Just wrote and published this piece in Style Vault Dubai that talks about how unsafe, racially insensitive, and plain idiotic this new trend with sucking on a shot glass to make your lips bigger is. Not only did I get to write a heartfelt piece, I got to quote Paul Mooney! Read it and reflect here:
Back To Black was a VERY important album, and not just for the mainstream music soundscape. It was an important album to me personally. The Neo-Jazz rhythms, the unflinchingly honest and emotional lyrics, and Amy Winehouse’s Soul-chanteuse vocals. It was easily one of my ‘formative years’ records, and my introduction to a whole new musical world. I got into all kinds of Jazz from all eras thanks to this album’s push. Love her or hate her, Amy Winehouse was a unique artist. There’s still that ever-present buzz in the music aficionado sphere that the Adeles and Duffys owe their big breaks to Winehouse’s first step. Goes without saying that Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi worked wonders with the production.
Okay, enough about the seminal record and more about the trailer. Amy, directed by Asif Kapadia is already looking like a cinematic experience. A humanized portrayal without the Lifetime biopic melodrama. A rise-and-fall chronicle without the True Hollywood Stories sensationalism. I like that the trailer has audio of a young and personable Amy rather than the incoherent, drug-addled mess she became later on. I also love the studio session of Back To Black in the background that gives the song a dark edge.
This is on my 2015 MUST-WATCH and I know tears will fall from my eyes while doing that. Enjoy the trailer here!:
In 2010, with her hair adorned by gardenia to honor Hattie McDaniel, Mo’Nique won Best Supporting Actress for her gut-wrenching turn in Precious: Based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire (they should teach that performance as a study in excellence). She went from being an outspoken comedienne to Nikki on The Parkers to an Oscar-winner for a role she was once unimaginable in. With the first line of her acceptance speech, she thanked the Academy “For showing that it can be about the performance and not the politics.” before an applauding crowd. If Lee Daniels is to be believed, that one sentence cost her deeply.
I’m not Lee Daniels’ parent or child,I don’t know him personally. Yet here I am, until recently happy for his unprecedented success with Empire, and now disappointed with his attitude towards Hollywood and Mo’Nique, a woman crucial to his breakthrough as a major power-player.
There has been lot of talk lately, due to a startling story in The Hollywood Reporter, in which Mo’Nique talked about how Daniels called her after her win and informed her that she’s being “Blackballed” by the industry. Meaning: She stepped out of line and she’ll be stepped on. Just like that, her sudden absence from the scene was explained. A whole new door that was opening up to her closed, and Daniels deserted her.
Tensions originally flared during what’s known as Oscar campaign season, which through unwritten law requires nominated actors to sit through luncheons, interviews, and meetings to ensure they have a win on their hands. They need to appease members of the Academy as well as people of the press. Even if you don’t win, you’ve managed decent publicity and good graces. In the wake of Mo’Nique’s THR story, Daniels has claimed that she made outrageous demands for said campaigning that weren’t consistent with how it’s done. He hasn’t outright stated what those demands were because “everyone knows”.
Her attitude upset the Academy members, the very lifeblood of the industry. But how? By voting for her to win despite her not playing by the given rules, A.M.P.A.S already proved they’re not as petty as Daniels is making them out to be. Now there may have been people who raised eyebrows, there always are in a self-congratulatory system. But especially after Daniels became only the second Black Oscar-nominated director for a film that got rave reviews, in what scenario could he be pressured by producers to drop Mo’Nique?
Even if someone asked him to dissociate himself from her for what she had said, his move to comply is self-serving to say the least. He did not stand up for her, the woman who along with Gabourey Sidibe and Mariah Carey elevated his film to a level perhaps other actors couldn’t have. Even today, with films that grossed over $100 million and a smash hit television series, Daniels won’t try to take her side, he won’t even work with her again.
Maybe he was scared of persecution before, he wanted to play his cards safe, but not anymore. He went as far uttering the words “reverse racism” to describe Mo’Nique’s behavior in this CNN sit-down:
This man isn’t afraid of being called a sell-out but to be labelled a loyal friend was too risky? Black media have had a go at him lately. There are stories of how he remorselessly plays an Uncle Tom to stay in the game. His work is being disparaged for perpetuating stereotypes. He’s being called out for almost being apologetic for his race, his kids have reportedly read The Dairy of Anne Frank countless times, but never Roots.
