School Daze Turns 25

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How time flies. Yesterday, 25 years ago, one of the best movies ever made (in my opinion), School Daze was released. If you don’t stop whatever you’re doing to watch this classic film when it comes on, I’m definitely giving you a side-eye.

I was seven years old when it was released, and I don’t recall my first time seeing it, but it my crash course for HBCU college life. It was the predecessor to Drumline and Stomp the Yard, and even gave Hillman College on A Different World a run for its money. To me, it was a perfect depiction of life on a Historically Black College campus, and I wanted in. When I was younger, the best parts of the movie were acting out “I Don’t Wanna Be Alone Tonight” (I know all of the choreography) or singing along to “I Can Only Be Me.” It wasn’t until I attended college at Southern University, a HBCU, that I fully understood what was going on in the movie

Fifteen years later, the same things shown in the film were still happening campuses across the nation: colorism and hair issues between African American students, pledging fraternities and sororities, relationships, social activism, compromise of morals and yes, major partying. My college experience looked very much like School Daze. I realized after it was over that you really did a learn about yourself during those formative years. You grow up—hopefully.

Everyone knows the iconic end of the movie—Dap, played by Lawrence Fishburne, rings the bell on the yard of Mission College and screams “WAKE UP!!!” as people file out of their dorms in their pajamas. With humor and real life stories, Lee wanted us to get our heads, not just our beds, and see the bigger picture. How much of ourselves will we compromise to be in the “in crowd”? Just how far were we willing to go to be loved or accepted? How long will we base our self-worth on our complexions and hair? How long will be servants to self, instead of others?

By now, I’ve gotten the lessons from the movie, so I’m free to going back to the childlike state whenever I pop the DVD in and revel in the music and performances. Thank you, Mr. Lee, for giving us School Daze. It will always be a treasure to us. Now, excuse me as I pretend to be one of the Gamma Rays on the homecoming stage.

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The Best Man 2…Is It Too Late?

 

While perusing my usual daily sites, I stumbled across a headline. According to “the innanet and blogs,” Malcolm Lee, the producer of The Best Man, arguably a classic released during the era of black romance comedies in the early 2000s is creating a sequel to be released in November 2013. After we have watched it repeatedly on BET, TVOne and premium channels and mimicked our favorite lines (“Hugo Boss…prestigious law firm? Need I say more?”) for years on end, part two is finally on the way. Now how do we really feel about that?

It’s unnecessary. The length of time since we all packed the theater to see the original is a factor. It was released 14 years ago in 1999. Do we still care about what happened to the group of college friends enough to cosign a full production?

 

Then, the characters were around 28-30 years old. That means in the sequel they should be anywhere between 40 and 45 years-old. Not to say that getting older isn’t interesting or sexy, but it takes a bit more creativity to spice up a story about individuals who are no longer living for the chance to sleep with a would-be flame during a wedding weekend in their 20s. You remember the lackluster reviews for Sex and the City 2 once “the girls” gave up the chase and all settled down (I was flabbergasted when I realized Samantha was “fifty-fucking-two.”)? What’s good now that the gang as grown up?

Let’s take Bad Boys 2 as an example of a sequel released much later than the original. Released eight years later, it still hit the mark for action, storylines and comedy. So much so, that we’re still crossing our fingers for part three today and a green light was given for production almost two years ago. Unlike The Best Man or Love and Basketball, Bad Boys 2 was based on the series theme, rather than what happened next with the characters’ story lines. I’m not so interested in seeing another “Best Man,” unless Quentin finally marries Shelby. Now, that would be comedy.

My point is: sequels are very tricky. Sometimes the movies we love shouldn’t be tampered with. If you’re going to bring a black all-star cast together like The Best Man’s cast again, how about producing a new movie altogether on a different subject matter? Lord knows, we are due for some new stories, even if they are with the same go-to actors. Le sigh.

Since it’s definitely going to happen, I’d like to know if Harper and Robin ever really get married, or did he back out at the last minute? Did he really become a bestseller or even a Christian? Is Jordan in a relationship and/or a mother or is she still career-driven and “one step away from lesbian” like she was portrayed? How did Lance cope with Mia sleeping with Harper in the long run? I’m curious to see how they will answer our questions and create new drama packed with valuable lessons like the first. Then again, that’s what writers are for.

So, I’ll be in the theater with my box of Lemonheads (brought from home) ready to see what the producers and writers have in store, but this time, hopefully, I won’t think Taye Diggs is “self-serving, backstabbing bastard,” and I definitely won’t let out a loud scream when Morris Chestnut enters the room. The thrill is gone.

