The Five Most Underrated Black Movies Of The Last 20 Years

Although I still maintain that Black movies can and should do better, I definitely don’t think all is lost with Black cinema. In fact, along with the quotable classics such as “Do The Right Thing,” “Coming to America” and “Love Jones,” there are quite a few (relatively) recent Black movies whose quality and “unforgettableness” has been overlooked to the point where you can justifiably call them underrated.

Here’s five of them.

(Also, before I continue, let me clarify what I mean by “underrated.” You won’t see movies like “Ghostdog” and “Fresh” on this list because, while not many people have seen them, most of the people who have actually seen them think pretty highly of them. The flicks I’m mentioning today have been seen by many, but just aren’t rated as high as they should be.)

“Drumline”

This movie had a very great chance at being shitty. In fact, I remember specifically not seeing this in the theater because I literally said “This movie will very likely be very shitty” when I first saw the trailer and realized that it was starring…Nick Cannon.

Now — and I will definitely devote an entire day to this topic at one point — is there another person in Black culture whose level of cultural (dis)respect is so vastly mismatched with his actual production? Seriously, Nick Cannon has been legitimately successful in everything he’s done, and has helped launch the careers of numerous actors and comedians, and has been with some of the most fantasized-about women in the world, but he still doesn’t get the type of love that his success should warrant. Seriously, Nick Cannon is the reason why this movie doesn’t get the props it should, which is crazy because he’s the main reason why it deserves props!

Anyway, I (obviously) finally got around to seeing it. And, aside from the fact that they cast a 49 year old actor as a college senior, everything about this movie works. The band scenes are cool. The story line is believable. Zoe Saldana and Nick Cannon had genuine chemistry. Shit, they even brought Jason Weaver back from wherever the hell Jason Weaver hangs out when he’s not making movies about drummers.

“Life”

This movie was extremely funny, had a great cast (Seriously, take a minute and go look at its IMDB page), and had a few signature/quotable scenes. (My favorite? The Boom Boom Room bit)

So, with all of this in place, why don’t people talk about it more? Three words: The ending sucked. Now, it wasn’t just the ending that sucked, but the fact that we knew Eddie and Martin were innocent and we still had to watch them stay in prison for 50 years. At first, the whole wrongly convicted thing was funny, but after about an hour or so you can’t help but wonder when the hell they’re going to get out of prison. It would have been a much better movie if they let them go to the major leagues with Bokeem Woodbine and followed their hijinks there.

“Undercover Brother”

Let’s just say that any movie where Dave Chappelle is only the 5th or 6th funniest person in it definitely deserves a shitload of love.

“Hoodlum”

Let’s forget for a minute that Vanessa Williams’ and Larry Fishburne’s romance took up waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much screen time and was about as compelling as a Mitt Romney mixtape. Let’s also forget that Andy Garcia definitely was definitely given a suitcase full of 20 dollar bills to be in this movie. In fact, let’s even forget about the fact that, to be quite honest, the movie wasn’t really that good.

What made “Hoodlum” memorable was the fact that the actors — Tim Roth and Chi McBride, specifically — clearly had fun with their characters, and this made the movie pretty enjoyable. You could even tell that Cicely Tyson probably hadn’t had that much fun since those crazy-ass loft parties Frederick Douglass used to throw.

“Deep Cover”

This movie is largely (and understandably) forgotten about because it was released in that 1989 to 1992 period where heavyweights such as “Do The Right Thing,” “Boyz in The Hood,” “X,” “New Jack City,” “Menace to Society,” “Juice,” and “Boomerang” were made. (Wow. Look at that lineup again. All released within a 30 month span)

Still, this movie is definitely entertaining, and so rewatchable that they decided to remake it 7 years later and call it “In Too Deep.”

Anyway, people of VSB, did I forget anything? Can you name any other underrated Black movies you’d add to the list?

—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!***

Six Possible Reasons Why Mary J. Blige Thought It Was A Good Idea To Sing About Burger King Chicken

As every trace of Mary J. Blige’s ill-conceived Burger King ad disappeared from the universe yesterday, I couldn’t help but think that the Burger King public relations people and lawyers had obviously never seen “8mm.” Why? Well, if they had seen it, they would have undoubtedly remembered Joaquin Phoenix’s infamous line…

“There are some things that you see, and you can’t unsee them. Know what I mean?’

…and, knowing that the image of The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul happily crooning about some crispy chicken wraps will be forever etched into the brains of whoever happened to see the commercial, they wouldn’t have even bothered removing it.

I, like millions of other red-bloodied and (slightly) bougie Americans, will never, ever, ever forget that sight.

Yet, while it’s easy to understand why Burger King would want Mary J to help promote their chicken, it’s not so easy to get why she’d agree to do it.

I (obviously) don’t know Mary J. Blige, and don’t pretend to be able to read her mind, but I did come up with six possible reasons why she thought this was a good idea.

1. The gas is too damn high 

Shit, the four dollars a gallon is killing my pockets right now, and I only have one car and only fill it up with the cheapest, Fisher-Price ass gas I can find. I can’t imagine what it must cost to fill up Bugattis, Maybachs, and private helicopters and shit everyday, so perhaps the cash she got for signing off on this ad went straight into her tanks.

