School House Rock X Infinity

Music and animation can get it done.

What twelve years of education and mandatory classes failed to do, can be done in a matter of moments with the right singers and directors.

And the answer to the unasked question is teach American citizens how government works.

In the new offering titled We The People executive producers President Barack and Michelle Obama, Kenya Barris and Chris Nee tell strong stories that explain the Bill of Rights, Immigration, Taxes and so much more. It reminds me of that Saturday morning cartoon School House Rock but gives me so much more.

The wide range of directors telling the stories made it interesting and made me want to see what each brought to the table. It was nice to see some of the characters in non traditional roles. It was good to see all types of people represented.

One of my favorite episodes was about taxes. Everyone hates to pay them, but love the benefits of them. We spend everything we got hitting those well paved roads across America. We love the library system, couldn’t live without some of the regulations. It is great that there is something that puts everything in perspective at a level that even a child can understand it.

I thought the art was beautiful. The music made me dance. It also reminds me to be an active citizen. As everyone should be. But also remember you need to be an informed active citizen.

Even Though He Wouldn’t Shut Up

The music was amazing and it took me back. How about y’all?

Remember the time when all of the food had been cooked, everyone was getting ready to play cards, and they put the records on the player. Everyone in the room knew all the worlds to all the songs.

This past weekend, which was also Easter weekend, the guys at Versuz served up some music and memories. More important they taught us some history we need to hear right from the horses mouth.

On Instagram it was supposed to be an epic battle between two historic R&B bands: Earth Wind & Fire v The Isley Brothers. The way it works is they have the bands side by side and they play hits from each other to see which is the greatest.

Not how it went off.

We danced and sang for almost four hours Sunday evening. Everyone sang with every song. Those old dudes got stamina, cause I was ready for bed by 10, but Ron Isley was still standing and singing with his cane in hand.

Philip Bailey, of Earth Wind & Fire was still throwing that falsetto at us.

Earth Wind and Fire was a band founded in 1969 by Maurice White. It has won Grammys, American Music Awards but more important to me, has created music that shaped my life.

The Isley Brothers started in the 1950s with brothers, O’Kelly, Rudolph and Ronald. Their first big hit was Shout! in 1959. This is a song that had shape many a party.

Epic doesn’t even describe this versuz battle. I loved the music. I loved the live social media chats. I too wanted Steve Harvey to shut up, cause I was tired of our drunk uncle.

The best part was the storytelling from the bands. It was good to hear that they were all friends, but you could see that as they sang each other songs. It was good to hear how a song was made or why. It just added another level of love for the music.

It is always good to hear our history from our people.

The Story Intrigues

If you got Hulu this story is worth your time.

It is part of the National Geographic Series Genius. Season One was neat. Season two not so much. Season three is a Kaw Pow! Each season has a different character and focus.

In Season Three, Genius sets out to tell the story of Aretha Franklin, with all of the great music and moments from history.

Shaian Jordan plays Aretha when she is young, giving the audience a view of life on the gospel circuit. She is adorable and makes you believe she is the young Aretha Franklin. Older Franklin is portrayed by Cynthia Erivo who can take us to church, but also remind us why she was the “Queen of Soul.”

Now, I am not saying I believed every part of the story they told. I am saying it is entertaining and has great moments. Franklin is more than a woman who just wants to be a great singer. She is a woman who wants to make an impact.

It is a very intriguing story.

We Have Got To Tell Our Stories

“Hey Baby Daddy King!” Said Lavelle Junson’s mom as they are escorted before the Zamundan King in Coming 2 America which was released in early March on Prime.  Junson is the bastard son of King Akeem and Mary Junson who finds himself in the land preparing to be an heir to the Zamundan throne. Junson’s mom was played by Leslie Jones who brought her A game to the role.

This comedy is the sequel to Coming to America released in 1988 starring Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall.  Not only is it funny, but it reminds me of why I loved the original because they bring back almost everyone they can. In the 1980s this movie was an oasis in a desert of stories with African Americans in them. We celebrated being able to see a cast full of people of color.

This movie sends a wonderful shout out to the 1980s with music from Gladys Knight, En Vogue and Salt N Pepa. It is lighthearted and celebrity filled which will made me laugh.  It is good to laugh with my people because many of our stories aren’t funny.

On the darker more for real side is The United States vs Billie Holiday and Judas and the Black Messiah.

Both movies tell a story we need to hear, but don’t do them if you depressed or sad. The plight of African Americans in the United States has not been an easy joy filled experience, so don’t expect that from either of these movies. You might get angry and cuss at the TV.  (There were moments I was instructing both Fred and Billie to just cuss them folk out, please!) So do what you have to do to deal with your frustration.

In The United States vs Billie Holiday I watched as the FBI doggedly pursued the young singer through her drug addiction. Andra Day, who plays Holiday, has an amazing voice that reminds me so much of Lady Day, that in the beginning I thought she was using original music.  Day’s performance was good, but by the end of the story I just wanted the government to leave Billie alone.  It took me days to get through the entire movie because I kept stopping when I would get too frustrated. I can’t imagine living through it.

