Category Archives: Reviews

That Ain’t Baby Phat

That’s fat baby.

It is tough to be honest with yourself. But honey, I have regained a lot of the weight I had previously lost. You are probably wondering, how can you not know that you have gained weight when it is your won body. My response is, keep reading.

I can bust some angles in my selfies and have ya’ll thinking I’m still in my twenties and 50 lbs lighter. However, the video camera is a whole other situation. I rebooted by Youtube channel with a renewed focus on being committed to my dreams. I was editing my video and was so disappointed with my weight, so much so, I almost didn’t post it. But, I need the accountability. This is where I am and I need to do the work to get to where I want to be.

Below is rant/video on my recent visit to O’Charleys restaurant in Glendale, Indianapolis, IN. Let me know what you think.

 

Black Men As Sympathetic Characters

I have seen two movies in less than a week, Sorry To Bother You and Equalizer 2. There will be no recaps as this is not a movie review. Suffice it to say, see both. They are really good.

What struck me most about both films, is the presence of a black male character for whom the audience roots for. In the era of #BlackLivesMatter and the death of young black men scattered throughout social media, it is not characteristic of mainstream media to showcase these men in a sympathetic light. Trayvon Martin at 15 was described as a man and portrayed as a thug. Michael Brown was portrayed in the same manner. It is notable to see young black men on screen, imperfect and yet deserving of empathy and protection. Lakeith

The character Chris Washington in Jordan Peele’s Get Out had audiences cheering for a dark-skinned black male as he fought white oppressors to free himself from a prison they had lured him into. Talk about revolutionary. In, Sorry to Bother You, the main character Cassius Green, fights selling out to “the man” and capitalistic oppression of others. In Equalizer 2, Denzel Washington’s character Robert McCall risks his life to save a young black man entangled with gangs and drugs.

The characterization of these black male characters as human, relatable, and sympathetic is an act of resistance. It is also why representation matters. We need African American creatives of all types making movies, TV shows, books, sculptures, architecture – projecting a vision of ourselves into the future. I am hoping that the works of Ryan Coogler,  Antoine Fuqua, Jordan Peele, Boots Riley, are trailblazing and not just trend.

I am finishing up Parable of the Sower  by Octavia Butler. I read recently that Ava Duvernay is bringing Butler’s Dawn, to screen. I am looking forward to a similar wave of heroic black female characters for audiences to cheer for being brought to life.

Roxanne, Roxanne – A Netflix Movie Review

From the Intruder’s, “I’ll Always Love my Momma,” to Tupac’s, “Dear Momma,”  African American motherhood is revered. There are many stories of mothers who are self-sacrificing, loving, and darn near perfect. Motherhood is sacrosanct in the African American community. Roxanne Roxanne dares to shed light on the other type of mother. How does a damaged woman mother children when she may be dealing with her own unresolved issues?  This movie shows how a toxic mother can adversely affect the development of a young daughter.

Oh, and she raps.

Please check out the review below:

My Review of First Match, A Netflix Film

It appears that Netflix does not display the customer ratings for movie suggestions anymore.

Why Sway?

I have decided to revive the review portion of this blog as a public service. I have begun and stopped so many movies in Netflix. They are either too gun happy, war-happy, murder-happy.  I watch Netflix movies so that you do not have to.

Please take a look of my review of First Match, a Netflix original movie .

A Wrinkle in Wakanda

I am still on a high from Back Panther. Wakanda high, you ask? The kind that makes me wrinkle my nose at A Wrinkle in Time.

I am sorry to be the bearer of this news but A Wrinkle in Time was disappointing. Not that I expected much. I learned after shelling out the $13.25 for 3D tickets that Wrinkle surmounted to little more than beautifully shot, new-age syrup.

wrinkle

The characters are weepy and emotional. They stare at each other and breath deeply in Twilight fashion. But Wrinkle is not a teenage vampire love story. It is supposed to be about triumph of an abused, awkward child (Meg) who takes a journey through time to rescue her scientist father from the forces of darkness. It is a classic-tale in the age of bullying – given time, you will make it through the angst of youth into self-actualized adulthood as you defeat the darkness around you. It is difficult as a viewer to get to that place with Meg because the sap is so heavy to wade through.

The author of Wrinkle Madeleine L’Engle infused themes of Christianity into her work much like C.S. Lewis. The Disney interpretation swapped all of the Christian overtones for muddled new age mysticism. There is a lot of “become one with the universe” and “center yourself”. There is actually  a character, “The Happy Medium” who is a medium who centers on swivel stones. I kid you not. The motivation and message is muddled. Likely, because of the generic spirituality that attempts to usurp the original specifically Christian one.

