13 January 2015

Review: Lifetime's Angela Bassett-Directed 'Whitney' is Surprisingly Fresh

Admittedly, I was skeptical when I heard that Angela Bassett would be directing a film about Whitney Houston’s life for Lifetime. Ms. Bassett knew Whitney personally, having worked with her in "Waiting to Exhale" (1995), and her husband Courtney B. Vance, also worked with Whitney on the film "The Preacher’s Wife" (1996).  Perhaps it was because of this friendship and reverence for the star that allowed Ms. Bassett to make the, surprisingly, honest, passionate, and well-done "Whitney."

Instead of a biography of Ms. Houston’s entire career and life, Ms. Bassett chose to focus on her passionate, obsessive and often tumultuous relationship with her then husband Bobby Brown.  The film follows the duo from their initial meeting at the 1989 Soul Train Awards, through the end of her "The Bodyguard" tour.

Yaya DaCosta as Whitney Houston paints a portrait of a loving and beautiful woman struggling to remain present as her status as an icon swiftly overwhelms her.  Whitney was clearly a woman who struggled, as many of us do, with the duality of the desires of her head and her heart.
Relative newcomer Arlen Escarpeta, while in no way favoring Bobby Brown, portrays a man in love, but still very much a product of his environment, which is evidenced by his wild ways. Only twenty years old when they initially meet, Bobby wrestles with his own demons, as he faces a career stalemate, and Whitney’s continues to soar expeditiously.

As the film tells us, at the height of their fame when they are first introduced to one another, Whitney and Bobby quickly embark on a romantic and erotic relationship. The film was especially sexy, highlighting the fact that, despite their trials and tribulations, the pair was always consumed with one another. Outside pregnancies, a miscarriage, the pressures of work, as well as drug and alcohol abuse, heighten the tension between the pair, until it seemed they could no longer function together or apart.
As time wore on, their love became toxic.

After shooting "The Bodyguard" (1992) and giving birth to her daughter Bobbi Kristina, Houston desperately wanted to set her public life aside for a moment, to be a wife and mother. Houston was exceedingly aware of her public perception. She was concerned all along that her involvement with Brown would bring a lot of scrutiny to her image and life choices.

Continue at Shadow and Act

xoxoxo Chocolate Girl in the City xoxoxox 

20 December 2014

Guess Ya'll Finally Learned Today

It kills me when certain shall I say, "mainstream" folks  wants to cry foul when someone calls them offensive and/or racist. They want to run around and talk about their Black or Latino BFF or their trip to Africa. But in their heart of hearts, many of them still view us (minorities) as others.  We will always be people unlike them; less human. To too many of them we are simply people to be made fun of; the brunt of their jokes. Now, I'm in no way condoning these terrorist threats or saying that hacking personal and private information is fine or appropriate. (Also Ms. Angelina please sit down with this I want to play Cleopatra bullshit. First and foremost you are WHITE AS SNOW (but I guess that didn't stop Ridley Scott and his trashy ass Exodus: Gods and Kings). But secondly, ma'am you can BARELY act on a good day. I enjoyed Maleficent but that's probably because I'm a six year old child at heart.

What baffles me is the fact that The Interview  got green lit in the first place. Literally MILLIONS of dollars went into this ridiculous ass film which would have probably bombed anyway, Meanwhile, Ride Along (which wasn't particularity good but still) made $134,938,200. And they were only trying to pay Kevin Hart $3 million dollars (which is pennies if you know anything about studio films and the amount of money that they typically pay leading men.)

I think that the first amendment should be taking extremely serious, I am able to say what I want and do as I please on this platform because of it.  But there is one thing that I do know, something that I think many minorities know in this country, something that those with white privilege can't seem to grasp is that all words, actions and reactions have consequences. You can not just open your mouth and say whatever you want thinking someone is going to respond favorably. Just like Black and people know we can't walk down the street an expect the police to treat us like human beings.  Just like women can't walk down the street and expect to be left alone. (SMH).

I disagree with President Obama here completely. Why would Sony release the film?  They're losing all the money on earth right now, why continue to bleed out? They are already completely humiliated and exposed why continue the circus. I'm even more exasperated I think at the fact that trash like this can be made and fantastic talented people with great scripts fantastic acting skills can;t even get a break.

