Monday, April 29, 2019

John Singleton

Below is my tribute to John Singleton (January 6, 1968-April 29, 2019) and a short video tribute by The Hollywood Reporter

#Repost @dankwabrooks ・・・ My heart is so heavy right now. 💔 JOHN SINGLETON was one of the FIRST black filmmakers to inspire me. You see the batch of filmmakers pictured on that New York Times Magazine cover are the ones that made this black kid🙋🏾‍♂️think I could be a filmmaker too and Singleton was chief among them. As a movie fan I loved ‘Boyz n The Hood’ the first time I saw it. I was too young to get into the whole blaxploitation era so ‘Boyz’ was one of the FIRST films that I saw that CAPTURED the black experience that I knew in the hood. It was raw, it was visceral, it was something I innately knew, even though it was set in a city over 2,000 miles away. I FELT that film. Even after I myself went to Film School, knew A LOT MORE about the techniques he employed to direct this film and upon rewatching it thought “this is a f*cking masterpiece!” I discovered that quote about “protecting your vision” not too long before I posted it, but as stated it “exemplifies why” I switched majors in college to study directing and filmmaking. Again he personified what I felt as a black filmmaker. I am forever in your debt Mr. Singleton and I join the fray of filmmakers, BLACK filmmakers, who were influenced by you. Your art will forever live on and continue to inspire many. Rest In Peace sir. 🎬🌹
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SEE more posts on this blog about
John Singleton HERE

Monday, August 6, 2018

Jinn - Review


Written and Directed by Directed by Nijla Mu'min

Produced by Elton Brand, Angela Harvey, Jason Kampf, Mike C. Manning, Shandra L. McDonald, Amy McGary, Kristen McGary, Billy Mulligan and Tommy Oliver.

Cinematography by Bruce Francis Cole

Starring: Zoe Renee, Simone Missick, Hisham Tawfiq, Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Dorian Missick.

Summary: Summer is a 17-year old carefree black girl, whose world is turned upside down when her mother, a popular meteorologist named Jade Jennings, abruptly converts to Islam and becomes a different person, prompting Summer to reevaluate her identity.

REVIEW: What a wonderful coming of age story featuring a brown girl as its lead. It’s not often I see an intelligent, heartwarming story about young black people that’s not about inner city crime and or its residual effects on black life. This film is about another aspect of black life, one that isn’t often explored in film and a religion that isn’t often politicized and or ‘weaponized” as a storytelling device in a spy/action movie–Islam.

Left to right: Zoe Renee and Simone Missick
I’m not a Muslim, but having many close family members of the faith, I know a lot about it and this film captured it perfectly. All the tenets are there and it’s not heavy handed or watered down. If there ever was a perfect blend of the faith with an everyday relatable story this is it.

Zoe Renee (center) and Kelvin Harrison Jr. (right)
The performances by the cast are great including the lead Zoe Renee who plays 17-year old Summer to perfection. She is instantly relatable, lovable and real. You never think she’s a perfect angel, but she isn’t a miscreant either. She’s the perfect blend of what adolescents usually are–evolving. Also great is Kelvin Harrison Jr. as her love interest in the film "Tahir". Their chemistry comes off as sweet and sincere without being saccharine.

Simone Missick (known as “Misty Knight” from Luke Cage, pictured below) as her mother is also great and gives a really heartfelt performance as a woman and mom who is evolving herself.

Everything about this picture succeeds because of the wonderful tone by writer/director Nijla Mu'min. This picture have really been heavy handed and trite or really maudlin, but never was. Beautifully shot by cinematographer Bruce Francis Cole, every scene, every shot perfectly escalated the story in a natural organic way.

This film is an achievement in every aspect and one of the best independent films I’ve seen this year!

Notes: I saw this film this past weekend at the 7th Annual Blackstar Film Festival in Philadelphia where this happened.

And previously
No word yet on when this film will be widely released, but I'll be sure to update this review with those details. Until then you can watch the trailer below and below that visit the film's website.

Orion Classics announced today [August 14, 2018] that they have acquired the North American and Latin American rights to Jinn. Orion Classics has set a theatrical release for the drama on Nov. 15 followed by a Nov. 16 release on VOD and Digital HD.–Deadline

by clicking the graphic below

Friday, March 9, 2018

Black Panther - Review


Directed by Ryan Coogler
Produced by Kevin Feige

Written by
Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole

Chadwick Boseman
Michael B. Jordan
Lupita Nyong'o
Danai Gurira
Martin Freeman
Daniel Kaluuya
Letitia Wright
Winston Duke
Angela Bassett
Forest Whitaker
Andy Serkis

Cinematography by Rachel Morrison

Production Design by Hannah Beachler

Costume Design by Ruth E. Carter

Release Date: February 16, 2018 (USA)

Summary: After the death of his father, T'Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T'Challa's mettle as king -- and as Black Panther -- gets tested when he's drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people.

