Category Archives: Moviegoer

The Onion Apologizes to Quvenzhane

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The Onion did the right thing by apologizing.  What I think is interesting is the CEO essentially said what most critics said, this “joke” did not fit within the satire realm that the Onion operates in.  I am also glad that the CEO ended the statement by bringing it back to what is important here, Quvenzhane’s talent and this amazing moment.  I hope as time goes on that this statement does not become a part of her story for that night.

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Quvenzhane Wallis’ Biggest Night

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Quvenzhane Wallis is the youngest nominee EVER in the history of the Academy Awards.  She filmed her movie Beasts of the Southern Wild while she was just five years old and now at nine she’s been bestowed with an honor that many adult actresses only dream of. What stands out most about her for me though is her spunk, personality and sassiness. In all the interviews leading up to the awards she seemed to take on the questions and the interviews like a person twice her age.

Obviously her name is not run of the mill and many reporters have had difficulty pronouncing it. Well during the red carpet a reporter told Quvenzhane that he was just going to call her Annie since it was announced this week that she will star as Annie in the remake of the movie.  Quvenzhane quickly corrected him and said no my name is Quvenzhane which she was right to do and God bless her for having enough gumption to politely correct an adult. Yes her name is a little much but she’s not the first person in Hollywood with a name we’ve never heard of. There probably are few Americans who cannot pronounce Arnold Schwarzenegger’s name.

Well the Onion, an online magazine which specializes in satirical fake stories often drawing on America’s messy political system decided to tweet about little Quvenzhane on what will probably be the biggest night of her life.  See the tweet below.

Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a cunt, right? #Oscars2013

— The Onion (@TheOnion) February 25, 2013

This is what a magazine posted about a nine year old little girl online! It makes my blood boil. Defenders of the magazine are claiming well they are a satirical magazine deal with their jokes.  I did pretty good in my high school English course, in fact I was in honors, and I do not remember that fitting within the definition of satire.  No this is a bad joke that uses a very adult word to describe a nine year old girl!  They could have called her a sassy little girl. Said she had spunk.  All age appropriate phrases that do not dig at a little girl who has been thrust into the spotlight at such a young age so quickly.  As of now, the Onion has taken down their tweet about Quvenzhane Wallis and the National media is starting to pick up the story.  I hope this does not overshadow what was a monumental night for young actresses as well as African American actresses. The Onion should stick to what they do best, satire and should apologize to Quvenzhane and her family for their tasteless joke.

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My take on Red Tails

 

A few weekends ago I traveled to the movie theaters to see Red Tails!  I will admit from the beginning I was not excited about going to see this movie because I do not like war movies at all. Then after George Lucas’ made his comments about the importance of supporting this movie due to Hollywood’s perception of black movies I thought ah dang I guess I will go see it.  Not to mention I am critical of the current popular black cinema, therefore I felt like I had to support this movie. Overall it was a good movie.  Here are a few things that struck me about Red Tails and the conversation surrounding it.

 

1. Corny but decent

That is how I would sum this movie up.  If you are expecting an Oscar level movie then please look elsewhere.  This movie is honestly a step up from a Disney movie but I think that broadens its appeal.  A relatively young child could see the movie and follow along for the most part.  The music reminds me of music from a GI Joe cartoon, a lot of the acting was subpar and it wasn’t the best script but despite all of these negatives I still enjoyed the movie!  The overall story of how the Tuskegee Airman triumphed even when their own superiors doubted them is what makes this movie good.

 

2. The Acting

Some of the acting was really bad but others stood out to me.   Other than Terrance Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr. the actors in the movie are virtual unknowns.  That was an aspect that I liked, seeing so many black actors have a shot in a big screen movie.  Supporters of Tyler Perry always say he gives many black actors work but ironically I’ve never seen any of the actors in this movie in Tyler Perry movies.   I enjoyed the performances by Nate Parker (Easy) and Tristan Wilds (Junior) the most.  I look forward to seeing them in more movies. On the other hand I hope after this movie Neyo goes back to what he does best, writing music because acting really is not his thing.

