Friday, August 25, 2006
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Making films is hard. Making hip-hop films is harder. Making a film that plays with time and space is something that Outkast did well. I went to check out Idlewild a couple of days ago and was really moved to write a review, then I got lazy. This is my third incarnation of the review. Enjoy.
Not your Idlewild?
There has been a little bit of controversy around the movie being set in Idlewild, Ga (a mythical place). A year or so ago I heard about Idlewild, MI and thought that the movie was going to have a special connection to the area. I didn't particularly have an issue with the name and the setting, which was cool with me, but not with some.
"They take something with such historical significance as Idlewild, take the peripheral aspects of it, and turn it into a shoot-'em-up, bang-bang minstrel show. It demeans me as an African-American."
That was the comment of Coy Davis, the director of Whatever Happened to Idlewild. I hear that it's a good documentary, but I was pretty suprised that he would come out his neck so quickly about the film. There was shooting, but it wasn't a shoot-em up film. A minstrel show, interesting... there weren't even any White folks in the movie that I recall. There was the presence of the Black Middle class,decent representations of the juke joint, commentary on the "chitterling circuit", oh I guess characterizing Black culture in rural areas is minstrely ... maybe I missed it. I think it would have been nice to set it in Michigan, but maybe people like Davis' reaction dissuaded that possibility seriously.
Also, I think the name Idlewild represents the condition of the place. Percival (Andre) was "idle" in his place in the town, while the Church represented a dynamic setting with almost a religious excuberance from its attendees and was often "wild".
Storyline and Acting
I think the story line was solid. I didn't expect to have a thriller or many plot twists, instead it was straight forward movie. One where the viewer is encouraged to suspended disbelief. As the film opens the cinematography moves you into the images of old and I felt there (in part) for the time in my seat. I think the script was written close enough to Big Boi and Andre's characters that I didn't feel uncomfortable with their acting, even though Faizon Love was a little over the top, but delivered some great quotables.
The times that I was taken out of the old occured via the music. If the film made me realize one thing, it is that Andre is a musical genius! I wanted to see how they blended hip-hop music and classic juke joints. I was kind of shocked honestly, most of the music performed in the film were tracks that Outkast had already done, with some very small alterations (i.e. no references to tapes, cds, baby please...). I coudn't quite figure out why they didn't remix more stuff or change up the messaging. My best explanation is that they were attempting to challenge our conceptions of time and the fluidity between the juke joint and the hip hop spot. Some of the music meshed seamlessly (Andre's She Lives in my lap) while other moments felt odd (Big Boi rapping Church into the camera). The fluidity with with they treated time and progress was best represented by Percival's room and his wall of clocks. Throughout the film I kept thinking of afrofuturism, but that may just be me seeing too much Andre in the film.
Overall I was impressed with the film. It was an ambitious and well executed. Of course there could have been things that were done better, but the overall project was pretty fresh. It's what Carmen could have been (lol).
Thursday, August 17, 2006
In high school I remember purchasing Brotherman: The Odyssey of Black men in America and reading part of Sterling Brown's "Strong Men". I was really moved by the poem's opening stanzas and periodically I'm reminded of our path as Black men in this country. Lately I've been reading a number of popular press articles that discuss my alma mater Morehouse College. This past year we graduated our largest class ever. This past year we also had some former Men of Morehouse take the life of one of their brothers for a paultry amount of cash. I'm not one to romanticize reality, the stories juxtapose each other enough to let me know we have a long way to go. But I am one to look forward and attempt to highlight signs of progress. After all, when in a stake of peril if you don't have vision, you're likely destined to stay in that place. At the Association of Black Sociologists meeting I went to a panel on "The Crisis of the Black Male" and realized that people have been "sounding the alarm" part time for the past 20 some-odd years, but the response has been less than favorful. Well, I do believe that we Black men still are in a time of crisis, but this story did make me remember that sometimes progress, which is a slow process, can be seen sooner than you think.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
So I was in Montreal this past week for the Association of Black Sociologists and the American Sociological Association meetings. The meetings went well, I got chance to see a number of people that I haven't seen in a year or two and I got a chance to fish around for future opportunities (graduate school must come to an end).
The title of the post comes from my tour guide on the "Tour of Black Montreal". Our tour guide was a 50 year old White man who was of French descent. I should have known the tour was going to be shady when he told us that he was going to give us "a standard" tour of Montreal and highlight some Black history. Well, for two hours, I sat on a bus, along with about 50 Black sociologists and we heard him randomly mention Black people. I learned that there are two Black communities in Montreal: the Black English and the Astians (that's Haitian to you none French speakers ;) I also learned that the World Expo of '67 changed his life and he met people from Africa and that the Africans loved the Expo so much they just decided to stay. I learned that lgbtq prefer to be called "sexual minorities" because it's politically correct.
I also learned that there are no ghettos in Montreal, which is interesting. Well really interesting because my friend stayed in a "hotel" in the "red light district" and while walking her to her door, I saw two drug transactions, a fight, and we had to ask the resident prostitutes to move off the stoop so she could get in. Come to think of it, it does make sense there are no ghettos, cause there are no poor or homeless. After all, I learned from our guide that there are enough social services and that anyone I saw on the street (those who we in the States would consider homeless), wanted to be on the street. I mean even if it does get down to -37c (-34.6f) according to our tour guide. They just didn't want to go into shelters. I guess the human condition is just different in Montreal.
Well maybe not, my friends came across "The Illuminated Crowd" Statue on McGill, it's pretty intense.
A visitor to downtown Montreal almost can'?t help walking by a large sculptural group outside a bank building on McGill College Avenue. Called The Illuminated Crowd, the work is by the European artist, Raymond Masson, and it was installed in 1986. It'?s made of polyester resin painted a kind of vanilla yellow and itÂ?s a crowd, all right! Dozens of figures, from the frenzied to the serene, seem to jostle each other for a place on the sidewalk. According to the descriptive text, the piece deals with the nature of man, violence and hope and the quest for the ideal. According to this writer, it'?s one of those works that divide people into two groups Â? those who love it vs. those who hate it. Quote from Montreal Behind the scenes
Here are some more views of it (1,2,3,4). Well I'm back and still black at Michigan so I'm gonna get to working.
Update: I neglected to mention that at the close of the ABS conference we shared the hotel with Anthrofest aka a Furry convention. Now I wonder what my tour guide would have referred to them as???