Monday, February 29, 2016

Classic Corner: They Don't Have No Award For That

by DaCogNegro

Since the announcement of this year's nominees for the 81st Annual Academy Awards reveled that, for the second consecutive year, no actors or directors of color were nominated for the awards' major categories, the OscarsSoWhite# movement gained steam with the sole purpose of addressing the lack of recognition and celebration when it comes to the contributions of individuals of color. Spear headed by Spike Lee's and Jada Pinkett Smith's call to boycott the show, the  movement drew as much support as it did ire. One thing was certain, the unprecedented controversy made what is usually viewed as an out of touch and stuffy ceremony into must see TV.

At the forefront of the controversy was its' host: comedian Chris Rock.Despite the urging of many, Rock decided not to boycott the event . Of course, the question on everyone's mind was how would the usually brash and often time controversial actor respond to recent events? Well, Rock did not waste anytime in addressing the elephant in the room. In fact, you can say that he fed it an economy sized  bag of peanuts purchased with your cousin's Costco's  membership card. Though there were attempts at addressing the lack of recognition of people of color, it ultimately came off as patronizing, anemic and ultimately null & void especially when a recorded segment, which had Rock interviewing black patrons at a movie theater in Compton in regards to their views on nominated films and the lack of diversity on the show, reinforced certain stereotypes when it comes to our taste in our selections of films, ability to stay abreast of cultural offerings and  the inability to elegantly express our feelings and thoughts in an articulated manner. As a result, the Academy failed at seriously and effectively addressing a issue that many of us held closely to our hearts and instead mocked and playacted our desire to create change and  create awareness.

(Despite having 11 nominations, including Best Picture,
 at the 59th Annual Academy Awards,
The Color Purple failed to win any awards!)

But the question still remains: is this issue worth the attention it has garnered? In his  opening monologue, Chris Rock stated that this is not the first time that African Americans have been omitted from these categories. Yet,we did not address our outrage in the past because we were fighting more "important" wars that dealt with inequality and injustice. Well, his "joke" regarding the night's memoriam being filled with African Americans ,whose lives were taken by the police, was evidence in showing that we are still fighting injustice but  have decided to include this particular issue in our cause. It's called multitasking Mr. Rock! Maybe you should actually be excited that we are proactive in creating change as opposed to you trying to use such intentions for a flaccid punchline.

(Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing was selected by the National Film Preservation Board, a component of The Library of Congress, due to it being
deemed  culturally and historically significant. Yet, it only gained a Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor nominations. The film that one Best Picture that year: Driving Ms. Daisy!)

Some have mentioned that the OscarsSoWhite# movement is  an admission that we seek validation and acceptance from mainstream media  rather than place more credence and esteem in our own ceremonies that honor our artistic contributions. And while there is apart of me that agrees with this viewpoint, there is nothing inherently wrong with desiring acknowledgment beyond a segmented audience. Contrary to what Ms. Clueless Dash and others may believe, such ceremonies do not perpetuate segregation and separatism. Such a myopic and narrow view clearly shows that these pundits have overlooked the original intention of said ceremonies: to recognize the work of a population that is generally ignored. Moreover, art is indeed a means of expression. However, it is also a career meaning that being recognized on a grand scale can increase the notoriety of an relatively unknown actor which can result in them receiving more opportunity not only to work, but to also create more diverse offerings. If you think this is far fetched, I implore you to look up Nate Parker and his incredible journey of bringing Nat Turner's rebellion, a story I never thought would be adapted, to the silver screen. 

In an effort to create more diversity amongst Academy, its' Board of Governors approved a series of substantive changes to its' membership. Its' ultimate goal, double the number of women and diverse members of its' voting committee by 2020. Now before I start a slow clap in my empty room, there lies a hidden danger in such actions. My biggest fear is that we will see films and actors arbitrarily nominated for the mere fact that they are "diverse".Therefore, they will only act as placeholders to appease the "villagers" so to speak. For example, many felt that Straight Outta of Compton was snubbed for a Best Picture Nomination. Under the Academy's new initiative, such a film would probably earn a best picture nomination. Was F. Gary Gary's music biopic a good film? Yes. Was it best picture material? I personally didn't think so. However, it was the only mainstream drama, with a predominately black cast, that was widely released. So acknowledgement is only half the problem.

