Last week I decided to find a horror movie on Amazon Prime. Sadly it was not on prime as I suspected but on Shudder tv, a subscription channel catered to horror movie fans. This channel contains horror films from the 1900s to the present. Also, it includes documentaries about infamous films such as “The Exorcist “ and the Freddy movies.
One of the documentaries that intrigued me was “History Norie: A History of Black Horror,” this documentary brings together African American actors, writers, directors, film professors, and many more to interview about their favorite black horror movies and commentary on the depiction of African Americans in these films.
Some of the films under review were Blacula, Get Out, Candyman, The Thing, The Craft, Tales from the Hood, Bones, Mississippi Damned, and other films from the 1800s – 2000s. The documentary gives a chronological timeline of African Americans depicted as first zombies then the trope of “the first ones to die” to lead characters becoming trailblazers. Actors such as Tony Todd, Keith David, Rachel True, and many more discuss their roles as well in such movies.
According to Indiewire.com, this film presents the view that the horror genre offers space to address many issues African Americans faced or currently face, such as; diversity within the concept of blackness, challenges to disturbing images in films such as “Birth of a Nation,” which depicted African American men as rapists and the race as the downfall of society with white actors in blackface and ragged clothing.
Also, the documentary addresses a resurgence in black filmmakers of horror movies and their use of it as social commentary. This is the case with Jordan Peele’s “Get Out.” This film serves as one of the centerpieces of the documentary.
Other centerpieces or themes were race, history, gender, power, and the genre itself. I feel this documentary will open the door to more conversations about African American lives and how horror movies can be used to convey any message you want to portray to your audience. I am not a huge horror movie fan because I am too much of a scardy cat lol! but I do recommend this film and the genre as well to be incorporated into film studies or conversations among friends. *Shudder TV is included in the AMC+ subscription package for 8.99 and as a separate channel for 4.99 a month or as a 7-day free trial.
Netflix released its film adaptation of Donald Ray Pollack’s book “The Devil All The Time,” in which the author also provides the narration. The Devil All The Time is a southern gothic thriller that presents the viewer with serval stories that appear scattered at first but slowly intertwined into a thrilling surprise ending.
The film follows three small-town residents during the 1950s-60s who live in two rural West Virginia towns: Knockemstiff, Ohio, and Coal Creek. Each is affected by a dark twist of murder, sex, and religious experiences. Flashback sequences follow the resident’s stories.
The standout performances were, Of course, Bill Skarsgard as a battered WWII vet who finds God again during a horrible time of his wife having cancer and dying. He trains his son to pray for the dead in front of a makeshift cross in the woods for miracles to happen. The boy Tom Holland grows up with a disdain for religion and uneasy.
Meanwhile, across town, a local photographer (Micheal Clarke) has a twisted evil sex fetish as a hobby and meets a gullible young waitress who joins in the oddity of sex and murder hitchhikers.
Next scene a new preacher who graduated from bible college , Robert Pattinson blows the town people away with his intense saint-like gospel from on high with a sex addition at night for younger girls.
All these characters’ stories, in one way or another, collide with one another in a bloody bath of murderous affairs, religious symbolism, and vigilante justice. I was surprised by Pattinson’s southern accent the most for some reason? But I am slowly seeing him less as the twilight guy the more he takes dark, twisted roles.
I liked the film, but the ending was odd? At first, I wasn’t sure how the character’s stories would tie together, but it was a slow burn that left a bitter mark on me for some reason? Also, I felt dirty watching this film but also wanted to watch more to be cleansed! I kept waiting for some light but got more darkness, which is fine but it would have been nice to have a little light in the script.
I think it is an excellent cast of characters with intense dark themes in a small rural town. Nothing like small-town murder right mix with religious overtones? I recommend this movie, but also it would be good to read the book as well.
You can catch The Devil All The Time streaming now on Netflix.
With the tragic loss of actor Chadwick Boseman to Colon Cancer over a week ago now, Disney executives are grappling with how to continue with the Black Panther franchise.
According to Hollywood reporter.com, a source close to Boseman reveals that up until his death, the actor thought he would beat his four year battle with cancer and was looking forward to continuing his role as King T’Challa in the Disney franchise. The film was set to go into production in March, and Boseman was preparing for his acclaimed role for September.
Now Disney studios are dealing with his loss as he was beloved on-screen and off by his fellow co-stars. Also, the character Black Panther was set to appear in more Marvel interconnected films. Boseman has already appeared in Captain American: Civil War, Endgame, and Infinity War.
The studio has reported that their main focus is to grieve and pay tribute to Boseman and not worry about a sequel to Black Panther right now. Only a few non-family members knew of Boseman’s illness, including his agent, trainer, and director Brian Helgeland. No one immediately involved with the film knew of the actor’s condition. As he wanted to keep his battle with cancer private.
Many are left scratching their heads, wondering how the actor kept his sickness under wraps with a multi-billion dollar film such as Black Panther. But film finance attorney Schuyler Moore suspects a Marvel Star like Boseman wouldn’t require a medical examination for insurance purposes. He goes on to state that “Big Studios do not often get completion bonds … sometimes a film will only look to insure a particularly well-known actor in a movie as opposed to one not well known.”
With other films where big-name stars suck as Carrie Fisher and Heath Ledger have died, studios have been able to carry on the franchise while honoring these actors in the process. But with Boseman playing the main character of this film, differences occur between the former deaths of those actors mentioned. The only film that has dealt with such an enormous loss such as this was Brandon Lee in the 1993 film “The Crow.”
