The Kids Are Alright

I was at work earlier this week, closing shift. It was around 7 and I went outside to smoke a cigarette. (A nasty hobby, I know, but food service will do that to you) Naturally, I’m scrolling on my phone, Facebook, Instagram, email. And when I saw that @newschool.edu domain in my recents, my heart stopped. I could only see the first line of the email cuz I didn’t have any data, but that was all I needed.

“I wanted to personally congratulate you…”.

I literally gagged. I ran back inside and yelled, “I just got into grad school,” to which everyone rejoiced loud and black-ily.

I’m moving to New York City and iss about to go down!

I’m too excited! With graduation just weeks away, I can’t help but feel like I’m on the precipice of the dopest era of my life. Firmly in my twenties, I’m out for adventure and new experiences. In the months leading up to getting my decision letter, I started coming up with plan B’s for if I didn’t get in. I was determined to get to NYC by hook or by crook and started researching job prospects in the city and cheap living arrangements. Even if I had to pound the pavement to stay there, I would do what it takes to sustain a life in my dream city. But now that I know plan A came through, I’m even more excited to move to a new city.

For someone who is quite introverted, being in a space where peer-to-peer interaction is a encouraged, like a classroom, really helps to lessen my social anxiety. And what better way to meet new, progressive-minded people than in the heart of Manhattan at The New School?

Momma, look I’m grown now, iss about to go down, my heart beating so loud…

 

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I’m sliding into my season like ole’ buddy, here.

Expanding the Canon of Black Film

Sorry to Bother You is the first film of the Sundance Class of 2018 to pique my interest thus far. In short, it’s a comedy, but mix in elements of surrealism and sci-fi and you’ve either got something really amazing or something not so much.

This is director Boots Riley’s, a musician by trade, debut into the independent film world. At first glance, he has a disposition of quiet confidence and his personality seems as ambitious and interesting as the vision for this film. With Sorry to Bother You, Riley adds his name to a growing list of black writer/directors emerging in film.

The movie stars LaKeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Terry Crews, Steven Yeun, Armie Hammer, and Omari Hardwick and it follows the story of telemarketer, Cassius Green who discovers the “secret to success,” catapulting Cassius into a world of fantastical fuckery. It’s set to come out in July.

LaKeith has been a favorite of mine for a while now. His role as Darius in Atlanta is what endeared me to him initially and though his role in Get Out was small, that meme will last for ages.

Tessa, Tessa, Tessa Thompson. *bites lip* From what I understand, she plays Cassius’ girl in the movie – an interesting pair. I’m excited to see what her performance brings to the table. She’s always been such a talent to me, attraction aside, and her presence on screen is always refreshing.

My expectations are always high when Terry Crews’ name is attached to a project. Not only is he hilarious, he’s intelligent and always delivers a performance that is as endearing as it is daring.

All in all, my expectations are quite high for Sorry to Bother You. I’m always excited to see how the independent film scene is moving and changing. As of the past five years, independent film has been especially popping, particularly as it pertains to black folks. Films like Dear White People, Tangerine, Night Catches Us, Mississippi Damned, Pariah, and Middle of Nowhere are all indies that came out within the last 5- 10 years. These films, among many others that I do not have the space to mention, ushered in a renaissance era in film for black filmmakers and auteurs that continues to push the boundaries to give us shows and movies like Insecure, Queen Sugar, The Chi, Black Panther, A Wrinkle in Time, and now, Sorry to Bother You. 

 

 

 

It’s Showtime

It seems like Showtime’s The Chi just premiered yesterday and now the season finale is upon us. When I first heard about the show, I was hype af to tune in because one of my favorite names in Hollywood, Lena Waithe, was the brains behind the show. But I’ve stayed loyal for nine episodes because I’ve fallen in love with a place and with people who are just trying to make it through their day like everybody else.

Kevin, Jake, and Poppa

(right, left, and center)

This group of guys has really grown on me since the first episode. We knew Kevin would be close to the action after the first episode, but the way his two bros, Jake and Poppa, have grown this season has been interesting to watch. Poppa is my fav, a true renaissance man. He’s got the moves, he whittles, and when it comes down to it, he’s a true blue friend.

