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misswonderly3

Spotlight: The Black Experience in Film

70 posts in this topic

2 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

You're fooling yourself if you believe they all think alike,  have the same values,  as well as the same perspective as it relates to their experiences as an African-American.

E.g. Kanye West and Clarence Thomas are not members of the same 'community' as Van Jones and Don Lemon.

And getting back to movies;  would you really welcome either West or Thomas selecting films for this Black Experience tribute?      They would clearly pick different films than Van Jones and Don Lemon.

I am reminded of the ubiquitous slogan on T-shirts and bumper stickers:

Image result for it's a black thing you wouldnt understand

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Surprised no one's talked about the Oscar Micheaux film they showed last night: Within Our Gates. I'd heard of Oscar Micheaux of course, and had always been curious to see some of his work.

I was fascinated by Within Our Gates. I should mention that I love silent movies; to me, they're strange and mysterious, almost dream-like. Even the comedies move me; it's like I've been given a tiny portal into another time, impossibly long ago. I don't mind that there's no dialogue at all,  that very element of silence enhances these films for me.

But in the case of Within Our Gates, that "mysterious" quality was augmented by a look into not just another world and another time, but a world that we're rarely given even a glimpse into:  the world of black people living in 1920s America. As has been said repeatedly, so many mainstream Hollywood films, from the 20s right up to almost the present time, and certainly during the "Golden Age of Hollywood", depict black people almost as props. They're bellhops or porters or "Mammys". (They did discuss the "Mammy" thing in the program last night, right before airing "Imitation of Life".) So it was so interesting to see a film made by a black director, with a predominantly black cast and a black perspective - from 1920!

It's too bad much of this film has been damaged , and some lost entirely. But I could still piece the story together. When you watch something like Within Our Gates and you see such an interesting story and such realistic and terrible depictions of how black people were treated by whites,   you have to lament the loss, the waste, of black talent in subsequent years. How come Oscar Micheaux seemed to be the last, rather than the first, black filmmaker in the decades in Hollywood to come? 

As for "Imitation of LIfe":  First, I'm writing this from my memory of having seen it a few years ago, I did not view it last night. So I could be misremembering some of it. Anyway:

 Ok, it's got its points. But it seriously bothers me that Louise Beavers' character seems so willing to yield up most of the power and the profits of the pancake-mix venture to her white partner. She's the one who came up with the original recipe, if it weren't for her, Colbert's character would not have become rich. Yet Delilah seems content to let Bea take most of the wealth and credit for their joint venture. Guess this is how the original story was written? 

And - again, I recognize that we're talking about 1934, when white people had all the power and black people had none (hasn't changed that much maybe, but I think most black Americans would take the current moment to live rather than the 1930s), but still, it bothers me that Delilah's daughter is so devastated that she is black, that white people wont' accept her. F-- those horrible white people, Peola, and be proud you're black !

Still, I know, maybe back then, if you could "pass" as a white person, you'd have a lot more doors open to you.

What the hell do I know, I'm white.  Anyway, these glimpses into earlier times in America and the attempts by filmmakers to show what it might have been like to be a black person living back then are fascinating to me, and I appreciate that TCM is offering this series.

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5 hours ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

TCM assigns programmers they believe represents the so called African American community.   Of course no single person or even group of persons can represent an entire group as large as African Americans.    The folly here is the use of the term 'community';  as in everyone in such a 'community' has similar feelings,  beliefs and values.   

 

But there are issues that affect only African Americans and no other groups.  African Americans don't have to agree on all those issues within themselves (to your point about diverse feelings within a group).  But those issues would still "bring them together" since they are unique to them. 

Let's say you and your family members disagree on many things, but you still feel much closer to them than you do outsiders who don't understand those issues at all.

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9 minutes ago, DVDPhreak said:

But there are issues that affect only African Americans and no other groups.  African Americans don't have to agree on all those issues within themselves (to your point about diverse feelings within a group).  But those issues would still "bring them together" since they are unique to them. 

Let's say you and your family members disagree on many things, but you still feel much closer to them than you do outsiders who don't understand those issues at all.

