Category Archives: flicks

Heeeere’s Janet! The “For Colored Girls…” Movie Posters Debut

Here’s one of the series of character publicity posters for Tyler Perry’s upcoming film adaptation of Ntozake Shange‘s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf… You can see the rest of them by clicking here and going to the film and media site Shadow and Act. Funny, though: I’m guessing Janet’s playing the Lady in Red, but the poster says she’s playing a character named Jo. I don’t recall the characters in the play having actual names, do you? I’m personally still out on how I feel about any adaptation of one of my favorite plays. But I’d love to hear what you think.


Filed under film, flicks

Race, Fandom, and The Years of Living Mel-lessly

{I know the right way to approach the Mel Gibson story (if you don’t know about his racist, misogynistic outbursts caught on tape you  might wanna read this first) is to be either hiply cynical (y’all sure he didn’t say nigga?) or just casually jaded (racism! from Mel? whatever, man!), but maybe cause I was a fan, neither approach satisfies me. I’m too old to be shocked, yet too shocked to avoid it…}

I’m one of those people who likes to know which movies people consider their favorites. Especially if I sense you might be a person I might get close(r) to: I ask, very early on, “What’s your favorite movies?” It’s not that I judge their tastes—God knows I’d prefer someone to have very bad taste than no taste at all—it’s more that I like to learn from others, and if you seem cool, your choices in movies might be cool, and I’ll discover something I didn’t know about.

I’m also the type of person who, depending on the day, will try to make sure that you see at least some of the movies that I love—partly because I have a tendency to quote them, but also because sharing flicks is, to me, sharing a deep part of me: the movies I love really do, like the books I love, I think, define who I am. I am a fan, and proud to call myself one, someone who nonetheless understands and relishes his fandom as a complicated site of oft-needed pleasures and cultural belonging.

Two movies I’d always refer peeps to: The Year of Living Dangerously (problematic in some ways but oh so sexy) and Tequila Sunrise (problematic in other ways but endlessly fascinating as an investigation into the nuances of male friendship). Both because I think they’re top-notch examples of Hollywood filmcraft, rich of character and ambience, filled with grace notes of longing and loss, and because they starred one of my very favorite movie stars: Mel Gibson.

Suffice to say, it’s been years since I’ve watched a Mel Gibson movie. Dating back to 2006, to be exact.

When I was a teenager, Mel Gibson was The Man: coming off the over-the-top action of the Mad Max flicks, he was infinitely watchable in the Lethal Weapon flicks, and by the time I was an adult, Mrs. Soffel and Gallipoli (which I discovered late), showed him off to be quite the actor, equipped to perform touching moments that felt real and true, who also had—compared to other big stars—impeccable taste in material and the directors he worked with. And though I saw Payback and Signs, the last Gibson film I can say I really liked was Ransom. A Ron Howard throwback to high-Hollywood suspense burnished by a sleek contemporary world-weariness that wore well on its entire top-flight cast, Ransom felt in many ways like Mel cementing his eventual Clint-ness (as in Eastwood)—as wrinkles deepened along with the presence, as maturity began to take the place of rip-roaring braggadaccio.

I didn’t much love Braveheart; it felt a little over-determined to me, and I won’t even get started on the blatantly nasty homophobia that marred the representation of King Edward as such a complete, I don’t know, nelly(?), that he might as well have been—as the direct opposite to “masculinity” in which he was portrayed—literally, a Queen. Thinking back, was this the beginning…?

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Filed under film, flicks, Race, Rants, Uncategorized

Ladies and Gentlemen…Spider-Man is NOT the New Black…

So it seems as if Hollywood’s found it’s new Spider-Man, for the relaunch of the blockbuster franchise.

