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Entertainment

'The Butler' is Black America’s Next Homework Assignment

 

Several weeks ago, I saw comedian  W. Kamau Bell, host of the FX show Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell and he did an entire set on black “homework” movies. He said every few years there’s a black movie that everybody is supposed to see because a bunch of influential black folks are in the movie or political and cultural leaders say it’s important that we support the film. Some black homework movies are actually good, like Fruitvale Station or 42, where you’re entertained and you actually learn something. Sometimes they’re like Red Tails where you realize that just because it’s an historic movie about black people, doesn’t mean the film is actually any good. Fortunately this week Lee Daniels’ The Butler comes out, a movie that is not only worthwhile black homework, but objectively is one of the best movies out of Hollywood in years.  

Let me preface by saying I would never have gone to see The Butler based on the trailers for the film. Usually, when Hollywood markets a ‘black film' the trailers are geared towards attracting white audiences since the assumption is that black people will pay to see anything with Oprah in it. The trailers for The Butler make it look like another black ‘struggle’ film about some downtrodden black family that manages to survive by keeping their heads down and accepting racism by being apolitical and staying true to their values. Essentially a big screen version of “Good Times”.

Fortunately The Butler is much more than Momma’s crying and wayward sons. The Butler manages to do something that most 'black homework' movies fail to do, which is actually telling the story of black people. Most black movies are really just the story of how white people’s lives are affected by the black people they know. The Last King of Scotland was supposed to be about Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, but the movie focused on a young white doctor and his liberal guilt and jungle fever. As much as I liked 42, the movie spent as much time focused on the white managers, teammates and press covering Jackie Robinson, as it did on the baseball icon himself. The Butler focuses squarely on the family of Cecil Gaines, from the good times and the bad, painting a picture of middle class black life in Washington D.C. something that is rarely if ever seen on film.

Gaines' (who is played by Forest Whitaker) life story is based on a Washington Post interview with Eugene Allen, a black man that served as a butler to eight presidents, from Dwight Eisenhower to Ronald Reagan over the course of 34 years. While liberties were taken with Allen’s life, the historic interactions he has with presidents in the film are amazing, humorous and validating. The war planning, treaties and policy decision that he was witness to make this movie a kind of black Forrest Gump, where a common man with a sincere heart finds himself in the middle of dozens of history altering moments just by the nature of showing up to work every day for 34 years.

The movie doesn’t cheat the audience, all racists don’t get their comeuppance, everyone doesn’t live happily ever after and some victories in the film are small and only shared by a precious few. However the movie never wallows in struggle-porn either, extolling the values of survival over living during the American apartheid. This film shows the totality of African American life, happy families, house parties in the 70’s and moments that are laugh out loud funny.   

The main reason the story of Cecil Gaines is so moving is because every single actor in the film is amazingly spot on. Within five minutes you forget you’re watching Oprah as she transforms into Cecil Gaines' loving and often troubled wife. David Olewayo, one of my favorite actors from the BBC spy show "MI-5" chews up every scene as Gaines' son, and delivers his own personal story arc that is inspiring and motivating as opposed to stereotypical narrative of the prodigal son. There are so many stars and guest appearances in this film that you can clearly tell that everyone involved knew that cinematic history was being made.

You shouldn’t just go out and see The Butler this weekend because Oprah is in it, or because a lot of smart and important black people say it’s “good” for us to see the film. You should see it, because the movie is well acted, painful, exciting, and historic and sometimes laugh out loud funny. See it because movies like this don’t get made often enough, and this is one homework assignment that you’ll be glad you took the time to finish.  

Robin Thicke Sues Marvin Gaye's Family

Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and T.I. (real name: Clifford Harris), are taking the Marvin Gaye family and Bridgeport Music (owner of Funkadelic compositions) to court to protect Thicke's song "Blurred Lines," according to the Hollywood Reporter. The lawsuit was filed in California federal court on Thursday and is a complaint about comparisons between two songs.

According to the suit, a copy of which was obtained byThe Hollywood Reporter, "Plaintiffs, who have the utmost respect for and admiration of Marvin Gaye, Funkadelic and their musical legacies, reluctantly file this action in the face of multiple adverse claims from alleged successors in interest to those artists. Defendants continue to insist that plaintiffs' massively successful composition, 'Blurred Lines,' copies 'their' compositions."

