I write about culture from a pro-Black perspective

Imitating Life

I think Antoine Fuqua is right to cast his Tupac biopic with unknowns.

I actually don't understand Hollywood's penchant for casting movie stars as real people in biopics. The hardest job of a film actor is to make you forget that you've seen them in other things. That is even harder for movie stars – assuming they care that deeply, which I don't think most actually do – because they have cultivated a persona that threatens to supercede everything else in the performance.

When you add to that playing a real person who may or may not have notoriety or with whom an audience will have some familiarity, casting movie stars just seems unwise. I mean, did anyone really see anything other than Leo in The Aviator or Reese Witherspoon in Walk The Line?

The Tupac biopic will likely be a standard biopic. It's unlikely that it will tell us anything new or interesting or revelatory about Tupac, especially given the fact that his mother is executive producing.

But in spite of that, Tupac himself could be the role of a lifetime for some young actor who can capture his great humanity without playing him as some weird contradiction the way he was characterized for so much of his career.

And the right performance can make even a bad film at least watchable.


Posted on February 12th, 2011 - Filed under Film
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Fairy Tales

I adore Amanda Seyfried as much as the next guy, but eh…

…if I wanna see a great adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood, nothing beats Reese Witherspoon and Keifer Sutherland in Freeway:


This trailer gives away way too many of the best scenes, but rewatching it I’m struck by how much cooler Reese was when she was a real character actress*.

But that’s neither here nor there. Freeway‘s great because it truly reconceptualizes the danger of being a girl all alone inherent in the original fairy tale in a modern context. And then sort of slyly suggests that not all girls take that danger seriously; some actually respond with anger at the thought of being victimized. The film walks a fine line that few films of its type do.

Seyfried’s version makes me think of Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow – pleasant, but unnecessary.

*Nothing more irritating to me than watch great character actors become lame ass movie stars. (see also: DiCaprio, Leonardo; Lopez, Jennifer; Rudd, Paul)

Posted on November 24th, 2010 - Filed under Film
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The Case for Katherine Heigl

There’s an interesting piece over at EW.com that ostensibly makes the case for Katherine Heigl.

I have never really understood the hate that Katie generates. Sure, she’s made a lot of bad movies, but so has Jennifer Aniston and no one hates her (and she’s nowhere near as talented as Katie). I guess it is a bit much that she is tall, blonde, gorgeous, curvy, talented, rich, and unapologetically opinionated. Or so the haterade goes.

The EW piece weirdly discusses all that is wrong with romantic comedies, and spends little actual time on Katie. But it did get me to think about why it is that I so enjoy her work, and have for over a decade: She has an incredible ability to combine a steely coldness with deep reservoirs of sadness and vulnerability.

That first episode of Season 3 on Grey’s Anatomy, in the aftermath of Denny’s death is proof positive.

And she was particularly phenomenal as the cold, but deeply sensitive, alien/human hybrid Isabel Evans on the started-great-then-network-tampering-killed-all-that-was-good-about-it Roswell.  Hers was the hardest part because she had to convey the vulnerability of being a human (of which her brother Max, played by the great should-be-employed-more Jason Behr, had too much) and the alien coldness (of which her betrothed Michael, played by the great Brendan Fehr, had too much), sometimes at the exact same time.

Obviously, romantic comedies provide little material that can play on this particular gift. And it may be that she needs another great television role on par with Roswell and those first three seasons of Grey’s, because there just aren’t a lot of great roles for women in film. Who knows? But there is something perversely retrogressive about Hollywood’s recent penchant for taking talented blonde actresses like Reese Witherspoon, Kristen Bell, and Katie and trying to turn them into the next Meg Ryan.  Reese and Kristen have proven themselves to be quite funny at times, but there is nothing about Katie’s work that suggests she’s a comedic talent.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I’ve always thought she should model her career after Julianne Moore, another steely, yet vulnerable actress.  But then of course, Julianne didn’t get started till her late 30s.  I suspect Katie will transition into meatier roles in a few years when Hollywood figures out that not only do people not want to see her in shit like Killers, she’s not good in shit like Killers.

Posted on October 11th, 2010 - Filed under Film,Television
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