Above:  The late Robin Williams as “Mork” in “Mork & Mindy”

Only last night I was viewing, for the umpteenth time on my DVR, the “Tavis Smiley” two-parter in which iconic comedic auteur Mel Brooks had the Black TV host in stitches.  Brooks extolled the exquisite comedic talents of Cleavon Little and Richard Pryor, the latter whom he called “perhaps the greatest comedian of all time” and the former whom Smiley imagined would’ve had limitless potential in the comedy and acting realms.  Brooks’ appearance on Smiley’s PBS program was on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of Blazing Saddles.  And now, before retiring to bed, while searching online for something to chuckle over, I’ve just read that comedic actor (and a damned great straight-up dramatic actor) Robin Williams is dead, allegedly committing suicide at age sixty-three. And yeah, Williams got a chance to appear on the “Richard Pryor Show” in the late ’70s.

Decades before ADD became a household acronym, fast-thinking and -talking Williams blew our minds organically (or so was our wishful thinking) as one-half the titular characters of the 1970s sitcom “Mork & Mindy.”  It took awhile, but eventually he had me at “Nanu-nanu.” He was on top of the worlds — Earth and Ork — during that television breakthrough, but his list of stand-up shows and film credits would become longer.

Williams was an amazing character actor. Some of my favorite films starring Robin Williams are:  Mrs. Doubtfire (the best man-in-drag movie — with or without prosthetics — since 1959’s Some Like It Hot; 1980’s de Palma homage to Hitch, Dressed to Kill; and 1982’s farce Tootsie); Dead Poets Society; Moscow on the Hudson; PopeyeGood Will HuntingPatch Adams; The Fisher King;  Good Morning, VietnamWhat Dreams May Come; Father’s DayThe Bird Cage; and Insomnia.  And I’m not counting his myriad voice work in great animated films such as Happy Feet and Aladdin.

Overlooked among his TV feature film work was his touching role as a sort-of angel (to Susan Sarandon‘s melancholy character) in the  HBO yuletide drama Noël, which included in the superb ensemble cast another actor we lost too soon and this year:  Paul Walker.

Robin Williams is and will continue to be missed.  Despite his mortal departure creating a dark mood, the night sky beams one star brighter.  We Earthlings have a way to keep him in our orbit, for his pan-galactic humor always will be a click away.

 

 

 

© 2014 Chantale Rêve

All Rights Reserved

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2016 Update:  The unauthorized-biopic mentioned in my May 14, 2014, post — a snippet of which appears below — has been shelved as of 2015, according to various published reports. Members of Nina Simone’s family have authorized an more-accurate biopic (release date: TBA).

This will be a brief post, but not as short as a Tweet. Perhaps fewer than two thousand words. After all, I go off on tangents and on people — well, those who deserve it.  It’s just that I’ve got a gripe, not a grape, to peel.  I’ve got no issue with the non-traditional casting of Zoe Saldana  (Center StageAvatar, Guess Who? Colombiana, Constellation — well, two out of five ain’t bad … and guess which two?)  in the starring role in Rosemary’s Baby, but I’m horrified that she would have the audacity to transform into Nina Simone when so many Black actresses and singers could use the work and work their talents — from Viola Davis, Lorraine Toussaint and Tichina Arnold to India-Arie, Angie Stone and Jennifer Hudson.  Not even Pixar’s special effects combined with the legerdemain of David Blaine and David Copperfield combined could create the illusion that Zoe Saldana is trying to sell.

I didn’t have an issue with Saldana portraying the freaked-out, incubus-ravaged wife, Rosemary, in the recent, second TV remake of Roman Polanski’s 1967 cult classic because I needed guaranteed comedic relief.  One doesn’t need to be an NYU Film School student and trust fund baby to know that Mia Farrow’s authentically terrified reactions to pure evil in the role of a fashion-forward human host of Satan’s baby were outmatched only by her iconic pixie hairstyle — a Vidal Sassoon masterpiece — and her screams and the surreal scenes are cemented in many of our minds.

Saldana’s performance in the NBC-TV horror melodrama was so tepid that I was more interested in the Paris backdrop than her character’s malevolent “evening sickness.”  In Part 2 of the TV remake, Rosemary’s novelist-husband (never mind holding a candle to John Cassavetes’ Guy; Patrick J. Adams couldn’t even light the match) shares with her that he doesn’t understand why she has morning sickness at night, and Rosemary replies with a smile: “Well, it’s morning in Los Angeles.”  Ha-ha-snoooozzzzze.  Too bad the blurry special effects couldn’t save “Rosemary’s Baby”; in fact, they and not Saldana were the most annoying aspect of viewing the drama.