He is correct about one thing though, it’s not show but showBUSINESS. As a Black gay man trying to break into Hollywood, who really knows how many compromises and sacrifices came his way to make him who he is? But what will spring from this conformity? “We’re just giving the people what they want” is a proven lie that still gets told somehow. Spike Lee, Shonda Rhimes, Steve McQueen, Ava DuVernay, Dee Rees, and Andrew Dosunmu are telling stories untold in perspectives unseen and are still in business and with more praise and respect than him.
Maybe Lee Daniels was too scared before, but now he’s in a place where you can certainly speak up. He can at least try to have Mo’Nique’s back. He can try to rebuild bridges. And he can surely show that he’s not a puppet to some arm-twisting White hierarchy, he’s better than that.
P.S. Here’s all he needs to know about Reverse Racism:
I think it’s been established at this point that award shows in general have a problem. The winners at the Emmys were disappointing, the nominees for the Oscars are disappointing. At the Grammys, ‘Music’s Biggest Night’, the nominees, winners, and performances have been consistently disappointing for some years now (which is really a far bigger issue about how messy the music industry is today).
The point is, different and original is either rarely recognized, or snubbed altogether. With the Grammys, which are as much a concert experience as they are an awards show, the demonstration of this becomes more explicit. While it’s great that they decided to close the show with a statement, they cheapened that move with obvious concern over image and popularity.
As a prelude to Common and John Legend performing Glory from Selma, Beyonce sang Ms. Mahalia Jackson’s Take My Hand, Precious Lord. The hymn was a favorite of Dr. King’s and is featured in the movie Selma too. A chorus of singers with hands raised as a tribute to Michael Brown stood behind Beyonce as she bellowed.
There’s one problem, in the film the song is performed by Ledisi, who also plays Ms. Jackson.
For the (sadly) unaware, Ledisi is a nine-time Grammy nominee and a renowned name in Soul, Gospel, and R&B. Yet somehow, she’s not as much of a recognized name as Beyonce. That could have changed tonight had she sung the song. Apparently, both Common and John Legend admitted that it was Beyonce who approached them and pitched the idea. So, if she has the kind of clout to schedule and create performances for the freaking Grammys, especially where she seemed to want to pay homage to Selma, she definitely had the power to ask for Ledisi to do it.
Before you get defensive about the vocal prowess of ‘Queen Bey’, here’s Ledisi’s untouchable version to shut you up:
Beyonce could’ve done ANYTHING else, it’s not like they were going to have the Grammys and not have a nominated, popular artist perform. Plus she’s clearly in the position to pick and choose. It’s apparent that it wasn’t about highlighting the movement but about highlighting HER. As one of music’s most passive-aggressive attention-seekers, this was just an opportunity for her to have another “Look at me! I’m so great” while her psycho fans ate it out of her hands. Gospel is supposed to be devoid of vanity after all.
BONUS: This isn’t the first time an awards show chose Beyonce over lesser known artists to appease the viewership and maybe themselves. Remember Oscars 2005? Beyonce inexplicably performed 3 of the 5 nominated songs, including Vois sur ton chemin from Les Choristes, a song DESIGNED to be sung by a choral ensemble since the film is about a young children’s choir. Instead of having original vocalists, Les Petits Chanteurs de Saint-Marc perform their version, they got Beyonce backed by the American Boychoir. The botched French accent is not even the worst part:
To back up my attention-seeker accusation, I want you to pay close attention at 1:20. The kids get only a few seconds of the song to themselves and she decides to melisma over them, couldn’t even let them have their moment.
Somewhere within the first 30 minutes of Top Five, I knew it was happening. I was developing a crush on Chelsea Brown, the intelligent, straightforward, free-spirited, recovering alcoholic journalist played by Rosario Dawson. Here’s an exemplification: After 2012, any guy or girl with that asymmetric, shaved at one side hairstyle (aka Skrillex hair) was basically a wannabe in my book. Yet Chelsea/Rosario wore it with a seriousness and confidence that made it work. She wasn’t a wannabe hipster, she was a young intellectual.
