Archive for July 2009

Me Wanna See "Brooklyn's Finest"!


Why, oh why is this all I can find on the flick "Brooklyn's Finest" the movie directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Tears Of The Sun) starring Don Cheadle and Wesley Snipes? The plot:

"Tango is an undercover officer on a narcotics detail that forces him to choose between duty and friendship. Having been to hell and back, he wants out, but the powers that be won't let him quit. Family-man Sal is a detective tempted by greed and corruption. He can barely make ends meet, and now his wife has an illness that threatens the life of their unborn twins. Eddie is nearing retirement age and has long since lost his dedication to his job as a cop. He wakes up every morning trying to come up with a reason to go on living...and he can't think of one. Fate brings the three men to the same Brooklyn housing project as each takes the law into his own hands"

There has to be something out there....can a negress get a screener, a preview invite, a decent trailer?* Dang!


The Return Of The Crazy Critic....

Okay, so there is a term that I came up with called "Obamatized", a play on words from a condition women sometimes have called being d*ckmatized. You see, after Obama was elected, folks got all infatuated and/or caught up and started throwing Black folks out there left and right, sometimes with epic "FAIL" results. Take ineffective goofball Republican Chairman Michael Steele for instance, or adulterer and head of Citigroup Dick Parsons. 10 years ago, a Black man in either one of these positions would have been as unthinkable as Obama being president. Just like this this dude being the president of the New York Film Critics Circle, at one time arguably the most powerful and influential critic organization on the planet, was unthinkable, and probably should have remained so.

My blog homie, pop culture writer Micheal A. Gonzales (do yourself a favor and check him out HERE) sent me an article from NY Magazine* on the latest shenanigans of Armond White, the aforementioned head of the NY Film Critics Circle. I wrote an article on this dude a couple of years ago, which you can read on the post after this one. I was bewildered at why he just seemed to be so contentious all the time, serving no real purpose or adding anything to the world of cinema except for his dissension.

There are those that just seem to have received zero love as a baby and child, and spend the rest of their lives trying to get it back through attention whoring or "look at me!" my opinion, Armond White seems to be one of them. How else do you explain these oddities taken from the article?

"In the category of $100 million–budget comic-book action-adventure films, White declared the “genre expertise” displayed by his great hero Steven Spielberg in the criminally ignored Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was “better than” the overpraised “dunglike banality” of Iron Man."

And this:

"White’s assertion that the “kinetic art” to be found in assumedly schlocky Transporter 3 was “better than” that favorite of “impressionable teenagers,” The Dark Knight and also said this of The Dark Knight: [it] “fabricates disaster simply to tease millennial death wish and psychosis.”"" (from IW-what the eff does that even mean?)

After the Dark Knight opine he was raked over the coals:

"This opinion generated a mini-firestorm of hate mail on Rotten Tomatoes, the widely skimmed Internet movie-review site currently featuring a forum titled “Armond White of the New York Press May Be the Worst Film Critic Ever.” Among the more than 300 postings—for other critics, two comments is a groundswell—White was described as “sad,” “crotchety,” a peddler of “Cold War platitudes,” a hater of the common people, a “Christian boy,” an abuser of affirmative action, and a mindless typist".

He also trashed "The Wrestler" only one of four major critics to do so. Everyone, especially a critic, is entitled to express their opinion, but from what I have seen, Armond White continuously goes against the grain, again and again, and his views and explanations don't seem to carry much weight. It seems that he does it for attention, and not because it's really what he holds in his heart. It all seems very disingenuous.

White says, “I don’t say these things to call attention to myself or to get a rise out of people. I say them because I believe them. We’re living in times when critics get fired if they don’t like enough movies. People don’t need to hear what mouthpieces for the movie industry tell them. They need to hear the truth.”

That may be true, but why are his "truths" always so different from absolutely everyone's, in addition to being extremely negative? Consider this:

"At the City Sun, the borderline-radical black weekly where he regularly slammed Spike Lee’s movies, referring to Clockers as “40 acres and a bunch of bull.”"

