Saturday, July 30, 2011

Viola Davis on Being "The Help": A Black Actress' Dilemma

Academy Award nominated actress, Viola Davis, describes herself as a character actress. On screen she's given us dynamic, memorable performances as a hopeless, tearful mother in "Antwone Fisher"; the hopeful but scared mother in "Doubt"; a Bible and condom toting social worker in "Madea Goes To Jail"; a "take charge" mayor in "Law Abiding Citizen"; and now in the upcoming movie adaption of "The Help", she's a maid during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, daring to allow a white writer a glimpse of what's behind Paul Lawrence Dunbar's, "We Wear The Mask."

Seemingly, playing a maid now amidst her successes and awards on stage and screen, may seem like a step backward. But Davis explains why there's more to the "The Help's" role of Aibelene Clark than meets the undiscerning eye. In the videos below she not only shares her responsibility to the role as an actress, but also HER SOLUTION to the lack of roles for black actresses in general here in Hollywood.

BUT BEFORE YOU PRESS PLAY here's an interesting tidbit! Viola Davis told a recent LA screening audience SHE had planned to produce "The Help." After reading the novel and falling in love with it she set out to option it from author, Kathryn Stockett. As life would have it though, first time director and Stockett's childhood friend, Tate Taylor beat Davis' to the punch!

Watch the videos and share your opinion by clicking "comments" below.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thandie Newton Speaks Race, Self-Identity, & Acting at TED 2011


I literally just saw this on Facebook and just wanted to share it here. Why? I have a huge respect for Thandie Newton's work as an actress. I'm still in awe of her performance in Oprah's "Beloved." And having seen the video below, I now have a greater respect for her as a person. In this video is not an actress, but a woman sharing her journey to becoming aware of her true "self" and her definition of it.

And yes, I do relate to a lot of what she's saying. Living up to the others' perceptions of your "self" can cause a world of confusion and frustration. I've evolved enough to admit that sometimes we get too damn caught up in what "Black" or "White" or other racial description is supposed to be, never allowing individuals to just "be." Thus our true selves never surface, never have a chance to exist. As Newton states the notion of race was created by people, and no, I'm not going to waste time pointing fingers.

Take a few moments and listen to her address the TED 2011 conference audience. For those of you unfamiliar with, it's a wonderful site that features videos of speeches, lectures, and presentations from some of the best in the world of business, entertainment, science, self-development, and technology. It's a GREAT source of information and inspiration.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

FIRST LOOK Behind-The-Scenes: Russ Parr's "The Under Shepherd"

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Behind-The-Scenes: Russ Parr's "The Under Shepherd", a set on Flickr.

Just a few days ago, I was invited to the set of Russ Parr's next movie! Yes, he's on to the next one ALREADY! So here's the FIRST LOOK from behind the scenes of his upcoming film, "The Under Shepherd." The story centers around two young ambitious ministers whose friendship and character are tested when the opportunity to become pastor of their church arises.

The all-star cast includes Lamman Rucker, Isaiah Washington, Keith David, Clifton Powell, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Malinda Williams, and Robinne Lee.

This film is obviously still in production, so in the meantime be sure to support Russ Parr's CURRENT movie offering, "35 And Ticking", in theaters NOW!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Film Review: Attack The Block! Alienz-N-The Hood 2011

The block is hot! But THIS time it has nothing to do with the "po-po" patrolling the neighborhood! No, in this case the block is hot and should get hotter July 29th, when Sony/Screen Gems releases London sci-fi action flick, "Attack The Block", to US audiences.

Set in an "urban" neighborhood of London, a housing project--yes, there's one in every city, every country--is attacked by aliens. I know what you're thinking, and no they were NOT in search of intelligent life forms! But in the same area are wayward teen boys in search of easy cash. During their "search" they get an unexpected introduction to alien life forms. A little "skirmish" between the leader of the pack and the alien leads the rest of extraterrestrials right to their front door literally.

That leader of the pack is Moses, portrayed by John Boyega, a new "Denzelian" (my word) actor in swagger and appearance. Appropriately named for his role, Moses, and his unruly bredren take on these aliens with extreme prejudice to save their residence! With swords, bats, knives, and firecrackers....these boys are ready to romp!

But "Attack The Block" isn't all alien chases, suspense and violence, there are scenes of pure comedy too. Two "weed heads" aid the boys in their fight, but these dudes are so high their efforts are quite laughable in the thick of the action. Add to that some of the comical antics of the boys themselves and you've got a fun adventure that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

One particular standout element of the film is its casting. Though Moses is definitely the ring leader, each of his "fam" bring something unique to the collective. Thus, the young actors portraying these characters are equally as engaging as Boyega. Kudos to first time director, Joe Cornish, for finding such new talents and using them well on screen in "Attack The Block."