She’s flawed for sure, the sobriety chip, the young daughter, the failed romances, she’s nowhere near perfect but perfectly imperfect (call me John Legend). She lies, hooks up with her subject (a pretty controversial movie trope) and holds on to relationships she knows are past their expiration date, but it’s that warts-and-all portrayal of a female character that actually makes me like her for being complex.
Now this isn’t the first time I’ve had this problem, and I can tell from experience I’m not the only person with this problem either. People do tend to search for an ideal partner in characters they see on the screen. It’s the stars aligning with writers, actors, and directors doing their jobs exceptionally. It’s been an ever-growing list for me, though mostly with small-screen women: Buffy Summers, Veronica Mars, Maeby Funke, Peta Wilson’s Nikita, Maggie Q’s Nikita, Laurel Castillo, the list goes on. I guess I’m definitely into the headstrong and inquisitive.
Sure they’re not real, but they’re formed from fragments of different real people. Christian Grey is a BDSM fanatic from a book with questionable prose, women have still fantasized about him, and Captain America, and Edward Cullen, heck even Jack Sparrow! And the guys, don’t even get me started on fanboy tourneys based on female action characters. My interests are simply less fantastical(barring a vampire slayer and a rogue spy of course). Although the trap of raised expectations in the real world persists.
But on the big screen particularly, a Chelsea Brown is still kind of rare. She does help the male lead, Chris Rock’s Andre Allen, go through his own story arc, but not just as his foil or love interest. She has her own narrative, in fact a good chunk of Top Five tells her story, making her fully-formed and that much more appealing. Her mistakes in life made her better and smarter, and there is nothing to be changed, not even the haircut.
You can throw all the backlash and award snubs her way, but it clearly won’t hold Ava DuVernay down. She has successfully mounted her next project, an as-yet-untitled drama/thriller set in post-Katrina New Orleans.
There are so many great things about this news. First, DuVernay, like countless female directors before her, didn’t have to wait a few years and knock on a few doors before locking her next project. She’s risen from disappointing news to shift her focus on a new film, which is being funded by Participant Media, the distributors of her 2012 Sundance prizewinner Middle of Nowhere.
Also,this is also her third time working with actor David Oyelowo,for all we know these two are headed for a Tarantino/Jackson,Burton/Depp,Scorsese/De Niro(or DiCaprio) kind of long working relationship. Oyelowo is even helping co-produce the project.
And very importantly, this film will deal with the Katrina aftermath from a Black perspective. Instead of the typical ‘Stranger-In-A-Strange-Land’ narrative that would have planted a wealthy White male into the doldrums of destruction among secondary Black characters, the film’s POV will be of the race that bore the biggest brunt of devastation and indifference.
It’s great that DuVernay is getting to pick her projects and do them in quick succession. It’s also great that she’s sticking to these lower-key character-based dramas rather than the proposed bigger-budget alternative. Looking forward to this film already!
This potential gem just screened at Sundance but a first look is now online! Rick Famuyiwa (The Wood, Brown Sugar) wrote and directed this post-Hip Hop dramedy about a group of cool-nerd South Bay teens, their 90’s nostalgia, their punk-rap band, and clearly, some trouble that comes along. With it’s portrayal of teen angst and urban flair, Dope looks equal parts John Hughes and John Singleton.
The cast includes Shameik Moore, Transparent‘s Kiersey Clemmons, The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s Tony Revolori, as well as Blake Anderson,
my longstanding crush Zoe Kravitz, A$AP Rocky, Chanel Iman, Kimberly Elise, and Diddy’s son Quincy Brown. The film also features original songs written by Pharrell for the main characters’ band and based on the first look, some gorgeous wide-angle lensed, color-flared cinematography from wunderkind Rachel Morrison (Fruitvale Station).
Check it out here:
I’ve been anticipating this film for a while now, let’s hope a distribution deal and wider success come soon enough. Fingers crossed!
UPDATE: Dope acquired by Open Road for $7 mil, the biggest deal at Sundance this year, read about it here!: http://deadline.com/2015/01/dope-seven-million-dollars-open-road-sundance-film-festival-1201357907/