Promised Land

Matt Damon re-teams with the director of Good Will Hunting.

River of No Return

Marilyn Monroe explores the Wild West.

Satellite Boy

Pete lives with his grandfather in an old abandoned outdoor cinema.

Wuthering Heights

Forbidden love in the United Kingdom.

Cafe de Flore

Vanessa Paradis in an emotional French tale.

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The Emergence of the Black Millenial Female Narrative

For the first time ever there is an inkling of the rise of millennial black women in media. It’s our time ladies! We strike at dawn.

Black women in leading roles steadily increase in the realm of television and film; though these roles tend to go to actresses in there late thirties and early forties. 2016 has brought a refreshing presentation of younger actresses in significant roles.

80’s babies and 90’s kids really are vocal about their coming of age. These individuals are now writing and producing content that centers them and their childhoods. Recently, I was working on an article about popular middle names of Black women in my age group. Therein, I wanted to highlight each name with a celebrity example. The whole project made me realize that there were so few millennial black actresses who achieved mainstream success and I was deeply saddened. Where are the girls who used to write B2k fanfiction in their notebooks before they knew what fanfiction was? Or the girls who used to make mix CDs with Amanda Perez and Chingy songs on them? Women who remember twerking at gym dances huddled in a corner because it was forbidden and not yet mainstream, where are you? 

Television's offerings this year seem to bring the revival of black television after years of slim pickings. I know we’re not suppose to say things like "black movies" or "black television" but Black best expresses the non-stereotypical roles and the fluidity of the black experience in this case. Leading the way are: Atlanta, Insecure, The Get Down, Pitch, Queen Sugar and Underground.

Some how, some way, Baz Lurman brought his 1970's period drama The Get Down to Netflix. New York's music scene is the star and setting of the show. Newcomer Herizen Gaurdiola stars as female lead to Justice Smith's Ezkiel. As Mylene, Guardiola illuminates the screen with grace and palatable energy. In reality, Herizen is natural hair goals and as zen a her name. Her father derived her name from the words Her and Zen.

Herizen Guardiola as Mylene in Baz Lurman's The Get Down

Herizen Gaurdiola

Donald Glover is the quintessential  multi-hyphenate. The actor-rapper-comedian-screenwriter has added showrunner to his impressive resume. In his first starring role on television, he introduces us to Zazie Beetz, a New Yorker and professional actress.Up until now Beetz  has lent her talents to indie films and theater. Now she plays the co-lead of Vanessa in a comedy with some very dramatic moments. Vanessa's character isn't fully fleshed out currently. But from her natural hair, zany style and exchanges with Earn, the viewer can get a sense of her soulful free-spirit as well as her no-nonsense attitude. Though her development is vague, I  presume she might be a teacher but WE GET IT, the show is about the  millennial male experience. That doesn't stop me from admiring a character that mirrors me in personality and style. More leading roles for Zazie, please.

Zazie Beetz at the New York screening of FX's Atlanta.

Every time I see an article about Issa Rae it centers on how she mounted her career from a web series a few years ago. Now, Rae has just as many hyphens as Donald Glover and shows no signs of stopping. Issa is an author/producer/director/screenwriter/actress/singer . Her first television show will air on cable premium channel HBO and is the network's first series starring a Black woman! Co-stars include many of the creator's friends including: Yvonne Orji, Sujata Day, and Amanda Seales. The Game star, Jay Ellis, stars as her boyfriend. Unlike Atlanta, this show is totally about the millennial woman experience. It's amazing to finally have both stories on television.

Issa Rae in a still of her forthcoming HBO series "Insecure".
After six years of acting Kylie Bunbury has landed the headlining role of Ginny Baker in Fox's Pitch.  The stunning 27 year old seems more than ready to take the lead.  Pitch follows the first woman to play major league baseball. In the words of Joanne the Scammer, "Iconic."
Kylie Bunbury in an promotion for her new series Pitch.