The suit claims the Gaye family is alleging that "Blurred Lines" and Gaye's "Got to Give It Up" "feel" or "sound" the same, and that the "Gaye defendants are claiming ownership of an entire genre, as opposed to a specific work."

As for Funkadelic, there's said to be claimed similarity between Thicke's hit and Funakedlic's "Sexy Ways."

Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" has not only been the song of the summer, it has also become the song of Robin Thicke's decade-long career. It is his first No. 1 song on Billboard's Hot 100, and helped catapult the album of the same name to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 the week of its release, making it Thicke's first chart-topping album as well.

But for all its success, the song has also been a troublesome burden on Thicke. Feministis watchdogs and media outlets decried the song and NSFW video for "Blurred Lines" as purporting rape culture.

Read more: http://www.theroot.com/buzz/robin-thicke-sues-marvin-gayes-family-over-blurred-lines

Best Style Moments Of The Week 8/16

Tia Mowry arrives at the 2013 Teen Choice Awards at Gibson Amphitheatre


 

Tamera Mowry arrives at the 2013 Teen Choice Awards at Gibson Amphitheatre


 

Gabby Douglas poses at the 2013 Teen Choice Awards at Gibson Amphitheatre


 

Kym Whitley arrives at the “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” Los Angeles Premiere at Regal Cinemas


 

Shaun Robinson arrives at the “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” Los Angeles Premiere at Regal Cinemas


 

David Oyelowo arrives at the “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” Los Angeles Premiere


 

Keisha Whitaker arrives at the “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” Los Angeles Premiere


 

Oprah arrives at the “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” Los Angeles Premiere


 

Kem “KEM” Owens arrives at the 11th annual Ford Neighborhood Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena


 

Tichina Arnold arrives at the 11th annual Ford Neighborhood Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena


 

Shemar Moore arrives at the 11th annual Ford Neighborhood Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena


 

Phylicia Rashad arrives at the 11th annual Ford Neighborhood Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena


 

Anthony Hamilton arrives at the 11th annual Ford Neighborhood Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena


 

Yolanda Adams arrives at the 11th annual Ford Neighborhood Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena

 

Russell Simmons does two-step on Harriet Tubman video

Tubman Simmons-600In an apology posted to GlobalGrind.com, Hip Hop mogul Russell Simmons says, "I would never condone violence against women in any form, and for all of those I offended, I am sincerely sorry."

Simmons' mea culpa was his step-two move in the wake of a wave of criticism about a controversial Harriet Tubman video featured on the recently launched All Def Digital YouTube Channel. Step 1? Remove the video, which he did.

Here's the statement Simmons posted on GlobalGrind.com Thursday morning:

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Hot Hair: The Chicest Short Cuts of All Time

Short cuts rule!  Don't believe us?  Yesterday, Beyoncé revealed a chic new pixie cut following in the footsteps of stars like Rihanna and Halle Berry who love to rock cropped hair with flair.  Here, we take a look at more of the most memorable pixies of all time.

Beyoncé

Beyoncé revealed her new super-short pixie on Instagram. We've never seen Bey in hair this short but we have to admit it looks fab on the soulful songstress.


 

Halle Berry

Berry has been rocking her cropped coif since the late 90's and we must admit it's one of the styles we love the most on the star.


 

Malinda Williams

Williams' perfect pixie emphasizes her dreamy almond eyes and megawatt smile. 


MC Lyte

The superstar MC loves to rock super-short strands just as much as she loves to rock the mic. 


 

Eva Marcille

Ever since "Eva the Diva" rose to fame on America's Next Top Model, she's been a fan of wearing short hair in spicy colors!


Chrisette Michele

When Chrisette Michele first stepped on the scene, not only were we smitten with her powerhouse vocals, but we were enthralled by her chic cut, too.


 

Estelle

This British bombshell has been a longtime fan of rocking a short, sassy haircut. 


 

Janet Jackson

We've seen Ms. Jackson rock every hairstyle in the book —long waves, "Dookie braids," kinky ringlets— but this woman sure does look hot in short hair, don't 'cha think?


