Coffee Rhetoric: movies
Showing posts with label movies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label movies. Show all posts

June 13, 2014

Must Watch - Five Foreign Films You May Have Missed on Netflix or Hulu

I quite enjoy my Roku streaming device and am a self-professed film nerd. I'm also an avid watcher of streamed movies: whether they're cult classics, horror, Grindhouse, obscure arthouse, documentaries, or TV series – especially when they're offered through Netflix, HULU Plus, and Film Movement; so I've come to appreciate reading compiled ‘What to Watch on Netflix’ lists, because I’m often made privy to gems I may overlook while perusing the streamed offerings.

To note, 
I've been blogging for a long time, and would sometimes make film suggestions or write reviews of my own… pre-streaming, of course. I miss weighing-in and sharing what I've watched, and have enjoyed some really interesting films of late, in addition to revisiting some old favorites. So without further ado, I've been prompted to offer a list of suggested films, of my own, starting with foreign films. 
Here is a list of 5 must-watch foreign films via Netflix Instant Watch, Hulu, or other... 

March 13, 2013

Viola Davis as Barbara Jordan: Trailblazer, Leader, More Than a "Common Asexual Mammy"

This post was originally published on Coffee Rhetoric March 28, 2012 and has been updated with current information and re-posted in commemoration of Women's History Month ... 

I am passionate about a number of social issues, paticularly those pertaining to the well-being of Black women. And while I may project my voice and stand in solidarity with others, about certain things, I am leery and strategic about whose and what rhetoric I co-sign.  I’m solitary in my work  and don’t belong to or align myself with any new movements because, from my' vantage points, they often implode and it stops being about the issue(s).

That aside, I've found the language and writings of a certain subset of Black women to be very problematic. They attribute their work to Black Women Empowerment (BWE) and consider themselves the voices of reason for the elevation of Black womanhood. There are undoubtedly some women who have managed to successfully carve out a niche and use Black feminist and BWE platforms to inform and provide legitimate, insightful, and thought provoking content about the importance of recognizing race within feminism and feminist theory. They’ve been tireless about advocating for Black women and young girls, in a society where we're often invisible, ridiculed, and further marginalized. 

May 30, 2012

Michelle Rodriguez Says Only 'Black and Trashy' Roles Get Oscar Nods

When thinking down the line of Hollywood actresses of color who’ve made an indelible impact on current films, Michelle Rodriguez probably doesn’t register on anybody’s radar; at least not enough so, that she’d be recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. So when Vulture caught up with the actress at an amfAR event at Cannes this past week, the actress had just come from a screening of the controversial Lee Daniels-directed film, The Paperboy-- (which has been garnering unfavorable reviews by critics) -- and expressed her appreciation for the film…
“I say fuck them because they don’t get it”, the actress opined. “He’s so good at keeping me entertained. When I don’t like the dialogue, I’m amused by the visuals. And when I don’t like the visuals, I’m amused by the dialogue. It’s always switching up senses. I’m intrigued by his ability to capture me in a theater. It’s not easy to capture me in a theater — I’m ADD like that.” 
When prodded about a scene in which Nicole Kidman apparently pees on actor Zac Efron to soothe a jellyfish sting, Michelle waxed philosophical about the politics surrounding Black actresses and actors who’ve been nominated for and/or won film awards,
"I fucking loved it. One of my friends said, 'She’s going to get nominated for an Oscar for that.' I was like, 'Nah, man. She’s not black!' I laugh, but it’s also very sad. It makes me want to cry. But I really believe. You have to be trashy and black to get nominated. You can’t just be trashy."  (Source)
It didn’t take long for Michelle’s public gaffe to start circulating those Black pockets of the social media realm. Re-tweeted and re-posted on Twitter and Facebook, Black bloggers and pop-culture critics were not amused and immediately took offense; but doesn't Michelle Rodriguez present a very good point about the worth of Black actors and actresses (or anyone in that industry, of color) in Hollywood? As a woman of color, navigating the landscape of the Hollywood machine, Michelle herself has been typecast since making her debut in Girlfight, whether she’d be inclined to agree with that very obvious point or not, so on some level perhaps she speaks a very honest (albeit it an unfiltered and somewhat tactless) truth.