In the movie The Crow, the script was tweaked and finished with CGI stunt doubles in place of Lee’s scenes. Some observers suggest that Disney has a few options in replacing Boseman, which would start a fan outcry and alienate their base audience. With a set date of 2022 for Black Panther 2 amid the pandemic, it will be a strict deadline to meet if Disney decides to continue, and few actors would be frightened to fill Boseman’s shoes.
The second option, which is more viable and in the Black Panther comics, would be to make T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) take the reins as the new Black Panther. Whatever direction Disney chooses, the loss of Boseman will be a considerable void felt by many. I suggest the comic book option as the most viable choice since the movie follows along with the storylines. It would depend on how much the actress Letitia Wright is willing to fill those shoes and step into the training required.
Director Brain Coolger wrote in remembrance of Boseman “spent the last year preparing, imagining and writing words for him to say, that we weren’t destined to see. It leaves me broken, knowing that I won’t be able to watch another close-up of him in the monitor again or walk up to him and ask for another take.”
What are your thoughts? Should the franchise continue? Or will this be the last we hear of the Black Panther franchise? In my opinion, the franchise should continue. I feel Boseman would want it to carry on since this film is a groundbreaking historical moment! It features the first African American superhero on the big screen in a Marvel movie to make over a billion dollars worldwide! Carry on Boseman’s legacy and follow the comic! The fans will come around and in the end, thank you for it, Disney. Whatever the studio decides, it is better to be smart and strategic. Also, push the release date back to 2025.
Rest In Peace, Chadwick Boseman! Thank you for giving me Black Panther and for making me a proud African American geek. (Librarian Ninja Girl)
The time has come for the beloved book to come to life in the anticipated HBO series! Lovecraft Country follows its main character Atticus Black, his friend Letitia, and his Uncle George as they embark on a road trip through Jim Crow South to find Atticus’s father. He has gone missing in search of his family’s ancestral home.
What makes this series unique is that the main character is an African American sci-fi fan who reads and loves the stories of HP Lovecraft, despite the racist connotations with such stories and poems as “The Horror at Red Hook,” and “On the Creation of Niggers.” Atticus is aware of this but remains a Fan of his stories and imagines himself as the main character and hero of his novels and other works by similar authors. Especially as he searches for his missing father. The series combines the struggle of the Civil Rights era with Sci-Fi themes.
This series will be something to talk about and the issues raised to revisit! The first episode premiered on August 16th. Be sure to check it out on Prime Video with an HBO subscription or all HBO outlets and discuss with your friends and open your minds. As well as read the book of the same title by Matt Ruff.
As movie theaters start to open again, many moviegoers are gearing up to catch up on the latest flicks. But in this COVID-19 world, what will being back at the theaters look and feel like? Will the experience be better? Or worse? How will concessions go? Or seating? Hopefully, this article can give you some insight on how to prepare to go back to the movies.
I searched through AMC, Regal, and a local theater chain called Studio Movie Grill to see how they are preparing to reopen theaters safely. First, let’s start with AMC theaters. On their website under the safety & cleaning tab, AMC states that their theaters will open on July 30th with reduced seating by 30% in their auditoriums. This reduced seating compromises of every other row blocked off. Including those comfy recliners, we all love. So be prepared to skip a row for your fellow man!
As for cleaning, AMC will be following proper CDC cleaning regulations using electrostatic disinfectant sprays and changeable air filters for air purification. So expect to wait a little bit longer while your designated auditorium is being cleaned. As for concessions, the menu will be condensed to a few simpler items, but don’t worry; popcorn will still be there just not so much of the specialty items? And large refills on popcorn and drinks will be out of the question. So will a mask be required? I am not sure, but check with your AMC location for more information on that aspect.
So what about the other theaters I mentioned? Regal or Studio Movie Grill? Regal Cinemas will open July 31st and are along with the same guidelines as AMC, except they will require masks in the lobbies and restroom. Still, you can choose to remove it in the auditorium. Concessions are along the same lines, limited menu selection, and contactless payment options. As well as every other register being opened, it would be the equivalent of being at Walmart, so arrive early or eat before you get to the theater FYI. Studio Movie Grill, an independent movie theater chain in limited states has similar guidelines as the two movie theater chains mentioned, but more of a focus on using their online apps for tickets and food orders since they have a dine-in experience. Also, their showtimes will be limited as well as seating options.
I included the safety guidelines to provoke the question mention in the title of this article. Are you really ready to go back to the movies? Will you be prepared? Of course, this is a stressful time in our country, and ultimately the choice is up to you. In my opinion, going to the movies will not be the same as it once was. Still, I believe we are adaptable creatures and will endure a few rules as long as we get out of the house and back to some sense of normalcy. Am I ready to go to the movies? Maybe? I use to go to the movies a lot pre-COVID-19 to the point I had to buy the A-List AMC membership card! Going to the movies was therapeutic for me! In a sense, I didn’t mind going early, so I wouldn’t be sitting so close to people, to be honest. So every other row is fine with me! Although I do have to ask myself, how will I adjust to the different rules set in place? Will going to the movies be a fun and therapeutic experience as before? Or will I rather stay at home where I won’t have to worry about putting on a mask and watch hours of mind-numbing movies and tv on streaming service channels? Only I can ask myself that question just like you have to for yourself.
But not all theaters will be opened in July as theaters in California continue to be closed with no end in sight. According to a Variety .com article, Gov. Gavin Newson revealed that “hospitalizations have spiked to 28% and ICU has risen over the past 14 days in California. This virus is not going away anytime soon until there is a vaccine or an effective way of creating treatments”. The governor’s comments beg the question are theaters opening too soon or are states like California being presumptuous in their continued shutdowns. Each state has to do what they deem is right for its citizens based on the number of cases and safety preparations in hand.