‘Sparkle’ Barely Shines, But Teaches Timeless Lessons

I didn’t care for the remake of Sparkle. *insert sad face here*

I know. I can’t believe it myself. It was glossy and fresh with a new story line, a star-studded cast and even Whitney Houston lent her beautiful voice to scene (of course, I cried a little.). All of that, and I still wasn’t impressed. There was a little shine, but not enough sparkle for me.

I should tell you first that Sparkle is one of my favorite movies. It’s another that my mama made me watch as a child (look at the others at Ebony.com). I’m in love in with eras of the past and how we looked and lived in them. Lonette McKee as Sister, to me, was the real star of the movie even though Irene Cara as Sparkle, the film’s namesake, was the one who struggled to keep her dreams alive while falling in love for the first time and nurturing a “sick” sister.

Salim Akil’s Sparkle was stripped, too clean and lacked that “vintage” feeling, despite the costumes and sets reminiscent of old Detroit. I didn’t see the dirty pain that Sister went through with Satin Struthers in the original. Mike Epps is a great actor, but not believable as a villain. I couldn’t really follow the story either. I couldn’t figure out if seeing the original or not seeing it would have made the adaptation better. It was set in the 1960s, but for a while, it seemed to be set in today’s time. Overall, the original premise was there, but there was a completely different twist to each character.

Here’s what I liked: Jordin Sparks was excellent! We need more music from her, and she should totally consider acting as another gig. Derek Luke really embodied Stix. He has a great ability to act in these encouraging “You can do it” roles opposite women. The ladies’ clothes were gorgeous, but the choreography? Eh. I’m probably being petty though.

Here’s where I went wrong though. I didn’t do my homework on the adaptation first, so I went in expecting the original movie. All I saw were three ladies in pretty dresses singing those old Aretha Franklin songs I loved so much, so everything else from the original movie should have been there, too. Not true. Had I read early reviews or even visited the website, I would’ve known that T.D. Jakes produced the film. He’s done some great movies (Jumping the Broom, Not Easily Broken) that address relevant issues in relationships, from infidelity to guilt, but with a Christian spin, without hitting you over the head with it.

Taking that into consideration, there were several themes in the movie that now, I can see: forgiveness, faith, love and using your gifts for good. If Sparkle doesn’t do anything else for you, it will teach a lesson about following your dreams, even if you have to go against those you love. Faith in your gift to succeed is really faith in God, and that’s what matters.

Go see it if you need something to do for leisure. As long as you let the original Sparkle concept go, you’ll be fine.

 

The Love Jones Standard and Five Other Films That Should Never Be Remade

In light of the rumors circulating that Tyler Perry will remake the classic, Love Jones, this post is a must. Last week, Very Smart Brothas (VSB) posted  A Sneak Peak into Tyler Perry’s Love Jones. As of last night,  the blog authors were still retweeting followers’ reactions to the rumor. They were flabbergasted, hurt, outraged and any other emotion that stems from disgust. I usually come to Perry’s defense when everyone calls his work coonery and bufoonery or a blow to heterosexual Black men everywhere. I think there’s both some good and bad in his films, and they’re definitely a reflection of his own upbringing and personal struggles more than anyone else’s. HowEVER,  I draw the line when it comes to Love Jones. A bold, red line that can’t be crossed. I dare you to cross it.

Love Jones set the standard for African-American romantic comedies which would thrive in the late 90s into the mid-2000s. Instead of violence and gang-banging, you saw a group of young adults, taking the alternative route for fun, hanging out at house parties and poetry clubs. It showed a side of our culture that was familiar to some, but unfamiliar to most due to lack of exposure in the arts and media. It was about the realest film I’d seen regarding relationships, and I was only 16 when it was released. There they were, two educated black folks, playing the game, “just kickin’ it,” a scenario that’s all too familiar to many, only to find their way back to each other after hating friends, pride and distance kept them apart.

It was my generation’s true love story. It is perfect. From the dance scene at the Wild Hare to the love scene and kiss in the rain, it was everything to us. Love Jones cannot be touched by anyone but the original writers and producers, and even then, I’d be afraid it’d have The Game Curse.

Don’t croak at your laptop. The rumor is just that–a rumor (click here for VSB’s Twitter response). Regular readers of VSB know that they often deal in satire and comedy, which is why we love them. What if this idea that we uppity Neo-Blacks fear so much was even half-true? I’m wondering if the outrage was sparked by such an iconic film being remade or by who would be dabbling with it. There are some movies should never be remade…by anyone.  Spike Lee or Antoine Fuqua could have put their hands on it, I’d still wait (maybe) until the bootlegged version was released. Here are some of my picks for films in African-American cinema that should never be remade:

Coming to America

No one can do Akeem or Mr. McDowell justice. Don’t even try it.

