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Finally got around to watching this movie. I forgot how long it was, but daaaaaaaaaaamn it seemed like it took forever to watch that.

However, I won't lie: I enjoyed it. Not because it was the best movie in the history of forever, but because it was the first time in a long time a movie has had me completely entranced, waiting to find out what was going to happen next.

The funny thing about it is the only reason I decided to watch it is because people keep referencing it, and I wanted to be "in" on the joke, lol. It was worth it, however.

Pros: Visually beautiful, interesting plot, excellent score.

Cons: Could have developed the characters a bit more/given them more backstory, reasons for doing/being what they do/how they came to be able to do it - but this isn't so distracting, though.

I didn't walk away from it shipping anything, but I am glad it didn't get bogged down with some shitty romance between main male/female character like I suspected it would from early on.
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Today's entry deals with a remarkable woman of talent and achievement, and her decision when faced with the cost of fame.

Photobucket


Fredi Washington was an African-American actress who's most groundbreaking role was in the 1934 movie version of the book "Imitation of Life" (not to be confused with the remade later version made in 1959, starring Lana Turner and Juanita Moore). Not only was she an actress, she also helped found the Negro Actors Guild of America(NAG) back in the 1930's, which exists to this day.

Back then, most movie roles for black people were highly limited. We were usually only able to portray maids and other domestic workers. And romance on screen? Out of the question - and especially not with a non-black man! We were portrayed as sexless, and our beauty was downplayed or ridiculed for not being the "standard" - either through dressing us in drab servant garbs or through caricature and minstrel acts poking fun at our physical features.

What's notable about Fredi Washington is that Hollywood was astounded by her talent - especially after her role as Peola (a biracial woman who was light enough that she could "pass" for white, and her troubles dealing with her heritage). Interestingly enough, when the movie was remade two decades later, the actress playing the role that Fredi Washington played (plenty of things were changed between the two movies, including the names - Peola was now called Sarah Jane) was a white woman (of Mexican and Jewish descent), and not a biracial one of African descent as the role was about. In a way, the 1934 version was slightly more progressive than the later version! Most importantly though, Hollywood recognized Fredi Washington's talent due to the role, and Hollywood was willing to make her a star - with one exception: they wanted her to "pass" for white.

Here it was; the chance of a lifetime. Become a fabulous movie star, getting role after role while calling yourself a white woman and getting all the perks of being white - or, sticking with your heritage as a black woman and being relegated to roles as domestic servants, being treated as a black woman, and even darkening your skin to play more roles as a black woman. These two choices: fame and ignoring your heritage, or no fame and being proud of your heritage.

Peola, the character Fredi Washington played in Imitation of Life, probably would have chosen to pass. However, Fredi Washington - the actual woman - chose otherwise: to remain true to her heritage, even in the face of a diminished career. Eventually, she quit making movies in disgust at her treatment as a black actress - but that did not prevent her from fighting back against such treatment of black actors and actresses throughout the rest of her lifetime.

Truly a woman to admire.

Sources:

Fredi Washington on Wiki; a fansite; IMDB
Imitation of Life (book version) on Wiki
Imitation of Life (1934 version) on Wiki and IMDB
Imitation of Live (1934 version) Movie Playlist on Youtube.
Imitation of Life (1959 version) on Wiki; IMDB and the Movie Playlist on Youtube
Negro Actors Guild of America (NAG) on Blackpast.org
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Apologies for being late on this one. Anyhow, music has always been one of my favorite things, and while I am not a musical fan per se, I do love movies based on the kinds of music I like. Here are five excellent movies based on music to watch.

5) The Five Heartbeats (starring Leon, Robert Townsend, ) - This movie showcased the lives of the fictional (but loosely based on the singing group "The Dells") recording group "The Five Heartbeats", and their rise - and individual member's falls - in the music industry. Hilarious at moments, and heartbreaking at others, it's a great movie to watch. Standout songs are "A Heart is a House for Love" and "Nothing But Love".

4) Dreamgirls (starring Jennifer Hudson, Eddie Murphy, Anika Noni Rose, Jamie Foxx) - One of the few musicals that I like, this movie is another one featuring the rise of a fictional (but, once again, based loosely off "The Supremes") group called "The Dreametts", who eventually become "The Dreams". Stunning performances by the cast (with one exception: Beyonce), with Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy especially standing out, it has a soundtrack that I play on a daily basis. Standout sequences are Jennifer Hudson's renditions of "And I Am Telling You" and "One Night Only", and the cast song "Steppin' to the Bad Side".

3) Ray (starring Jamie Foxx, Regina King, and Terrance Howard) - Another excellent film, this one showcases the life of Ray Charles, and his rise to fame, drug use, and eventual comeback into becoming one of America's most beloved recording artist. Jamie Foxx really digs into his dramatic side and delivers an excellent portrayal of Ray. Standout songs are all of them (LOL, it's Ray Charles, everything about him stands out), but I particularly liked the "Hit the Road Jack" and "That's What I Say" segments.

2) The Jacksons: An American Dream (starring Angela Bassett, Jason Weaver, Wylie Draper, Bumper Robinson, Terrance Howard) - This was actually a made-for-television miniseries, but nevertheless it was still excellent. This movie portrayed the Jackson family from when their parents were young, while the Jackson five were still kids, up to the 80's after MJ went solo. I've always been a fan of the Jackson 5, but not really one of MJ - but this was a likable movie nevertheless. Standout songs/performances in this movie were plentiful, but Wylie Draper's portrayal of MJ during the "Billie Jean" performance wins it, hands down.

Finally, my top pick!

1) What's Love Got To Do With It? (starring Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburn, Jenifer Lewis, Vanessa Bell Calloway) - I don't even know where to start with this excellent movie - which was a portrayal of the life of Tina Turner and her rise from a young country bumpkin to the star she became in the 80's (and still is to this day). Standout performances from two of the most talented black actors - Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburn - really made this film. I felt Tina's hurt, and mused over how Ike Turner's reputation overshadowed the brilliant musician he was (after all, this is the man that wrote one of the first rock songs - "Rocket 88" - which was sung by "Ike Turner" in the movie) while at the same time condemning him for being an abuser. Standout performance is definitely "Rolling on the River".

Honorable Mention: The Temptations Miniseries; The Wiz; Purple Rain; Lady Sings the Blues.

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January 2012

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