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Five Ways Black Movies Can Do Better

Um, yeah.

“…while there have been quite a few entertaining Black movies produced in the last decade or so, the only ones that would be categorized as “very good” or “great” in the same way a “Boyz n the Hood” or a even a “Devil in a Blue Dress” would be are films like “Precious” that deal with subjects so unrelentingly heavy and depressing that moviegoers should watch them with buckets of hot buttered Zoloft instead of popcorn.”

This quote is from “Three Ways That Black Movies Can Do Better,” an article published at Ebony.com yesterday that discusses how the best term to describe the Black movies made in the last decade or so is “instantly forgettable,” and lists some things that can be done to reverse this trend.

And, while I think the three things I listed (1. Bring The Sexy Back, 2. Chill With All The Church Scenes, and 3. Hire Angela Nissel) represent a good, safe start, my word count limit and the fact that, for obvious reasons, I can’t be as, um, “colorful” as I want to be when writing there limited what I was able to say…and how I was able to say it.

Today, here’s the rest of what I would have said yesterday if I wasn’t strong-armed by the Team Ebony Drop Squad.¹

4. Chill With The Got Damn Positive F*cking Messages All The Damn Time

Two of the three best Black movies I’ve seen in the last decade² both had cameos from numerous porn stars and strippers, both revolved around pimps who did some truly effed up things during the course of the movie, both dealt with a seedy urban underworld, and both featured dozens of hilariously misogynistic, racist, and homophobic jokes. And while “Black Dynamite” and “Hustle & Flow” were entirely different types of movies, part of what made them as entertaining as they were was the fact that they reveled in and had fun with some very “unpositive” subject matter. Yet, despite the fact that they were both good movies that featured numerous working Black people, neither got anywhere near the guilt-trip marketing push that “positive” or “important” movies like “Red Tails” usually receive.

I understand why Black filmmakers may feel burdened to always have some type of positive message in their movies. Generally speaking, we (Black film goers) are some thin-skinned motherf*ckers who will think nothing of creating a petition to protest anything less than an onscreen depiction of a “Black life” that never actually existed.

Still, despite the inevitable push back from the Black Blog Tea Party, I think there’s enough of us who don’t necessarily need to have positive and/or message-laden shit pushed down our throats to have a good time at the movies, and I think we’re ready for some Black filmmakers to start having some more quality and ratchet fun.

5. More Nicole Beharie

I don’t believe in the Illuminati, but I do believe that there’s a secret Black society led by Steadman Graham (Why Steadman? Because he doesn’t have shit else do to.) that forces each burgeoning Black producer or director to cast either Paula Patton, Taraji P. Henson, or Meagan Good in their movies. I know it seems far-fetched, but it has to be the only reason why one of those three chicks has been in every single Black movie made in the past eight years.

I know secret societies love them some fresh blood to hold their ceremonies with, so why not cast Beharie in one of those roles? She’s hot, she’s talented, she’s wicked smart, and, wait…did I mention how hot she is?

Anyway people of VSB.com, what do you think needs to happen to make Black movies less damn forgettable? What additions or subtractions would you make if you were Black Movie Czar for a day?

¹Just to be clear, I realize there are a ton of indie Black films that would definitely qualify as quality and entertaining. Today though, I’m more focused on major motion pictures. 
²The third movie? “Akeelah and the Bee”

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

***For all the folks in the DC area, this Saturday, April 7, from 930pm-3am at Liv Nightclub (11th and U Street, NW) is another edition of #REMINISCE, the party dedicated to all 90s everything brought to you by VSB, Shine On Me, and Just Cause Events. It’s FREE BEFORE 11 w/RSVP (reminiscedc.eventbrite.com), a Courvoisier sponosred open bar from 930-1030pm, and no dress code! It’s cheaper to come out and party. Last month’s party was OFF THE HINGES! Somebody shook my hand when they left and just said, “Thanks P, for throwing this party…” <—- not lying. So come and make it do what it do this Saturday at Reminisce!***

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Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a contributing editor for EBONY.com. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5FR1LGsT7E TheAnti-Cool

    4. Chill With The Got Damn Positive F*cking Messages All The Damn Time

    THIS. This is why I haven’t seen a “black” movie for a while. Real life is depressing. I don’t need to be emotionally crushed and/or preached down to by a movie.

    I LOVED Black Dynamite, btw. That’s what I want to see more of in the theater. Not Precious for Colored Girls.

  • http://www.greenafrodiva.com Green Afro Diva

    Use more foul language and talk/do more sex. It doesnt make sense to do a romantic comedy or drama and not delve into sex. Or how we really talk about relationships. Because theen we end up with watered down versions of hes not that into you(think like a man) where a movie like that should be rated R. I agree with you. Its why there will never be a black hangover or bridesmaids because we will either depend on played out stereotypes or we are just too hypersensitive. I say, Bring On the Ratchetry!!!