Or this head scratcher:

"White took a similarly purist stand when he railed against critics lobbying for free DVD screeners. “This is about the aesthetics of film reviewing,” he says. “We are obligated to see movies the way the public has to see them. If not, then become a DVD reviewer, don’t become a film critic.” Asking for product from the movie companies is a compromise of journalistic integrity, White says, declaring “the New York critics have been corrupted.”"

Or this quote:

In a post called “White Noise,” [Glenn] Kenny wrote, “White’s known for spewing bile at his peers in print, and then turning around and being quite affable to said peers in person—I’ve experienced it. And I’ve had it. So: Screw you, Armond.”

Or this bit of wisdom from White:

"The “comically humane” films of Wes Anderson, maker of Rushmore, are infinitely “better than” the “toothless Robert Altman gumming” of Paul Thomas Anderson, whose There Will Be Blood is a “symptom of everything wrong with the American experience.”

Or this:

"It is in this way that White can confidently tell you a film like Blade Runner is “effective for about fifteen minutes” and probably should have never been made, because there was no way it was ever going to surpass Fritz Lang’s Metropolis as a dystopic vision of the future. "


If Mr. White is married, or even has a pet I would be very surprised. What I am not surprised to find out, however, is that is he the youngest of seven children. Make of that what you will.


Urkel, Is That You?

This is a repost of a piece I did 2 years ago on crazy critic Armond White. I reposted it so you can get a bit more of a feel of what I'm talking about on the post above...

I thought that Armond White was a bit rough on "Talk To Me" and Kasi Lemmons....sure, it wasn't the greatest film, but it was no "Soul Plane" either. (I posted his review yesterday).

So I did a bit of snoopin' around on dude, and found some interesting tidbits. Even though they kinda speak for themselves, I will give up a bit of commentary:

-He is known for his support of Steven Spielberg, Brian DePalma, D.W. Griffith (?!!), and Charles Stone III (who directed the classics "Mr. 3000", "Drumline", and "Paid In Full") *1

-He started at the New York Black weekly newspaper "The City Sun" extolling the virtues of Morrisey, The Pet Shop Boys, and Erasure. *2

-Goes on about people like Spike Lee "sullying the Black Experience". *3

-Gave high praises to the films "Torque", "Little Man" (?), "Sahara", and "Against The Ropes" *4

-Had the audacity to write a book about Tupac. *5

*1 He gives big love to the richest man in Hollywood, a misogynist director who has never featured anyone black in his films, the director who made "Birth of a Nation", the most racist film in history, and some bootleg director to show he is "down"? Dude seriously knows what side his bread is buttered on.

*2 That's like your grandmother buying Jet magazine to find out about all the latest going-ons of Lindsey Lohan, Paris Hilton, and Jessica Simpson.

*3 Huh?

*4 No comment necessary

*5 Do we really want someone who was writing reviews before I was born and who emulated Pauline Kael to write a book about the effects of Tupac on the world?

He reminds me of another mainstream "expert" who also had his origins in the non-black world decades ago, whose "expertise" is also questionable, but not his ability to generate controversy. "Stylist" Andre Leon Talley:

On The Black/Bi-Racial Thing...

There has been some talk going around the Black Blogosphere on a little ditty called "I'm Bi-Racial, Not Black, Damn It!", a documentary about those of bi-racial heritage not wanting to be placed in the "Black" box. It has opened up an internet debate, of sorts, some saying that there is self-hatred involved, others saying that they empathize.

I have been doing some market research for a film starring Maya Rudolph, and I have found the situation a bit interesting. She is one of the leads, and her husband is white. Her being "Black" or even "bi-racial" never really comes up in the film, as it also is never an issue with Rashida Jones and her white co-leads. Their films are marketed to white audiences in general; think "Away We Go" and the comedy "I Love You, Man". Both films that I found very enjoyable.