"We Are an Underfed Market"

We need to hold Hollywood to task when it comes to offering a variety of films that feature African Americans and other individuals of color. The great thing about The Golden Era of Black Films (Roughly 1987 to 2003) is that there was a cornucopia of offerings that were released which depicted various facets of our cultural experiences and identity. Sure, some of the tropes began to get a bit repetitive, but we still had choices and so did The Academy. However, they chose to ignore them. So Mr. Jamie Foxx, it's not just about the need to "ActBetter#", but for us to get the opportunity to do so in better vehicles! Acclaimed director Steven Spielberg said it best when asked about his opinion on the mater:

It's not just the Academy...It's the people that hire, it's the people at the main gate of studios and independents. It's the stories that are being told. It's who' writing. Diversity starts on the page. And we all have to be more proactive in getting out there and seeking talent

Hopefully, the actions by the Academy and other conversations that have been produced will result in all parties being more active with telling and recognizing the stories of the underrepresented. With such films as The Birth of a Nation and Miles Ahead being released in the near future, I am genuinely excited about the year 2016. But as Mr. Spielberg said, we all share a responsibility. Therefore, when such films are released, support them! Especially if  the films' intentions are noteworthy. Till then, save me a seat and a box of Goobers!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Take Five: Obscure, Black Superheroes

by DaCogNegro

(Back in 1965, Dell Comics' own Lobo was the first black hero to headline his own book)

With the pending release of the Netflix original series Luke Cage and the Ryan Coogler helmed  Black Panther, it seems that we are finally getting some much needed diversity in the superhero genre of film and television. And while there are  some characters who have become household names ie  The Falcon, War Machine, etc,the majority of said characters are usually relegated to sidekicks ,comedic fodder or successors. With that said, there are still a slew of heroes that remain in the realm of obscurity but are primed to be either introduced or have more prominent roles in their respective mediums. Last year, I wrote an entry that concentrated on some of the more unknown super heroines, which can be found HERE! In this entry, we will focus on  male superheroes who hold the distinction of being unsung.

5.Name: Rage
First Appearance: Avengers #326 (1990)

Real Name: Elvin Holiday

Special Abilities:While fleeing a racist gang, pre-teen Elvin Holiday was submerged in toxic waste. Instead of killing him, Holiday was bestowed with superhuman strength, resistance to injury and excelled healing. In addition, the chemicals changed his appearance from a frail adolescent into a muscular,hulking adult.

Did You Know:
Prior to his "accident" Rage, at the age of 13, read at a collegiate level? 

4.Name: Gateway
First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #229 (1988)

Real Name: Gateway

Special Abilities: Being that he is attuned with the forces of earth, Gateway has limitless teleportation abilities. He has even proven to transport individuals through various times and dimensions. In addition, he possess telepathic abilities and a photogenic memory.

Did You Know: Gateway is of aborigine decent and  has been revealed to be the grandfather of the time traveling mutant known as Bishop?

3.Name: Mr. Terrific
First Appearance: Spectre (Vol.3) #54 (1997)

Real Name: Michael Holt

Special Abilities: Michael is a naturally gifted athlete and genius who possess  14 PHD(s) and other assorted degrees. Through his intellect, he has created a mask and costume that grants him a variety of sensory, communication and database retrieval functions as well as immunity to technological detection. His T-Spheres  also act as mini computers, weapons and holographic projectors.

Did You Know: Mr. Terrific once served as the chairman of the Justice Society of America?

2.Name: Blue Marvel
First Appearance: Legend of the Blue Marvel #1 (2009)

Real Name: Adam Brashear

Special Abilities:  The Blue Marvel possess superhuman strength, speed, flight and invulnerability. Adam also possesses antimatter based powers as well as energy manipulation.

Did You Know: The Blue Marvel was "asked"to  retire, by President Kennedy, for fear of the uprising of the Civil Rights movement after it was revealed that he was an African American male?

1.Name: Night Thrasher
First Appearance: Thor #411 (1989)

Real Name: Dwayne Taylor

Special Abilities: In addition to being trained in Japanese martial arts and gymnastics, Dwayne is an expert in weapon and armor design. As a result, he has created a variety of hi-tech suits that are equipped with an assortment of weapons; the ability to integrate with computers, stealth/camouflage technology and enhanced resistance to injury!

