Category Archives: movies

Push Gets Oprah and Tyler Perry

by Guest Contributor Melissa Silverstein, originally published at Women and Hollywood

When Push won the big awards at Sundance over a week ago I posited that it would be an awesome opportunity for Tyler Perry to use his mailing list and developed audience to promote a film outside his comfort zone which is pretty much himself. Here’s what I wrote on January 25th:

    Film doesn’t yet have distribution, but hopefully now someone will sign on. I think this would be a great opportunity for Tyler Perry. I know that he is pretty much focused on his own work but he has a built in list and if he (or even Oprah) would put their names and muscle behind this film I bet it could get a release. Even though I have not seen the film I would guess that from the reception and reviews and awards that the issue with this film will be its hard content especially in this market.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that this would happen. I am shocked and thrilled. The film was bought by Lion’s Gate for approx $5.5 million making it the biggest deal of the festival. Since it won both the audience and jury prize it make sense to me that it got the biggest deal. (Things should work this way yet hardly ever do.) Oprah and Tyler Perry are both going to put their muscle behind the film to get the word out. Props to Lion’s Gate for really thinking outside of their comfort zone on this film. They do very well with Tyler Perry and it makes sense that this film also has potential, but Tyler Perry’s films sell themselves and this one will take a lot of work.

Here’s what Oprah and Perry had to say about the film

“I’ve never seen anything like it. The moment I saw ‘Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire,’ I knew I wanted to do whatever I could to encourage other people to see this movie. The film is so raw and powerful — it split me open,” Winfrey said.

“I am honored to join Oprah Winfrey and Lionsgate in releasing Lee Daniels’ exceptional film,” Perry said.

Lionsgate, Winfrey, Perry push ‘Push‘ (Variety)

Moving Beyond the Niche

by Guest Contributor Melissa Silverstein, originally published at Women and Hollywood

A couple of weeks ago the NY Times ran a piece about the lack of progress of African American directors over the last decade. It seems that African American filmmakers suffer the same issues as women filmmakers — being stuck in a niche and unable to get out. Whether it’s right or not, or desired or not, most African American directors get pigeon holed into creating stories for African American audiences which are still not seen as “mainstream.” Personally, I would rather see a film like The Secret Life of Bees directed by an African American woman like it was, because I would venture to say that Gina Prince-Bythewood (pictured top right) would do a better job than a white woman or white man. I don’t see anything wrong with that. But because women and people of color are seen as “niche audiences” anyone who is in those groups gets stuck. I don’t think the problem is with the audiences. The Secret Life of Bees was a steady earner all through the fall with black and white women. I think the word niche is evil and should be banished. Why aren’t stories like Cadillac Records which boasts an amazing performance from Beyonce (tell me why they couldn’t sell her?) seen as American stories? Once the movie business figures out that they can make money by getting people beyond the “niche” maybe we will see more opportunities for African American directors and women directors.

Some points from the article:

You could now literally count on one hand (using two fingers) the number of black directors who can get their projects made and distributed at a steady rate. One is (Spike) Lee…while the other is Tyler Perry.

Momentum for African-American cinema, it would seem, has been curtailed or at least stalled in part by studio executives’ preconceptions that black films are “niche product” with limited appeal. Yet at the same time black directors and producers still express optimism that they not only can continue to cultivate their black audiences but also can reach out further and wider to the mainstream…

Darnell Martin, the director of Cadillac Record is a cautionary, yet surprisingly typical tale of what happens to women directors:

Ms. Martin places much of the blame for her sporadic career in the feature-film business on the conflicts she had over the promotion of “I Like It Like That.” “They insisted on making me the poster child for the film, the ‘female Spike Lee,’ and I said, ‘Look, I don’t mind that. I’m proud to be a black woman director, and I want that out there.’ But we’d gotten some great reviews, and I felt that was what they should be leading with. If it had been a white director, they would have emphasized the reviews, but instead they were trying to get people to see it only because I was black.