As John mentioned in the podcast episode “Are People Ready to go back to the Movies on July 15th?” on our Movie Lovers Unite site, “This virus is real despite what people think otherwise. I am not ready to go back to the movies yet, not with the rise of numbers in cases that occur every day. The curve has not been flattened as predicted before when we were indoors. Regardless of the theater’s stipulations with their cleaning policies, I do not think it will be enough to go back to the theaters, nor a good idea to open theaters.” I agree with John somewhat, but theaters can’t remain closed for long. I want to believe if the cleaning regulations stay intact, then maybe people will feel safer and do their part. I guess we will never know until theaters open their doors this summer. I do feel all preparation will be trail and error.
A couple of movies set for release waiting to greet filmgoers back are Unhinged with Russel Crowe, which was initially set for September 4th. In this upcoming thriller, Crowe plays an “unhinged” stranger who gets in a traffic accident with a woman named Rachel. Rachel then becomes the target of Crowe’s anger and rage. Another movie that everyone has been anticipating is Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, which was initially scheduled for July 17th, but since the pandemic, it has been pushed back to a July 31st release date and yet another delay date of August 12th to flatten the curve. Also, Wonder Woman “84” was initially set to be released in June! But has been delayed to an August date. So hopefully, we will see Tenet and Wonder Woman this year! If not in theaters, perhaps on some streaming services. Tell us what you think? Are you ready to go back to the movies? Do you feel you can adhere to the guidelines set in place? Reach out to us through our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media pages and leave comments on our Wix site: https://movieloversunite.wixsite.com/movieloversunite or our word press site. We would love to hear your opinion on the matter.
Here are AMC , Regal and Studio Movie Grills cleaning policies :
When I first heard of the musical Hamilton, I was not sure about it? But as I found out more, I became more intrigued and put it on my Broadway bucket list. I checked for the prices to go down every time the play came to Atlanta. Still, no luck until I found out Hamilton was coming to Disney + on July 3rd, I became overjoyed! I can pay 4.99 instead of 100 or so dollars to have a front-row seat.
On July 4th, I found a comfortable seat. I began watching the play in anticipation of all the hype I heard over the years. As the play started, I noticed I had goosebumps? How is that possible? And it continued? These goosebumps came from the editing and camera angles of Director Thomas Kali, the producer of the play.
Odie Henderson from Rodger Elbert.com describes Kali’s use of intimate close up camera angles are engaging, as they are used at the precise moments to convey the emotional and powerful moments of the play. These close-ups are not overwhelming to the point that it can become distracting to the viewers.
Hamilton on Disney + was initially filmed in 2016 during its two-night live-stage production at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City, which is now temporarily closed due to Covid-19. The 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton by author Ron Chernow inspired this play production. The focus of the play is on the life, achievements, and death of Alexander Hamilton. He was one of the founding fathers of America. I know what you may be thinking? A boring history lesson about Alexander Hamilton? No thanks! Well, creator Lin – Manuel Miranda must have predicted the groans and moans of presenting this play to a mainstream audience because he added a hip hop twist to the story. A hip hop twist to the story of Alexander Hamilton? Yes, I just said that!
This play has rap battles and references of old hip hop quotes, along with blues and gospel scores, ballots, drama, action, suspense, comedy, romance, elaborate costumes, and a PG -13 language disclaimer. It stars Lin-Manuel Miranda as the emotional, cocky, and quirky battle MC version of Alexander Hamilton, along with Daveed Diggs ( Blackish), playing duo roles of Thomas Jefferson and Marquis De Lafayette (French / American General), Leslie Odom Jr. (Harriet), as Aaron Burr (Vice President to Jefferson), Renee Elise Goldberry (Altered Carbon), as Angelica Schulyer, Phillipa Soo as Elizabeth Schulyer , Hamilton’s wife, Jonathan Goff ( Mindhunter ), as King George of England, Christopher Jackson ( CBS Bull), as George Washington, and John Lauren ( A Star is Born), as Alexander Hamilton’s son.
Some of my favorite scenes of the play include; the rap battle between Jefferson and Hamilton, as they argue over assisting France in the battle of Great Britain, King George’s smug ballot after discovering the formation of the United States, as he claims “You’ll be back !”, and Hamilton writing about his affair in the Reynolds Pamphlet, which his wife read and became heartbroken as well everyone in the political sphere. The soundtrack to Hamilton is on Apple Music, iTunes, and other music services. I recommend not only seeing this fresh take on history but also getting the soundtrack. Hamilton is now streaming on Disney+
June is pride month or LGBTQ+ month. So what’s the big deal about pride month, and how does it relate to films? I am glad you asked! June 28th, 1969 police raided a popular gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual bar called the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. The reason for the police raid was that the bar did not have a liquor license, which is false. Police have raided gay bars throughout the 1950s and 60’s always without an excuse out of prejudice. On that night of June 28th, the police used brutal force in beating up many LGBTQ+ patrons of the bar.
Many spectators jeered the police beating these men and women. One patron named Marsha P. Johnson fought back by throwing a glass bottle at the police; this act began the Stonewall Riots. Marsha P. Johnson was an African American transgender woman and activist. Her act started the long fight for LGBTQ+ civil rights that continues today, and this fight is why pride month is celebrated.