Consider some of the voices of displeasure when Octavia Spencer nabbed an Oscar for 'Best Supporting Actress' for her role playing a sassy domestic worker in The Help. And most of us couldn’t even fathom Viola Davis emphatically defending having played a maid in the same movie.  Some of us still harbor the bitter aftertaste Halle Berry’s 2002 Oscar win for her turn in Monster’s Ball left in our mouths; the same evening Denzel  won for playing a corrupt and unscrupulous police officer in Training Day, to which he quipped, “Two birds in one night, huh?” during his acceptance speech.

In a sometimes tense Black social media sphere, where certain ones us hurl accusatory epithets like Mammy, Ghetto Queen, Sapphire and thug towards entertainers who portray such roles, directors (both Black and non-Black, who help steer actors in those roles), and towards everyday people who don’t convey modes of behavior befitting the ideals and expectations of an upwardly mobile person of color; I get and understand the exasperation and desire to see better images of ourselves on the big screen and to see better behavior modeled by some folks in our community.  So in essence, isn’t Michelle Rodriguez mimicking a truth we often voice out loud about ourselves?  One commenter who actually agreed with Michelle’s assessment wrote on Facebook,
The "black and trashy" are the most recognized and talked about which tends to silence all the valuing nominations into the backdrop or a footnote. What she speaks of are not absolutes but are of the most resonating nominations.”
Is Michelle Rodriguez’s comment about rewards for “Black and trashy” roles a dig at Black actors or a critique of Hollywood’s perpetuation of racial stereotypes?

Also read: Barbara Jordan: Trailblazer, Leader, ... Common Asexual Mammy?  

July 17, 2011

Help Me Understand The Help

The media has been buzzing about Kathryn Stockett's book The Help. The story takes place in the 1960's during the Civil Rights Movement and is about a young woman named Skeeter... an aspiring writer who returns home to Jackson, Mississippi after having just graduated from Ole Miss (University of Mississippi). Encouraged to write about disturbs her, Skeeter decides to down-low collect stories from Black maids detailing their experiences working for their affluent, White mistresses who while relying on them, also mistrusts them - (A woman won't even let her maid use the family's bathroom in one instance). Skeeter collects these stories with the help of a domestic named Aibileen and Aibileen's friend Minny. Like many bestsellers that pique Hollywood's interest, Stockett's book has been adapted into a film also titled The Help, due for release this August and starring the underrated and prolific Viola Davis, who plays one of the several domestics.

The general consensus about the book seems to be positive with most people calling its story "uplifting." One commenter on an article's feedback section patronizingly wrote (perhaps without meaning to): "The best book I've read all year. I would welcome any of the maids in my household... especially Aibileen..." But it definitely isn't without its share of controversy. There're a few people who're skeptical about Kathryn Stockett's intentions (for better or worse), the story's theme, and the upcoming film. Ablene Cooper, a 60-year-old woman who has worked as a domestic for many years, has filed a lawsuit against Kathryn Stockett, claiming the principal character in The Help appropriates her back-story and likeness; and also uses a variant spelling of her name, without her consent and finds it "emotionally distressing." Another interesting twist is that Cooper has worked and currently still does, for Stockett's brother and his wife (who seem to support Ablene in her suit against Stockett). Cooper claims that Kathryn Stockett never approached her prior to the writing and subsequent publishing of The Help.

The issue of race, especially as it relates to Black women (particularly in the American
south) working for affluent White families... cleaning their homes and raising their children... is still somewhat of a delicate matter, most notably for those who've had to do it for many years for lack of better opportunities and at the risk of their own families. A white person composing these stories about the Black community heightens the skepticism many may feel. Stockett herself has acknowledged the book’s cool reception by people (including some of her own family members) in her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi. I understand that most of us writers are very keen about our surroundings and the people that inhabit it, and so may base ideas and characters off of those elements... but sometimes it's a slippery slope and can come with its share of backlash. Particularly if we aren't careful in how we re-configure those characters we base off of real people, places, and things.

Additionally, most Black people have mentioned being sick and tired of stories and movies featuring Black people being rescued by heroic white people. The August 2011 issue of Essence Magazine features two perspectives on The Help by two Black writers, one of whom enjoyed it as she could "picture the homes, hairdos, and even feel the Delta heat" each time she opened the book and didn't think it reinforced stereotypes, while the other commented that the book "glosses over the reality of African-American triumphs we bled and died for, in order to make a feel-good Hollywood story."