Some media is trying to sell this movie as an ode to diversity, a la Black Panther. Pause people. Black Panther, with its dark-skinned, natural hair (and bald) say-it-loud-I’m-black-and-I’m-proud-ness, cannot be compared to the Disney version of blackness, which is always biracialness. Even today,  Disney movies feature a “black character” as biracial, meaning very light-skinned with curly, not kinky, hair. So Beth, the main character in Wrinkle, is the daughter of a biracial mother and a white father. Her hair is the type of curly black folk call “good hair”. (I think this was maybe a wig. It did not look “natural”). So, when she doesn’t believe that her hair is beautiful when her white paramour says it, I am not really buying it. Neither was the 15-year-old, brown-skinned black girl who saw it with me. I am not saying biracial or multi-racial people are not black. I am saying that there is nothing groundbreaking about a Disney movie, once again, choosing to represent diversity in one way – a light-skinned biracial version.

Ava Duverney is Wrinkle‘s saving grace. I saw the movie in 3D. It is visually appealing. There are floating flowers, and bouncy butterflies. Duverney is a master at capturing landscape and atmosphere. I really enjoyed The Middle of Nowhere and 13th. These movies are thoughtful and introspective. The meandering pace that works with the material. This aesthetic does not work in Wrinkle. What is missing is excitement.

I wonder if I would feel different had I not seen Black Panther prior to this film. Too late. The bar has been set. I really wanted to like this one. What do you think?

 

An Intimate Discussion with Tamala Baldwin of Curvy Girl’s Rock: The Series

As a writer, I am tasked with articulating the human experience. My characters must resonate with readers by being relatable, honest, and sometimes, outlandish. In 3D, relating to each other can be a bit more precarious.  It is easier to trust the person on the page than the one sitting next to you on the subway. Then, there are people whose radiating presence penetrates the hardened façade of strangers making them feel at ease. Tamala Baldwin is such a light.

Tamala is a renaissance woman for the millennial generation. TV Host, Speaker, Producer, Author, and Businesswoman top the list of her amazing talents. This year, she had added actress to that impressive list. Tamala is staring in the Curvy Girls Rock: The Series, fulfilling a dream which fear had held her back from for many years.

Three years ago, Tamala interviewed me to discuss my debut novel, “Ruth’s Awakening: A Love Story”. Who knew three years later, I would be blessed with the opportunity to return the favor. I

  1. What is your gift? Describe your journey identifying, owning, and sharing that gift?

For the longest time, I believed my gift was that of performing.  Though I absolutely LOVE to perform, I learned that my true gift is so much deeper than that. The reason I believe I was born was to share the gift of human sunshine. Sunshine can change anything, transform anything, re-make anything, and cause anything to become as beautiful as nature intended. In this lifetime, I have been able to experience an enchanting union with the radiance of my own soul and I feel positively free, as if nothing could ever stop me because of this sunshine.  My gift is to share these sunbeams to everyone I meet and one of the ways I feel drawn to do that the most, is through storytelling.  We are so blessed to be alive.  We are so fortunate to have the luxury of time to evolve into greater expressions of ourselves through the experience of life. Capturing the human experience in order to help others tap into deeper awareness of their own sunshine . . .  that is my gift.

Coming to this state of awareness has been extremely difficult.  As someone that is so open to the light, navigating the shadow or darkness was definitely part of my journey.  As a child, God shielded me from internalizing what I saw, but that shifted in my 20’s.  It was as if my Creator opened the gates of heaven and I experienced the harshness of life for the first time. It was as if I left home and wandered in the wilderness.  Of course, in my infancy, I thought this was a punishment, because I TRULY never experienced REAL sadness even though I grew up in the hood and saw a lot of things during the 80’s. Yet, I realize that the wilderness is not a punishment.  It is an invitation to become aware or conscious of your divinity, who you are and the paradise that you come from.

This awareness of GOD being closer than breathing is forever expanding, so even though I have this amazing love buzz in the center of my heart, every day I am being purged and cleansed of fear, guilt, doubt… of anything that gets in the way of experiencing more TRUTH.  For example, it was only after the passing of my mother did I realize there was a part of me that was afraid and was still hiding.  We all hide and it is only until we REALIZE and see it for ourselves can we step from behind it and into the light.

