So... it's near mid-January, meaning we're into the second full week of the new year, with roughly 10 films opening in limited or wide release thus far. And I've seen none of them!
I intend to see a hell of a lot more films in 2009 than I saw in 2008; not necessarily because this year's releases will be any stronger than last year's. But rather, given that I do operate as a film journalist of sorts, with this blog, and my weekly podcast, it's wisest if I do get off my arse and take in a few - even the shitty ones - so that I can, at least, talk about them!
Some of those films will include a few, if not all of the titles listed below - a list of every film with a 2009 release date, featuring a predominantly black cast/crew (writer, director), or films that star a person of African descent. I guess you could call it 2009's "Black Film" list - those films that I'm sure will get plenty of coverage (both positive and negative) on blogs like mine, the Invisible Cinema blog, Must Love Movies and others alike.
Note: these are all studio releases. I'm certain that as the year progresses, a few independent films will shine, especially on the film festival circuit, beginning with the Sundance Film Festival which kicks off this Thursday.
And let's not forget our comrades in Africa, Europe, South America, and Asia - those filmmakers of the Diaspora whose works just might make enough of a splash at some international film festival, and garner the attention of American distributors, allowing those of us in the west to experience them at some juncture later in the year.
Here's the rather short list, including release dates, distributors, as well as major cast and crew. My comments follow beneath:
1/9 - Not Easily Broken Screen Gems (Sony) Dir., Bill Duke; Cast, Morris Chestnut, Taraji P. Henson, Maeve Quinlan, Kevin Hart, Wood Harris, Eddie Cibrian, Jenifer Lewis.
1/16 Notorious Fox Searchlight Dir., George Tillman Jr.; Cast, Jamal Woolard, Angela Bassett, Derek Luke, Antonique Smith, Anthony Mackie, Natrui Naughton, Sean Ringgold, Marc Jon Jefferies
2/20 Madea Goes to Jail Lionsgate Dir. & Pro Tyler Perry; Cast, Tyler Perry, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Derek Luke, Robin Coleman, Jackson Walker, David Mann, Tamela J. Mann, Keke Palmer, Benjamín Benítez
3/27 Janky Promoters - Dimension Dir., Marcus Raboy; Cast, Ice Cube, Mike Epps, Terry Crews, Young Jeezy
4/24 Obsessed Screen Gems Dir. Steve Shill; Cast, Beyoncé Knowles, Idris Elba, Ali Larter, Christine Lahti, Bruce McGill, Ron Roggé, Jerry O'Connell
4/24 The Soloist DreamWorks Dir. Joe Wright; Cast, Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey, Jr., Catherine Keener
5/8 Next Day Air Summit Entertainment Dir., Benny Boom; Cast, Donald Faison, Lauren London, Mos Def, Darius McCrary, Mike Epps, Wood Harris, Debbie Allen
6/12 Imagine That Paramount Dir. Karey Kirkpatrick, Cast. Eddie Murphy, Thomas Haden Church
6/12 The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 Columbia Dir., Tony Scott; Scr., David Koepp; Cast, Denzel Washington, John Travolta, James Gandolfini, Luis Guzman, John Turturro
8/14 Dance Flick Paramount Dir. Damien Dante Wayans; Scr. David Bourla; Cast, Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Damon Wayans, Jr., Amy Sedaris,David Alan Grier, Chris Elliott
9/18 Armored Screen Gems Dir., Nimród Antal; Pro., Sam Raimi; Cast, Columbus Short, Matt Dillon, Laurence Fishburne, Jean Reno, Skeet Ulrich, Fred Ward, Milo Ventimiglia
9/25 Fame Lakeshore Entertainment Dir. Kevin Tancharoen, Wri. Aline Brosh Mckenna and Allison Burnett; Cast, Debbie Allen, Charles S. Dutton, Kelsey Grammer
12/18 Avatar 20th Century Fox Dir. and Scr., James Cameron; Cast, Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver
12/25 The Princess and the Frog Walt Disney Pictures Dir., John Musker, Ron Clements; Cast, Anika Noni Rose, Keith David, John Goodman
That's all folks! 14 films out of the roughly 400+ that will reach theatres this year - or, about 3%.
It would be worthwhile to compare with previous years, but, I just don't have the time to put something like that together.
A few notes...
Avatar, a film that's on my list of most anticipated films of 2009, is questionable, since Zoe Saldana's character will be entirely computer generated.
The Sam Raimi produced Armored, starring Columbus Short is news to me... never heard of it until today. But the talent involved intrigues...
Eddie Murphy plays Alice In Wonderland in Imagine That, which looks like another Murphy flick aimed at youngsters.
Ice Cube is back again with more hijinx and hilarity in Janky Promoters.
Former music video director Benny Boom, makes his feature-film directorial debut with Next Day Air, a comedy about a misplaced box of cocaine, starring Donald Faison of Scrubs fame, along with Mos Def, Debbie Allen, Mike Epps and many others.
And lastly, Tony-awarding winning American singer and actress, Anika Noni Rose, provides the voice of the princess in Disney's 2D traditional animated film, The Princess And The Frog, notable for featuring the first black princess in a Disney film. I guess we should all be excited and thankful, right?
If I missed any films, let me know. As I said above, I expect the list to be much fuller by the end of the year, with a selection of independent films by black filmmakers that will raise eyebrows.
But do share your thoughts below, if you have any.
A toast to 2009... I guess... or not!