For those of you that don't know, Maya Rudolph is the daughter of the late soul singer Minnie Ripperton, and Rashida Jones is the daughter of super-producer Quincy Jones. Unlike Halle, who is bi-racial but darker, their race never really comes up, and they assimilate with no fanfare. Do you think they get work that Black actresses seem to be pining for because of their complexion or because of their talent?

Just out of curiosity, as this has absolutely nothing to do with the film I'm working with, I have this little poll going. Please leave your thoughts on this whole new dust-up on the Black/bi-racial thing in the comments if can--I'd like to hear what you think.

MMM (Mini Movie Marathon)....

Yeah, I know. I'm the ultimate slacker when it comes to posting. But you know one thing I never, ever slack on is watching movies. I think I set a record for myself over the past two weeks, watching everything from Bruno to Bye, Bye, Birdie (yeah, I watched it--don't judge me!). I'll give on overview of my experiences, and since not much is happening with Black Cinema, most of it is of the other kind....and lest you think I have absolutely nothing to do with my time, bear in mind that I watched most of these when folks are asleep, between the hours of 12am and 6am.

I definitely went on DiNiro overload, for real. I watched not one, not two, but three 3 hour Robert DiNiro odysseys; "Casino" (fabulous!), "Heat" (overrated, yeah I said it!), and "The Deer Hunter" (strange). I love Bobby D., he is always sooo cool and low key, even in Vietnam, as he was in The Deer Hunter. It was weird to see Christopher Walken looking young in it though, almost surreal.

Speaking of Christopher Walken, I also saw a film he was in called "The Dogs Of War" which I'm told is a classic. I tried to stay focused on the story at hand, but I wasn't too thrilled that the plot entailed just 4 white dudes taking out a whole African nation of brothers that were armed with guns.

Anyway, also saw the "hip-hopera" "A Day In The Life" which was written and directed by Sticky Fingaz, and I reviewed on Soul Sis-Star Reviews. The whole film, every single line of dialogue, is rapped. Yes. And that includes Michael Rapaport. I also revisited "Panther", which I will review as well...does anybody remember that Bokeem Woodbine used to be almost a real actor?

"Other" films I revisited were a Nicholas Cage flick called "Red Rock West", which is a cautionary crime-thriller about Karma kicking you in the back of your neck (very dark and trippy, like David Lynch), and a dark mystery called "Frailty" which was surprisingly good. It was directed by and stars Bill Paxton, along with Matthew McConaughey, who, to my huge shock, didn't get on my nerves even once. It is the story of a widowed father and his two young sons, the father one day saying he has been commissioned by an angel to slay "demons", the "demons" being folks in neighboring cities and towns, and also says his sons must assist him in slaying them...very absorbing--I recommend it.

Let's see...also saw "Isn't She Great" starring Bette Midler, in the supposedly autobiographical movie of Jacqueline Susann, who wrote "Valley Of The Dolls", and it seemed to take great liberties with her life. Also saw "Orphan" (don't ask).

I guess the ones the stuck out the most from the pack (yes there are more) were two pretty dark and twisted films--"Cruising" and "The Bad Lieutenant".

I remember my father taking me to see "Cruising", and only remembered it as a movie where Al Pacino went undercover as a cop going in the deep underworld of the gay leather club life. On reflection, I'm sure my father just went because it was Pacino, and had no idea what he was bringing me into. Pacino has to play a sort of gay hustler to find out who is murdering those that are part of the leather lifestyle. I did some research on the film, and at the time it created quite a stir, narrowly missing an "X" rating. The gay community was supposedly furious at the time, saying that it perpetuated fear and stereotypes about the gay lifestyle. These days, however, they show the film proudly at there you go.