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Off-Topic: Ain’t Saying He’s A Gold Digger: Looking At Bromance & I Love You, Man

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

Editor’s Note – While checking out tips from readers, evaluating episodes of Daddy’s Little Girls, and checking up on The Real World, something kept grating on my nerves. The heavily promoted Bromance dances into decidedly homo-erotic territory – but the wink and nudge protestations from the cast members (complete with “Dude, that’s so gay” remarks to keep people in check) I started to wonder what was up. I asked Arturo to take a quick peek at the show. – LDP

The question of male friendship and how “gay” it may or may not be is getting a little extra scrutiny these days, with new projects from Brody Jenner and Paul Rudd.

In the wake of Prop. 8′s passage in California, Jenner’s Bromance is taking MTV’s new approach to dating shows: same-sex humiliation. Produced by Momma’s Boy’s mastermind Ryan “I was Metro when that was still another word for subway” Seacrest, the show is Entourage by way of The Bachelor, with several dim-witted if sort-of-well-intentioned young men competing for a spot at Brody’s side. And really, who wouldn’t want to hang out with a professional do-nothing and his friend Sleazy T and Frankie Delgado — especially after their “initiation” involved getting dragged out of their beds wearing nothing but their boxers (or less) and a black bag over their head? My buddies and I play Gitmo Gotcha all the time!

The show’s challenges answer that question: money, and random women. Each of the show’s skill challenges features two or three random white female ornaments. The lone exception, of course, was the “Dating Game”-style game which cross-promoted Lauren Conrad – she’s random enough on her own. The contestants’ first task, in fact, was to bring “hot chicks” to a lingerie party. (It also should be noted that seemingly 75 percent of the women who were convinced to go were Caucasian blondes.) Continue reading

Reveling in Bleakness

by Guest Contributor SLB, originally published at PostBourgie

In grad school, I took an elective called Autobiografiction in Black, a course in first-person narratives illustrating a broad pastiche of Black life. The first novel we were asked to read was Sapphire’s Push. I read it in three days, growing more and more uncomfortable by the page. I had to take long, cleansing breaks after certain passages. Other times, I sat covering my mouth in disbelief at the central character’s myriad disfortunes. When the book finally ended, I wanted to hurl it across my apartment. My skin crawled for days and I felt betrayed by my professor. What possible reason could she have had for choosing this novel as the initial reading for her course?

Push is the story of Precious Jones, an obese and illiterate teen whose mother and father are sexually, physically, and emotionally abusing her. As a result of routine father-daughter incest, she is the mother of one child with Down’s Syndrome and is pregnant with a second. These horrifying occurrences are just the beginning of Precious’s troubles, but it’d behoove you to read the book to find out what else is going on.

Suffice it to say: Sapphire is relentless in her portrayal of this girl, who joins a literacy class and begins to slowly peek out from the cracks of her dark, shattered life and find a few rays of light.

People who love this book will tell you that it’s a triumphal story of hope in the face of brutality and despair. And it is. But for me, hope appeared too late in the work and retreated without a satisfying enough redemption for our heroine. I couldn’t stop mourning her abundance of tragedies, no matter what brief victories she won.

So when I found out Push was being adapted for the silver screen, I cringed at the prospect of revisiting Precious’s bleakly rendered world. I dreaded watching in technicolor all the awful things I’d imagined while reading. And I reeeally didn’t want to return to the hollowness that haunted the ending. What possible reason would Hollywood have for further dramatizing an existence as heinous as Precious’s? Continue reading

Sundance Interview: Cherien Dabis, Director of Amreeka

by Guest Contributor Melissa Silverstein, orginally published at Women and Hollywood

Cherien Dabis is having one of those dreamlike weeks. She was named one of Variety’s 10 Directors to Watch in 2009, and her film Amreeka had its world premiere at Sundance this past weekend to a standing ovation and positive reviews. Now all she needs to do it sell the film and get an agent.

Not being in Sundance, I haven’t seen the film but if I were there, it would been tops on my list. Here’s the description from the catalog:

Director Cherien Dabis’s auspicious debut feature, Amreeka, is a warm and lighthearted film about one Palestinian family’s tumultuous journey into Diaspora amidst the cultural fallout of America’s war in Iraq. Muna Farah, a Palestinian single mom, struggles to maintain her optimistic spirit in the daily grind of intimidating West Bank checkpoints, the constant nagging of a controlling mother, and the haunting shadows of a failed marriage. Everything changes one day when she receives a letter informing her that her family has been granted a U.S. green card. Reluctant to leave her homeland, but realizing it may be the only way to secure a future for Fadi, her teenage son, Muna decides to quit her job at the bank and visit her relatives in Illinois to see about a new life in a land that gives newcomers a run for their money.Dabis weaves an abundance of humor and levity into this tale of struggle, displacement, and nostalgia and draws an absorbing and irresistibly charming performance from actress Nisreen Faour as Muna, who stands at the heart of this tale. Amreeka glows with the truth and magic of everyday life and signals the arrival of an exciting, new directorial talent.