 At this year The Television Critic Awards, Jurnee Smollet-Bell spoke on a panel and lamented about the trials of a young actress. "I could make a lot of money & have a resume 50 pages long if I took only "the girlfriend." She says. Sad but true. How many recent movies can you name with an African-American female lead? Young black women seem to be typecast as girlfriends to
athletic boyfriends or a white best friend's sidekick.

 Smollet-Bell's current role of an escaped slave break all molds of what roles millennial black women traditionally endure. She stars on WGN's Underground. Rosalee is a dreamer who breaks free of bondage and finds true herself along the way. Romance is a key theme in the record-setting drama but the love between Aldis Hodge's Noah and Rosalee is not one-sided or male-centered. They are very much co-leads in this series. Jurnee's journey to a satisfying role is a win for every girl who came of age in the 90's, those of us who  grew up with her being some of the only characters that resembled us. Waiting for the right roles has paid off for her and I know her star will only rise higher.

 Jurnee Smollet-Bell as Underground's heroine Rosalee
Though we are only in the fledgling stage of our rise it can only grow from here. Here's to black women being more that girlfriends or black best friends! One day soon we will have a series about women that resembles us like Girlfriends, Half and Half and Living Single did for Generation X.  My hopes are that representations coming defy the status quo of colorism and straight cisgender narratives as they stand in media. We will see! My favorite part of watching my contemporaries rise is taking note of the uniqueness of their names, there isn't an Anglo-Saxon name in the bunch. This is definitely a sign of the times. 

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Gugu Mbatha-Raw Returns to Romantic Role in Netflix's Easy

Anthology series Easy premieres on Netflix September 22. Joe Swanberg's first serial project chronicles citizens of Chicago in and out of love. The most exciting feature about the show is that Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars as apart of an ensemble cast. Mbatha-Raw's last project was this year's Free State of Jones and this series is  drastically different from her role as slave Rachel. The starlet hasn't starred in a romance since 2014's Beyond the Lights.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw

This romantic comedy, that acts as stand alone yet intertwined "films", finds Gugu's character paired with quirky- indie-romcom heartthrob Jake Johnson. Johnson previously starred in Swanberg's Drinking Buddies. We can only pray the creator and director delivers similar magic with an independent feel, great chemistry between actors and compelling narratives that don't seem to complete themselves. Up and coming actresses Kiersey Clemmons (Dope)  and Zazie Beetz (Atlanta) also star.
Zazie Beetz and Dave Franco in a still from Easy.

Kiersey Clemmons and Jacqueline Toboni in a still from Easy. 

Easy will surely give us some depictions of black love but to what extent is still to be determined. Tell us if you will be binging tomorrow or saving it for a rainy day in the comments.

Here is the trailer. Gugu only appears for a brief moment but she is adorable nonetheless.

I will be live-tweeting Easy tomorrow. Follow me on twitter @unicorninkk to get my spoiler free commentary with the hashtags #Reelartsy #Easy .

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For the Black Anglophile

Are you a part of the non-European African Diaspora? Do you also enjoy foreign media? So perhaps you are a Whovian or belong to Griffyndor! No, you are not ‘acting white’ - you just have eclectic taste. Your preferences don’t always assimilate to the offerings of your own nation. That’s okay. For those who enjoy the dry humor of the British and those accents that are wide-ranging and colorful, there are options! If you like to consume media that stars or prominently features other Black people without an array of stereotypes hurled at you, you may have noticed that Britain has an inclusion and diversity problem as large as the one plaguing the entertainment industry in the United States. It is hard but not hopeless to find something just for you. I have compiled a list of TV shows and films recommended for the Black Anglophile.

The Newbie
I recently discovered the series Not Safe for Work whilst reading an article. I soon found myself spending too much time trying to figure out how to change my IP address so I could watch the series on the Channel 4 website. Once I found a site, I binged-watched all six episodes of the workplace comedy/drama. Zawe Ashton stars as Katherine, a very put together bureaucrat whose life never got the notice. Her world is crumbling as she is demoted to a facility that is doing the same. Her coworkers also have demons that they deal with in perfect comedic timing and with equal parts angst. It is written by a white man but stars a Black woman: so it makes the list!

