Really Deadline?

Empire

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:

Television Academy’s New Rules – WHY?

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This has got to be a conspiracy. Folks sitting up high in ‘creative’ fields seem to have a huge problem with creativity itself! I’m referring to the brand new set of rule changes the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences just announced.

All those dramedies you love? The ones making TV so worthwhile today? Shameless? Orange Is The New Black? You can stop calling them funny because they’re officially ineligible for Comedy Series (jeez if you want Modern Family to win that bad, just say so!). The category will now accept shows that only clock in at 30 minutes. Jane The Virgin, which is most definitely a comedy MIGHT get in if a special case is petitioned. The other two shows can still compete in Drama Series, which is being expanded to seven categories because that race wasn’t crowded enough already.

Also smaller serialized dramas like Sherlock? You’ve probably seen the last of them because they don’t qualify for “Limited Series”, the new name given to the Mini-Series category. The category states that the series should have “no ongoing story lines or main characters” in subsequent seasons. That’s right, AHS: Freak Show kinda shot themselves in the foot by connecting two universes through Pepper and Sister Mary Eunice.

The Guest Acting rules now require that a performer must appear in less than 50% of the program’s episodes. The big losers here of course are the OITNB ladies that scored three nods (and a win) in Guest Actress last year. Looks like amazing recurring turns this season by Lorraine Toussaint, Samira Wiley, Yael Stone, Selenis Leyva, and Alysia Reiner officially just went to waste. Meanwhile SNL guest hosts and name-value cameos get to keep their free passes.

I know what you’re thinking, even I used to think rules are changed and revised to make things better.

From The A.V.Club: Can Intimacy Save The Movie Musical?

the last five years

In the wake of the release of The Last Five Years, Caroline Siede at The A.V.Club makes some excellent points about how small-scale musicals that pare down the production value could translate successfully to the screen and perhaps revolutionize the genre. A favorite line: “There’s nothing inherently bad about big musicals or their big-screen adaptations, but right now Hollywood is only focusing on stadium shows when a whole collection of excellent chamber pieces is waiting in the wings.”

Read it here. And watch The Last Five Years!

http://www.avclub.com/article/can-intimacy-save-movie-musical-215294?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=SocialMarketing&utm_campaign=Default:1:Default

The Grammys And The People Have A Beyonce Problem.

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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.

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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.

He has so much to say