fictional character Robert Downey Jr played in this summer's Tropic Thunder.

Remember that? The one in which he played a white actor who dons black skin to play a black man in a film within a film. The picture above should immediately jolt your memory.

This would all be really humorous if it was some kind of a hoax. But, alas, it's not. The above campaign, which is also accompanied by 2 short-form video compilation clips of Downey's scenes in the film, are in fact, Dreamworks's attempt at a viral web marketing strategy pushing Robert Downey Jr. for the same Best Supporting Actor award in real life, for his performance as Kirk Lazarus in Tropic Thunder, or as the above poster says, "the Dude, playing a Dude, Disguised as Another Dude."

How clever... I guess.

via /FILM

TV News - "House of Payne" #1 In Black Households; Tyra, Oprah, Tyler Among TV's 'Smartest'

FIRST, Tyler Perry's House of Payne is the number 1 show among the African-American audiences it targets, in all of network primetime, all of cable and all of syndication!

Among African-American adults age 18-54, House of Payne is the No. 1 show, beating ratings giants like Grey's Anatomy, Dancing With the Stars, Desperate Housewives and CSI, in all African-American adult demographics.

Say what? Yes, you read that correctly. Apparently, despite the unmistakably negative reception Tyler Perry and his creations have received from black audiences since his Hollywood assault began a few years ago, we (black people) are still very much supportive of him, as his films continue to be profitable, and his television show remains successful. I watched a few episodes of House of Payne about a year ago, in its 2nd season I believe. I haven't watched the program since then. But obviously, somebody is watching...

At number 2 in primetime, among African American households? Fox's Family Guy, followed by ABC's Grey's Anatomy in third place.

SECOND, Whoopi Goldberg, Tyra Banks, Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry appear on Entertainment Weekly's 25 Smartest People in TV, a list of "small-screen titans who are driving today's sharpest shows and deals."

Goldberg at number 25, along with her co-hosts on The View which, during election week, reached No. 1 in total daytime viewers for the first time in 12 seasons.

Banks, 35, ranked No. 23 on the list. America's Next Top Model, which just completed its 11th cycle, remains The CW's highest-rated series, with a spin-off titled Operation Fabulous launching next year. Other upcoming reality projects include ABC's upcoming True Beauty and she recently branched into film with the direct-to-DVD tween drama The Clique.

Winfrey came in 6th on the list. Her talk show is still tops in daytime TV, and she'll launch her own network — appropriately named OWN — in 2009. Her production company, Harpo, is also responsible for daytime hits Dr. Phil and Rachael Ray, and will debut a new series next fall with Oprah staple Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Atlanta-based mogul Perry ranked 4th. In August, he struck a deal with TBS cable network to produce a new sitcom, Meet the Browns, based on his hit play and movie. This fall, Perry ditched his 70,000-square-foot studio for a twice-the-size production complex in Atlanta, which includes five soundstages and a backlot."


TRAILER - Mississippi Damned


As an addendum to an earlier entry I posted today regarding Tina Mabry's directorial debut, Mississippi Damned, a 2009 Slamdance Film Festival selection, I found THIS TRAILER for the film. You can read my original write-up of the film HERE