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my own reluctance about books and movies that tell our stories from a third-party, interloper's perspective and I have actually tried reading The Help myself, but couldn't quite make it beyond the first two chapters, as it just failed to sustain my interest. I'm also ambivalent about the upcoming movie. So I'll refrain from formulating an opinion about whether I believe it to be an uplifting read or whether I think it'll be a great movie. I will say that I do enjoy reading compelling and honest Black stories by Black authors and am still reeling from Wench written by Dolan Perkins-Valdez and would love to see more Black films about Black women, made by, well, Black women. It has been a while since I've seen a feature film made by Kasi Lemmons or Julie Dash. I'm still a bit bothered by Tyler Perry's movie adaptation of Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who've Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Wasn't Enough, but I digress; that's a whole other topic.

It'll be interesting to read the reviews once the movie has hit theaters and people have actually seen it. Stories, including the stories of Black women domestic workers, are important. Their lives matter. But I'm not sure I want a white woman from a privileged background co-opting these stories to propel herself to literary fame.

January 11, 2011


Urged on by friends who seemed overly excited by Nicki Minaj's fervid verse, I listened to Kanye West's all-star collaboration on the track, "Monster." Notoriously particular about the music and artists I listen and pay attention to,  I found myself nodding along in spite of my reluctance.  I'm not a hardcore Kanye West fan (I'll never forgive him for bestowing fame and fortune on the mute femme-bot known as Amber Rose)- or detractor (I think he's talented, enjoy some of his work, and even defended him during Taylor Swift-gate, when he Mic-snatched the annoying and saccharine country singer and did the infamous shrug seen 'round the world, elevating his douchery to epic proportions)- but in keeping with his current Avant-garde projects, controversial album art for his latest (and awesome) offering, My Dark Twisted Fantasy, and modernistic fashion choices, I found the dark, macabre lyrical quips right on track in keeping with this re-branded,  douchier more artistic than usual version of Kanye. I also found myself more impressed by Nicki Minaj's contribution to the song as well. She proved to be more than a one-trick pony with a dubiously luscious ass. She held her own, and then some, on an all-male track, and seemed to deviate from her whole "Harajuku Barbie" schtick, showing the breadth of her lyrical skills. Plus Jay-Z helped bring up the rear with his talk of vanquishing bitter vampires, ungrateful interlopers and such. In fact, Monster is heavy with horror movie tropes. I was in. I couldn't wait see the video... 
Um, so then I saw the video... *insert blank stare here* ... While I'm not sure what the inspiration was, I was a bit taken aback by the visuals. The video begins with a dead-eyed, limp model hanging by her neck, from a chain... Then the subsequent wide shot shows several other dead models hanging from chains in little else but their underwear, flanking rapper Rick Ross as he casually sits amongst their dead carcasses, puffing on a cigar... Next up? Kanye West... lying in bed... next to two dead models with broken necks, their eyes open but vacantly staring off... The video just goes downhill for me from that point on... 

Listen, I'm no prude. I'm known for seeking out obscure, off the cuff Art House/Experimental films that would cause the vast majority of the population to doubt my mental stability. I'm a fan of Richard Kern and Catherine Breillat. I've watched and grimaced my way through several films from the Torture Porn genre, so this is not a holier-than-thou rant arguing about the perverse nature of pop-art and rap videos. I'm all for seeing a little cutting edge perversion in art, and any rumblings disclaiming that admission would be b.s. because I suspect we all harbor curiosities when it comes to exploring perverse behaviors that're within some semblance of reason. However, there's imagery and ideas that are even twisted enough to make me squirm... which is a difficult feat...
During many aspects of the video, there seemed to be no discernible message connecting the dead, decapitated women with the crux of the song other than for shock value... and therein lies my issue. While I still enjoy listening to Monster, watching Kanye West lying in bed with two dead, broken necked models, as he re-positions them to touch one another reeks of necrophilia and it just makes it difficult for me to remember that I enjoy the song. There is a LOT going on in this video and none of it is particularly enjoyable to watch... including Jay-Z rapping his verse as yet another dead model lays splayed on a leather couch behind him. The visions of decapitated model heads and entrails offered no further hope or high expectations for the duration of the music video. I was over it by the time the Nicki Minaj, Dominatrix vs Nicki Minaj, Barbie (tied up in a chair) scene came up. 
Duncan Quinn ad
This video expounds on this disturbing trend of women featured in compromising situations... namely dead and dismembered ... or as zombies. It sort of reminded me of this movie I wrote about a while ago, that shook my core and prompted me to make haste and return it to Netflix. And in likening Monster's video to Dead Girl, perhaps the most chilling aspect or the one thing that bothers me about it rather, is the apathetic way in which Kanye, Jay-Z, & Rick Ross drift amongst the carnage of limp and dismembered female parts. While I understand the nature of the song itself and perhaps the video is a metaphor for... for... something... It always unnerves me when the female aesthetic goes beyond the usual titillating pictorial of T & A (which can also become problematic when done horribly wrong) - and manifests into something way more sinister and malevolent. And so enter the birth of films like this, this, and videos like this to counteract that victimization, much to the chagrin of many men, who are quick to deem it man-hating propaganda ... I'm just speculating.  Seeing women as tortured, mutilated corpses within the context of a music video is unusual and dare I say trumps the disturbing nature of Eminem's Stan video, where its antagonist places his pregnant girlfriend in the trunk of his car. Are women, hanging by their broken necks from a ceiling not hateful, misogynistic visuals? I suppose dousing some video vixen with a bottle of high-end champagne or swiping a credit card down the crack of her gyrating ass isn't humiliating enough.  Please weigh in.

