Trippin’

Greg has everything he could ever want in life. A beautiful girlfriend, an aspiring rap career and millions of dollars to boot. Only problem is this life resides firmly in his dreams and his reality couldn’t be further from the truth. He is all the way Trippin’.

Trippin’ stars Deon Richmond as Greg Reed who is a high school senior who can’t seem to get his act together. His two best friends June (Donald Faison) and Fish (Guy Torre) aren’t much better, and the three of them are kind of seen the prototypical high school slackers.

Through the course of the film we see Greg and his friends try and figure out what they’re doing with their lives after graduation, get caught up on the bad side of local drug dealer, and deal with pressures of preparing for their senior proms.

In the midst of all this Greg can’t help but thinking about Cinny Hawkins — the girl of his dreams. Cinny is everything Greg isn’t: motivated, talented, studious, and off to college. Greg can’t seem to quite get his act together to even have a whiff of a chance of taking Cinny to the prom.

Throughout the course of the movie we see Greg has to overcome really his own demons of laziness and daydreaming to not only get his life on track, but get his love life started. Trippin’ has its comedic moments and some genuine ones as well. I wouldn’t exactly call this a ‘good’ movie necessarily, but it’s one I can enjoy and laugh at. It’s also interesting to see some of the actors in this film just really beginning to get their feet wet knowing that bigger things are coming down the road.

Maia Campbell and Deon Richmond

Fighting for Your Work

I saw this snippet earlier today from the Netflix account of the TV show Dear White People where show-runner Yvette Lee Bowser was speaking on how in the film and television industry you really have to hold firm to your beliefs. Or, in this particular case, the characters that you fight for.

Yvette speaks on how when she worked on the hit 90’s television show Living Single, the studio did not want her to include the character Maxine Shaw (who was played brilliantly by Erika Alexander) in the cast. According to the clip, the studio viewed the Maxine character as a little too “unapologetically black.” Yvette viewed this period as a defining moment in her career, but she was determined to keep Maxine Shaw in the show and the studio eventually approved it. The rest is history as they say. Without Maxine, Living Single is a very different show in retrospect.

Though some might view this and say, “well why all the fuss over one character?” The thing is, these aren’t just characters for a lot of people, they’re representations of who we are or who we simply aspire to be. The platform may be scripted, however the inspirational effect television and film can have on the psyche of people who rarely see themselves represented in such mediums, is often quite real. Much respect to Yvette Lee Bowser for pushing through and introducing the world to Maxine Shaw: Attorney at Law.

Remembering John Singleton

Life really comes at you fast sometimes. That’s how I felt when hearing about the passing of John Singleton a few weeks ago. John left behind a legacy that extended far beyond the movie screens where his films resonated.

John Singleton was part of a new wave of black creators in the late 80’s and early 90’s that were really changing how black people were depicted in cinema. This is a man who was nominated for an academy award for best director at just 24-years-old — barely a year removed from film school. This is someone who through various projects worked with such luminaries in entertainment from Tupac, to Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Maya Angelou, Don Cheadle, Samuel L. Jackson, and Ving Rhames. His films really resonated with a number of black people who up until that point, rarely saw themselves or their stories depicted on the big screen.IMG_20190429_193226.jpg

I first became aware of John Singleton’s work through the 1997 movie Rosewood. Based on a true story, the film depicts the terror that white residents inflicted against their black neighbors in 1920’s Florida when a white woman falsely accused a black man of raping her. Had it not been for this film, I probably would have never even heard of this story. Sadly, what happened in Rosewood, Florida, was not an isolated incident.

As I got a little older I gained a greater appreciation for Singleton’s work. Boyz N’ the Hood was his landmark film that put him on the map. Having grown up in Compton, California, Singleton told a story that was familiar to him. That film had a lot of nuggets in it, including a very prescient speech on the nature of gentrification.

 

Some of Singleton’s other work also left an indelible mark on me. Poetic Justice, Shaft, and Higher Learning (which in light of recent events, is definitely worth another look). Even some of Singleton’s later work that may not have been as well received, such as 2 Fast 2 Furious, nevertheless proved to be vitally important years later. It was that film that introduced audiences to Tyrese and a young and up and coming rapper named Ludacris. Both of these characters would become solid cogs in the series in later iterations throughout the ensuing years.

More recently, Singleton was involved in a series on FX that I rally enjoyed called Snowfall. Snowfall centered on the rise of crack cocaine in Los Angeles in the early 1980’s. It’s one of those shows where the viewer knows more than the characters in terms of how things play out, but it’s still interesting to see how things come together. Sadly, Snowfall would turn out to be John Singleton’s last project. R.I.P. to John Singleton.

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Some of the projects John Singleton directed/produced

 

TV & Theater Strike Back

This past weekend was somewhat of a return to glory for media formats that had seen better days. Between Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame, both projects represented “must see TV/movies” if you wanted to keep with the general chatter of the day. Must-see-anything is becoming rarer and rarer these days specifically as it relates to seeing a show or film right when it first comes out. Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame have proven that singular shows or films can still dominate pop culture in ways that most projects can’t penetrate in our increasingly streaming and fragmented society.

I’ve seen all of 30 minutes of the very first episode of Game of Thrones and subsequently have no idea of what the hell is going on. I do know that this is the last season of the heavily acclaimed HBO series and every Sunday night, my twitter timeline is filled with GOT references. I understand none of these references, but supposedly some woman name Arya is about that action boss.

What’s interesting about Game of Thrones is how it absolutely dominates the topic of conversation on Sunday nights, leading into Monday. It seems like everybody and their mother is watching this show. Brands have picked up on the popularity of it as well and there are even podcasts recapping each episode. Even the current occupant of the White House made reference to the show in the midst of his own litany of problems.

