Greatest Black Movies

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Spike VS Tyler


I became a filmmaker because of Spike Lee and I started out writing, directing and producing theater like Tyler Perry. So I will start out with saying that I respect both of them as black filmmakers. For me as a filmmaker I would love to have the monetary success of Tyler Perry(Estimated $375 million) and open my own studio while making movies like Spike Lee.(Estimated $50 million)
In 2001 while in undergraduate work in Political Science and African American studies at Suny New Paltz I began working as a production assistant with dreams of making a movie like “Malcolm X” or “Jungle Fever.” I use to say "well I’m no Spike Lee" and to the actors I would say "that you are no Denzel." Spike was what I aspired to be as a filmmaker for years. So it was bitter- sweet when Spike criticized Perry.

Spike said "Breaking records but we could do better. That's just my opinion. I'm a huge basketball fan and when I watch the games on TNT I see these two ads for these two shows and I'm scratching my head, ya know? We got a black president. Are we going back to Mantan Moreland and Sleep N' Eat?" (transcript from 40

Perry’s characters are stereotypical and sometimes degrading, but the question is, is it funny and worth the possibly damage to the collective black character? If Tyler Perry’s depiction of Madea and Mr. Brown are funny, really depends on who you ask.
I have to admit that I enjoyed his first movie “Diary of a Mad Black Women” because I thought it was entertaining. However, is entertainment the only thing that is important? I believe the message is important and once Tyler became popular and more financially successful he really should have hung up the dress and focused on making movies that are more responsibly, when it comes to the fragile black image.
However, he is an independent filmmaker like myself and Spike Lee and no one will tell me or I’m sure Mr. Lee what movies we should come out with. Contrary to anyone’s belief Spike is not the police for what is right for black American and what should not be shown. And this is sobering for me because I love Spike Lee movies and agree with his comment, while supporting Tyler Perry’s ability to do what the hell he wants. If people continue to buy tickets for his movies and purchase DVD’s then he will continue to make the kind of movies that he likes. Tyler has a fan base just like Spike and they ultimately determine to some degree what kind of movies these filmmakers come out with. I too have said in my previous blog on Black Hollywood that I have movie ideas that may not ever find an audience. So no matter what I think, the market will determine if I continue on as a filmmaker.
Who’s fault is it that Tyler Perry is wearing a dress and making people laugh at the possibly expense of our black image? It’s part and partial our fault because we consume the product. In 2007 I came out with my first solo theater project called “The Basement” and comedy/ drama about a group of friends who hang out in a basement and seem to get in a lot of trouble. I modeled the characters based on people I knew and mixed the comedy with serious commentary on controversial issues. In an recent interview with Tyler Perry I heard him say a similar thing stating that he makes the people laugh so that he can deal with issues of love, faith, and God. So maybe Tyler is laughing at us all because he is the one with $375 million, his own studio and a private jet. Spike has some money also, at a net worth of $50 million but Perry has 7X that amount. So has the public spoken and said that they rather Madea than Mars Blackman. I believe there is room for both and I’m hoping one of them hires me to be an assistant director or professional coffee getter on their next movie, because I’m a little to broke to be so righteous in my commentary.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Black Hollywood


