Category Archives: Film

What Exactly Is ‘The Best Man’ Sequel Trailer Saying?

In a piece I wrote two years ago for the homie Alyssa at ThinkProgress in which I discuss what I think The Best Man sequel, The Best Man Holiday, should address, I said that Malcolm Lee should center the film around Nia Long’s character, Jordan Armstrong.

Looks like that is going to happen.

However I also said:

…the [original] film hinges on the fact that a total slut like Lance Sullivan is such a chauvinist that the very idea of his bride having a sexual past sends him into a blind rage and makes him question whether or not she’s worthy of him. It’s a film that continues to suggest that driven career black women are unworthy of love. Career woman Jordan Armstrong (played by Long), is the only woman to end the film alone, even as the stripper with the heart of gold and the emasculating shrew each end up with a man.

So the question this trailer raises for me is whether Jordan’s choice to date a white man is an outgrowth of the fact that in Lee’s mind careerist black women are unworthy of love from black men specifically or something less troublesome. In other words, did she have no other choice but to date a white man or not?

I don’t want Jordan’s choice to be a reaction to black men’s inability to appreciate everything that she represents – an independent, career-obsessed woman. I think that lets black men off the hook for their anti-woman retrogressive beliefs about what a “good black woman” is supposed to be.

As much as I love the original film, I still believe it was a terribly unfair and dangerous subtext to suggest that Jordan couldn’t have a career and love. To suggest in the sequel that the only way she could have both is to date a white man would just continue to reinforce the belief that black men’s sexist assumptions about black women are entrenched and intractable. If the film goes that route it would be incredibly dangerous, irresponsible and unfortunate.

There’s a way to tell this story in a way that doesn’t do this. I just am not sure that Lee will do that.

Anthony Mackie and the Definition of Stardom

I was struck by this exchange between actor Anthony Mackie and Jai Tiggett over at Shadow and Act.

JT: There’s been some talk on our site lately about your career and whether you’ll go on to play the leading man more consistently, in large studio films. Is that your goal, or do you prefer to stay under the radar?

AM: Hollywood’s a business, and until someone puts their finger on you and decides you’re the guy who’s going to carry that movie, it’s not going to happen. So I’m just enjoying the position that I’m in right now and trying to make the most of it.

JT: So would you say that yes, Anthony Mackie wants to be “the guy”?

AM: [Laughs]. Most of the time when you see a movie, the best character in the movie is not “the guy,” it’s the guy next to the guy. So I enjoy playing “the guy next to the guy” because it’s always – in almost every movie last year – the best character in the movie. It’s just fun as an actor to get the opportunity to do something where you can really sink your teeth into it.

What I like about this exchange is that it suggests that Anthony Mackie is incredibly self-aware and very comfortable with the choices he’s making as an actor, regardless of how they might be perceived by the public.

I think it’s somewhat strange to be thinking about “who the next Will Smith will be” partly because Will ain’t goin nowhere and partly because the question suggests that his model is the only model of what it means to be a black movie star.

I think we’re limiting ourselves when we have this conversation. Anthony seems to understand that in a way that I don’t think people appreciate enough. I think he’s quite eloquent in chafing (without chafing, really) at the notion that he’s not “successful” because he’s not a Big Willie. He’s consistently suggested that there are other models for success and that our obsession with Will’s assimilationist model isn’t the only one we should aspire to.

In my mind, the guy that says this:

and this:

isn’t concerned about the Will Smith model. He’s thinking about his own.

We need to start listening to Anthony Mackie, man.

On the ‘Black Panther’ Movie, Cont.

Interesting quote about why Marvel won’t do a Black Panther film from Iron Man 3 director, Shane Black:

Are there other characters that Marvel has that you have an affinity for?  A lot of us are wondering when maybe Marvel might make an R-rated movie and that might be where you could use some of the “blue material”.  I’m just curious if you have an affinity for other characters.

Black: I don’t know I always thought that certain characters could be adapted in a cool way.  I wanted to do…Quentin Tarantino kind of poisoned the well with Django, but I always thought there was a 1970’s version of Black Panther, which was [a] period that could be really cool and involved a lot of the racial tensions of that time.  That’s not going to happen. 