  1. What is fear to you? Describe an instance when you have had to overcome fear.

My fear was that I was not the ideal weight to act. The goal of the media is to tell us what to think and somewhere along the line, I told myself that I was too fat (I am a size 12 and sometimes a 10) to pursue acting.  Yet, after experiencing the loss of my mother, it allowed me to release that.  Losing the person that loves me the most in life freed me from the lie that I was telling myself, which at the root, was that I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough and so forth.

Let me tell you, releasing that untruth has been so freaking liberating! It was like a weight, I didn’t even know I was carrying, was lifted.

Fear is anything that keeps you from experiencing the Truth.  Fear is a weight that can paralyze you from fulfilling your purpose.  Fear is a deceiver and a lie.  Fear is something that keeps you hostage and dims your light.  Fear is that bad friend that holds you back from doing what God has called you to do and will use any means necessary to manipulate you. The only way I know how to handle fear, is to seek refuge with God, my Creator and the Lover of my Soul.  I don’t address fear.  I don’t ask fear to flee.  I ask God. The reason I was able to release the fear about being too big to pursue acting was because I prayed to God day and night for clarity on my purpose.  After losing my mommy, I was so confused about what I was meant to do with my time here.  Should I go back to working a 9 to 5?  Should I stop performing and teach?  I had no idea what to do especially since I am a caregiver for a mentally ill sibling.  Since I knew I was coming from a place of fear, I asked God, who is my Ultimate Protector, Lover and Best Friend. When I say who God is to me, I mean it with all of my heart.  We go together and so when I go to “him” it is one of the most intimate part of my day.  God loves us so much that there is no need to look at the fear.  Casting our gaze upon LOVE is all we need.

  1. What do you want viewers to take away from Curvy Girls Rock: The Series?

Curvy Girls Rock is the second series I booked since I became awake to this fear that had taken up residence in my mind.  The other series I am also working on is, “Asunder”, which can be found on Amazon Prime in 2018. When I booked,  “Curvy Girls Rock: The Series”, all I could do was smile at the synchronicity since this series stars women that are curvy in size. All I could do was smile at God at this opportunity that was a direct reflection of the fear I had just released.  All of us are born with purpose and to add sunshine.  No matter what is happening around us, what has happened to us, where we went to school, or what we look like – we are here and charged with purpose.  “Curvy Girls Rock”, was a wink from God affirming that truth and we must never believe the lies we tell ourselves.  Rather, to trust the greatness, the love, the sunshine that dwells within us.

Being the light may sound a little cliché but every platitude starts as a commonly accepted truth. Humans radiate light and absorb it.  We need it to live, grow, and thrive. Light requires a fuel source. We call that source God.  When we connect with God intimately, his light flows through us. Thank you Tamala for allowing the light of God to shine through you to us.

You can follow Curvy Girls Rock: The series by subscribing to its Youtube channel of following its Facebook page.

What’s Good On Netflix – Middle of Nowhere – A Film by Ava Duvernay

I am a lover of words – spoken or written verse. All forms tell a story. The art of storytelling is our heritage. In times past, that is how history was transferred from generation to generation. The word becomes immortal.

Middle of Nowhere, a film by Ava Duvernay (of Selma fame), tells the story of Ruby who struggles to hold on to the love she has for her husband Derek who has been sentenced to eight years in prison. Ruby drops out of medical school to passionately stand and fight for her man who seems more resigned to his fate.

Duvernay uses well-crafted dialogue and imagery to tell a beautiful story of love and self-discovery from a black woman’s perspective. The added nuance of Ruby struggling to wrap her hair in a scarf, becoming frustrated with the act, and then tossing it to the side in silent acquiescence – is a black woman’s act. Only a black woman who has performed this hair ritual would have added it to this scene. Its addition lends credence to the character and story.

Four Things I Love:

  1. Honesty – The honest portrayal of the affects the incarceration of black men have on the women left behind. Ruby, her sister Rosie and her mother Ruth are all single women struggling to connect with each other while coping with the harsh reality of the absence of men in each’s lives. This film illustrates the truth of how complicated and powerful the force of love is. It can make you willfully blind and selfless. If that same love is turn inward, it can make you brave.
  2. The cinematography – It is the shot of Ruby’s left hand on a bed after a night with her lover that allows Duvernay to show the story and not tell it. There are multiple scenes where the directing and camera fill in the gap when the words are absent.
  3. David Oyelowo – (also of Selma fame) is wonderful to watch. I kept looking for his British accent to slip through, lol. I think it is his gaze. It commands attention. I was left wanting to see what he would say and do next.
  4. Omari Hardwick – (we are not worthy!) is so flipping gorgeous. He has that, ‘hood dude you cannot help but love even though your momma says he is no good,’ steeze on lock. There is a scene in which he almost cries that had me yelling at the screen, “I’ll wait eight years, baby!” ROTFL. Good looks aside, the brother can emote. Some handsome actors just stand there and flex. I give props to the guy for having genuine skillz.