This being my last blog of the semester I had to do something that was near and dear to my heart, which is black Hollywood. I have thought about this every day for the last 10 years and even considered getting a tattoo of it right underneath my black fist and fathers initials that is displayed on my right arm. I’m not gonna whine that black people have it hard in show business because the truth is that black people have it hard everywhere. The statistics bare true just read my blog on Oprah. I am going to reserve my banter to the issue at hand which is black Hollywood or the lack there of .There are a few black actors which can green light any project and probably the whole top five is dominated by Will Smith and Denzel which has seen his star fall a little over the years. However, like Oprah Mr. Will Smith is colorless and Denzel has that George Clooney thing going for him with that cool ass walk that drive the ladies wild.
Most black Hollywood struggle to get roles just like their white counterpart with the only difference being that there are only 15 to 18 black films in theaters in a given year as comparison to 400 or so white movies. And you may ask how I came up with that number, I actually counted and double checked the number from 2009, and out the 18 black films on the list I seen all of them. I was not surprised that Tyler Perry and Oprah were involved in three of the 18. So I’m saying this to say that you have a much harder time getting a role in a movie if you are black in Hollywood because there is just much less movies. When they are thinking of Ben Affleck’s love interest in the sequel to “Good Will Hunting” they are not looking at Gabrrelle Union or Regina King but they may go with ZoĆ« Saldana or Thadie Newton if they were daring. So because there are so few black movies many black actresses have turned to someone like Tyler Perry or Oprah to keep working at lesser salary like in the all star cast of “For Colored Girls.”(Budget 21Million)
The other thing is Critics to me don’t know what they are talking about when it comes to black movies. Most black people I know don’t even listen to the critics because they always like some obscure foreign movie that I will never see. The critics confine blacks to only stereotypical roles and criticize material that they just don’t understand. How could these critics understand black topics because most white people were never taught black history in the same way that blacks in the this country are adulterated with mainstream white culture. So critics will have mixed reviews of Great Debaters which is a great movie because it really did not do that well in the theaters.(Budget 15 Million- Gross 30 million) Most black movies in general do poorly if they actually have a positive message. And I won’t even mention movies where the white people are saving the black youth like “Freedom Writers.” “Malcolm X” did not do that well in the theaters and that to many black people is a great movie.(Budget 33 Million- Gross 48 million) Is this because these films are just not that good or is the answer dependant on who you ask? I don’t think that “Avatar” is a great movie but it broke all records and sunk the great Titanic with almost 3 billion in gross profit. It’s all up to who is judging these movies and the critics taste. I walked out of “Juno” because it just was not funny and I thought that “Knock up” didn’t crack me up.
As a black filmmaker I understand that many of the projects that I am passionate about will not be mainstream and in turn will not have investors or studio support. I have suggest to my crew that we do a stereotypical movie to just get a major feature out there and then do what we want. However, thus far my conscious won’t let me do sell out at this time. I wrote a movie, which could be a companion to Malcolm X that I understand may never find an audience. I have discussed a slavery period piece totally different than Amistad that I may never find funding for.
About 8 years ago when I was a lot greener than I am now, I went to a pitch session at the New York Hotel for the Bravo Network. I had two ideas for a television show, one was about white characters at a performing arts school and the other was about rappers in the projects and which one did you think they wanted to hear more about? You guest it, the rappers from the projects and their excuse for why they did not like the first one is that they said and I quote “ We can’t see you producing this show.” So Steven Spielberg can make “Color Purple” & “Amistad” but I can produce a show with white people. Am I being stereotyped? Let me tell you a little about my past and why the white performing arts school may be more up my alley than rappers in the ghetto. From the time that I was seven years old I went to public schools which was more than 95% white and have been hanging around performing arts students ever since. I have never lived in the projects or rap seriously, so the rappers television show was a stretch for me. I could have wrote about white people in the performing arts school in my sleep, because I lived it. So I saying this to say that I was stereotyped like many other black movies and filmmakers to make the kind of movies that the mainstream white community want to see.
So let me go back to the Black Hollywood tattoo that I wanted on my arm and the significance of black Hollywood. I want a community of black filmmakers and investors to invest in a powerful black studio that will make all these movies that just need a little love. Oprah and Tyler cannot tell all the stories nor would I want them to. What if Seth Macfarlene and Seth Rogan were the only voice of white American.