"Bad Lieutenant" is about a cop that has gone miles beyond corruption, much less anything that resembles human, played by Harvey Keitel (full frontal nudity alert!). It is filmed in a very late sixties, early 70's style of filmmaking, though it is from 1992. Keitel to me is part of that 70's, 80's cool that included the others I watched in this post, DiNiro, Pacino, Walken and more recently, Joe Pesci. He goes through his day, sexing and drugging it up to feel anything at all; being a cop is a very minor part of his day...he even steals from the people who steal. He is called in to investigate the rape of a nun, and the film just gets progressively darker, and disturbing, and hopeless. There was only one way for it to end, and it does end that way...check it out if you don't have an aversion to sex, drugs, and violence set in a backdrop of religion.

After the darkness comes light, that light being "Bruno". I absolutely loved Borat, so I was expecting great things...don't you make the same mistake (sorry Sergio).

When I look over these films, there does seem to be a commonality...most of them were directed by those who at one time or another considered the "bad boy" directors; William Friedkin (The French Connection, The Exorcist, Cruising), Abel Ferrara (Bad Leiutenant, King Of New York), Martin Scorsese (The Godfather, Goodfellas, Casino), Michael Mann (Heat, Hancock, Miami Vice), Larry Charles (Borat, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Bruno) and the big bad boy, Michael Camino (The Deer Hunter, Heaven's Gate, The Sicilian). Get a film by any of these directors, and trust--there may be a miss or two, but it will never, ever, be boring.

Feast your eyes on a few trailers:

AiP’s annual post

Don’t joke! If not quite my only post this year, this is certainly my first in over a month. And I feel bad about that, I really do. I could write a list of excuses, I could tell you how busy I am with my other blog, My First Dictionary, I could ’splain it all to you over croissants and a mint julep, but I sense none of those would do any good anyhow. And pastry with cocktails is never a good idea.

A bunker like that from which I emerged today

Perhaps the main reason I’ve not been updating recently is that I simply haven’t watched anything in an AiP vein to write about. I’ve hardly watched any films at all, in fact, since I last reviewed the new Last House on the Left a few weeks back, although the ones I have seen (Gran Torino, Bolt, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) – mainstream as they are – have all been quite good. There’s also been Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff, which I hope to write about here shortly (because it’s really quite interesting, y’know) and something called Red Mist.

Oh, Red Mist... While we’re on the subject of that new supernatural slasher, I can tell you I reviewed it over at Retro Slashers, so that’s one piece I’ve managed recently, and the movie’s worth a look if you want to see what happens when the “prank gone wrong” and “hospital slasher” subgenres collide (clue: it’s messy!). I also put together a gallery of Really Retro Slasher Villains, which I think looks pretty spiffy in all its monochrome menace.

Bunker fish. I saw lots of these in my bunker.

What about the stuff I haven’t done? Well, I’m mad, mad, mad, MAD with myself for missing the submission deadline for Vince Liaguno’s mouth-watering upcoming slasher book, Butcher Knives & Body Counts. Not that I expect to have had anything accepted but – damn – it would’ve been worth it to get the chance to have something included in the kind of good company that’s been announced so far.

And, speaking of good company, I happen to know that super-scribe Amanda By Night is working on something pretty special at the moment, which she asked me to be a part of but which I’ve unforgivably neglected of late. Let’s see if I can get back on track a bit and enable her to get it finished before AiP’s next annual post.

In the meantime, I highly recommend becoming a follower of Tower Farm Reviews, in my opinion the natural successor to Anchorwoman In Peril, where Billy and JM have an uncanny knack of picking the movies I keep meaning to be review... Seriously, can you think of any other site that could segue effortlessly from Ticks to Roller Boogie in the space of a few reviews? I rest my case (and hopefully not on your foot).

See you intermittently!*

*No guarantee of intermittent reader-writer reunion is implied or should be inferred.

haunted house script update

just finished prologue scene 1 of the script.

celtx is an amazing piece of software that takes care of all the screenplay formatting. it really helps a neophyte screenwriter, such as myself, stay on task.

next, i'll tackle prologue scene 2.

ever onward.

A New Avenue For Black Cinema?