  • AfroPetite

    1. More dry humor & less slapstick. I hate that writers of films aimed at black audiences assume that we will miss a joke unless it’s in bold red print with blinking LED lights surrounding it. I appreciate the comedy in “The Office”, “Modern Family”, “The Community”, etc.

    2. Less “I-was-born-in-the-backseat-of-a-Honda-and-made-it-out-the-hood-by-the-grace-of-God-and-my-talents-as-a-stripper/athlete/rapper” films. We get it, some black people are just far too destitute and unintelligent to become anything more than shucking and jiving puppets for the masses. Next.

    3. I’d love to see more black horror/thriller films. The last one I recall is the one with Marquis Houston and B2K…..and that’s a stretch to call it “horror” -________-

  • https://twitter.com/#!/fiveisthenumber fiveisthenumber

    I wish the rumor about Martin Lawrence and Will Smith doing an Uptown Saturday Night Redux would become a reality.

  • kaname

    I dunno Champ about your #4 – I think the tv landscape is so saturated with non-positive messages (mostly “reality” shows) that it just bleeds all over the viewership landscape; movies may be the last bastion of positivity out there that people seem to support. But anyhoo, if we’re looking at movies, I’d love to see a black James Bond/Jason Bourne style franchise.

  • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

    There have actually been quite a few good “Black films” made in the last decade. One of my favorites was “Medicine For Melancholy”. It starred Tracey Heggins and Wyatt Cenac. The film didn’t get much press and it was very hard to find in theaters, which was a shame. There was also “Attack The Block”, “I Will Follow”, “Pariah”, “Money Matters”, “Bullet Boy”, “Shottas” and “Our Song”, just to name a few.

    If you are waiting for Hollywood to make good Black films then you’re going to keep getting Black dysfunction films like “Precious”. Or you can go off the beaten path and check out Black indie films. And if you do you will find a lot of great films that go under the mainstream media radar.

    Btw, I HATED Precious.

  • King

    As a former black film student the biggest thing that needs to happen is for TP to stop spoon feeding his audience a story. Regardless of race a good movie allows the audience to make inferences. The story guides, not explicitly tells. We’re smart… Let us make some judgement calls.

    And stop with all the damn church scenes.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/mackaroto Jay

    who…Who… WHO is the woman in the picture!?!? I want answers! Now, on to read the post which probably would have answered my question had I actually read first.

  • That Ugly Kid

    I can’t co-sign on #4 enough. It’s super annoying how everytime a predominantly “black” movie comes out, SOMEONE has to get offended. I personally, thoroughly enjoyed For Colored Girls. However there were an abundance of black men who got offended because they felt that black men were being portrayed in a negative light.

    It happens everytime. Black people could care less what the movie is actually about, as long as they are represented in a exaggeratedly positive manner, no matter how unrealistic it is within the movie’s setting and plot. All black women want to be portrayed as einstein-intelligent, strong, independant, witty, calm demeanored, and flawlessly beautiful beings despite the fact that such a woman, to my knowledge, doesn’t exist. Not to mention such perfection would be more blatantly out of place than LL Cool J at the Academy Country Awards in a movie setting similiar to say, The Wire. Black men also suffer from this annoying habit as well, though we aren’t as vocal as our female counterparts.

  • Royale W. Cheese

    Vincent: And you know what they call a… a… a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?
    Jules: They don’t call it a Quarter Pounder with cheese?
    Vincent: No man, they got the metric system. They wouldn’t know what the f*ck a Quarter Pounder is.
    Jules: Then what do they call it?
    Vincent: They call it a Royale with cheese.
    ~ Some deep film that you depraved people probably have not seen

    Greetings VSB community, Champ.

    :)

    “I don’t believe in the Illuminati, but I do believe that there’s a secret Black society led by Steadman Graham (Why Steadman? Because he doesn’t have shit else do to.) that forces each burgeoning Black producer or director to cast Paula Patton, Taraji P. Henson, or Meagan Good in their movies. I know it seems far-fetched, but it has to be the only reason why one of those three chicks has been in every single Black movie made in the past eight years.”

    This part made me think of that scene in Mulholland Drive where the Cowboy tells the hapless director “when you see her picture, you will say, ‘this is the girl’.”

    Oh yes, on to the question posed originally, how to make black movies better.

    Stop trying to make black movies and just make good movies, inspired movies, movies that speak from the heart. If they happen to be black, because they spring from a black person’s life long experiences, then so be it. But when one sets out to intentionally make a black movie, one creates a charicature just as bad as the stereotypes generated in some white-directed movies.

    No need to thank me, but in case you have already, you’re welcome.

    ~R

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