Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

WHAT I'M WATCHING - The Game & The Killing

As I stated in a previous post, I've been consuming a lot of cinema lately -
specifically films that I think can be of some inspiration on whatever script I'm working on. I tend to do that while I'm writing; it all helps tremendously, as I'm sure many of you writers would agree!

As I jogged this morning, my mind continuously working as usual, I reached an epiphany! Why not share what I'm watching on my blog?!

Brilliant, right? :o)

Anywho... so, instead of writing full-length reviews of each film, I'll instead keep each to succinct paragraphs.

Call them my 5 cent reviews!

In the last 2 days, I've seen The Game and The Killing, in that order. Here we go with my 5 cent reviews of each:

The Game -

David Fincher is undeniably very good with mood and atmosphere - camera work, lighting, production design, sound design, soundtrack, etc. And those elements made
The Game far more watchable for me than it would have been, without them. It's an interesting premise - one that we've seen in many films before and after (you'll find similarities with films like Fight Club (also a Fincher work), and even Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life). And, billed as a thriller, I certainly was riveted for a significant portion of the film; however, it's one of those films that, as I thought more about it after I saw it, the more preposterous the entire story seemed. I was willing to buy what Fincher and company were selling for some of the movie, but whatever anticipation is built up in the first hour, gradually dies in the second hour, leading up to the twist ending, with scene after scene demanding more and more of the viewer's suspension of disbelief/belief. In the end, it felt like much ado about very little - a pretty picture with something genuine to say, but just not very well thought through and executed. Not a bad film - I'd certainly take The Game over countless other studio pictures. This is my second time seeing it by the way. The first time was the year it was released - 1997.

The Killing -

Stanley Kubrick's 3rd feature, made in 1956. He was just 28 when he produced it. I mention his age, because, it's quite an impressive piece of work that any filmmaker, aged or novice, would gladly have on their resume; and to think that it was written and directed by a 28-year old is simply awesome! The film is a detailed account of a heist gone bad. Sound familiar?
Resevoir Dogs, maybe? And others I can't think of at the moment. Also, it's told in a somewhat non-linear fashion. Again, sound familiar? Resevoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, et al. Not that Tarantino was directly influenced by Kubrick's film - in fact, I can't say, since I haven't read anything stating the affirmative - but the similarities can't be ignored. At around 90 minutes in length, the film feels much shorter, which is a good thing in this case. It moves along quite briskly, forcing you to keep up, which isn't all that difficult to do; and it's just plain FUN to watch! I had a wonderful time taking it all in and was engaged for the entire 90 minutes. The cinematography is excellent - a Kubrick staple as we would see in his later works - including what we could call trademark lengthy dolly shots that follow the motion of an actor in a scene, as well as some unconventional camera angles. I love black & white film stock, especially when it's so rich and contrasty as it is here. The urgency in the soundtrack overwhelms slightly, but it worked throughout. I would strongly recommend The Killing for anyone interested in Kubrick's earlier films, or anyone who loves a good heist movie. Given the advances in techonology we've seen since its day, the film feels dated in some sequences; but, that can be resolved quickly by simply placing the characters and story in context. This was my first time seeing it by the way. I ordered the DVD immediately after.


I'll be catching at least 2 more before the end of the weekend, and I'll share my thoughts after.

Have a good day!

FILM REVIEW - Watchmen


No, not from me... I haven't seen it, and I've already expressed some ambivalence in seeing it. Maybe when it's on DVD.

For now, check out fellow blogger V-Knowledge's full review of it; his thoughts reaffirm many of my preconceived concerns.

Here's a snippet:

Like the super-powered Dr. Manhattan, Watchmen is a lifeless, unfeeling & emotion-devoid film that ironically suffers from what many fans desired in the first place: being too faithful and reverent to its source material.

'Nuff said! :o)

By the way, he gives it a 3.5 stars out of 10!

Read the rest of his thoughtful analysis HERE.

WANTED - Where Are They Now?


Christopher Scott Cherot, Wendell B Harris Jr, Cheryl Dunye, Cauleen Smith, Matty Rich, Julie Dash, Theodore Witcher, Seith Mann, etc, etc, etc...

Who else am I leaving out?

They are all black filmmakers from the last roughly 20 years, whose first films (whether shorts or features) attracted enough attention, whether locally, or internationally, engendering growing excitement and anticipation amongst film lovers everywhere, of promising careers ahead for each of them; but said promising careers never really fully materialized - certainly not in the same fashion as some of their white counterparts, like Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino, Bryan Singer, Darren Aronofsky and David Gordon Green, amongst many, many others.

Barry Jenkins and Dennis Dortch are both relatively new to the mix, with both still basking in the successes of their debuts; so, it's too early to make any predictions on either of them, which is why I didn't include them in the above list; however, I'm sure there are audience expectations of each, now that we've been exposed to their individual works.

Where are they all now? What are they working on? Are they still in the business, or have they given it all up altogether and gone into some other industry? Etc, etc, etc...

I heard Christopher Scott Cherot was working on another feature last year, but I know nothing about it, and can't find very much on it either.

Of course, I think we all know Wendell B Harris Jr's story by now. Check out his interview with Black Box Office from January, if you haven't already.

After Watermelon Woman in 1996, Cheryl Dunye directed 3 other features, including 2004's My Baby's Daddy, her only studio film.