This is a cross-post of an article I did for our Black Cinema collective blog Shadow And Act; please join us over there for updates throughout the day, every day, on Black Cinema and it's offshoots...

Over the weekend, I watched two, shall we say, very frugal DVD productions; "Peaches" (thanks a lot Sergio) and "Applause For Miss E." Both are Black stage plays transferred to DVD.

I'd written about "Peaches" starring Wendy Raquel Robinson, a little earlier this year, after Sergio emailed me a trailer of it. It is the story of a Jezebel/femme fatale that drives men crazy and you readers gave it a hearty thumbs down, deservedly so...honestly it was akin to a middle school play--just atrocious.

But when I watched "Applause For Miss E" (to see the trailer click HERE), which is about a woman who missed her chances as a comedienne and in life, it made me much more reflective. You see, it had the same shoestring budget, and the same lightweight elementary school-type plot as "Peaches", but the huge difference was in the casting. It starred Vanessa Bell Calloway and mistress of a thousand hairstyles, Jazsmin Lewis, (no real surprises there) but it made my heart heavy to see the beautiful and talented Gina Torres involved with this. And as much as I talk sh*t about Roger Guenveur Smith, is was pretty disheartening to see him hamming it up and chewing up the scenery with the most mangled southern accent ever portrayed on stage here. He actually seemed drunk and high, and he probably was, to numb the reality of having to actually be associated with this project.

My first thought was, has it really come to this? Our A-list players being reduced to television (i.e. Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett), and our B string list going the so-called "chitlin' circuit" route?

But that is too obvious. Something deeper is brewing. Let me begin by saying that I have no problem with these plays being done; I have actually enjoyed a few. There is an audience out there that lives on them, so why should they be denied? Sergio and I were on Afronerd's podcast with David Talbert (who is the original Tyler Perry) and he relayed that he makes the same type of play, with the same themes, and the same morals over and over again because it was what people wanted, and it was the only thing he knew well, and he had absolutely no ambitions beyond that. I gave him a huge amount of respect for not pretending to be anything else.

That being said, maybe we should take a page from Talbert's and Tyler Perry's books. They have taken a mostly ignored medium and have taken ownership of it, with varying degrees of success. They know what the market is, and haven't waited on the YT studio system to give them comfort and aproval, and they have their visions played out to the masses on their own terms. Maybe we can explore the same route in getting our stories told that we desperately want to see...say Harriet Tubman's life story, or a realistic Black romance, via the stage to DVD route.

A while back I did a "7 Questions" with actor Carl Gilliard, and his advice to up and coming filmmakers was to keep costs down by filming a movie like a play. Few actors, just a couple of sets, and really concentrate on the script. We have complained many times about how quality Black films are either not getting greenlit, or are not distributed in a way to reach a general audience. Could this be a way to take matters into our own hands?

Think about it. In the 70's and 80's, stage plays were hugely popular and big events for Blacks--Colored Girls Who Have Considered, Your Arms Too Short To Box With God, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Dreamgirls...I could go on and on. Of course, these were more pricey productions than the current state of stage plays, but that is my point. Why not tweak the current formula and bring in Black Hollywood actors that are undervalued and underused in the YT system? (I don't know about you, but I am tired of seeing the same 5 Black actors in high profile movies). Build beautiful set designs, use amazing scripts, maybe some big name Black directors with stories we want to see? Plays written from bestselling Black books? The possibilities are endless. Then transfer these plays to DVDs. Black folks surely have always found a way to buy Tyler's Madea plays en force. This can be a very genuine and viable way for us to command our own ship, so to speak (with the real threat of piracy, haha).

I'm not saying that this is the end all, but it can be a real way to get out of the dreadful and sorry current state of Black Hollywood, because in my opinion, it certainly can't get any worse than it is right now. Ask Roger Guenveur Smith if you don't believe me.

Kettles, Robots, and Swimming in "Post Racial America"....