Each year the LGBTQ+ community all over the world march in the streets, hold parades, and celebrate those brave men and women who fought for their rights to be treated as human beings. You may ask, what does this event have to do with movies and tv? As I mentioned in my previous article on the Black Lives Movement, films and tv shows can be used as a tool in educating and celebrating inclusion and diversity. In this article, I have compiled a list of 27 movies, tv, documentaries and animation shows, some of which my friends who are part of the LGBTQ+ community and supporters of the community have helped me to compile. I dedicate this article to Shelby, Elizabeth, Samantha, Desiree, Sabrina, and others.
Pariah (2011), centers around seventeen year old Alike, who is exploring her sexuality as a young lesbian while facing rejection by her religious parents. As her parents, school, and society force her to reject any notion of her sexuality, she begins to embrace it and find love with her female neighbor. You can catch Pariah on Amazon Prime for ninety- nine cents and other streaming platforms.
Disobedience (2017), focuses on a young Jewish Orthodox woman who has returned to her Jewish community after being shunned for falling in love with her female childhood friend. She tries to gain acceptance from the community, but encounters her childhood friend and begins to rekindle those passionate feelings again. This film centers on faith and sexuality. You can catch Disobedience on Youtube to rent for 3.99
Call Me by Your Name (2017), is a coming of age story about a young man name Ello Perlman and his family spending the summer in an Italian countryside. As Ello is taking in the landscape, he meets a young doctoral student named Oliver. Soon the two men form an intimate bond that makes their summer an unforgettable one. Call Me by Your Name is available on Amazon Prime and VUDU to rent.
The Danish Girl (2015) examines the life of transgender danish artist Elinar Wegner (Eddie Redmayne) and her wife Gretta Wegner(Alicia Vikander). Elinar’s wife supports her reassignment surgery but soon discovers that Elinar has found love with someone else. This film won multiple Academy Awards for best director, actor/ actress, and cinematography. Danish Girl is now available on Netflix and Amazon Prime to rent.
Tomboy (2011) is a French drama film that centers around Laure, a young girl who dresses as a boy to play with the neighborhood kids. While dressing as a boy, she soon discovers her sexuality as a transgender child. As the truth of her identity is revealed, she decides to live her truth by not conforming to societal norms. You can catch Tomboy on Amazon Prime, VUDU, and Itunes to rent.
Milk (2018) is a biopic drama that follows the life of gay rights activist Harvey Milk (Sean Penn), becoming the first openly gay politician in California during the 1970s. Unfortunately, he was murdered in his office by rival politician Dan White (Josh Brolin), who became upset with Milk and others for not supporting his reappointment into office. Harvey Milk opened the doors for many gay politicians to serve after his untimely death and fight for the civil liberties of all LGBTQ+ men, women, and non-binary people. Milk is available on Starz, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.
The Life and Death of Marsha P. Johnson (2017) is a documentary about Trans female activist Victoria Cruz, investigating the murder of her friend and fellow activist Marsha P. Johnson, who was suspiciously murdered in 1992. Ms. Cruz investigates the last known whereabouts of Marsha, her importance as the forerunner of the LGBTQ+ movement, and enemies she may have had. This documentary, at its core, is about a woman who wants to know what happened to her dearest friend, who was murdered. You can watch the Life and Death of Marsha P. Johnson exclusively on Netflix.
Disclosure (2020), This Netflix documentary examines Hollywood’s depiction in film of transgender people from the 1900s to the present age. In addition to clips from Hollywood films, this documentary features interviews from transgender actors, authors, and producers who share their challenges in the film industry. Disclosure is now streaming on Netflix.
The Gospel According to Andre (2017), this documentary follows the life and career of fashion icon Andre Leon Tally, who grew up as a black gay man in the segregated south and rose to fame as one of the most influential curators of fashion. The Gospel According to Andre, is now streaming on Hulu, Youtube, and other platforms.
RuPaul Drag Race (2009- Present) is an American reality competition television series that focuses on finding the best drag queen superstar. This show is hosted by RuPaul Charles, one of the most famous drag queens in television and film history. It features 13 contestants who all compete in a series of challenges that center around talent, comedy, and acting to be the next drag superstar. RuPaul’s Drag Race is one of my favorite shows because gay men share their challenging experiences as drag queen performers while being gay in America. This series is now in its 12th season! You can catch RuPaul’s Drag Race on Vh1, Sling TV, and Logo.
Pose (2018- Present), is a dramatic musical series created by Ryan Murphy set against the 1980’s big business era. It centers around the ballroom culture( fashion show) of the LGBTQ+ community. The series features the first and largest cast of transgender actors and actresses in television history telling transgender people’s stories, especially in the African American and Latino communities during the 80s and today. The show’s outbreak stars are Bill Porter, Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson, and Mj Rodriguez. Pose is now in its 3rd season and is available to watch on FX and Netflix.
Bessie (2015) is an HBO feature film that examines the life and death of Bessie Smith, an African American lesbian blues singer during the 1920s swing era. She was one of the first African American blues singers to perform for a mainstream audience. Queen Latifah stars in this riveting film! You can catch Bessie on HBO Max, Hulu, Youtube, and other platforms.
I love you Phillip Morris (2009), is a dark romantic comedy based on the real-life story of the con artist and infamous prison escapee Steven Jay Russell (Jim Carey ), who falls in love with fellow inmate Phillip Morris (Ewan Mcgregor). Morris motivates Russell to turn from his life of crime, but change can sometimes be hard to come by. This film is available on Hulu and Youtube.
