Creed II Review: Can You Smell the Oscar?

I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving and week after. Unlike the rest of the world, I was lying on my couch with a fever and missing the opening weekend of Creed II! But don’t fret, the first day I was able to live again I took myself to the movies. I thoroughly loved this sequel.

Just in case you don’t know, Michael B. Jordan plays Adonis Creed, son of Apollo Creed from the classic Rocky series. Basically, he fights, loses, goes through a journey of depression and self- discovery, trains with his mentor, fights, and wins. Along the way, he is in love with Tessa Thompson’s character, Bianca, and they go through some trials.  Which may sound incredibly predictable and boring, but I promise, it wasn’t boring.

Let’s break down why this movie was so great. First, Michael B. Jordan, and not for the reasons you think. Yes, we can see he is a beautiful man and he may possibly taste like tootsie rolls; clearly, this is a major reason we are intrigued by him; but for me, his acting has always seemed a little vapid, like it was missing some depth. With this performance he showed maturity and growth with his craft.  Sitting in the audience, I could feel his emotions through the screen, not because Adonis’s inner struggle was relatable, but because Jordan did such a terrific job depicting his character’s state of mind throughout the whole film. This performance felt more profound than his others. He really seemed like he held his own with veteran actor Sylvester Stallone. He shared the screen with him instead of just being in a scene with him. Can we smell an Oscar nomination? Hope so.

Reason number two, Tessa Thompson. She transforms herself into her characters like an ice cube melts in water. Thompson’s portrayal of Bianca was strong, confident and independent. She was not Adonis’s trophy but his equal. She had her own life outside of him but she knew when he needed her and how he needed her.

Sometimes women in these types of movies are depicted as shallow, weak, and expendable. As if their whole lives are revolving around this one man and they don’t have anything else going for them. Not this time. She has a career that was making big moves alongside his fighting career. And it was evident that he needed her just as much as she needed him. She was not replaceable. As a black woman I saw myself in her. I saw myself in her fears, her strength and the love she had for her man. For the record I would have also been the loudest person in the Arena in Russia that night as well, “Drago who?”

Reason number three, can we talk about the amazing way this movie was shot? Not only was it beautiful, but I appreciate long medium shots to build suspense, with slow-motion close-ups, as opposed to fast cuts with close-ups. I get it, we learn in video editing 101 that in order to show action we need fast cuts but it doesn’t always get the audience to lose themselves in the movie. The verisimilitude of the fighting scenes had me holding my breath with every punch. I was literally sitting at the edge of my seat watching this movie and the only thing that would bring me back to reality was someone coughing in the theatre.  Kudos to director, Steven Caple Jr., for capturing those moments perfectly. Can you believe this is his first major motion picture? Well, I hope to see a lot more from him.

Reason number four,  the love story between Adonis and Bianca. Bianca was everything Adonis needed. When he was weak, she was his strength. When he needed to be humbled, she was there to bring him back to Earth. When he needed encouragement, she cheered the loudest. Ryan Coogler did a fantastic job of writing a love story that was based on real love and admiration. Adonis never cheated on her, hit her or hurt her in any way. He praised and supported her music career, he was her strength when she was weak, and he made sure he provided for her. They were a team. That is the way love is supposed to be.  

This movie was a great sequel to the first one. If you haven’t seen either Creed films, you should. Go to Amazon Prime and rent the first one, then go online and buy your tickets for the second. It’s worth it.

‘BlacKkKlansman’ Review: Did Spike Lee Sell Out?

BlacKkKlansman was Spike Lee’s way of getting white people to like him again”, was my brother’s response when I told him I had just watched BlacKkKlansman. I was highly offended by his statement but I blew it off knowing he isn’t the film connoisseur, that I am.  Or, maybe that was the excuse I made for his completely ridiculous statement. Either way, I will say since the movie’s release I’ve noticed that many others in the black community share my brother’s opinion — that Spike Lee is pandering to a white audience; but with a story like this, shouldn’t he?

For those of you who haven’t seen the film, I’ll give you a short synopsis. Based on the memoir by Ron Stallworth, BlacKkKlansman is a dramedy set in the 1970s, about a black police officer, played by John David Washington. In an attempt to build his career as the first black police officer in Colorado Springs, Stallworth successfully infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan. With the help of Jewish police officer, Flip Zimmerman, played by Adam Driver, they expose the KKK’s potential violent plots, members who held positions in government, and their future plans for the “organization.”

The story in itself is quirky and funny, and Lee visually encapsulates the memoir perfectly.  Stylistically, the angles and the juxtaposition of shots, in addition to the transitions from scene to scene, this film had a different feel and quality than Lee’s other joints. It has a sort of Wes Anderson feel with a Spike Lee twist. Maybe that’s what made this movie seem so different; to some, like he “sold out,” but this movie wasn’t made for black audiences. This movie was an announcement, and an exclamation of what black people have been screaming for decades: That white supremacist (terrorist) groups, like the KKK, have infiltrated multiple government agencies, lobbyist groups, and positions of power to preserve the institutional racism that continuously, consistently, and historically oppressed  citizens of color. This is not a message that people of color need to hear. This is not a lesson that people of color need to learn. We know it all too well. This is a story for white people.