I think it's safe to say that our infatuation with the promise of a "post-racial America" is officially way over. Not that I ever bought into it, for sure. Much about race is bubbling up these days, and while a tiny bit of it just has me shaking my head, the rest of it just makes me wanna kick somebody's ass sometimes. Like Field Negro said, it's just exhausting trying to keep up.

What leaves me going "whatever, dude" is pot/kettle Quincy Jones' non-revelation about Micheal Jackson "wanting to be white". "Have you seen his kids?" he asks in an interview. Wow. This from a man who I've never seen date anyone darker than a Sunset Spray Tan, and whose daughters can pass so well they actually get work in Hollywood. This is who he was with in Europe instead of attending the funeral of the man who made him zillions:

Speaking of Micheal, spotted this on my blogging buddy Eric Easter's site "Big Ideas" from Ebony/Jet.Com. It is a video of Sammy Davis Jr. comparing himself to Michael Jackson on Arsenio Hall, and ends up being something close to a confessional on race. Sammy goes in a few different directions, but you can see and feel the pain this immensely talented man went through, and he used that talent to navigate his way through a tragic life, just like Mike. It was his shield, just like Mike. Oddly Sammy was the only other celebrity besides MJ that made me cry when he passed.

What makes one want to put foot to ass is the situation in Philly that most have heard about by now, where a group of children were denied entry into a swimming pool because it was feared they may change "the complexion" of the pool area. Yes, the fools that run the joint actually said that.

I am not surprised, however, as the same thing happened to me as a kid. My family and I took a road trip to Canada, and in one hotel in Washington state we went swimming. When we went in, all of the YT's promptly got out. I saw one kid crying to his mom "Why can't we swim? I want to swim!" and his mother hissed at him to "shut the hell up". When I asked my mother if everyone got out because of us (it was even obvious to me as an 8 year old), she said "don't worry about it, there's just more room for us to swim now". And being a kid, I promptly forgot about about it. But now that I know better, I'm sure she felt all of the pain, hurt, and frustration those kids in Philly felt, and what made it more ridiculous is though Black, she is the same skin tone as those who got out. I am grateful she made light of it for my sake, so I did not feel what she felt too.

And finally, a cinema related statement on race; a post that my blogging soulmate Tafari did for The Afrospear, which he relayed got him a lot of heated haterade comments:

"Yesterday, I made it a point to go see “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” in IMAX. Ever since the last Transformers theatrical release I had been giddy for more.

Hours before I headed to the movies, I started reading posts online that discussed racism in the movie but still I pressed on to Showcase Cinemas and dropped $10.50 for my ticket.

Fast forwarding 2.5 hours later. I’m walking out of the theater with my mind blown for many reasons; 1st, the movie was so action packed I thought I was going to slip into a seizure. 2nd the movie was overtly sexual, which made it seem like an R rated movie instead of PG-13 and 3rd the racism that was built into the movie was billed as comedic relief.

As I drove home, I tried to reconcile the racism but I could not, so I decided to sleep on it.

So this morning, when I woke up, I actually got mad about what I saw in “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” The racism that I’m talking about in case you don’t already know is dealing with the Autobot twins “Skids” and “Mudflap” or the “ Little Black Sambo[ts].

  1. Both of the twins talk like they are straight from a Lil Wayne video.

  2. They play the dozens (crack jokes on each other and anyone else) in every scene.
  3. They are seemingly proud of the fact that they cannot read. “Read?! Nuh-uh…” “No, we don’t really do much readin’!”

  4. Skids has a GOLD front tooth. Yes, a big bucked out gold tooth
  5. The names “Skids” and “Mudflap” imply darkness and or nastiness.

  6. Do I really need to add a 6th, you should get the picture now.

(Wait, for extra measure, if you want to see another relevant countdown list, you have to read this. “7 reasons why Transformers 2 might be racist…”)

With all this now parsed out, I’m wondering why and how this stereotypical bullshit slipped past Michael Bay and Paramount Pictures. Did they care? Did they know? Did they think it was ok?

