Monday, December 15, 2014

'CRU' - Four Friends Reunite After One Fateful Day

Recently I got a chance to check out the independent film, CRU, by writer/directors Alton Glass and Oliver Ottley. The film is about a group of teenage boys who are in a car crash that would have a significant impact on the rest of their lives. Nearly two decades later, they reunite.

Old wounds are opened, secrets are revealed and pain is exposed. The film stars a notable cast: Keith Robinson, Richard T. Jones, Antwon Tanner, Sammi Rotibi, Harry J. Lennix Alison Eastwood and Melissa De Souza.

I loved seeing black men bond in true friendship. I also loved seeing black men as loving fathers. Glass and Ottley did a great job of demonstrating black men being vulnerable in a way I think is lacking in contemporary black films. There is a great scene where all of the friends reminisce that is thoughtful and funny. The film gives insight into the black male emotional experience.

I asked Glass about the process of making this movie, and in true filmmaker style, he created a video to address my questions. You can view it below.

To purchase Cru, click here. Also, look out for it in the next few months on BET!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Can We Still Enjoy 'The Cosby Show'?

Gee wiz, more than a dozen women have surfaced claiming they’ve been sexually assaulted by Bill Cosby. True or false, this is beyond sad. To think the man who brought us the genius of The Cosby Show, and all its iconic images of a dignified, loving and multigenerational African American family was possibly capable of violating women, is psychologically disruptive. Whether or not these allegations are true, Cosby’s public image has been tarnished. 

NBC has canceled plans to bring Cosby back to television, and TV Land has even canned reruns of The Cosby Show! The situation makes me wonder if we can still enjoy Cosby’s iconic sitcom in syndication the same way ever again.

I liken this to the R-uh Kelly scandal. I can’t hear an R. Kelly song without erupting into a Jimmy Fallon “Ewww!” Gross. And I believe EVERY detail of what was alleged about Kelly – of course it’s easier since there’s actual video….. But with Cosby, my heart just doesn’t want to believe the man who reinvented the image of the black TV family and created unforgettable moments of fun, hilarity and black love can be disgusting!!! Da-yum, Da-yum, Da-yum! My stance with R-uh Kelly is unmovable. But does this situation with Cosby dictate that I can’t enjoy one of the best and most beloved shows ever made????? Can I separate my loyalty to women from my love of a show that served as a fantasy blueprint for the perfect black family? (Not to mention the FIERCE fashion!) Jesus Bill! WTF???? Can over a dozen women be lying? (Sigh…) Yep, a part of my black world is cracked, and my insides feel like a crazy Cosby sweater….confused.

If the allegations are true, can we detach the man from his work? Can we compartmentalize? I don’t know. I won’t know until I watch a rerun. But it’s very sad. I don’t want to be thinking about the possible truths of these allegations while watching Cliff get thrown across the room, trying to break up the fight between Denise and Vanessa over that sweater… I don’t want think of Cosby drugging women and forcing himself on them while watching Cliff and Claire compete to see who can out dress who in the “Smooth Contest”. But if I do decide to enjoy the nostalgia of The Cosby Show, and for that matter, A Different World, does that make me a traitor, or just someone who’s sad about the possible reality, but can still appreciate the value in Cosby’s work?

It’s just hard to fathom that a man who demonstrated such extreme good will by having a transformative vision for a black show, purposefully employing many people of color in television and being a substantial benefactor, might be capable of such heinous acts.

I still “cain’t” stand R-uh Kelly. And the principle here with Cosby is the same. Does it make me hypocritical in my belief in women’s rights if I still watch The Cosby Show? My mental compromise will be to live in La La Land, pretending for a half hour at a time, that I have no knowledge of the allegations. And in my “waking” moments I will hope the fictional Cosby in fact matches up with the real one.

What do you think? With recent developments, can you enjoy The Cosby Show the same way?

Friday, November 14, 2014

'Beyond the Lights' - Do We Care About This Movie?

Beyond the Lights hit theaters today. It’s a movie about the struggle of Noni, a young R&B/Hip Hop artist, ala Rihanna, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, to define her own identity the challenges of music industry and the rigors of fame. She does this all while dealing with her demanding “momager” played by Minnie Driver. It’s the latest film from writer/director/producer Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love and Basketball, The Secret Life of Bees). It also stars Nate Parker, who plays the police officer hired to protect the star. It all sounds very The Bodyguard right?

I’ve been wondering why this movie is getting so much hype. I’m not particularly interested in this film, though I hear it does address the hypersexualization of women in music, particularly in Hip Hop, and the affect those images have on young girls. For that, I give it kudos. But in the broader scheme of things, I feel like, “Who cares?” Okay, maybe if I was fourteen I’d care. And maybe the idea of doing a smashup remake of The Bodyguard and A Star is Born for a younger generation isn’t a bad idea. I’m just not hyped. I think that may have something to do with how this movie has been marketed.

The commercials for this film do not intrigue me – at all. They don’t, on any level reveal the deeper layers this movie might actually have. I don’t get a sense that this film may have substance beyond the formulaic theme of a famous person who’s got everything - money, looks and fame, yet is really dying inside, only to be resurrected by the love of a “regular guy” with nice abs. But again, I’m not fourteen. I don’t even understand why this movie is a theatrical release.

As hard as it is to get a movie made, I’m surprised Beyond the Lights was produced for the big screen. The irony is that Aaliyah, the Princess of R&B debuts on Lifetime the day after Beyond the Lights hits theaters. I feel like the two should switch places. Aaliyah’s story should be in theaters and Beyond the Lights should be on Lifetime! I’m also having trouble seeing Gugu-Raw as an obvious choice to play a singer, but that’s Hollywood. This is the kind of movie I’d check out on Netflix. I wonder how it will do this weekend.

Though I’m not at all interested in checking out Beyond the Lights, I’m glad more black films are getting made. What do you think? Are you interested in seeing Beyond the Lights?