Cauleen Smith, to my knowledge, didn't direct any other films after her debut, Drylongso in 1998. In the early 2000s, a script she completed was being shopped around for financing. I recall seeing it listed as a Tribeca All-Access Project a few years ago, and being very excited for her and for what I hoped would be a film I would eventually get to see. It was titled I Am Furious Black, with a synopsis that read, "A loner detective investigates the homicide of a media-shy graphic novelist who sabotages her own career to the detriment of her family, friends and business partner."

As for Matty Rich, I'm sure we're all somewhat familiar with his story. 1994's The Inkwell was his last film. I have no idea what he's been up to since then.

Julie Dash was a member of the late 70s/early 80s movement we now refer to as the Los Angeles School of Independent Black Filmmakers, which also included Charles Burnett, Haile Gerima and others, whose films were the antithesis of the films of the era in which they "came of age" - specifically the Blaxploitation decade. Dash's premiere opus, 1991's Daughters Of The Dust, was included in the National Film Registry in 2004, a coveted, considerable honor to be bestowed upon any film/filmmaker. She's directed some TV programming since Daughters, most notably 2002's The Rosa Parks Story, which starred Angela Bassett. But, not much else that I'm aware of. I'd love to see anything else she's done since her debut. Daughters was certainly an auspicious start.

Theodore Witcher practically disappeared after Love Jones, an unbelievable feat, given just how successful that film was and has been. I don't know any black person in this country who hasn't heard of, or seen Love Jones. And it repeatedly shows up on "Best Of Black Cinema" lists from coast to coast. So, what happened? I don't know. One would think the success of his first film would have made it easier for him to make his second, but maybe the studios just weren't biting hard enough.

Seith Mann is the only one on this list whose "career maker" was a short film - 5 Deep Breaths, a deftly-handled 20-minute film that aimed to challenge black masculinity. That was in 2003; the film singlehandedly catapulted Mr Mann to an almost assured Hollywood career, after playing at just about every major film festival that exists locally and across borders, including being the only American short film that played at the Cannes Film Festival the year it was accepted. Filmmaker magazine named Mann one of their 25 new faces of independent film in 2003. The IFP gave Mann the Gordon Parks Awards for Emerging African-American Filmmakers. A year or so later, a feature-length screenplay he wrote, titled, Come Sunday, won two development awards from the IFP, and it certainly looked like Mann was on his way. Since then, he's directed a lot of TV programming, notably a few episodes of the hit HBO show, The Wire, as well as Greys Anatomy for ABC, Heroes, Cold Case, Entourage, and others. So, clearly, he's working, and hopefully getting paid well! Although I certainly hope that we get to see his work on the big screen someday soon, and he doesn't get stuck directing for television for most of his career. Not that he'll have failed if he does stay in television primarily; I'd certainly love to be working in the industry in any manner. However, I'd say that the writer/director of 5 Deep Breaths deserves a grander stage!

I think my initialy list above should be longer than it is; but, again, I can't think of any other names that belong; so, feel free to throw out any that I missed who fit the criteria. And if you have any further info on anyone mentioned here, do share. Or if your name has been mentioned, inquiring minds would love to know what you've been up to.

INTERVIEW - Wendell B Harris Jr


I'm certain most of you are fully aware of my love for Wendell B Harris Jr's 1989 Sundance Grand Jury Prize winning opus,
Chameleon Street, so I won't even bother with an introduction!

Check out part 1 of an interview Black Box Office had with writer/director/actor Harris, earlier this year, at January's Sundance Film Festival, where Chameleon Street screened in the the festival's "From the Collection series" - an annual feature in which two retrospective screenings of influential feature-length films from the Sundance Collection are presented, paying tribute to what they deem significant works. Steven Soderbergh's debut, Sex, Lies & Videotape rounded out this year's pairing.

Here's a snippet of the interview:

Take us back to 1990. You’ve just won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, everybody’s talking about your movie…what happens next?

WBH: There’s a little money when you win that prize…5 thousand dollars . I don’t know … maybe it’s more now . But you know, the real prize is that Hollywood opens their doors to you. You get meetings with everyone at every major studio. And I had many meetings about my movie and lots of other projects . Many meetings , many dreams .

Did anyone buy your movie?

Not the movie, but the remake rights.

Remake rights?

Yes, Warner Brothers paid something like $250,000 for the rights to remake “Chameleon Street”. The next thing I knew, there were meetings with all these Black actors. Wesley Snipes. Arsenio Hall. Will Smith. Sinbad.

SINBAD? in “Chameleon Street”?

Yes. You see, the studio wanted to remake the story into different movies that were hot at the time. For Wesley Snipes, it was going to be a “car chase” movie. For Will Smith and Arsenio, comedy. And for Sinbad…what’s that movie he did with Schwarzenegger?

“Jingle All The Way”.

Yes. That’s the one. They wanted it to be like that. A comedy with a warm ending. And action. All the treatments had to have more action.

Read the rest of his juicy revelations HERE.

WTF - Brazilian Girl, 9, Has Abortion Despite Church's Objections

Not film related, but shit like this pisses the hell out of me!

Yes, I know abortion is illegal in Brazil - the country with the most Roman Catholics in the world; but, thankfully, judges are allowed to make exceptions if the mother's life is in danger, or the fetus has no chance of survival.

I say "thankfully" because, in this case, the mother/victim is a 9-year-old girl carrying twins!! Her stepfather is suspected of raping her, and has been jailed.

The poor girl underwent an abortion yesterday, despite complaints from Brazil's Roman Catholic Church.

