Category Archives: People

My Latest Piece of Writing – Put An End To The #KylieJennerLips Nonsense

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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:

http://www.stylevaultdubai.com/?p=1975

Trailer Reaction – Amy

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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!:

Really Deadline?

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Deadline has stooped to Alessandra Stanley-an lows with a horrible new piece by Nellie Andreeva implying that the increase in diverse casting for Pilot Season is possibly a bad thing because A) It means that actors of color will steal opportunities away from White actors out of “tokenism” and B) Too much diversity might be too much too soon (Over 70 years of TV can’t be ‘soon’ though).

Problem is that is most people STILL have a superficial understanding of diversity casting and what it means. Most (predominantly White) decision-makers see it as a business model rather than a way to view a wider range of stories and perspectives.

I still feel that a big way to bring the change on-camera is by diversifying voices BEHIND it. More writers, producers, directors, execs of color will make stronger decisions, and those decisions will stick. After The Cosby Show, rip-off sitcoms about Black families were tested for about three TV seasons after which the motif was abandoned because it wasn’t working. What DID work was A Different World, which told a different story despite being a Cosby spinoff. And back in 2002 when Denzel Washington and Halle Berry won Oscars in the same year, there was a brief increase in roles for Black actors, but cast mostly in those two not-so-positive molds.

The fact that this season’s breakout hits include Empire, Fresh Off The Boat, and Jane The Virgin as well as other shows with diverse casts speaks volumes about what people want to see as opposed to what Andreeva and some others think they want to see. Next fall will see television being the most diverse it has ever been, and Deadline should know that by writing this, they are causing potential damage and regression.

The article’s ‘These People’ POV has drawn the social media ire and rightfully so:

These tweets sum up a LOT of what I, and I’m sure a lot of others feel. And here’s the nonsensical article that’s been inducing some serious cringe:
http://deadline.com/2015/03/tv-pilots-ethnic-casting-trend-backlash-1201386511/

Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation Is Backing Adrian Grenier’s Loneliest Whale Doc!

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One famous environmentalist sticks up for another and you feel that all is good in the universe. The fact that Adrian Grenier is poles apart from the vain jerk he played on Entourage speaks volumes about his skills as an actor. In addition, he’s also a noted musician and a documentary filmmaker (watch the underrated gem Teenage Paparazzo if you can!) And now he’s all set for his next project, with a little help from Leo! On the verge of its Kickstarter campaign’s expiration, Leonardo DiCaprio, whose deep pockets also helped in getting Virunga made, has used his environmentally conscious foundation to donate a hefty $50,000 to the doc’s production.

This film will be titled 52: The Search for the Loneliest Whale, and will track down the mysterious ‘lonely whale’, the much-fabled solitary sea-mammal that is the only known whale that creates sound-waves at 52 Hz. It’s been heard through hydrophones over several years but has been hard to track since it travels without a pod. Unable to communicate, the whale is all by itself, lonely. The documentary will deal with issues such as sound pollution and whales as an endangered species. A lonely whale could use some friends, why not us humans?

Fun fact: Whale poo fertilizes underwater plantation.

Good luck to Grenier! Here’s the Variety report:

https://variety.com/2015/film/news/leonardo-dicaprio-adrian-grenier-kickstarter-1201450697/

Happy International Women’s Day!

A friend’s Facebook post recently pointed out that ideological movements like feminism have taken so long to prevail because the global culture deems it more important to publicly identify as a feminist than to actually do something that combats patriarchy.

In other words, a lot of people talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. On this Women’s Day, I want to celebrate people and organizations that actually do the former and help others follow suit. Being a young man, I have personally valued initiatives that motivate male allies like myself. Here are two prime examples:

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First,there’s The Good Men Project. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that patriarchal orders oppress both genders but in different ways. Men are also negatively impacted by societal pressures like women, though the symptoms may be different.

The Good Men Project strives to redefine modern-day masculinity and encourages men to eschew stigmas that either hold them back or harbor within them as hurt.

The website frequently publishes experience-based long-form journalism and shares important articles from other sites too. This is one of their most recent, a list from RaisingGreatMen.com about raising boys as better critical thinkers.

http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/ten-tips-for-raising-a-critical-thinker-kerj/

Follow them online and show your support!

Then of course there’s Emma Watson’s HeForShe.

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Through this UN-supported, social media lionized project, Watson took on the daunting but admirable task of promoting a feminist sentiment in males and also explaining how an uneven social order with narrowly defined roles is in fact detrimental to both genders.

Though less than a year old, HeForShe has amassed a great following and has created room for crucial dialog by challenging and questioning men in every aspect of life about how they help the women around them gain acknowledgment.

My respect for this initiative is endless and in the past year, my respect for Emma Watson (already quite respectable for her intellect and talent) has increased tenfold.

To commemorate this year’s International Women’s Day, Watson represented HeForShe with a live Q&A session at Facebook which involved details on the project as well as interaction with the audience. Here it is:
https://www.facebook.com/HeForShe

If you don’t already, like HeForShe on FB and follow it on Twitter and Instagram. Trust me, you will be in distinguished company. You can also share related opinions using #HeForShe.

I hope more projects like these two come up and fight the war for gender equality in the right way. Remember that feminism is not man-hating but a belief that both genders are on the same page with privileges.

Happy International Women’s Day!

I’m Disappointed In Lee Daniels.

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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:

Ava DuVernay Is Bouncing Back With A New Project

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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!