Some film classics simply don’t need to be remade.  Then again, with all the horror flicks that get redone into redon’ts, perhaps there’s a subconscious message in that, which is:  As we continue to rape planet Earth, we try to analyze the horrors within us.  Within Man.  Well, the plot of Casablanca involved the atrocities of war, especially the terrorism and brutality of Nazism, but I don’t see the TV arm of Hollywood forcing that film to undergo a facelift, n’est-ce pas?

Speaking of facelifts …

Earlier tonight, as I bumbled about the Internet instead of slipping beneath the covers, I stumbled into a photo of Zoe Saldana in blackface for her portrayal of the legendary Nina Simone.  Keep in mind that I had just suffered through Part 2 of the aforementioned TV remake of “Rosemary’s Baby” starring Saldana. The Nina Simone biopic is allegedly a personal project of hers. For that, the actress need not our applause, for many folks, not only in the United States, but also in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia, still dig the “High Priestess of Jazz” — as the classically trained pianist affectionately was called because of her elegance onstage and her command of her audience. That idolizing the icon which her native country rejected qualifies Saldana to portray THE Nina Simone? Really?

While an actor doesn’t need to resemble the subject of a biopic, and while he or she can lip sync to lyrics (think of the sheer magic, the spine-tingling soul-channeling, that we’ve witnessed from The Buddy Holly Story, Sweet Dreams and The Josephine Baker Story to Selena, Ray and Cadillac Records), it does help a great deal when the filmmaker and his or her team go to lengths to select an actor who comes close to resembling the biopic’s subject.

As soon as I learned of the Nina Simone biopic, I got a case of “evening sickness,” and not from memories of Saldana’s “Rosemary” devouring raw meat. Here’s my beef:  Casting Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone is the result of some kind of cognitive disorder that’s on the rampage again in Hollywood.  What if, instead of casting Jessica Lange as the late great Patsy Cline, Hollywood had decided to select Jennifer Holiday or oSheryl Lee Ralph?  We all would’ve let out an Ed Norton (not the current actor but the fictional Brooklyn character):  Whaaa-aaa-aaa-aaah!  The only pause I take with Zoe Saldana wearing a ton more makeup on her face than Natalie Wood lugged around in West Side Story or than Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra is this:  The immensely talented Viola Davis, whose beauty is highly underrated, would’ve been right on — as in, with an Angela Davis fist!  Viola Davis immediately came to this writer’s mind and especially because she’s got that roll to her female baritone.  Whether she can or can’t sing a lick (can Zoe sound like Nina?) doesn’t matter; lip synching in biopics is the norm.  And Davis wouldn’t need more than a dab of blush and a stroke of ‘stick.  Heck, anybody can don a turban, but that won’t make her the late great Nina Simone. Neither will pouting when one’s naturally superthick lips put the sensual sugah in some blues.

However, I’m just indie-dreaming.  We all know that Hollywood will always be Follywood, focusing on bankable stars who underneath the Sub-Saharan Matte #5 have conventionally beautiful looks.  Hollywood didn’t have a problem with Saldana’s mocha version of “Rosemary” getting her swirl on and, later, having the devil’s spawn in Paris, but it thinks nothing of triple-dipping her and her wispy body in darker chocolate to make Nina Simone’s Africanness palatable to non-Black people and to the Black people who self-hate their thickness in lips and hips.

Too many of us — and, here, I’m referring to people across ethnic and cultural lines — can understand Viola Davis portraying a maid in The Help, and some secretly were titillated by her mamminess in that film adaptation. Others, including Oprah Winfrey, rationalized the roles of the film’s two principal (and principled) maids in a psychological act of defiance as if only descendants of the recent African Diaspora (say, the past four-hundred-plus years) counted housekeepers among their ancestors. So while I’m thrilled that younger generations are intrigued by Nina Simone’s music and her life, we won’t get to watch and listen to Viola Davis blowing our minds in the biographical role.  Heck, when actress Julie Delpy, as the bourgeoise Céline opposite Ethan Hawke’s Jesse, lip synched through a Nina Simone jazz standard in Before Sunset — the second installment of Richard Linklater’s trilogy — honey, let me tell you that I didn’t see a spot of shoe polish on her face and hands!  No, chillens, this sho ain’t a new life or a new world, so Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone sho don’t feeeeeeel gooooooooooooooood!!!”