The Legend of Korra (2012-2014) is an animated sequel to Avatar, The Last Airbender. The Legend of Korra series follows Avatar Korra, the successor to Aang, as she navigates through a 19th-century steampunk world of racism, zealous religious leaders, governmental taskmasters, sexism, and sexual orientation. This show became controversial because of these themes featured on a Nickelodeon kids show. Unlike its predecessor, Avatar, The Last Airbender, this series incorporated LGBTQ characters Korra and Asami, a wealthy female industrialist. The show’s finale had two endings: One of Korra and Asami kissing each other in the final scene, but fearing controversy the producers of the show changed the last scene to Korra and Asami facing each other and holding hands in a ceremonial wedding pose. The Legend of Korra is available on CBS access, Amazon Prime, and VUDU for 1.99.
(Steven Universe) 2013- 2020, a groundbreaking animated series and the first of its kind to be created by a female for Cartoon Network. The series follows a young boy named Steven, a half-human/ gem humanoid, and a group of gem warrior women who fight to protect humanity from evil forces and foes sent to destroy it at every turn. It was groundbreaking because of a same-sex marriage scene between the two characters Ruby and Sapphire, at a time when same-sex marriage in the US was illegal in 2016. In an Entertainment Weekly article, creator Rebecca Sugar recalls how challenging it was to make LGBTQIA characters within a G- rated cartoon setting.
In one episode entitled “What Can I Do For You?, “Ruby and Sapphire’s dancing scene is censored from UK broadcasting networks that aired the show. Also, a petition on change.org was drafted to cancel the show back in 2016 because of the same-sex marriage concept in a children’s television show. Never the less, Steven Universe remains popular because of its animation, songs about inclusion, love, individuality, and queer characters. You can watch Steven Universe on Cartoon Network, Hulu, HBO MAX, and other streaming platforms.
She- Ra and the Princesses of Power(2018- 2020), a reboot of the 1985 series, follows teenage princess Adora, as she gains supernatural powers by welding a magical sword that transforms her into She- Ra , the warrior princess. She- Ra fights alongside the Princesses of Power in destroying the evil horde bent on destroying the universe. The main character She- Ra develops a lesbian relationship with her friend and moral enemy Catra.
In an Indiewire.Com interview, creator Noelle Stevenson admitted the challenge of incorporating an LGBTQ love story within an already established cult classic series. Also, how introducing these characters in an animated setting becomes a challenge for parents who are protective of their kids’ views on life. She- Ra and the Princesses of Power is now streaming on Netflix.
Moonlight (2016) isa Barry Jenkins film that introduces its main character Chiron, in three chapters of his life exploring his sexuality as a young black gay man in Miami. This film challenges masculinity and being gay in the black community. You may remember the controversy of this film at the 2017 Oscars when Warren Betty announced that La La Land won for the best picture category, but Moonlight was the actual winner. This controversy went down as one of the pivotal and disconcerting moments in Oscar history. Moonlight is now streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime (3.99), and Youtube (3.99).
We Were Here (2011), LGBTQ documentary about the booming gay and lesbian community in 1970’s San Francisco and the AIDS crisis during the 1980s that changed the city forever. This documentary includes interviews from those affected by the AIDS epidemic through losing partners and family members to the virus. We Were Here is available to rent through Itunes (0.99), Youtube (2.99), and Amazon Prime (0.99)
The Normal Heart (2014), HBO film directed by Ryan Murphy and written for television by Larry Kramer, who wrote the stage play of the same name. The film is based on the true story of Larry Kramer’s campaign to educate gay men about safe sex during the 1980s AIDS crisis and the American government’s lack of concern in finding a cure for this virus. The film stars Mark Ruffalo (Avengers ) and Jim Parsons (Big Bang Theory). You can find this film on Amazon Prime (HBO subscription), HBO MAX, and HBO GO.
Paris is Burning (1990), an American documentary film that chronicles gay ball room culture in New York City during the 1980’s trump era from the perspective of African American and Latino gay and trans men and women who performed at these balls. Fun fact! Madonna discovered the dance move Voguing from attending these underground balls. Her inclusion of the dance move in the music video Vogue brought it into mainstream media in the 1990s.
Another fun fact, the FX series Pose is also inspired by this documentary. The controversy of Paris is Burning comes from those featured in this film feeling exploited after the film’s big box office debut and critical acclaim garnered all over the world. A problem I ran into with this film is that it was impossible to find! The film was taken off of Youtube and is only available to buy and rent on Itunes and The Criterion Collection. I suggest renting it on Itunes personally or checking Kanopy.
United in Anger: A History of ACT UP (2012) examines the activist group ACT UP, who demonstrated powerful protests and evidence of the government’s slow response to the AIDS epidemic in the gay community during the 1980s. United in Anger is available to rent on Youtube, iTunes and Amazon Prime. It is also available on Kanopy with a library and school-university subscription.
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), a musical film following the life of lead singer Freddie Mercury from the band Queen. Also, this film exams his life as a closet gay man who suffered and died from AIDS in 1991. Fun Fact: Adam Lamber, the new lead singer of Queen, has a small role in this film. You can watch Bohemian Rhapsody on Hulu, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime.
Rocketman (2019) a biographical film about the life and musical career of singer Elton John (still living) , who suffered from drug addictions and his experience as a closeted gay man in rock music. Fun Fact: Elton John was one of the consultants on this film. His new Autobiographical book “Me,” covers many aspects in more detail from the film. Rocketman is available to stream on Hulu, Sling TV, and Youtube.