Did You Know: That Dwayne became the heir of the Taylor Foundation after his parents were murdered?  Also,  he is the leader of the upstart group known as The New Warriors?- CgN

Monday, February 22, 2016

Corner Spotlight: Funkadelic featuring Kendrick Lamar - Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard On You (Remix)

by DaCogNegro

Though we should continue celebrating black history, which in essence is just "history", year round, we are going to go hard in the paint for the last full week of this celebratory month and what better way to do it then by boarding the mother-ship with Funkadelic and the multi talented Kendrick Lamar! We all know the impact that the George Clinton sound has had on the development and evolution of west coast rap, so this pairing should not come to a surprise to anyone, especially since they just collaborated on Kendrick's To Pimp a Butterfly. So listen to this song now so I won't have to concoct any groan worthy sentences that try to spin the word "funk" in the most contriving manner....OK ,just one: "Don't funk your way up to work now"!!!! -CgN

Friday, February 19, 2016

This is Kind of Cool : The "Z" of the Game

by DaCogNegro

Ah, childhood! The time of life when people didn't judge you for having an action figure collection, most of the opposite sex weren't succubus that hid behind false intentions (I still love you ladies!!!), and Sesame Street was mandatory, daytime viewing.That is why my heart grew heavy when I discovered that the show was being taken off of public access TV and moving to HBO. In fact, I even poured a little liquor out for the Muppets that were heading over to the other side: paid television.You may be thinking that spilling a little alcohol to honor one of Jim Henson's most iconic vehicles is a bit inappropriate. However, after you view the clip below, you may come to realize that such a course of action may not be as sacrilegious as originally believed:

You can either credit Richard's genius, insanity or a third option, which I will fail to mention because this is a kid friendly entry...let's just say it rhymes with Drugs, for being able
 to turn a simple alphabet recital into, what can only be described as, sage advice from a retired pimp or a typical plot of  your favorite seventies blaxploitation flick. In fact, according to Richard, the first four letters of the alphabet seem to be  quite irrelevant. But don't worry, "E  has got it all covered!" Yea, OK! Skip a couple of months of rent and see if "E" will come bail you out of that jam! It goes without saying  that this YouTube clip stays in my constant rotation and the skit itself fits accordingly with a show that features an owl that plays a saxophone and a vampire that moonlights as an obsessive, compulsive pimp. Let's just all be thankful that Richard remembered where he was when he got to the letter "N"! - CgN  

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Classic Corner :We Gonna Be Alright!

by DaCogNegro

It's been two days since Kendrick Lamar's electric performance at  58th Annual Grammy Awards and my senses are still buzzing! Amongst the sea of the usual glitz and circumstance, Mr. Lamar, chain gang in tow, infiltrated the homes of America with blistering renditions of two fan favorite tracks, Blacker The Berry and Alright, off of his award winning and critically acclaimed album To Pimp a Butterfly. Kendrick literally took us from prison cell blocks, across a metaphorical Bering Strait, and right to a proud ,cultural display of  motherland offerings. It was beautiful and awe inspiring but more importantly, it was unapologetically  poignant and relevant!For the first time, in quite awhile, I was proud to be a Hip-Hop fan. Sure, the glimpse into Brodway's hit play Hamilton was a smile inducing treat and Lin Manuel Miranda's  acceptance speech served as reminder of how Hip-Hop can be a whimsical and a joyous craft, but it was the slab of  emotion, delivered by Mr. Lamar, that left me wholeheartedly satiated on a dying component of mainstream music: activism! In a day and age when artist have abandoned their call for social responsibility in favor of neutered stances ,or worse yet, rationalizations of counterproductive behavior that only serve to weaken current social movements, it was refreshing to be splashed with unfiltered reality and not whitewashed  with patronizing sentiments. Sure ,it left many uncomfortable. Let's face it, America is still hyperventilating over Beyonce's Black Panther themed half time performance!


But Mr. Cool J  stated it best when asked about Kendrick's performance prior to the ceremony "...that's what art is about. It's not about whether you agree or disagree, it's about stimulating conversation and provoking people to have a conversation about society." And here lies the issue when it comes to certain Americans because as a country, we continue to vehemently remain in a state of denial.Instead of addressing the elephants that reside in our rooms of improvement, we sweep such discrepancies under a carpet made with strands of selective memory. When forced to confront such injustices, labels such as irritants, rebels, and anarchists begin to roll off of  the silver and  forked tongues of pundits. Why? They're paid to do so! But more disturbing, they have internalized the notion that such treatment is warranted.