The interviewer, Steve Weintraub, doesn’t follow up on what seems like an off-handed remark about Tarantino here so it’s hard to know exactly what Black means when he says “Tarantino kind of poisoned the well with Django” or if Black’s point of view here is actually Marvel’s.

But I’m guessing that he’s referencing the controversy around the film because in all the ways that matter most – it would seem – to a movie studio, Django Unchained was a success. It’s Tarantino’s highest grossing film, it netted him an Oscar for best original screenplay and one for Christoph Waltz, was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar (along with four other nominations), and is generally considered a well-made film by most people, independent of the content*.

Black PantherIt would be a shame then if Tarantino’s film has scared any movie studio so shitless that it wouldn’t make a film about a black superhero – which is, in the broadest sense, what connects these two properties. The particulars of Django and Black Panther – as characters and stories –  are sufficiently distinct that I can’t believe that Marvel would make this kind of messy conflation, even if it is a convenient way to get out of making a film that it might be scared to make for a whole host of other reasons. This feels to me like Black’s own view.

That said, what are those other reasons?

I think that all of the dithering around about whether or not to do a Black Panther movie actually suggests something about the moviegoing public – or at least Marvel’s perception of what this public would pay to see. Marvel knows what Black Panther is about. It has published him in some form or another for nearly 50 years. Marvel knows that the property is not Django.

So if it is true that the studio doesn’t want to do make a Black Panther movie, maybe it truly believes that the vast majority of Americans don’t want to go see a film about a Black African whose primary focus is resisting Western imperialism.

The shame then is on us.

 

*I didn’t see it and here is why.

(h/t Shadow and Act)

The Cruel Racism of the Real World

reg_634.QWallis.mh.022413Quvenzhané Wallis was the butt of a deeply sexist, racist inappropriate joke by whoever is tweeting for The Onion last night (which I will not link to or describe because it’s ugly).

And what upsets me so much about it is that this beautiful little nine-year-old black girl had to get a lesson in just what it means to be a black girl in a white supremacist patriarchal country at the exact time that she’s being honored for her artistry. In fact “upsets” is too bland a word for what I feel. It’s anger. A profound sadness.

But the sad, maddening truth of this moment is that it is not surprising. Black people, girls and women especially, are never safe from the random omnipotence of anti-black sentiment that infects this nation, but I had hoped that maybe this poised, thoughtful, remarkably self-possessed beautiful little girl would have this one night.

But she didn’t. The Onion tweeter took that from her. Violently. Cruelly. Unconsciously, it seems.

Welcome to America.

Race and Sexuality. Who Gets to Decide?

Frank Ocean Ezra_Miller

Ezra Miller is quite eloquent in an interview with AfterElton on why he self-identifies as “queer”:

AfterElton: You routinely refer to yourself as “queer,” which I love. It’s an old word, but it’s kind of a new form of self-identification.
EM: 
It’s true! And it’s a different form of LGBT culture for sure. It’s even almost defiant of each of those letters. It’s kind of wonderfully all-encompassing. I’m all about it. I’m all about that word. I think it’s incredibly useful just as we head into an era of a more indiscriminate and open spectrum of human gender and sexuality. I think it’s good for us to have a word that isn’t so ultimately definitive, that leaves room for people to always be discovering and exploring who they are as a loving being.

AE: It’s defiant of that expectation to narrowly self-assign, I think, but it still aligns you in camaraderie with everything “LGBT.”
EM: 
Well, right. It’s funny how quickly so many heteronormative standards have crept their way into conventional gay culture. I think already even though we’ve done an incredibly productive cycle of opening up gaps in human rights in this particular area, I think there’s a whole new recycle that has to take place.

I find it incredibly interesting how white LGBT activists and other gay-identified folks are thoroughly comfortable and deferential to Ezra Miller’s desire to claim “queer” rather than “gay” or “bisexual”, even as they seem intent (here, herehere, and here, just to name a few) on forcing Frank Ocean into the LGBT framework (is he bi or gay? did he “come out”, etc).

I mean, even the most cursory search of Ezra Miller on AfterElton or any other gay-identified website reveals a consistent use of the term “queer”, but do the same search on Frank Ocean and you find that the more standard LGBT identifiers (most notably that he “came out”) predominate. In fact, I find that there is often hostility to the fact that he refuses to claim any label at all, particularly after his GQ interview.

Apparently, black self-determination is always something to be questioned or, worse, ignored.