 

 

“Zoe Saldana in ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ Remake AND As Nina Simone? What the Devil Is Going On???”  © 2014 Chantale Reve All Rights Reserved


Fifty Shades Trilogy: Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, Fifty Shades Freed 3-volume Shrink Wrapped

Confession, sans restraints:  EL JamesFifty Shades of Grey trilogy (pictured above) was aiiiight.  Nearly sixty years after Story of O, Pauline Réage’s palpable words pique the senses and rev up the imagination.  Part I of FSOG  sucked harder than Anastasia Steele’s virginal lips on … well, y’know.  The kinkiest thing about James’ protag is her first name, which conjures up steely anal ecstasy.  On the flip side, her name approximates anesthesia when the reader finds herself drowning in a sea of first-person pronouns, swept toward the void of unconsciousness. Enough about the subjective, objective and obsessive …

In the case of Darker — Part II of FSOG — it was my fave, but by the end of Part III, hell, I was ready to be “freed.”  Who cares? you may be pondering at the moment.  Myyyyy blog didn’t get picked up and transformed into global bestsellers.  Yeah, I’m feelin’ you.  The point of this blog post, though, is:  Now I’m bummed that someone other than hottie Simon Baker (Charlie Hunnam, for some inexplicable reason) has been cast as “Christian Grey” in the upcoming film adaptation to be directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson.  The Twilight chick, Kristen Stewart, would’ve been perfectly pale as the alabaster porcelain doll, Anal — I mean, Ana.  Damn, where is my mind tonight?  Up my a…

As I had started to explain, one would’ve had to be comatose for at least ten years not to know who Simon Baker is — in the U.S. anyway.  Baker has had two great dramatic series on U.S. television since 2001:  first, “The Guardian,” then “The Mentalist,” the latter of which is still going strong.  A man doesn’t sport sexually menacing, thick eyebrows like George C. Scott’s and not be able to administer ritualistic physical discipline.  No, I’m not hitting below the belt; in my fantasy, Baker is wielding one.  (Make that two.)  Just as yummy James Spader of yuppie-eighties-movies fame nailed his “Mr. Gray” persona (as well as Maggie Gyllenhaal’s title character) in 2002’s indie Master-“piece,” Secretary, Baker would’ve been an obvious … dare I say it … fit as sadistic businessman “Grey.”

On film Beefcake’s, err, Baker’s “Christian” (yeah, the irony) seduced Anne Hathaway’s geeky-Mod character, “Andy,” then committed a BUI (bedding under the influence) in the 2006 comedy The Devil Wears Prada, which featured another tall, bushy-browed hunk, Adrian Grenier of HBO’s hit bromance comedy series “Entourage,” which itself satirized millennial nouveau riche excess of a wannabe A-list actor and his amigos in Los Angeles.  In the romantic drama Something New (2006), Baker literally shined as “Brian,” Sanaa Lathan’s blind-date-turned-spouse (after much fucking with, and mental fucking by, Lathan’s cynical buppie princess, “Kenya”).  As for the queasily anticipated film Fifty Shades of Grey:  fifty lashes for the casting director!

When one considers the hypocrisy of sexual repression in America and all the post-Code gratuitous sex in commercial films, all the hype about the retooling of a British-authored BDSM-themed literary trilogy amounts to droplets of premature ejaculate.  I don’t see Hollywood remaking (Americanizing) an arthouse erotic film such as Last Tango in Paris or In the Realm of the Senses — because its capitalistic elite doesn’t have the balls of independent auteurs.  In a society plagued with high rates of teen pregnancies, divorces, drug- and gang-related murders — not to mention astronomical levels of homophobia — releasing an R-rated commercial movie about an alternative sexual lifestyle’s complex eroticism in the guise of modern romance, has BDSM taking on another meaning:  “Big, Damn, Stupid Mistake.”  Forget thumbs; I’m betting on giving this flick a clit down.

© 2013 Chantale Rêve

All Rights Reserved

Simon Baker stars in Sanaa Lathan Comic-Con 2011.jpg

Above, left:  Actor Simon Baker in a still from the 2006 romantic comedy Something New  (Photo Source:  Focus Features)

Above, right:  Actress Sanaa Lathan at San Diego’s Comic-Con in 2011  (Photo Source:  Wikipedia.org   Photographer:  Gage Skidmore)


 Photo Credit (above):  Asterio Tecson

The first time I heard Whitney Houston’s voice, the song playing on an FM radio station was “You Give Good Love.” The year was 1985; the season, late spring. As a young woman barely out of her teens, I found Whitney’s sweet but throaty, gospel-trained alto the perfect vehicle for depicting the awe and beauty of falling in love, and the apprehension, courage and responsibility of being in love.

