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Of course, it is also my civic duty as a critic to point out the lousiest outings and offerings

 

 

Blacktrospective 2006
Annual Look Back at the Best (and Worst) in Black Cinema
By Kam Williams

 

How do you go from American Idol also-ran to prohibitive Oscar favorite? No, don’t ask tone deaf William Hung, but rather the irrepressible Jennifer Hudson, whose screen debut as Effie in Dreamgirls has made everybody forget about Jennifer Holliday, the originator of the role on Broadway back in 1981.

And although Hudson is currently enjoying all the buzz, 2006 was a banner year for breakout performance by black actresses, a sharp departure from 2005. Who could forget luscious Lauren London in ATL, precocious Keke Palmer in Akeelah and the Bee and Madea’s Family Reunion, or Halle Berry look-a-like Paula Patton in Idlewild and Déjà Vu?

The list of the black actors, however, is littered with a lot of familiar names, from Samuel L. Jackson to Laurence Fishburne to Delroy Lindo to Eddie Murphy to Chiwetel Ejifor, though Forest Whitaker was another shoo-in for his chilling channeling of the spirit of the late Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.  Of course, it is also my civic duty as a critic to point out the lousiest outings and offerings, too, so without further ado, I humbly offer the 2006 edition of my annual Blacktrospective.

Best Black Films of 2006

1.   Akeelah & The Bee
2.   Manderlay
3.   ATL
4.   Madea’s Family Reunion
5.   Dreamgirls
6.   Confederate States of America
7.   Pursuit of Happyness
8.   Something New
9.   Snakes on a Plane
10. Color of the Cross


Best Documentaries

1.   SoulMate
2.   Black Hair
3.   Sisters-in-Law
4.   A Girl Like Me
5.   Black Gold
6.   Dave Chappelle’s Block Party
7.   Been Rich All My Life
8.   Home
9.   Don’t Trip… He Ain’t Through with Me Yet
10. After Innocence

Best Actors

1.   Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland, American Gun)
2.   Laurence Fishburne (Akeelah and the Bee)
3.   Tyler Perry (Madea’s Family Reunion)
4.   Delroy Lindo (Wondrous Oblivion)
5.   Chiwetel Ejiofor (Kinky Boots, Children of Men, Inside Man)
6.   Eddie Murhy (Dreamgirls)
7.   Samuel L. Jackson (Snakes on a Plane, Freedomland, Home of the Brave)
8.   Will Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness)
9.   TI (ATL)
10. Jean-Claude La Marre (Color of the Cross)

Best Actresses

1.   Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls)
2.   Keke Palmer (Akeelah and the Bee, Madea’s Family Reunion)
3.   Rosario Dawson (Clerks II, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints)
4.   Lauren London (ATL)
5.   Sanaa Lathan (Something New)
6.   Paula Patton (Idlewild, Déjà Vu)
7.   Queen Latifah (Last Holiday)
8.   Angela Bassett (Akeelah and the Bee)
9.   Rochelle Aytes (Madea’s Family Reunion)
10. Leonie Elliott (Wondrous Oblivion)


Best Directors

1.   Andrea Allen-Wiley (SoulMate)
2.   Chris Robinson (ATL)
3.   Tyler Perry (Madea’s Family Reunion)
4.   Kevin Wilmott (Confederate States of America)
5.   Sanaa Hamri (Something New)
6.   American Gun (Aric Avelino)
7.   Clark Johnson (The Sentinel)
8.   Bryan Barber (Idlewild)
9.   Leslie Small (Don’t Trip… He Ain’t Through with Me Yet)
10. Kiri Davis (A Girl Like Me)


Worst Movies

1.   Shadowboxer
2.   Waist Deep
3.   Big Momma's House 2
4.   Crossover
5.   Little Man

Worst Actors

1.    Cuba Gooding, Jr. (Shadowboxer)
2.    Martin Lawrence (Big Momma’s House 2)
3.    Tyrese (Waist Deep)
4.    The Game (Waist Deep)
5.    Anthony Mackie (Crossover)