Sadly it won’t be this guy, the former 30 Rock writer and Community actor/comedian, Donald Glover, who’d actually sorta campaigned for the part (personally? I was rooting for him or Jamie Bell):

Turns out, surprise, surprise!, that the studio wanted to go another way. So here’s the new Spider-Man:

Is it just me, or doesn’t he look like a grown-up Harry Potter…I mean, Daniel Radcliffe? He does have great hair. Too bad it’ll be hidden underneath a red white and blue stocking cap for most of the flick…You can read the whole story at EW…and here’s a cute interview with him from a coupla years ago…

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Hollywood’s Big Night

Quote of the Day: You commie homo-loving sons of guns!” — Sean Penn, winning his second Best Actor Oscar

I really enjoyed the Oscars last night. I know one’s not supposed to say that. It’s not hip or fashionable to enjoy an Oscar telecast; one is supposed to be all sarcastic and nasty about it, commenting solely on the clothes and hairstyles to have any real impact in the general post-game conversation. Well, ha! to that, I say. The new production team (Bill Condon–who directed Dreamgirls–and Laurence Mark) kept their ideas a closely-guarded secret–and it worked. Setting up the show as a “lesson” in how movies get made, lining up the awards (for the most part) in the order of how the elements of a film production fall into place–a stroke of producerial genius, I say. Using groups of actors (or solo stars like Will Smith) to guide viewers on this tour–smashingly done, especially Sarah Jessica Parker/Daniel Craig and Natalie Portman/Ben Stiller (who’s Joaquim Phoenix impression was hi-larious)…Didn’t care so much for Jennifer Aniston and Jack Black–both of them seem to try to hard in general, and together it just seemed like a real sweat-fest. 

Loved Eddie Murphy in the center of things giving the Jean Hersholdt award to Jerry Lewis. Loved Hugh Jackman’s gay-straight man (straight-gay man?) shtick. Loved the “salute to musicals,” though it really could have been a “salute to Broadway” and still make the same points–and even though they had the good taste to use Beyonce, the greatest entertainer on the planet right now who can do no wrong in my book (well, until she does), there should have been more songs snippets from Oscar-winning musicals like My Fair Lady or The Sound of Music or the Gershwin-fest An American In Paris, but that’s just me, I guess… 
Really loved the “previous-winner’s roundtable” approach to handing out the acting awards. For the first time ever watching an Oscar ceremony, I felt like I was watching a community of artists celebrate each other’s great work rather than a grab-bag of diva egos vying for the gold. (I can watch the Men’s Ice Skating comps at the Winter Olympics for that!) As the evening moved forward the groups of five actors brought onstage to present awards got more glamourous, more famous, more legendary. Perfectly played–though I must give a special shout-out to Sophia Loren for bringing her curvaceous Italian gravitas to the evening. Even if the moments were scripted, I felt like each actor (give or take a couple) gave the performances of their lives by making each nominee feel special, as if, in some ways, they’d already won. (Memo to Cuba Gooding, Jr.: stay on book. You had your, well, moment when you won for Jerry Maguire. If you really had a problem with Downey in blackface you should have stayed home. Or made a smarter, more articulate point…)
(Oh yeh, loved the Best Picture montages, in which the nominees were linked to similarly-themed movies from the past, but worst montage moment, by far: putting a shot of Braveheart into the Best Picture salute to Milk…uh, old debate, but it still resonates…)
It would have been nice to see Viola Davis win (like her Broadway counterpart Adriane Lenox did for the stage version of Doubt), but I guess I can’t have everything. What I did have, though, was an entertaining evening. The Oscars will never be the free-for-all funfest that is the Golden Globes, but it did come pretty close last night, at least in terms of looseness, emotion, and ease. 
And can I just ask: How freakin’ fabulous are Brad and Angelina? Even smirking their way through Anniston’s brittly, unfunny moments, they just exuded glamor and sexiness and joie-de-vivre, didn’t they? I bet they each gave each other a real prize after they got home and made sure the kids were asleep. They truly are this generation’s Liz and Dick. I just wonder which one is the real shrew at home?


Filed under Beyonce, flicks, Hugh Jackman, Sarah Jessica Parker, the Oscars

Sashay Shantay! Jude with Attitude…

Jude Law…handsome, British, tabloid fodder, butt of GREAT Chris Rock joke at the Oscars a few years ago, now…transgendered SUPERMODEL? In a movie co-starring Dame Judi Dench???

Yup…pic here
I’d go see that movie. I hope Dame Judi is playing someone fierce like, oh, I don’t know… Linda Evangelista!

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Goin’, uh, Batty?

Have you heard the one about the actor who loses it on the set? No? Well, I haven’t either. That’s cause it’s not a joke. Christian Bale (Batman in The Dark Knight, the lead in American Psycho) verbally rips into the Director of Photography for getting, apparently, in Christian’s method-actor-y line of sight, on the set on the new Terminator flick. 