My paltry paycheck couldn’t come sooner. Once back home from the record store, with the Whitney Houston album spinning loveliness from my File:Whitney Houston - Whitney Houston (album).jpgturntable, I couldn’t get over the contradiction between the jacket’s front and back covers. On the front was a close-up of a fresh-faced girl like me wearing a pastel gown like a goddess of virtue and, flipped, was a full-length image of a leggy woman in a stunning white swimsuit posing like a sensuous warrior at the ocean’s edge.

At the age I was then, Whitney’s songbird voice spirited me through my academic weekdays and crisp, green weekends. In those days of firsts — pink-frosted feathery haircuts, lipstick, kisses, miniskirts, lingerie, nightclubs, concerts, and forbidden invitations — life transformed into rainbow colors as soon as the needle dropped to the vinyl or the chunky “Play” button was pressed on the Walkman.

When the straight, popular girls (read: big-busted skanks) would snatch away the straight and bisexual normal boys, the only guy I had to hold me was a figment of my imagination. That was OK, though, because all I had to do was shut the door to the attic, snap my fingers to summon my fairy godsista, Whitney, and “dance with somebody who loves me.”

The Greatest Love of All

Image via Wikipedia

Back then, whether a record or an artist won a Grammy didn’t matter to me. As long as the music moved my bottom half — heaven forbid if the lyrics also stirred my soul, as in “Thinking About You,” Whitney’s duet with synth maestro Kashif — I found kinetic bliss a prize worth pursuing. An undergrad degree was more difficult to achieve through a combo of unpredictable death benefits, an eleventh-hour grant that covered only senior-year textbooks, and a part-time night job the commute from which courted danger in a predominantly white section of town. With A Dirty Mind and Around the World in a Day bookending my freshman and senior years, it was a miracle that any schoolwork got done. Though, it was easy to understand how I got done. Seriously, Prince (before and during The Revolution), Whitney, Michael Jackson, Angela Bofill, Madonna and Eldra DeBarge all helped me get through college studies and some heavier stuff right at home.

Thanks to the conviction with which Whitney sang “Saving All My Love for You” and, in a duet with Jermaine Jackson, “Take Good Care of My Heart,” I had intuited a clue to love’s mystery and had received fair warning of the complex emotions that unfolded in relationships which catapulted my tenderoni self into adulthood. By the time Whitney was full-bodied, her mature pipes fluttering and “shooping” through “Exhale,” so was I.

When it came to covers, Whitney reshaped a song and made it her own. Several examples of Whitneyfied remakes include “The Greatest” (originally recorded by R&B-jazz singer-musician George Benson for the 1970s movie The Greatest, starring then-heavyweight champion of the world Muhammad Ali) ; “Living for the Love of You” (The Isley Brothers); “I’m Every Woman” (Chaka Khan); “I Believe in You & Me” (from the soundtrack of The Preacher’s Wife [that film itself a reimagining of The Bishop’s Wife], and originally recorded by The Four Tops); and, as alluded to in the title of this blog post, the thematic song for the 1992 blockbuster film The Bodyguard: “I Will Always Love You” (written by and originally recorded by Dolly Parton).

Whitney Houston   -   Concert in Central Park ...

Whitney Houston – Concert in Central Park / Good Morning America 2009 (Photo credit: asterix611)

Over the past decade, it was refreshing to find Whitney — daughter of the legendary gospel and soul singer Cissy Houston, cousin of pop icon Dionne Warwick, and goddaughter of “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin — performing more gospel songs live and with verve. She was very much alive. She looked and sounded inspired. It’s not my place to judge whether her elated or dreamy expressions were from natural highs or recreational ones, for Whitney showed the world that, despite the various drug-related controversies and media witch hunts, she was but a humble servant of her Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. It is to Him I’d like to think her soul floated for divine comfort and joy, and eternal rest.

This weekend, Black Entertainment Television (BET) re-aired “Celebration of Gospel,” from 2011, in which Whitney surprised the on-site and television audiences by stepping onstage in a pretty, gray dress to join the legendary Kim Burrell for a stirring gospel duet. The riveting encore moved emcee Steve Harvey, too. I had watched the excellent program when it was first broadcast, and its appearance on my TV set on February 12th led me to the news announcement, during commercial breaks, of the tragedy. My fairy godsista, Whitney, was gone.

I didn’t learn of the much-adored yet widely maligned pop icon’s passing until today — Sunday — because over a sixteen-hour period I had been sketching and writing the short story “Mixed Signals” for my Negrotica blog. I usually don’t believe in coincidences, but it’s an eerie one that around the time Whitney was reported to have died (according to the news I viewed on BET and CNN today, February 12th), I had incorporated the emotional relevance of her song “Run to You,” from The Bodyguard soundtrack, into the aforementioned short fiction.

Cover of "The Bodyguard (Special Edition)...