Worst Actresses

1.   Mo’Nique (Shadowboxer, Fat Girlz)
2.   Nia Long (Big Momma’s House 2)
3.   Ashanti (John Tucker Must Die)
4.   Meagan Good (Waist Deep)
5.   Macy Gray (Shadowboxer)

Worst Directors

1.   Lee Daniels (Shadowboxer)
2.   Vondie Curtis-Hall (Waist Deep)
3.   Preston A. Whitmore II (Crossover)
4.   Keenen Ivory Wayans (Little Man)
5.   Nnegest Likke (Phat Girlz)

Note: Thanks to fellow film critic Wilson Morales of BlackFilm.com for his very valuable assistance in researching this article, although the results strictly reflect the opinion of Kam Williams.

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The 10 Worst Films of 2006

Revisiting the Year’s Walk-Out Bad Flicks

By Kam Williams

 

You might think that it’s easy for a film to land on my 10 Worst List, but that is simply not the case, especially since there are hundreds to pick from. For instance, take an unabashedly mediocre movie like Snakes on a Plane. Yes, it was a cheesy B-flick, but it actually happened to be a very engaging example of the disaster genre, because it had no pretensions about being anything more than an escapist, brainless adventure about, well, about snakes on a plane. 

No, the films awful enough to earn a spot here are the walk-out bad variety, those with no redeeming qualities. These all share that certain nothing guaranteed to have you looking at your watch or dozing off or demanding your money back.

1. Shadowboxer

Shadowboxer marked the disappointing directorial debut of Lee Daniels who was previously best known as the producer who came up with the Oscar-winning idea of pairing Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton in soft porn for Monster’s Ball. This time the kinky treat is Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. cavorting in his birthday suit with the relatively-geriatric Helen Mirren. The problem is not just that the marshmallow-assed Mirren is old enough to be Cuba’s mother, but that she also happens to be playing his step-mom.

On top of the Oedipal aspect of their liaison, her character is also wracked with pain due to inoperable cancer. So, those open-minded enough to get past the incest issue might still find themselves a bit bothered by the sight of a virile, muscular hunk mating with a sickly senior citizen who looks like death sucking on a Lifesaver.

Sex scenes aside, Daniels does find a variety of imaginative ways to torture characters in this high body-count saga, developments certain to satisfy the blood lust of those given to gruesome fare. Nonetheless, Shadowboxer‘s threadbare script is riddled with too many holes to consider it as anything more than a sadistic snuff film and the worst of the worst of 2006. And Cuba should tell his agent to clean out his desk.

2. Nacho Libre

Another easy-to-digest, easier-to-forget fiasco that Jack Black can add to his burgeoning resume’ of vapid vanity vehicles. He’s as nauseatingly obnoxious as ever in the title role as a sexually and wrestling frustrated friar.

Relentlessly irreverent, unrepentantly mean-spirited, and wantonly crude, excuse me for failing to find the humor in this waste of celluloid’s incessant sight gags such as impaling an ear of corn in an eye or smearing excrement on a face. Plus there are tons of tiresome feces and fart jokes, all of which fall flat.

But what is most remarkable about this morally-bankrupt movie is its utterly undeserved PG rating, which suggests that it’s a kid-friendly film, when nothing could be further from the truth. Besides the obvious impropriety of a priest constantly soliciting a nun for sex, the film’s fairly-graphic violence alone warranted a PG-13. And any production featuring Jack Black in spandex and showing off a belly-full of stretch marks should never have made it off the drawing board in the first place. 

Heavens to Murgatroyd!