2. They gave her a “Godfather” offer

Every now and then, I play a game with my parents where we ask each other how much money it would take for one of us to do a ridiculous task. (Example: “For $100,000 cash, would you walk butt naked on the parkway for two miles?”) If the answer is no, you keep going up in cash (“$200,000? No? Ok, how about $500,000 cash, right now?“) until the person finally says yes.

Perhaps Mary J. received a call one night from some BK exec on the other line asking “Ok, will give you $750,000 in one dollar bills to sing a crazy song about our “chicken” for 45 seconds,” and perhaps she just kept saying no until she heard an offer she couldn’t refuse

 “Ok. We’ll give you five million dollars in quarters, a free camel, and we’ll convince our government friends to allow you to kill one person of your choice within the next 18 months. Deal?”

3. K-Ci is on that shit again

Although they’re no longer together, I’m sure Mary J. still has a soft spot for her troubled ex.   Maybe K-Ci is off the wagon again (or is it “on the wagon?” I always get them confused), and she knows that the only way to calm him down when he gets all cracky is to give him an unlimited supply of Whoppers and crispy chicken wraps. What better way to do that than signing a deal with Burger King?

4. She just really, really, really likes Burger King chicken wraps

Out of all of my theories, this one makes the most sense. Why? Two reasons

A) Companies such as Apple and Nike are so loved by their loyal fans that many of the fans, even celebrities, would promote their products for free. Perhaps Burger King inspires that type of loyalty from Mary J. I mean, she is Black and hood and has cried so many tears in her songs that we know she’s not a stranger to comfort food, so it’s not too far-fetched.

B) True story, out of all the non-chicken centric fast food places that have meats they call “chicken” on their menus, Burger King’s meat they call “chicken” actually tastes the best. Burger King’s meat they call “chicken” completely shits on both Mcdonald’s and Wendy’s meat they call “chicken.” It’s not even close. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

5. She’s f*cking the Burger King

With his bling, his Ross-esque beard, his giant head, and his impeccable sense of style, what woman wouldn’t want one night with the Pink Meat Maven?

6. Rick Santorum slipped her the same batch of evil chicken that Billy Dee Williams was given in “Undercover Brother” so that she’d convince Black America to eat it in bulk, resulting in us turning on Obama, cutting off our facial hair, and allowing George Zimmerman political exile in Liberia. 

Hey, stranger things have happened. 

Despite of all this, there remains the possibility that this commercial was intentionally campy. Burger King’s spots are usually a bit offbeat and winking, and this would be no different. If it was, though, then why the quick removal (and why the “clearance issues” bullshit excuse for the quick removal?) Who knows?

I do know, though, that since I’ve started writing this, I’ve developed a craving for a crispy chicken wrap. Maybe we weren’t able to stop Santorum and his fry cook minions in time. Drats!

Anyway, people of VSB.com, did you see the infamous ad before it was erased forever? What did you think about it? Also, do you have any other theories as to why Mary J. signed off on that deal?

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

stereotypical

flashback to last week as the champ enters au bon pain to order his usual sandwich:

***btw, the champ never switches sandwiches, because n*ggas with degrees and multiple tattoos never switch sandwiches. we find a sandwich we like, and we stick with it. forever. he’s never had anything at the cheescake factory other than the shrimp and bacon club, and he only eats big macs at mickey d’s. this builds character***

i’d like a chipped ham on a croissant with lettuce, tomato, onions, and mayo

the au bon pain hoochie behind the counter squints and sneers her nose at me a bit while asking me to repeat the order…

i’d like a chipped ham on a croissant with lettuce, tomato, onions, and mayo

(she replies) “mayo?”

“yes muthaf*cka, mayo!!! i reply loudlyin my head.

because this is beginning to turn into a laurel and hardy routine, i finally ask her…

“yeah, mayo. whats wrong with mayo???”

“you’re the first black man thats ever been in here that asked for mayo on his sandwich. i asked because i couldn’t believe what i was hearing”

“i aint your average black man, wrench. now go make my f*cking sandwich” i reply in my head again.

“i cant explain it. i just like mayo, i guess”

…i finally respond with a unsurprisingly vacant amount of bass in my voice.

when they called my name to pick up my order, i buttoned my coat up, lowered my kangol, and approached the counter refusing to make eye contact with anybody, like i was about to pick up a snuff film.

although this incident took place in less than three minutes, it brought up a more serious issue…something that has been bothering me for almost a decade now…

…who decided that black people aren’t supposed to like mayonnaise?

from overpriced deli’s in depressed mid-atlantic cities, to the wildly underrated undercover brother, mayonnaise is seen as the bane of all black existence, and i need to know why.

in my confusion, i’ve come up with a couple theories to possibly explain our disdain for it.

1. black men are very intimate when it comes to our deli meats, and having a white spread in there makes us think about gentrification and billy bob thornton

2. we disdain mayo because it looks too much like spunk, and nobody wants to be thinking about man spunk when theyre eating a deli sandwich… especially not on thursdays

anyway, this incident made me think about the concept of stereotypes–the stuff your demographic info is supposed to indicate about you and your likes, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses. this idea permeates everything from the music you’re probably supposed to listen to, to the smooth, off-white condiments you’re supposed to eat.

in keeping with yesterdays tone of post-racial multicultural coitus, i’m sure you’re all aware of the racial, sexual, and cultural stereotypes assumed of you…but what about you completely bucks the trend?

the rhythm-less blacks, the big-booty asian, the 20-something conservative, the virginal latina, this is your time to shine. what are your mayo stories?

—the champ