Jake, Jake, Jake. So young, so misguided, so foolish and the sad thing is, he can’t even help it because his only guardian, his brother, Reg, is just as misled as he is. His boys are trying their best to look out for him but he might just be a little too hard headed to listen.

The Block Boys

Trice: Lieutenant

Trice is established as the HNIC early in the season. Trice’s block is the center of the action of The Chi. In many ways he’s your typical dope boy: flashy clothes, nice car, intimidating but he also likes yoga and apple juice.

Reg: Commanding Officer

Reg might not be my favorite character but as is the case most times, once you get to know him, you can at least begin to understand where he’s coming from. With a dad doing a bid in prison, an absentee mom, and a little brother to look after, that pressure would drive any well-meaning person to desperation.

The Outliers

Ronnie

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What we know of Ronnie from the first episode is that 1) He and Tracy (Jason’s mom) used to talk and refers to Jason as his son on several occasions. For this whole season, Ronnie’s been on a mission to get to the bottom of Jason’s murder, but he just might get himself killed in the process.

Emmett

If you’ve been following the season, Emmett is not the irresponsible, teen father we met in the first episode. He’s still got three baby mommas but when he’s forced to deal with the reality of having a child, after a baby is literally left on his doorstep, he begins to show signs that he has potential to make a great dad someday.

Brandon

The definition of a good kid in a mad city, Brandon, played by Jason Mitchel aka Easy E, is really a light in a dark situation. He’s just lost his brother Coogie, but he can’t let that stop him. Fuck a piece of the pie, he just wants his own thing, but no matter how much he tries to stay out of trouble, it seems to find him anyway.

Quentin aka Q: OG

Q’s back and no one knows why but everybody’s on guard. We don’t know much about Q when he’s introduced other than he used to run the block that Trice now runs and he doesn’t like what he sees.

The Mothers

The women in this show are phenomenal. This show is really a testament to the strength of black women and the integral ways that they hold entire communities together.

Jada: Emmett’s mother

Jada was my favorite from episode one. Not only does she lay down the law when it comes to her knuckle-head son, she’s resourceful, caring, and funny.

LaVerne: Brandon’s mother

Having just lost her son, LaVerne is just trying to start fresh but her biggest challenge is her own son, Brandon. She’s simply doing her best to hold her head up as she goes through the unimaginable reality where her youngest son, Coogie, isn’t with her.

Tracy: Jason’s mother

The murder of Jason Roxboro is the point of entry for the series and the woman left to deal with the fall out is Tracy Roxboro, his mother. She wants answers but has none. She’s searching for

Nina: Kevin’s mother

C’Mon LGBTQ representation! Though Kevin’s moms don’t make many appearances, it is understood that Kevin has two moms. Nina, the woman who birthed him and Karen, his mother’s partner. More than anything, their portrayal on screen goes to show that same sex partners are just as capable of raising smart, well-rounded kids as anyone else.

Ms. Ethel: Ronnie’s grandmother

The only silver lining in Ronnie’s life. She’s the only person that Ronnie’s got left and he looks after her best he can. Ms. Ethel is something of a moral compass for Ronnie, and though he takes the scenic route (i.e the entire season) to get there, he ultimately does right by her and as a result, everyone else in the neighborhood who he’s wronged.

This show is one of the most well-written, well-cast, and straight up well-done shows on television right now. It’s new, it’s refreshing and exciting. For people like me, who grew up in the South and only know of Chicago what I’ve seen on the news, this show is important.

A bullet doesn’t just hit the person it’s aimed at. It hits their families, friends, and community and alters their trajectories forever.

The Chi was renewed for another season earlier this year and I cannot wait to see where these stories go and how these characters continue to grow and evolve. As for season one, we’ve only got one more episode to try and put the rest of the pieces together. Last week’s episode gave us some answers, including who murdered Jason but the fallout of that initial murder has yet to be resolved. It’s been a stand out season for Lena Waithe and The Chi, and regardless of how it ends tonight, they’re just getting warmed up.

