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utzworld

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Posts posted by utzworld


  1. Chris, what do you want to write about? What ideas are you mulling over?

    I can't answer your questions re. what will get an Oscar nomination - I don't think there's any formula, and I'm not sure the question is relevant to what you want to do.

    Again, I'd argue for a separate thread on this, especially given the current thread's subtitle...

    I will leave the questions on the table in hopes that someone here will be able to get past their preconceived notions about them (not to mention me!) and simply answer them. What I'm REALLY looking for is for folks to honestly share (as you did) their likes and dislikes about the AA films they've seen. The opinion of this community are crucial research for my project.


  2. The issue at hand again:

    Excessive hype and good movie/bad movie debates aside
    That statement alone should have shut down any conversation & debate about your like/dislike of "Dreamgirls".

    I don't think too many of you understand what was riding with this movie.

    I said it before in my review and I'll say it again. "Dreamgirls" was the rarest of a rare breed: an African American event movie. Every year we get at least 4-5 (maybe more) event movies - Spidey, Superman, Pirates and so forth. Black films, on the other hand, get regulated to the "second hand" pile by the film world...unless, of course, your name is Denzel, Will, Samuel L., Morgan and (just recently) Jamie or Terrence.

    The topic of my discussion again, for the umpteenth time, bolded and italicised...so any preconceived notions can be tossed out of the window...

    "Dreamgirls" was that rare and epic shot for Our Stories to take a seat at the Oscar table. And, for a myriad of reasons, it missed. While mainstream (White) critics and film analysts are brushing their shoulders off and going on with their Oscar predictions, We (me and my homies in the Black film critical/analysis circle) are left pondering the big question...

    "What do we have to do to insure that African American stories get a fair shot at the upper echelon of critical praise & Oscar glory? American film critics as well as the Academy has (FINALLY!) turned around and started recognizing our individual acting performances. But, as everyone knows, Best Picture - not to mention the highly worshipped Year End Top Ten Lists - is the brass ring. What must African American artists do to successfully and finally achieve that elusive Brass Ring?

    Do we need to tone down our acting to make the stories more realistic (many of you felt the performances in "Dreamgirls" - and other AA films too - were/are over the top)?

    Do we need to take more time to polish up our screenwriting (keep in mind that most Black films have at least 50-75% less of a budget than mainstream Hollywood films)?

    Do our directors need more "proper film training" (Tyler Perry, who didn't get a film school degree, gets lambasted all the time by mainstream critics for "pedestrian filmmaking")?

    Should are stories be more "interesting" to mainstream society (no more hood/ghetto stories)?

    Are we as Black people (Yours Truly, Spike Lee) just too damn angry?

    Incidentally, this is about much more than "Dreamgirls", believe it or not. It's about African American stories and artists who have had to climb a virtual Mt. Everest just to get onto the big screen and the constant frustration that we feel when a good team of climbers is assembled to ascend to that mountaintop only to be knocked back down again and again.

    This is what we've felt like in the wake of "The Color Purple", "Do The Right Thing", "Boyz N The Hood", "Malcolm X", and now "Dreamgirls": good climbing teams who are unable to climb to the mountaintop. We celebrate those among us who have individually climbed to the top - we have 3 out of the 4 front-runners in the Acting categories this year. But, politically influenced or not, messy and half-baked as it may be, the Academy Award for Best Picture is the mountaintop. The day when I finally see one of Our Stories get to that mountaintop will mark my proudest day as a cinephyte.

    With that, let the discussion continue in peace. I apologize if my tone was interpreted as non-peaceful. For the aforementioned reasons, this is one of the most important dialogues in my lifetime. I believe that the challenge may rest on my shoulders (and mine alone) to see if, through the power of God, I can create an African American story with the depth, clarity and universality of the 5 Best Picture nominees that grace the halls of Oscar every year. I crave your comments and participtation like water. I only ask that you stay on topic, please. Thank you.


  3. This conversation has completely backfired on me.

    There was a method to my madness: I WAS considering launching into the deep end of the ocean and writing my own original screenplay. The plan was to take your answers to the bold faced questions and to stir them up in the pot to see what I could come up with. That's why I was pushing those questions so hard.

    However, this conversation has turned into total chaos. Therefore, I do not wish to continue the discussion.

    To those who attempted to answer my questions, I appreciate you taking the time to do so.


