Tag Archive: david alan grier


 

Denzel Washington Visits "Late Show With David Letterman"

We’re in full film geek season, so I’ll start the week by hyping up my favorite new podcast.

While I don’t ‘agree’ with the title, W. Kamau Bell (of Totally Biased) and Kevin Avery came up with a GENIUS concept.  Alphabetically, go through the IMdb of Denzel and argue/debate/fawn over why Denzel is one of the best who’s ever done it.  They’ve got the checklist that covers if Denzel does all of his ‘Denzel-isms’ in the movie (and you know what they are), and hopefully going forward they’ll continue to grab guests like David Alan Grier, who did ‘A Soldier’s Play’ with Denzel back in the day and gives some interesting insight (as well as have his own absolutely hilarious stories).

Instant must listen for the (black) film geek crowd.  Check it out!

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So like a lot of you, I’m getting geared up to see Red Tails in a couple of weeks.  To get my mind ready for that, I went on Netflix Instant this weekend and rewatched A Soldier’s Story for the first time in what must have been 2o years.  The trailers already let us know that in terms of action sequences there’s not going to be a contest between the two films.  But as far as story goes…the jury is going to be out for a few more weeks.  I never wrote about this really good film when I did this blog’s signature list a couple of years back, but it’s never too late to do an honorable mention breakdown.  You can search the blog if you aren’t aware/forgot what the five categories stand for:

Relevance: The film is about a black captain going down to Louisiana during World War II to do an investigation of the murder of another black officer, most likely by the Ku Klux Klan.  Need I say more?

Legacy: Men of Honor is a great film, and I have a soft spot for Cadence (Oh don’t you know, that’s the sound of the man, working on the chain…ga-a-ang!), but I can’t look at Red Tails without looking at A Soldier’s Story as a direct descendant with its period story and primarily black male cast.  Is there a Denzel Washington, a David Alan Grier, a Howard Rollins, a Robert Townsend in the movie about to come out?  Could be; time will tell I guess.

Craft: I named four black actors and there’s another five faces you know in this movie as ‘That Guy’ even if you would have to look up their names.  The film is based on an off Broadway play, and there’s enough A game in this film to replace the actors who were replaced from the Broadway production.

Crossover: Not much.  To this day this is one of those, by us for us films.

Apollo: Outside of the references to the Negro Leagues that definitely went over my head as a kid, I completely forgot Patti LaBelle was in this movie.  Doing Patti LaBelle things. And yes, that’s a compliment.

So we’re all on to Red Tails in a couple weeks.  The standard has been estabished…

 

inlivingcolorseason1dvdhuge

One of the shows that legitimized Fox as ‘the fourth network’, In Living Color was the brainchild of Keenen Ivory Wayans and his brother Damon.  Forever referred to as the black Saturday Night Live, In Living Color was a primetime sketch/variety show with a much more pronounced African-American slant.  I pity those of you who didn’t live through it when it aired live.  On to the tale of the tape…

Relevance:  As the name implies, the sketches, the musical guests, the Fly Girls were all much more representative of the booming hip hop culture that was taking over young black America.  While SNL and many other comedy troupes usually have one token actor on staff when the need arises to have a black character, ILC could in many ways tackle deeper issues simply because they had so many black actors (look no further than the Star Trek: the Wrath of Farrahkhan sketch).

Legacy:  Pick one from the following list of people, movies, and shows that can be traced back to In Living Color  – one of the biggest comedic A-list actors of the 90s (Jim Carrey), an Academy Award winning black actor (Jamie Foxx), the first person to have a number one movie and album at the same time (Jennifer Lopez), The Wayans Brothers (TV Show), Scary Movie and the rebirth of the slapstick genre that followed the original movies’ success…the list goes on.

Craft:  Still some of the best comedy seen on television (in my humble opinion).  Let me take you back to the first episode:  there was the ‘Love Connection’ episode featuring a dead-on Chuck Woolery (Carrey) interviewing Robin Givens (Kim Coles) about her ‘date’ with Iron Mike Tyson (Keenen under great makeup).  The first episode also featured the first ‘Men on Film’, where Blaine Edwards (Damon) and Antoine Merriweather (David Alan Grier) reviewed films from ‘a male point of view’.  I still remember vividly going to middle school the next day (Monday) and seeing kids doing the ‘two snaps up’ during lunch.  This show was as close to an instant comedy classic as it gets.

Crossover:  In the same way that SNL crossed over, not necessarily; but in terms of sheer popularity there’s no question it was huge.  Fox asked for (and got) an In Living Color halftime show during one of its Super Bowl years.  By that point the sight gag of whatever little hat Damon was wearing in his ‘Men On…’ sketches was hilarious enough.  Keenen walked out during the show’s run not because of ratings failures but because of a contract dispute (isn’t that how it always goes).

Apollo:  The nature of any sketch comedy show is everyone will have a different favorite recurring character/sketch.  I’ve written 400 words and still haven’t mentioned Homey the Clown, Fire Marshal Bill, or Cephus and Reecie.  Personal favorites for me – Sketch: when Hammer was at his peak, they dressed up Tommy Davidson in the balloon pants and had him do ‘Can’t Touch This’.  That visual always busts me up.  Character: slightly under the radar, but Damon did this character named Oswald Bates, an ex-con who loves to use big words but never uses them in the right context (“You see, we must EVACUATE, excuse me, EJACULATE my fluid penetration!”) The militant in me always cracks up at that.

Next on the TV countdown is a show that had an even shorter run but also became an instant classic.  Until next time.

boomerang

Boomerang is one of the enduring black films of the 90s.  On the surface it can be categorized as just ‘another Eddie Murphy movie,’ but really it’s so much more.  The story revolved around a player named Marcus Graham, who gets the tables turned on him.  Most of you probably know the story, so let’s get to the tale of the tape…

Relevance: Directed by House Party’s Reggie Hudlin, here’s a quick rundown of a few members of the cast: Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Halle Berry, Martin Lawrence, David Alan Grier, Tisha Campbell, Robin Givens, Grace Jones, Eartha Kitt, Lela Rochon, John Witherspoon…MAN!!!  I know there’s been talk of doing a black ‘Ocean’s 11,’ but I’d argue Boomerang was it!

Legacy:  Take your pick.  Allegedly after House Party and this movie, Martin decided to cast Tisha as Gina for his new sitcom, a little show called Martin.  There’s John Witherspoon taking it to the next level with his ‘coordination.’  There’s Halle Berry officially taking the crown of ‘woman every brother in America wants for a girlfriend/wife’.  (It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time long ago when Halle Berry wasn’t ‘Halle Berry’ yet.)

Craft:  Ahh, this was the ‘Golden Age’ when you were expected to be both technically sound and entertaining as a black film.  Good times.  Still a pretty watchable film today.

Crossover:  Do you remember the soundtrack?  Yeah that’s still a great album: ‘Love Should Have Brought You Home Last Night’ (the introduction of Toni Braxton), ‘Hot Sex’, ‘I’d Die Without You’, and one of the biggest songs ever, ‘End of the Road’ by Boyz II Men.  It’s actually a nice song again now, but if you were around that year and you heard it at least twice an hour for four months straight, it became unbearable.  But it is a nice song.

Apollo:  The Grace Jones perfume commercial?  The perfect feet?  The seduction scene with Eartha Kitt (and her butler)?  Again, with this much talent (comedic and otherwise), take your pick.

Alright, back next month with the next piece.