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HBO was non too pleased with this depiction.

Game of Thrones shows that the HBO brand is not only strong, but that HBO can still deliver what some might call ‘appointment TV.’ Essentially, you have to catch it right then and there or you’ll miss out on the broader conversation that everyone else is having. That’s an advantage that HBO still maintains over a competitor like Netflix. Netflix may have more content, but because it doesn’t function in the traditional episodic format, you’ll never have everyone watching a show at the same time. The best you can hope for is that everyone is talking about your show for a week, as was the case earlier this year with the film Bird Box.

With Avengers: Endgame, we knew this would be an event and it did not disappoint earning an opening weekend record of $1.2 billion dollars. Marvel, the company behind the film, has had quite the run beginning with the original Iron Man film in May of 2008.

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The company has built a superhero brand that brings out geeks, die-hards, kids, their parents, and just about everyone in between to these films. This has benefited not only Marvel, but movie theaters as well that find themselves competing not only with streaming services, but anything else that may be vying for consumer’s attention these days. At a time when people are increasingly watching films at home or on their phones,  going to the movie theater involves a certain social and cultural experience that really can’t be replicated in someone’s living room.

Make no mistake, despite Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame, the move to more fragmented media outlets and thus topics of conversation, is only continuing. What these projects do show however, is that you have to be really damn good in 2019 to capture the topic of conversation for days on end. Even then, you’ll maybe get a week at most, before everyone moves on to something else.

 

Wade’s Last Dance Goes Far Beyond the Hardwood

Future NBA hall-of-famer Dwyane Wade retired earlier this month after an illustrious 16 year career. Wade — who will go down as one of the game’s greatest shooting guards ever — left an impact on teammates, opponents, fans and the league as a whole that will be hard to replicate. His legacy however extended far beyond the arena and will be felt long after the last buzzer has sounded.

In an ad released by Budweiser, Wade does a ‘jersey swap’ not with his fellow NBA players, but everyday people whose lives he’s impacted beyond measure. One person in particular offers a glimpse into Wade’s upbringing and what he went through that few would have known beforehand.

This is one of the most moving ads I’ve seen in sometime and shows the power and impact that brands can create when they tell a story from a unique perspective.

Continuing the Journey

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When I graduated college in 2009, I left knowing that my days in the classroom were probably over. I really didn’t intend to go back. Well, 10+ years later, I am indeed headed back to the classroom — this time for film school.

It’s funny, going to film school was something I was rather unsure about until just a few years ago. I had been doing a number of independent projects, but wasn’t gaining the traction I needed to advance my career. Working odd jobs and buffering my skills along the way, had left me wanting more. I longed to be back in an environment of learning. I wanted to build relationships centered on cinema with like-minded peers. I look forward to doing that and more this fall at the Feirstein School of Cinema in Brooklyn, N.Y.

This month also marks 17 years since my mother upgraded from basic cable to digital cable. That led me to see images and films about people who looked like me, that I otherwise would not have been exposed to. That feeling that I experienced all those years ago of wonder and inspiration, never left me. It is only fitting then that I would get my acceptance to film school in March. The journey continues, 17 years strong.

 

Facing 4th and Forever: When Speaking Out is Deemed Out of Bounds

It’s been more than two years since Colin Kaepernick last played in an NFL game. While the game may have moved on without him, his presence continues to loom large over the sport.

Back in 2016 Kaepernick was spotted sitting during the national anthem of an NFL preseason game. Perhaps because he was injured and in street clothes, nobody noticed. When he did it again in his team uniform the following week, a reporter asked him about it and he answered the question truthfully. What ensued was one of most heated and public debates about race, sports, and society in decades.

It seemed as if there were as many opinions on Kaepernick and his stance towards the anthem as there are pancake choices at your local diner. Some applauded Kaepernick for taking a stance against police brutality and bringing an important issue to the forefront, while others found it wholly disrespectful to the flag to not be standing during the national anthem. How you felt about the issue often seemed to coincide with one’s race and life experiences — with not just police — but America as a whole.

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The NFL for it’s part wanted no part of the controversy. While other players joined with Kap in his protest, the league wanted to outlaw kneeling or sitting during the anthem all together. Though that proposal was shelved, the NFL did not want people kneeling during the national anthem and rather instead stay in the locker rooms, far from public view.

As for Kaepernick himself? He’s effectively been blackballed by the league ever since his protest and hasn’t played a game since the 2016 season. Many pundits claimed it was due to the fact that he was no longer an effective quarterback. That’s hard to imagine considering he literally was a few throws away from winning a Super Bowl back in 2013. Kaepernick for his part, has sued the NFL claiming that they have unfairly kept him out of the league due to his protest and not his ability. The case is still playing out in court.

 

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Members of the Oakland Raiders sitting during the national anthem before a game in 2017 after President Trump called NFL players ‘SOBs.’

Kaepernick meanwhile has not been content to just sit on the sidelines and let time pass. He has continued to use his money to donate and fund worthy causes. In 2017 he won the Ambassador of Conscience award from Amnesty International for his protest against police brutality and racial injustice. Last year, he was featured in an ad from Nike which was and ode to him that ran under the tag line: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

As America gets ready for yet another Super Bowl today, it seems many people have already moved passed this issue. NFL ratings actually went up this past season perhaps deflating the narrative that people would be leaving in droves. However, the fact that a man who protested social injustice has effectively been kicked out the league, has not gone unnoticed by athletes and entertainers outside the NFL. More than ever, athletes are speaking out. Whether the larger public actually wants to listen to their pleas and the effects it may have on their careers, will be interesting to see moving forward.