I would say that the only way for people to see how absurd the film was is if the tables were turned, but we all know that Sony and Amy Pascal thinks that POTUS is simply a chicken eating, Friday watching coon. Some of the biggest bullies I've ever met have worked in the film and television industry. Likewise, though I love this country despite its numerous numerous faults America has continued to be one of the biggest bullies globally.  It's always been a game of whose dick is bigger. I guess we've all learned today that North Korea had the bigger dick, but not only that, they also have us by our balls. Like I said previously, feel free to do whatever you please, just don't be alarmed when someone lays your shit bare. Don't continue to create storms and expect it not to rain.

xoxoxo Chocolate Girl in the City xoxoxox
PS. In an ironic twist of fate, Sony has hired scandal crisis expert Judy Smith. (Olivia Pope is based off of Ms. Smith.)

PPS: Did y'all know they even came for Denzel?!!!!

07 December 2014

Makes Me Want To Holler

"The New Age of Slavery" by Patrick Campbell

I feel like I've been trying to write this post for at least two years, I just don’t know what to say. What is there to say? It’s like having a festering sore on your skin that never heals so in a way you become used to the pain; the constant irritation. And then every few months (or weeks or even days) someone comes along and sticks a knife in that never-healed sore plunging it back and forth, until the pain because some acute that you become numb. The numbness is for self-preservation. The numbness allows you to get out of bed in the morning; the numbness is what gets you through the day. The numbness allows you to wear the mask, to tolerate oblivious white faces that don't bother to know, or care or even attempt to understand because they never had to.  So I've been trying to write this post since Travyon Martin was murdered or maybe even before. Perhaps, I’ve been trying to say something since the day I realized that I was Black and what that meant. I have no answers, but here are some things that I've been thinking. The words bring me no solace but I cannot allow myself to continue to feel numb.

The day that George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martian was my 23rd birthday. I was in Brooklyn celebrating with some friends. Stunned beyond belief, I said my hasty goodbyes and wept silently on the train back to Harlem. The Monday it was announced that the man who murdered Mike Brown would not be charged with his murder, I was in a screening for the upcoming film, A Most Violent Year. My friend and I were ignoring the Q&A with the actors and crew frantically checking our phones. I'd been in a state of unease since they'd announced they had a decision earlier that afternoon. My friend got a Google Alert and showed me that there would be no indictment. I let out a breath I didn't even realize I had been holding, and I waited for my feelings to settle. I wanted to feel shocked or riled up. Instead, I felt numb; I wasn't surprised, I was simply heartbroken.  I checked my twitter feed when I got home just to see what people were saying, I retweeted some things, tweeted some of my thoughts and then I just sat in my bed and stared at the wall in my quiet apartment. I didn't walk to the protest on 125th Street, I didn't write anything, I simply stared off into space because what more could I do?

Wednesday it was announced that the police officer that murdered Eric Garner by using an illegal chokehold, as the now deceased man gasped for breath would not even be indicted, despite the fact that the murder was caught on tape. I left work with a migraine, one that had been in the back on my head since that morning. On my way home I stood back observing as protesters "died in" at Grand Central before slipping back into the crowd. Following Trayvon’s death I walked and marched, but I didn’t do that on Wednesday.

I sobbed in my chair at the cinema as I watched Fruitvale Station and 12 Years A Slave (which I saw twice.) I wept again a few weeks ago at a screening of Ava's DuVernay Selma. Films have always stripped me bar; perhaps that's why I'm so drawn to them. I guess those tears and these words are because of how familiar these images have become. How devalued and dehumanized that black people are, how black men are still painted as monstrous and seem to only be valued for their athleticism (almost to a fault). It is 2014 and we are still being strung up in trees while racist white people and uncle tom blacks who have be "invited" to the party, laugh out of their green lawns with their blankets and picnics baskets, smiling jovially and laughing as our rotting and mangled bodies swing from the trees. (Literally and figuratively.) While we holler and weep they take their selfies and check their social media pages.