Wakanda Forever: Thoughts on Black Panther

Four times… and counting. That’s how many times I’ve seen Black Panther and honestly, Marvel can continue to take my money until it’s no longer in theaters.

This. Movie. is simply everything. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything quite like it. As someone who aspires to write for the screen and work in film, I feel like this movie has changed the game has began an era of clearing the path for folks like me who have new ideas and new stories.

What Black Panther has assured us of is that black does indeed translate internationally. Black entertainers like Kevin Hart have made a point of talking about this very phenomenon in multiple interviews. And Kevin does bring down the house. He’s kind of a superstar. (I mean how many movies has he done in the past five years?) But he’s one guy.

Black Panther gave us a cast full of black excellence, some familiar faces, and some new.

And oh baby, did it travel.

$1 B I L L I O N, and still climbing.

Following Ryan Coogler’s career, I knew he was capable of delivering something of quality. He’s a brilliant story teller, but I wondered how he would bring his auteurism to a studio like Marvel, who, in my opinion, makes movies that generally lack depth. Marvel makes good movies, obviously, but I rarely go to the theater to see them.

The two philosophies pitted against each other in the film worked perfectly as the defining conflict between T’Chala and Eric. Tradition vs. Innovation? What is a nation that has built and sustained itself to do in the context of a global society? Do they have a moral obligation to help those who cannot help themselves? Or should they just mind their business like they’ve been doing?

I knew I smelled a rat. W’Kabi a.k.a. Brutus, Daniel Kaluuya’s character, said something telling in the first act of the film.

“If you bring the refugees here, they bring their problems with them. Then Wakanda is like everywhere else.”

Sounds like a Trump supporter to me. When he said that, I knew I had to watch that nigga. And low and behold, this bitch is leading the rebellion. But he knew he wasn’t stepping to T’Chala – and winning – so he waited for his moment.

ENTER Eric Killmonger.

The beginning of the movie sets up his tragic story and we get some context to what he’s trying to accomplish here. The MO: to liberate oppressed people the world over and usher in a new era of Wakandan global dominance. But his motives are revealed to be completely selfish and ill-founded so the mission was doomed to fail from the start.

From what I’ve seen on the internet, very few people are acknowledging the voice of reason, Nakia, Lupita Nyong’o’s character, who was basically saying “We don’t have to wage war on the world to help it. We have the juice here. Ain’t nobody fuckin’ with Wakanda. We can all be great.” A happy medium right? I thought so.

T’Chala is ultimately won over by Nakia’s philosophy and he even confronts his dad about it after being revived from the spirit realm. Leave it to a woman to be the rational one.

This is where my absolute favorite comes in. Lord M’Baku of the Jabari people.  He sees himself as this defender of tradition in his initial combat with T’Chala. He’s been watching from the mountains and does not like what he sees. He’s gracious enough to keep T’Chala alive after finding him nearly lifeless but set in resolve to remain neutral in the ensuing struggle for power. But in the end, the Jabari people help to save their Wakanda, realizing that it would be more a crime to remain silent than to let Killmonger and W’Kabi wage war on the world.

Depth. Thought provoking. Insightful. The performances were amazing. The costume design, the detail, the aesthetic, everything about this movie was out of this world. It’s the best Marvel movie I’ve ever seen hands down, but it also one of the best movies I’ve ever seen period.

This was a feat of tremendous proportions and I am both floored and fascinated. What the world is about to witness something I will call the Black Panther effect, pushing forward an era of pushing boundaries, telling new stories, and inspiring new ideas.

And I cannot wait.

#100: A Weekend For the Books

#100: A Weekend For the Books

Even with only 2 classes this semester, I’m just exhausted. It’s like no matter how much I think I’m eliminating from my plate, it somehow manages to fill itself back up almost instantly.

We last spoke at the end of February and since then a lots been going on. As I type this, I’m flying 3000 feet in the air back to Memphis from DC after a weekend with my best friend, Reuben. As avid listeners of…

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