Love & Basketball

I don’t think any couple could match Sanaa’ Lathan and Omar Epps’ chemistry. They were actually together off-screen at that time.

I’m Gonna Git U Sucka

Classic. There’s no way they find that many people to do that much foolishness in one movie again.

Boomerang

There is NO movie without Grace Jones as Strange’ or the late Eartha Kitt as Lady Eloise. ‘Mahhh-cuzzz, dahling!”

Boyz in the Hood

Yeah, a remake at this point would be a complete fail. Seeing black men shot in cold blood is not a winner, but I would definitely audition for Regina King’s role as Iesha in Poetic Justice.

A Review for Black Swan: Perfection vs. Passion

Remind me to find out what a movie is actually about before I go see it. Last night, a friend and I saw Darren Aronosky’s Black Swan starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel. I’d only seen bits and pieces of the trailer. The only things I knew were it was about a ballerina who gets pretty aggressive and it’s already been nominated for two Golden Globe Awards. Under normal circumstances, those two factors wouldn’t push me sit in a theater for two hours to watch it, but there was something intriguing and very “un-ballet” about it all. I wanted to see it.

It took about 45 minutes to realize Black Swan is a psychological thriller. There are overtones of seduction and sex, as Nina played by Portman, the timid ballerina selected as Swan Queen, the lead role in a Swan Lake remake, fights to get in touch her dark side to make a perfect performance.

“All that discipline, and for what?”

Without giving away the movie, Black Swan zoomed in on the following themes: passion, self-denial, surrendering to self and eroticism. The movie focuses on the duality of a person, and begs the questions: What are you afraid of? Does perfection really exist?

It’s my opinion that every person has two sides, a ying and a yang. While some people are experts in the balancing act, some only operate in one dimension. Nina was an accomplished ballerina, but her producer doubted her ability to let go and be a seductress for the sake of her craft. Her obsession to be perfect resulted in rigidness, creating a less passionate work.

I’d like to think that while striving for perfection can be healthy,  it isn’t the answer to everything. That theme can easily be applied any other area of life. Aren’t there times when “letting go” and stepping outside of the box are necessary? Sometimes you have to sacrifice yourself or that which is so familiar and comfortable to get the results you’re seeking.

I’m not a cinema buff, but I think I know a good movie when I see one, and Black Swan is one of them. It stimulates every sense. For most of the movie, I was on the edge of my seat. The cinematography was amazing, taking you through every pirouette and plie’ in the dance sequences. Portman, though lacking in words for much of the film, gives an excellent dance and acting performance. She completely transformed by the end of the film.

There were some holes in the story for me though. There’s little explanation of Nina’s mom’s bizarre behavior or her bodily reactions to some things in the film, but overall it’s a story with just the right mix of thought-provoking symbolism and thrill. Finally, not only does it take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, but it forces you to ask yourself if you’ve ever met your “dark” side.

Black Swan was definitely “on pointe.”

Five Reasons Why ‘Takers’ Took #1

 

Best shot of the whole film

So it’s official. Will Packer’s film, Takers, starring an all-star cast of actors and entertainers turned actors was #1 in ticket sales its opening weekend, bringing in $20.5 million. It was a GREAT movie. It exceeded my expectations in all areas: acting, action and story lines. I’ve heard a few people say that it sucked, while others are calling it the new day heist classic. I won’t go that far since heist movies aren’t my thing, but I do think Will Packer, producer of Stomp the Yard (1&2) and Obsessed, produced this movie with  the most popular business formula by Tom Peters in mind: Underpromise; overdeliver. Takers did just that. Here’s why:

1. Idris. Tip. Paul. Michael. Hayden and yes, Chris. I initially thought this movie would have been a great “Date Night” movie, but upon looking at the preview again, I changed my mind. I decided not to go with a guy to see a movie chock-full of eye candy. Within a week of the release, two friends asked about going. Evidently, every other young woman in Memphis had the same idea: Go to see Takers and lust over these fine men together. Good ol’ female bonding–no Waiting to Exhale. The cast is what I’ll call the perfect mix of swagger. (Forgive me. I vowed to never use that word again, but dammit, it fits!). There was something for everyone and every taste in men.

2. The Allure. Nothing peaks the average American’s interest more than fine men dressed in tailored suits, beautiful women, flashing lights, cocktails, fast cars and money. From Miami Vice to Takers, over twenty years later, the formula still works. In the words of Dave Chappelle: GOTCHA, BITCH!!

