Tag Archives: Ava Duvernay

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.

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?

 

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.