Changing the minds of such individuals is,unfortunately,an exercise in futility. However, as long as we continue to fight the fine fight and those with influential power continue to utilize public platforms as a means of  social progression as well incorporating economic boycott into our movements, just look at  the University of Missouri ya'll , then I feel quite confident and assured that in the long run "We Gonna Be Alright"!- CgN

Monday, February 15, 2016

Reel Talk: Straight Outta of Compton

by DaCogNegro

Synopsis: In 1988, a groundbreaking new group revolutionizes music and pop culture, changing and influencing hip-hop is their story! 

Review:  Jason Mitchell and O'Shea Jackson Jr,who portray the late Eazy E and Ice Cube respectively, are indeed the stand outs in the slickly produced and well directed Straight Outta Compton, a film that serves as a candid and historical look at the  rise of one of the most infamous and controversial acts in music history: N.W.A. As with most biopics though, certain issues, such as Dr. Dre's history of assault on women and how the group's second offering strayed away from its' social commentary roots in favor of a more concentrated effort to glorify violence,misogyny and dug culture,are glossed over in order to paint the group  more as revolutionaries that broke boundaries in the realm of  freedom of speech and expression as oppose to artists who simply profited of the plight of the disfranchised. Police brutality and racial tension also play a huge role in the making and marketing of this film,  thus making it a timely piece that warrants further discussion outside of theater. Whatever stance the viewer decides to take when it comes to N.W.A, heroes that utilized their talent to escape environments filled with death and despair or Benedicts who have enjoyed the spoils from the war on empowerment, Straight Outta Compton will enable you to credibly support your view. (B )-CgN

Friday, February 12, 2016

This is Kind of Cool: Star Spangled Funk

by DaCogNegro

Back in 2012, I originally intended for this post to be a Why Do We Do These Things entry. But this is James Brown we're talking about and I didn't have the heart to continue with those intentions.
Remember, this is the man that could make a ten minute song off of one phrase and no one would bat an eye because they were either moving and grooving, doing cocaine or moving and grooving while doing cocaine!
"I'm concerned cause there's nothing wrong!"
So when it came time for James to sing the National Anthem at the 1975 heavyweight championship fight between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner, one should have expected that a rather "unique" and memorable rendition of the song would be performed. I mean, we already had Red Foxx on commentary, why not add to the night's' oddities! Not only did James stumble on some of the words from the hallowed tune, he actually improvised a call and response section in his performance as well as added some of the lyrics from the black national anthem ,Lift Every Voice and Sing,  before concluding in grandiose fashion. I bet Francis Scott Key never imagined that his song would make listeners "Get up off of that thang!"- CgN

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Corner Spotlight:Janelle Monae- Victory

I hope that you are enjoying Black History Month thus far! Continue to support your local and national events but also remember that this celebratory spirit should go beyond the confines of February. I usually try to highlight more under the radar and obscure artist in this space, but Ms. Monae's Victory, found on her Electric Lady albumencompasses the very spirit our elders and ancestors possessed thus enabling them to evoke and create change. So whatever tribulation you are enduring, remember, find glory in the little things and you will be Victorious! -CgN

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Reel Talk- Deadpool

by DaCogNegro

Synopsis: Gifted with accelerated healing powers and a twisted sense of humor, mercenary Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) adopts the alter ego of Deadpool and hunts down the men who nearly destroyed his life.

Review: After his abysmal debut in the universally panned Wolverine: Origins, fans of the "Merc With a Mouth" have impatiently clamored for a proper representation of their favorite anit-hero. Leaked test footage of Ryan Reynolds, in full red leather garb, disposing of some generic henchman while spewing one-liners at a rapid pace only increased the frenzy of the comic icon's fan-base. Well, the wait is over and Tim Miller's Deadpool delivers as promised! Not since Robert Downey Jr.'s run as Tony Stark/Iron Man has an actor been a better fit for a comic role. Simpy put, Ryan Reynolds was born to play Deadpool! But it's not just the casting that is spot on, all of the facets that have made Deadpool such a popular commodity in recent years, the manic humor, fourth wall breaks, gratuitous violence, and tongue-in-cheek pop cultural references, are all here in full effect. Deadpool not only works as a faithful comic adaption, but it is successful in its' other endeavor: a believable and charming love story. Unlike  other comic related properties, in which the love story is shoehorned in the plot in order to reach a wider demographic, Deadpool's foray into "the softer side of things" actually feels organic. Add a strong supporting cast, kudos to FOX  for FINALLY getting Colossus right, and a kick *** soundtrack and you may have the most entertaining, Fox produced, Marvel Comic adaption to date! Now, where's my chimichanga with extra guacamole!! (A) -CgN