  4. Re. Tyler Perry, his stage shows are musicals. To make them into "straight" movies requires a complete revamp, IMO. To do that, he needs to have a far more naturalistic style for the screen, one with more well-rounded characters. As is, his characters fit the conventions of most musical comedy/drama very well, in that they're types. The situations they face certainly are real-life things, but the characters are pretty flat. Making his scripts/chracters more real and believable - or else going the opposite way and making them into full-blown musical films - seems to be his best options. If this can be done in movies like ""Down in the Delta" and "Soul Food," there's absolutely no reason it can't happen with his stuff.

    If what you say is true, then why have his first two films been the runaway successes that they have...at least in the AA community? And why are his characters so real and believable in Our eyes and not yours? What's flat to you is layered, textured, soulful and spiritual to Us. Perry's films have clearly applied your "Don't Compromise" theory. I expect "Daddy's Little Girls" to do the same.


  5. Chris, if you want my honest opinion re. Tyler Perry - his movies could be way better than they are. He's got something good, but it could be refined and made more interesting and believable.

    I've said before that (to me) his movies would make more sense if they were done as musicals, like the stage shows. They work well as part of popular theater/vaudeville. Taking the songs out causes a problem (for me) with suspension of disbelief, because his basic framework is comedy/melodrama - the background for most all musicals. i don't expect him to be August Wilson, either, nor would I want him to be. OTOH, I would love to see screen versions of Wilson's plays!)

    I completely disagree. Tyler Perry's work is based on real situations and real life. The musical stuff is just a device he uses to drive his plays along. But he doesn't need to do that in his work. In fact, that's the one thing that kept me from watching any of his plays till the movies came.

    In real life, people do not break into song after arguments (one of the myriad of "Dreamgirls" complaints). Taking the musical numbers out of his films helps his cause more than it does to harm it. It makes the stories more real and more human. One of the things I refuse to do with my plays is to add musical numbers to them. To me, that make mainstream audiences take the message of my stories less seriously. My work should stand on the strength of the writing and performances. Adding in musical numbers cheapens my work - and Tyler Perry's too for that matter

    Dreamgirls is what it is - and clearly, that has played phenomenally well on and off Broadway, and also on the screen. My thought is that the musical was meant to be somewhat over the top, and so is the film. I'm not sure if "toning down" any of the performances would work.
    OK...what about non-musical films - which is what my question was more centered towards?

    But here's the thing: I'd really *like* to see is more black directors getting a piece of the pie, but I'd also like to see that happening for directors of good indie films, not just people who make big-budget movies. That's true - to my mind - of *all* minority filmmakers in the US. Black, Hispanic/Latino (and Chicano), South and East Asian, African immigrants, people of all colors (and languages) from the Caribbean, Native American - right down the line!

    Mira Nair did some really bold things with Mississippi Masala, and I've yet to see anyone (of any race/ethnic group/nationality) come close to that, in all the years since it was released (16).

    I would *love* to see Robert Townsend, Julie Dash - and plenty of other folks out there - making new movies and getting them screened in theaters.

    Equally, I'd like to see film equivalents of "Ugly Betty" - in production values, casting, script - and diversity. Salma Hayek (who owns the rights and produces) has turned the TV world upside down with that show - with a multi-racial, multi-ethnic cast, intelligent dialogue and no stereotypes. (Ethnic/racial, that is. ;)) Maybe that will signal a big-screen trend. I'd like to hope so...

    And even the fact that Mexican directors are making inroads here, with "big" movies, is signalling what might be a major change.

    Good words...not exactly the subject of my discussion...or thread title...but good, nevertheless.


  6. Been stuck on the Dreamgirls soundtrack, Once Again by John Legend, and Jay-Z's comeback album "Kingdom Come" for the last couple of months. "Kingdom Come" is getting the most rotation in my Jeep. He's got a song called "30-Something" that's my new national anthem!


  7. Chris, I didn't think Dreamgirls was a particularly good film, and I personally resent the notion that if people don't shower awards on the film, then it implies we don't want "Black stories" to be told.

    I have no problem with your opinion of the film. And I admit that I was off base by implying that its Oscar snub meant that White people don't want to see Black Stories. On the other hand, I wrote those bold-faced questions (which, by the way, have not been fully answered yet by the A&F squad - props to my HJ partner in crime for answering the bell) to try to find out how you (White people) would prefer to see Black stories told...specifically African American stories. Let's face the truth, y'all. African American stories seemingly are the worst reviewed films out there. In this case, a film in which myself and several of my brothers and sisters have labeled a 3 1/2 to 4 star film only rates as a 2 1/2 star film in your eyes. There's a HUGE, GAPING disjunct between Our view of African American cinema and Your (Whites) view. Which, in turn, makes me truly wonder if I/we are missing something.