September 27, 2009


It's well past 10PM, rendered speechless, I'm sitting here steeping tea but wishing I had something a bit stronger. I just finished watching a horror flick that has left an indelible stomp-print on my psyche. Not since the movie 'Teeth' have I seen such a controversial, feminist essay (of sorts) on male sexuality, the twisted and brutal ways in which misogyny plays out, and the dark recesses of a young man's imagination... told from a male perspective.
The movie Deadgirl (directed by Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel) will continue to haunt me this evening, so I may as well read my book into the wee hours to cleanse my mental palate. I won't launch into a long winded film review, but the synopsis basically details how two high school burnouts (Ricky and JT) from dysfunctional homes and at the lower echelons of their high school's hierarchy, ditch school to hang out in an abandoned mental hospital to wreck some teen havoc. They go exploring deep into the depths of the building where JT, the more obnoxious and stronger of the two friends, stumbles upon the body of a naked and seemingly dead woman chained to a table and draped with plastic. Breath against plastic seems to indicate the woman may not be entirely dead, so Ricky suggests they take off immediately and alert the fuzz, much to JT's chagrin... he immediately has other, more sinister plans for the body. He basically demands that they keep her as a sex slave.
The woman, for all intents and purposes, is a zombie. JT (and eventually another accomplice, and then later other perps) do unimaginable things to this woman's orifices... defiling her every which way but loose. They've no interest in knowing who she is or how she got there. One or two inquiries, angrily brushed off by JT, hopped up on the power he wields within the confines of the basement. He becomes darker and more depraved in his actions toward the decomposing body, essentially acting as pimp and master perpetrator. The nameless woman twitches, she snarls, she lashes out and bites her tormentors in a feral attempt to maintain some semblance of dignity... but she never utters a word. JT and a dimwitted third accomplice, have the bright idea to try to make another zombie sex slave, and so try to kidnap a woman at the gas station, who wails on both of them, beating them down in the parking lot.
So much happens in this flick and none of it is good. This is probably one of the most original and daring zombie movies I've ever seen. It's akin to "River's Edge" maybe with a dash (just a dash) of Jennifer Lynch's disaster "Boxing Helena," in that a woman's body is over-sexualized and exploited for enjoyment. Deadgirl is scary, because it speaks volumes about male sexuality, budding male sexuality, a culture in which piggish behavior towards women is celebrated, and how women should be merely seen, poked, vacant in the eyes, dominated, and prodded. Former video model Karrine Steffans, for instance. A former zombie girl, Celebrated in a medium dominated by men, for her willingness to go limp and vacant... to be objectified and dominated while incapacitated (in the figurative sense), and then later crucified for flailing out at her tormentors once she got loose, because she wrote and spoke out loud about it, prompting her former play partners to turn into bumbling, name calling idiots. I'm still wondering why the famous men she allegedly bedded aren't held accountable for wallowing with her ... Why aren't they considered to be just as vile as Karrine's protesters consider her to be? As the aunt of two nephews, I shudder a little bit, thinking of young males coming-of-age today, and the visuals they may potentially use as a model for masculinity. Recent cases, such as the one in Pennsylvania this summer, where a lonely, middle aged man shot up an all female aerobics class before turning the gun on himself... all because he couldn't get a date with any young, attractive or prospective paramours is startling. In this cult of personality, women are nothing more than expendable jump-offs. Aging pimps are catapulted to fame, endorsed with book deals and cameos in films and rap videos.
Watching Deadgirl, I was equally struck by the zombie woman in the flick... and how wild and ferine she was... how she had to literally bite, rip, and tear herself through the sheer baseness of what was being done to her, to free herself from the humiliation... Unbelievable, yet believable because it's metaphorical for how young men view female sexuality, and how they respond or relate to it. Definitely worth watching if one can get past the controversial theme and images. Sometimes images have to be ugly in their impact.
Interesting flick. The ending even darker...

