Black History Month Reviews

Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in "42", which
kicked off a great year for Black History in 2013 films
For the month of February 2014, I have been spotlighting African-American films or movies this year and the past year that have starred or been made by African-Americans, as well as a couple of new TV series. They've ranged from comedies to dramas to documentaries. Here is a list of the titles I reviewed.

Action / Thrillers: After Earth and The Last Letter - Comedies: Big Words, Ride Along, That Awkward Moment and About Last Night (2014) - Documentaries: 12 O'Clock Boys, 20 Feet From Stardom and Dark Girls - Dramas: Things Never Said, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, Mother of George and Cal - TV Shows: Almost Human (FOX) and Being Mary Jane (BET).

I was even able to profile an up-and-coming, black filmmaker who currently lives in Brooklyn and whose feature debut Lesson Before Love was just released on DVD. His name is Dui Jarrod and the article about him can be read here.

I also wanted to shine another light on the reviews that I posted last year. I wanted to do so being that 2013 was a significant year in that so many African-American films or films prominently featuring black people were released that made it to the mainstream. Here is a list of some of the titles I posted last year.

Historical: Lee Daniels' The Butler, Captain Phillips, 42, 12 Years a Slave, Fruitvale Station, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and Blue Caprice - Comedies: The Best Man Holiday, A Madea Christmas, Baggage Claim and Trevor Noah: African American - Contemporary Dramas: Black Nativity, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, My Brother the Devil, Four, Welcome to Pine Hill and The Happy Sad - TV Shows: Finding Me: The Series (YouTube) and Orange is the New Black (NETFLIX).

I also wrote an article on black LGBT representation on television. It was in response to the WWE performer, Darren Young, coming out as gay in August 2013. That in itself was in the wake of Jason Collins in April 2013 coming out as gay. Subsequently, for this Black History Month, Collins, as a black man, made history when he signed with the Brooklyn Nets and became the first, openly gay man to play in the NBA. Also, for Black History Month 2014, college football player Michael Sam from the University of Missouri also came out as gay and could make history if he's drafted as the first openly gay man to play in the NFL. With all this happening this month, my article on black LGBT representation can be read here.

As I look back at this past year in black cinema and then forward to the next year, I notice that Chadwick Boseman kicked off 2013 when his film 42, about the career of Jackie Robinson, the first black professional baseball player, hit #1 in the box office last April. It was the first of arguably three films starring a black man as the lead to be #1 in the box office. As a result, Boseman now has two films in 2014 ready to go: Draft Day, another baseball-centered film, and Get On Up, the life story of James Brown.

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup
in a scene in "12 Years a Slave"
It's also nice to see a good amount of African-Americans get nominated at the Oscars. As far as I could count, there are six black people up for top prizes at the 86th Academy Awards. Steve McQueen is up for two Oscars, Best Directing and Best Picture. His film 12 Years a Slave has netted nominations for his two actors: Chiwetel Ejiofor for Best Actor and Lupita Nyong'o for Best Supporting Actress. The film also netted a nomination for John Ridley for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay). If Ridley wins, he will be only the second African-American to win an Oscar for writing. Geoffrey Fletcher was the first. He won several years ago for his film Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' By Sapphire.

Rounding the black Oscar nominees this year is Barkhad Abdi for his role of Muse in Captain Phillips. This is Abdi's very first movie role. Abdi was born in Somalia and came to the United States as a teenager. He studied at Minnesota State University and worked as a limo driver before being discovered for the Tom Hanks film. Unlike Abdi who is a first-generation immigrant, Ejiofor and Nyong'o are second-generation immigrants. All three share having African parents. Ejiofor's parents are from Nigeria and Nyong'o has her mother hail from Mexico and her father from Kenya.

Last but not least, Pharrell Williams is the black nominee for Best Original Song. His track "Happy" from Despicable Me 2 is a nice, uptempo, dance ditty. This is his first Oscar nomination. The boyishly handsome, 40-year-old composed the soundtrack for Despicable Me (2010). He's also co-composing the soundtrack for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014). He's won seven Grammys, including four this year: three in collaboration with Daft Punk and one as Producer of the Year. His style is mainly hip hop and R&B. He joins other hip hop and R&B artists who have been nominated for the Original Song Oscar in the past, including Adele, Siedah Garrett, Three 6 Mafia, Eminem, Janet Jackson, Quincy Jones, Lionel Ritchie, Stevie Wonder, Ray Parker Jr., and Isaac Hayes.

Here's hoping that we get just as much if not more representation in Hollywood and we can further add to these lists.


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