Steve McQueen and Lupita Nyong’o Continue To Kill It

Photo Credits: Cineralia/ThandieKay.com

Both director Steve McQueen and Lupita Nyong’o were working hard at their respective artistic crafts before 12 Years A Slave, but now they have the mainstream clout and power to create and be a part of passion projects. Earlier this week, it was announced that McQueen’s next film will be about none other than Paul Robeson!

Paul Robeson was a true renaissance man who slayed at everything he set his mind to achieve. An actor, opera singer, activist, All-American football player, and scholar of law at Columbia Law School, Robeson was involved in both the Harlem Renaissance and Civil Rights movements. He was also investigated during the McCarthy era, accused of being a communist. He retired and passed away in my hometown of Philadelphia.

The first and only film that I ever saw Robeson star in was Oscar Micheaux’s black and white film, “Body and Soul“. This movie debuted Robeson in his first starring role on screen, at the age of 27. If you have never seen “Body and Soul” and ever get the chance to, I suggest that you take the opportunity!. It introduced me to the genius of both Micheaux and Robeson’s work in film and as an artist and film buff, it continues to inform my way of thinking about the art of directing, the business of church, and African-American identity.

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A Paul Robeson biopic helmed by Steve McQueen will be nothing short of extraordinary, especially as THE Harry Belafonte will have a part in making this film happen. What that part will entail of is unknown for the time being.

 

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McQueen has also been tapped to direct a heist thriller movie based from a 1980s British TV miniseries titled “Widows“, which you can watch on YouTube (from what I’ve seen so far, this may be another new British television obsession for me!)

Let’s not forget that McQueen is also working on his first television show to hit the States, “Codes of Conduct“, about a young Black man entering high society in New York. I. Can’t. Wait.

As for Ms. Nyong’o, she has the next Star Wars movie on her plate, as well as being the new face of Lancome Cosmetics.

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However, did you know that she has just scored another new film role in Mira Nair’s upcoming movie adaptation, “Queen of Katwe“? The film will be based on the real life of Ugandan chess prodigy, Phiona Mutesi. I am certain that Nyong’o will shine in her portrayal of Mutesi and maybe it could gain her another Oscar nomination….or award!

 

McQueen and Nyong’o….keep working, informing, and inspiring. I salute you!

Visionary Mike Nichols Passes Away At The Age of 83

Director of classic films such as “The Graduate”, “The Birdcage”, and “Working Girl”, as well as being a director of stage, an actor, writer, an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) recipient, producer, and comedian, Mike Nichols passed away suddenly yesterday at the age of 83. He was a refugee of Nazi Germany and the husband of Diane Sawyer, who is also a legend in her own right.

Whoopi Goldberg could not even talk on The View today about Nichols’ passing. They were dear friends and Nichols is credited for giving Whoopi her film career:

 

 

RIP Mike Nichols. Your gifts to the world will be passed on to many generations to discover and become inspired by.

So… About That Aaliyah Lifetime Movie…

*sigh* akjdhasldhaldkjhadksjhdlaskjhdskjhKJHSFKJHDSFKJHS….

There is nothing more that I can say that hasn’t already been said or meme’d in the media about Lifetime’s recent “Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B” Lifetime movie. Let me just make one thing clear that you may not know about me: I love Lifetime movies. There is no other television channel in America that produces stories about kidnapping, eating disorders, domestic abuse, incest, and any other human foible that women can rise above like the Lifetime Network, and they own it. If I’m sick in bed or just plain in the mood, I can hop on YouTube and re-watch classics such as “Girl Fight”, “To Be Fat Like Me”, “Fifteen and Pregnant”, “She’s Too Young”, or “A Friend’s Betrayal” and revel in heightened states of emotion. The level of cheese could skyrocket into space, but that won’t stop me from viewing. Lifetime knows their niche and caters to that denominator very well.

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Riding high from the recent success of the “Flowers in the Attic” series, it seemed as though maybe, just maybe, they could do no wrong by Aaliyah’s legacy. Even with Zendaya dropping out of the lead role and Aaliyah’s family wanting nothing to do with the production, there was still a chance of this movie at least being OK. Just make sure your casting is on point, because without having the rights to Aaliyah’s recordings or personal photos and media footage, the casting is 100% make or break territory in the case of this production, along with copious amounts of research, and spot-on costume and set design.

But no, not even Missy Elliot famous finger waves made an appearance. I remember the era of Blackground Records very fondly. Hell, I remember being a wee little thing writing lines of poetry in the basement with Aaliyah’s music videos playing in the background. Aaliyah, Blackstreet, Ginuwine, Timbaland & Magoo, Missy Elliot, R. Kelly….they dominated the airwaves during a very memorable time in my childhood. Aaliyah was an artist that I looked up to and admired because she was both sexy and classy. She had personality without being vulgar. She was sweet and ambitious. She was funny, strong, and business savvy. When Aaliyah died, other friends of mine who were also fans mourned. It was the first time that I can remember truly mourning the death of a pop star. There was just something about her that was special, and if given more time, would have been a megastar. She was just getting started around the time of her passing.

Having said that, I more than understand why people are stark raving mad about the portrayal of her life’s story on Lifetime. It appeared rushed and disingenuous. Alexandra Shipp, who played Aaliyah in the TV movie, did a wonderful job. Yet even watching her rendition of Aaliyah performing “Journey to the Past”, something was missing. The magic of the original performance, for me, was not 100% there:

 

As for the casting of Missy, Timbaland, R. Kelly, and Damon Dash? I’ll let these pictures speak for themselves. You be the judge, jury, and/or executioners:

 

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Fictional Missy Elliot vs. Real Missy Elliot

 

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Real Timbaland vs. Fictional Timbaland

 

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Fictional Damon Dash & Aaliyah   

 

Real Aaliyah & Damon Dash

Real Aaliyah (RIP) & Damon Dash

 

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Real R. Kelly & Aaliyah

 

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Fictional R. Kelly & Aaliyah

I would have loved to see the fictional Ginuwine and for the movie to go deeper into how iconic the fashion was then. Aaliyah’s rise to stardom was glossed over and instead the viewing audience was whisked into the R.Kelly & Aaliyah story about ten minutes into the movie, which would have been fine if this subplot went deeper. After all, she was a teenager and he was a grown man twice her age in an illegal relationship. One hour and a half of this and then thirty minutes of the Aaliyah and Damon Dash story, with two short paragraphs about how Aaliyah died and will be missed. No real life footage of her casket being carried on the Upper East Side streets of New York in a horse drawn carriage. No fictional portrayal of “More Than A Woman”, both the song and music video, “Rock the Boat”, her experiences acting in “Romeo Must Die” and “Queen of the Damned”…

I just hope that another movie based on the life of Aaliyah will come to pass on the big screen. One that the fans can appreciate and not make #LifetimeBeLike memes out of. Leaving such an unforgettable mark in music history at a young age, Aaliyah, her family, and her legacy deserve that much, not for clicks, rating, or money, but to share a human story of triumph, adversity, ambition, and God-given talents.

 

Rest in Peace Aaliyah