May 31, 2008

Just 'Cause...

I really need to purchase this movie, School Daze, and its soundtrack. I can watch it over and over again, non-stop, several consecutive times in a row.
Check out Alicia Keys's tribute to the movie. Giancarlo Esposito, who played Black Fraternity leader Julian (aka Big Brother Almighty) makes a brief appearance in the video...

January 06, 2008


... Rent it. Manderlay is a foreign director's take on American slavery in the South. Conceived by Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier the film is a sequel to von Trier's Dogville (which stars Nicole Kidman as Grace), and is part of his USA: Land of Opportunities trilogy. It continues the tale of Grace (now played by Bryce Dallas Howard), who is traveling through the south with her gangster father (Willem Defoe) and his merry band of fellow thugs during the early 1930s, after having fled Dogville. En route to whereverville they stop outside a plantation (Manderlay), in bumf*ck Alabama to take a breather, when a black woman in full "slave regalia" taps on the car window and implores them for help, because a fellow slave is about to be whipped for stealing. Grace inquires within and discovers that slavery (quarters and all) is still alive and well, 70 years AFTER its abolishment. After a confrontation with the plantation's ruthless mistress Mam (played by Lauren Bacall), who's hemmed up on her death bed and who eventually dies, Grace decides to stay (along with a few of her father's best thugs, including a lawyer) to teach Manderlay's ignorant breed the fundamentals of freedom and how to be civilized and self sufficient... much to her father's chagrin. Dad bids grace farewell and burns rubber, leaving Grace to her own devices, but not before discouraging her from ever trying to locate his whereabouts. Grace is also made privy to a notebook called "Mam's Law." Its contents is basically a meticulously documented and comprehensive code of conduct for all the slaves, and what Mam has used to gain psychological power over them all. Each Manderlay inhabitant is divided up as follows:
  • Group 1: Proudy Nigger
  • Group 2: Talkin' Nigger
  • Group 3: Weepin' Nigger
  • Group 4: Hittin' Nigger
  • Group 5: Clownin' Nigger
  • Group 6: Loser Nigger
  • Group 7: Pleasing Nigger (also known as a chameleon, a person of the kind who can transform himself into exactly the type beholder would like to see)

Essentially, after Mam's death, Grace designate herself as bearer of great news and alerts Manderlay's slaves to the fact that slavery was abolished some time ago and that she will stay on to make sure they transition accordingly and sans minimal incident. They are however, mortified at the prospect of living "another way of life" for Manderlay and the comforts its strict system are all they're familiar with. Needless to say, without relaying too many details, Grace assumes her position, punishes Manderlay's white overseers via role reversal- (she makes them serve Manderlay's slaves dinner, in Black Face in one scene)- and eventually discovers that the inhabitants of Manderlay are indeed clever and aren't as ignorant as she initially thought and that it is she, in all her idealistic and liberal, forward thinking, and at times pretentious grandeur, who is ignorant.
The film is interesting in its approach. It tells the tale of Manderlay in 8 chapters. The Film's aesthetic and discourse unfolds just like a live stage play. It may not appeal to particular film tastes because of this... but it's worth a look-see anyway. It also stars Isaach de Bankole (one of my favorite actors) and Danny Glover (as the "talking nigger").
I, of course, am always mildly amused by how Europeans view race relations in the United States. While racism isn't as cut and dried or overt there, as it is in America, it does exist despite rumblings to the contrary. At times, it's an even more complex and multilayered system, because there was never nor is there currently a Civil Rights Movement or minority leaders who are as vocal as some of ours are and were (Farrakhan, Malcolm, M.L. King, Panthers, Davis, umm Jackson, err, Sharpton?). There aren't any organizations that really champion that particular cause in Europe, or at least none that I'm aware of. Unfortunately many countries refuse to acknowledge the role racism plays in their country, but there have been noble attempts to bring immigration and the history of slavery to the forefront and half-assed, reluctant ones, because particular countries refuse to acknowledge the reality of growing multiculturalism and bigotry in their sphere. They'd prefer their immigrants to become naturalized only if the shuck their ethnic pride out the window **cough-cough France**
Xenophobia runs just as deep if not more, in Europe than it does here, in some instances. Especially in countries like Germany (see the film Otomo, also starring Isaach de Bankole). I'm a fan of much of von Trier's work, but I suspect that his approach was a little pretentious and self-aggrandizing. His attempt to describe the system of slavery in the U.S. was underwhelming and fell short of whatever his intention may well have been. It also shows just how little the world knows about the history of slavery, in the United States and especially in the deep south particularly if you've never stepped foot there. Manderlay still deviates from the norm, is darkly comedic, seemingly anti-American/anti-U.S.'s foreign policy, and will definitely prompt discussion if not annoyance. For those reasons alone, it's worth renting and watching. I'd go ahead and rent Dogville too...

