Tag Archive: oprah


 

QUINCY-1998-FNL-copy

Quincy Jones has had a career and a life that just won’t me duplicated.

EGOT.  He opened the door for Oprah to go to the next level.  He opened the door for Will Smith to go to the next level.  Nearly any creative I know would feel like his 90th biggest accomplishment would easily be their 1st.

So it’s impressive that ‘Quincy’ does such a good job of giving an overview for how much he’s done over the years while blending in enough of a personal element to balance the story out.

I could be hear all day talking about Q’s accomplishments, so I’ll just pick a few highlights:

  • Sinatra is one of my guys, so the chapter detailing their relationship was riveting for me.  How much respect Frank had for him, how Q was right there with Sammy when Sinatra spoke up about really integrating Vegas, the album ‘Sinatra at the Sands’ (a personal favorite).  All gems.
  • Like Kendrick said, my generation was introduced to Q through MJ.  The music nerd in me was equally happy to hear him credit Rod Temperton as one of the great songwriters, but getting behind the scenes footage of their professional bonding over ‘Off the Wall’ and ‘Thriller’ was cool.
  • I should have figured as much, but Q produced the concert that opened the Smithsonian African-American Museum.  Just seeing him walk through the pop culture exhibit and realize he produced or worked with damn near every person in the music section is another shake your head ridiculous moment; but seeing this man still producing massive events in his 80s is…humbling.

The film is co-directed by his daughter Rashida (side note: I’m far too young to know of a young Peggy Lipton, but seeing her with no context, my first reaction was still, ‘Oh, that’s Rashida Jones’ mom), and it’s well worth the two hour watch if you’re any kind of pop culture nerd.

High recommend.

 

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will-smith-image2

In light of some really nice moments from Ava and Oprah’s new show last night, conversations with my own old man, and general mood, this one fell into the playlist right on time.  My single favorite single Will has done.

Enjoy!

While we all have different ‘favorite’ films in black cinema, it is my argument, using the criteria I’ve established (relevance to black culture, the legacy or shelf life of the project after the initial release, the actual craftmanship of the filmmaking, the degree to which the film was noticed/recognized by the mainstream, and the Apollo or ‘Wow’ moments that stand out from the project) one film stands as more important to black cinema than any other film made to this point.  It probably comes as little surprise that I feel the most important film has been made by black cinema’s most important filmmaker, Spike Lee.  After the production and response that came with the second most important black film, Do the Right Thing, Spike was well versed in the good and bad of controversy.

Because of that, there really wasn’t anyone more qualified than Spike to do a film about one of the most controversial and polarizing African-Americans in history.  For those of us who admire and respect him, the film is a fitting tribute to his greatness.  For those of you who ‘don’t get it’ or simply can’t stand him, you (as always) will find elements in Spike’s film to validate your point of view…

Kobe Doin’ Work is a 2009 Spike Lee documentary that shows us what a typical NBA game is like through the eyes of the best player of his generation, and one of the best ever, former MVP, four time NBA champion, and future first ballot Hall of Famer, Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bean Bryant.

Put down the cell phone.  Delete that hostile text message, email, or comment you were about to send me.  It’s called sarcasm people.  GOTCHA!!!

 OK, now I’ll ‘make it plain…’

Malcolm X is a 1992 Spike Lee film based on The Autobiography of Malcolm X.  Anchored by an Oscar worthy performance by Denzel Washington, the film is a 210 minute epic that rode in on a new wave of black nationalism, and in large part it delivered on the hype that surrounded it.

On to the tale of the tape…

Relevance: 

Fade in from the Warner Brothers logo.  The introductory speaker hypes the crowd and introduces Malcolm.  Malcolm (Denzel), also in voiceover, starts in with a vicous tirade, charging the white race with all the genocide that’s happened throughout history.  The visual over this is two-fold: footage of the Rodney King beating that sparked the Los Angeles riots, and an American flag burning, until it forms an “X.”

Any questions?

Legacy:

If you want one reason why this is the most important black film made to this point, here is my argument:  Spike always had it in mind to make a 3 hour epic.  Warner Brothers had the money, they wanted a 2 hour movie tops.  Spike shot everything he wanted to shoot, put most of his salary back in the movie, hoping WB would get on board after the film was nearly done.  Nope.  Spike ran out of money, the bond company (i.e. the insurance if you’re not familiar with film lingo) wasn’t chipping in.  This project was dead.  So Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Tracy Chapman, Prince, and Peggy Cooper-Cafritz gave Spike the money to finish the film.  Read that last sentence as many times as you need to.  Those were at the time, and continue to be some of the most wealthy and influential African-Americans of this or any other generation, and they all chipped in so Spike could finish his film.  Warner Brothers eventually manned up and provided the financing, but with the possible exception of the election of the last President of the U.S., there may never be a better example of a harmony between a philosophy (blacks supporting/investing in our own) and seeing that philosophy carried out.

Craft: 

“You see, Islam is the only religion that gives both husband and wife a true understanding of what love is.  The Western ‘love’ concept, you take it apart, it really is lust.  But love transcends just the physical.  Love is disposition, behavior, attitude, thoughts, likes, dislikes – these things make a beautiful woman, a beautiful wife.  This is the beauty that never fades.  You find in your Western civilization that when a man’s wife’s physical beauty fails, she loses her attraction.  But Islam teaches us to look into the woman, and teaches her to look into us.”