Years ago, Harry Belafonte called out the biggest Black entertainers (Jay, Bey, Ye, etc) and asked where they were? He said that they hadn't done enough, that they weren't present. And he's so correct. Mr. Belafonte walked across the bridge with MLK from Selma to Montgomery. So where are they, they have all of the platform in the world. Instead they’re sitting in their glass houses protected, sending the same posts that we post and repost over social media. Where are we? What is this? Where am I? Where is our President when we need him to tell the truth? I've always defended him and its true I see the pain in his eyes when he speaks, the weariness that he projects. I'm not so foolish to say that he’s immune. But I need him to speak; we need to hear from him.  We desperately need this. We need it because Black men (and women) are being slaughtered and I'm tired of hearing Black people weep; of hearing Black mothers sobs because the boys that they’ve carried in their wombs were snatched from this earth before they even knew who they were or what they could become. 

I am weary. I am tired. The fact that Black men are continually labeled as monstrous or demonic is baffling to me. Black men have always been my saviors. My daddy, with his dark dark brown skin was a force to be reckoned with. The men I love, who are my safe place, my brother and cousins and friends. The man who I've been in love with, the men who I've been infatuated with, who have been my lovers and confidants who’ve held me when I wept, and laughed with me and dragged me outside of my comfort zone have been Black men. They've broken my heart and protected me and have pissed me off. But they've always been a constant in my life, always steady looking out for me, opening doors and cars and complimenting. They have been some of the people who I’ve loved and adored most in this world. They are some of the most beautiful and tormented people. And through their struggle is different then my own I've always understood. The attacks on them have been an attack on me. This is terrorism to ALL black people, to black families, to communities of color. I've always been aware. EVERY SINGLE MAN I've dated has had a story about a cop pulling a gun out on him. Not just arresting him or pulling him over but literally having a gun shoved in his face. 

I’m not sure what else to say, other then I don’t think I can ever bring any babies into this world. I’ve lost my parents; I couldn’t risk losing a child I'd never recover... Some days I'm barely hanging on as it is. All of these words I just wrote mean nothing... This whole situation, this whole place, these lives lost. It just makes me want to holler

A mural in my neighborhood. Harlem, NYC.

Chocolate Girl in the City

Tamir Rice
Cameron Tillman
Victor White III
Dante Parker
Ezeil Ford
VonDerrit Myers Jr.
Laquan McDonald
Michael Brown
Tyree Woodson
John Crawford II
Quesan Whitten
Miguel Benton
Dillon McGee
Diana Showman
Levi Weaver
Carey Smith-Viramontes
Eric Garner
Yvette Smith
Jordan Barer
Jeffery Holden
Karen WCifunetes
Sergio Ramos
Rodhad McIntosh

Barrington Williams
Carlos Alcis
Deion  Fludd
Jonathan Ferrell
Kimani Gray
Kyam Livingdton
Larry Eugene Jackson Jr.
Miriam Carey

Chavis Carter
Dante Prce
Duane Brwn
Ervin  Jefferson
Jersey Green
Johnnie Kamahi Warin
Justin Slipp
Kendrec mcDafe
Malissa Williams
Nehemiah Dillard
Ramarley Graham
Raymond Allen
Rekia Boyd
Reynaldo Cuevas
Robert Dumas Jr
Sgt. Manual Loggins Jr
Shantel Davis
Sharmel Edwards
Shereese Francis
Tamon Robinson
Timothy Russel
Wendell Allen

Alonzo Ashley
Jimmell Cannon
Kenneth Chamberlin
Kenneth Harding
Rahiem Brown
Reginald Doucet

Aaron Campbell
Alyana Jones
Danroy Henry
Derrick Jones
Steven Edugene Washington

Kiwane Carrington
Oscar Grant
Shem Walker
Victor Steen

Tarika Wilson

DeAunta Terrel Farrow

Sean Bell

And thousands and thousands of others.

01 December 2014

Chris Rock & Cast of 'Top Five' on Influences, Writer-Director-Actor Experience, Improv, Industry Fears + More

At a recent press junket, Shadow and Act was present as the cast of "Top Five" spoke about the film, and their experiences with Chris Rock as the writer-director and star of the film.