The Darling
Have you ever watched a British show with a Black lead? Who was a woman? And she was of darker hue? And there was another lead actor of Color, that also had dark skin? No? Some Girls aired on BBC3 nearly four years ago to much acclaim. Viva (Adelayo Adeyayo) is a straight-laced schoolgirl living on an estate with her father, brother and her soccer coach who doubles as her father’s live-in girlfriend. She has an amazing group of friends: Amber, Holli, and Saz. They are coarse, frank and everything good in this world. Watch Some Girls if you love friendship and girl power. The show has three series and its current status is unknown. 

The Standout
Sometimes the most unexpected thing can be exactly what you are looking for. Ackee and Saltfish is something that is inventive and completely necessary in today’s climate. Black girls seem to be low on everyone’s list and pigeonholed into certain stereotypes : - sassy, ghetto, angry and uncultured. Cecile Emeke must have not gotten the industry’s memo. She wrote and directed a short film and webseries both titled Ackee and Saltfish. Her work centers on two dynamic Black characters that defy stereotypes at every turn. Olivia and Rachel are young women experiencing life in England and engaging in some pretty philosophical debates. It is lighthearted and fun, another testament to youth and friendship.  Star Vanessa Babirye recently alluded to a second season approaching on her Twitter 

The Oldie But Goodie
Ruth Negga is the greatest thing that ever came out of Ireland. She is a talented actress of both television and stage and she stars in the first two seasons of Love/Hate. As the only person of color on this gritty Irish series, her performance and storyline are so striking that you can’t pass it over. Negga’s Rosie is the lost love of main character Darren. It is hard to believe such a great love story could develop in such a violent show. Check out this scene of the star-crossed lovers.

The Instant Classic
Beyond the Lights
I can find a way to work my favorite movie into any conversation. Beyond the Lights stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a mixed raced girl who emigrates from London to America to pursue fame. She is on the cusp of success when her mental state diminishes due to dehumanizing situations and soulless pursuits. Filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood tells an immigrant story, love story, and a journey to wellness story seamlessly. Now streaming on Netflix, iTunes and GooglePlay.

The Hidden Gem
This is a male-centered short film produced by actor Aml Ameen. It is housed on YouTube and depicts a night in the life of a likeable fellow who just wants the girl. It is full of hijinks and energy; the classic coming of age tale of a Black British teen you’ve probably never thought was out there.

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9 Rides

I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about 9 Rides, and that's a good thing. It's a winding road of a film, and I fear that it may get lost beyond the film festival scene. That's kind of tragic, but it's also beautiful because it exists. This revolutionary piece of cinematic art exists. That warms my movie fan heart. 

Matthew A. Cherry shot 9 Rides on the iPhone 6s (with the help of a really cool add-on lense). The film had its world premiere at SXSW over the weekend. That in itself, is wonderful and revolutionary. The fact that a black filmmaker can create a feature film on an iPhone and have it screened at a major film festival is revolutionary stuff. Like Jean-Luc Godard type revolutionary. Matthew A. Cherry is reshaping the the way black filmmakers are perceived in the industry and he's becoming a trailblazer in this digital age. 

As I watched 9 Rides I was reminded of films like Ramin Bahrani's Man Push Cart, and Matt Porterfield's Putty Hill. These films are long and observational by nature, but in the best kind of way. I'm not sure if most people would appreciate the artistry there. If you've seen those films then you'll understand why I like 9 Rides. Films like Man Push Cart, Putty Hill, and 9 Rides are powerful in a subtle slow-churned way. 