The pregnancy, which was in its 15th week, posed a serious risk to the girl, who weighs 80 pounds. But the Archdiocese in northeastern Brazil, said the girl should have carried the twins to term and had a Caesarean section.

"It's the law of God: Do not kill," the attorney representing the diocese said!

So, this nitwit would rather have a 9-year old girl, who's already suffered more than enough, after being raped by her stepfather, live with the pregnancy (twins!!) through the entire term, and then, if that weren't challenging enough, have to be scarred yet again, and undergo a complex, risky surgical procedure in a Caesarean section?

This is a child!


Somehow I'm not so sure the God he believes in would concur.

via AP

TRAILER - Limits Of Control

The brand-spanking new trailer for a film that's on my "to-see" list this year - Jim Jarmusch's
Limits Of Control which stars Isaach de Bankole as a "mysterious lone criminal undertaking a job in Spain."

It's scheduled for a May 22nd release.

Check out my previous post on the film
HERE, and then watch the trailer below.

From the little shown within it, I'm instantly reminded of Ghost Dog, for obvious and not-so obvious reasons:

POLL - The "Black" Classics?


As I've done with my last few posts, I'm changing the format of my blog a little; I'm still covering black cinema, but as opposed to my almost android-like reporting and commenting on the film news of the day (regardless of how I felt about it), I'll instead focus specifically on what's of interest to me in the world of cinema and ideas... like the following.

Living in New York City, I'm exposed to numerous specialty film screening series commemorating a specific filmmaker and his/her works, or a film movement, or films from a specific era, or country etc, etc, etc...

Rarely do any of these events celebrate filmmakers, or films, or film movements of the African Diaspora - an idea that I believe is up to "us" to introduce and implement. I'd like to believe there are audiences interested in the kinds of retrospectives I've seen given in honor of films and filmmakers of the French New Wave, or the Italian Neorealists, or even more recently, IFC Center's Mumblecore tribute, and others - except, the French New Wave, Italian Neorealists and Mumblecore will be replaced by the Third Cinema movement, the Los Angeles School of black film makers (Burnett, Gerima, Dash, Clark and others), and, even though it was primarily a literary development, films inspired or influenced by the N├ęgritude movement.

Even the Blaxploitation films of the 70s could be included in the mix - maybe not the most ideal period of films to celebrate, but much could be learned from the lot.

Instead of a Godard or Rohmer retro, how about a Micheaux or Ousmane Sembene commemoration; instead of Fellini, we'll have the likes of William Greaves, or even Melvin Van Peebles (Sweet Sweeback isn't the only film he made in his prime).

Now, there certainly have been events honoring the previous names I mentioned and others, including Spike Lee, and Charles Burnett; but, in my opinion, they aren't regarded in quite the same regal fashion as their European counterparts (although that sentiment isn't only relegated to cinema). Certainly, maybe they don't all deserve to be - but my core point here is that WE need to start exalting our cinematic "treasures" (both the films and filmmakers) in the same manner as other groups do! I'm not suggesting strict imitation, but rather, WE have to claim them and give them the importance they deserve, instead of waiting for "outsiders" to define them for us.

A couple of years ago, when I was running the now defunct Voyager Film Company, along with 2 business partners, we held bi-monthly micro-cinema screenings of films by the above black filmmakers and more, attempting to memorialize both the films and their creators. We felt that they were all being somehow cheated of the same kind of admiration and respect that their non-African equivalents were enjoying, and continue to enjoy - which, in turn cheats their already existing and potential audiences; so, we did something about it.

Currently, myself and a small team of other invested New Yorkers are working diligently on reinstating something identical - a theatre space where we can regularly screen films of interest to us - from previous eras, as well as contemporary works - all while paying tribute to our cinematic heroes.

So, out of curiosity, I have a question for you all: if you were to name 5 films (or filmmakers) of the Diaspora that you would consider important films (or filmmakers) that must be seen by one and all, what would those 5 films (or filmmakers) be? Not necessarily the most entertaining, or the most financially successful (although those could also be included); and not what you've been told is important, but rather your own individual opinions; 5 films (or filmmakers) since cinema's dawn, of the African Diaspora (not only films by African American filmmakers) that you think were groundbreaking in some manner, or were heavily influential on films that followed; films we could label the "black" classics, for lack of a better phrase. What would they be?

I realize we don't have a lot to choose from - but that fact should make your work easier, I'd think. However, if you can't come up with 5, list as many as you can think of. Or if you can come up with more than 5, feel free to do so as well.

Also, don't worry about ranking them in any order, unless you want to.

I'm sure most of our lists will feature many of the same films, but that's ok. I'd just like to get some sense of how varied our ideas are. There are no right or wrong answers.

Fire away and let's discuss...!

RANDOM - Thespian Love


I just finished watching There Will Be Blood for the umpteenth time - the 2007 Oscar nominated, P.T. Anderson directed, Daniel Day Lewis starrer (a role for which he won the Academy Award for best actor, and deservedly so!).

Each time I watch that film, I marvel at just how engaging and even suffocating Lewis's performance is. He's practically the entire freaking movie; and without him, I'm not so sure that the film is as compelling as it is with him in it.

Could another actor have pulled off such a sublime performance with the same material? Maybe... although, I'd say that theirs would likely be a different film altogether - not necessarily better or worse... just different!

So, it inspired some further thought in me regarding similar circumstances in which an actor's/actress's performance is so overwhelmingly good, that the film they're in would likely fail if they weren't cast in the defining role.