November 16, 2007

I Hate Myself...

... Because I felt compelled to rent and then watch Herschell Gordon Lewis's campy, splatter flick, The Gruesome Twosome. If that weren't self-inflicted punishment enough, I decided to follow it up with John Waters's, Desperate Living. Now I'm all for camp and trash, but that hateful, hateful sadomasochistic torture I put myself through has left me flummoxed. As I stomped down the street this sunny fall afternoon, I suddenly paused in the middle of the sidewalk (much to a couple of passersby curiosity) and asked myself, "why?" Why would I do that to myself? Anyway, I'm following it up with The Gore Gore Girls. I'm sure that'll help undo the damage and take the edge off as I ponder my career and future.

November 12, 2007

Just 'Cause

My favorite clips from La Haine and Do the Right Thing. There's no way you can miss the social commentary on the state of race relations, the ways in which young urbanites get through their day and their disenchantment with law enforcement, or the fact that these matters still apply today, unfortunately. I'm sure Dog the Bounty Hunter would agree that the dialogue needs to remain open.

July 28, 2007

Good "Bad" Hair Day

I'm having a particularly good "afro puff" day this afternoon (must be the new hair bands I bought a couple of weeks ago), so I figured I'd commemorate it with a scene from one of my FAVORITE movies. This film, School Daze written and directed by Spike Lee, and this scene in particular serves as an excellent illustration of Colorism which occurs most often in African-American communities (refer to rap and R&B music videos as one contemporary example), Latin-American communities, and especially abroad in countries such as Nigeria, Brazil, India, the Caribbean, and in Spanish speaking countries. Black sororities and fraternities at historically black colleges were once notorious for this form of inter-discrimination.
**Read: Don't Play in the Sun authored by Marita Golden.**
P.S. Don't call anybody a jiggaboo, unless you want to get dough-blowed in the neck.
Have a great weekend.

July 20, 2007

Black Opera

I've been on a musical kick as of late. So far I've watched the film version of the Broadway hit Rent, and while I saw it at the theater I've watched the Dream Girls movie several dozen times, in succession. I even accessed to the DVD's set up options and changed it to French. The dubbing job wasn't as amateur as I thought it'd be. Yes, I watched Dream Girls in French. I so love the movie and its soundtrack. I do what I must to fight the ravages of boredom, in any event. Next up, perhaps I'll rent the original incarnation of John Water's Hairspray (starring Rikki Lake), Cry Baby, and/or Sparkle. In the meantime, I'm slowly working my way through the George Gershwin opera, Porgy and Bess. Adapted from the book Porgy, written by DuBose Heyward. As I watched the opera, it suddenly begin to strike me how significant it and the novel really are. DuBose, who is white and a descendant of Thomas Heyward, Jr., wrote Porgy using all black characters living in a fictitious town called Catfish Row. He penned the novel sans the flippant and offensive nature of Thomas F. Dixon, Jr's The Clansman. Which would later be adapted into the controversial film Birth of a Nation, directed by D.W. Griffith. Heyward found inspiration for Porgy, whilst studying the ways in which African Americans lived in Charleston, South Carolina. While some people (understandably) considered the book, the Broadway hit, and the opera a perpetuation of racial stereotypes, it was still unheard of to read literature or watch portrayals (written or directed by White people) of Blacks in such a sympathetic way, during this time. True to the book, the Broadway show, and Gershwin's opera features an all Black cast- (which Gershwin was adamant about, even though some theater companies and opera houses here and abroad used all White casts due to the political (and racist) climate of that time)- and Gullah dialect. For this reason alone, Porgy and Bess is relevant. It wasn't even considered a legitimate opera, until 1976... which isn't that long ago.
The music is also a good enough reason to consider this a groundbreaking artistic endeavor for the time. Summertime (one of my favorite songs!), I Loves You Porgy, and It Ain't Necessarily So has been covered by many jazz greats including Billie Holiday (who does my favorite version of Summertime), Miles Davis, and Ella Fitzgerald
I guess the whole point in my composing this entry, is to strongly suggest Porgy and Bess as something to take time out and watch or listen to. While I appreciate the effort, I would take a pass on the movie version and soundtrack, and stick to Gershwin's versions of both. The opera is on DVD and is about 3 hours long. It is also reminiscent of one of my favorite musical films, Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus). An Afro-Brazilian tale based on the Greek tragedy, Orpheus. Orfeu Negro, made by French director Marcel Camus and which features an incredible and infectious soundtrack (which I own on CD), was also considered to be controversial. Critics felt that its depiction of Afro-Brazilians, living in the favelas of Rio as happy go lucky, was buffoonish and that it depicted racial stereotypes about people living in the favelas. While I commiserate with some of that film's naysayers, I do think the beauty of the love story and the lush backdrop of Rio and Carnaval helps contribute to the film's beauty. I would suggest that classic as well.