REVIEW: I never thought that I would see a superhero movie so entrenched in black/African culture on a scale such as this. It is also one of the best origin stories in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe).

If you didn’t know before, you certainly will after watching this film, that Black Panther is a BLACK superhero. Thankfully we now have other black heroes currently in media (Luke Cage, Black Lightning), but while those are television series and urban, this film is definitely something else.

Black Panther is a hugely a self-contained origin story. By “self-contained” I mean that unlike the origin story of Thor (2011), which spread its story between two locales, Asgard and Earth, this film takes place, for the most part in Wakanda.

Wakanda in Black Panther

It’s a film about a hero that’s steeped in family, tradition and honor. While Wakanda is a fictional African country you can see the filmmakers took every chance they could to interline African cultural nuances (I’ll explain more on that later). Wakanda is a futuristic country that was never colonized by outsiders because it thrived in secrecy. That tradition of secrecy is the engine that drives the entire story.

Having established the culture of the story, this is STILL a superhero movie and the action never disappoints! The new king quickly goes on an undercover mission to recover a precious Wakandian export as well as confront an old adversary named Ulysses Klaue. What the king and his cohort discover on that mission is that they have a new even more menacing adversary in Erik Killmonger.

Without giving anything away it is from that point that everything moves fast in the movie and that’s really the only problem I had–it moved too fast. Certain events happen and before you know it–the end.

The star-studded cast in the film never disappoints from the king T’Challa himself Chadwick Boseman, who brings all the regality and statesmanship we saw in Captain America: Civil War (2016) and expands upon it. We also get to see some of his more personal side as he deals with the many challenges of his new throne.

Left to Right: Winston Duke, Andy Serkis, Michael B. Jordan character posters

The “challenges” in the movie come from a great trio, Winston Duke as M'Baku steals a lot of the scenes he’s in and the other two Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue and Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger pose the greatest challenge to the new king. Serkis had a lot of fun with his role and you can see his Klaue’s main goal is to expose the hidden country that is Wakanda and pillage it.

Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger
Killmonger’s goal is aligned with Klaue’s–until it’s not. That’s all I’m going to say except, all three pose worthy adversaries to T’Challa.

The other supporting characters Zuri played by Forest Whitaker and Ramonda played by Angela Bassett lent grace and presence to their characters. Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross was good too and as one of the only non-black cast members did not overshadow the larger story. Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia was good as well as a spy operative for Wakanda who also happens to be T’Challa’s ex-girlfriend.

Dora Milaje 

The other women in the film standout though. From the awesome Dora Milaje to Princess Shuri, they were terrific.

left to right: Chadwick Boseman and Letitia Wright in Black Panther

Letitia Wright
as Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister and the head of Wakandian tech, was an effervescent delight in every scene she was in. She brought genuine laughs without coming off silly as well as projecting that she is also a scientific genius. The Dora Milaje statuesque and magnificent were led by the ever capable Danai Gurira as Okoye.
Danai Gurrira as Okoye
Gurrira as Okoye was my favorite character in the film and when you see it, you’ll see why.

The entire cast were perfect in their roles regardless if the role was major or minor. Each played a part in fully realizing this origin story.

I can’t end this review without giving props–Mad Props to the filmmakers.

Ryan Coogler and Chadwick Boseman on the set of Black Panther
First and foremost I have to mention the director Ryan Coogler, who not only directed, but co-wrote the screenplay with Joe Robert Cole. Coogler proves once again that he is a force to reckon with in Hollywood. He is aided by great cinematography work by recent Oscar nominee Rachel Morrison.

Hannah Beachler
The wonderful and interlined African influence I spoke of earlier was definitely realized through the amazing work of Production Designer Hannah Beachler. In case you don’t know, in film and television, a Production Designer is the person responsible for the overall visual look of the production. Meaning they control the look of everything you see on screen. The look of every set in the film. Even if it's an existing location, the Production Designer may have things added or taken away to suit the film.

As she stated, Beachler wanted to honor the comics with her designs, and then fill in the gaps with research concentrated on Sub-Saharan Africa, pulling inspiration from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ethiopia, as well as the designs of Zaha Hadid.

Ruth E. Carter
Aided in the rich, bold look of the film was Oscar nominated Costume Designer Ruth E. Carter. The Costume Designer is responsible for every item of clothes worn in the film. Even before the movie premiered people were “cos playing” her designs. (You can see an excellent example of that below in the “Bonus Features”).