Brokeback Mountain (2005) is anAmerican romantic drama by director Ang Lee (Li of Pi), it explores the sexual relationship between two cowboys hired to herd sheep in the Wyoming Mountains. Mainly, this film examines and challenges the rugged masculinity of cowboys in the American West. Brokeback Mountain is available on Starz, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.
Boys Don’t Cry (1999), a biographical film about a young transgender man named Brandon Teena, who moves to a rural town in Nebraska to start his life over. While in this small town, his life seems to change for the better with new friends, a girlfriend, and a job, until his life as a transgender man is revealed in a gruesome and deadly way. This film is based on the true story of Brandon Teena, murdered by a group of small-town locals who killed him and his friends; including a young closeted black gay man. Boy’s Don’t Cry, is now available to stream on Hulu, HBO Max, and Youtube.
The Birdcage (1996), Now onto a lighter note with the 1996 comedy/drama The Birdcage starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. This film is a remake of the French film “La Cage Aux Folles,” which centers around a happily married gay couple who owns a gay night club in Miami. When the couple’s son comes to visit, he brings good and bad news! The good news is he is getting married! But the bad news is his parents have to hide their sexuality to appease his fiancee’s conservative parents. Despite the comedy involved, this film addresses themes of gay marriage, politics, and bigotry. The Birdcage is available on Showtime, Hulu, Pluto TV, Youtube, and Amazon Prime.
To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995), a comedy/ drama film starring Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze, and John Leguizamo as three drag queens that travel to Hollywood to compete in a drag queen pageant. On their way to Hollywood, the car breaks down in a small rural town where they encounter bigotry but change the residents’ lives in the process. I remember watching this film for the first time as a kid thinking how unattractive Wesley Snipes is as a drag queen lol! You can catch this film on Cinemax, Netflix, and Amazon Prime.
But I’m a Cheerleader (1999), a satirical romantic comedy about a high school cheerleader whose parents suspect she is gay. They send her to a conversion therapy camp to “cure” her of her lesbianism. The joke or punchline of the film is that the main character is in denial about her sexual orientation because “Cheerleaders can’t be lesbians so she must be straight, right?” It challenges the stereotypes of high school norms and the discovery of one’s sexual orientation. But I’m a Cheerleader is now streaming on Vudu, Tubi, Amazon Prime, and Pluto TV.
We all have seen the protest, pictures, social media posts about George Floyd, and the Black Lives Matter movement. No matter how you feel about the issue, we all must talk about race relations one way or another. Sometimes films about the black experience can get the conversation started or shed some light on the anger and rage felt in our country. Movies can change, move, and educate us in general. Here is a list of films and documentaries that chronicle the black experience in America for anyone interested in understanding the movement or wanting to do more to help. This article will provide a list of films on the black experience in no particular order:
Selma (2014) Oscar Nominated film directed by Ava DuVernay tells the story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s preparation for the infamous march on voting rights for blacks from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. One of the reasons I enjoyed this film is its focus on the purpose of the march and the toll it took on MLK’s life. The film stars David Oyelowo, Cuba, Oprah Winfrey, and Cuba Gooding Jr. Selma is free to stream on all digital platforms such as iTunes and Amazon throughout June.
“13th” (2016) Netflix’s original documentary about the American prison system and its ties to racial inequality. Ava DuVernay partnered with Netflix in creating this powerful and gripping film. One of the things I like about this documentary is the chronological timeline; it focuses on slavery to the present-day injustices. No, it does not excuse a crime that has been committed by African American prisoners, but exposes the amount of time served compared to white prisoners with the same crime. 13th is available to stream on Netflix.
Eyes on the Prize (1987) is a PBS 14 episode documentary that chronicles the 1965 Civil Rights Movement in the United States. This documentary provides news archives and interviews from civil rights leaders, politicians, and authors who were presented at the time of the movement. Some of the events covered are the Montgomery Bus Boycott, School Segregation in the south, and the infamous Selma march for African Americans’ voting rights. Eyes on the Prize is one of my favorite documentaries because it centers around the Civil Rights Movement and interviews those who were alive. It is a rare and fantastic documentary I highly recommend. Eyes on the Prize is available on Youtube, but the episodes are not entirely listed in order and on Amazon prime to rent. In general, this documentary is so rare it can be tough to find it at times but worth watching.
Harriett (2019), directed by Kasi Lemmon, is a biopic about the courageous life of Harriett Tubman. The film brings Harriett Tubman to life outside of the history books you read in school. It humanizes her journey from runaway slave to a freedom fighter. Also, the challenges she faced as a woman as well. Harriett is available on Amazon Prime to rent for 5.99 and other streaming platforms.
“I Am Not Your Negro” (2016), is a Documentary film that brings to life African American and LGBT author James Baldwin’s unfinished work “Remember this House;” that he wrote before his untimely death in 1987. Baldwin’s unfinished work is based on his thoughts dealing with the loss of his dear friends Malcolm X and Medgar Evans, as well as the black consciousness of the African Americans living in America. Samuel L. Jackson brings to life Baldwin’s words along with a series of historical clips of featuring Baldwin’s appearances on television shows, lectures at universities, and interviews. This film is available on Amazon Prime, Youtube, and other streaming platforms.
Ray (2004), is the epic biopic film based on the life of singer/ songwriter Ray Charles’s childhood trauma, life as a musician, and recovering addict. This film is more than entertainment as it depicts Charle’s childhood in rural Georgia with his brother and sharecropping mother. Also, his stance against segregation in the south during his tours in the 1960s. Ray is available to rent on Youtube, Amazon Prime, Itunes, and Hulu.