Monday, November 29, 2010


On Friday I settled down with my turkey sandwich and watched a 20/20 Barbra Walters special on Barack Obama and the first family. Barbra, Michelle and President Obama walked through the white house talking and even being greeted by Bo, the presidential dog. And I said to my self wow, Barack really does a lot more television than other presidents in the past. The other thing that struck me is that he can never be candid. I’m not a newbie to politics because I actually have a degree in political science however, the level of folksy I’m from Texas candidacy became the center of George Bushes appeal and may have won him the election. However when Barack Obama is asked by Barbra Walters what does he enjoy white meat or dark it becomes an ultra political question which garnered an answer of both. Barack could not say dark meat because some political pundit would have claimed that this proves he is a racist. You think I’m taking it too serious, well do you remember beer gate. Henry Louis Gates a well respected Harvard Professor who just so happens to be friends with President Obama had a racial incident when he was entering his own house after a long trip. President Obama could not even candidly say that the cops acted stupidly with out taking back his statements. This is because you can’t disrespect the Cambridge police but the White House, as long as a black man is in there, well that’s alright.
On ABC news Dick Cheney when asked about the unpopular war said “so what “ which should be political suicide, but was actually no be deal in the news cycle. Barack has to be more careful of his statements because he is under closer scrutiny. He is not only the first black President but also the target of the Republican Party who will never call him black or the n word but will ignore him, disrespect him and ultimately go against every policy he even utters. The funny thing is that Barack has not deviated from what he said in the campaign. Health care check. End the war check. Stabilize the economy check. Take away the rights of the citizens and bring on socialism, well that was neither in the campaign nor in the policy. Barack is the republicans and white Americans boogieman that they can blame for every problem. I can tell you as a black man time after time when I was blamed for something I had nothing to do with and was surrounded by white faces, so I can sympathize with Barack. People have not yelled out in an important meeting that I have lied but I have been subjected to white people who just don’t accept the authority of someone black. So when Barack is asked do you think you spent too much political capitol on Health Care he should say “so what.” And when asked if he likes white meat or dark he should say I like dark, do you see my wife. (Joke)

Monday, November 22, 2010


When it comes to Oprah there has not been as popular, wealthy, and almost cult like followed host who as almost become colorless in American History. You can for a second forget that she is a black woman unless you count that time she tried to get into Hermes bag store in France in 2005 and was denied. And on top of it she did not even bring it up on her show after reports say that they mistaken her as some North African shoplifter. The reason she did bring it up is a long and sorted conversation of brand and touchy racial issues which still permeate the culture.
The most interesting thing is that almost every time someone talks about her they bring up her story, which was very hard and abusive, as a part of her appeal and her success. Her story makes her relatable and her giveaways and brand of living your best life has made her like a religious leader of some sort of cult. Oprah’s power is seen in her impact across any business or industry by mere mention. Her king-making ability of then Senator Barack Obama may have aided in him taking the presidency. As a black man, I respect her as a brilliant businesswomen and arguable the most successful black women in the history of America. Furthermore, as a revolutionary I believe she could do a lot more for the black community in the same way as Obama. Like Obama she inspires young black men and women to be like them. Moreover, because of their power they should do more to tackle the problems of the African American community.
In the Black community there are systemic problems like 18% unemployment, 50% black males in some part of the prison system, 80% in prison and the gaps in education and income. She could also do more with her money and influence to handle at least one of these issues. Instead of opening a school in South Africa she could deal with the horrible schools in Chicago. Oprah and Barack are both from that area however, the schools have high levels of violence and 50% of those children are not graduating. Racism is alive and well when the most powerful Man in the world is black and most powerful woman in show business is also black and neither of them are helping in any significant way to tackle these tuff issues. I have seen myself on Oprah since the day that I became a filmmaker. However, I’m not going to praise her for giveaways and the furthering of her brand. When she gives away half of her wealth to eradicate some major problem, then I will stand up and recognize. If you want to be honest, Oprah is a little out of touch because to her any one can get what ever they want by just working hard. Everyone knows that this is just not true, and if you believe that then you are probably one of those fools who was reading and following the “Secret”. You are probably still waiting for your luxury car that you wrote on the vision board. Oprah would have not gotten where she is with out Roger Ebert putting her in touch with the person who offered her the syndication deal. Beyonce said, “Success is when preparation meets opportunity.” She didn’t say if you write it down and think positive you will get what ever you want. She leaves out her struggle to get where she is and only highlights the plight of her youth because it's more relatable. BE REAL. She has people like JIM JONES. I’m not drinking the Kool-aid. Oprah needs to do more! Until that day, I will admire her and despise her at the same time because being black should never be an incidental thing. It’s a reality.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Professor Naison