Here are some of the highlights:

Chris Rock (Writer/Director/ Andre Allen), Rosario Dawson (Chelsea Brown), Ben Vereen (Carl Allen), J.B. Smoove (Silk), Gabrielle Union (Erica Long), Sherri Shepherd (Vanessa).

"Top Five" vs. Chris Rock’s Stand-Up

Chris Rock: I made this movie just like my stand-up. I use to have a movie process and a stand-up process. I use to say, these are the jokes for the movie and then I’d have a whole other file for stand-up. Not this one. I feel like I put it all together. I work-shopped it a long time; like I do with my stand-up. I treated it just like my stand-up. That was kind of the goal, to get a movie that felt just like my stand-up. [A movie] that kind of went all over the place…and could be all about relationships and have a political component to it also.

On the editing process

Chris Rock: That’s one of the big differences between this movie and other movies I’ve done. I treated the editing like it was writing again. It was, ok, yes we have all of this footage but it doesn’t matter. Let’s make music, let’s do something different.

Films that influenced "Top Five"

Chris Rock: You know Woody (Allen) has been known to jump around. (Quentin) Tarantino has been known to stop a movie in the middle, and cut back to that scene an hour later or whatever.

On working with Chris Rock and having a role in "Top Five"

Sherri Shepherd: You know this was like being at the Pancake House to order my food.

J.B. Smoove: There is no Chris approached me about the project because whatever Chris the hell does, he better put my ass in it. When Chris calls you about doing a project you say, what is it? He’ll tell you what it is, he’ll tell you what he wants from you. Typically when someone calls J.B. they want the over the top J.B. But this shows this man’s growth and what he wants from a particular project. I didn’t have to play the over-the-top crazy J.B. I got to be in his character’s corner because I had his back. You can’t have two over the top people they cancel each other out. So I’m happy that I had a chance to play a role that this guy wanted me to play, and he helped me because now my range has just increased. It was amazing to have the opportunity to work with the man.

Sherri Shepherd: Can I say one thing though, because I got my pancake order? In my scene where it was a bunch of comics, it’s very hard to corral a bunch of comics. I had to give it to Chris because he was able to let everybody have a certain amount of freedom and then corral everybody back, and that’s a hard thing to do. He’s very intensely focused on the directing aspect of it, so that was a surprise; because you know when you work with Chris doing stand-up…he’s very focused and he knows what he wants. It was an awesome experience.

Ben Vereen’s involvement in "Top Five"

Ben Vereen: I’ve known of Chris a long time and I’ve always wanted to work with him, and I don’t think he knew that. I found out that he was doing this film and I read for it.

Chris Rock: You met for it

Ben Vereen: Ok, we met for it and we read for the part. And for me, playing his father, I had to go to a certain place because this guy was really dysfunctional. And I remember the first day I came on the set, in my mind, he was a little bit too dressed up. And so Chris and I began to break him down, and we broke him down, and broke him down and he became this guy. And what’s so wonderful about Chris is that he allows the artist to find the character within there and with boundaries. It’s like almost being a Michelangelo.

An atypical “Chris Rock Film” with a relationship at its core.

Chris Rock: I knew the relationship would be the heart of the movie. As far as edgy, I knew that I wanted to do what I do and not have it so filtered down. And I thought I had a decent idea. That’s why I went to Scott (Rudin). I’ve been writing movies for years and I’ve never had the balls to go to [Scott] with anything else. So I thought I kind of had something and was in a good headspace to pull it off.

Freedom and improv in the film

Gabrielle Union: In the moment he said we have it; we have what I wrote, let’s just play. Let’s see where the scene takes us; where the moment takes us. He gave us his script, he gave us his baby, and he wasn’t like my baby is perfect, I’ve got the most genius baby. He wasn’t saying I’ve got the next Schindler’s List. He’s saying I want to get there, please give me real feedback… I didn’t assemble a bunch of people just to kiss my ass. It was amazing; it was let’s all work together, and please give me real notes so that I can create magic. And he started that way and he continued the whole process that way.