9 Rides
is about an uber driver and the passengers he picks up on New Year's Eve. The driver is played by Dorian Missick (one of the hardest working actors in "black cinema." He's an actor who just needs one iconic film or TV role to push him into the next level of stardom). Of all the short stories that 9 Rides featured, two of the "rides" stick out the most: The outstanding scenes where Missick's character totes around a group of rowdy millennials and gets stopped by the police. The other remarkable ride is when he tries to help a woman in need from her abusive "boyfriend." Those stories, those moments of human connection, were packed with emotion, and they highlighted the strength of Missick as a leading man, and spotlighted the relevance of Cherry as a director dealing with delicate subject issues in a poignant way. 

9 Rides
was good, but it wasn't "perfect." I would have liked to see Missick's character outside of the car more often, and I would have enjoyed more lingering shots of Los Angeles at night. The film offered some of those, but not enough. I wanted the film to slow down and let me sink my teeth into the characters. But I'm not sure if that would be possible outside of turning 9 Rides into a mini-series or TV show, which would be pretty fasinating. It has all the right ingredients for a long-form platform. I guess my only real complaint is that I wanted more, which isn't much of a complaint at all. I'd like to see what Cherry can do with a bigger budget because so far I've been pleased with his work. 

I feel like Matthew A. Cherry is on the path to crafting his magnus opus and strengthening his artistic voice and style. I've written about Cherry several times on this site, and it should be no surprise to those that follow me on Twitter that he's one of my favorites in the Subtle Core movement of black filmmakers. 
9 Rides makes sense, it's ingenious and clever filmmaking. It's a true example of the spirit of indie cinema. The kind of daring work that I'd like to see more black filmmakers take. 

Bottom line: If you appreciate films that make you feel like a "fly on the wall" as you watch naturalistic scenarios then 9 Rides will be a treat for you. 


Poster - Day Out of Days

I'm intrigued by this. How women get "aged out of acting." Several articles have been written about the disparity of how women get treated vs. men when it comes to casting and acting careers. An older male actor stays "sexy" and marketable longer as a lead whereas an older female actress often becomes "the mom" and gets stuck in supporting roles. 

Day Out of Days explores these issues. The film is directed by Zoe Cassavetes who helmed Broken English, a film that I really enjoyed. 

Day Out of Days is "a relatable story about feminism, ageism and staying relevant in Hollywood. The film stars Alexia LandeauMelanie GriffithCheyenne JacksonEddie IzzardBellamy Young and Vincent Kartheiser."

Now available on Digital HD and VOD.

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Reel Artsy Detroit - Interview with Redaric Williams

This is a vintage Reel Artsy interview. I spoke with Redaric Williams back in 2014, around the time Beyond The Lights came out (I remember him telling me how much he loved the movie and that he auditioned for the role of the rapper). I had wanted to start up a Reel Artsy Detroit section back then but things got delayed. I was still figuring out how to expand Reel Artsy in new ways. Taking a page from Shonda Rhimes' Year of Yes, I figured that instead of waiting to get the concept perfect I could simply do the thing. So this is me doing it. Starting now with this entry for Reel Artsy Detroit

Redaric Williams has been on my radar for a while, and I'd like to see his career blossom. I think he has the potential to become a breakout actor in the film industry. Perhaps, with indie films or even a major studio film, or both. 

Williams graciously answered my questions about his creative journey and the state of black cinema. He seems like a genuinely nice guy passionate about growing in his craft as an actor. So, think of this interview, this new section, as a bit of a slow-churned release for Reel Artsy Detroit where I'll spotlight creative folks with Detroit roots. 

So... without further ado, here is my interview with Redaric Williams (Young & The Restless, FOX's Lucifer). 

1. On Reel Artsy, we spotlight the "quirky, awkward, and offbeat," so when I found a video confessional where you share a bit of your nerdy side, and you mention your affinity for black and white films, I was like cool. My first question is: What kind of black and white films are your favorites? And have you seen any lately?