For Black Panther Carter referenced the Maasai, Himba, Dogon, Basotho, Tuareg, Turkana, Xhosa, Zulu, Suri and Dinka people in her designs for Wakanda. Both Beachler and Carter wonderfully brought to life this “afro-futuristic” country with real world exuberance.(VIDEO of her talking about the designs is below in the "Bonus Features" as well.)

As you can see the filmmakers painstakingly not only created an entertaining superhero movie, but went through great lengths to make sure that even though this is a fictional African country, it still retains a lot of real life African culture and to me that is the real success of the film. Black Panther is a film overflowing with African legacy, pride and tradition–that also happens to be a great superhero film. It indeed makes you think about Wakanda now and “Wakanda forever”.


JANUARY 21, 2019
I LIVE TWEETED the Feature Commentary in a Twitter thread linked below

JANUARY 22, 2019
Read more about Black Panther's Academy Awards nominations at  ‘Black Panther’ Becomes 1st Superhero Movie Nominated for Best Picture


Below are a TON of bonus features about the film as well as links to the other posts about the filmmakers right here on the blog

BLOG POST:  What Does a Production Designer Do? [featuring Hannah Beachler]

REVIEWS of previous films by Ryan Coogler [Fruitvale Station (2013) and Creed (2015) ] at the link HERE

Stories on our TWITTER about the filmmaking of the film

From our FACEBOOK page VIDEO of Costume Designer Ruth E. Carter talking about the costumes of Black Panther

Excellent example of Black Panther CosPlay Published two days before the movie premiered in theaters.
Read more about these photos HERE 

ARTICLE:  'Black Panther' Costume Designer Talks Tribal-Tech Inspirations

ARTICLE: The Costume, Hair And Makeup In Marvel's 'Black Panther' Are A Celebration Of Black Culture And Heritage: From the new Black Panther supersuit to Lupita Nyong'o's Wakanda-honoring knots. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Cinematography of Lighting Black Skin-HBO's 'Insecure' [VIDEO]

HBO: Insecure

Ava Berkofsky, 'Insecure’s director of photography, was brought on for the show’s second season (currently airing on HBO) to give the show a more movie-like look, which includes making black faces not only legible, but striking.

“When I was in film school, no one ever talked about lighting nonwhite people,” Berkofsky said in a phone interview with Mic. “There are all these general rules about lighting people of color, like throw green light or amber light at them. It’s weird.” These rules are a start, but they’re far from a complete picture.

“The conventional way of doing things was that if you put the skin tones around 70 IRE, it’s going to look right,” Berkofsky said. IRE, a unit used in the measurement of composite video signals (named for the initials of the Institute of Radio Engineers), ranges from 0 to 100. “If you’ve got black skin, [dialing it] up to 50 or 70 is just going to make the rest of the image look weird.” The resulting image looks very bright, Berkofsky noted, similar to what you’d see in traditional sitcoms like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or The Cosby Show." –Mic

READ the entire article about lighting black skin on Insecure @ Mic  HERE and WATCH the great video below.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Black Panther’s Production Designer Talks About Bringing the Film to Life

African American film Production Designer Hannah Beachler has worked on Fruitvale Station (2013), Creed (2015), Miles Ahead (2015), Lemonade (2016), Moonlight (2016) and the upcoming Black Panther (2018).

In the video linked below she talks about working on Black Panther.

You can read more about what exactly a Production Designer does in our post

What Does a Production Designer Do?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Conversations with Black Actors [VIDEOS]

Here is a YouTube playlist comprised of African American actors. Most of the interviews are from SAG-AFTRA acting union's "Conversations" video series with actors, but MORE have been added from other platforms and are continuing to be added.

Click below to watch!

See our other posts about acting by clicking the graphic below

Monday, March 20, 2017

Happy 60th Spike Lee

Today is the 60th birthday of Shelton Jackson Lee, better known as Spike Lee. His early works influenced me to become a filmmaker and I am a huge fan of his overall body of work.

I wrote more about his impact on me personally in the post Why I Donated to Spike Lee’s Fundraising Campaign

Aside from his film work what I think is great about Spike was that he has also made a career out of being a teacher. In 1993 he began to teach at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in the Graduate Film Program. It was there that he received his Master of Fine Arts and in 2002 was appointed Artistic Director.

Before then he first started teaching with his books. In many of his early films Spike has written books about them and what it took to make them. I've read several and below are list of the books.