Sherri Shepherd: I know I found with Rosario and myself, [Chris] did what was on the script and then [he] kept going and you kept going. And you’re like is he going to say cut at any point? And he let you go and go and go. And that’s where you found that magic.

Rosario Dawson: Especially that one scene where you see me when we first walk in, and you give me that look.

Sherri Shepherd: Oh because, I didn’t know who you were, I was planning on getting with Chris.

Rosario Dawson: I remember we were working on it and I go, did you see that look she gave me? And I’m like that’s the look; we feel that look. I kept calling [Chris] a conductor. He had all of these different people, and it can be noise or it can be music. You can put it together and have all of these incredible people together, but it might not work. Just because you have that much talent doesn’t mean it’s going to be watchable. I thought that was something that was really remarkable. He did that, but he was different with everyone. Every single person that came on set every single day; there was something slightly different he would give them. It was amazing. He just knew what everybody’s sweet spot was, which is something that I really appreciate. Tarantino…I think he’s done that so brilliantly in his career. He would get people we hadn’t seen in a really long time and he would get them to do the exact thing that he wanted them to do. You saw them onscreen and you’d say this is amazing, and it’s still felt fresh and new and original. It wasn’t manipulative. It was just creating the perfect space for people to fill, and I thought that was something that was really remarkable. Being there throughout so much of that movie because my character is sort of that fly on the wall. It was so interesting watching how that went and it really felt like he was a conductor. It was really beautiful.

Continue reading at Shadow and Act

xoxox Chocolate Girl in the City xoxoxox

24 November 2014

Pretty in Pink: Pearl Earrings from Pearl & Clasp

Lately I've been a bit of a tomboy. As someone who didn’t even wear pants for the past several years, this has been a huge change for me. Tims and jeans have pretty much become my uniform. However, I've been trying to get out of my fashion rut and get back in touch with my girly girl side, which is why I was excited when Pearl & Clasp reached out to me to review a pair of their genuine pearl earrings.

I chose the 9mm Button Freshwater earrings which come in white, black and pink. I chose the pink because I thought they would be different and really pop against my dark brown skin. I didn’t want anything too traditional. When I received the earrings I was pleasantly surprised, they were a beautiful spin on a classic earring. I wore them several times over the past week and they are extremely versatile.

The first day I wore them with a colorful shirt and jeans to work. They were the perfect compliment to my mostly dark ensemble. They also worked really well with the long side braid that I'd created for the day. 

Later on in the week I had a dressy event to attend. I wore a cheetah print dress, which I would normally pair with gold accessories. Instead, I reached for my pink pearls again. The iridescent shimmer of the pink earrings worked magnificently with my cheetah dress, gold necklace and hot pink nail polish. I would have never thought to place them together, but I discovered the earrings added something different to the ensemble.

By the end of the weekend, I was back in my over-sized sweater, top bun and Tims, but the pink pearls stayed with me. An elegant reminder of this pseudo tomboy's girly-girl roots.

The pink pearl earrings and tons of other stunning genuine pearl jewelry can be found at Pearl & Clasp.

xoxoxo Chocolate Girl in the City xoxoxoxo

22 November 2014


Holiday decorations at the Time Warner building
My therapist asked me the other day if I was staving off a depression. "No, I replied. I don't think so." That was several days ago and I've been thinking about it ever since. I've been feeling tired lately, like I wanted to sleep for 1,000 years. I haven't been working out like I should be which I believe is part of it.  But "depression," the word always feels so extreme to me.

The truth is I enjoy my life; love it really. Are there things that I'm dissatisfied with? Of course, but I'm generally happy and enthusiastic. These last couple of weeks in particular has really reaped some fantastic opportunities for me, doing things that I absolutely adore. Plus I got two free coffees (life is GRAND).

So why am I so tired? Why the exhaustion? Perhaps I need to start eating meat again on a regular basis. Maybe it's winter time, and the fact that it's dark at noon is killing my vibe.  Perhaps I just need a good run, or maybe it's the idea of getting through another Holiday season without my parents. In actuality I think I'm not quite over the stress and anxiety of this past summer, and  it is finally catching up with me mentally.

