First There Was “Citizenfour” and Now There Will Be “Snowden”

If you’ve never seen Laura Poitras’ “Citizenfour”, you need to get your life and view it IMMEDIATELY. It will either confirm your paranoia about the Internet and the American government or confirm your conspiracy theories, leaving you a bigger emotional wreck than you already are.

I can’t think of anyone more perfect to play Edward Snowden than JGL and knowing that “Snowden” is happening, with Oliver Stone having directed it and a brilliant co-starring cast, Christmas Day this year is going to be extra special indeed.

Girlhood Forever

girlhoodgirlsI’ve finally bore witness to Celine Sciamma’s “Girlhood”/”Bande de Filles”, which has been on my mind ever since its release last year. Since then, the film and its director has won awards for Best Cinematography and Best Film, as well as a Special Jury Prize at the 2014 Philadelphia Film Festival and a TVE Another Look Award at the 2014 San Sebastian International Film Festival. “Girlhood”, currently boasting a 95 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, is a film that kicked me in the gut straight from its opening scene. The image of young women playing football, which, the last time I checked, is more of a popular sport in America versus France, sets up the score for the rest of the film. Empowered, raw, wild, and free, these group of French girls are looking for something bigger than themselves and the lives that they were born into. The majority of them, including the lead actresses, are also Black, which, as The Independent illustrates, “immediately caused a stir in the French media“. “I was shocked by how Black people were never on screen [in France]…very, very few- even in TV…There are no black actresses famous in France,” Sciamma further expressed. Truth. But, I’m hoping that was “Blue is the Warmest Color” did for Adele Exarchopoulos’ acting career will do the same for Karidja Toure and her fellow castmates, who were splendid as the girl gang of “Girlhood”.

Director Celina Sciamma’s forte is the coming-of-age movie, which is the forte of another movie director whose art I also admire, the late John Hughes. Both highlight the universal angst and everyday reality of children and young adults figuring out themselves while navigating the world around them. Yet, unlike “Pretty in Pink” or “The Breakfast Club’, Sciamma’s “Girlhood” woke up feelings in me that are all too familiar. I’ve never been in a gang, where the premise to survive and boost popularity hinges on physical fights for World Star Hip Hop consumption. I’ve never dropped out of school. But I know what it feels like to want to fit in, to want to feel accepted. Anyone that has gone through the growing pains of adolescence understands this feeling. This is why “Girlhood” wins, if you especially decide to look past race and gender, regardless of the name of the film. There is also a reason that the movie’s cinematography was praised- it’s wondrous! Scenes such as this one renew my faith in the power of film and why I am so passionate about it, even in our Netflix original series-obsessed world:

A vision of ecstasy indeed.

It’s painful to watch Marieme/Vic, “Girlhood’s” protagonist, maneuver life in a French housing project with a non-existent, overworked mother, an abusive brother, and no hope for a future as anything but a teen mom. I remember feeling a sense of relief mixed with apprehension during the moment she first meets new friends Lady, Adiatou, and Fily. You know where these relationships may end up going, but Marieme is in need of friends to lean on. So she go ahead with hew new life as “Vic” and you keep watching, hoping that things get better for all of the girls in “Girlhood”.

By the end of “Girlhood” you think you know how this story will play out. But, Sciamma and her band of girls refuse to give a satisfying finish. A visually fantastic and beautiful end, yes. But, like life, especially as a Black girl, the pains of growing up are not simple, easy, or clear. Still, they are more than worthy of being recognized.

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The Most Leaks I’ve Seen This Week Have Been From Sony….

I sat on the train this morning reading about the latest Sony Pictures leak (emails between super-producer Scott Rudin and co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, Amy Pascal) as though I were watching an episode of “Young & The Restless”. I could not take my eyes off of the poor spelling and jabs at actors like Adam Driver and Michael Fassbender (as an above-the-line employee in Hollywood, how in the WORLD do you not know who Michael Fassbender is?!?).

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To think that these arguments were reams of emails, and very few phone calls were made in the interim, highlighted one major fact to me- Hollywood is just like “us” (except they receive bigger paychecks). Like worker bees of the USPS, UPS, your local strip mall, or Walmart, Hollywood executives and creatives bicker, get fired, have brilliant ideas only to be squashed by their boss(es) or swindled by their colleagues for a higher bargaining price. Deals are made and broken, tempers flared, and names (and reputations) ruined. Yes, even Angelina Jolie was called a “minimally talented spoiled brat” throughout this whole debacle. The shade in these missives are REAL. “Entourage” is REAL.

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Whoever has hacked into the Sony database is on a mission to destroy, because the Rudin vs. Pascal fight is the latest to have been brought to light on websites such as Defamer and Vulture. Not only do we know that Aaron Sorkin has never seen , but that Kevin Hart is apparently a “greedy whore“, Natalie Portman’s alias is “Lauren Brown“, and Adam Sandler films suck.

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What’s even more jacked up is that Sony executives are just as unhappy with the films they are producing as the general audience is with Hollywood movies as a whole. There’s a reason that television remains in an extended Golden Age state, because the serial storytelling of “Orange is the New Black” and “Sons of Anarchy” appear to be more satisfying than a 1 1/2 to 2 hour movie. People will go to the theaters in droves for adaptations of their favorite books, or event films, such as “Interstellar”, though.

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To think that this all started with James Franco/Seth Rogan vehicle, “The Interview“…. If you want to know how a good majority of Hollywood works, read these emails. There are many lessons to be learned here while the Internet/digital entertainment revolution continues to move along.

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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!