    So...if someone (other than Darrel) would just simply answer those questions, it could open the door to understanding for myself as well as the rest of my AA colleagues.


  8. "What do we have to do to insure that African American stories get a fair shot at Oscar glory? The Academy has (FINALLY!) turned around and started recognizing our individual acting performances. But, as everyone knows, Best Picture is the brass ring. What must African American artists do to successfully and finally achieve that elusive Brass Ring?"

    The answer is found in his later post:

    On the other hand, Spielberg was able to fully capture the essence, soul and anguish of Us in "The Color Purple". In his hands, it became more than an AA story. It became a universal, human story that transcended race and color. [emphasis added by dm]
    There is a sense in which most (although not all) films that get nominated for best picture have to become a universal story. Babel is by it's nature; The Departed maybe a little less so, but it still deals with the struggle of good and evil; Letters is about the common humanity that does not go away because we are at war with the other; Little Miss Sunshine is the sturggle and strength of family and community, even when it is totally out of order; and The Queen shows how grief and pride and status all can come together in bizarre ways. These films find their place at the Oscar table through the ways we connect with them.

    That isn't to say that Dreamgirls doesn't also have universal themes being played out. But all in all, it just wasn't that good of a movie -- but like Popechild, I'm white, male, and not that fond of musicals. In this case the "white" may play a part in that judgment; I'm sure the other two qualities do.

    As to what role my whiteness may discount Dreamgirls a bit, it might be because it still seems to me more of an AA story than a universal story. Maybe that is a burden that AA films have a hard time overcoming, because to describe something as an AA film is too say that in fact it isn't universal.

    Thanks Darrel. I completely understand your point.

    Dreamgirls was not, technically, a universal story...but I'll be doggone if it didn't blow the roof off the theatre! With the exception of the Film Criticism community - not to mention the good people of A&F, the folks I polled felt that it was a knockout. I know the folks at the Cinerama Dome last 12/16 felt that way. Half of us gave the flick a standing ovation...White folks included!

    Another issue: The Diva and I just got off the phone where we compared and contrasted "Little Miss Sunshine" with "Akeelah and the Bee" and why LMS is getting Oscar love while Akeelah was barely an afterthought...when clearly (at least to both of us) Keke Palmer's performance was much more powerful and poignant than Abigal Breslin's. But even folks round here praised that film while Akeelah (at least according to Overstreet's "homie") was simply "Meh".

    The question: Are White audiences actually turned off by the preachiness and message-centered material that is found in most AA centric films and stories?

    More answers, please...


  9. All I did was ask a few simple questions. I put them in bold not to shout at y'all or argue, but to make the questions clearly known and understood. No need to ponder the "foundation" of the questions. Just give me an answer. Simple as that.

    Incidentally, this is about much more than "Dreamgirls", believe it or not. It's about African American stories and artists who have had to climb a virtual Mt. Everest just to get onto the big screen and the constant frustration that we feel when a good team of climbers is assembled to ascend to that mountaintop only to be knocked back down again and again.

    This is what we've felt like in the wake of "The Color Purple", "Do The Right Thing", "Boyz N The Hood", "Malcolm X", and now "Dreamgirls": good climbing teams who are unable to climb to the mountaintop. We celebrate those among us who have individually climbed to the top - we have 3 out of the 4 front-runners in the Acting categories this year. But, politically influenced or not, messy and half-baked as it may be, the Academy Award for Best Picture is the mountaintop. The day when I finally see one of Our Stories get to that mountaintop will mark my proudest day as a cinephyte.


  10. No one has answered my questions yet.

    I started to, but realized I was playing into faulty assumptions.

    Oscars aren't a validation of anything. They're an entertaining side show. Do I root for certain nominated films? Yes. Do I think they represent the year's best? Rarely.

    Then there's the definition of a "black film." My concerns about that were expressed previously.

    And still no answers, just more spin.

    Let me rephrase, then...

    "What do we have to do to insure that African American stories get a fair shot at the upper echelon of critical praise & Oscar glory? American film critics as well as the Academy has (FINALLY!) turned around and started recognizing our individual acting performances. But, as everyone knows, Best Picture - not to mention the highly worshipped Year End Top Ten Lists - is the brass ring. What must African American artists do to successfully and finally achieve that elusive Brass Ring?"


