Black History Month: February 2016 in Films
So I had a pretty hectic month and thus I definitely did not keep up the pace of one film a day (this year is probably going to continue down that path). Before I get into the films I watched this month, I have some big news! This Friday, March 4th, is going to be my last day at Rotten Tomatoes! I have taken a job with Turner Classic Movies aka TCM aka the greatest thing to ever happen to movies! This means I will be relocating from Los Angeles to Atlanta. This also means things are going to be really, really hectic in March (and maybe April!) and thus I am going on a bit of a hiatus after this post. What that means: no Movie Quote of the Day until I get settled. This could mean all of March, it could mean into April, it could mean less. I’m really not sure. I will, however, do a wrap-up post for March, although it may only be a handful of films. That said, I did watch several great films in February, and as always you can see the full list after the cut!
- Cadillac Records
- Down in the Delta
- Hail, Caesar!
- Nas: Time Is Illmatic
- Introducing Dorothy Dandridge
- Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong
- The Tanning of America: One Nation Under Hip Hop
- Straight Outta Compton
- Sorry We Don’t Help Darkies
- Mississippi Damned
- In Too Deep
- Dave Chappelle’s Block Party
- Yelling To The Sky
- Out of Time
As you can tell from this list, I mostly watched films in February that were either directed by Black filmmakers, or starred Black actors. I saw another film in my quest to finish Denzel Washington’s filmography and saw a few films from last year that I had really wanted to see.
Idlewild, 2006 (dir. Bryan Barber)
I remember seeing a million TV ads for this when it first came out when I was in college. I have no idea why I didn’t go see it and now that I have I am kicking college me for missing out on seeing these amazing visuals on the big screen! It’s often dismissed as a Black Moulin Rouge! and it does share some story elements to that film, but it is so much more. It’s like a Southern Gothic musical gangster picture with songs that encompass the genre-bending exploration that made OutKast’s music so unique.
Nas: Time Is Illmatic, 2014 (dir. One9)
I decided to watch this because it had such amazing reviews even though I didn’t know anything about Nas or the album and I was blown away. It’s a great look not only at Nas as an artist and Illmatic ad an important album, but also the socio-economic climate that led to the rise of hip-hop in New York and its lasting impact as an American art form. Afterwords I read a few books on hip-hop (and watched a few more movies and docs!). I am no longer Fred Armisen.
Dope, 2015 (dir. Rick Famuyiwa)
I think now I am only missing one of Rick Famuyiwa’s films. He’s a filmmaker whose characters I always love spending time with. This is a film about a kid growing up in Inglewood who is obsessed with 90s hip-hop culture and is in the middle of applying to Harvard. Shenanigans ensue when he is befriended a local drug dealer. Famuyiwa’s quote in the New York Times article about what it’s like to work in this industry if you aren’t a straight white man sums up a lot of the casual racism that runs rampant.
Mississippi Damned, 2009 (dir. Tina Mabry)
This film premiered the same year as Precious at the Sundance Film Festival, but Mabry’s film was unable to find distribution – in fact she was told that the industry could support one Black drama a year – but two was too many. Luckily for us, Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY got the digital rights to the film and it is now available on Netflix. It tells the tale of several young people growing up in Mississippi who’s families are stuck in a cycle of abuse and follows them from the mid-80s to the late-90s when the youngest (Tessa Thompson) is trying desperately to get herself to college in New York City. It’s a brutal film for sure, but one that is masterfully made and full of moments that feel wholly authentic.
Honey, 2003 (dir. Bille Woodruff)
I really did not expect to like this film as much as I did, but it is great! Jessica Alba plays the titular Honey, a dancer who dreams about being in hip-hop videos. When she’s discovered dancing at a club one night by a video director, her talent and drive help her get ahead – until sexism rears its ugly head. This movie has such a wonderful feminist message and Honey is such a strong, wonderful character. I loved every minute of this film.
Yelling To The Sky, 2011 (dir. Victoria Mahoney)
Another great film from a female director, this coming of age film stars Zoë Kravitz as a mixed-race girl whose family life is less than stable, causing her to rebel in the worst ways. Beautifully shot by Reed Morano, this film is not quite a bleak as Mississippi Damned, but it definitely deals with similar themes in terms of family.
So that was February. Like I said, March is going to be even less films, but I will definitely keep up the pace for #52FilmsByWomen! And remember, watch TCM!
Posted on March 1, 2016, in 2016 in Films and tagged Bille Woodruff, Bryan Barber, Dope, Honey, Idlewild, Mississippi Damned, Nas: Time Is Illmatic, One9, Rick Famuyiwa, Tina Mabry, Victoria Mahoney, Yelling To The Sky. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.