 

Regina King

What better way to emphasize those gorgeous, bright brown eyes than with a face-framing, pixie? King has her signature style down pat. 


 

Michelle Williams

Post her long-haired Destiny's Child days, Williams decided to embrace a new look complete with a head-turning haircut. 


Monica

Monica stole our hearts as a young teen rocking her short hair with sass. Now that she's all grown up, this style still looks fierce on her. 


Toni Braxton

Braxton is another star who's been loyal to her pixie cut for decades now. She can rock a mean weave too, don't get us wrong, but the pixie will remain one of our favorite styles on her. 


NeNe Leakes

Now we know why Ms. Leakes is so "rich." After all, she’s got a platinum pixie that looks like a million bucks!


 

Angela Bassett

Bassett's spiky pixie is elgant yet edgy and speaks volumes about the style of this award-winning star.


 

Nia Long

Loads of ladies have been inspired by Long and her statement-making short strands over the years. 


Nicole Ari Parker

Parker is the perfect candidate for short hair given her amazing face structure and brilliant hazel eyes. She wears this style well. 


Tia Mowry

As a newly-inducted member of the "cropped cutie club," Mowry's bold haircut is a perfect ten in our book!


 

Mary J. Blige

Queen Mary is one of the most adventurous stars when it comes to her hair, so it's no surprise that she's worn short hair more than a few times over the course of her career. 

 

 

 

 

 

365 Black Awards to air on BET

gladysknight.jpg

HONOREES GLADYS KNIGHT and BEVERLY JOHNSON

McDonald’s, a sponsor of the Essence Festival in New Orleans for the past 10 years, chose the site of the annual event that brought nearly 500,000 to the crescent city Fourth of July weekend for the 10th time to present its 365 Black Awards. Honoring luminaries like R&B singer Gladys Knight and Supe

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Soulsville instructor gains Grammy attention

Merrick-600It started with a couple of emails that Soulsville Music Academy instructor Justin Merrick thought were spam. Man, was he wrong!

The emails actually conveyed the news that Merrick had been named one of nine finalists for a Grammy Award as Music Educator of the Year. Soulsville's Chief Creative Officer Kirk Whalum – a multiple Grammy Award winner – stepped in to bridge the information gap.

"Much later a letter had come for me in my mailbox at the office," said Merrick, a Maryland native. "Mr. Whalum brought it to my attention during a meeting and that's when it all definitely became real."

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‘Three Kings’ wow separately and one at a time

3kings-600Tyrese, Ginuwine and Tank – now starring as the trio group TGT – are having fun and enjoying success while out on the road promoting their new album, "Three Kings."

Set to hit stores next Tuesday, August 20, R & B lovers can pre-order on iTunes.

Widely recognized as the R&B group of 2013, TGT delivered a highly-anticipated show at the Orpheum Theatre earlier this month. And they did so amid rumors that they had not been getting along; more about that later.

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“Lee Daniels’ The Butler” to spice mind-expanding weekend

Myron-Mays-160WHAT'S HAPPENING MYRON? I always enjoy watching previews of upcoming films when I'm in the movie theatre. One I've become intrigued with is "Lee Daniels' The Butler."

The film opens Friday (Aug. 16) at the box office, with a local non-profit – Comrades N Community Inc. – holding an advance screening at the Malco Stage Cinema in Bartlett (7930 Highway 64) on Thursday at 7 p.m.

The screening honors domestic service workers and is connected to the "Those Who Labor Among Us Awards" set for Sept. 28th. Recipients at the awards show will receive the Helen King Award. King was the first African American Housekeeping Supervisor at the Peabody Hotel in 1963. The Awards Ceremony will benefit the Church Health Center.

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Kam’s Kapsules: Weekly previews - 08/15/2013

the butler movie posterFor movies opening Aug. 16, 2013

BIG BUDGET FILMS

"Jobs" (PG-13 for drug use and brief profanity) Ashton Kutcher portrays Steve Jobs in this reverential biopic revisiting the early years in the incomparable career of the visionary entrepreneur and Apple founder. Supporting cast includes J.K. Simmons, Matthew Modine, Lesley Ann Warren and Dermot Mulroney.

