BN-W eNewsletter #100

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FILM(S) MONITORED

FILM (Studio) RELEASED N-WORD BNW Says… DVD?
The Princess and the Frog
(Disney)
12/11/09 NO Worthy YES
11/25/09*
Invictus
(Warner Bros.)
12/11/09 NO Mediocre NO
Armored
( Columbia)
12/4/09 NO Worthy YES
The Blind Side
(Warner Bros.)
11/20/09 YES Mediocre NO

*   limited release in select cities.

The BN-W/Educate-Empower monitor notes and cast/production details of the film(s) listed above are farther down in this eNewsletter.   The at-a-glance chart format above details the pertinent facts up front – N-word usage, BN-W’s one-word film overview (BS, Mediocre, Worthy), and whether we would spend the dollars to purchase the DVD.

BN-W/EDUCATE-EMPOWER:   TOPICS AND ISSUES

Happy Kwanzaa!   Today we celebrate Kuumba (Creativity):   “ To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it. “   Visit the official Kwanzaa sitewith a message from its founder, Dr. Maulana Karenga, about this annual cultural celebration that lasts from December 26 through January 1.

Wishing all of our readers a physically healthy and spiritually fulfilling 2010.

BN-W is kicking off the New Year with a new “Suggested Reading” section, which will consist of one or two books, in each eNewsletter.   There won’t be any book reviews, just a photo cover and one or more excerpts from the books.  Some books may have been previously recommended in past BN-W eNewsletters, but most will be new.   Keep reading for the first two outstanding books.

We introduced our readers to Puzzles For Us in November 2007 and, fortunately, it’s still very much on the move.  Educators and parents can join the younger ones in learning while having fun with these puzzles (Sudoku is also in there) and “word fun” activities that   help increase spelling, grammar, and vocabulary skills as well as add to one’s knowledge of culture, history, science, geography, and other subjects.   For curiosity’s sake, while checking out thesite, why not test your knowledge by doing the Black History Quiz.   Did you score well or average or poorly?

Much thanks to Brother Jay for sharing this BBC Four 2007 documentary with us:   Racism: A History.   It’s one of the most accurate documentaries on racism and the history of enslavement that’s ever been made by a major media organization.   It’s almost impossible to purchase (that’s no shocker!) but it can be viewed on Google in three parts.  It’s empowering to actually view it, but if that’s not possible, you can simply minimize it and listen in amazement at what’s selectively kept hidden from our educational systems.   Actress Sophia Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda, Secret Life of Bees, Skin) does some of the narration as well.

Part 1 – Racism: A History

Part 2 – Racism: A History

Part 3 – Racism: A History

BN-W SUGGESTED READING

Posing Beauty:  African American Images from the 1890s to the Present by Deborah Willlis

“While entertaining the troops during World War II, [ Lena] Horne got into a battle of her own.   She refused to sing for segregated audiences or to groups in which German POWs were seated in front of African American servicemen…. [Carrie Mae] Weems uses mirrors in her works to challenge the viewer to consider beauty reflecting beauty.   In one of the photographs from the 2004 multimedia installationThe Louisiana Project…she holds a hand mirror, scrutinizing her image; accompanying text reads, ‘I looked and looked and failed to see what so terrified you.’”

Celia, A Slave by Melton A. McLaurin

“The issue of who controlled sexual access to female slaves held tremendous economic, as well as social, significance, for the reproductive capabilities of female slaves were clearly viewed by slaveholders as an economic asset over which they had control…. The literature on slavery makes it abundantly clear that White men regularly abused female slaves sexually, indeed, deemed sexual access their right…. By granting slave women the legal right to use force to repel unwanted sexual advances, the defense’s instructions would have interfered to some degree with what owners saw as a property right…. According to most historians of slavery, considerations of race and class prevented any challenge to patriarchal power by women of both races.   Rather, White women chose to support slavery, and to accept, or at least acquiesce to, the abuse of Black women it produced…. If the conditions that produced the case of Celia were common on the small farms and plantations on which most slaves lived, then tension between Black men and women was an inevitable product of slavery.”

 

TRIVIA QUESTION :   Do you know who’s on the Posing Beauty cover?   Hint, she’s a well-known writer and editor.  (Still don’t know, see the answer at the end of this eNewsletter.)

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We highly encourage you to see these films for yourself and, if applicable, make your own judgment call on the N-word usage – appropriate/inappropriate? necessary/unnecessary? sensible/nonsensical? does it add to or take away from the film’s concept? does the N-word have to be used at all? is there a valid reason for doing so? is it mandatory for the scene(s) to be effective? what are the circumstances/situation that necessitate any use of the word? is it just thrown in for humor, fear, crime, insult? are other culturally insulting slang terms used as much – or at all – as the N-word in the film?   Lots of questions and a whole lot of reasons to wonder what’s the real purpose and thought process behind why these entertainers, writers, directors, producers, executive producers, distributors, and studios/studio heads and executives give the “greenlight” for these crews to liberally use (or allow to be used) the N-word.