The thing is, even if I am staving off a depression I hope I can continue to keep it at bay. I'm starting to get some real traction, I just need the motivation to press forward.

Friends tonight, gym tomorrow.

xoxoxox Chocolate Girl in the City xoxoxoxo

21 November 2014

'Scandal' Winter Finale Recap: "Where the Sun Don’t Shine"

Jake and Fitz are still at each other’s throats and Papa Pope is in the wind. Fitz has sent all of his man power after Rowan, but to no avail. Instead of finding Big Pappa, they find Olivia’s Mama who Rowan had said he killed. (We all know that he didn't kill her, apparently he's obsessed with her, visiting her every day.)

Mama Pope seems crazed and deranged as usual. Either she’s lost her mind from living in that death hole for so long, or she actually doesn't think that Liv is on to her and her conniving ways. But oh, Olivia is most certainly on. She orders her boys to charge her mother with murder, terrorism and treason, and then she tells them to hunt down her father and kill him.  Clearly someone is not trying to play nicely with her makers.

Liv isn’t the only one whose world is crumbling. Huck and Quinn go after Javi after he witnesses them kill Dan Kubiak. The boy is obviously traumatized, and Huck’s ex-wife is enraged that Huck has been in contact with the boy after she explicitly told him to leave them alone. It's not looking like Huck is ever going to have a relationship with his child; perhaps he should have listened to Liv when she tried to reason with him. (Shonda just let Huck be great.)

Back at 1600 Pennsylvania Fitz is trying to figure out what to do about Angola. He wants retaliate for the attack because doesn’t want to seem weak. However, Fitz really doesn't have the heart for a war.
After cleaning up the mess, Quinn tells Liv about the twisted triangle of Kubiak, Lizzie Bear and VP Andrew Nichols (I really miss Sally Langston, she was a terrifying delight). Liv has barely hung up the phone when Lizzie marches her self-righteous self into OPA to tell Liv she knows was Cyrus Beene bugging her phone, and not the virus that Liv told her it was. Ms. Girl is not happy that she's been lied to, and she basically lets a Liv know that she will destroying Cyrus.

Liv rushes off to the White House to tell Cyrus that ish is gonna hit the fan, but it's already much too late. Liv can barely finish her sentence when Abby rushes in saying The Times has been asking her about sexy pictures with Cyrus in them.

On the defensive, Liv briefs the President's inner circle about Cyrus and Male Escort Michael. She also lets it be known that VP Andrew is screwing Lizzie; tragically poor Mellie is caught surprise. (She really thought her and Blandrew had a sweet thing…smh.)

The press is having a field day, a Republic Chief of Staff is having a tawdry affair with a hooker “Chief of Staffs” one headline reads.   At first the White House tries to stall, but then David Rosen gets wind of what's happening which means congressional hearing and resignations.  (Why must David always be the white hat wearing tattle tell? He has got to start wearing more black.)

Basically all of this is unacceptable. We all know we can’t have Fitz in the White House without Cyrus, and I suppose Fitz realizes this as well because he tells Liv to fight for Cyrus. Liv’s big plan… “Pretty Woman: 2014 edition", she wants Michael and Cyrus to get married. (Basically Cyrus would “own” Michael as opposed to “renting” him. There are all types of gag orders, prenups and contracts at play.) Michael says yes (obviously he's set for life, the man gets something like a million a year for 3 years.) Cyrus however is not here for it.  He calls it “cruel and unfair.” (I'm not sure why he's pissed at Michael, he knew he was for sale so what did he expect.)

Jake has finally been let out of his cage and he's in the streets trying to track down Rowan. He can't seem to figure out how their failed capture of commanded went wrong.  But, Jake isn’t the only one on the hunt, someone is after him as well.

Jake figures out that Rowan is trying to tie up loose ends, which means that he’s killing everyone that was every involved in B613. Quinn, Huck and Charlie are all at risk. Quinn tries to be nice and warn Charlie, which results in a hot and heavy tumble in the sheets. (I really don’t see it for Charlie and Quinn is so disturbing.)

Read more at Shadow and Act

xoxoxox Chocolate Girl in the City xoxoxoxo