I was responding to an African-American who appear to used the term 'community' to imply her POV (i.e. the films she believe should be shown \ not shown) represented the entire African-American 'community'.       E.g. 'we' was used a lot and I find that to be folly, as well as arrogant.  

My point was, and remains,  the process TCM used to determine which films to show:  Like I said I assume TCM gathered input from African-Americans,  and used this input to decide on the final list and such a list is going to be viewed differently by African-Americans.     I.e. there is no way to please the entire 'community' (or possibility even a majority) with such a list of films,  since it is folly to assume consensus within such a wide and varied 'community'.

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4 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

I was responding to an African-American who appear to used the term 'community' to imply her POV (i.e. the films she believe should be shown \ not shown) represented the entire African-American 'community'.       E.g. 'we' was used a lot and I find that to be folly, as well as arrogant.  

My point was, and remains,  the process TCM used to determine which films to show:  Like I said I assume TCM gathered input from African-Americans,  and used this input to decide on the final list and such a list is going to be viewed differently by African-Americans.     I.e. there is no way to please the entire 'community' (or possibility even a majority) with such a list of films,  since it is folly to assume consensus within such a wide and varied 'community'.

She was responding to Nipkow (you know, that expert on all things African-American) who stated that the only "believable" black films were A Raisin in the Sun and Claudine. She was questioning Nipkow's authority on the subject. Being a black woman herself, perhaps she felt that she had some degree of knowledge on the subject.

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8 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

I was responding to an African-American who appear to used the term 'community' to imply her POV (i.e. the films she believe should be shown \ not shown) represented the entire African-American 'community'.       E.g. 'we' was used a lot and I find that to be folly, as well as arrogant.  

My point was, and remains,  the process TCM used to determine which films to show:  Like I said I assume TCM gathered input from African-Americans,  and used this input to decide on the final list and such a list is going to be viewed differently by African-Americans.     I.e. there is no way to please the entire 'community' (or possibility even a majority) with such a list of films,  since it is folly to assume consensus within such a wide and varied 'community'.

As a black comic (perhaps it was Scoey Mitchell) once said during a party scene in "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In": "When the revolution comes, we're gonna have to get rid of some of us, too."

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13 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

She was responding to Nipkow (you know, that expert on all things African-American) who stated that the only "believable" black films were A Raisin in the Sun and Claudine. She was questioning Nipkow's authority on the subject. Being a black woman herself, perhaps she felt that she had some degree of knowledge on the subject.

Granted Nipkow does assume he is an expert on many subjects when he isn't (well maybe on junk food where he has a lot of experience!).  

I was responding to this:  "I am confused, who gets to decide and what is considered “believable” for African Americans?".     In the case of this tribute there is no need for confusion;  TCM programmers decided using some type of process.

Now was this TCM process reliable as it relates to if the films are 'believable';    I leave that to the community.  

      

  

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Just now, jamesjazzguitar said:

Granted Nipkow does assume he is an expert on many subjects when he isn't (well maybe on juke food where he has a lot of experience!).  

I was responding to this:  "I am confused, who gets to decide and what is considered “believable” for African Americans?".     In the case of this tribute there is no need for confusion;  TCM programmers decided using some type of process.

Now was this TCM process reliable as it relates to if the films are 'believable';    I leave that to the community.  

Yeah, she was questioning Nipkow's authority on what was or was not "believable". Her "confusion" was over Nipkow's statement, not TCM's choice of lineup. That's why she quoted Nipkow's post. Twice, even.

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8 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

Yeah, she was questioning Nipkow's authority on what was or was not "believable". Her "confusion" was over Nipkow's statement, not TCM's choice of lineup. That's why she quoted Nipkow's post. Twice, even.

Here is Nipkow's initial statement:   To me it is related to TCM's choice of a lineup (films being shown).   In fact he states that 'more films like those' should have been shown.  I.e. should have been part of TCM's lineup.    

"the only 2 decent films listed in my opinion are a raisin in the sun and claudine because the film sets African-americans in believable real life situations and it is a slight to black America that there were not more films like those".

