Monday, October 25, 2010

Review of Tyler Perry's
'For Colored Girls'

Oct. 25, 2010 - New York, New York, U.S. - Actresses KERRY WASHINGTON and THANDIE NEWTON attend the New York premiere of 'For Colored Girls' held at the Ziegfeld Theater. © Red Carpet Pictures

Tyler Perry may have a lot to prove with his upcoming film “For Colored Girls." Perry is known for his black romantic comedies and critics doubt the filmmaker's writing skills are sharp enough for such a poignant drama. The film is an adaptation of Ntozake Shange's award-winning Broadway play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf. The powerful work is a collection of, what Shange calls “choreopoems,” about the complexities of black female identity and our struggles. The play debuted in 1974 but her message about black girls blues still resonates today: abuse, infidelity, poverty, sexism, defining our sexuality, fighting for respect. The list goes on. I hoped Perry would successfully take on such a challenging project because of his passion for addressing some of black women's woes. As a black woman who loves movies, I've been thirsting for a good drama starring black actresses for a while. I mean real good like "The Women of Brewster Place" or "Soul Food." Perry chose a stellar cast--Whoopi Goldberg, Janet Jackson, Anika Noni Rose, Phylicia Rashad, Kimberly Elise, Loretta Devine, Thandie Newton, Kerry Washington and Tessa Thompson. His rendition takes place in a modern-day urban America. The acting is solid. Unfortunately, much of the script is not.

The first half of the film tries to connect all of the women through nine storylines. But watching their lives link feels choppy at times as it jumps scene to scene. However it comes together more seamlessly by the second half. Another problem is how Perry incorporates poems from Shange's original work into the script. Kerry Washington plays Kelly, a social worker married to Hill Harper's character Donald. In one scene Kelly explains to Donald she's infertile because of an STD she contracted years ago. She goes into a poem about a lover who cheated on her with one of her college friends: "Three of us like a pyramid. Three friends one laugh, one music, one flowered shawl knotted on each neck..." I read the play prior to watching the film and know this poem. But in this scene the poem doesn’t fit and may confuse some in the audience, especially those unfamiliar with the play. Another instance where prose comes off awkward occurs when Rashad's character Gilda babysits Crystal's (Kimberly Elise) children. Crystal and her husband get into a violent argument next door. Gilda tries to distract the kids and performs a few stanzas about her love for Hatian Revolution leader Toussaint L'Ouverture. It's difficult to pay attention to Gilda while Crystal is screaming and getting pummeled by her alcoholic husband.


The recurrence of dated language is another drawback to the film. The word “colored" appears a few times in the dialogue when actresses perform poetry. Shange wrote the play back in the ‘70s. The film is set in the present and black people don't use the word "colored" anymore. Watching a character type on a laptop then hearing someone describe themselves as a "colored woman" a few scenes later doesn't feel realistic.


"For Colored Girls" isn't all bad. The acting is strong and will not disappoint. Kimberly Elise stirs you as always. Loretta Devine is funny and vivid. Thandie Newton delivers as a troubled, selfish sex addict. She and Whoopi were matched perfectly as a mother and daughter with serious tensions. Singer Macy Gray's eerie portrayal of a back-alley abortionist will make you rethink ever having unsafe sex. It was a hauntingly-good scene and well directed. I felt the nervousness and vulnerability of her pregnant patient. Also, there are instances where Perry effectively integrates Shange’s poems into the script. Yasmin's (Anika Noni Rose) crime report to the police officer, in prose, is almost placid yet intense. Goldberg's and Newton's characters go into a poetic exchange filled with a lot passion and pain. And I enjoyed Devine’s colorful performance about a man almost running off with her "stuff" or her love and self.