She took a couple of minutes to discuss the film and her Sundance experience.

Women & Hollywood: What made you want to make this film?

Cherien Dabis: The story is quite personal, inspired by my family and loosely based on true events. I grew up in a small town in Ohio of about 10,000 people. I actually grew up between Ohio and Jordan but most of my time was spent in this small town where as Arab Americans we were isolated because there was no Arab community and not a whole lot of diversity. For a while everything was fine and we fit in relatively well until the first Gulf War when my family was scapegoated and overnight we virtually became the enemy. All kinds of absurd things happened. My father who is a physician lost a lot of his patients because they wouldn’t support an Arab doctor and then it came to a head when the Secret Service came to my high school to investigate a rumor that my 17 year old sister threatened to kill the president.

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Spotting the Stereotypes: He’s Just Not That Into You

by Latoya Peterson

Around New Year’s Eve, I started seeing commercials for He’s Just Not That Into You. I was amused at first – until the last five seconds of the clip. After carefully showing the tortured romantic lives of Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Scarlett Johansson, Kevin Connolly, and Ginnifer Goodwin, the camera cuts to two heavyset black women sitting on a bench.

One woman looks dead at the camera and says (to some unknown listener) “Girl, you better get yourself some ribs and some ice cream because you’ve been dumped!”

The first time the commercial aired, one of my friends from Houston flipping channels while we were waiting to go out. After watching the trailer, I noticed we had the same “WTF” face after that clip aired. I sighed. She sighed.

“They always do that to us, don’t they?”

She said this as more of a statement than a question. Continue reading

Director Danny Boyle Offered Lady Vengeance Remake

by Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

With the huge breakout success of Slumdog Millionaire, director Danny Boyle is crazy hot right now. Not that he wasn’t already a great director — I’ve been a fan for years. But I just came across this very interesting bit of news… Boyle recently revealed in an interview that he’s been asked to direct a remake of Park Chan-wook’s Lady Vengeance: Danny Boyle Asked to Direct Lady Vengeance.

Whaaaaaaa? I had heard a remake of the South Korean revenge thriller was in the works, with Charlize Theron’s name thrown out as a possible star. But Danny Boyle as director… that would be really interesting. However, the interview doesn’t give any indication whether or not he’s actually going to do it. Just the offer.

If this remake has to happen (and in Hollywood, you can probably count on it sooner or later), I’d definitely prefer this combo (Boyle/Theron) over Steven Spielberg and Will Smith doing the Oldboy remake that was announced a few months back. In the meantime, I recommend checking out the cool, creepy original Korean version starring Lee Young-Ae.

Avatar: Get a tan, become asian

by Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

There was a lot of uproar last month when it was announced that M. Night Shyamalan’s movie adaptation Avatar: The Last Airbender would star a lot of pretty white people, with no Asians in sight. The animated Nickelodeon show takes place in an Asian-inspired fantasy realm. Hollywood, of course, is a Caucasian-inspired fantasy realm.

The controversy hasn’t really died down. Avatar fans are still angry. And one of the movie’s actors, Jackson Rathbone, who will play Sokka, seems to think he can easily pull off playing Asian with just a new hairstyle and a tan: ‘Twilight’ Star Jackson Rathbone Hopes To ‘Show His Range’ In ‘Last Airbender’.

Due in theaters in summer 2010, “Airbender” has already begun to face a bit of controversy over the casting of white actors like Rathbone, Ringer and McCartney to play Asian characters – a concern the actor was quick to dismiss. “I think it’s one of those things where I pull my hair up, shave the sides, and I definitely need a tan,” he said of the transformation he’ll go through to look more like Sokka. “It’s one of those things where, hopefully, the audience will suspend disbelief a little bit.”

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