Just Mercy (2019) continuing with the Jamie Foxx train, we roll into another biopic based on the life of Walter Mcmillian, who was falsely accused of murdering an 18 white woman in 1987, Alabama. An outsider lawyer Bryan Stevenson agrees to take his case and challenge the justice system, racism, and the truth of this young woman’s death. You can watch Just Mercy for free on Amazon Prime, Youtube, and other streaming services.
African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (2013), is a PBS miniseries hosted by historian Dr. Louis Gates. Jr. This miniseries traces the lives of African Americans from slavery, reconstruction, and present times. It is a great miniseries that is not only educational but deeply rooted in African American history. You can catch this series on PBS.org, Youtube, Amazon Prime, and Vudu.
Remember the Titans (2000), starring Denzel Washington and Will Patton as Black and white coaches integrating two football teams from the T.C. Williams High School football team in Alexandra, Virginia, in 1971. This film tackles the subject of school segregation and racial harmony in sports. Remember the Titans is available on Disney +, Google Play, Youtube, and Itunes.
When They See Us (2019) is a Netflix original movie directed by Ava DuVernay, which tells the real-life story of “The Central Park Five,” five African American and Hispanic teenagers in New York City in 1989 accused of raping a young white woman in central park. This story focuses on the racial divide that continued in the 1980s, young men being at the wrong place at the wrong time, the justice system, corrupt police force, and the aftermath of these men’s lives once they got out of prison and eventually found innocent as the real killer confessed in 2016. This film is available on Netflix now! I also suggest the documentary by Ken Burns “The Central Park 5” ( 2012) on Amazon Prime.
Dear White People (2017- Present) Netflix Orginal comedy/drama series that centers around a group of African American students at an ivy league college facing discrimination and finding their place in the world.
Da 5 Bloods (2020) Spike Lee’s Netflix film about five African American veterans. They return to Vietnam to claim the body of their fallen captain and the stash of gold the U.S. left behind during the Vietnam War. This film had its high and low moments. Still, it addresses the duality of African Americans fighting in the Vietnam War and experiencing continued prejudice in America. I also like how Spike addresses the children the soldiers left behind in Vietnam and the racism those kids encountered being half black and Vietnamese. Da 5 Bloods is now streaming on Netflix.
Malcolm X (1992) continuing on the Spike Lee film circuit, this biopic focuses on the life and death of Malcolm X, the controversial black activist of the Nation of Islam and eventually venturing off to form his religious temple. The movie stars Denzel Washington and Angela Basset. You can catch this film on youtube for 3.99 or other streaming platforms. Also, be sure to read the “Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Alex Haley as well as the Netflix documentary “Who Killed Malcolm X?” Now streaming.
Do the Right Thing (1989). Another Spike Lee film featured on this list which focuses on racial representation and discrimination between an Italian pizzeria owner and the black customers he serves in their neighborhood. It also touches on police brutality and interracial relationships. This film stars Danny Allileo (Moonstruck), Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad and every movie), and Spike Lee. Oh ! did I mention this was Rosie Perez debut film? You can watch this film on Youtube and other platforms.
Moonlight (2016), directed by Barry Jenkins, tells the coming of age story of Chiron, a shy black teenager living in the hood and coming to terms with his sexuality as a gay man. This film tackles discrimination of black LGBTQ+ men in the African American community and in general. It presents another side to the black experience that rarely sheds light on the subject of being gay and black in America. It stars Mahershala Ali and is available on VUDU, Netflix, and other streaming services.
12 Years A Slave (2013) is a biopic that tells the true story of Solomon Northup kidnapped and taken into slavery in 1841 by white slave traders. Solomon was born a free man and a talented violist. He is tricked into going to Washington DC to perform for the elite class. As with all things too good to be true, his white companions that accompany him are slave traders who sell him on the black market. Also, be sure to read Solomon Northup’s autobiography, he wrote of the same title. 12 Years A SLaveis available to rent on Amazon Prime, Youtube, and Google Play.
Last but not least is The Butler (2013), directed by Lee Daniels and starring Oprah Winfrey, Forrest Whitcker, Lenny Kravitz, Cuba Goodling Jr, and many more. The Butler came out the same year and month as 12 Years A Slave but did not receive the accolades and attention. The film is inspired by Will Haygood’s article in the Washington Post about an African American butler who served in the White House from Truman to Regan eras. The Butler is available to rent on Youtube, Amazon Prime, and other services.
There are hundreds of films about the black experience you can find online free or to rent but I have shared only a few with you all. Here are some links to the others for your reading and viewing pleasure :
Once again, no matter your view or politics about the Black Lives Movement, at the end of the day we all must fight for the civil and human rights of all Americans no matter their creed, age, religion, and sexual orientation! America is built on that right? or we aspire to be as Americans?
We all know Gordon Ramsay from such shows as Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, and so on. Now Ramsay has taken on a new challenge by globetrotting around the world, learning about new cuisines, and going head to head with local chiefs in a “friendly” competition in his new show Uncharted. I started watching this show when it premiered last year in 2019, and I love it! If you’re a fan of Gordon Ramsay, you will enjoy seeing his adventurous and curious side. Also, Ramsay is not in charge this time around! Instead, he is learning how to catch, cook, and put together local specialized dishes from each global location.