May 22, 2007

Guilty Pleasure

Imagine if Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samarai's writer and director Jim Jarmusch (who I spied dressed in all black, taking long strides down Greenwich Village once, a few years ago), Wu-Tang Clan's Rza, and Quentin Tarantino collaborated on an elaborate hoax... in the form of a scary film together, and refused to waste too much money sucker punching viewers who would eventually happen upon this stinker. The result would probably be the urban horror flick, Vampiyaz. I peeped this unconventional (and super low budget) take on an old tale this past weekend. The moment I noticed the spelling was sans the ...i.r.e.s. at the end, only to be replaced with y.a.z. I knew I had to add it to my Netflix queue, bump it up at the top, and watch it immediately, once it came in the mail! While the special effects are questionable (and laughable), and the dialogue left much to be desired, I was mildly surprised by how horribly good it was. It held my interest long enough, to see it through to fruition. It doesn't hurt that Vampiyaz's protagonist is hot and slightly resembles Canadian hip hop artist, K-os. Either way, this movie stinks to the high heaven... so much so, that it's actually quite good and has prompted me to recommend it to the masses. It makes Vampire in Brooklyn look Oscar worthy... Check it out.

January 14, 2007

Step into the bad siiiide, gonna take a mean riiiide....

It's official. I've completely lost it... again. I am absolutely obsessed and addicted to the Dreamgirls movie soundtrack (as well as the movie). The movie's soundtrack doesn't deviate too much from the original broadway one, in fact it stays pretty true to form (with the exception of the re-mixed tracks of a few songs, into dance cuts towards the end of the second disc and Beyonce's Listen song). But there is just something... I don't know... peppier about the movie's soundtrack. Something a little more contemporary? Whatever. In any event, at random moments, I break out into spontaneous song and dance... much to my family's concern and chagrin. My mother warned me that I was listening to the soundtrack "way too much," but I didn't and I don't heed what she said. I can't get enough. It's almost as if the other songs uploaded onto my MP3 player don't even matter anymore. Once or twice at work, I broke out into spontaneous song and jazz snaps, eliciting a few weird, sideward glances. At the movie, I had to sit on my hands, because I wanted to hop out of my seat and sing along while gesticulating wildly, like a diva does with her hands (think Mariah and Whitney-type jazz hands). While I'm on the bus, my knees start shaking in time to the music, and I have to plop my large handbag o'er top of them, lest I pop up and start performing for the rest of the passengers. That'd make for an interesting Bus Tale, no doubt. While walking down the street, my gait gets a little... um, jazzy, as I stomp harder than necessary, along the pavement. I feel like I was meant to be on Broadway or something, like I missed my calling? ... ... ... Okay, perhaps that's pushing it too far, but yes, I love the soundtrack. Particularly Eddie Murphy's and Jennifer Hudson's performances. Yes, I know that most people may argue that her versions of what Jennifer Holiday belted out before her, aren't on that level... but I disagree. Hudson is no slouch. She sang "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" like a pro. Gave me (and I'm sure others) goosebumps, during the movie. And besides, she's not Jennifer Holiday, she's Jennifer HUDSON. And she did a stellar job. **And just a random aside, Anika Noni Rose (who also does extremely well as Lorrell Robinson) is from my hometown. ** Anyway, I'm going to go finish pretending to be a Broadway diva. ...

May 11, 2005

... and the Snark-y Award for Worst Sex on Screen goes to...

