Remembering Juanita Moore

Photo by the AP

In 1960 Juanita Moore would become only the third African American to earn an Academy Award nomination. That would be the highlight of her career.

Juanita Moore was born in Mississippi in 1914 and passed away on January 1st of this year. She worked her way up from nightclub dancer, to background actress, to earning an Academy Award nomination for her role in the 1959 film “Imitation of Life.”

Following the nomination, work was not necessarily any easier to come by. Moore remarked that she actually got more jobs before the Oscar nomination because now casting directors couldn’t see her taking on any more maid/servant roles. It was an uncomfortable plight similar to what Dorothy Dandridge experienced.

In the years after her Oscar nod, Juanita Moore would continue to work in television and on Broadway. She was 99-years-old.

Remembering James Avery

James Avery, the actor best known for his role as ‘Uncle Phil’ in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, passed away on New Years Eve. He was 68-years-old.

Mr. Avery had been an actor for some time before The Fresh Prince, but it was in the role of ‘Uncle Phil’ that he became known throughout living rooms across America. Below is one of his more memorable scenes with Will Smith. R.I.P James Avery.

Remembering Roger Ebert

Last week the world — not just the film world — lost an icon in Roger Ebert.

Though Ebert’s official title was that of film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, he was much more than that to the movie going American public. “Two thumbs up” was a phrase that originated with Ebert and his former film critic Gene Siskel, that became synonymous with a positive review of a new film. How esteemed was Roger Ebert in the movie industry? He’s the only film critic with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

When it came to race and the social dynamics of the Hollywood studio system, Ebert didn’t shy away from those subjects either. During the 1990s, two of his choices for movie of the year centered around protagonists of color: “Malcolm X” in 1992 and “Hoop Dreams” in 1994. Lauren Williams of The Root does an excellent job of compiling Ebert’s reviews on some well known black films at the time. Ebert goes beyond the characters and main story of the films and asks larger hard hitting questions about the impact of these films within cinema.

On “Love Jones” Ebert writes:

   “As the characters move from record stores to restaurants to the Sanctuary, we realize how painfully limited the media vision of black life is. Why do the movies give us so many homeboys and gangstas and druggies and so few photographers, poets and teachers? …”

On “Glory” Ebert writes:

   “Watching ‘Glory,’ I had one reoccurring problem. I didn’t understand why it had to be told so often from the point of view of the 54th’s commanding white officer? Why did we see the black troops through his eyes — instead of seeing him through theirs? To put it another way, why does the top billing in this movie go to a white actor? I ask, not to be perverse, but because I consider this primarily a story about the black experience and do not know why it has to be seen largely through white eyes…

‘Glory’ is a strong and valuable film, no matter whose eyes it is seen through. But there is still, I suspect, another and quite different film to be made from this same material.”

Things to think about. Roger Ebert, you will be missed.