Cover of The Bodyguard (Special Edition)

Whitney’s film career was launched in 1992 with The Bodyguard, a romantic thriller that I loved then and now in spite of a plot which has more holes than a thin slice of Swiss cheese. No disrespect to her co-star, the gifted and handsome actor Kevin Costner, but the movie (co-produced by Costner) turned into a critical vehicle for Whitney Houston and revitalized her pop music image. According to Wikipedia, Lawrence Kasdan, The Bodyguard’s screenwriter and a co-producer, had pegged Steve McQueen and Diana Ross for the leading roles back in the ’70s, when he scripted the film. As a gi-normous Harrison Ford aficionada, I didn’t need Wikipedia to inform me that Kasdan wrote the screenplays for Raiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi.

Although Whitney’s model good looks were taken for granted in The Bodyguard, the woman was incredibly sexy and portrayed the seducer, which for me was a first for a Black actress in a major motion picture involving an interracial romance as a subplot. Were it not for Whitney’s alluring crescents for eyes, expressive lips, serpentine movements and earthy charm, there would’ve been no credible chemistry between the “Queen of the Night” and her protector, and no basis for the 360° farewell kiss at film’s end. Midfilm, though, Costner’s Frank Farmer had my cheeks burning when he taught Houston’s Rachel Marron a horizontal lesson about tinkering with a sharp sword.

Having let down his guard and agreed with (t)horny Rachel to give her an authentic dating experience, he invited her into his private world: his kind of bar, his kind of flick, his kind of fetish. One would think that the vintage Japanese film which they had viewed at the cinema in town was In the Realm of the Senses. (Surely I joust, you say? Hai, hai. Besides, Rachel’s neck scarf was worn loosely, and there was nary an egg in sight.) Experiencing Far Eastern cultural aftershocks from the samurai movie, Rachel gave herself the green light to pierce through to Frank’s sensual layer. While she certainly was no Black geisha, she approached her off-duty bodyguard’s mounted weapon with slippered poise.

Her demoted, incompetent bodyguard, Tony, had learned the hard way just how proficient Frank was with knives, but she was about to get the point of his fetish. Although she first had seduced Frank, she was now in his man-cave by his design, and he only needed to be lured to the edge of passion to take over the seduction. Executing a few, faux samurai moves, Rachel extended the sword like a temptress with penis envy. After halving her silk scarf like an illusionist’s act gone awry, he got her undivided attention. Awestruck and startled was she. Twinned with desire was he. Unheard but understood was his direction to his member to: “Chaaaaarge!”

Their suppressed, forbidden lust unsheathed, they were woman and man, no longer pop diva and bodyguard — at least not until dawn. Can any true appreciator of The Bodyguard forget how the camera slowly revealed Frank’s massive, long blade penetrating the crotch of Rachel’s dainty, lace, limp panties? Am I the only one who frankly didn’t give a damn that it was overkill when the camera next panned over to the bed, where the pair lay embracing each other in their afterglow? The bedroom was bathed in indigo blue; their faces, in blissful satisfaction (hers) and ambiguous regret (his).

For me, Frank’s perilous sword maneuver — his chivalric touché to Rachel’s initiation of foreplay — in The Bodyguard was the sexiest Kevin Costner scene since his smooches north and south on Sean Young’s statuesque bod — he in uniform, she in lingerie — across a limo’s wide backseat in the Cold War-era suspense film No Way Out (1987), based on Kenneth Fearing’s novel The Big Clock. While the film’s eponymously titled, synth-drenched balladic duet led off by Paul Anka saturated the night, Costner’s naval commander and Young’s two-timing mistress frolicked and panted away behind the involuntarily shut slide, leaving the disappointed chauffeur (Bill) to circle DC’s illuminated monuments. And, no, Costner’s Tom Farrell didn’t leave his hat on.

File:TheBodyguardSoundtrack.jpg

Not since The WIZ, Saturday Night Fever and Purple Rain had I played an original soundtrack (OST) back to back over an entire year! I adored then, as I do now, every track that Whitney laid down on The Bodyguard OST. Also highly listenable are the cuts not performed by her, such as “It’s Gonna Be a Lovely Day” — Clivilles-Cole’s sensually aerobic rendition of Bill Withers’ 1977 hit song “Lovely Day” — which remind us of their contributions to the film’s atmospherics. That is, they musically aid director Mick Jackson in dramatizing the enviable (to some) lush life juxtaposed with a paranoid sensibility that can accompany the perils of celebrity. To date, The Bodyguard remains the highest-selling OST on Earth.