 

3. The love story

I have quite a bit to say about this so bear with me.  A minor plot in the overall story is a love story between one of the black pilots and an Italian woman.  Keep in mind that neither of these lovers speaks the others language so the audience is to believe that despite that they manage to foster a strong love. Yeah right!  This portion of the story was boring and frankly unbelievable I could have done without.  Every movie does not need a love story for it to be a good story.   This part of the movie was noticeably absent from all the previews and write-ups that I saw too.  Without a doubt that was on purpose.  The target audience for this movie was African Americans. I bet some of the marketers felt that African American women would not support a movie with an interracial relationship.  Regardless of race, it was just a pointless aspect of the movie.

 

4. Where were the black actresses?

This movie was lauded as a great movie with an all black cast but there were no black actresses included! After seeing the movie I found an article that listed singer Jazmine Sullivan as part of the cast. Well I missed her in the movie, so I have to assume that her scenes were cut from the final product.  I wish they had included at least one black actress in this movie! At the very least it could have been a flashback.

 

5. The African American community rallied behind this movie

Red Tails did get a lot of support from the black community.  I tried to see this movie three times and each time it was sold out. Luckily the third time I purchased my tickets online ahead of time.  From social networks I saw a lot of my friends went to see it and enjoyed it as well.  It seems that George Lucas was successful in lighting a fire in the African American community.  After I thought about it a little longer I think Lucas’ comments were a little misleading.  When you take Tyler Perry out of the mix Hollywood has made successful and critically acclaimed movies with all black casts.  A few that come to mind are Precious, Dream Girls, Ray, and even Hustle and Flow.  I think this type of movie, a war movie, with an all black cast has had a hard time finding a strong audience and studio support.  Spike Lee spoke about these problems before when he released Miracle at St. Ana, also a WWII movie with a black cast.

I think the biggest surprise is that a George Lucas, the man who created Star Wars, would not be able to get funding for a movie. I would just assume that the powers that be in Hollywood would give his instinct some leeway considering it’s George Lucas!  It also makes me wonder what great movie concepts are out there with black-leading roles that are not being made?   I am definitely open to seeing more at my local theaters!  If Red Tails creates more support for a variety of black movies in Hollywood then I say great!

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Tyler Perry’s Casting Failure

I have been critical of Tyler Perry before on this very blog so you should not be surprised that I have something to say about his recent casting of Kim Kardashian in his new movie the Marriage Counselor.  A news commentator who is not a fan of Perry said Perry is a below average writer, director, etc but the one thing he does exceptionally well is marketing.  Perry will have every 30+ black woman in America marching to the theaters on opening weekend to pay their ten dollars to watch his latest assembly line produced film.   He has a built in audience that just needs to see his name affiliated with a movie to head to the theater.  Casting Kim Kardashian may be one of the first marketing failures of Tyler Perry’s career.

Here are the problems I see with casting Kim in the movie.  Lets start with the fact that she cannot act.  I admit that I watch the Kardashians shows.  In fact I wasted four hours of my life watching the mess that was her wedding special.  Kim couldn’t even “act” like she really liked the guy!   Casting a non-actress only adds to the critiques of his movies.  Some could say he is clearly not about making a good product or else who would have found another person preferably a real actress to play this role.  It is a movie, a persons ability to act should be paramount.  I will not go as far as others and say that he should have hired a black woman actress for the role, he may have been looking for a little diversity.   May I suggest another young white actress and not a reality star?  They do exist.