So, assist me in generating a list of films that meet the above criteria; essentially actors/actresses whose performances elevated the overall caliber of the film they starred in - taking "C" level scripts and turning them into "A" level movies.

I'm blank at the moment - other than the one I just mentioned.

So, gimme some more...!

LA-DI-DAH - Vertigo... Figuratively


From time to time, I have days like this when I lack the drive to post entries on my blog.

I have my usual routine, which includes, reading through all my blog subscriptions, via Google Reader, looking for any worthwhile news to mention and/or comment on.

I'm not sure what it's like for the rest of you out there, especially those who manage similar niche blogs; but, for me, everything I read just starts to look and sound the same - the same group of 10 or so names involved in the same often unoriginal retreads of films I've already seen countless times. Or it's the op-ed piece by John/Jane Smith on some race-related aspect of the industry, whether positive or negative. Or it's the rantings of a minority actor/actress/director/writer/producer, expressing their unhappiness with certain industry inequities.

I get bored with it all. I feel like I've seen and heard it all before, and I'm inturn left uninspired, even as I try to beef up each entry with as much substance as I possibly can.

What's the point of it all, I ask myself?

What's there to really look forward to?

Quite frankly, there are moments when I'd love to shut it all down and invest my time in more personal ventures - something I've done at least once previously, only to return months later to reboot it all over again, as some of you will recall; however, I have to admit that there is something addicting about the act of blogging, especially as you witness your audience's continuous rapid growth. My site is certainly not as popular as some others, but I've seen my daily number of visitors (as have my subscribers) grow tenfold what they were about a year ago, when I first started blogging actively. So, I feel obligated to keep my content fresh, to satisfy my readers so that they inturn return, and my numbers continue to climb.

But maybe taking a break is OK once in awhile, and I shouldn't allow doing so to feel like a letdown.

I've toyed with the idea of a consolidation of sorts with other bloggers - essentially, those of us who blog about black cinema combine our blogs into a single massive portal - but I have yet to act on the idea. It's still something that I think would be beneficial to all of us - the bloggers as well as the readers.

Doing so distributes the task of keeping the site's content updated, so that it isn't entirely in the hands of a single editor, as it currently is for many of us.

I'd love to hear your individual thoughts on that.

Regardless, as I've said previously on my podcast, and probably on this blog as well, cinema just doesn't move me as much as it once did - specifically the cinema that I consume. Over the last 5 or so years, there've been so few films that have left much of an impression on me - both mainstream and independent. I go to the theatre, pay my $12, sit through 2 hours of uninspired, mostly generic work.

Filmmaker Peter Greenaway said about 2 years ago that cinema is dead, and his solution thus far has been to incorporate other kinds of media into his process, turning the movie-watching experience from a mostly passive one to an active one - getting the audience involved by creating a more challenging, albeit unnecessarily convoluted (IMHO) experience.

His last project, The
Tulse Luper Suitcases is a perfect example - a film that's even more unorthodox compared to the already contrarian Greenaway's previous projects. The end result is more of an extended art installation piece than anything we would traditionally refer to as cinema.

But, I say, maybe what we need to do is the opposite - strip cinema down to its barest essentials, and start all over again (a reinvention we could say), returning to a time when story is what really mattered - no gimmicks, no adornments; just compelling characters in equally compelling situations that speak to the proverbial human condition, whether in humorous, dramatic, or scientific ways.

Or maybe it's just me, and I need to work through whatever hurdles are in my path.

Or, maybe I should heed Gandhi's famous quote, and be the change that I want to see; essentially, shut the fuck up and make some movies - the kinds of movies that I believe the industry severely lacks.

Well, I'm certainly making an effort to do so, as are many other filmmakers I know.

Obviously, the process is much easier spoken about than completed.

However, I'm sure that by tomorrow, I'll be back to blogging about whatever is in the ether - maybe even by this evening, after I've watched a film or two from yesteryear that reinvigorates me.

I often download and watch movies on my 3.5-inch iPod Touch screen. It's certainly not the most ideal way to watch a movie, but it keeps me occupied during my daily New York city subway commute. I would read instead, but it's difficult for me to focus on print on the subway, so I read when I'm at home. On my iPod Touch is certainly not how I usually screen films; it's just another tool I use, thanks to Apple. I prefer the theatrical experience over all others. Interestingly, I rarely watch films at home - whether on cable TV or rentals.

When I'm writing, I tend to watch films that I think could inspire what I'm writing in some way - whether in story, or style, or both. For the past few days, I've been reacaquanting myself with Hitchcock's magnificent works. I've never really grown tired of them, and watch each with the same anticipation and thrill as I did upon initially seeing them.

So, this weekend, we'll see another new crop of 10 to 20 films in theatres across the country, whether in very limited or very wide release, and I just might be present for 1 or two of them, if I can muster up the required enthusiasm to do so.

If not, I'll instead be at home, or in some hole-in-the-wall cafe in New York city, working on my own hopefully worthwhile contribution to the marketplace.

So it goes...


RANDOM - It's All About The Branding! is a cool site that lists all product placement found within studio feature films, going back to 2001.

Something to pay attention to next time you sit down to watch a movie, and to later discuss, when you and your pals go to Starbucks afterward and order Frappuccinos, oblivious of the fact that you might be doing so because a character in the movie you just saw was drinking one.

