I’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.
I’m going to pretend that I haven’t been away in say, oh, just about five months. In blog time, those months equal years. My excuse is that life caught up with me, in the form of a new job and new responsibilities. I found myself writing blog posts in my head that never came around to being realized here. But maybe taking a hiatus was what I needed to avoid total, ultimate burnout. Exhaustion is REAL ladies and gentlemen.
So, in the interim I reported on issues of diversity in the media and entertainment, caught up on all sorts of Netflix goodness (I was late on the “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” train, but I hopped on and won’t undo), sat in darkened movie theatres, and drummed up business ideas while listening to Purity Ring, Tame Impala, and Interpol stuck on repeat. I ran in the park, read Gillan Flynn novels on the subway (TWO WORDS: SHARP OBJECTS), and somehow survived Winter. Now I can come back with a renewed sense of purpose.
So, what tickles me in the world of film, television, music and digital these days? Well, “Game of Thrones” is on fire. It’s one of the few television series these days that can leave me disgusted one moment and then shouting for joy the next. I really wish I had my own dragon children…
Then there’s “Pretty Little Liars”, which after the latest episode has left me with one crucial thought: Is Charles DiLaurentis reppin’ hard for MGTOW? Seriously. If so, then this show just went from 100 to 1000.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” is a movie on my “absolute you must-see” list for the summer. It was a more enjoyable, thrilling viewing experience compared to Avengers: Age of Ultron for the action alone. There are a slew of other movies I can’t wait for including “Dope”, “Me, Earl and the Dying Girl”, Gaspar Noe’s “Love”, “Paper Towns”, “Southpaw”, “Train Wreck”, and “Heaven Knows What” (I’m checking this out today- my body and soul are ready). Plus new Foals and Maccabees music are on the horizon and the third and final series of “My Mad Fat Diary” premieres in less than two weeks, along with the second season of “True Detective” on Father’s Day. The second half of 2015 is shaping up to be magical….
So… I’m back! Now go and binge-watch Season 3 of Orange is the New Black.
Judy Greer in her first major movie role (“Jawbreaker”) before she was known as “The Best Friend” of romantic comedies in the ’00s. She slays in this movie, along with Rose McGowan, Julie Benz, and Rebecca Gayheart.
Last month I was able to catch a super sneak preview of “The Fault In Our Stars” with a friend. In the theater we were surrounded by middle and high school kids and the excitement in the air was so thick and encouraging. I’m so used to seeing movies with adults who either have their critic hats on or are updating their Twitter feeds well into the million and one previews playing. But watching a movie with a 99% audience of kids under the age of 18? This was a new experience for me in the best way because their enthusiasm for John Green’s book and adapted movie put the biggest smile on my face as I looked around before the movie began.
From the beginning shots of the film, I knew that we were all going to be in for a treat. One of the hosts for the film, involved with its local marketing and publicity in Philly, said that it was “perfect”. When you hear bon mots like “perfect” and “magical” to describe any form of entertainment, one can either get extremely excited or very cynical. But my gut was telling me that she may be right. After all, my girl crush for Shailene Woodley knows no bounds and Ansel Elgort has been wonderful in the two films that I’ve seen him in thus far (“Carrie”, “Divergent”) . I hadn’t read Green’s book at that point, but I just had the feeling that this was going to be one of my favorite movies of the year. By the way, it sure is.
What makes TFIOS so special is how endearing the story is without being mawkish and how natural all of the stars in the movie are. All of the actors left a piece of themselves in the respective characters that they portrayed without fear and many, MANY tablespoons of courage. I can’t see any other actor with the talent, range, and street cred playing Hazel, Augustus, and Isaac. Shai, Ansel, and Nat possess and brought vitality, humor, gravitas, and intelligence to their roles. The adults of this movie were also superb. Most of the teen movies that I still love and have shaped my affinity for pop culture and film (“Jawbreaker”, “Heathers”, “10 Things I Hate About You”, etc.) showed either barely visible parents, parents who were in the movie long enough to help push it forward and provide the funny, or parents who “just don’t understand”. I loved watching Laura Dern and Sam Trammell in TFIOS; I felt their heartbreak and empathized with their pain of being parents with a child that has a terminal illness. Seeing them, as well as the other adults in the movie, like Willem Dafoe and the refreshing Mike Birbiglia, was nice because in real life parents make mistakes and can be nasty or kind or just as worried about life as a teenager would be.
If you have not read the book, don’t fret. I read “The Perks of Being A Wallflower” before seeing the film and I felt as though I cheated in a way. I was introduced to the characters and the plot and there were times in the theater that I kept anticipating how different this scene or that scene would be compared to the book. The same thing happened when I went to watch “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent”. In the case of “The Fault In Our Stars”, I was pleasantly awake to the possibilities of every scene and didn’t anticipate just how much I would cry. Oh, this movie will make you cry. How much or less is entirely up to you and your disposition, but at least a tear or two will find its way out of your tear ducts.
If there’s one thing this movie confirmed with such grace and believabilty, it’s that life doesn’t have to be perfect. Trying to be perfect will drive you mad because a life lived in the pursuit of loving others is a wonderful life indeed. After you see this film, you’re going to walk out of the movies with puffy, red eyes and you’ll want to find the love of your life, if you haven’t already. Hopefully if you have found that special someone, you already know that being loved by them and by the ones that love you back is enough. What Hazel and Augustus teach each other about love and life in their young, epic romance is so touching and reminded me that even when life is at its worse that doesn’t mean that you have to be. Love still exists in the darkest of moments.
Go see this little film that could and will. You can listen to the hype and grand reviews (they are everywhere and it’s a bit hard to get away from unless you are an active non-user of any form of technology), but take the time to see “The Fault In Our Stars” for yourself to see what is being called “the greatest love story of our generation.” Sans vampire, zombies, and a dystopic backdrop, it’s a wonder of a movie filled with heart and pain.
Like “My Mad Fat Diary”, “In The Flesh” is another poignant, well produced television show from across the pond that I’m absolutely riveted by. Has there ever been a show about a post-apocalyptic world where zombies can talk and are given a chance to re-integrate into civilization like normal human beings?
Told through the eyes of Kieren Walker, a zombie who goes back home to live with his parents and sister Jem, a Human Volunteer Force soldier appointed to help rid her town of “rotters”, the first episode of Season One wastes no time diving right into their world of the living versus dead with insane results.
Episode one of the second series has already started, but you can catch up with all three episodes of series on YouTube:
Series One, Episode One: http://youtu.be/5QcgkE3r6qE
Series One, Episode Two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3tj3kIB6P0
Series One, Episode Three: http://youtu.be/dbhrgEVn5lU
If memory serves correctly, this will be the first People Magazine that I’ll have ever brought with my hard-earned dollars and cents. Lupita has scored another magazine cover, and it’s one of the most prestigious. She is this year’s People Magazine‘s Most Beautiful Person of 2014. What makes this honor so special is that her beauty emanates not only from her physical appearance, but from her intelligence as well. I hope that her achievements and praise from her chosen industry will push other young females to work hard and know that there is beauty in having brains.