I like movie sex- (whether simulated or real....> thank you Catherine Breillat and Michael Winterbottom)- more than the next pervert. I like them trashy, tasteful, and erotic all at once. Anything less than an NC-17 rating for me just wont suffice, PG-13 be damned. Regardless of what the MPAA decides to slap a movie with, I cannot stand watching horrible sex scenes on film. Seeing such tripe makes me feel cheated and chagrined. Pondering such matters has led me to compose a list of the worst on-screen sex scenes I have ever watched. Feel free to lend me your feedback on any others that turned you off and made your sex organs go soft like a fresh batch of Gummi Worms. Twentynine Palms The sex scenes in this movie left me feeling befuddled, ill, sore, and well... angry. I've seen everything sexual that Bruno Dumont has to offer in his films and none of it is good, unfortunately. Watching an emaciated Katerina Golubeva and Perry Farrell twin, David Wissack have primal, unattractive, dry, unromantic sex was just such a turn off. The labored breathing, the dry slip-slapping of two bony bodies against a rock in the desert heat only to hear Katerina whisper softly in a thick Eastern European accent, to her paramour "I'm too dry my love" to which he grunted in reply, "My legs hurt anyway" made me want to stop this train wreck of a movie immediately, yet, I couldn't turn away. It just got increasingly worse. David, yelling "ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh" at the top of his lungs in orgasm during a BJ as Katya's face slapped violently against his crotch, David screaming, "ahhhhhhhhhhhhhKAAATYYYYAAAAA!!!!!" during an equally as violent sex scene in the motel... yes, it does indeed get worse. Monster's Ball *sigh* What else to say other than, watching Halle and Billy Bob hit the floor of his ramshackle living living room made me cringe. It was raw and just not that passionate. Some say this was Halle's best performance... I beg to differ, but this is a moot point when one considers Cat Woman, but I digress. Anyway, nothing about that scene made me "feel goooood" and I haven't watched it since. Fat Girl (or A Ma Soeur) While the sex scene wasn't shown, the whole scenario was disturbing nevertheless. Seeing Italian lothario, Libero de Rienzo seduce and manipulate the naive and lolitaesque Roxane Mesquida into having anal sex because "all the girls are doing it to preserve their virginity" was sad and smarmy. Hearing her guttural cries of discomfort and pain as her portly and less attractive younger sister watched from the other bed still bothers me even now. Leave it to Catherine Breillat to shock and dismay. La vie de Jésus (The Life of Jesus) Another eccentric film from Bruno Dumont. Where do I start? Bailleul, France ruffians... toothless, angry, and with a proclivity of being shiftless and violent towards the town's resident Arabs. The movie's primary offender sits around aimlessly with his buddies and on occassion has graphic, ugly, stank-looking sex with his girlfriend. Not a pretty sight. Lifestyle: Swinging in America I rented this documentary via Netflix hoping to learn why people swing outside their marriages, but was presented with a picture replete with middle-aged, wrinkly, saggy, liverspotted marrieds gang-banging and walking around sans clothes. They sit around at pool parties and conventions in all their nude glory, shooting the shit, fondling one another's wives and husbands and such. Yes, I watched this horrible spectacle in its entirety... but then I started to feel bad that grandmas and dirty daddies were getting it on gangland style, while I merely watched like a sad, unsexed voyeur. L'Humanité Bruno Dumont is 3 for 3. This man clearly dislikes sex and goes out of his way to make it look as unattractive and as skanky as he can. Romance Another (unsimulated and very real) offering from Catherine Breillat. An arthouse classic. This time feature Italian porn meister Rocco Siffredi and waifish French actress Caroline Ducey. Rocco looks good and bronzed in all his 8-inch glory. Caroline on the other hand, looks pale, skinny, limp, and uncomfortable... as if she is in the midst of a gynecological quagmire. Listening to Caroline maunder on about pointed dicks and what have you while Rocco stares at her blankly, probably not understanding anything beyond the French he had to learn for his 2 or 3 lines, doesn't make for good pre-sex chatter either. If anybody reading this happens upon this film for the first time, block Ms. Ducey out and focus on Rocco when this scene comes up. He's got wicked undulation skills. Angel Heart Seeing blood cascading from the ceiling or wherever the hell it's coming from while Lisa Bonet and Mickey Rourke go at it, ain't my idea of romance. Not a good idea and very messy. There you have it. My nominees for the worst sex scenes I've ever bore witness to.