3. Waist Deep

An unapologetic tribute to misogyny, bling, gratuitous violence, and black-on-black crime, this ghetto fabulous flick teaming Meagan Good and Tyrese as latter-day Bonnie and Clydes is the most mind-bogglingly bad blaxploitation flick to arrive in theaters in recent memory. From its excessive use of profanities and the N-word (over 200 by my count) to its sadistic celebration of gratuitous gore (such as the gleeful display of a chopped-off arm) to its Swiss cheese script riddled with an array of utterly illogical plot developments, it’s not so much a movie as a 90-minute version of a brainless gangsta’ rap movie video.

That’s a whole lot of wrong. Next time, I hope Juilliard-trained, writer/director Vondie Curtis-Hall cracks open his brain and uses it. A big payday is the only explanation I can think of for his foisting such an absurd, insult to the intelligence on the unsuspecting public. Not recommended if you can think of any other way to amuse yourself.

4. The Da Vinci Code

Ostensibly aimed at an audience with the level of sophistication of sixth graders, this adaptation of the Dan Brown best-seller passes off his fanciful fabrications as Biblical history. Ridiculed by academics as riddled with inaccuracies and criticized by Christian theologians as blasphemous, the tall tale rests upon a litany of pretentiously-presented, pseudo-scientific claptrap woven together in an insinuating fashion designed to appeal to paranoid conspiracy theory enthusiasts and the anti-Christian crowd. 

Never generating any intellectual traction, the plot is repeatedly bogged down by preachy pontificating most of which comes courtesy of Tom Hanks playing a Harvard Professor of Religious Symbology summoned to crack the case of the murder of The Louvre’s museum curator. But instead of a riveting whodunit, this two-and-a-half hour gabfest is little more than a sure cure for insomnia. Plus, it’s sort of dishonest to foist debunked heresies on the gullible and the impressionable, as if it’s the God’s honest truth.

Silly rabbit, The Da Vinci Code is for kids.

5. Big Momma's House 2

Dave Chappelle once observed that there comes a point in every successful black actor’s career when he’s called upon to put on a dress. In the case of cross-dressing Martin Lawrence, that lightning has struck twice, regrettably.

I sat stoned-faced throughout the duration of this humorless sequel, a test of patience from Big Momma’s sassy threats “I got Al Sharpton on speed dial” to the way she makes fun of white people dancing “flailing like a couple of stroke victims.” Worse than her absence of wit or charm, is the movie’s patently preposterous premise which tests the bounds of rationality at every turn.

Why does Malcolm lie to both his wife and his boss about going back undercover? Why does he choose to dress in drag as Big Momma again, when it was totally unnecessary? Why does he claim to be half-Jewish? Why would he fill a beloved pet dog’s water bowl with Tequila? And why, after all the trouble he goes through to catch the murderer, would he then intervene to keep the killer out of prison?

Sans logic and laughs, this classic “take-the-money-and-run” sequel had me praying for a projector malfunction or any other excuse to run out of the theater early. Makes Barbershop 2 look like Barbershop.

6.  Phat Girlz

Jazmin Biltmore (Mo’Nique) is at war with the world. This plus-sized sister’s problems start with the fact that she works at a posh, L.A. clothing boutique frequented by thin women, and as she puts it, “I hate skinny bitches!” and it doesn’t help that she “ain’t been laid in nine months.”

The portly pepperpot is further frustrated by the fact that she can’t lose weight, despite trying every diet under the sun, and by strangers who feel free to pick on her just because of her size. Luckily, she’s irrepressibly sassy and great at trading insults, so she’s quick to counter any criticism, with pithy lines like “You’re so ugly, your birth certificate is an apology letter,” and “You’re so ugly, your momma got morning sickness after you were born.”

Other than this tiresome playing the dozens, there’s nothing funny about this preposterously-plotted picture, unless you count the laughable makeup jobs performed on virtually every actor. Whoever applied it must have gotten her degree from Clown College.  

Otherwise, potty-mouthed Mo’nique just can’t get enough of herself in this desperate attempt to convince everyone of the dubious premise that being morbidly obese is a condition which deserves to be celebrated. About as credible as OJ’s alibi, and less amusing than watching the Weather Channel.