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Uh, well my family is racially & culturally mixed. In no way would I assume anyone, no matter what "community" they feel they belong to, have the same outlook or experience.

For example just within the black members of my family (and yes, we say black) there are second generation Jamaicans, descendants of American slaves* and Liberian immigrants. (there is also a South African born white girl who actually chooses "African American" on applications)

Each person brings their own personality & perspective to racist situations- some are offended, some roll it off, some fight back. It has more to do with their parenting & individual personality than their skin color. I remember being appalled when told within their own family there was favoritism toward lighter skin color, so prejudice is everywhere, even if subconsciously.

No film will represent all black culture or experience, just like no Native American story represents all Native American experience, or Asian films, or films set in the southern US or New England. But obviously, there are some regional similarities and that becomes a stereotype.

Maybe what was meant was "real life situations" in contrast to "fantasy" or "comedy".

BTW, the Liberian's favorite movie is CRY FREEDOM.

*from 250 years ago, my Hungarian ancestors came over escaping WW2...so who's more "American"?

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For those of us  who are fans of "A Raisin in the Sun", Criterion is releasing a restored verson on the 25th of this month.

In addition to the restoration, the DVD/Blu-ray will include interviews with Ruby Dee, Lorraine Hansberry and Hansberry's biographer.  

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Careful now, TIKI.  I've long stated that there's a BIG difference between being a mere American citizen and being "American".  And too, one can be born and raised in America, but somehow(and in many cases fortunately ) NOT be "American".  It's a particular and peculiar state of mind.  But, getting back to this "black thang"......

Sure, there are some inherent differences in black and white culture in this country.  Some of it comes naturally, but I'd say most of the differences are both cultivated and deliberate.  But think about it.....

It's mostly( or entirely) ethnicity and NOT "racial", as I find it hard to think of ANY humans being from different races. And AS humans, we all have the same basic needs and desires.  And again, if there's ANY discussion of IMITATION OF LIFE('34), I have  to mention my favorite line in the movie....

It's when Bea is throwing a swanky party and Delilah is out on the terrace, and whistfully looks up at the gathering and smiling, says of the band, "Those boys play alright for WHITE BOYS."  :D

Sepiatone

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4 hours ago, TikiSoo said:

Uh, well my family is racially & culturally mixed. In no way would I assume anyone, no matter what "community" they feel they belong to, have the same outlook or experience.

For example just within the black members of my family (and yes, we say black) there are second generation Jamaicans, descendants of American slaves* and Liberian immigrants. (there is also a South African born white girl who actually chooses "African American" on applications)

Each person brings their own personality & perspective to racist situations- some are offended, some roll it off, some fight back. It has more to do with their parenting & individual personality than their skin color. I remember being appalled when told within their own family there was favoritism toward lighter skin color, so prejudice is everywhere, even if subconsciously.

No film will represent all black culture or experience, just like no Native American story represents all Native American experience, or Asian films, or films set in the southern US or New England. But obviously, there are some regional similarities and that becomes a stereotype.

Maybe what was meant was "real life situations" in contrast to "fantasy" or "comedy".

BTW, the Liberian's favorite movie is CRY FREEDOM.

*from 250 years ago, my Hungarian ancestors came over escaping WW2...so who's more "American"?

Well said;   note that since my step father lived in Liberia for 8 years (before he moved back to the USA and with me),   we would have a lot of Liberians over (as well as others from the Ivory Coast countries).   A few settled down in So Cal seeking citizenship.   They would sometimes bring their wife \ girlfriends who were mostly blacks from the Caribbean.    We had interesting discussions and a main one was that they didn't get along to well with 'true' African-Americans.  ('true' being individuals that were dependents of American slaves).     There were many reasons but mostly it was that they had much different cultural experiences.    

My step-brother was also from Liberia and came over when he was 6.   Of course he grew up with the So Cal black 'experience' (i.e. most white people would just assume he was born in Compton!),  but his relatives had very different experiences from those born and raised in the USA.    

I.e. they had as much in common as they had differences.  

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On 9/4/2018 at 10:52 PM, starryeyzze said:

TCM has a great lineup of African American movies playing this month, some, like Pinky, I’ve never seen before. After viewing Pinky, I felt it was bold for its time, a black woman goes up against the system and wins.