Spike Lee's Gotta Have It: Inside Guerilla Filmmaking by Spike Lee

Spike Lee wrote, directed and starred in She's Gotta Have It, the independent-film success story of 1986. Shot on a shoe-string budget of $175,000 in black-and-white 16mm, the film was made with Spike Lee's persistence and talent plus the help of family and friends. It grossed $8 million at the box office and proved to be a major hit with both critics and audiences. Now Spike Lee reveals how he did it, mapping out the entire creative and production processes-from early notebook jottings to film festival awards. Spike Lee's Gotta Have It is a unique document in film literature - it's funny, absorbing, and fresh as the hit film itself. (Goodreads)

Published October 1, 1987 by Fireside Books. I read this book, but then stopped. Read why via my Goodreads updates below

December 7, 2013 – Finished Reading
November 9, 2013 –
page 82

 22.28% "I think I'm stopping at page 100. This book is a WEALTH of information. I got this copy from the library. Must BUY a copy!"
November 9, 2013 –
page 76

 20.65% "I can't remember where I left off at so I'll start after the survey"
September 14, 2013 –
page 75

 20.38% ""At the beginning of Spike's Journal on 'She's Gotta Have It'. Very intriguing. I've never kept a journal while developing a film, but I do keep extensive notes. This is the page where he shares his Survey for women to flesh out his script and make it as accurate as possible." (page 75 of 231)"
September 1, 2013 –
page 20

 5.43% "After a long Foreword this page starts The Interview: Spike Lee with Nelson George November 21, 1986"

September 1, 2013 – Started Reading

Uplift the Race: The Construction of School Daze by Spike Lee, Lisa Jones

Spike Lee rises again. This time, he and Lisa Jones document his transition from struggling independent to mainstream filmmaker with the making of the Columbia Pictures film, School Daze. No longer working with a small cast and a painfully tight budget, Spike Lee and his crew find themselves working in a swirl of university politics, a cast of thousands, big musical production numbers and the not-insignificant pressures of coming up with a hit in the majors. He "uplifts the race" by demystifying the process of producing an entertaining commercial film that, at the same time, delivers a stinging - yet funny - critique on American culture. (Goodreads)

Published February 15,1988 by Fireside Books 

Do the Right Thing: A Spike Lee Joint
 by Spike Lee

The phenomenon of Spike Lee continues with this revealing and engaging look at his outstanding career, his creative process, and the screenplay for his dynamic movie Do The Right Thing. Spike Lee burst full formed into the screen world with his award-winning, commercially successful independent film She's Gotta Have It. In the few short years following this stellar debut he has established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the film industry and in American popular culture. This book reveals Spike Lee as a Hollywood iconoclast and gifted visionary and takes us though the dramatic sequence of events that brought the movie Do The Right Thing to fruition. It is a testimonial to his developing genius, written in the stingingly funny and informed language of Spike Lee. (Goodreads)

Published 1989 by Fireside Books. I read this book. Read my review below. 
 Do the Right Thing: A Spike Lee JointDo the Right Thing: A Spike Lee Joint by Spike Lee   My rating: 4 of 5 stars
‘Do the Right Thing’ is my FAVORITE “Spike Lee Joint”. Don’t know why it took me so long to get this book, but it did. Probably because I owned, and poured over all of the extras on the 2 Disc DVD. What more could I learn right? Turns out a lot more. Yes the DVD was very detailed, but much insight is to be gained in this book mostly curated from his journals while making DTRT.

For most of all of his early films, Spike Lee published an accompanying book. This was also mostly before DVDs with all of their commentaries and extras. Even back then it seems that Mr. Lee knew that other filmmakers like me were interested not only in his films, but the stories behind them as well.
Mo' Better Blues by Spike Lee, Lisa Jones

Documents the making of the movie Mo' Better Blues, a film that captures the lives and traditions of the great jazz musicians, in a volume that includes the film's script and production notes. (Goodreads)

Published August 15, 1990 by Fireside Books

By Any Means Necessary: Trials And Tribulations of the Making of Malcolm X by Spike Lee, Ralph Wiley

The director of Do the Right Thing and Jungle Fever describes the troubles he encountered while making Malcolm X, a film based on the life of the slain African-American leader. (Goodreads)

Published December 1,1992 by Hyperion. I read this book, read my review below.

By Any Means Necessary: Trials And Tribulations of the Making of Malcolm XBy Any Means Necessary: Trials And Tribulations of the Making of Malcolm X by Spike Lee  My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I don’t even know why I bought this book about the film ‘Malcolm X’ (1992) but if you ever want to know how hard it is to get a film made in Hollywood ESPECIALLY a period piece epic, this is the book you should read. Even if you’re not that interested in how a movie is made, it is STILL an interesting read as a tale of “Trials and Tribulations”.

By Any Means Necessary is not just a means to piggyback on brother Malcolm’s famous phrase, but it crystallizes exactly the mentality Mr. Lee had in mind when making this film. To me the narratives in this book were just as engrossing as the film itself.

PS: For the record the famous quote is-
"We declare our right on this earth to be a man, to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary. ” — Malcolm X, 1965


Read more of my posts about Spike Lee here