FEATURE FILM(S) :

The Princess and The Frog

Starring [voices of]Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David, Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard, Jenifer Lewis; screenplay written by John Musker, Ron Clements, Rob Edwards; directed by John Musker, Ron Clements; produced by Peter Del Vecho; executive produced by Aghi Koh, John Lasseter; studio – Walt Disney Animation Studios

Glad this film was made because it gives many little girls of African descent an opportunity to see themselves as the princess, which, like it or not, many little girls overall want to be or fantasize about at some point in their childhood.  Of course, many Black little girls had parents who would never purchase items (dolls, quilts, curtains, backpacks, plates, cups, napkins, etc.) for their children if they weren’t some shade of “brown” like them, so Disney will get many of those parents this time around and make a bundle on Princess Tiana products – and brown little girls will get to celebrate birthdays and sleep with or surrounded by a princess who looks like them (giving conscious parents a creative break for a minute).   This film also tells a story of family bonds and love as well as being goal oriented and working diligently to pursue one’s dreams, which is admirable in any animated film for children.   As in most animations, there are some stereotypes (not as bad or dangerous as Disney’s Song of the South), but at least in this film it’s balanced out (you have snaggletooth Blacks but you also have snaggletooth Whites).   One negative is that the “frog” wasn’t an obvious Black male; children don’t know the difference, but if it’s easy to make the voodoo villain and Tiana’s dad obvious men of African descent, why not make the film’s prince obvious as well?   Why is the decision made so often these days NOT to promote images of positive Black coupling in films and television?  Adult critiquing aside, children loved this movie and there was plenty of clapping at the film’s end at all of the shows those of us in the BN-W camp attended.   Take the kids, they’ll enjoy it and so will you.   (For those parents who don’t know, there is another princess – Princess Amira – who’s brought much joy to many children’s parties:   Dolls Like Meor Birthday Jubilee .)

Invictus

Starring Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon; screenplay written by Anthony Peckham; directed by Clint Eastwood; produced by Clint Eastwood, Lori McCreary, Robert Lorenz, Mace Neufeld; executive produced by Morgan Freeman, Tim Moore; studio – Warner Bros. Pictures

Morgan Freeman plays Nelson Mandela very well.   But when you hear about a film based on an aspect of Mandela’s life, you want real politics – not sports (rugby in this case), which he saw as a “human calculation” to unite the Blacks and Whites.   This film shows Mandela as wanting a “rainbow nation,” “forgiveness,” and not wanting “petty revenge” for the cruelty of the apartheid system toward Black South Africans for decades; it also shows him as overly conciliatory and congenial, especially after being unfairly locked up for 27 years.   Perhaps a part of him was this way, but with the condition South Africa remains in today, did that attitude work for him – and more importantly, did it work for the many people who continue to suffer there today?   It’s no surprise that Clint Eastwood’s involvement would put a full appeasement spin to Mandela’s character, but there was no real balance in the film and there was no real spirit coming out of it either.

Armored

Starring Laurence Fishburne, Columbus Short, Matt Dillon; screenplay written by James V. Simpson; directed by Nimrod Antal; produced by Joshua Donen, Dan Farah; executive produced by Debra James, Russell Hollander; studio – Columbia Pictures

Very good, very entertaining, and very unpredictable film.   There are a few details – a better organized and better planned caper – that would have made it just a little bit better, but the film is still a winner with convincing acting by all the characters and something you do occasionally wonder about the realities of when you see those armed and bulletproof-wearing guys in armored trucks rolling around town picking up cash money.   They must be tempted sometimes.

The Blind Side

Starring Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron, Tim McGraw, Kathy Bates; screenplay written by John Lee Hancock; directed by John Lee Hancock; produced by Gil Netter, Andrew A. Kosove, Broderick Johnson; executive produced by Molly Smith, Timothy M. Bourne, Erwin Stoff; studio – Warner Bros. Pictures

It’s hard to believe this film is garnering such accolades and making so much money (to date, nearly $200 million).  Too bad this same audience couldn’t muster the fortitude for Denzel Washington’s The Great Debaters; they stayed away from that powerful American story.   Wonder why?   As we all know, films that are “based on” a true story always take plenty of liberties with material in the film.   So how much is truth and how much is dilution about the 2006 book on the life of Michael Lewis we’ll never really know.   It’s clear that there’s an audience for seeing a young Black male with no real positive Black influences in his life being taken in by do-good, fair, kindhearted, brave, caring, Christian White folks.   Everything in the youth’s Black environment is negative (drugs, crime, homelessness, foster care, N-word usage, lackadaisical on education, etc.) but at least he has the potential to play sports – don’t know which one – but he’s a big guy which equals athletically inclined in something.   The writer even gets in a few sneaky racial jabs – calling the Aaron character a wannabe “redneck” for driving a pickup truck; two White females walk by and the Bullock character states “I will cut off your penis” if you get a girl pregnant out of wedlock – somehow those didn’t feel innocent, especially the castration reminder.   The sports angle on this story wasn’t that great, so it’s not even a feel-good sports film, but it primarily focuses on a big, docile, non-threatening, sweet, teddy bear of a large Black guy who grows to love, protect, and fight for the White family who took him in and from whom he feels love and loyalty – even saying an awkwardly laughable “mama” to the Bullock character once.   The Village Voice sums this film up succinctly:   “the movie peddles the most insidious kind of racism, one in which whiteys are virtuous saviors, coming to the rescue of African-Americans who become superfluous in narratives that are supposed to be about them.”   And some Blacks complained about the Precious film having no dark-skinned positive Black role models – this character has NONE (dark, light or medium).    So why are they silent now?

BN-W Monitor Coming Soon :  Wonderful World [Sanaa Lathan, Matthew Broderick]; The Book of Eli [ Denzel Washington]; and more…

Also Coming :   Part II:   Black-Jewish Relations (read the BN-W links on this issue:   Blacks and Jews); Music Monitors

TRIVIA ANSWER :   Susan Taylor, former Editor-in-Chief of Essence magazine, is on the cover of Posing Beauty.

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