Monday, February 23, 2009

African Americans in Cinema

Morgan Freeman: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Rolefor: Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Forest Whitaker: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Rolefor: The Last King of Scotland (2006)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dreamgirls (2006): African Americans in Cinema (9)

The last in my series of African American Academy Awards winners who took home the coveted award for acting brings us to a movie that transcends generation by bring the glitz and the glamour of the popularity of Motown into the next generation.

Dreamgirls (2006), originally a Broadway musical, takes through the life of a singing group, plucked from obscurity in their urban Midwestern town into the bright lights of popularity.

Loosely based off of the success story of the Supremes, JenniferHdson took home the Academy Award for Best Female Actress in a supporting role for her portrayal of Effie White, a role made famous two and a half decades earlier by Jennifer Holliday. Here is just a taste of Holliday's performance during 1982's Tony Awards:

Ray (2004): African Americans in Cinema (8)

This movie almost slipped under my raider.

Jamie Foxx was awarded an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the late great Ray Charles in the movie Ray (2004).

I would be kidding myself if I wrote a review due to the fact that I have never watched this film in its entirety, but the following is a glimpse into what I have missed and have yet to see.

Training Day (2001): African Americans In Cinema (7)

Once waiting a few moments, an unprecedented two African Americans were presented the top award for acting in the same year.

Training Day (2001), takes you through a day in the life of Jake Hoyt, played by Ethan Hawke, a Los Angeles police officer trying to get on an elite narcotics task force captained by Alonzo Harris, played by Denzel Washington.

From the beginning of the movie, we see that Jakes ‘straight as an arrow’ Robin hood persona act is not in agreement with Harris’ thug mentality; living by the code of the street rather than the word of law. This becomes apparent when Harris and Hoyt stop a car load of college students, instead of arresting them for procession of illegal substances or giving them a traffic ticket, Harris confiscates the paraphernalia and instead of turning it in, he persuades Hoyt to ingest the confiscated material, writing off the experience as a ‘rite of passage’ for a rookie narcotics agent, saying that a real narcotics officer have to know how the drug tastes and feels in order to obtain the desired results.

As the remainder of the day drags along, Harris shows Hoyt more and more of his dirty deeds and, to Hoyt’s dismay, leads him further and further into the world of corruption. The
The movie cumulates at the end of Hoyt’s first day on the job with Hoyt pulling into his driveway and going home to his family, while a radio broadcast tells of Harris’ death, reporting it as occurring 'in the line of duty' during the drug raid earlier that day.

Denzel Washington went on to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in the film.

Monster's Ball : African Americans in Cinema (6)

As we take a final push to chronicle all the films in which African Americans have been award Academy Awards for acting.

After looking at the film Ghost, we only have to wait a few more years, instead of a few decades, before we see another African American win an Academy Award for acting. This is when Monster’s Ball (2001) was released.

The movie follows Hank Grotowski, played by Billy Bob Thorton, a widower, who works as a prison guard and Hank’s son, Sonny, played by the late Heath Ledger, works with him at the prison.

They both reside with Hank's ailing father, Buck, played by Peter Boyle who happens to be a racist and who drove his own wife to suicide. Hank hates his father because of how Buck's hate has now become his own, in so far as how he treats Sonny as well as Black members of his neighboring community.

Hank and Sonny help in the execution of Lawrence Musgrove, a incarcerated member of the prison where Hank and Sonny are employed. The prisoner, played by Sean “P.Diddy” Combs, is turned out to be the husband of Leticia, played by Halle Berry, who went on to receive the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role. Leticia’s son is shown to have taken on his father’s murderous traits.

Hank becomes romantically involved with Leticia after her husband’s execution without revealing the fact that his hand was the one who placed her husband in eternal rest.
Tensions mount as Hank’s father, who disapproves of the inter-racial affair, and Laticia discover Hank’s well kept secrets.

As in most films, the climax of the film is where all the excitement is, so I will refrain from revealing the conclusion of the story. That’s for me to know and you to find out.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Jerry MaGuire: African Americans in Cinema (5)

An Unlikely pairing, Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr. star in the next file which adds to the series of reviews where African American actors took home the coveted Academy Award for acting.