I am glad I did finish it, but it is difficult to see story after story of lives ruined by authority figures left to their own devices.  And many of their desires was destroy black lives.

Again in Judas and the Black Messiah, which is the story of how William O’Neal becomes an FBI spy to gather information on Fred Hampton of the Chicago chapter of the Black Panthers. Daniel Kaluuya plays Hampton and LaKeith Stanfield plays O’Neal.

The acting was impeccable, but the nature of the story made me pause it and come back to it after a few days. We have to tell these stories. We have to know our history, or we are doomed to repeat it.

 In all three of these movies’ music is key to creating a mood. There are drumbeats in all of them that I believe connect us.  But sometimes you got to turn it off for your own sanity and find your own rhythm.

My challenge to you is to allow each story to inspire you. Allow each story to leave a piece of itself with you.

Nope. It Is Not Okay

I don’t want to live in a society where obnoxious uncaring people rule through greed and self ambition. Yes, it probably sounds like a broken record, but I will keep on saying it. And I am going to live like I believe it, which means calling out bad behavior.

I don’t even know how some of this crap gets financed. I Care A Lot is one of those movies. A greedy uncaring woman cons older people out of their assets by gaining guardianship over them. Other greedy people help her place unsuspecting seniors in nursing homes while she takes and sells their property. In this movie she does it to the wrong person.

The acting was very effective because I hated all of the characters. Only reason I finished it was my other sister said to watch it all the way to the end. I literally wanted all of the people in this movie to die, except the older woman who had been tricked out of her property. I was disappointed. Built to be funny, I seldom see the humor in letting the bad guys win. After four years of Trumpism, I am done with bullies.

As a society, if we do not value what the older people have experienced we are doomed to repeat it.

It is time to stop championing stories that let the bad guys win or make them a hero. Clearly, it is wrong to steal someone else’s property. Times are rough when you have to say simple truths. It is wrong to misrepresent them in court. It is not harmless or cute to claim something is true when it is really false.

We have to stop making the person who mistreats others the apple of our eye. These jokers are not good leaders, and usually leave carnage behind. We can’t wait until it happens to us to be against this. It should start with the movies we watch and support. I Care A Lot lacks any redeeming value. Lets not tell stories where abusers win.

Feel The Beat has some redeeming qualities because the obnoxious lead character in this movie actually has a change of heart. In this film, we watch a selfish mean spirited dancer find herself as she tries to use some children to achieve her goals. Again it is an attempt at humor, but some of it is lost in the meanness.

The trouble is we have been through too much to allow any level of meanness.

The movie is upbeat, with fun children, and lots of dancing. We watch young girls in a small town learn to love to dance. The romantic story is weak, but it is more about dancing than romance.

I didn’t feel like I had wasted hours of my life for watching it.

He Taught Me How

to walk fight and pray. Oh Happy Day is the song that is in my head because I watched Henry Louis Gates new series on the Black Church. I sang. I clapped. I took notes. For those who love the “black” church, this series is an experience that starts the journey at the beginning.

The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song chronicles the journey of the African American worship and praise service from its African roots and influences to the debilitating burdens slavery laid on it. Gates told the story of how something that should have sent it into extinction only sharpened its point. Captured Africans were only taught the portions of the bible that allowed them to be obedient servants, with laws put in place that forbid them to read and write. Slave owners did not want them to know the stories of Moses and how the children of Israel were freed. It struck down the lie that slavery was a means of introducing Africans to the gospel, showing that Africans were Christians long before Europeans knew who Christ was.

This documentary series celebrates the :black” church by showing the power of the Holy Spirit in an oppressed people surrendered to him. From the little wooden shacks built by freed slaves to the mega churches of the earlier 20th Century, African Americans not only built houses of worship, but they built communities that took care of each other. They built schools and taught one another to read. This project is filled with many images of these worship services that capture some of their best moments.

It took me back to that little girl sitting on the pew of that one room church house. As I watched the interviewees tell their stories of growing up in those simple times, it reminded me of my mother being in the choir. All the ladies had on the same type of dress, made by one woman in the church. They even posed for a photo after church to remember this special occasion. It was the thing that held them all together.

I learned new things about this church, of which I am a member. I never knew that preachers used to make recordings of three minute sermons. A three minute sermon? That is long gone. I am amused to know that we have been buying sermons for a mighty long time. We have been singing and dancing for that long too. It is one of the things I love about my people. There might not be a lot of hope in our current circumstances, but we know where hope is. We know it starts in community.

Intouchable White Tiger

He wondered why his father never taught him to brush his teeth or not scratch his balls in public. Balram the main character in The White Tiger had a moment when he realized he wasn’t all he could be. It was not the typical movie from India that I watch. If cynicism was salt and the movie was popcorn, the salt would render it inedible.