Not one film that Whitney’s talent, name and fame carried — not a one — tanked. I’ve exhausted my praise for The Bodyguard. Now please allow me to take you back down memory lane, for this now-ascended star who in mortal life easily flashed her megawatt smile also had entertained us with her commendable work in The Preacher’s Wife (with Denzel Washington), Cinderella (with singer-actress Brandy in the title role) and Waiting to Exhale (with a tremendous ensemble cast that included Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine and the late Gregory Hines).

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[I’m infamous for my asides, so here we go:

Aside #1: Thank you to director and Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker for bringing us the gem Waiting to Exhale in 1995. We need, no, crave, many more films that represent the multifaceted Black Experience. We are human, too, and so non-Blacks (now’s not the time to pelt me with the anthropological “Lucy” theory) will perceive and appreciate the universality in our stories just as we do in theirs. If we can guffaw through The Help — a film I refuse to sit uncomfortably through when an über-rich person such as Oprah Winfrey keeps touting it — then non-Blacks and Blacks can view a film about, say, a happily married, working-class Black couple trying to deal with their twentysomething son’s PTSD after he has survived his “tour” in Afghanistan but no one wants to hire him.

Here, I’m making my plea to: Spike Lee, Kasi Lemmons, Forest Whitaker, Sanaa Hamri, Tyler Perry, Carl Franklin, Marlies Carruth, F. Gary Gray, Darnell Martin, Antoine Fuqua, Neema Barnette, Denzel Washington, Julie Dash, Clark Johnson, Cheryl Dunye, Lee Daniels, Angela Robinson, John Singleton, Coquie Hughes, Sheila Norman, Martin Lawrence, Gina Prince-Bythewood, The Hughes Brothers, Ayoka Chenzira, Bishop T.D. Jakes, and the rest of you responsible Black American, Caribbean and other African-descended filmmakers. Please lift your cameras and, for the auteurs among you, your pens now like never before!

Aside #2: I’m still wishin’ and hopin’ and prayin’ that somebody will make a major motion picture about the life of Tammi Terrell — and I’m for real. I’m continuing my campaign launched with my November 2010 post on this Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah Blog, in which I stated that actress Taraji P. Henson would be magnificent cast as Tammi. If those with the capital to fund just about every damned thing else could get in touch with author Vickie Wright and her co-author on the Tammi Terrell bio, Ludie Montgomery, who is Tammi’s sister, then these wonderful ladies will be able to bring their film project to fruition. I plan to be on line on opening night.

Aside #3: Now, what’s being plated in heaps among the annual sampling of films (and TV shows) containing predominantly Black casts? Junk food. We desire soul food! Tyler Perry shouldn’t take all of the heat. He’s a self-made millionaire in an industry that would never do what he does: employ many long-seen-and-heard-from Black actors. And they’re major talents. But I take issue with the excessive histrionics and slapstick that often distract from the serious matters which Perry had the insight and courage to explore. Don’t get me wrong; Madea is fucking hilarious! However, when we already are presented with such a gigantic woman — Perry in drag as a caricature of a composite of grannies and great-aunties some of us know or knew all too well — do we really need the actors in supporting roles going over the top like Madea’s prosthetic tatas? Or should I say, taDAHS!

I’m all for tribute and affection wrapped in comedic irreverence, but in the burial scene in Meet the Robinsons, did Jenifer Lewis’ strident-voiced character need to desecrate “Amazing Grace” and get shoved into the open grave? Why didn’t Perry go further and write a few broken limbs into the script? You Tyler Perry fans know that’s a rhetorical question. Perry sketched a two-dimensional cartoon character, for in the kitchen scene that follows the burial shot, Lewis emerges only with a facial bruise and a crooked wig. Rubbish.

Auteur Spike Lee justifiably was publicly critical of Perry’s representations of Black people and the ironic acceptance by Blacks. But the responsibility of making quality films cannot rest solely on Spike’s shoulders — by the way, I’d say that if he stood over six feet tall. Spike isn’t flawless, of course. He seemed preachy in parts of his 1990s films, such as the scene in Jungle Fever in which Wesley Snipes’ adulterous protagonist steps out of character to give a PSA-worthy speech about unwed teenage mothers. Yes, Spike misstepped there by not ministering to unwed teenage fathers.

However, Spike doesn’t rely on slapstick and on Black characters acting like white actors in blackface in a minstrel show. That’s Perry’s forté. I only hope that I don’t waste $12 ($20 with popcorn and a beverage) walking out of Perry’s Good Deeds the way I did with For Colored Girls.

Aside #4: We are force-fed a plethora of movies from male-dominated POVs that depict Black men, women and children as “coons” — yeah, I went there. Those types of characters are nothing but 21st-century versions of actors made to ape around in flicks that European American audiences flocked to see during the half-century following the end of legal U.S. slavery.]

