“Movies, Media & More” — despite the nice, innocuous title — is neither nice nor innocuous. I just call it that because Movies, Media & More is more economical and eye-friendly than “Raising Three Different Kinds of Hell About the Insidious, Ruthless Racism by which Hollywood Determinedly Propagandizes a White-is-Wonderful Agenda that Would Warm Adolf Hitler’s Heart.”
It will, for instance, comment on how gifted director-screenwriter Kasi Lemmons got shafted, pretty much relegated to obscurity, after making a huge splash with Eve’s Bayou. Her follow-up, The Caveman’s Valentine, artfully adapted to the screen by George Dawes Green from his novel, was not a commercial success.
Accordingly, this gifted Black female fell from favor at the studios and has not achieved the prominence her talent richly deserves. In a one-strike-you’re-out shelving of Lemmons to the sidelines, she now has to bust her behind to figure out where the next movie deal will come from.
White directors, male and female, can fall on their faces as much as they want and still have film companies fawning all over them to do another project. Penny Marshall broke the bank with Big and A League of Their Own, then flopped with Renaissance Man and Riding in Cars with Boys. Her phone, though, still rings off the hook (i.e. last year’s TV flick Women without Men, this season’s series United States of Tara.)
Kasi Lemmons hasn’t been tapped to direct traffic, let alone a film or television project since her sterling 2007 turn Talk to Me. These days, she’s gone back to acting (that was her playing Jodie Foster’s FBI academy sidekick in Silence of the Lambs), following a 2006 role for Waist Deep in which she played — I swear to God, she’s listed in the credits as — “Angry Black Woman.” In 2012, she’ll be on the big screen in a blink-and-you-miss-her role for Disconnect. Along with Kasi Lemmons being out of directing work, Black audiences, importantly Black women, miss out on her extraordinary ability to authentically depict Black reality.
“Movies, Media & More” also will have a thing or two to say about how sellouts — yes, I went there — like actors Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Thandie Newton and others (there’s more than a few) along with directors like Antoine Fuqua and F. Gary Gray help Hollywood sustain a bottleneck through which struggling actors of color (brown, yellow and red along with Black) can’t pass. They made their bones on the wallets of Black ticket-buyers, then signed on as card-carrying members of the I Have Overcome Generation.
Not a one of them uses their star power, their clout at the box office and with studio execs, to do a damned thing about changing, about improving how and how often Black life is reflected in American cinema.
Yeah, yeah, they every so often play Black figures out of history to drum up credibility — when they do it more than once in awhile, they’ll actually be doing something. Hell, the saying used be “scarce as hen’s teeth.” Now you can say, without fear of contradiction, “scarce as Black women in a Wesley Snipes movie.”
Along with grousing about how awful things are, “Movies, Media & More” will, on the rare occasions where it’s warranted, give credit where credit’s due.
For instance, according kudos to winning efforts like Next Day Air — which entertained without showing Black folk as stock types in a weak script — turned a profit and didn’t have one White face from beginning to end. Speaking of which, the column will, yes, acknowledge that White stars like veteran icon Martin Sheen — who didn’t need the work — stepped up to make cameo appearances in cinematic gems like Dead Presidents by directors Albert Hughes and Allen Hughes and Lemmons’ Talk To Me.
So, the long and the short of it is “Movies, Media & More” will state the painfully obvious. Every week.
Until Hollywood changes its spots. Which, of course, will be a long time.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.