Well then I thought you know Tyler Perry is about marketing as I said before that is really what he was good at!  Casting Kim was a marketing ploy.  But wait, Tyler Perry your market is older black women who absolutely loathe Kim Kardashian.  Kim generally only dates black men, including top athletes such as Reggie Bush.   African American women do not take well to women of different races “taking” their men particularly successful African American men.   Kim has also been known for large behind.  Black women are known for having larger butts and I know that many were not fans of Kim receiving so much attention for hers as if black women have not possessed the same feature for centuries.   Then as with most Americans, black women are still confused about why she and the rest of her family are famous.   All this adds up to a strong dislike for Kim Kardashian.  We have all heard the phrase do not bite the hand that feeds you.  With one casting decision Perry did just that.   Making a casting decision that isolates Middle-aged black women is insane.   For example Denzel Washington refused to have a love scene with a white woman because he knew the core group of his fans were African American women and they would not take well to that scene.  Those in Hollywood work hard not to disconnect from their audience but Perry seemed to take them for granted.  I understand wanting to expand your audience but don’t step on those who have been there from the beginning to do so.  It may be too soon to say this but this could feasibly be the downfall of his built in audience.

Perry’s core audience have been very vocal about their dislike for Kim Kardashian’s casting so much so that Tyler Perry had to respond.   I read his response letter and well it only made me mad.   He starts off with what I perceive as a stereotypical dig at Black women, his core audience, but I’ll leave that alone.  He emphasizes that young people need to see this movie.  I cannot imagine what life-changing thing Perry is putting in his movie that young people need to see but I digress.   He adds that in order to pull young people he added Kim Kardashian because young people follow her by the millions.  Sighs…  Mr. Perry young people follow a lot of people like Lil Wayne but that does not make it right!  This letter essentially puts a rubber stamp on Kim as a role model!  You are telling young Americans, presumably African Americans hey I know you look up to the woman with the sex tape, large behind, 10 pounds of makeup, extensively worked on face, and 72 day marriage so I am going to put her in an inspiring movie for you to see.  This makes NO sense!!!  Why is anyone encouraging people to look up to Kim Kardashian? That is what is happening here and I cannot agree with it.  If my little sister told me she wanted to be just like Kim Kardashian when she grew up I would give her a MAJOR side-eye!  So what young people follow her in droves?  Put a real role model in your film, someone they really should look up to if that is your goal.

I look forward to see how this casting decision plays out.  I do not think Perry will back away from the decision and with contracts already signed Kim Kardashian will be in this movie without a doubt.  I have to add that this is really beginning to feel more and more like Tyler Perry’s top priority is to make money and not produce a good Christian product for black audiences as he has claimed.  His decision here though may result in him making less.

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I have to agree with Spike Lee…

There is no comparison between Tyler Perry and Spike Lee, I think even Tyler Perry realizes this.  Yet once again African American moviegoers are put in the middle of a debate between two popular movie producers.  While Perry produces box office juggernauts that bring African Americans to theaters in droves, Lee creates masterpieces that will be discussed among African Americans for generations.  I will agree that Perry and Lee are clearly in different realms.  One likes to attack real issues, or bring great African American leaders to life on screen while the other intends to entertain us for a few hours.  In these separate realms it is hard to compare the works of Spike Lee and Tyler Perry, there truly is no comparison but are we so wrong to ask for Tyler Perry to step his game up and create a better product in his field of African American film making? I do not think so.  I considered myself a fan of Tyler Perry for many years. I was excited when he brought his style of comedy from the stage to the big screen.  I also applauded his success in the face of negative reviews but one day I sat in the theater and like a broken spell I wanted more from Tyler Perry.

This weekend Tyler Perry is releasing Madea’s Big Family Reunion and from the previews I cannot see how this is any different from one of the first movies he released, Madea’s Family Reunion.  Perry seems to be a producing a quick assembly line style of movie making that is hurting for creativity.  One of the last movies I paid for was “I Can Do Bad All By Myself”.   In one scene the star Taraiji Henson passionately sings along to the music from the church near her home.  I swore to myself that if she walked into the church singing I was going to walk out of the theater.  Perry did not take it that far but I am sure most of his audience also recognized the striking similarities between that scene and the scene at the end of The Color Purple with Shug Avery marching from the juke joint to the church singing “God is Trying to Tell You Something”.  Other movies included elements reminiscent of Soul Food and of course Madea is always referencing a Sophia line from The Color Purple.  I realize this happens a lot in Hollywood but I find it very weak and lazy to “borrow” from movies that most of your audience has seen.  A little time and effort could produce a more creative and unique story that the African American audience has never been exposed too.