So should you avoid the theaters while the "block is hot?" NO! I genuinely liked this film with its Hip Hop and London patios flavor. Young and older audiences alike can find something in this film to like. There's even an underlying theme of redemption that audiences will relate to. That said, become a "blockhead", hit the streets, and head to your local theaters July 29th for the release of "Attack the Block!"

In the meantime see my interview with charming lead actor, John Boyega, from the film!

Saturday, July 02, 2011

35 And Ticking: Russ Parr Sets A Timer On Love & Marriage

It's fourth of July weekend and you probably don't have a lot of time to spare. But I'd be remiss if I didn't take a moment or two and help support "35 AND TICKING" which opens in theaters THIS WEEKEND.

Admittedly, this post appears long due to the blog format but please READ and COMMENT anyway! Here's TWO (2) reasons WE need to support Russ Parr's "35 And Ticking".

1. GREAT CAST WITH A UNIVERSAL STORY: It's got romance, drama, laughter, and great acting! It's above "parr"--pun intended! So BLACK FOLK stop complaining about the films that misrepresent you, then keep your asses at home when film's like "35 And Ticking" hit the theaters! You want empowerment? Well that ain't given, it's GAINED by SUPPORTING BLACK BUSINESSES FINANCIALLY including black filmmaking.

In the film the ensemble cast of four friends (Nicole Ari Parker, Tamala Jones, Kevin Heart, and Keith Robinson) make you evaluate what's really important in, friends, kids, or career? For you that need a cinematic reference, think "The Best Man" and the first "Why Did I Get Married?"

But in "35" two married friends, Victoria and Phil (Tamala and Keith respectively), are forced to accept that what God had joined, husbands and wives can put asunder. And while one single friend, Zenobia (Nicole), hilariously looks for love in too many faces including those on the internet, the other, Clevon (Kevin), falls in love at first sight. But there's no romance without finance, and he may have to make a "hard" sacrifice to keep this new love in his life.

CHURCH FOLK, I promise, YOU can enjoy this movie too. There won't be anything to repent except maybe laughing at Kevin Hart arriving for "work" and receiving the needed "tools" for the job "at hand." But I promise even the Spirit has a sense of humor and loves a good ending. God loveth a cheerful giver, and so do filmmakers. But don't spend your tithe at the box office, sacrifice that after service meal money on a movie ticket instead.

NON-BLACK PEOPLE, and especially WHITE PEOPLE "35 And Ticking" deserves your SUPPORT IN A THEATER too! But the research YOUR peers conducted have shown, YOU avoid predominantly black cast films, especially dramas, because: 1. YOU fear you're gonna get blamed AGAIN for the social ills of black people and 2. You dissociate! None of the cast is featured in People Mag, nor on, nor made a televised Oscar acceptance speech, so YOU are pretty certain the story will be unrelatable to your life.

I promise the story of "35 and Ticking" is so universal, you could easily switch out the characters' race with any other and still find something to relate to. This film is about marriage, relationships, expectations, and love; it's NOT ABOUT black people and culture, though it uses some elements of culture to tell the story.

And to further keep it real, black folks support the hell out of predominantly white movies regardless of genre--as studios know--SO RETURN THE EFFORT sometimes! Yes, you may have to go neighborhoods you don't frequently visit, but see it as an educational experiment. Maybe you can get bused in?

2. GREAT COLLABORATIVE EFFORT: "35 And Ticking" is a COLLABORATION of many talented artists and entertainers! Some of the actors in this film are also the PRODUCERS and EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS! And I believe they REALLY put in the work and their money! Why? Check the YouTube videos of the making of the film. Secondly, the production value is high despite the small budget, which generally means the cast and crew pooled their resources together to get this high quality film made and into theaters for us to see.

If nothing else you have to respect the work put into making good films like "35 And Ticking." How do you do that? BUY TICKETS, bring your friends and family, EMAIL, TWEET, FACEBOOK, BLOG, about it! Visit the official website for theaters near you playing the film.

Yes, there's major competition for your dollar and attention, but those "35 And Ticking" don't need internet technology to help them discern where their money and time is NEEDED at the box office this weekend. Nope, that generation, my generation learned from the ones before it to support what supports you, especially when it's worthy and it's good!

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