7. Man of the Year

It’s hard to believe that this misfiring political satire comes courtesy of Oscar-winner Barry Levinson, the director of Wag the Dog (1997), a seminal contribution to cinema hailed for suggesting the possibility of election chicanery via the manipulation of the mass media. Though revisiting a similar theme, Man of the Year doesn’t have any such sophisticated insights to share.

A gutless, rudderless mess, the film’s fatal flaw rests with Levinson’s reluctance to reign-in Robin Williams, instead allowing the verbally-incontinent star to run roughshod over the script by combining his stale stand-up act with some infuriatingly inane streams-of-consciousness. So, rather than thought-provoking bon mots about the prevailing issues of the day, we’re treated to arguably offensive improv about nuns in thongs and Jewish Buddhists who sit and wait for things to go on sale.

Williams only makes you groan when he resurrects dated lines like, “If Mama Cass had shared a sandwich with Karen Carpenter, they’d both be alive today.” Are you kidding me? They’ve both been dead for over 20 years. How ancient a demographic could he be aiming for? An infantile, unmanageable insult to the intelligence which a lot like being trapped in an abusive relationship.     

8.  Click

An unwelcome addition to the time travel genre, Click is certain to disappoint anyone already familiar with Back to the Future (1985). Borrowing only that sci-fi classic’s basic premise, this relatively-crude rip-off offers none of the original’s wit, charm, humor, special effects, emotional engagement or ultimate satisfaction.

Instead, this picture is merely yet another Adam Sandler vehicle where he plays an infantile character with an excuse to behave like a moron. Despite suddenly being blessed with the ability to explore the world at will, his character comes up with nothing more imaginative to do with his newfound superpowers than to freeze bullies in order to fart in their faces or to kick them in the crotch. Yet, we’re ultimately expected to believe that this revenge-minded monster has somehow instantaneously sprouted a sensitive side during the denouement when he wakes up and finally realizes what really matters in life.

Another pump and dump production from Sandler who continues to be rewarded for remaining unoriginal. Back to the Future? Back to the drawing board!

9. All the King’s Men

It takes a lot of nerve to remake a movie which not only won the Academy Award for Best Picture, but also landed Oscars in the Best Actor (Broderick Crawford) and Best Supporting Actress (Mercedes McCambridge) categories. Both versions are based on Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name revolving around the rise and fall of Willie Stark, a populist politician (played by Sean Penn) hailing from humble roots who ultimately falls prey to the same sort of crookedness and cronyism he had campaigned against.

Where the original was quite convincing in portraying the transformation of a naive idealist into a ruthless crook, the new edition is merely a fatuous, self-important period piece of no salutary value.

A too-complex-to-follow saga of Shakespearean proportions, this meandering rehash devotes more attention to recreating the ambiance of a bygone era than to addressing the moral questions it raises in a meaningful manner. With every character a shallow caricature of a familiar, simplistically-drawn archetype, there’s zero reason to invest two hours of your life that you can never get back in this emotionally-disengaging measure of your ability to withstand boredom.

10. Little Man

This slap-happy disaster features Marlon Wayans as a foul-mouthed midget masquerading as a baby in order to retrieve a pilfered diamond from a childless couple. The picture’s pilfered plot is a slight variation of Free Eats (1932), the Little Rascals classic about a pair of “fidgets” who relieve some socialites of their jewelry by posing as adoptable infants. The movie is also suspiciously similar to Baby Buggy Bunny (1954), a Bugs Bunny classic cartoon with a similar storyline.    

Call me prudish, but there’s just something creepy to me about a dwarf tongue kissing, molesting and mating with unsuspecting women. Plus there’s all the venereal, homophobic, fart, feces, urination, and swift kick to the crotch sequences included to appeal to an audience of imbeciles on stupid pills.

Personally, I’d prefer to have bone marrow extracted than be subjected to such butt-numbing, lowbrow irritainment.

posted 1 January 2007

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 27 December 2011

 

 

 

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