Tyler Perry’s story telling abilities also contribute to the weak final product.  In 3rd grade I remember my teacher providing us with a dramatic structure chart.  After reading a book in class we would fill out this chart so that we could have a better understanding of the elements of storytelling.  It is a very simple chart, illustrated below, but it is a structure that Tyler Perry movies are often lacking.  I find that as the action rises, it explodes and then ends, where is the falling action where we fix the problem?  A good example is the Why Did I Get Married sequel.  The first movie wrapped everything up in such a nice neat way that it was so odd to be confronted with so much drama in the first scene! Within in minutes into the sequel she’s cheating, they are still cheating, he is jobless, they are divorcing, cancer, and then BOOM a tragic car accident! Fast-forward to a beach memorial scene and the movie is over.  There was no falling action to adequately address all the drama that was thrown at the viewer left and right. His movies are also full of way too many characters that are never fully developed.   Rather than watching a movie about a husband, wife and their kids, we confront the issues of their grandmother, cousins, friends, neighbors, co-workers and a random person the character will share a cell with at the end of the movie.  No I did not make that last one up! In Madea Goes to Jail the only connection between the two main characters was sharing a cell towards the end of the movie. These factors generally create a soap opera type movie with high drama and few realistic conclusions.

I also take issue with African Americans who call Tyler Perry’s depictions of our community true and realistic.  If that is the type of drama that your family addresses on the regular remind me to decline your invitation to Thanksgiving dinner.   Tyler Perry’s movies are hyperbole, an exaggerated representation of the African American culture.  Madea is humorous and in some of her soapbox moments I hear my grandmother but Madea is the extreme! It is very possible that my grandmother would lambast one of my male cousins for sagging pants or not having a job but she would not threaten to pull a gun out of her purse or beat them with her purse.  I understand that extra piece is what makes Madea funny but that extra piece is also what makes it unrealistic and therefore opens the door for the Tyler Perry’s movies to be labeled the Amos and Andy of today.

In the six years since Tyler Perry moved to the big screen, he has created about ten movies and of those movies I personally only consider one a potential classic that I will watch ten years from now.  Spike Lee on the other hand created classics like Malcolm X, Crooklyn, and School Daze early in his career in the same time frame.  Box Office pull may be the mark of a great director, writer or producer in the present but for me if a movie can withstand the test of time and be celebrated by generations then it truly is a good product.  Movies like Cooley High, Sparkle and Claudine were released before my time but I have seen all of them because their impact withstood the test of time.  When considering great African American movies made in my lifetime, I would add Soul Food, Waiting to Exhale or even Boyz in the Hood to the list but I would only consider Why Did I Get Married out of Tyler Perry’s catalogue.   If majority of Tyler Perry’s movies cannot meet this standard in the present then why are we not questioning the product that he is producing?

Do not get me wrong I want Tyler Perry to be successful but I think with the amount of success he has already achieved he should aspire to mature as a director and writer and provide a better movie that generations can enjoy.   I also do not think it is fair to slap Spike Lee with the overused label of hater simply because he expressed his criticism of Tyler Perry’s work.  Yes Tyler Perry is making a lot more money off his movies then Spike Lee ever did but has anyone ever considered that Spike Lee could pander to the African American community to make money if he wanted to?  I think Spike Lee holds artistic integrity higher than the mighty dollar.  The reality is that its been awhile since Spike Lee made a movie yet a new Tyler Perry movie makes its way to local your local theater at least twice a year.  I just hope despite his box office success, that Tyler Perry takes the time to become a better storyteller and a better filmmaker because it seems that he is here to stay.

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