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Corner Spotlight: Alvin Garrett- By Myself

Today's musical landscape is filled with insipid, manufactured sounds that tend to blend into each other to the point that it is quite difficult to distinguish one artist from the other. One can view this as being a curse or a blessing. In the case of Alvin Garrett, I am going to view it as the latter. His track, By Myself, instantly caused my ears to perk up and my soul to be stirred. Accompanied by the equally talented, and underrated, Ruben Studdard, of American Idol fame, Garrett delivers a motivational anthem for those who may be at the precipice of defeat and despair due to rejection and failure. Keep moving, and "walk on" by yourself... people!!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Why Do We Do These Things: Sha'mon Now

by Da CogNegro:

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know I never understood that expression! How is it even humanely possible for one to live "under a rock"? If I'm under a rock, chances are I have been crushed by some boulder that descended from a mountain I had no busy climbing in the first place! I could have simply did some sort of  simulation at my nearby Chuck E Cheese after a quick stop at CiCi's pizza! But no, I decided that I wanted to be adventurous for the "Two Sixteen Ya'll" and look where that got me: flatter than Mary Kate Olsen in a tanning bed!

My diet consist of hiccups and whispers! 

So, unless you've been a hermit and avoided television and the internet for the past week, you obviously have heard the news that British born actor Joseph Fiennes, known for playing Shakespeare in Shakespeare in Love as well as (scratches head and searches IMDB)  Shakespeare in Shakespeare in Love has been cast to play the most iconic,BLACK recording artist of all time: Micheal Jackson!

Yes, so amidst the Oscarsowhite# controversy , news breaks out that a white actor will play the king of pop in a made for TV British movie that details a "fabled" car ride with both Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando during the 9/11 tragedy! Allegedly, Micheal wanted to travel to LA after a benefit concert in New York but due to the attack on The World Trade Center, he was not able to fly to his desired destination. As a result, he paid a driver to transport  him,as well as  his two celebrity friends, out of the state. Did I mention that this also happens to be a comedy ?!

This is not the first time that we have encountered the"color blind" casting controversy in recent memory.When word got out that African American actor Micheal B. Jordan was cast to portray Caucasian super hero The Human Torch, comic enthusiast and bigots alike were outraged! I discussed my stance on the matter in the entry entitled "Colors For The Win" which can be read for your enjoyment and enlightenment right HERE! Jordan was not the first African American cast for a comic character that was originally depicted as a white male. For this reason, many individuals who support Fiennes casting have cited these examples in defense of their stance . Well, I hate to break it to you but The Human Torch, Kingpin ,Nick Fury (who is African American in the Marvel's Ultimate Universe) and any other recent comic book character that has been played by an African American are not real people! They are indeed characters in a fictitious universe.

Since you insist on shattering my dreams of meeting said characters, I have no choice but to label your page "Worst Blog ...Ever"!

But the rationalizations don't stop there folks. Some have stated  that the negative response to Fiennes' casting is unwarranted due to Jackson's skin color, in his later years of course , resembled that of a white individual. Here in lies the negligence as it relates to racial identity. MJ suffered from a condition called vitiligo, which was proven to be true after an autopsy was conducted on his corpse. As a result of this disease, Micheal's skin did undergo some changes. To what extent was the vitiligo to blame for his drastic transformation? The world may never know. Nevertheless,the pigment of his skin does not change the  fact he was and identified himself as an African American male. In a 1993 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Jackson vehemently denied that he wanted a white child to portray him in a Pepsi commercial because he was "proud to be a Black American...proud of his race...proud of who I am". And if one payed close attention to Jackson's later career,Mike became more vocal about black issues, proving that he was indeed a champion of his heritage .So at the bare minimum,respect the man's wishes as it relates to what he wanted to be  known as :an African American male!
This casting decision is the latest in a long line of racial misrepresentation that has been a common practice in motion pictures and television thus proving that more discussion and action is needed in order for true progress to be made. There will be a series of entries that deal with the lack of opportunities that people of color  have, when it comes to the realm of entertainment, as well as what depictions are allowed to garner attention and which ones are ignored all together. Therefore, I am reserving further commentary for those subsequent write ups. In the mean time, let's hope Stacey Dash isn't cast as Latoya Jackson!  There's no need on having two non-African Americans portraying famous black musicians! Happy Black History Month!- CgN