For example, in the 2002 hit Barbershop, according to BrandChannel, brands featured in the dramedy include the following: 360 Style, All, Bear Credit, Bentley, Big Daddy, Burger King, Cadillac, Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet, Chicago Tribune, Chock Full O’Nuts, Cocoa Pebbles, Cristal, Dentyne, Durex, Ebony, Ecko Unltd, Fred Perry, FUBU, Gatorade, Gillette, Grape-Nuts, Hennessy, Herbalife, Honda, Huggies, Intl. House of Pancakes, Kodak, Krispy Kreme, Lucky Tiger, Lugz, Master Lock, Meoshe, Mercedes, Miss Sixty, MUG, Nilla, Now and Later, Oldsmobile, Oprah Winfrey, Oreo, Pelle Pelle, Pepsi, Planters, Pure Playaz, Range Rover, Red Lobster, Samuel Adams, Savoy, Sean John, SnackWells, Toyota, Triscuit, Tropicana, Us magazine, USA Today, USPS, and Viagra!

You can tell who the target audience of the film is, without even knowing what the film is about, or who is in it, just by looking at the brands featured in the film :o)

Or how about 2004's You Got Served? Featured brands include: Adidas, Aquafina, Cadillac, Casio, Converse, Ecko Unltd, Fiji, Girbaud, Jordan, K-Swiss, Mecca, Motorola, MTV, New Skool, Pepsi, Portland Trailblazers, Reebok, Schott, Shady, Sony, Tropicana.

Comparing the brands featured in the above 2 films, you'll notice some crossover - both films featuring a lot of similar clothing and shoe brands, which obviously tells us something about who the target audiences of both films are.

This is all useful info I think. I feel like so much analysis could be done with this data to reveal lots of interesting facts about the business and how audiences are mapped. It would be interesting to look at the box office totals of each film as well, and determine what the combination of that data with the branding data would tell us.

The website's most recent film covered is Madea Goes to Jail. Featured brands include: Acura, Apple, BLUE BIRD, BMW, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Clorox, Coca-Cola, Craftsman, Dell, Dexter Laundry, Die-Hard, Ford, GE, Hostess, Kenmore, K-Mart, LifeGas, Maersk, MasterCard, Minute Maid, Mistic, Nike, Philips, Pontiac, Rainbow, Ruffles, Ryder, Schweppes, Sunbelt Rentals, Tabasco, and Volkswagen.

Lots of car makers, aren't there? What does that tell us about what the film's producers think about the film's audience?

None of these occurences are coincidences, by the way... these companies pay good money to have their products featured in each of these films. Some film financing is made possible by agreements between producers and companies interested in product placement.

Check out for breakdowns of other films. It's not a complete list, but there's enough there to keep you busy for awhile.


TITLE CHANGE - From "Erasure" To "United States"

Recall my post early last week on Angela Bassett's next gig - her first attempt behind the camera in the director's chair... an adaptation of a novel titled Erasure... refresh your memory HERE.

Well, the celluloid version (which will be co-produced by her husband, Courtney B Vance in the pic above) will have a different title entirely... it'll be called United States!

Ho-hum... I liked Erasure better.

Maybe Angie was concerned that audiences may mistake the original title for the 80s English pop duo, Erasure. Remember them?

If you don't, here's a reminder (Ha-ha!):

via THR



I've written about this film previously on this blog.

It's called Hunger - first-time "helmer," Steve McQueen's critically acclaimed feature about Irish Republican Army (IRA) member Bobby Sands' last six weeks of life during a hunger strike in prison in 1981.

Adjectives such as "riveting" and "spine-chilling," amongst many others, have already been daubed onto the film by critics, accompanied by countless servings of praise from audiences who have been lucky enough to see the completed feature at the festivals its screened.

The film first premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year, where it went on to win the coveted Camera d'Or award (best first film), beginning a course on which it would later garner several more nominations and awards at other festivals and independent film organizations.

You're probably wondering why I'm bothering to mention a film about an IRA member who died almost 30 years ago, on this blog; I do so because the writer and director of the film (Steve McQueen) is black (that's his picture above).

This wasn't just some director-for-hire job for McQueen. It was very much a labor of love, and a story he really wanted to tell, and thus devoted quite a bit of his life to it - a feat that should be commended!

The film opens in New York at IFC Center on the 20th of this month. I plan to see it!

Here's the trailer as a reminder:

GOOD MORNING - Multitasking Can Be Hazardous To Your Health!

This would actually be a funny story if it weren't so horrifying!

Now, I'm fully aware of the supposed multitasking abilities of women, especially mothers (so, I've heard and read, so I'm not pulling this out of my arse), but this story below is absolutely ridiculous!

Police in Ohio have charged 39-year-old Genine Compton (in the picture above) with child endangerment for breast-feeding her baby AND talking on her cellphone, all while driving! Talk about a recipe for disaster!

Police say the woman faces up to 180 days in jail and a $1,800 fine if convicted of the misdemeanor.

And before anyone jumps all over me for being sexist - no, this isn't about a mother's right to breastfeed in public, nor is it a knock on women drivers, etc, etc, etc...

This is about acting responsibly! And, quite frankly, this was a really foolish thing to do, risking not only her life, but the life of her child, and whoever else she may have collided with. How about simply pulling over and doing whatever needed to be done?

While I don't think she deserves to spend anytime in jail - after all, she's got a child to look after - she should be reprimanded in some way.

via DDN

PODCAST - # 45: Reintroducing Ourselves To Tyler Perry; Helping Ourselves By Creating A Black-Owned Prod/Dist Studio

Podcast #45

TRT: 60 Minutes

Episode Notes: Tambay's new zen-like approach to Tyler Perry and his movies; and renewed discussion on helping ourselves in the industry, instead of looking to Hollywood for assistance, by combining our ideas and resources.

