BN-W eNewsletter #94

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FILM(S) MONITORED
SOUL MEN
QUANTUM OF SOLACE
CADILLAC RECORDS

The monitor of the film(s) listed above is farther down in this eNewsletter.  N-word use in two of the films – “Soul Men” uses it excessively, unnecessarily, and embarrassingly by Black men who should be role models while “Cadillac Records” uses it as it was intended to be used, which is to dehumanize and disrespect people of African descent.

President-elect Barack Hussein Obama will be inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States of America on January 20, 2009.  He has a solid background, ran his campaign well, campaigned very hard, found an innovative way to raise money, handled the sly  media (Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, and lipstick on a pig replays), turned quite a few red states blue, played the Electoral College system like a champ, and played the political game very well overall, so based on those facts he deserves to get the most powerful political position in the world.  Who will benefit the most, however, remains to be seen.  Will it be those who can put the pressure on consistently because they have a direct connect or will it be those he talked about helping during his campaign?

As with most politicians, whether or not he’ll be able to give even a quarter of what he promised, time will tell; whether he’ll ultimately play to the wealthy or the middle class (and the poor), time will tell; whether he’ll get caught up in appeasing the corporations/media (as most politicians do), time will tell; whether he will extend that same forgiving spirit of his toward Wright as he’s done with Hillary Clinton and others, time will tell.  He’s not yet officially in office but there are the hangers-on who swirl around anyone in a powerful position as well as the many naysayers who expect – and want – him to disappoint.  And, of course, his staunch supporters will accept nothing less than all-positive, all-good, all-the-time about their candidate.  In BN-W’s opinion, some of his team picks to date are definitely questionable but, again, time will tell if his master plan of working across all party lines and being inclusive works.  Yes, immediate problems such as the bad economy, bank/auto bailouts, and two wars await him.  And while the media may not mention these much, also at the top of his agenda will be these “Obama Issues” of global concern, which some may see as crucial in determining whose side Obama is really on.  Is he really supportive of human rights and against ethnic cleansing?  Will he stop those who are at this very moment preparing to start a war in Iran with or without America ’s assistance?  Will he support what’s better for America or what’s better for Africa or a mutually satisfying solution?  He will be “tested” with these issues, which we’ll write about more in the next eNewsletter:

Obama Issue “O-101”  (also view site)

Obama Issue “PPPL” (also view text  and study guide andgeneral info)

Obama Issue “ Africom”  (also America’s Foot and Obama–Change?)

[Videos:  Danny Glover and William Ward (another Colin Powell?)]

“ Africa has always been and still is the world’s richest continent.  Africa has always had things other people wanted, thought they couldn’t do without, and didn’t want to pay for.  So, therefore, there’s always been an excuse to invade Africa .”  [John Henrik Clarke]  See Dr. Clarke’s video – A Great and Mighty Walk – as narrated/executive produced by actor Wesley Snipes and directed by the late St. Clair Bourne.

INTERESTING WEB SITES/LINKS/ARTICLES :

The 16th annual African Diaspora Film Festival runs in New York City through December 14th.  Visit the ADFF Web sitefor events this weekend, including Sunday’s closing ceremony hosted by Adaora Udoji with a performance by singer Gerald Alston and a catered reception at Columbia University .

December 14th – 3:00pm – Salem United Methodist Church – 211 West 129th Street (near Adam Clayton Powell Blvd ) – New York City
The Great Harlem Debate:  The Obama Election, Was It Good For Black People
Yes! – Charles Barron, Leonard Jeffries, Viola Plummer, Malik Shabazz
No! – Marimba Ani, Glen Ford, Donald Smith, James Turner
A large turnout is expected, so arrive early!