  11. My second thought is that two of the three movies you mention as getting no respect from the Oscars were directed by white guys. The Spike Lees and John Singletons of the world, whom you admire, have been publicly skeptical of such films. Do they feel the same type of outrage you do over Dreamgirls?

    Spike notoriously disliked "The Color Purple" when it was originally released - mostly because of some of the changes made from its transformation from book to screen. I haven't heard too many other prominent AA artists hating on "The Color Purple".

    One thing that I have had to accept in my road to maturity is the notion that something is lost in translation when a white guy directs an AA story. On the one hand, you have Michael Mann's Ali which I definitely tossed in the "good, not great" category. Performances were sharp but some of his other narrative decisions left us scratching our heads - partcularly the scene when

    Ali's lawyer makes a phone call in a pay booth just outside the Lorraine Motel. Said phone call is suddenly interrupted by the assasination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    The 90% AA audience (in which I saw the film in) let out a collective "HUH?!?!" during that scene.

    On the other hand, Spielberg was able to fully capture the essence, soul and anguish of Us in "The Color Purple". In his hands, it became more than an AA story. It became a universal, human story that transcended race and color.

    To answer that question, it simply boils down to the director having passion for the project he's working on. A white director can be just as passionate about an African American story as a Black director can - case in point: "Dreamgirls". Bill Condon's passion for this story was evident in each frame of the film (at least it was to me, the Diva and my other "homies").

    Third, wasn't The Color Purple nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture?

    11 nominations. 0 wins. Many of us still feel the sting of that loss.

    Lastly, I went to see a movie last night that I knew nothing about: Smokin' Aces. Directed by a white guy, starring a white guy in the lead. The theater was packed; obviously, I don't watch or listen to the same media as do all those folks, who were anticipating something special. Who, you might ask, was promoting the screening? Not a radio station, but, as it turns out, something called The Hip Hop Zone. I just Googled it and discovered its a Web site in a rebuilding phase, scheduled to debut next month. So how'd they get so many people out to the theater?

    I don't know the answer, but my point is: The audience was mixed, with plenty of African Americans turning out to see a gangster movie (co-starring some African American actors and actresses) full of gunfire and bloodshed. What does that mean? Is it symptomatic of a larger trend?

    Frankly, it means nothing deep or profound at all. Black folks love movies just as much as everyone else does - particularly action movies, comedies and horror flicks. Yeah, you'd be hard pressed to find a large group of us watching the 5 Best Picture nominees - The Departed being the exception. But we gobble up just as much mainstream Hollywood product on Friday/Saturday nights as the rest of the folks do.


  12. Excessive hype and good movie/bad movie debates aside, I don't think too many of you understand what was riding with this movie.

    I said it before in my review and I'll say it again. "Dreamgirls" was the rarest of a rare breed: an African American event movie. Every year we get at least 4-5 (maybe more) event movies - Spidey, Superman, Pirates and so forth. Black films, on the other hand, get regulated to the "second hand" pile by the film world...unless, of course, your name is Denzel, Will, Samuel L., Morgan and (just recently) Jamie or Terrence.

    To make a really long rant short (since my rants are notorious for being misinterpreted as shouting matches), "Dreamgirls" was that rare and epic shot for Our Stories to take a seat at the Oscar table. And, for a myriad of reasons, it missed. While mainstream (White) critics and film analysts are brushing their shoulders off and going on with their Oscar predictions, We (me and my homies in the Black film critical/analysis circle) are left pondering the big question...

    "What do we have to do to insure that African American stories get a fair shot at Oscar glory? The Academy has (FINALLY!) turned around and started recognizing our individual acting performances. But, as everyone knows, Best Picture is the brass ring. What must African American artists do to successfully and finally achieve that elusive Brass Ring?"

    Do we need to tone down our acting (many of you felt the performances in "Dreamgirls" were over the top)?

    Do we need to take more time to polish up our screenwriting (keep in mind that most Black films have at least 50-75% less of a budget than mainstream Hollywood films)?

    Do our directors need more "proper film training" (Tyler Perry, who didn't get a film school degree, gets lambasted all the time by mainstream critics for "pedestrian filmmaking")?

    Should are stories be more "interesting" to mainstream society (no more hood/ghetto stories)?