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Back to the subject of this blog post: the late great Whitney Houston

When Sparkle, her last film and a remake of the 1976 classic that starred singer-actress Irene Cara in the title role, is released this summer, let’s all go out and support it. Thank you, Bishop T.D. Jakes, for bringing it … and for bringing it back to life. Yes, thank you for resuscitating a film that most of the world forgot, perhaps because it’s about a Black adolescent (singer Jordin Sparks in the title role) — a middle child — who has God-given talent, a big dream, a strong church family, a supportive and adoring friend and, most importantly, a single mother who loves her so much that she fears losing her to vices and materialistic success.

In Sparkle Whitney portrays the matriarch of a family of sisters in a role originated by the graceful actress Mary Alice, who illuminated the small and big screen with an authentic, downhome kind of femininity and mature sensuality. (Mary Alice was ubiquitous in 1970s television programs, especially “Sanford and Son” opposite comedic legend Redd Foxx, and she’s long overdue an “Unsung” profile on TVOne.  Hint, hint.) Recalling Mary Alice’s poignant performances during my youth, and how she balanced poise and feistiness, I’m so happy that someone had the prescience or genius to consider Whitney Houston — a religious, doting mom to a teen-age daughter who publicly had expressed her own music industry dreams — for such a coveted role in Sparkle. Timing is everything, and Whitney is a natural for the part.

Those of you who either lined up outside the cinema house in ’76 (as I did that autumn with my mom) when the original Sparkle was released or have viewed it on cable television (thanks, TVOne) or DVD, know that all three daughters were fast-tracked into adulthood amid harsh urban realities. You also may recall that the eldest sibling, “Sister” (pronounced Sistuh), played to the hilt by Lonette McKee, lost her battle to drug addiction — heroin, the drug plied by her pusher-lover, Satin. It’s inspired casting when one considers Whitney’s courage to make a comeback after struggling with a failed marriage — one in which substance abuse and love were intertwined (if not symbiotic), by the pop icon’s own admission.

In the film’s original version, set vaguely in the late 1950s to early 1960s, the midtempo song “Hooked on Your Love” seduced the moviegoer with its muted horns and stripper beat while the gowned-down girl group (McKee’s, Cara’s and Dwan Smith’s characters, in proper birth order) sashayed what their momma gave them to the delight of single and attached men seated at tables in the nightclub. It would be a travesty if in the rebirthed Sparkle movie, “Hooked on Your Love” (sung on the soundtrack album by Aretha Franklin; in the film, by McKee on lead vocals) were omitted instead of re-envisioned.

This time, the whole world will take notice of the film, not only for the dramatic performances and the great soundtrack, but also for its lifesaving messages about loving and believing in oneself and about the significance of supporting and standing up for family and friends when one gets a divine call. Yes, the entire world will pay attention to Sparkle this time around because Whitney Houston no longer is.

Cissy Houston, thank you for trusting the world with your beloved “Nippy.” Many out there did your baby wrong, but they’re greatly outnumbered by us — the longtime fans that discovered who Whitney was through the music which also helped us discover ourselves, who encountered an angel on earth and whose love for her will live on like her amazing legacy.

Just Whitney

Image via Wikipedia

 In Memory of Our Recently Departed Sista-Girl,
Whitney Houston: 1963-2012

© 2012 Chantale Rêve

All Rights Reserved


He’s baaaack.  That glib smile, that infectious laugh, that receding hairline, those mischievous eyebrows and, lest I forget, that prêt-à-porter wardrobe.  In OSS 117: Lost in Rio, French comedic actor Jean Dujardin returns for another, hilarious outing as the secret agent code-named OSS 117.   This time around, it’s a doozy, as in douze ans plus tard.  OSS 117 is twelve years older and more inept than ever!

As with 2006’s uproarious OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, this sequel also was adapted from the OSS 117 novels by Jean Bruce.  Dujardin’s Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath reads like an early “007” on acid.  That he resembles Sean Connery’s James Bond (circa Dr. No) while poking fun at Gallic arrogance lends parodic thrills and caustic political satire to his new, South American adventure.

Take note:  The bumbling spy who can never seem capable of parallel parking his flashy convertible, is not OSS double-one seven.  Non pas de tout.  He’s OSS cent dix-sept!  Mais oui.  Amid all the hijinx, Bonisseur de la Bath, who’s flitting through Brazil’s pristine beaches, scenic roads and tropical rainforests as evening newspaper reporter “Noel Flantier,” tries his dogged best to get laid – thus, my ironic title for this review.  He possesses neither the dashing charm of Connery’s Bond nor the rugged allure of James Coburn’s Derek Flint (himself a parody of the debonnaire Bond) in Our Man Flint.   Every time “petit Hubert” tries to take a “dip,” it’s a side-splitting laugh for us, the viewers.  And oh, it hurts so good!

