Sunday, February 18, 2018

My "Black Panther" Experience

A large tub of popcorn in hand, I settled into my--almost front row--leather reclining seat and suffered through at least 7 or 8 previews. What the hell?

I couldn't wait to see this film that has had such a phenomenal opening--both critically and financially.

Secretly, however, I was afraid that I might be disappointed despite Rotten Tomatoes' Critics Consensus: "Black Panther elevates superhero cinema to thrilling new heights while telling one of MCU's most absorbing stories--and introducing some of its most fully realized characters."

While black moviegoers were holding our breaths in anticipation, "others," I am sure, were hoping/expecting that it would be a superhero flick in black face, full of braggadocio and
non-stop wisecracks.

Panther is, in fact, a serious work that pays homage to ancestors, traditions, African culture and ingenuity, women, elders, and ritual; much of which is no longer valued in contemporary African American life.

Director/Writer Ryan Coogler, 31, infuses it with humor, pathos, inter-generational conflict, and social commentary; this movie is just the shot-the-shot in the arm we need in the face of rising neo-Nazism, white supremacy, and hate-mongering.

Unfortunately, we still live in an America where we must prove that black lives matter.

Kudos to some of the best actors in film today: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupito Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Sterling K. Brown, Winston Duke, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, and Leticia Wright.

Might this film be an Oscar contender? Don't know, but it has already won the hearts of millions.

Black Sitcoms: Funny and Relevant

I am not a fan of most TV sitcoms.

Most involve white, middle-class families in two-parent households who live in a never-never-land where the most serious problems are: Who will Bobby take to the prom? How will we get rid of an annoying in-law. How to get the nerdy guy a date?

To my mind, some of today's best TV sitcoms feature black characters who are consistently funny and relevant.

"Everybody Loves Chris" is a sitcom loosely based on Chris Rocks' growing up years in Brooklyn, New York; his  family lives in a low-income neighborhood rife with crime, drug dealing, and shady characters who are as much a fabric of the community as the hardworking families. (Show received 51 nominations and won 7, including AFI, British Comedy Awards, and NAACP Image Awards.) 

"Martin" is a comedy that never attempts to be anything but relevant to black viewers. What makes it hilarious are the characters who look and act like people I might know. (Show received 11 nominations and 6 wins, including NAACP Image Awards, Kids' Choice Awards, and People's Choice Awards.)

"My Wife and Kids," starring Damon Wayans and Keisha Campbell, is non-stop jokes. As parents to three kids, they embody the middle-class lifestyle but always fall back on old-school parenting that brooks no nonsense from smart-mouth kids. They often bicker and disagree about the best ways to raise/punish/support their brood, yet they always end up doing what is best. (Show received 36 nominations and 10 wins, including BET Comedy Awards, Family Television Awards, NAACP Image Awards, People's Choice Awards, and Prism Awards. 

"The Bernie Mac Show" is brilliant. His asides to the camera contrast with his on-screen actions. He is an avid believer in "spare the rod and spoil the child." Much of the humor grows out of the clash of parenting methods between Mac and his wife. The kids are always messing with him, and he constantly plots revenge against them. What makes this show touching is that Mac is raising his drug-addict sister's children. Sadly, this comedic giant died too soon. (Bernie was nominated numerous times as lead actor (Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, Primetime Emmy, and Family Television Awards but won BET Comedy Awards twice and NAACP Image Awards five times.) 

"Blackish" ( Tuesdays, 10 PM on ABC) is a fresh take on the black family. Anthony Anderson is a successful ad man (Dre Johnson) whose colleagues are not the least bit politically correct; Tracee Ellis Ross (Rainbow) is superb as a successful physician, frequently in conflict over her roles as black woman, wife, and doctor. Their kids, on the other hand, are happy with all the privileges and perks afforded by their parents' success.

Success, however, doesn't shield them from the misconceptions and biases that African Americans confront everyday.

One memorable episode finds Rainbow and her younger daughter shopping at American Doll; they want to by a black doll, so the salesperson brings out a doll seemingly dressed as a slave. Bo indignantly asks why is the only black doll is dressed so. Her daughter, on the other hand, wonders why her mother is making such a fuss. A generational divide for sure.

I hope other black sitcoms are in the works that are funny while depicting many aspects of the black experience in America.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Random Ramblings...

    Forgive me, but I simply cannot take President Donald Trump seriously as the leader of the Western world.
    He is such a self-promoting, egotist; I cannot imagine him standing before Congress delivering the State of the Union address or conducting Cabinet meetings, or hosting foreign dignitaries at the White House

    It is difficult to believe that the former reality TV star is capable of running the business of the United States.

    Equally difficult, is divorcing his pre-election utterances, rants, and obscenities from his now-milder persona.

    Who is Donald Trump really? Was he faking his tough-on-everything stance or is he faking his current moderate views on these issues?

    Wednesday, January 4, 2017

    Behind Closed Doors: Michelle and Obama

    In the final few days of the Obama Administration, it seemed apropos to re-post this blog written before he got a second term. Despite some outdated references, I think the idea is relevant. Enjoy.

    Michelle and Barack Obama are unlike any presidential couple this country has ever seen. And I'm not just referencing their color.

    They seem like ordinary people who happen to be the President and First Lady. I would feel right at home in their company, talking and laughing with them about any number of topics.

    They appear down-to-earth...and cool.

    I can imagine the conversations that go on behind closed doors:

    Michelle: Whew! Am I glad to be home.

    Obama: Remind me again. Why did I take this job.?

    Michelle: Because you wanted to make a difference. Be a different kind of politician.