I look forward to sharing with you other stories from African American women. I promise not to reveal too much, after all, I want you to see the films and support our sisters.

Please check out the Sundance Award winning fill Middle of Nowhere now streaming on Netflix.

Middle of Nowhere – A Film by Ava Duvernay

Allow me to introduce myself, to paraphrase Jay-Z, my name is Felicia Malone. Like Jay, I am a lover of words – spoken or written verse. All forms tell a story. The art of storytelling is our heritage. In times past, that is how history was transferred from generation to generation. The word become immortal.

Middle of Nowhere, a filmby Ava Duvernay (of Selma fame), tells the story of Ruby who struggles to hold on to the love she has for her husband Derek who has been sentenced to eight years in prison. Ruby drops out of medical school to passionately stand and fight for her man who seems more resigned to his fate.

Duvernay uses well-crafted dialogue and imagery to tell a beautiful story of love and self-discovery from a black woman’s perspective. I love the added nuance of Ruby struggling to wrap her hair in a scarf, becoming frustrated with the act, and then tossing it to the side in silent acquiescence. Only a black woman who has performed this hair ritual would have added it to this scene. Its addition lends credence to the character and story.

4 Things Love:

  1. Honesty – The honest portrayal of the affects the incarceration of black men have on the women left behind. Ruby, her sister Rosie and her mother Ruth are all single women struggling to connect with each other while coping with the harsh reality of the absence of men in each’s lives. This film illustrates the truth of how complicated and powerful the force of love is. It can make you willfully blind and selfless. If that same love is turn inward, it can make you brave.
  2. The cinematography – It is the shot of Ruby’s left hand on a bed after a night with her lover that allows Duvernay to show the story and not tell it. There are multiple scenes where the directing and camera fill in the gap when the words are absent.
  3. David Oyelowo – (also of Selma fame) is wonderful to watch. I kept looking for his British accent to slip through, lol. I think it is his gaze. It commands attention. I was left wanting to see what he would say and do next.
  4. Omari Hardwick – (we are not worthy!) is so flipping gorgeous. He has that, ‘hood dude you cannot help but love even though your momma says he is no good,’ steeze on lock. There is a scene in which he almost cries that had me yelling at the screen, “I’ll wait eight years, baby!” ROTFL. Good looks aside, the brother can emote. Some handsome actors just stand there and flex. I give props to the guy for having genuine skillz.

This is my first review. I look forward to sharing with you other stories from African American women. I promise not to reveal too much, after all, I want you to see the films and support our sisters.

Please check out the Sundance Award winning fill Middle of Nowhere now streaming on Netflix. 

I Saw 42 and Loved It.

I must preface this post by disclosing that I am not a huge sports fan so I am definitely not a fan of sports movies. The last movie I saw about sports was Any Given Sunday. I may have fallen asleep in the theatre.

Not this time.

I had the privilege of attending a private screening of 42 this week at the Studio Movie Grill in Dallas. I literally sat with my head in my hands like a kid totally engrossed in this film. The acting is top notch. I and one of the girls with my group kept getting excited when we would recognize an actor. Such is the acting that the actor is eclipsed by the character's presence. It was not until I was home did I google this and realize it is indeed Harrison Ford – nearly recognizable – as GM Branch Rickey.

42

I have a new crush – Chadwick Boseman. He gave Jackie Robinson heart. His character is human and fallible with natural talent and determination. Cliches aside, this is an inspirational movie. I literally want every young man in this country to see this film and become inspired to do more – do better.

42 is a bit sanitized, no doubt to attain the PG-13 rating but there is one intense scene that pretty much sums up the relentless racist abuse Jackie Robinson endured and his humanity – as well as heroism – in opposition to it.

This movie has got everything love/hate, villain/hero, and of course, baseball. I have a new appreciation of the sport. The audience actually applauded at the end. The last time I saw that happen, I was watching The Princess and the Frog with a nearly all-white audience. Mostly children. If we could all see with the eyes of children.