During the 2008 presidential campaign, there was a lot of talk by the media and Obama’s opponents about his connection to William (Bill) Ayers, formerly of the Weather Underground (WU) antiwar group started in 1970.  Ayers, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago , avoided speaking out during the campaign.  His wife Bernardine Dohrn, also a former member of the WU, is a lawyer and teaches law at Northwestern University .  Here is a link to the Weather Underground documentary, which we also used as one of our sources for the BN-W Historical Timeline in 2004.   This is an informative documentary, including acknowledgment of the differences in treatment they received in comparison to other social/political organizations, such as the Black Panthers.  Dohrn acknowledges that “We knew too that even here we were enjoying the privilege of our skin.  We were being pursued and beaten, true, but our Black Panther comrades were being targeted and assassinated.”  A law enforcement official also confirmed the difficulty in tracking the WU members because they had “fairly substantial amounts of money,” something the Black Panther Party did not have access to.

Ayers (a self-described “very privileged kid”) and Dohrn recently interviewed with Democracy Now! and discussed Obama, WU, life on the run, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, Fred Hampton, terrorism, the Vietnam War, racism, children, their mistakes/regrets, and more.  View, read or listen to the interview here:

DN – Part 1 – Ayers/Dohrn and DN – Part 2 – Ayers/Dohrn.

Ayers also did this New York Times Op-Ed:  The Real Bill Ayers

In the monitor of “Cadillac Records” below, a reference is made to a critic who sees the film’s “endemic racism” as something in the past.  Let’s not let an Obama win mean more than what it is.  Racism is still alive and well in America .  Here are two examples of this often-repeated scenario of imagery, media, and its power – and what’s an acceptable perception and representation of so-called Black culture.  Rapper Lil Wayne topped the list and received eight Grammy nominations, including for album of the year for his album, Tha Carter III.  Get a load of these lyrics Carter III Lyrics (1)  or Carter III Lyrics (2).  It seems as if only a person of African descent could get nominated for lyrics that use the N-word and promote misogyny.  See the complete list of nominees at Grammy or Variety.  Robert Downey Jr. also received a Golden Globe nomination for best supporting actor for his ridiculous portrayal of his rendition of a Black man in the film Tropic Thunder.  This is a role he essentially played in blackface.  Actor Ben Stiller directed the film, which has grossed more than $187 million worldwide to date.

There’s also this article – Busta Apologized for Arab Money, But Who Will Apologize to Black Women – by Davey D about an apology from rapper Busta Rhymes for his new song about Arab money. This article points out numerous apologies made by Black artists to make amends for song contents deemed inappropriate, including Sean Combs’ (aka Diddy or Puff Daddy) interaction with long time record label head Clive Davis:  “ As I’m writing this, I wonder if Busta would’ve been allowed to release a song called ‘Jewish money’?  How long do you think that would be tolerated?  Folks forget that Diddy tried to flip a rhyme in his song ‘ All About the Benjamins’ where he bragged about ‘ stacking chips like Hebrews.’  The story goes, Clive Davis who headed up the label that distributed Diddy’s Bad Boy heard it and was having no parts of it.  He put a stop to that quick, fast and in a hurry.  That line was omitted from both the radio edits and non radio edits of the song.  I’m wondering who was the record executive who greenlit  ‘Arab Money.’  How did that get by?  But let’s not digress.”  Brother, our sentiments exactly, we ask the same question about the “getting by” of the N-word through films and music!  What executives are allowing that?

As mentioned in BN-W #54 the conclusion of Part II:  Black-Jewish Relations will be included with our new bi-monthly Music Monitor.  As also stated, there’s a lot of information, and, for that reason, until Part II comes out, it will be filtering out to you so it won’t be too overwhelming in the buildup to Part II’s conclusions.  Refer to BN-W #53/54 if you need a repeat of BN-W’s feelings on the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