My interview was on Professor Naison Head of the Urban & Black Studies at the Rose Hill Fordham campus. And Naison’s interview was fascinating to me being that I have a degree in black studies from a program in upstate New York with no white professors. I’m sorry if I let the cat out the bag but I did not know that the head of the black studies department was white until I started to do some research on him.
I went to his class on a Tuesday, which was an off day for me and he was discussing a strip club and the kind of music that everyone was enjoying, Cee-Lo. I had to laugh inside picturing an old white man in a strip club listening to Cee-Lo. However his class was very interesting and his students seem to be really into it. The interview, which you must watch, was an hour long session of two revolutionary brothers even-though one was white, just chopping it up. ENJOY

Sunday, November 7, 2010

5 Tips to make your home movies, wedding and crazy youtube moments Better.

We all watch television and enjoy it because of many little know outside of the television world tricks and techniques that are tried and true. Even on a bad show like Jersey Shore or some horribly acted Kathleen Hegel movie there are great professionals behind the scenes who are paid good money to make the show that you are enjoying in your living room, watch-able. This is all I do when I piece together a wedding or event is make it something you may want to watch more than once. Well this blog will teach you some tricks to make your home movies better. My tips won’t make your movies like Spike Lee’s Last Joint or Martin Scorsese “Boardwalk Empire” only film school and 50 million dollar budget and years of experience will make your movies that good. However, I can help you improve your productions so you don’t have to call in someone like me to edit it at 75 dollars an hour and an extra charge for my headache of having to fix it.

1 Get a Tripod: If I see another person free hand I’m gonna beat them. I’m a professional filmmaker who has over six years of experience and I rarely ever free hand because in post it look horrible and is hard to watch because all the up and down dips is distracting. You can buy one at Radio Shack or Best buy for like twenty bucks. However, make sure you pay attention to the weight of the camera and the weight the tripod can handle.

2. Use light: The number two reason why your home movies are not watch-able is because it’s always too dark and no one ever pays attention to this fact. So find a desk lamp or just turn on the lights even if people complain because every camera even a cheap flip cams needs light so that you can get a picture. It’s why a picture camera has a flash so that it get enough light to get your exposure. But be careful not to have a picture which is overblown- which means the persons face becomes pasty and almost white when too much light is generated on one object.

3. Pay attention to sound: The number three reason why your videos suck is that you have an on board microphone which picks up everything. And when I say everything I mean the dog barking outside, the slamming of the door and uncle so and so coughing all while you are trying to get an important wedding proposal, which will only happen once in a life time, because your friend is only getting married once. In order to get the best possibly sound brings the microphone close. Bring the camera about 13inch from the face and if you have a screen just eye it and make sure they are both in the frame. Or get your hands on a sound device like a "Zoom" (Retail 179) or electronic tape recorder with a SD card. You can use it later to mix the sound with the video in some sort of collage.

4. Get Many Angles: There is nothing worse than watching an endless static shot of someone talking or some shaky footage of people laughing and doing silly dancing with the person talking behind the camera. So shut your mouth and tell your friends to stop "Haming" (when someone is acting extra foolish because there is a camera in the room) . Don't have your friends talk directly into the camera unless it's a wedding. And tell your friend to stop asking if you are recording because they are just ruining the shot or waiting to do something stupid which will probably not be worth you recording. The most important thing is to set up your shots and after a while set up another shot from a different angle. Make sure you get wide shots, Medium and close ups to make your home movie interesting. Wide shots are pulled back as far as you can with a person seen from head to toe. A medium shot is a person from chest level to the top of their head leaving an inch of headroom above a person’s head. And don't forget the people, people want to see other people so get faces and try to make sure they fill up the frame. I will have to tell you close ups are not used enough because people are lazy. People rather stand back than get close enough to record a good shot. And don't zoom in and out so much, move your camera closer and then hit record when you set up your shot. When you have a mix of close ups, medium, and wide shots you will have a way more watchable movie. And if you combine them together you have something that will be watched by many.