What helps push the message of irrational entrenched tribalism throughout the film is Topher Grace’s convincing portrayal of Grand Wizard David Duke. David Duke is one of the driving forces who helped change the public persona of the KKK. Topher Grace has a likeability factor, an unobtrusiveness that made him perfect for this part, that no matter what hateful word came out of his mouth, there was still something likable about him. That is what made David Duke, David Duke. Duke made racism seem more palatable for the masses. It becomes obvious in the film how important Duke’s new branding message for their organization is to the members through the special measures they take to safeguard the privacy of the club and it’s members. They stop calling themselves the KKK in public and discuss termination of the old tradition of cross burning among other things (no spoilers here folks). But as we all know, that ritual hasn’t gone away.

Sometimes, as an artist, they have a responsibility to educate their audience, as well as entertain. This movie is not designed to appeal to all black audiences, but to white liberal ones. We know as a community that we need white allies to help support our fight for equality. This film reflects the reality of the purposeful maintenance of the status quo, separate but inherently unequal for citizens of color. The white liberal politician sitting in the audience has the ability and resources to make a change at a higher level. If this was Spike Lee’s intention, then yes, he should cater to white audiences, but that doesn’t mean that black audiences shouldn’t see this movie. It’s a great story and it’s a joy to watch. I don’t think anyone should count it out just yet.

 

Written by Liz Bennett

Columbus Native and Filmmaker to Host First Columbus Black International Film Festival

For Immediate Release: June 13, 2017

 

Contact:

Cristyn Steward

columbusbiff@gmail.com

 

Columbus Native and Filmmaker to Host First Columbus Black International Film Festival

Columbus Black International Film Festival will highlight a spectrum of stories told by artists of the African diaspora.

COLUMBUS, OH – Columbus native and filmmaker, Cristyn Steward will host the first Columbus Black International Film Festival (CBIFF) August 4-6 2017 at Columbus’ own Wexner Center for the Arts and Columbus College of Art and Design. The film festival will showcase local, national, and international stories from the African diaspora in the city of Columbus.

CBIFF will premiere at the Wexner Center for the Arts featuring local filmmaker Mark Cummings Sr. as a keynote speaker, with two short films; Dr. Race: Practicing Medicine while Black and Heroes of Color: Harlem Hellfighters; and feature film Holy Hustle followed by a networking reception for filmmakers. The festival will continue the following day at the Columbus College of Art and Design. The day will include film screenings, a workshop about making a good film taught by local sci-fi filmmaker Celia Peters, and a panel discussion featuring various media and representation professionals.

Cristyn Steward is a Columbus native and seasoned filmmaker with many years of experience in the industry. Steward’s expertise and vision gave her the inspiration to host an event for the city of Columbus to get to know artist in her hometown that truly give a meaning to visionary art.

The Columbus Black International Film Festival has received support from well-renowned organizations in the arts community including the Wexner Center for Arts and the Greater Columbus Arts Council as well support from Stonewall Columbus and Equitas Health. There are plans to invite multiple local businesses and organizations to be a part of this event as a way to showcase to attendees all that Columbus has to offer.

The primary objective of the festival is to showcase black filmmakers locally, nationally, and internationally while creating an opportunity to network with various artists in the filmmaking community.

For more information, contact Cristyn Steward at columbusbiff.com.

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CHANNING TATUM RETURNS TO LAUNCH “TEAM OSCAR®”

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CHANNING TATUM RETURNS TO LAUNCH “TEAM OSCAR®”
Winning Filmmakers to Appear on Oscars® Telecast

LOS ANGELES, CA – Channing Tatum, Oscar producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, and the Academy today launched “Team Oscar” by inviting the next generation of filmmakers to create a short video and vie for the opportunity to appear onstage during the live Oscar broadcast.  Winners will deliver Oscar statuettes to celebrity presenters at the 87th Academy Awards® on Oscar Sunday, February 22, 2015, live on ABC.

“We are thrilled to bring the Team Oscar competition back to the show for the third year, and that Channing Tatum will be our spokesperson and one of the judges,” said Zadan and Meron.  “We are very happy that the idea we initiated has turned into an annual tradition, and is now open to a wider range of filmmakers who are passionate about film and the moviemaking process.”

“I’m honored to be returning to launch the Team Oscar competition and encourage the next generation of filmmakers to join me onstage at this year’s Oscars,” said Tatum.  “It’s inspiring to see how these young filmmakers rise to the challenge, and I can’t wait to see the talent we uncover.”

Team Oscar is open to U.S. citizens, ages 18 to 30 (in previous years entries were limited to college students only), and submissions are due by January 12, 2015 at 9:00 p.m. PT.  To enter, filmmakers must visit the Academy’s Facebook page, where they can submit a creative 60-second video on the subject, “The best piece of advice I’ve ever received.”

Producers Zadan and Meron, along with Tatum and the Academy, will select up to six winners who will be flown to Los Angeles by United Airlines, the official airline of the Academy, to participate in the Oscars ceremony at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center®.

Tatum will announce the Team Oscar winners in early 2015.

The Oscars will be held on Sunday, February 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, and will be televised live by the ABC Television Network.  The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.

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