If you like tantrums the way I like tantrums, ya gotta listen to this! By the by, wasn’t Bale the actor who’s mother and sister called the cops on him this past summer on some abuse charges? I’m just sayin…
CLICK HERE for the tantrum. And turn it down if there are kids–or testy co-workers–around…

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Filed under Christian Bale, drama queens, flicks

Fool Me Once…

Quote of the Day: “I’ve seen the future and it will be/I’ve seen the future and it works…” “The Future” by Prince

I was recently “defriended” (“unfriended”?) by an old friend on Facebook. I don’t know why. I must have pissed him off. I do have a long-time habit of doing that, and usually that would result in him just not speaking to me. Now, in the cyber world, I guess there’s a new way to express (or not express?) one’s displeasure with someone, rather than just not return calls or ignore texts—defriend the person. I’d heard of it happening, but never experienced it until now. It’s a strange feeling—at least in the Real World, you know the calls are not being returned or the texts are not being answered. But defriending? It’s akin to stealth-bombing, because you never know it’s happened until, well, you know it’s happened. I used to say that I was officially a member of the 21st century when I was one of hundreds of peeps laid off by a splashy dot-com company back in 2000. Now, I really feel like I’m living in the future. And I feel fine…

The New York Times did a cute piece about the culture of “defriending”. Check it out here.

Wow, it really is the future. Apparently the great Gabriel Garcia Marquez will be digitally publishing a novel, bypassing paper and going right to e-book. Is this going to be the trend from now on? Info here.

Do you think you could write a novel in 70 word bites so people can read them on their cell phones? They do in Japan. One of the books was so successful it spawned a whole industry around it, including a movie adaptation. According to Galleycat, 86% of Japanese teens read novels this way. Actually I don’t know why I feel surprised by this: isn’t Gossip Girl essentially writing a big Jane Austen-meets-Tom Wolfe novel of social manners with the posts she blasts about Serena, Dan et al? I love those moments on the show when those tweeny girls come up to Dan and lambaste him for his latest foul-up, like he’s Penn Badgely or some other celeb guy having a public affair with his beautiful co-star. It’s so, um, meta!

The word on the street is that Cheo Hodari Coker’s about to be following up his NOTORIOUS success by writing the Run-DMC movie. Homeboy did The SPB Q last week, and every time I asked him what new thing he had in the works, he jumped past the question…It’s all good. Never spoil it before it’s official, right? Congrats to Cheo!

Bye Bye, Betty: ABC’s putting Ugly Betty away for a while to give Samantha Who her due. Samantha Who? I like Christina Applegate and all but if she ain’t re-doing Samantha Stevens, the cute blonde witch living with her ad exec hubby Darrin, consider me not interested in watching ABC on Thursday nights anymore. I was really into UB this season, and its sad to see it go this way. What is ABC’s problem? Can’t they give a show a break already? Didn’t America Ferrara win an Emmy a coupla years back? Isn’t Vaness Williams as Wilhemina Slater the most deliciously vain and evil villain since JR Ewing? Okay, I’ll calm down now…But all I’m saying is this, if you like TV like I like TV, don’t get to attached to Life on Mars, kids. I can feel it: It’ll be following Eli Stone, Pushing Daisies, and Ugly Betty right into hiatus-cancellation-oblivion land any day now….(then again, if it does, you can always buy or rent the original Brit version, which is The. Bomb.)

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Filed under books, flicks, TV

WayBack Wednesdays: The Girl Most Likely To…

Quote of the Day: “I don’t steal and I don’t lie/But I can feel and I can cry/A fact I bet you never knew…” — “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” from Grease

Long before the great Stockard Channing was winning Tonys and Emmys and getting nominated for Oscar; a few years before she was the sizzling hot, torch-singing Betty Rizzo

of Grease fame; long before she embodied Ouisa Kittredge, the ultra-sophisticated Park Avenue doyenne of Six Degrees of Separation or was stealing scenes on The West Wing and captivating Broadway audiences, she was a frumpy coed named Miriam Knight.

Miriam was the lead character of an ABC TV movie (back when made-for-TV movies meant something) called The Girl Most Likely To… Written by comedian Joan Rivers, it’s the story of a fat, unattractive girl who just wants to be loved. She’s the butt of jokes, used and abused by the beautiful people around her, too nice for her own good. Then she’s in a car accident and everything changes. Not only is Miriam now beautiful–thanks to some ace plastic surgery–but she’s also bent for revenge.