5. Edit: Most Macs have Imovie which will do a great job even with HD footage and it’s so user friendly my 72 year old mother could edit just by watching the fun tutorial. PC’s have movie making which is a terrible program but even and idiot could use it to put some movies together. You can make fun montages of you video and picture and even add titles, music and fun transitions. This will give your video a pro like look and it will add to the enjoyment.

So with these tips you are on you’re way to becoming the next Tarantino; Yeah right, you will at least impress your friends who will now ask you to edit their videos and you may have to start charging. If so you must give me a cut. (Jokes)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

5 Secrets to Figure Out Any Movie within Ten Minutes.

5 Secrets to figure out any Movie within ten minutes.

1. Pay attention to everything including setting and what’s said and unsaid. In “Inception”, all the scenes don’t have a clear beginning they just are in a place and you never see them enter or leave. Then he mentions early on that when you are in a dream there is no clear beginning. Then Leo turns to the girl in the cafe and says "how did you get here". I knew that the whole time they were in a dream. Or if someone says, “everything is going to be fine” or “we should have no problem”, then you know the opposite will happen. In the movie “Taken” when his daughter tells him that she is going to Paris with friends and he says it’s not a good idea the writer is foreshadowing.

2. Murphy’s Law applies to every movie: what ever can go wrong will. If in a movie they go on a road trip, everything will go wrong including car trouble and unscheduled stops and car must get severely damaged like in the “Transporter”, “Hang Over”, “College Road Trip” and even “National Lampoons Vacation”. In the “Hang Over” they set it up by putting a random bunch of people together and of course one of them has to be crazy which is Zach Knight Galifiankis’ character. This is standard and you can easily figure out where the problems are gonna be 5 minutes after the movie begins. They do not put anything in the movie that does not mean something. So if the father is protective of the car, then you can bet you movie ticket price plus popcorn that the son will take it and it will be damaged like “Ferris Bueller’s day off.”

3. Horror Movies are the most predictable of all. In most horror movies they have to build it up so they don’t reveal the killer early. They wait and show him much later to build the drama for the big reveals or they try to throw you off from the real killer like in “Scream” or “Devil”. They will throw you off but this is when you have to think like a writer. The killer cannot be the most obvious person so the creepy caretaker is not the killer unless you are watching “Scooby Do” (Zonks!!!!!). “Scream” lays it out for you by explaining you never run up stairs when you should be running out; if you fall, get up quickly; and whatever you do, don’t have sex in the movie because you will be the first to die. And if you are black you will certainly die early in the movie—Samuel L Jackson died within the first five minutes of “Jurassic Park” and was the first to be eaten in “Deep Blue Sea”.

4. Trailers nowadays tell you every thing you need to know. If you pay attention you know the whole movie. “Iron Man”, “Transformers”, “Armored” and several other movies show you everything leaving no need to even see the movie. But if you do decide to see it, you have the whole movie so there are no surprises.

5. Movies are set into categories and are so much alike, if you have seen one of the movies , then you have seen the other. And these movies that are practically remakes, just with some elements taken out copy each other almost to the letter. “Drumline” and “Stomp the Yard” are the exactly same movie; just replace the drums for some boots. “Blood Diamond” and “Avatar”—just replace the unobtanium and blue people with diamonds and Black People/ Africans. The white guy saves the day in both and the poor ignorant savages would have been lost with out the outsiders help. “Dangerous Minds” & “Freedom Writers” are the same just replace Michelle Pfeiffer with Hillary Swank. If you can figure out what kind of movie you have then you are on your way to figure out exactly what will happen next. And a little side note secret- I hate both “Freedom Writers” and “Dangerous Minds” because I’m sick and tired of some white person saving the Ghetto youth.