From the jump, the little birdies spying on Bonisseur de la Bath (prior to his assignment as “Noel Flantier”) and a lover in the sack are getting more action. Bad enough that the vacationing secret agent remains in his skiing ensemble (including footgear) while his sex mate is sprawled in a sheer, hot-pink teddy.  Even funnier, wings of the fornicating (mechanical) birds flutter frenziedly to a devil-may-care tune breezing above the bed and out a window that reveals an ethereal, midnight blue sky.

Here are nine more scenes that had me on the floor choking with laughter.  In no particular order:  1) the film’s intro, with a never-ending twist (as in the jaunty dance – after all, this sequel is set in the sixties) and Bonisseur de la Bath’s stupid smile while he’s gyrating his hips;  2) the split-screen depiction of Noel’s arrival in Brazil, the enemy on his heels and a commercial samba score setting up the retro mood;  3) Noel yelling at his Nazi prey with a waterfall behind him that mutes his voice;  4) a Nazi’s German stylings on the bossa nova classic “The Girl from Ipanema,” replacing Astrud Gilberto’s breezy “Ahhh” in the chorus with a chilly (and chilling) “Brrr”;  5) Noel’s  brash interrogation of two children living in a favela, with regard to the whereabouts of a Nazi whom he was sent to capture because he possesses an object that could compromise the honor and legacy of the French Resistance; 6) Noel’s refusal to stop repeating a corny pun involving his spy name and his Christmas boules (his “Christmas present,” he says to his unamused Israeli Jewish female Mod-stylin’ espionage partner, Dolores, before trying the joke on a colleague telephonically);  7) Noel’s sexual harassment of his aforementioned spy partner as their airplane plummets to their uncertain deaths;  8) Noel’s misconstruing of the term hippie sects with hippic sex; and 9) CIA operative Bill Trumendous’ jarring Franglish and his grinning insults, to Noel’s bewildered reaction, in the former’s car.

However, one, wonderfully extended sequence that was worth the DVD’s price – a cost with the altitude of Cristo atop Corcovado – occurs on a Rio beach at nighttime.  Sometime after Noel unwittingly accepts LSD (to which he refers as the French abbreviation RSVP later in the film) from a hippie chick, not only is he lost in Rio but also he loses his clothing.  He finds himself tripped-out with a group of hippies who are camped around a fire and, upon the acid’s full effect, engaging in an orgy with them.  If that weren’t psychedelic enough, soul singer Minnie Riperton’s chirpy 1970s ballad “Loving You” offers a starkly innocent contrast to all the naturalistic, writhing, carnal movements.

The orgy sequence’s split-screen effect feels so perfectly vintage.  Immediately I thought of 1968’s The Thomas Crown Affair as well as early- to mid-sixties romantic comedies starring Doris Day.  Dujardin’s “backlit” partial nudity around the fire is arousing.  Against the flickering images of lips on breasts and palms on buttocks, Noel’s participation in group sex lends him sensual depth – as if the subtle flexing of Dujardin’s arched eyebrows, though they’re a thinner version of Sean Connery’s Scottish thickets, doesn’t imply a soupçon of virility.  That glow on Noel’s countenance isn’t the look of love; it’s the blissful expression of “loving” the one you’re with.

Caution:  OSS: Lost in Rio makes no apologies for political incorrectness. No, in an OSS 117 film, savoir-faire is not everywhere.  Nor is it anywhere.  Throughout the movie, Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath repeatedly shows why he is a bigot and an asshole (OK, the two are mutually exclusive) by spewing forth anti-Semitic and misogynistic remarks.  Sometimes he doubles up on offensiveness.  If you can get through reruns of the satirical 1970s sitcom “All in the Family” without surfing to another channel, then you can endure OSS: Lost in Rio.  Also, there’s brief nudity, so combined with the un-PC nature of the dialogue, this is a film made for an adult audience.  Or, put another way, it’s one, cool European flick.
 

Copyright © 2011 By Chantale Reve


DVD:  OSS 117:  Lost in Rio

Director:  Michel Hazanavicius

Studio:  Music Box Films

DVD release date:  August 31, 2010

Format:  NTSC, WS

Rating:  Not Rated

Running time:  97 min.

Language:  French, with English subtitles

DVD Bonus Features:  Behind the Scenes, Theatrical Trailer

Photo Source:  IMDb