I saw this hilarious movie a bit after its first run in 1973; I think it was on the “The 4:30 Movie” after doing my homework through General Hospital and The Edge of Night. I became hooked and never missed it whenever it re-ran. And, no lie, I became Stockard Channing’s biggest fan. (Anyone who can score a brotha some tix to Pal Joey on Broadway, shout me out!)

It’s hard to talk too much about The Girl Most Likely To…without giving too much away. But if you want to catch a ridiculous, funny, sorta sad, but oddly, cynically uplifting flick, get it—it FINALLY made it DVD a coupla years ago. If you love 70s TV, especially when it’s served up as cleverly as this, with a typical I-Love-The-70s TV cast of actors like Ed Asner, Larry Wilcox, Jim Backus, and The Love Boat’s Fred Grandy, you’ll enjoy this flick. But if you were ever teased—for how you looked, for the things you liked, for where you came from or the baby fat you carried around, even to college—you will LOVE this flick. If you were the teaser, well, I’ll just say, revenge (and good movies about revenge) can be a real motivator for some…so watch out!

Here are some scenes from The Girl Most Likely To…:
When she was fat and treated like crap…

Back to Get Even…

And just as an added bonus…”There Are Worse Things I Can Do,” to my mind, one of the finest, realest moments in Grease:

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Filed under flicks, Stockard Channing, WayBack Machine

WayBack Wednesdays (On a Thursday): SPARKLE

Quote of the Day: “Living in a world of ghetto life/Everybody around seems so uptight…” — “Giving Him Something He Can Feel” by Aretha Franklin

Well folks, now that the great celebrity photo op Inauguration business is behind us, maybe we can get some actual stuff done! Yesterday I wasn’t able to post my usual Wednesday WayBack Machine, cause I was so crazy making up for all the stuff I didn’t get done Tuesday while I was sitting on my couch perched in front of the TV like a proud grinning-and-sobbing fool, so I’m posting it today and hoping you enjoy it as much as I do.

Way back in 1976–before Dreamgirls–there was a movie about three girls in a struggling singing group called Sparkle. A friend of mine calls it the True Ghetto Classic. Not because it takes place in the ‘hood, but because anyone you ask about it gets all head-rollingly old school about how much they love it. I love it because it blends so many movie genres it could make your head spin. It’s part blaxploitation flick, part backstage melodrama, part musical, part family saga. Inner city kids with a yen to perform get involved in the music business and all their dreams come true as they realize the nightmares of real life. (If you don’t remember the movie, I know you remember the soundtrack featuring Aretha Franklin singing some of Curtis Mayfield’s finest radio-ready r&b?)

Sparkle starred the insanely great actress as Mary Alice, playing mother to the three girls who make up a Harlem singing group: the beautiful and tragic Sister, played by the lovely and talented Lonette McKee; Delores (Dwan Smith); and of course, babysister Sparkle, played by a post-Aaron Love Angela, pre-Fame, Irene Cara.

The flick was the first screenplay by Joel Schumacher, the director of some of my personal favorite Hollywood pulp fictions like St. Elmo’s Fire, The Lost Boys, Flatliners, and the VERY underrated Flawless. (And who became, he told me in a fun interview I did with him upon the DVD release of Sparkle in 2007, the “go-to” black writer in Hollywood for a few years after writing Sparkle and Car Wash…Schumacher’s a Jewish guy from New York City, by the way).

Schumacher told me in the interview that there was a whole lot more to Sparkle when he first wrote it (“after flaming out of art school”) in the 70s because he loved r&b and knew people just like Sparkle and nem while he was growing up. The movie in his mind was meant to be a real epic and so much got cut out along the way. Says Schumacher: “The Dorian Harewood character [Levi] was arrested, and he was in jail, and he found God, and he became a Jesse Jackson-like figure, and then, of course, the Phillip Michael Thomas character [Stix] was my version of Berry Gordy. It wasn’t based on Berry, but it was influenced by that. And Sparkle certainly wasn’t based on Diana Ross, because Sparkle is an innocent, whereas Diana has always been very driven, and ambitious—and I mean that in the best possible sense—whereas Sparkle is a child, she’s a pure soul in a world of turmoil around her, and remains true to herself. And Delores, the third sister, who gets very smart; she became political, and she goes down south and becomes an Angela Davis type figure.” (By the by, Schumacher was the original director of Dreamgirls when it was in the pipeline years ago–and in my opinion, should have directed it, but it wasn’t meant to be…His dream cast at the time? Lauryn Hill for Deena; Don Cheadle for James Thunder Early; and Kelly Price, “with that fabulous voice,” as Effie. “Maybe Sparkle is my Dreamgirls,” he told me. “I just sat down and wrote what I loved. I never thought I’d be talking to a journalist about it thirty years later!”