For those of you who do not know who Gordon Ramsay is? Allow me to introduce him briefly. Gordon Ramsay is a Scottish/ British chef from the UK. When he was younger, he wanted to be a famous rugby football player, but an unexpected injury dashed his dreams as a professional athlete. After coming to terms with this loss, he went to college to major in hotel management. This change in careers set the course for his career path in becoming a professional chef. At age 35, after training and working in restaurants, Ramsay opened his first one called what else but Gordon Ramsay! In 1998 he received the convenient Michelin star, which is like getting an Oscar but for food.
Now Ramsay owns multiple restaurants in the UK, Paris, New York, and Las Vegas. His cooking style is upscale European/ American Cuisine. From his notoriety, Ramsay became a tv star on the top related FOX show “Hell’s Kitchen, Master Chef, Master Chef Jr, and The F-word. Also, in the UK, his appearances include Gordon’s Great Escape and Ultimate Cookery Course. His latest show on the National Geographic Channel is called Uncharted.
As I have mentioned before, the television series Uncharted is a globetrotting and educational show that centers around food, travel, and culture. One of my favorite episodes is Ramsay traveling to Tasmania, Australia, to learn about the food culture by catching spiny tail lobsters, trout, Wallabee, and pure honey. He learns how to prepare these local dishes and cooks them up against the local chef in the region. This show can be described as a cooking competition and travel series. Another favorite episode is when he traveled to Laos, Vietnam, to learn how to catch the local fish and cook with Vietnamese spices to prepare a local dish for the monks! I must admit seeing Ramsay nervous was a delight! As in his previous shows, he is the one in control whipping chefs in shape in his competitive shows. Uncharted is now in its second season, but you can catch season one on the National Geographic Channel, Disney +, Hulu, and other streaming platforms. His other shows, such as Kitchen Nightmares, are located on the FOX channel, Hulu, Netflix, BBC America, etc…
As I was looking through Netflix to find some movies to take my mind off of the world’s situation. I found my childhood movie/game Mortal Kombat! Immediately I was transported back into that dark movie theater in 1995 when I first saw the film in theaters. Mortal Kombat, first and foremost, is one of the best games of the ’90s and today. We will get into a little bit of background info about the game, and then I will go into the movie.
According to IGN.com, Mortal Kombat was developed in contrast to the Street Fighter II game, which was developed by Capcom. Street Fighter II was one of the few games that helped bring the fighting game genre into the mainstream. Midway, the developer of Mortal Kombat (MK) was looking to make a name for itself in the gaming market during the 1980s. Two of Midways’ newest employees, John Tobias, a game developer for Smash TV and game programmer Ed Boon began working on an attempt at their first fighter game. Tobias used inspiration from Jean- Claude Van Damme, King Fu movies of the 80s, and Chinese Mythology to develop unique fighting characters for MK. Ed Boon began working with Tobias in designing the graphics for the game, and the rest is history!
Mortal Kombat stood out among the crowd of fighter games because of the ingenuity from Tobias and Boon. The characters of the game had deep story plots wrapped in Chinese folklore along with a sleek style of the 1990s. Also, the violence was much more calculated than the other games, which made it a target during the censorship era of the 1990s of protecting young children from violent images in games and tv. Mortal Kombat today is still relevant as it was in the 90’s with up to date visual graphics and new characters. The latest edition Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath comes out June 16, 2020 or May 26? the articles were fuzzy on the actual release date, but is available for download now.
Now back to the movie! Mortal Kombat the film centers around Liu Kang (Robin Shou), who is seeking revenge for his brothers’ murder, Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson), who is pursuing Kano, the fugitive responsible for killing her partner in the line of duty, and Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby), the famous martial arts movie star looking to revamp his career. Each of these three is secretly chosen by Raiden (Christoper Lambert), the god of thunder and lightning; aka could be Thor’s true father? The three characters are selected to participate in an age-old martial arts tournament conducted by the powerful sorcerer Shang Tsung (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). This tournament is unlike other martial arts ones in which the opponents are from otherworldly realms. It is equivalent to Thor fighting against the Hulk but ten times worst! Fighters worldwide come to face these otherworldly opponents. Still, Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, and Sonya Blade are the chosen ones sent to defeat the sorcerer and save the world as a whole.
Now I know the plot is a lot to take in, but if you have played the games throughout the years, you can buy into the wacky plot line and cheesy 1990s special effects such as Scorpion who is one of the supernatural opponents that can shoot a metal creature out of his hand to kill you! The effects looked like something from the 1990s but still holds up. Some of my favorite scenes are the fighting ones between Liu Kang and Sub Zero. I thought Sub Zero should have gotten a more extended scene as he can freeze a person by summoning ice from his hands. Also, I am biased because he was my favorite character to play in the game. Another scene I liked was Sonya Blade fighting Kano, and Johnny Cage defeating Scorpion and leaving behind his autograph picture.
The kids nowadays will not know the struggle of finding a quarter and playing Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter in the mall arcade or laundry mat! Do they even have those arcades anymore? Soon after the release of Mortal Kombat, the sequel Annihilation came out, which was not as good as the first MK movie but just as great in its own right. According to Screen Rant.com, there will be a Mortal Kombat movie reboot in 2021! the trailer will be released sometime this summer! Stay tuned as I geek out about that with you all. Despite its flaws, the 1995 movie is considered as one of the best video game to movie adaptations of its time. Of course, we have Resident Evil, which is just as badass! and other films. With news of the 2021 reboot of MK, I hope that a new audience can appreciate and see how passionate the cult following is! Plus damnit! My childhood deserves to be rebooted! If Pokemon: Pikachu Detective can look awesome, why cant my Mortal Kombat! I demand it to be awesome! In the meantime, check out the trailers for the original movie and Annihilation along with the original MK game trailer from 1993 below.