3. The Action. I saw the preview a few months ago. The only thing I could remember was Tip and Chris were in a movie together. That was enough for me. (Too easy!) I didn’t see the action coming. at. all. First things first: I’m not an action film kind of girl, so it’s a great thing that I didn’t expect it. And even better thing is that I loved it. The guns, the fights, the chases–Takers had it all. Chris Brown’s scene (I nicknamed him “Lil Pooh” immediately upon sighting) was awesome! According to MTV News, he did 96 percent of his stunts. Di-ZAMM!

4. Clifford Harris’ ad-libs and humor. I swear Tip’s Atlanta accent works for him, rather than against him. It’s eerily funny, partly because it just is, but more so because I’m from the South. Therefore, I “get it.” I have a strange feeling that “I’ll put three holes in ya head like a bowling ball” wasn’t in the original script. Neither were all the other lines during the heist. He definitely added comedy to the film. Big ups to Tip!

Sorry, I tried! Believe me!

5. Idris Elba in boxer briefs. It’s quite possible that as he sat in the bed in nothing but his “drawz,” every woman in every theater around the world secretly prayed that the camera would zoom in as he got up. Our prayers were answered. Rejoice!

Congratulations to the Takers cast and production crew. Keep films like these coming!

Sex and the City 2: The Evolution

“And there, in the same city where they met as girls, four New York women entered the next phase of their lives dressed head to toe in love.”

-Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City (I)

Well, the girls have grown up, and you can’t say you weren’t warned.

They’re still in the city and they still have sex (Hello, Samantha!), but there’s something different this time around. For years, we have been hypnotized by their adventures in finding love, coupled with sexcapades and relationship drama, but this movie answers the question: What happens after you find the love you were always searching for? How does life work then? Is youth and the chase more alluring than age and comfort?

I purposely did not read any reviews of the movie until I saw it, though you should check out Sex and the City Psychology and Belle for two different perspectives. I’d heard that a few industry reviews were less than stellar, and I was a little worried. I couldn’t believe that the girls wouldn’t be able to pull it off like they always do. (I had this overwhelming fuzzy feeling after I watched the first one. I wanted to hug my mama and call all of my besties near and far to tell them I loved them. I watch it every time it comes on and cry over the JOP wedding scene. See 4:18)

To those who never watched the Sex and the City series (I didn’t know they existed.), on the outside it seemed to be a fairytale about women who have lives that most will never attain. (The average woman doesn’t snag Manolo Blaniks and Prada bags on a whim, nor rock them to the corner market just for kicks.) To put it bluntly, a follower on Twitter said, “Why is everybody going to watch four rich white girls talk about sex and money? Why? I think they just four old sluts looking for love.”

I pointed out that for most women, sex, money and beautiful clothes are universal themes that, though we may not have them all at the same time, in a perfect world, we would. Life would be so boring without fantasy, and that’s why Sex and the City is a hit. Beyond that, SATC 2 shows the evolution of the four women who have come full circle since their early 30s, some trading in their sky-high libidos for hot flashes, others finally finding the balance between work and family.

There were several themes in the movie that stood out: (1) Compromise: Even after two years of marriage to Big, Carrie seemed to be stuck between her old life of VIP nights and excitement and her new life as a married woman destined to eat takeout forever. Big was caught up, too. Is it possible to take the spark of our old lives with us to our new lives? (2) Perfection: No person or their life is perfect. Period. It’s okay to be less than a Stepford Wife (3) Life Cycles: When Jay said he wanted to be “Forever Young,” he was referring to a state of mind, not the state of the body. (Again, hello, Samantha!) (4) Womanhood: The need to be heard and feel beautiful is innate in all women, even those who aren’t as “free” as us American women. (5) Friendship: This is what had women making plans and getting glam for movie premieres. Through hectic schedules and ex-boyfriend pop-ups, friendship never goes out of style.

Aside from the consistent themes, The girls changed, but they’d stayed the same, too. Samantha was always on point to provide the crass comic relief, while Miranda was her usual type-A self and Charlotte was the voice of reason (annoying at times to me). Carrie, the Golden Girl, purposely, was the one with internal conflict–trying so hard to find peace in herself and the relationship she waited so long to get.

Did it measure up to the usual standards? Yes, but in different terms. Movie-goers who expected to see the ladies clad in Gucci, partying it up in the clubs with one-night stands to follow only might have been let down. Sex and the City is a theme, not a permanent way of life, and this installment showed that. They’re in their 40s with the exception of Samantha, who’s “fifty-fucking-two years old.” Does life outside of your 20s and 30s stop? Of course not, but it does take a different turn.

The beauty of it, though, is the girls continue to find their way through life’s inevitable changes with style, and as they always have–dressed in love.