In Jerry Maguire (1996), a professional sports agent named Jerry Maguire’s leap of new found faith leads him to write a statement that promotes better service, fewer clients, and less focus on the “bottom line”. After he sends out the mission statement to his cohorts, Jerry is fired from his job.

He decides to go out on his own to form his own agency, but is only able to convince one of his former clients, played by Cuba Gooding Jr., to join him, in addition to just one of his former colleagues, played by a Renee Zellwegger.

It was in this role this role which Cuba Gooding Jr. used to take home the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Lily Does Cincinnati!

Lily Tomlin, comedienne extraordinaire and who made of 9 to 5 (1980) a staple in any gay man's entertainment repertoire, made Cincinnati laugh out loud Friday night at the Aronoff in "A Night of Classic Lily Tomlin".

After the show, Ms. Tomlin hosted a meet and greet, where the procedes went to Cincinnati's Stop Aids, in which I volonteered, so I was anle to get a few upclose shots of the event.

See more of my pics of the event here.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Ghost: African Americans In Cinema

It was a Christmas miracle when we did not have to wait another few decades to see another African American received the Academy Award for acting.

Whoopi Goldberg received an Academy Award for her supporting role as Ode Mae Brown in the movie Ghost (1990).

In this thrilling tale, Sam Wheat, played by Patrick Swayze, and Molly Jensen, played by, Demi Moore, are one of the most loving couples ever.

On their way back to their new apartment they run into a roughneck named Willy Lopez, played by Rick Aviles, resulting the death of Sam. As a ghost, Sam comes to the realization that the robbery was planned by no other than his best friend, Carl Bruner, played by Tony Goldwyn who hired Willy to rob Sam in order to get Sam's wallet, containing the password to Sam's computer, which would allow Carl to conclude a money-laundering deal he was involved in. In order for Sam to make sure that Carl does not get away with the dastardly deed, he has to warn Molly and ask for her help. The only problem is that only a very few people can speak to a ghost so Sam employs the help of Oda Mae Brown who is the sunshine to this dark and dreary film.

With the help of Oda Mae, Sam thwarts Carl and Willy's plans to get huge amounts of money and Carl soon discovers the presence of Sam's ghost. Carl sends Willy to kill Oda Mae and her sisters, but with the interference of Sam, Willy fails and is hit by a truck and dies. After this, Molly finally believes in the existence of Sam's ghost, but an outraged Carl storms into her house and threatens Sam to kill Molly and Oda Mae if he doesn't give him the money which was supposed to be stolen by Willy.

He fails, of course, and by accident he gets killed by a half-broken window crashing down on him thus fulfilling his mission to save Molly.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Glory: African Americans in Cinema (4)

As I countdown the number of African Americans honored for acting, there has been a pattern of the Academy to wait a few decades' in between the them handing the coveted award to an African American actor.

Could this be due to the roles in which African Americans are given, or is it because those voting on Academy Awards do not know how to recognize good acting when they see it?

Who knows?

All I know is that Whoppie Goldberg and Oprah Whinfey were both passed over in their portrayal of Celie and Sophia (respectively) in The Color Purple, in the mid 80’s and the world does not see another African American awarded an Oscar for acting until the movie Glory (1989).

This film follows the rue story of an all African American Civil War unit, led by Col. Robert Gould Shaw, played by Matthew Broderick. Shaw, an abolitionist, struggles against racial prejudice in many forms while fighting for The Union.

In one scene, Shaw attempts to get supplies for his troops and is shunned and battered by other white soldiers for commanding an all Black unit.

Not being shaken by the adverse sentiment, Col. Shaw goes on to convey to his troops the importance of appearance and being a better and more qualified than the other soldiers just to be considered equal.

The climax depicts the Union's attack on Fort Wagner, which was spearheaded by Col Shaw’s troops, who took heavy losses and was hailed and highly decorated for its bravery.

Denzel Washington played a mis-fited soldier in Col. Shaw’s unit and went on to be awarded an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, making him the fourth African American in Academy history to be awarded the coveted award.

Click here for the trailer.