"For Colored Girls" is not my favorite Tyler Perry film, but I recommend you see for yourself. Make sure to read the play first. It will help you gain a better understanding of the film. Although I hoped for something better, it was refreshing to watch an ensemble of talented black actresses in non-demeaning roles. Some of the best actresses in the industry are part of the cast. Notice I said not the best black actresses, but the best in general. I appreciate Perry for his effort because I imagine he wanted black women to feel empowered after watching the film. A few scenes moved me. Still, I left the theater feeling a little down because dramas starring black women are rare. A television or movie drama starring a black female cast is about as common as the Texas Rangers going to the World Series. Perry will probably do well at the box office because of the buzz surrounding "For Colored Girls" and his fan following. Hopefully, Hollywood execs will take note and this will be the start of more dramas starring black actresses to come. Hopefully.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Interview with Sesame Street Writer Who Wrote 'I Love My Hair' Song

There's my Muppet girl to the left. Love her!  I called 'I Love My Hair' a song in the title of this blog post, but I've been singing it like an athem. Yesterday I interviewed Joey Mazzarino, the head writer of Sesame Street for the Huffington Post.  He wrote the song to help make his daughter love her curls. It's a touching interview and goes more into depth then some of the stories you may have seen. You never know what impact your actions or work or creativity may have.  Read my interview "Sesame Street Writer Pens "I Love My Hair" Song to Empower Daughter."  And PLEASE share the article with others on Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, your blog, etc. I love my hair, I love my hair, la, la, la, la.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Questions About Moms Making Time for Sex When The Kids and Babies Are Around

Overhead view of couple and baby son sleeping in bed together
 A reader and mom of an infant recently told me sex after having baby is a myth. With that, I assume the father in this picture is dreaming of sex and the mother is dreaming of more sleep. I don't have any little cocoas flying around here yet. But I remember working in elementary schools as a TA years ago and KIDS ARE WORK. They're fun and cute but they are a lot of work. How do you moms do it?!  Speaking of "doing it," I hear some of you moms out there are having a hard time working sex back into your life. And I hear some of the dads are having a hard time getting you to bring the sex back.  On Tuesday Oct. 26, I'm heading to adult store Good Vibrations in Berkeley. They're holding a FREE event called Mommy's Playdate to help moms get their groove back. I'll be speaking with with the company's sexologist Dr. Carol Queen. If you or your partner have questions you'd like me to ask Dr. Queen related to balancing kids and a healthy sex life, leave it in the comments section below. Feel free to be anonymous. My LGBT family are also welcome to ask questions too. Thanks to those readers who already submitted questions to me via email and on Facebook!

UPDATE! READ ABOUT MY TIME AT MOMMY'S DATE AND DR. CAROL QUEEN ANSWERS YOUR SEX QUESTIONS HERE

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sesame Street 'I Love My Hair' Video Touches The Little Girl In Me



Don't need a trip to the beauty shop because I love what I got on top.

Maybe I'm too old to be singing Sesame Street tunes around the house, but this one touched my heart. Who would've thought a little brown muppet with an afro could send such a powerful message. Black women all over the internet are buzzing about this Sesame Street video, "I Love My Hair."  I cried the first time I saw it. For centuries black girls have been told our kinky, tight curls are unattractive and not good enough. We've spent countless hours, money pressing, flat ironing, weaving, relaxing our hair. Don't get me started on scalps fried from relaxers and burned ears when the hot comb got too close.  But here comes this video from Sesame Street encouraging black girls to love their kinks and coils. I thought it was so funny how, like many sistas,  the muppet changed her hairstyle a few times in the video.  She went from an afro to a press and curl to braids then locs. LOL!  But that's one of the great things about having black hair--versatility. Hey, I've been known to switch up my style a few times.

I will never, ever, EVA forget a particular moment when I covered an interracial dating seminar for black women in Los Angeles. The issue of hair came up and the men on the panel, all non-black, said they didn't care if the black women they dated rocked natural hair. Girrrl, sistas mouths dropped to the floor. One guy said he didn't care if his lady was bald. I could read the women's minds in the audience. All of the money they spent over the years on $300 weaves and $60 touch ups. But these guys are happy if they're women are nappy. That's not to say there aren't brothas who like natural hair too. But it goes to show, we've been going too long not loving what we got on top.

I've been playing with natural styles too, like twists and roller sets. I have a style I named "The Poof," where I put in an extra volume leave-conditioner after washing my hair. Then I press it lightly. My hair swells up like a mushroom and I don't care. It's poofy and nappy and I love it.  Men, of ALL races, have given me more attention with "The Poof" then when I was swinging the straight and silky.