I feel bad and torn because I actually liked the movie a lot, but how could I in good conscious? Maybe it’s the kid in me remembering watching the cartoon way back in the mid 80s.

Although the racism pisses me off about this flick, I was also disturbed about the adult content and overt hypersexuality. But like I said, I liked the movie, so what does this mean about me?

I know I won’t see the movie again, nor will I purchase the DVD. I do not want my kids seeing this mess and not only that it’s so not a kids movie. Don’t let the PG-13 rating fool you!

Transformers used to be all about the kids way back when, but not so much now thanks to Michael Bay and Paramount Pictures. I’m just saying.

Side note: This post is not nearly what I wanted it to be. Not at all! My thoughts are with and on Michael Jackson. As I wrap this up, I’m chair dancing to “Off The Wall” while I try to control my urge to cry about a man that reached my soul through song, dance and beauty."

From IW: Why am I not surprised that Mike Epps was the voice one of those coontastic robots?

Update: OK, I was misinformed. It wasn't Mike Epps, but one of the voices was YT Tom Kenny, who also voices Spongebob Squarepants :-(

Beautiful Decay II

Ten years ago, I read Crash by J.G. Ballard. Published in 1973, Crash is the story of two characters named Ballard and Vaughan. They have been desensitized by the world around them. In order to feel, Ballard and Vaughan begin studying car crashes and car crash victims. In the midst of their studies, Ballard and Vaughan find themselves aroused by what they see. The book follows them as they begin to experiment.

I can't say that this is my favourite book. However, it did leave an impression on me. My favourite passage is from Chapter 13. Ballard and Vaughan attend a crash test research lab symposium. The purpose of the symposium is to simulate an auto accident, using crash test dummies in a car and on a motorcycle. The scientists record the simulation for later study. Ballard (the author) describes the accident as the audience watches the video playback in slow motion. It is a dance...a haunting, mesmerizing and brutal dance.

I immediately thought that this would make an amazing music video. At the time, I heard the Adrian Belew song "Fly" as slow-motion images of crash test dummies flying through the air played. However, I couldn't afford any film equipment as a broke college student. Creating crash test simulations was also out of the question. The images that were in my imagination had to remain there.

Cut to ten years later. Jamie, Chris and I are sitting at Amer's Deli in Ann Arbor at the beginning of June, discussing our film production company. In the interest of expanding our horizons, we decided to start our own little book club for just the three of us. The first book: Crash by J.G. Ballard. I re-read the book and get to Chapter 13. It still effects me in the same way that it did ten years ago. And then it hits me:

I can make this music video now.

Because I have no way of simulating crash tests, I start scrounging on the internet.

You'd be surprised what you can find on Google with the right search pattern.

When I sat down to start editing, I queued Adrian Belew's "Fly" in i-movie with footage ready to be cut. And then I froze. I had the film editor's equivalent of writer's block. I sat for almost an hour trying to edit and nothing was working. As I sat there frustrated, I realized that the reason nothing was happening was because I was cutting the images in my head to a song that wasn't mine.

So, I scrolled through the tracks on my album. Once Beautiful Decay II came up, I knew I had something.

All of this is a very long introduction for my second film short.

A few caveats before we begin:

1/ All of the footage that you will see is simulated. These are crash tests. No human beings were involved.

2/ I make no ownership claims of the raw footage. The footage was borrowed from different sources. I am operating strictly under the guidelines of copyleft. In the interest of full disclosure, a list of my sources can be found at the bottom of this post.

3/ The footage is very low quality. However, that adds to the aesthetic of the piece.

And so, without further ado, I give you "Beautiful Decay II":

A direct link to the video can be found here.

As usual, please leave comments (regardless of whether they're good, bad, constructive, etc.).

Video Sources






film short #2 update

i have finished editing the new film short.

as i approached the finish, i became more anxious/excited. this is a good thing.

as i watched the finished product, i also became more anxious/excited. this is an even better thing.

i want to sleep on it and watch it again tomorrow before i release it into the wild.

bottom line: this is a good one.

more later.