Listen below, or subscribe and download for FREE via iTunes. Just open up iTunes on your computer and search for "Obenson Report" in the iTunes store, where you will also find archives of previous shows.


FILM FINDS - Munyurangabo


This just in...

indieWIRE reports that Munyurangabo has been acquired for North American release by Film Movement.

Directed by Lee Isaac Chung, Munyurangabo explores the lives, adventures and travails of two Rwandan teenagers. It is the first narrative feature shot in the native Kinyarwanda dialect, and its entirely non-professional cast and crew consisted of “genocide orphans, returned refugees, and other undereducated locals barely making a living in the village where the film was shot.”

The film premiered at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, and was also selected for the Berlin International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival and New Directors/New Films, among others, in 2008.

It will open in theaters in late May, 2009.

Revered films about under-represented, marginalized groups, produced by whites are certainly nothing new. But it's a rare occurrence when a member from one minority group makes a film about members of another minority group, other than their own.
Filmmaker Lee Isaac Chung is the son of Korean immigrants, and Munyurangabo, a story about a road trip to revenge, set in Rwanda, starring Rwandans, is his first feature film.

I'm always ambivalent about scenarios like either of the above, for fear that the lens through which the filmmakers, often in a power position, see the characters and/or locations in their films, will be an exploitative or "exotified" one.

But I know nothing about the film, other than what you see here, and I'll certainly be following it from henceforth, now that I've been made aware of it.

Here's its trailer:


DOWN THE PIKE - Samuel L Jackson In "Rape"

In what has to possibly be the most bothersome title for a film, Variety is reporting that Samuel L. Jackson, Maria Bello, and Abigail Breslin are set to star in an indie drama called,
Rape: A Love Story.

The film is based on a novella by Joyce Carol Oates in which a woman (Maria Bello) begins rebuilding her life after being brutally gang-raped - an attack that is witnessed by her young daughter (Breslin). After the incident, her attackers obsessively stalk the woman, while a sympathetic policeman (played by Jackson) assumes the responsibility of protecting her.

Some worthwhile factoids about this production: the screenplay will be adapted by a man; the film will be directed by a man; and the film will be produced by a man!

Are these facts worth screaming about, or am I just being hypersensitive again?

Rape is an extremely touchy subject that if not handled with the appropriate care could instead trivialize an otherwise profound matter; and while I champion any attempts by films and filmmakers to enlighten audiences on the plight of abused women, I cringe at what often resembles gratuitous exploitation.

No word on when the film will be released - likely some time in 2010.


PIC - Michelle Obama's Official White House Portrait

I give you Michelle Obama's official White House portrait

They say a picture is worth a thousand words - what does this one say to you?

Some things that I noticed, and that were pointed out by others:

The hanging framed photo in the background is of the slave-owning Thomas Jefferson. Quite subtle, but I'd say definitely intentional, given that Michelle is the descendant of slaves. I like how blurry the photo is - almost as if saying goodbye to a previous era of white male dominated control and power... "fading out" a legacy? Definitely intentional!

And as someone else mentioned, the manner in which she "possessively" touches the table, as if to say, "we're here, we earned it, it's ours now!"

Look at the strength in those arms - also not a coincidence, I don't think, that her arms are on display, accompanied by a definitive, reassuring smile.

Lastly, the bouquet of vibrant flowers indicating a breath of fresh air - breathe in, smell the change, aaahhhh... :o)

Did I miss anything?

FILM REVIEW - Gospel Hill (Angela Bassett, Giancarlo Esposito, Danny Glover)

It's humorous that Gospel Hill, the eponymous community at the center of Giancarlo Esposito's directorial debut is a fictitious one, because the characters that make up the residents of the small town it belongs to - and it is a small town, a fact we are constantly reminded of - are simplistically defined, cardboard cutouts, lifted from other "race" dramas, and feel rather false.

Credit is most certainly due to Esposito for attempting to generate discussion on the issues the film wants to illuminate, and credit I'm giving to him, as well as his cast of veritable, tested talents, including the always earnest Angela Bassett as an iron-jawed grade school teacher, and Danny Glover as an aging mechanic, as well as Bassett's depressed husband, still trying to come to terms with the death of his father, played in black and white flashbacks by Samuel L. Jackson - a civil rights leader in the mold of Malcolm X (coincidentally, or likely not, his name is Paul Malcolm) who was assassinated by a white man, we eventually learn. I actually chuckled at the hamfisted manner in which the assassin is revealed to us. But you'll have to see the film to understand what I mean.

Rounding out the cast are Esposito himself, the town doctor, and resident sell-out, who acts as "errand boy" for the outsider white-owned development company intent on building a golf course on sacred land - a historically significant African American community.

A rather ripe Nia Long flirts with us as Esposito's unfaithful wife; Julia Stiles is a new teacher at the local grade school with a self-righteous streak, and Taylor Kitsch is her blue collar landscaper suitor, whom she eventually dumps because of what she believes are his questionable capitalistic tendencies, when he aligns himself with Esposito's "errand boy," who offers him landscaping work at several homes he owns.