Kudos to Sesame Street. If you have a black daughter, niece, sister, mentee, etc please share this video with her. We have to plant the seeds of positive self-image in our girls early. I read comment on youtube from women of other ethnicities with similar texture hair to the muppet. They said the video moved them as well. Spread the word.  I LOVE MY HAIR!!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Terry McMillan On Love, Forgiveness and 'Getting to Happy'

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 20:  Author Terri McMillan   attends the BET Inauguration Ball on January 20, 2009 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images)
Call it a book signing and reading, but a recent event featuring Terry McMillan felt more like a girlfriends get together. Hundreds of women, and a few men, filed into Berkley's Black Repertory Theater earlier this month, with books in hand, eager to have their copy of McMillan's latest novel "Getting to Happy" signed. Fans were ready to hear McMillan talk about love, life and of course her high-profile divorce.  Marcus Books hosted the reading in the packed theater where some guests had to sit on stage. The bestselling author and Bay Area resident was winding down her tour to promote the sequel to the 1992 groundbreaking tale  "Waiting to Exhale." The novel, which also became a blockbuster film,  follows four black female friends in their 30's as they go through their ups and downs in love.  Many black women at that time, felt the book reflected the obstacles black women experience in finding "the one."  "In Getting to Happy" the ladies are in their 50's, but life isn't fabulous. Bernadine is battling a prescription drug addiction. Robin finds her job and life boring, but is still holding out for Mr. Right. Gloria, well without giving away too much, things just aren't good. And the passion in Savannah's marriage is evaporating.

'What I do know is I'm tired of feeling navy blue when I have a right to feel lemon yellow,' McMillan, sporting a fiery, red afro, read from Savannah's chapter. McMillan, 58,  said she wrote the sequel with middle-aged women in mind to "inspire women who have almost become emotionally dead...and have not given themselves more freedom to enjoy the rest of their lives."  She also wanted readers to know that once you hit your 50's, "it's not all downhill from here."

Author Terry McMillan reading to excited fans at the Black Repertory Theater
 McMillan's struggles with her own journey to happiness began several years ago after learning her husband, Jonathan Plummer was gay. In 2005 the marriage ended in messy divorce, leaving McMillan angry and hurt.
"I had become someone I didn't even know, " she shared with the audience.  When asked how she was able to move on from the past she replied, "If you're being robbed and raped of the beauty of the present, let it go."

According to McMillan, 20th Century Fox bought the movie rights to "Getting to Happy." Three of  the original leading actresses from "Waiting to Exhale" are confirmed to reprise their roles--Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine and Lela Rochon. There's no word yet if Whitney Houston will return.

McMillan's route to happiness is taking her away from the Bay Area.  The Contra Costa Times reports the author plans to move out of her suburban home in Danville and relocate to more lively cities like Los Angeles and New York. As for love, McMillan told the Berkeley audience she has dated since the divorce and is open to marriage.

"Men should be more like a semicolon and not a period. Although I'm looking for an exclamation point."


*Article also available on CityFlight.com*

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fly Lady of the Day
Maragaret Cho

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Dancers Louis Van Amstel (L) and Margaret Cho attend the premiere of 'Dancing With The Stars' at CBS Television City on September 20, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Comedian and now dancer Margaret Cho was one of my favorite celebs working it on  Dancing with the Stars. I loved her dance in tribute to the gay community and gay teens who have taken their lives. The rainbow shimmy dress she wore for the routine was so cute and flirty.   But, America voted her off too soon tonight. I was sorry to see her go. So sorry that I teared up with her at the end. But they were also tears of joy because  Cho made her dancing dreams come true. She had insecurities about dancing. Growing up Cho got the "fat girl" taunts and teases in school. She thought her body was too big for dance. But she finally turned off those negative tapes, turned up the music and glided across the floor. And she was great!  Cho blogged a few weeks ago:

I want to do this for myself, the little girl in me who wants to be a beautiful princess – who wants to be seen and heard and loved and praised. I want to do this for all the girls who have been told they are not perfect – who have been told they are ugly and fat – who know deep inside that they are not those things… it’s so hard to face your own insecurity and doubts and fears. I really feel like I am doing that.
I love when a woman embraces her body, takes on her fears and dances to her own tune. Despite the naysayers, haters and her own doubts Cho gathered the courage to pursue her dream. Now that's a fly lady.

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