The Village Voice ran this recent article – The Fall of the House of Rubashkin – by Elizabeth Dwoskin.  This article details the story of how the ultra-Orthodox Jewish owners of Agriprocessors (located in Postville, Iowa but distributor of “kosher” food nationwide) are in trouble for mistreatment of illegal workers; non-kosher conditions marketed as kosher; shady, manipulative, and deceptive business practices and tactics to maintain control of the business (reportedly supplies 60 percent of the country’s kosher meat) and prevent others from getting into to the lucrative industry (annual earnings reported at $300 million); and much more.  PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) started a campaign in 2005 on the animal abuse in an undercover operation that included this video: Agriprocessors Kosher Slaughterhouse or see it atGoVeg.com.   Additional investigative information on the campaign against the Rubashkins and Agriprocessors can be found here:  PETA/GoVeg Campaign on Animal AbuseThe Jewish Week also ran this story on worker abuses at the company, including the arrests of 390 workers on illegal immigration charges.  Did you hear much – or any – of this story in the media over the last three years?  Could this also be part of the PPPL (see “Obama Issue” above) media effect?

If you missed any other BN-W monitors, just send an e-mail to bannword2@yahoo.com and request that it be sent to you.  As always, 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 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) :

S O U L  M E N

[Release Date:  11/7/08]

Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Bernie Mac, Sharon Leal, Isaac Hayes, John Legend, Sean Hayes; screenplay written by Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone; directed by Malcolm D. Lee; produced by David T. Friendly, Steven Greener, Charles Castaldi; executive produced by Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Mark McNair; studio – Dimension Films

NONE LOW TO EXCESSIVE [1+]
XXXXX

NOTE :  Rest in peace Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes, but what a sad finale to leave us all with.  Fortunately for Hayes, his presence is very brief and he’s respectable playing himself.  But Mac along with Samuel Jackson represent grown men of African descent who could have made a decision to make a movie that could have represented Black men in a better light – and not as broke, foul-mouthed, barely responsible, and dependent on a young (yet eternally paternalistic), rich, Jew (“White with an afro”) to get them out of jams (financial and otherwise).  Obviously the unnecessary use of the N-word was despicable.  Are we supposed to not only pay for but enjoy hearing that insulting word?  The word “motherfucker” was used ad nauseam as well; the marketing of this film even tried to make light of it by forewarning of the usage.  The music was mediocre because neither Mac nor Jackson can sing or dance in any way close to a professional manner.   Bruce Banter, a Black man who writes for playahata.com writes:  “We are past the point in humor where simply loud means funny and just because it’s raw doesn’t mean it’s humorous. The two don’t go hand in hand…”  While A.O. Scott, a White male critic for the New York Times writes:   “ To say that the chief pleasure of ‘Soul Men’ is watching these two men swear at each other is in no way to sell it short. There is also some hitting and gunplay, but that’s pretty superfluous. Once these guys start yelling at each other, all Mr. Lee really has to do is keep the camera running.”  Distinctly different opinions on the very same issue of what constitutes being “funny.”  Read their full reviews – Bruce Banter and A.O. Scott.   For the record, do you think Scott would have been just as giggly and tickled pink if the word “kike” had been used as often as “nigger/nigga” was in this film?  Oh, on second thought, no such film would be allowed into the theatres – the Weinstein brothers wouldn’t have that!

Q U A N T U M  O F  S O L A C E

[Release Date:  11/14/08]

Starring Jeffrey Wright, Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Olga Kurylenko; screenplay written by Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade; directed by Marc Forster; produced by Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli; executive produced by Anthony Waye, Callum McDougall; studio – Columbia Pictures

NONE LOW TO EXCESSIVE [1+]
XXXXX

NOTE :  Jeffrey Wright’s part is so minimal, we can only surmise that he must be doing it for the surely nice and easy paycheck and to have the Bond films on his acting resume.  What a waste of quality talent – to have him but not use him.  As for the film, it left no impression at all.  Daniel Craig’s character was impressive in Casino Royale. In the monitor ( BN-W #71) of that film two years ago, Craig fit the role in a different, more rugged, non-pretty boy kind of way, which was refreshing.  This time around he’s doing too much squinting and maybe the emotional detachment of the typical Bond film might be better.  The music, particularly for the action scenes, didn’t consistently flow.  And while having skinny women in films seem to be the standard these days, this film was just in overload with them.  The film did very well for the franchise – best box office ever – but it received mixed reviews from fans and critics across the board.  We’ll see what direction the next one takes:  maybe a more meaty role for Wright and more of the Casino Royale kind of Craig.

