Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Precious Moment

Saw sneak peak of "Precious" last night. I have never seen anything
so soul
crushing and life affirming. "Precious" is like the maturation
of the whole Tyler Perry oeuvre. Director Lee Daniels exhibits a
sure, confident hand, something that can be glimpsed but not fully
grasped in his first directorial feature,
Shadowboxer. In fact, as a
producer, Daniels has an amazing body of work:
Monster's Ball
(argue if you will, but it won Ms. Halle Berry a best actress Oscar),
The Woodsman (Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick do amazing
work in this film),
Shadowboxer (a tight ensemble piece with Cuba
Gooding, Jr., Helen Mirren, Joseph Gorden-Levitt and Mo'Nique)
and now, his magnum opus,

It is a dark, dark place where Daniels works, deep in the heart of
Tyler Perryville.
But where Mr. Perry wrings slapstick and farce
out of his monsters, Daniels mines redemption, recognition and
In many ways, Monster’s Ball and Precious are variations
of the same theme featuring, as they do, isolated and financially
stressed mothers who take out their frustrations on their obese
children with gut-wrenching results.
One wonders what Mr.
Daniels might have wrought if he had directed
Monster’s Ball in
addition to producing it for there are none of the somewhat off-
putting elements of Berry’s performance to be found in
tight ensemble cast.

Daniels’ sure hand can be seen in the many fine, even, unadorned
performances (Gabourey Sidibe’s serendipitously sure-footed
performance is another thing altogether
– I have nothing to compare
it to).
It is always interesting when sitcom stars (Mo’Nique, Shepherd), who
are often yoked to shrill one-note emoting, are allowed to explore the upper
ranges of their talent.
It is equally fascinating to see rock stars (Carey,
Kravitz), stripped of their war paint, giving unvarnished and unaffected
Anybody who saw Carey’s blackboard screeching perfor-
mance in
Glitter can see what a difference Daniels guiding hand can make.
In my humble opinion, Les Daniels is the first black director worthy
of an Academy Award.
Precious is an amazing achievement.
(On a personal note: it was a pleasure to see actress Kimberly
Russell, an alumnae of
Head of the Class who doesn’t have an acting
credit since 2002, at work in this film).


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Con-CENTRIC Circles

In April, BET launched the CENTRIC Network to cater to mid-
dle-aged blacks (I resemble that demographic). Anyhoo, CEN-
TRIC is currently airing reruns of Homicide: Life on the

Recently I had the pleasure of watching an episode titled "The
City that Bleeds, Part 1." The first five minutes of this episode
encapsulates everything I loved about the late, great series:

Detective Mike Logan (Chris Noth) is delivering a suspect (John
Waters) who has been extradited from New York to Baltimore for
a murder he committed. Logan's disdain for "Charm City" is
palpable and that irritates Det. Pembleton's (a shockingly
"emaciated" Andre Braugher) prickly pride. He, Logan and the
unctuously smarmy Waters trade barbed bon mots about Dorothy
Parker, Edgar Allen Poe (who found their final resting places in
Baltimore) and Babe Ruth (who found fame and fortune in New

As Pembleton is leading the handcuffed Waters away he informs
him: "You're going to jail for this murder but thank your lucky
stars its not in New York City."

"Why do you think I didn't fight extradition," Waters says in his
inimitable delivery, "I may be guilty, but I'm no fool!"

I love the swagger, the trench coats and the stingy brims of
"Homicide: Life on the Streets."

And I love the actors:

Richard Belzer, as Det. Munch (and currently wasted on L&O:
), has an amusing subplot where an artist ex-girlfriend ex-
hibits nude photos of him taken duirng his sane and not-so-sober
youth: "I'm naked! My dingle is blowing in the wind!"

Andre Braugher, as Det. Frank Pembleton, is still angry, still
chain smokes and still does not suffer fools gladly while Clark
Johnson, as Det. Medrick Lewis, with his laconic lope, is still as
cool as the other side of the pillow.

(In the above mentioned episode, Pembleton and Lewis are
partnered and engage in an increasingly heated "salt and pepper"
conversation about whether or not it is okay for a white witness
to assume the shooter in a murder was black. Given the venue,
the dark-skinned Pembleton sees validity in this argument while
the lighter-skinned Lewis is offended by the assumption).

Yaphett Kotto as Lt. Al Giardello is still wearing that horrible
hairpiece and Ned Beatty, as Det. Stanley, is still a grumpy old


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lust:Caution - cinema we can believe in

Has anybody seen Ang Lee's "Lust:Caution"? There is a scene
near the end of the movie (which is 157 minutes long and as
deadly as paint drying until folks start taking their clothes off
about three quarters of the way through) where lead actor
(Tony Leung Chiu Wai)looks toward the camera oozing love
for his consort (Wei Tang) where he looks like a doppleganger
for Barack Hussein Obama. I kid you not - if Michelle and Barack
ever sit down to watch it together, Brother President gonna get
SLAPPED - they look like they was separated at birth. Jug ears,
slicked back waves in the hair, and those almond shaped eyes
filled with compassion.

Tony Leung Chiu Wai is a huge star in Asia and that got me thinking.
There is probably an Obama doppleganger in every country. Which
makes Mr. Obama a universal archtype - one that is visually em-
braced around the world.