    Obama: Jeez, I'm trying my best to do things that matter--help community colleges, give health care to the uninsured, get gas-guzzling clunkers off the road, speak to kids as their President, offer incentives to companies that produce energy-efficient products and services.

    Michelle: I know.

    Obama: Instead, my ratings keep dropping...and worse, some folks seem thrilled by this.

    Michelle: Sure do.

    Obama: How about that Glenn Beck calling me racist? I'm biracial, with parents from two continents, have lived in Indonesia and Hawaii, and have done community organizing in economically-devastated sections of Chicago. Maybe, he meant that I don't like white grandparents were white, dude.

    Michelle: I don't understand why my outfits are the subject of such attention--my shorts (at Martha's Vineyard), my sweater (in Europe), my sleeveless dresses, my handbag. Don't Americans have more important things to worry about?

    Obama::(Chuckles) Hey, I'm soft, haughty, inexperienced, and a closet-Muslim.

    Michelle: Folks even criticized us for having dinner in NY. Think we should be chained to our desks.

    Obama:I'd better push through as much of my agenda as I can. 'Cause, I don't think I'll get a second term.

    Michele: You've had the country's top job; where do you go from here?

    Obama: First, I'm going to have a burger and a smoke.

    Michelle: I'll lose these pearls and slip into a sleeveless top and jeans.

    Obama: Yeah.

    Monday, September 26, 2016

    (In)Human Nature

    It is easy to become disillusioned with human beings in light of daily injustices, atrocities, and mass killings.

    Disillusionment is behind every "riot" that erupts when another black man is shot by a police officer.

    Disillusionment keeps women who have been raped from stepping forward to confront their attacker(s).

    Disillusionment prevents victims of human trafficking from escaping their captures.

    Disillusionment stops otherwise concerned citizens from voting.

    Disillusionment fuels frustration that comes after dealing with companies/corporations that pursue profits over customer satisfaction.

    Disillusionment results when whistle blowers end up disgraced, financially-ruined, or vilified after exposing corruption or injustice.

    I could go on.

    What saves us from absolute disillusionment, however, are (extra)ordinary acts of compassion by:

    • A retiree who feeds the homeless from his pension.
    • A corporate employee whose advice saves you hundreds of dollars.
    • A citizen who risks his/her life to save another.
    • A  journalist who risks his career to highlight corruption or injustice.
    • An organization that strives to free those wrongfully imprisoned.
    There is hope for the human race; just look beyond the horror stories heralded in the media to those small acts of mercy, courage, and generosity that often follow in their wake.

    Friday, August 26, 2016

    Trump Stumps: Tough Talk, Few Tactics

    I try to avoid news programs (on practically all the  major news outlets) that feature coverage of Donald Trump. Now I get that he is the GOP contender for the presidential prize and cannot be ignored.

    Still, when I hear him address adoring crowds, I scratch my head. How is it possible that a clearly politically clueless candidate has managed to leap-frog over more viable Republican candidates to compete against Hillary Clinton?

    Donald Trump has not offered the American people any substantive policies or platforms to support his claim that he will "make America great again."

    His public performances--and that they are--seem more like stand-up comedy routines that pump up his image of himself as a no-nonsense, tough-talking leader who will show the rest of the world, including our allies, who's Boss. Really.

    Politics is complicated. The Constitution calls for the separation of powers and checks and balances, which assures that neither the President nor Congress operates free of constitutional constraints.

    So those jobs Trump promises, the defeat of  ISIS, the repeal of "Obamacare," and the restoration of military cuts will require more than his say-so.

    Just ask President Obama.

    I believe, in fact, that Trump represents the deepest yearnings of a segment of our population that views our nation as a global behemoth envied by of the rest of the world and big enough to take on all enemies.

    Even if you believe this, the battlefield has changed. The threats to our nation occur on many fronts--from cyber attacks to domestic terrorism by lone wolves. Big talk accomplishes nothing.

    Complex world and national issues require cooperation across party lines and national borders as well as a commitment to fairness and justice for all.

    We cannot solve global problems with nationalistic rhetoric.

    Be wary of a candidate who has simplistic answers to modern-day problems, namely, Donald Trump

    Friday, July 8, 2016

    We are angry and fearful

    My thoughts about the shooting deaths of two black men--Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castille in Minnesota--during separate police actions this week no doubt echo those of millions of outraged African Americans.

    Graphic cell phone images of bullets devastating their bodies brought the horror home in a way that verbal accounts could not.

    We are angry and fearful.

    We envision our sons, fathers, grandsons, nephews, brothers, uncles or cousins writhing in pain or dying on some dirty, urban street; their lives instantly exposed to the harsh spotlight of public scrutiny.

    Despite national protests, outcries for justice, or family pleas for action, most African Americans have little faith or expectation that the officers involved will suffer any significant legal consequences.

    While white Americans are horrified by random mass shootings, they seem complacent about the serial deaths of young black men at the hands of police.

    Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton was the lone public official--black or white--who spoke frankly about the incident at a press conference yesterday:

    "Would this have happened if ... the driver and passenger were white?...I don't think it would've. So I'm forced to confront and I think all of us in Minnesota are forced to confront that this kind of racism exists."
    Will these shootings promote serious examination (or re-thinking) of police response tactics? Will white Americans ever own up to the racism that infects every aspect of life for African Americans?

    Frankly speaking, organized social and political action to address long-standing issues (i.e. mass incarceration, high unemployment among black youth, disparate health outcomes) will save more black lives than impromptu street protests.

    We know another shooting involving police officers and black men (and women) is likely.

    In the meantime, let us prod elected officials into action and raise awareness among white Americans that this is not a black issue; it is an American issue.