C A D I L L A C  R E C O R D S

[Release Date:  12/5/08]

Starring Jeffrey Wright, Columbus Short, Gabrielle Union, Beyonce Knowles, Adrien Brody, Mos Def, Eamonn Walker, Cedric the Entertainer, Emmanuelle Chriqui; screenplay written by Darnell Martin; directed by Darnell Martin; produced by Andrew Lack, Sofia Sondervan; executive produced by Beyonce Knowles, Marc Levin; studio – Sony Music Film/Parkwood Pictures

NONE LOW TO EXCESSIVE [1+]
XXXXX

NOTE :  The N-word is used but it’s used by White cops beating down a man of African descent and with a Black man standing up and disputing being called by that word, not just looking idiotic and accepting the word’s usage as middle-aged Black men did in “Soul Men.”  And unlike his role in the “Quantum” film, Jeffrey Wright’s talent is not wasted here.  Columbus Short is also a standout in his role as Little Walter.  Mos Def, Gabrielle Union, and Eamonn Walker also have effective performances.  As one of the executive producers, Beyonce does well in the singing category, but whether she’ll get that nod she’s seeking for her acting is doubtful, although she has improved in that this role is more gritty.  She may have to get that Texas twang out of her voice and step away from characters that do any singing and dancing at all to get that recognition she’s obviously seeking.  Adrien Brody’s character is a “Jew boy” (also called “White man” and “White daddy”) in the film who is supposed to be supportive and trustworthy because he gives Cadillacs and side checks as “gifts” (against royalties of course) yet does plenty of fuzzy mathematics with the real moneymaking side of the business, which leaves most of the artists broke and always with their hand out (see same plot in “Soul Men” above).  Thankfully, all the Black characters aren’t ignorant to contracts with the Mos Def and Eamonn Walker characters showing they have some business sense.  Wright’s character is a blatant womanizer who’s in a loving relationship but is portrayed as wasteful with his money (jewelry, furs, etc. on multiple women) while Brody’s character is married with only hints of infidelity and is not wasteful with the money his artists make for him.  One downside to the film is that writer/director Darnell Martin plays so loose with the facts and admits to taking “dramatic license,” including the kiss between the Beyonce and Brody characters, which Etta James deniedever happened.  This looseness also leaves out the fact that Aretha Franklin was on the label; since Beyonce is an executive producer and probably wanted the prime female spotlight to be her character that’s more understandable, but it would have been nice if we could trust the facts in the movie a little more.  But as it stands, you’ll have to do your own reading and research to plug in the many holes.  For more on additional facts not shown in the film, including the real name of the Chess Records founders – Lejzor and Fiszel Czyz which was changed upon their arrival from Poland to the United States , something many Jews did to assimilate – read Kam Williams’ reviewTime Out New York magazine critic Stephen Garrett closes his review of the film with these words:  “ Midcentury’s endemic racism seems so completely unfathomable that to see it again, however familiar the tale, seems like a broadcast from another planet.”  Write-ups like this give the false sense that racism is not an issue just because Barack Obama is the President-elect.  Not the case at all!  We are still far, far away from racism being unfathomable in America .  The consistent allowance of the N-word in films and music but not other racial slurs is proof of that.  Overall, however, the film is worth watching and at the very least, it should inspire aspiring entertainers to also focus on the business side of entertainment and not get taken advantage of – or quite frankly played – as many of these artists did.

BN-W Monitor Coming Soon :  “Seven Pounds” [Will Smith, Michael Ealy, Rosario Dawson]; “The Spirit”[Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendes]; “Hurricane Season”[Forest Whitaker]; “The Soloist” [Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey Jr.]; and more…

Also Coming :  Part II:  Black-Jewish Relations; Music Monitors

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