On one hand, the movie was trying to be progressive, but at the same time, the decision to cast Jeanne Crain, a white actress, seemed as timid as MGM doing the same thing with Show Boat.  I guess it was just too much to cast a black actress such as Lena Horne or Dorothy Dandridge to play Pink. 

I believe your opinion is the only one that really matters in this thread. I have roots from Europe. Except for being a bit Cherokee Indian, I am very white. I worry that some will find this offensive, creating a spotlight that makes a divide even larger. I am nervous to even write that statement.

Any movie I've ever seen with Sidney Poitier in it is a good film. I enjoy Guess Who's Coming To Dinner. Of course I love the cast. Some might say things have not really improved since 1967. The film is good for sweeping the subject matter out from under the rug, so to speak.

In a live album from The Panther Hall in Fort Worth, Texas, Charley Pride joked about people not knowing what he looked like, as they only had his phonograph record. Charley sings good. I can't say it matters to me what color his skin is.

As someone who actually enjoys music more than movies, it is pretty safe to say, the African American influence on music changed everything for the good. Chances are TCM and AAFCA are saying the same goes for movies. I like that.

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1 hour ago, Hepburn Fan said:

As someone who actually enjoys music more than movies, it is pretty safe to say, the African American influence on music changed everything for the good. 

No doubt that the African American influence on music changed American produced music for the good.  The ground breaking musicians \ Composers like Armstrong,  Ellington,  Parker,  Christian,,,  made jazz what it is today.   (as well as the influence in rock by Chuck Berry,  etc...). 

I have to check to see if Paris Blues is part of the TCM line-up.     Of course Poitier is excellent in the film (as is Diahann Carroll),  and I found the story line of an African American musician that has to go to Paris to escape racism compelling.    (even with the Carroll character being too optimistic as it relates to the civil rights movement going on back home).

 

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No doubt, four different movies, all very well acted. A Soldiers Story really hits home for me, my father served and was wounded in combat during  WWll. To fight for this country and almost lose your life, but to be separated and treated less than equal is a bitter pill to swallow. 

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Imitation of Life wants Peola to feel shame for trying to "pass" as white in an era where, distasteful and ludicrous as it must seem to modern black people (now we have white professors trying to pass as black! Times have changed) could actually have its advantages. I recently read a fascinating biography of George Herriman, the cartoonist and creator of Krazy Kat, who it's only been discovered long after his death, was black! He pretended his whole adult life to be Greek. I think not even his wife and children knew? There's no way he could have gotten the kind of high-paying job he had as a syndicate cartoonist if the truth of his race had been known, awful as that is to say.

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On 9/3/2018 at 3:00 PM, NipkowDisc said:

the only 2 decent films listed in my opinion are a raisin in the sun and claudine because the film sets African-americans in believable real life situations and it is a slight to black America that there were not more films like those.

 

To Kill a Mockingbird is not a decent film? I get the “white savior” problem with the film but for 1961 it was a bold work. Raisin in the Sun is amazing and I will put Claudine on my list as I don’t know if I have seen it. 

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I'm watching Mockingbird for the zillionth time right now. I would say it presents, unfortunately, a "believable real life situation" for what it was like to be black in Macon, Georgia in the early '30s.

Edit: Oh, I wanted to say this is the first film in the series I've watched, so this was my first exposure to the two young African-American film critics I must admit I've never heard of. As a middle-aged white man, I didn't honestly know what the reaction of black film viewers who appear to be under 40 would be to this film. I was struck by how impressed they were of the film just as a film. Race is almost not mentioned at all in the intro; rather they talked mostly about the acting performances of Gregory Peck and the children and about adapting the novel and about the score.Going to try to stay awake for the outro to see if they specifically address the racial themes of the movie.

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"I would say it presents, unfortunately, a "believable real life situation" for what it was like to be black in Macon, Georgia in the early '30s."

--------------

I have to wonder if in a real courtroom there would have been two chairs for those testifying based on their race (I thought the same thing with Pinky).

BLU

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