    Are we as Black people (Yours Truly, Spike Lee) just too damn angry?

    I challenge the A&F community to examine and answer these questions - specificly THE ELITE (Overstreet, SDG, Alan Thomas, Chattaway...y'all know who you are!). Are these indeed legitimate questions worth answering?


  13. I've seen "Dreamgirls" twice...and counting. I'm still shaken. This is Black Cinema history unfolding before our very eyes.

    Never mind...the Academy hath spoken.

    Dang...first The Color Purple, then Do The Right Thing, now this. :( :cry:


  14. And yet you're passing on the Amazing Grace screening? That's OK, I'm glad to cover it.

    Everybody at HJ knows that Amazing Grace leans more towards your style than mine. For me to cover that would be a total "fish out of water" situation - much like the time Grace Hill tried to (BULLY!) beg me to cover "Nanny McPhee" last year. ::w00t::


  15. Paramount/DreamWorks have marketed this film very weird. They've used strictly word of mouth to bolster up the film. They were successful intially but what eventually hurt them was their "Starts Christmas Day Everywhere" commercials. 852 screens doesn't exactly translate to "Everywhere". As many reports have their been of folks who saw the film over the holidays and loved it, there were also quite a few reports of folks complaining that the film was not playing in their local theatre; and then those folks were even madder when they realized that the film wouldn't be truly playing "Everywhere" till the MLK Holiday weekend...

    ...and Par/DW didn't exactly sound the trumpets to let Everybody know about "Dreamgirls" official "Everywhere" expansion over this past weekend. I, personally, think that's what attributed to the low B.O. stats.

    And then there's bootlegging - which is rampant in many African American neighborhoods...especially for AA centric movies. I know a guy who didn't see "Dreamgirls" at the movies but, nevertheless, bragged about his bootlegged copy. Reminds me of a few Christmases ago when, after we had dinner and opened gifts, a relative of mine popped his bootlegged VHS copy of "Ray" into his big screen. I gave him my infamous "bootlegging speech" (we used to have a copy of said speech at 3BC but I think they lost it when they redid the site) but he paid me no mind.


  16. On the other hand, I know what my super fave soul album is: What's Going On by Marvin Gaye. This album is touched by grace (follow-up Let's Get It On doesn't even touch it), it gave me the feeling of flying from start to finish, as if I was in Heaven. It's a result of a lot of work. The Deluxe editions let you hear some stuff called "working the groove" and you get an idea of how it went.

    What's Going On: Greatest Album Ever. Singlehandedly (along with the power of God) got me through the years 2003/04.

    Let's Get It On was, on purpose, a different concept than "What's Going On." While What's Going On had it's soul set on Heavenly things, Let's Get It On was...uh...set on more Fleshly concerns. ::w00t:: I'll keep it real, that album is one of the contributing factors (along with Al Green's "Simply Beautiful") that brought the litle dude on my avatar to Plane Earth in the first place! Next time you married folks have some quality time, play the last song on the album "Just To Keep You Satisfied." If you find yourself with a little avatar of your own a few months later, don't be surprised.

    I've got the Deluxe Editions of both albums.


  17. I can't believe I just found this topic! Where the heck do I begin?

    I'll start here:

    (From Stef back in summer 05)

    Is Al Green "soul?"

    Now THEM is fighting words!

    The answer to that question lies buried within the heart of th musical composition entitled "Simply Beautiful". To this day, I refuse to play that song at a high volume. It is the musical equivalent of a slow burning flame.

    If you need further evidence, I recommend "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart", "Let's Stay Together", "For The Good Times" and a crapload of other tracks from his 70's heyday.

    The final convincing argument though? Walk into a room full of Black folk and play the opening bars of "Love And Happiness". Once you've recovered from the ensuing frenzy (and ducked the flying chairs!) that'll answer that question once and for all!


  18. Two new attempts to call a truce: LG introduces a player that will play both formats...

    ...that will go on sale for $1199 when it's finally released. That's only $200 less than the total price of an individual HD-DVD player & an individual Blu Ray player.

    Still too pricey for me and the Munchkin. Wake me up when they knock the price down to $500!


  19. Did you "yell" because of the injustice and tragedy, or was there something Spike Lee did wrong?

    Funny. The few opposers of this film searched for a reason to yell at Spike when all he did was just turn the cameras on and start filming. The utter shame of the injustice that these people - Black AND White - suffered was what kept me yelling.

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