Tom Bower plays the resident aging white racist, and father of Taylor Kitsch, as well as Adam Baldwin's character, who, by the way is having an affair with Nia Long, Esposito's wife - an affair he eventually ends, because it's the "right thing to do." Both sons are distant from their father and his ignorant ways; we are led to believe that clearly, they've embraced MLK's dream (I suppose sleeping with a married black woman is one way to show that), while their father, who, by the way, was the town's sheriff at the time of Paul Malcolm's assassination, still insists on "damning all those niggers to hell!" Naturally, he's wrestling some demons of his own (aren't we all) one of which is the young black man he fired from his driving business, apparently for his perceived stereotypical "black man" laziness. However, by the film's all-too-tidy ending, he rehires the kid, after reaching some catharsis of his own.

Did I forget anyone? Probably. But, it doesn't really matter.

As a narrative on the miscellaneous connected lives of the residents of Gospel Hill and its surrounding town (an area in which diversity means you're either black or white), Gospel Hill could be seen as a mild success. However, that doesn't quite seem to be the intent of Esposito and screenwriters, Jeff Stacy and Jeffrey Pratt Gordon. There's clearly an attempt at a core narrative that's meant to be the film's compass, but Esposito isn't quite able, or sure how to share it with us, with so many characters, entering and leaving the frame, each with their own burgeoning stories that aren't fully realized.

The result is an unfocused 90-minute lesson in morality (I think), full of speechifying that frequently jaunts into melodrama, which might explain the name of the community in which the characters live - Gospel Hill, where residents speak in sermons.

In this so-called "post-racial" era, one could say that residents of the town have maybe been influenced by Obama-mania. Despite it's history of racial intolerance - a history that still lives with some of its aging residents - Gospel Hill and its surrounding town, are full of men and women with virtuous intentions - working and middle class whites and blacks in this small southern society who seem to have embraced MLK's dream of content of character trumping color of skin. I'm sure people like this exist in the real world; however, to find them all so heavily concentrated in one tiny southern town requires some reach.

Esposito seems to want us all to believe that MLK's dream is indeed achievable, as well as in the resilience and intellectual insight of younger and future generations - both noble causes certainly. But the key words here are "seems to."

A decent first effort from director Esposito, and I applaud him for taking the risk. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite earn the message(s) it wants its audience to take from it.

The above DVD cover of the film annoys me greatly for its lack of imagination, and relying on the same old trite uses of imagery in marketing "black films" to black audiences. I'm sure you can guess what exactly I'm referring to - the hand holding the gun. It encourages an entirely false perception of the film's content by including an image that is so inconsequential to the overall picture - a cheap and unfortunate marketing trend that I believe is to the film and filmmaker's detriment.

I give Gospel Hill 2.5 out of 5 stars.

If interested, you can find it on DVD via Netflix, or an iTunes download rental.

FREE FALLING - Dow Dips Below 7000

Not film related... although, that's arguable, since financial investments (whether from corporations or individuals) are a crucial part of the film production process.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), the leading stock market index, compiled to gauge the general performance of the American stock market, and thus the economy, fell below 7,000 this morning, to numbers it hasn't seen in 12 years - since 1997!!

If you're invested in any of the markets, like I am, you have to be concerned, if you weren't at all worried before today.

Many analysts saw the 7,000 number as some kind indicator - the number the Dow was not supposed to drop below in order for consumer confidence to remain somewhat stable... if you can call what we've witnessed so far this year, stable.

By all accounts, the dip into 6,000 territory signalizes what could be the beginning of a stock market free fall. Let's hope not! I certainly hope not.

In the last 6 months, I've seen the value of my portfolio suffer tremendously, and I'm starting to become anxious. Should I sell, or is this actually a good time to buy? After all, the market mantra we've all heard before is "buy low, sell high."

Easier said than done when one isn't sure where "low" is.

Some former blue chip stocks are now worth pennies on the dollar, or as much as 95% less than what they were worth just a year ago! Ouch! Imagine putting $1,000 into a stock a year ago, only to see it fall to $50 in value a year later. Again, OUCH! That's not what my portfolio looks like, thankfully, since I diversify, but, there are probably others who haven't been as lucky.

How's that Obama stimulus package working for ya?

Tick, tock, tick, tock...


GOOD MORNING - "Precious" Drops Out Of ND/NF!

Bummer!! I was really looking forward to the screening.

According to EURweb...

Sundance crowd-pleaser "Push: Based on a Novel by Sapphire," which has reportedly been renamed "Precious," has dropped out of its planned closing-night berth at the News Directors/New Films fest in New York.

According to the New York Daily News, the decision has nothing to do with the film's legal drama involving The Weinstein Co. and Lionsgate. Shortly after it became the major prizewinner in Sundance, "Push" was acquired by Lionsgate, which secured marketing support from Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry. It now plans a fall release for the film.

Recall my previous post announcing the film's closing-night screening at the News Directors/New Films series at New York's Lincoln Center - an event that highlights emerging talent culled from major festivals like Sundance, Toronto and others. The series runs from March 25 to April 5.

Well... New Yorkers like myself will have to wait until the fall like everyone else!

That seems like too long of a wait, IMHO. I would think the smart thing to do, especially from a business sense, would be to capitalize on the buzz that the film has received since its Sundance debut. By the time the fall comes around, there'll be a lot more competition for eyeballs, since that's when the studios release their Oscar-bait material.

Although, I suppose, Lionsgate could be priming Precious for an award season run, hence its fall release - maybe recognition for some of its stars, the screenplay, and even the director!

