Monday, June 17, 2013

The Emperor Jones — Cool Black Review


Directed byDudley Murphy
Produced byGifford Cochran
John Krimsky
Written byEugene O'Neill (play)
DuBose Heyward (screenplay)

StarringPaul Robeson
Dudley Digges
Frank H. Wilson
Fredi Washington
Ruby Elzy
CinematographyErnest Haller
Editing byGrant Whytock
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date(s)September 29, 1933
Unscrupulously ambitious Brutus Jones escapes from jail after killing a guard 
and through bluff and bravado finds himself the emperor of a Caribbean island. 

Cool Black Review
I’ve always wanted to see a Paul Robeson movie and the passage below from the book Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films by Donald Bogle provided the impetus.

Now as you can see the plot sounds gotdamn ridiculous. I was like wow, what a whirlwind of a plot and yes all of that happened.

The 1933 film itself is of course dated, but it had an audacious performance by Paul Robeson who of course sings several songs in the film. The acting was big and broad, but that was the style of the day. If you’re a fan of the old pictures this one was a decent one and you get a chance to see a pioneering performer. Without Robeson there would be no great African American performers of today. 

Cool Black Mad Commentary
Wikipedia states:
 A stint on the chain gang allows the film its first opportunity to show Robeson without his shirt on, an exposure of male nudity unusual for 1933 and certainly for a black actor.
I too was surprised at this. That was only the first of many opportunities Robeson bared his chest.  As explained in the Bogle book and from my lifetime of watching film, the black male is usually “neutered” on film. The black male is never as “naked” as his white counterparts, but here in the 1930s was this big, black man shirtless. Applause to all that were involved in putting this film out for I know it couldn’t have been easy. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Oprah Gives Huge Donation to Smithsonian Museum of Black History

Winfrey Gives $12 Million to New Smithsonian Museum of Black History and Culture

Oprah Winfrey is giving $12 million to help build the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, the museum announced on Tuesday.
Due to open in late 2015, the planned $500 million museum is being constructed on a five-acre site next to the Washington Monument on the National Mall.
In recognition of Ms. Winfrey’s gift, the museum’s 350-seat theater, one of the building’s largest spaces, is to be named the Oprah Winfrey Theater.
“The theater’s programs will enable audiences to gain a broader understanding of how African American history and culture shape and enrich the country and the world,” the Smithsonian said in a statement. It said the “theater will be a forum in the nation’s capital for performers, artists, educators, scholars, authors, musicians, filmmakers and opinion leaders.”
“This gift helps us get to the finishing line in terms of construction,” said Lonnie G. Bunch III, the museum’s director, in an interview. “Oprah has also given her imprimatur and that helps with fund-raising and visibility.”
So far the museum has raised $335 million toward the $500 million cost of design, construction and exhibitions, including $145 million from private sources, he said.
Other large donors include the Gates Foundation and the Lilly Endowment, which have each given $10 million.
Mr. Bunch said the building, now under construction and designed by the team of Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup to evoke the art of an ancient West African kingdom — should be finished in one and a half to two years. “We are on track and on budget,” he said. Despite cutbacks in Washington, he said, congressional financing had been forthcoming. “We are grateful. We have done well.”
Together with $1 million she gave in 2007, Ms. Winfrey’s latest gift means she is now the single largest donor to date, the museum said. She has been a member of the museum’s advisory council since 2004; other council members include Richard D. Parsons, former chairman of Citigroup, and Laura W. Bush.
“By investing in this museum, I want to help ensure that we both honor and preserve our culture and history, so that the stories of who we are will live on for generations to come,” Ms. Winfrey said in the official statement.
The museum was established as a Smithsonian museum by an act of Congress in 2003.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Brooklyn Castle — Cool Black Review

Directed by Katie Dellamaggiore
Produced by Katie Dellamaggiore, Nelson Dellamaggiore and Brian Schulz
Cinematography by Brian Schulz
Editing by Nelson Dellamaggiore
Release date(s): March 11, 2012 (South by Southwest Film Festival), October 19, 2012 (United States)

Amidst financial crises and unprecedented public school budget cuts, Brooklyn
Castle takes an intimate look at the challenges and triumphs facing members of a junior high school's champion chess team. – IMDb

Cool Black Review
No "Rocky" type story here. While there were triumphs there sure were lows as
this team strived to win and indeed "amidst financial crises".

The film captures the years of the chess players RIGHT when the financial crisis hit the United States (2008-2010). So between trying to you know win, they also had to get around the country to major chess tournaments. The filmmakers do a great job at explaining the whole chess tournament system and how each player is ranked.

Focusing on a core set of players and following them over their time at I.S. (Intermediate or "middle” or “junior high” School) and you witness their highs, lows and some of their lives at home without dwelling too much on one or the other. A perfect balance.

Brooklyn Castle is a really wonderful documentary that not only can explain competition chess to someone who had NO IDEA what it’s all about, like me, but also manages to highlight some really great kids and the most important things in their lives—chess!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

'42' Coming To DVD in July

Warner Home Video has announced that the Jackie Robinson bio-pic 42, will be released on Blu-ray/DVD next month, July 16.
So far, the only extras that have been announced that will be included on the DVD are three behind-the-scenes featurettes: Stepping into History, Full-Contact Baseball and The Legacy of the Number 42.
No word as yet about any director’s commentary by Brian Hegeland, or by actors Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford and Nicole Beharie, but it would seem likely that there will be.
Info from Shadow & Act
Read my review of 42 here