James Earl Jones On Overcoming Obstacles

I feel no flattery when people speak of my voice. I’m simply grateful that I found a way to work around my impairment. Once a stutterer, always a stutterer. If I get any credit for the way I sound, I accept it in the name of those of us who are impaired.”

                                                                                     – James Earl Jones, 1993

From Playbill.com

The Program 20 Years Later

This is probably one of the most underrated sports films of the last 20-25 years. I loved it when I first saw it 10 years ago and it continues to be one of my favorites.

“The Program” is a film about a fictional college football team and the challenges and obstacles they must overcome during the course of a season. That’s really just the icing on the cake however. Over the course of the film we get a view to varying degrees of the men who makeup the squad. There’s the alcoholic quarterback. The freshman running-back trying to supplant the senior in the starting lineup. The fierce linebacker who trash talks the opponent to psych himself up during the game before it eventually costs him. And finally, there’s the coach played by James Caan who is fighting to keep it all together.

The film does a good job delving into issues that affect not just college football programs, but college sports in general. Whether it’s boosters putting pressure on an administration, who in turn shifts that pressure towards the head coach, or players going through personal problems that they rather not have highlighted by the media, “The Program” touches on many of these things. It features a young Omar Epps who plays freshman running-back Darnell Jefferson and Halle Berry who plays Autumn Haley, who is Jefferson’s academic tutor.

Was 1993 A Banner Year for Black Cinema?

There was an interesting article posted last month on The Grio that looked at the year 1993 and the amount of ‘black’ films that were released during those 12 months. Could there be another renaissance coming 20 years later?

When we talk about films starring, directed, or produced by people of color being released in theaters, it usually revolves around the dearth of such films. This is in large part due to a lack of financing many filmmakers of color simply don’t have access to. Although in recent years that has changed a bit with crowdfunding, it is still a rather large hurdle to overcome.

What makes 1993 so unique was the plethora of ‘black’ films that hit the screen that year. It was as if someone parted the seas and gave these films passage to the big screen instead of taking the all to common straight to video route.

There were biographies like “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” starring Angela Bassett as Tina Turner. There were comedies such as “Cool Runnings” and “Sister Act 2,” which starred Whoopi Goldberg. And then there were the inner-city dramas like “Menace II Society,” and “Poetic Justice,” starring Janet Jackson and the late Tupac Shakur.

Many look at the early 90s and 1993 in particular as a time when ‘black’ films had a higher chance of getting major distribution deals then at any point before or since. Do you agree? Here’s the original article.

Looking Back 20 Years Later at "Just Another Girl on the I.R.T."

Last month I had the opportunity to catch a screening of the profound and powerful film “Just Another Girl on the I.R.T.,” marking the film’s 20th anniversary. Even now, 20 years later, the film’s themes remain as strong as ever as it continues to educate, inspire, and enlighten.

“Just Another Girl on the I.R.T.” tells the story of Chantel Mitchell (played by Ariyan Johnson) as she navigates her senior year of high school. Chantel aspires to be a doctor, and she has the grades and aptitude to achieve it. Unfortunately, Chantel also has a bit of an attitude problem to go along with a foul mouth, much to the chagrin of her teachers. Later in the movie we see Chantel as she meets her new boyfriend at a party, gets pregnant, and undergoes a transformation from hopeful college-bound student, to pregnant teenager trying to grasp her new role as expectant mother, lover, and friend.

What makes “Just Another Girl” different from your classic teenager-gets-pregnant drama, is that Chantel doesn’t fit the stereotype. Here’s a young woman who plans on going to college and becoming a doctor. She has her head on straight and her academic aptitude is never in question. Even after becoming pregnant, Chantel continues to go to school and pursue her dream of going to college. The fact that this story is told through the eyes of a black woman was especially important for director Leslie Harris.

When “Just Another Girl” came out it in 1993, it was released at a time when there seemed to be a heightened interest in urban dramas. Flicks such as “Boys N’ The Hood,” “Menace II Society,” and “Straight Out of Brooklyn,” were captivating media attention and audiences unlike anything seen before. These films often overtly centered around men with women reduced to little more than ancillary roles. “Just Another Girl” broke the mold in not only featuring a black woman as the lead, but by also being directed and produced by a black woman.

In the videos featured below, director Leslie Harris and Ariyan Johnson discuss the impact of “Just Another Girl” and the significance of women of color in cinema and television.

Editors Note: For some reason there are about 10 seconds of audio missing in each video. Not sure why, but I blame the phone for that.