Movie Review: The Human Contract

I didn't write about this film "from writer-director Jada Pinkett-Smith" on my movie review site "Soul Sis-Star Reviews" as I don't really consider it Black Cinema, but wanted to comment on it because of it's director, Mrs. Will Smith.

Full disclosure: I am not the biggest fan of Jada--I am not even what you would consider a small one, but I tried to stay as unbiased and objective as possible while viewing this.

I am, however, a huge and devoted fan of those who do many things in their lifetime, and do it with confidence, swagger, and success. Transistions that a normal person would like to do even one of in their lifetime. People like Paul Newman for example, who was an actor, a race car driver, and a philanthropist. Fred Williamson who was a football star, TV star on Diahann Carroll's 60's TV show Julia, then went on to produce his own movies, making him arguably the biggest Black action star ever.

Then we have Mrs. Smith, though trying out everything in her heart's desire; book author, relationship expert, TV star, rocker, producer, philanthropist, and now director, seems to be a Jack of all trades and master of none. Well, except how to marry very, very, well.

That's not exactly fair, I guess. I have a begrudging respect that she actually does it, tho the results are usually not impressive to me. There is something about her that I find very disingenuous, and with this film I found myself bouncing back and forth from the begrudging respect back to my thoughts of pretension.

The respect comes from the fact that she wrote a film that isn't entirely bad--a story of a bored and suppressed rich and well connected executive, who finds an interesting and much needed diversion with Spanish star Paz Vega.

The story is not complicated, seemingly aiming to be a sexy noir-ish film on par with "9 1/2 Weeks" or "Basic Instinct", where a mysterious and sexy stranger shakes up the life up a formerly repressed and conservative protagonist, bringing out a freak inside they never knew existed, thereby freeing all other emotional, spiritual repression, blah, blah, blah.

There are several issues which prevent this film from reaching the annals of the movies I just mentioned....first of all let me state that I promptly fell asleep 15 minutes in, despite the fact there was a sex scene and Idris Elba using his real Brit accent 10 minutes in. Not a good sign.

There is also the lead, probably the most unsexy dude ever in a supposedly erotic film, Jason Clarke. He is unlikeable in every way, not that handsome or hot, only showing emotion when he is angry, and when he is angry, then someone always gets beat down. Badly. What executive goes around doing things like that? (It is part of the supposed "big reveal"). The pacing is very uneven, mostly deadly slow, with no tension or anything compelling to keep you wondering what will happen next. In fact, the film doesn't really even have a point until about an hour into it--surely a factor that will lose many a viewer. Jada Pinkett plays the executive's sister. Ummm...why is he white and she's Black? Why is absolutely no explanation given about that? (at least not one that I heard).

Great attention is given to a rice dish that Vega feeds the exec; it pans over the plate slowly no less than three times, yet a scene where the exec saves a homeless man from near death is given exactly 15 seconds. Huh?

Anyhoo, Paz Vega turns out to be married, but she and her husband have "an understanding" and apparently he is solidly behind her while she's out juking whomever, male or female. Is this art imitating life, Jada? Or just titillating stuff that you do with the press so well?

Turns out the exec ends up having a problem with the husband situation, even though she'd been quite clear and honest all along from practically the beginning. And despite the fact that all she does is look extremely beautiful and is extremely kind and understanding to him, even though he is a self-centered, spoiled, whiney crybaby. Just a couple of the many holes in the story. He ends up learning about life and love through her, after it's just a bit too late.

What we have on our hands is not a 9 1/2 Weeks or a Basic Instinct, but something in the realm of their massively inferior sequels; "Wild Orchid" and "Basic Instinct 2", both also very unsexy "erotic" thrillers. But I must admit, even saying all of this, it is a pretty film to look at, and Jada has potential if she could focus on one thing. Maybe just writing, or maybe just directing. And no Spike Lee-ing by inserting herself in the film. Just my opinion.