So there’s some background for you to savor as you watch some scenes from Sparkle and think about that Saturday afternoon you first saw it with your people at that local around-the-way movie house (in my case, the Hempstead on Fulton Street), probably paired with a re-release of Amazing Grace, starring Moms Mabley or Let’s Do it Again.

“JUMP”: Youthful enthusiasm; Sister steps up to prove who the real star in the group is…

“HOOKED ON YOUR LOVE”: The group is a hit, and the hits WILL keep on coming, poor Sister…

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Filed under flicks, WayBack Machine

The SPB Q: Cheo Hodari Coker

Quote of the Day: “Sometimes your words just hypnotize  me…” — “Hypnotize” by Notorious BIG

I first met Cheo Hodari Coker a short time before he graduated from Stanford in the early 90s. He’s the nephew of one of my favorite people in journalism and literature, supremely entertaining mystery writer Valerie Wilson Wesley, so it didn’t surprise me that he was so smart, focused and determined considering, as my grandmother used to say, who his people were. But it didn’t take long to think of Cheo outside the context of just who his people were, he turned out to be a wonderful and prolific—and in 1997, he wrote one of the finest pieces of journalism VIBE magazine ever published. “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” blended real-time, you-are-there reportage of the night of Big’s murder with flashback interview time Cheo had spent with Big himself just upon the release of Ready to Die. It’s a haunted, vivid piece of writing; so it’s no surprise that Coker is one of the co-writers of NOTORIOUS, the recent cinematic rendering of Big’s rise which grossed an estimated $24 million over it’s opening weekend. Coker’s writing has appeared in Essence, Rolling Stone, and The Source, among other spots, and his book Unbelievable: The Life, Death, and Afterlife of the Notorious B.I.G. was published in 2004.


Name: Cheo Hodari Coker

Hometown: Storrs, CT

Zodiac sign: Sagitarius (Dec 12th)

Favorite book: Hard to nail it down to just one. Blues People by Amiri Baraka is high up there. Bird Lives by Ross Russell is another one. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Claude Brown’s Manchild In The Promised Land.

Favorite author: I’m a huge fan of mysteries by George Pelecanos, Michael Connelly, and my aunt, Valerie Wilson Wesley. But Ellison, Wright, and Baldwin are my Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Favorite movie: The Godfather. No question.

Screenplay or screenwriter that most influenced you?: Screenwriter: My uncle, Richard Wesley, who wrote Uptown Saturday Night and Let’s Do It Again. I learned everything I know at his knee. As for screenplay: The Godfather by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola and
John Logan’s Any Given Sunday. Say what you want about the film, but when you actually read the words and the descriptions? Wow.

Favorite old school hiphop song: World Famous Supreme Team, “Hey DJ”

Favorite recent rap record: Ghostface Killah’s The Big Doe Rehab. Listen to “Supa GFK.” Forget Lil Wayne. Ghostface is the best pure rapper alive.

Favorite word: Dope. I’m old school. I use that word every day. Muthafucka is a close second. May not say it, but I often think it.

Career High: Interviewing the Notorious BIG on the steps of 226 St. James two weeks after Ready to Die came out. I’ve had a lot of professional highs (and lows), but you can’t replace history.

Life High: August 30th, 2005, 2:31 a.m: Watching my twins being born.

You’re on a desert island and can only save 5 flicks. What are they?:

The Godfather, PT 1.
Malcolm X

Your favorite quote: “Success has many fathers. Failure is an orphan.” I don’t know who said it, but that’s Hollywood in a nutshell.

If you don’t have an old copy of Vibe’s May 1997 issue lying around, you can find Cheo’s article reprinted in Raquel Cepeda’s And it Don’t Stop; The Best American Hip Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years.


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Filed under flicks, music, The SPB Q