– From the Autobiography

I’ll be the first to admit it often gets lost in the shuffle of the politics and messages of this film, but on repeated viewings, it’s harder to ignore how well written and acted the relationship between Malcolm and Betty (Angela Bassett) is played out.  Although it’s obviously based on two real, high profile figures in black history, it still deserves to be mentioned among the best love stories in black film.  Their courtship is sweet and very high-school sweetheart-ish, she’s devoted to him and him to her.  When the people he’s representing stab him in the back, it’s his wife who calls him out on it and challenges him.  As played in the film, she is truly his best friend.  The revelation struck me so hard I asked a few of my happily married friends, “Is your wife your best friend?”, and they all answered without hesitation, “Absolutely.”  I have friends who are looking for their Claire Huxtable or Michelle Obama (the woman who can be bad by herself and together they will be a power couple).  And obviously, there is nothing wrong with that model in the least.  Personally though, I’m looking for my Betty Shabazz (as played by Angela Bassett):  loyal, nurturing, maternal, but who will challenge me without hesitation if I’m wrong or out of line.  A true ‘partner in crime’, or as the young people say, a woman who will ‘Make Me Better.’

Crossover: 

Absolutely; even today this might have been the most hyped black film made to date.  They were rocking X baseball caps in the suburbs; it wasn’t even politics, it was fashionable.  Denzel lost the Oscar to Pacino who won for ‘Scent of a Woman’.  Definitely a career Oscar, similar to when Denzel did finally win Best Actor…for ‘Training Day.’  Spike was still in his prime pissing Hollywood off in general, so no little golden men for him.  Still hasn’t gotten any; will be interesting to see if he gets the Scorsese treatment somewhere down the line.

Apollo:

The dead man walking sequence of Malcolm going to the Audobon.  It was the first time I remember hearing Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,”;  in all of black cinema there may never be a more perfect use of music with images.  But that’s just the beginning.  You have the cross cutting of Betty and the kids, the assassins, and the ‘Agency’ all converging on the Ballroom.  You have the signature Spike Lee ‘shot’ of Malcolm floating down the sidewalk.  And the coup de gras is the nice bystander telling an exhausted Malcolm to keep ‘doing what he’s doing’, followed up with the line, “Jesus will protect you.”  And yes, I’ll admit personal bias here and say that line and Malcolm’s (Denzel’s) reaction is my single favorite shot/reverse shot in any film.

So there you have it.  Later this month, the most important black television show…

 

oprah-winfrey-show

Yup, time to break out the big guns.  The Oprah Winfrey Show has been a daytime staple for over twenty years, its host/star now on a first name only basis across the world.  Oprah doesn’t really need a huge introduction, does she?  Let’s move to the tale of the tape…

Relevance:  While her detractors will still at times refer to her as “America’s Mammy”, there can be no argument that this black woman through her show has made a connection with her generation/her audience that could not possibly have been predicted before (because there was no precedent in daytime television).

Legacy:  The Book Club.  Oprah’s Favorite Things.  Dr. Phil.  O Magazine. OWN.  And those are just the off shoots from the show!

Craft:  When you’ve been doing it as long as Oprah has, people pick up the patterns and start parodying you.  The “Very Special” interviews, the ‘Relationship” shows, even her speech/vocal elements.  It is still essentially a talk show so there’s not as much to pick apart craft-wise, but at this point it is a smooth, polished machine.

Crossover:  Not going to dignify this category with a response…

Apollo:  I guess the Tom Cruise episode is the most ‘Wow’ episode ever, but before there was YouTube I’d say the craziest thing Oprah herself ever did was wheel out a wagon of fat to show how much weight she lost (yeah you have to be a certain age to remember that one).  It’s not as funny, but at the time it was a career and show defining moment.

The top 5 starts next month with another show that’s still on the air…

 

the-color-purple

Based on the critically acclaimed novel, The Color Purple was an equally popular film that received its fair share of critical acclaim.  On to the tale of the tape…

Relevance:  The storyline of black life in the South in the early 20th century would be enough for this category.  The inclusion of the film’s author and the film’s primary producer (one Quincy Jones) is enough for this film to earn its points in this category.

Legacy:  I’ll sidestep the various jokes that still get told in reference to the film’s story and point to two actresses who made their feature film debut in this movie: Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey.  Perhaps you’ve heard of them?

Craft:  While a lot of the book’s bisexuality was left out of the film, the abusive material stayed pretty much intact (to Spike Lee’s delight).  This film still gets major play on cable, which is also a testament to…

Crossover:  the fact that it received massive love from the Academy…kind of.  The Color Purple still holds the record for the most nominations (11) without a single win.  Oh, one more thing for the crossover category; it was directed by Steven Spielberg.  Perhaps you’ve heard of him?

Apollo:  Not counting kiddie movies, this was the first film I remember my parents taking me to.  I was…11 at the time I believe, so my memory of watching it from that screening are slim to be honest.  You know what I do remember from that time?  Danny Glover was a bad man…

The next film entry is coming at the end of the month.