Regardless of what their reasons are, I certainly hope that they screen the film at other festivals between now and its fall release, if only to keep it on the lips and minds of interested audiences, as well as in the press. Disappearing for 7 or 8 months could be to its detriment!


TRAILER - Precious


I got an email a little bit ago from a reader telling me that the trailer for
Precious (formerly known as Push: Based On The Novel By Sapphire), Lee Daniels' Sundance hit, is being shown with prints of Madea Goes to Jail!

So - you know what that means folks, don't you? You just may have to go see Madea Goes To Jail to see the trailer. HA!

I'm actually surprised it hasn't hit the web yet, since Madea Goes To Jail has been in release for 2 weekends. Although, I'm sure it will, soon enough.

Ya know... I wonder if the above news is partly responsible for the $65 Million box office return Madea Goes To Jail has earned since its release... many heard about the trailer news for Precious, and decided to purchase tickets for Madea, just to see the trailer.


Once I get my hands on it, rest assured that I'll post it.

LOOSE LIPS - Clint Eastwood Nostalgic For The Days When Racist Jokes Rocked!

Per an interview with Germany's Der Spiegel magazine... Acting legend Clint Eastwood apparently believes that political correctness has rendered modern society humorless. He accuses younger generations of spending too much time trying to avoid being offensive.

The Dirty Harry star insists that he should be able to tell harmless jokes about nationality without fearing that people may brand him "a racist"... stating:

"People have lost their sense of humor. In former times we constantly made jokes about different races. You can only tell them today with one hand over your mouth or you will be insulted as a racist... I find that ridiculous. In those earlier days every friendly clique had a 'Sam the Jew' or 'Jose the Mexican' - but we didn't think anything of it or have a racist thought. It was just normal that we made jokes based on our nationality or ethnicity. That was never a problem. I don't want to be politically correct. We're all spending too much time and energy trying to be politically correct about everything."

What "former times" is he referring to? When has it ever been OK to tell racist jokes? He's almost 80 years old, so, maybe he's recalling an era when most of us weren't even born, when Jim Crow laws where mandate. I wonder how many "How do you get a nigger out of a tree?" jokes he told during those "former times" he's referring to.

Maybe his choice of words was just unfortunate. After all, he makes it easy for one to quickly dismiss what he says as the rantings of an old white man with privilege. I can understand what he may have meant to say... emphasis on "may have," since I'm obviously not in Clint Eastwood's head. I would agree that we have become a hypersensitive nation (I'm certainly guilty of knee-jerk reactions to perceived racially offensive material). But, as I said in a previous post, that "hypersensitivity" is influenced by something very real, which should be acknowledged.

So, instead of good old Clint's seemingly careless, dismissive comments, people like him should be encouraging discussion and deconstruction of what's at the root of said hypersensitivity.

*Sigh* It's all so damned idiotic, when one considers just how much havoc we've allowed the social construct we call race, to wreak upon us!

Although, maybe he's unto something. Humor can be a powerful tool used to demystify aspects of life, and possibly expose the stupidity of something as divisive and nonsensical as "race."



WTF - Cops Beat 15 Year Old Black Girl In Holding Cell


Apparently the story is about 2 days old; however, I'm just finding out about this.

Just watch the video:

BOX OFFICE - Tyler Perry STILL Rules The World!

Madea Goes To Jail
was number one at the box office for a second week in a row.

I didn't research this, but I think this may actually be the very first time that a Tyler Perry movie has been at the top of the charts for consecutive weeks!

It made an additional $16.5 Million, bringing it's 2 week total to close to $65 Million, surpassing
Madea's Family Reunion to become Tyler Perry's highest grossing film.

Keep in mind that it's only in its second week of release. Conceivably, we might be on the cusp of TP's first $100 million picture!

Well... likely not, given how sharply box office numbers fell for the film from week 1 to week 2. Recall it broke records last week with a $41 Million payday! It's $16.5 Million total this week is less than 50% of last week's numbers, which is quite revealing! I'd expect another similar drop next week.

So, while it's unlikely that
Madea Goes To Jail will see $100 Million in ticket sales, it will get close by the time it reaches the end of its theatrical run.

And to think that his films cost a fraction of what they make; somebody is getting very rich; or some people are getting very rich!

I plan to talk about "Tyler Perry Inc" during tomorrow night's podcast, so do tune in for that!

via BOM

COUNTDOWN - Watchmen

The year's first highly-anticipated, mega-budgeted flick hits theatre's this Friday... but, quite frankly, I'm not looking forward to it.

Does anyone else out there planning on seeing this think it will disappoint? I think it will. I've read the graphic novel several times, and from the moment I heard it was being adapted, I had my doubts. I was curious, but, concerned. I just don't think it's suitable adaptation material, and will be better appreciated in print form. CGI be damned!

Many of the video clips I've seen thus far (and there have been A LOT) don't impress, and instead generate unintentional, unexpected chuckles, bringing a levity to the characters and story that are counter to the graphic novel's ethos.

Even the novel's creator, Alan Moore, distanced himself from the project, and has also refused to see it. After the horrendous filmed version of his other graphic novel, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, one can understand why he would be ambivalent. Moore said he intends to give any resulting royalties from Watchmen to the comic's artist, Dave Gibbons - and if Watchmen proves to be the blockbuster that Warner Bros hopes, Gibbons could become significantly wealthy!

Will I see it? Probably... with trepidation of course... likely not during opening weekend. I'll be going into it with rather low expectations, so, I actually might be pleasantly surprised!