"Kick Ass-2" (R for sexuality, graphic violence, crude humor, pervasive profanity, and brief nudity) Two-fisted sequel finds the original's crime-fighting, pint-sized heroine (Chloe Moretz) forming a new team of masked vigilantes to take on an ally-turned-super villain (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). With Jim Carrey, Aaron Johnson, Clark Duke, Donald Faison and John Leguizamo.

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This Day in Black History: Aug. 14, 1966

On Aug. 14, 1966, film actress and beauty icon Halle Berry was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Inspiring audiences with roles that pushed both physical and emotional boundaries, she would go on to become the first African-American to win the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Berry broke onto the beauty pageant circuit in the 1980s, coming in second in the 1986 Miss USA pageant. After dabbling in modeling, she soon caught the acting bug. She made her film debut in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever (1991), playing the role of Vivian, a struggling drug addict.

Berry's film roles have ranged from the hilarious (1992's Boomerang), to the sultry, such as Bond girl Jinx inDie Another Day (2002), to the superhuman as the comic book hero Storm in the X-Men franchise. Most notably, she was lauded for her portrayal of a woman married to a death row inmate in Monster's Ball, for which she won the Oscar for Best Actress in 2001. Off-screen, she is a longtime spokeswoman for the cosmetics brand Revlon.

While her acting made her a household name, her personal life has been fodder for tabloids over the years. She was previously married to baseball player David Justice (1993-1997) and singer Eric Benét (2001-2005) before a long courtship with French Canadian model Gabriel Aubrey. 

Berry gave birth to their daughter, Nahla, in 2008. The couple separated two years later. In 2010, Berry began dating French actor Olivier Martinez and the pair announced their engagement in April 2012. One year later, Berry confirmed she was pregnant with his child, a son. The couple tied the knot in July 2013.

Stars Out and About: Star Gazing 8.14.13

Girl About Town

Rihanna is seen arriving at her hotel in New York City.


 

Hot Stepper

Lala Anthony on the set of Good Morning America in New York City.


 

Place Your Order

President Barack Obama orders food at Nancy's restaurant in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts. The Obama family is currently on vacation in Martha's Vineyard.


 

Girl Time

Our September Cover Girl Kelly Rowland goes shopping with friends at The Grove in Hollywood, CA.


 

Back In Time

LeBron James takes Robin Roberts on a journey back to his hometown of Akron, Ohio on Good Morning America.


 

Sparkle and Shine

June Ambrose attends the Downtown Calvin Klein with The Cinema Society screening of IFC Films' Ain't Them Bodies Saints at Museum of Modern Art in New York City.


 

Model Behavior

Jessica White attends Moet Rose Lounge Los Angeles hosted by Big Sean at The London West Hollywood in West Hollywood, California.


 

Measuring Up

Kevin Hart and Pooch Hall attend Moet Rose Lounge Los Angeles hosted by Big Sean at The London West Hollywood in West Hollywood, California.


 

Looking Sharp

Lance Gross attends Moet Rose Lounge Los Angeles hosted by Big Sean at The London West Hollywood in West Hollywood, California.


 

Style Star

Rachel Roy attends the Downtown Calvin Klein with The Cinema Society screening of IFC Films' Ain't Them Bodies Saints at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.


 

Doting Dad

Jaleel White leaves a birthday party for his little girl in Hollywood, Calornia.

Kendrick Lamar takes over Twitter

kendrick-lamar2-400Big Sean gave the Internet a day's worth of conversation and debate fodder Monday night when he released "Control," a song featuring Kendrick Lamar and Jay Electronica.

At least, we think Jay Electronica and Big Sean are on the track. Kendrick Lamar did his very best to make sure that he'd be the only one remembered – and he did a pretty good job. In the song, Lamar basically said, "I respect you guys very much, but I'm better than you" and went on to demolish the very men he shared the track with.

Twitter has been talking about it nonstop because it's a good verse, yes, but also because it's refreshing to hear what many consider a return to real hip-hop. Some, like online mag Vulture, mistook Lamar's hard-hitting gauntlet throwing for legitimate beef or the beginnings of a real-life feud, which illustrates how far removed from this brand of rhyming we all are.

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