But if that is your type of movie, you will love it.

This story examines the caste system with the tale of Balram who leaves his tiny village to work for an affluent family. He cherishes this way of life and his masters thinking they will take care of him forever. When they tell him he is one of the family, he really does believe it. Adarsh Gourav was so convincing as the impoverished servant, I had to look him up so see what other work he had done.

Another thing I had to do was suspend my African American beliefs so that I could appreciate how other people live. It was difficult not to measure it by my values instead of allowing the story to play out. It is one of the things I have begun to appreciate about stories from other cultures. Even so there were times I wanted him to punch them in face and run. This movie is in English, but use the subtitles because they talk fast.

I was impressed that Priyanka Chopra Jonas (Quantico) in addition to starring in the project, also produced it. I am always about #girlpower and women being able to tell the stories they want to tell.

The other movie I enjoyed was Intouchables with Omar Sy and Francois Cluzet which was based on a true story. In this story, Cluzet plays Philippe, a quadriplegic who hires an unlikely full time caregiver, a young man, Omar Sy from the projects.

These men share their ways of life with each other. Philippe introduces Driss to classical music, opera and art. Driss teaches Philippe how to smoke weed, go to massage parlors and date. Sy is big right now because of Lupin, but this film was made in 2011, which reveals his talent has been around a while.

It is a fun movie, in French so you won’t be able to multi task while reading subtitles.

Both of these movies, The White Tiger and Intouchables are available on Netflix. They will break up the series binging with some lighthearted thought provoking movies.

Here’s A Good Movie (Maker)

My sister likes clothes and shoes.  I do too, but not as much as her. She suggested that I watch The Dressmaker because she loved the wardrobe.

Ok.

First let me say, I am so glad that this story was a 2-hour movie versus the six episode series that seems to be the current trend with new projects. I am tired of weak story lines that drag on for six episodes.

The Dressmaker tells an interesting story with compelling characters that keeps you guessing.

Quirky was the term my sister used to describe it to me, and she was right.

The main character, Tilly comes back to her hometown in the 1950s to avenge a wrong, but also to discover the true story.  Played by Kate Winslet, she leads us through the kooky town introducing us to the inhabitants, including a police officer who secretly cross dresses, a chemist with a hump in his back and the meanest schoolteacher I have ever seen.  My first thought is why would you want to go back to these people, but she did have family there.

Judy Davis played her mother who is as wild and crazy as all the town inhabitants. But she is so fun. She tags along with Tilly on her first date with Teddy (Liam Hemsworth) sitting in the movie theater talking loud.

I won’t give anything away, but I love how they told this story.  As much as my sister loved the clothes, which were amazing, I loved the story. At no time did I feel like I knew where it was going, but I was quite satisfied with the ending. You will be too.

It Is The Winner

There are so many Christmas movies and so little time. I mean there are country Christmases, urban Christmases, California Christmases, Alien Christmases. It goes on and on.

For me, this season the winner is Last Christmas on HBO.

This is the best, most fun movie I watched all the way through and only stopped once. Child of the 1980s that I am, it won me immediately with the George Michael music throughout the movie. And this cute little film from the UK reminded me why I love his music which set a certain type of mood for the film.

The well written script tells me the story in a manner that keeps my interest by making me wonder where it is going. Our main character is Kate, a young woman living in the UK with her parents and sister, all of which have immigrated from Yugoslavia during the critical time of Brexit. She is living the life of a normal twentysomething.

Emilia Clarke is so good as Kate, she is annoying. The first 40 minutes of this movie, I wanted to punch her myself. I was yelling “Girl, get a life!” Then the very charming Henry Golding shows up at Tom and starts me to wondering. First of all, why would someone like him be interested in a girl who wears an elf costume? I didn’t find this to be one of those ordinary Christmas stories.

The Emma Thompson plays Kate’s mother which gives you a glimpse into why Kate is so crazy. Thompson’s character is this older woman who has immigrated to the UK has lots of fears about it. She is a doting mother, but none make you hate her. Michelle Yeoh plays Kate’s boss who goes by the name of Santa and also gives you moments to giggle. Both women characters have that thing that happens after you turn 50 when you say whatever you think to the twentysomething in the room, like “that’s stupid.”

The screenplay was written by Thompson and Bryony Kimmings who were inspired by George Michael’s song Last Christmas. I enjoyed how they chose to tell the story. It was cheeky, funny, corny and endearing.

I like the story because of the set up. It doesn’t do anything that I don’t expect. It slides a few things in, like the Christmas shop that sells odd Christmas ornaments like the baby Jesus with a full set of teeth and a smiling donkey or a Christmas tree made from baby cabbages.

The thing I love is that it takes me one step deeper than most movies like it. It explains why. Life is full of people who do dumb stuff. Once you know why they do it, it changes everything. For that, this movie will go on my list of movies I will watch over and over. And Henry Golding is hot.