Haha, yeah they are surprisingly easy to get into after watching for just a couple of minutes, I don't really have a specific type as a favorite kind, just as long as there is an interesting plot. One that I actually re-watched recently is "On The Waterfront" with Marlon Brando who is definitely one of my favorite actors.

2. Would you be interested in playing a character more on the nerdy, awkward side?

Definitely. I just went to the movies to watch Nightcrawler with Jake Gyllenhaal, he did an amazing job portraying an "awkward" character.
I was thinking that it would be a bit of a challenge in a fun way to take on a role like that.

3. You've spent a good amount of time getting into the head of your character Tyler on The Young & The Restless. In general, what does authenticity mean to you in regards to preparing for a role? And what's your process like for delving into a character?

To me the authenticity is always there if you don't force anything. I actually found it a challenging adjustment to work on a soap due the fact that by nature I tend to be more of a subtle film type of actor, yet soaps demand performances that are a bit over the top, and larger like stage theater which I have done so I kind of fell back on that initially. As far as getting into the characters head I found it quite easy due to the fact that when preparing for any role I not only map out all of my characters objectives, but I also look for the similarities between myself and the character. With Tyler on Y&R I say it was easier in that manner because there were a lot of core similarities. For instance his father was imprisoned at an early age as was mine. His sister is an attorney, my twin sister is an attorney. We are cut from the same cloth in a lot of ways.

4. Growing up which filmmakers inspired you the most? Was there a specific character that stuck with you?Perhaps, a scene you liked to act out in the mirror (as a kid).

I always liked Spike Lee's films, a specific character that stuck with me by no surprise is Bleek Gilliam because it was played by Denzel Washington who is definitely one of my favorite actors.

5. What's next for you? Would you like to carve out a solid niche in television or venture more into the film industry?

Whats next for me is simply more work, I strive for the opportunities to work more, to continue to get better at my craft. If I had things solely my way I'm pretty sure that I would venture more into the film industry, but there is a realistic path that must be followed if you are seeking longevity within this industry.

6. I'm a fellow Michigan native, do you think you'd ever produce and/or star in a film or web series project that showcases your home town / home state?

It's funny I actually just met with a director who is also a fellow Michigander and he is filming a project in Detroit, however my quick chat and handshake wasn't enough to secure a role in the film.

7. There's a shift happening among black filmmakers, a home-grown DIY type vibe. I've labeled it as "Subtle Core" where we're seeing a burst of films with fresh perspectives hitting the scene (i.e. Ava DuVernay's Middle of Nowhere, Dee Rees' Pariah). What would you like to see happen in black cinema? And how do see yourself within its context?

When it comes to black cinema I personally would like to see more films that give young black children a reason to look at themselves with their chins up. I am working on several scripts and would like to call myself a filmmaker of such films eventually.

8. The entertainment industry is full of highs and lows, ups and downs. What drives you, keeps you going on those days when you don't get the part, or a film project gets indefinitely put on the back-burner?

Friends. When weathering the storm of the highs and lows of this type of work my port in the storm that gives me the charge to move forward again is spending time with genuine friends.

9. What music would be currently playing on the soundtrack of your life?Also, what kind of music do you listen to when you're in an introspective mood?

The soundtrack of my life would be Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five ''The Message'' and also the entire album "ATLiens" by Outkast. When I'm in an introspective mood, which is often, I listen to conscious rap from artists like Nas, Big Krit, and Lupe Fiasco.

10. Outside of acting what sparks your creativity?

I gain creative ideas most everywhere I go, mostly from the observation of people, those that I know and those that I do not.

11. In one interview, you talked about your faith, and how it's important to you. What core values have you promised to stick to, no matter how much fame comes your way?

My faith is unwavering, it always has been and always will be, in this life and in the next. As far as core values, I'd say that I always will truly know who I am on a core level regardless of any type of fame, it does not and will not effect me because I understand it, I know what it is. People can lose themselves if they fail to understand that fame is nothing mystical, and that simply put it is only "popularity" (people just know who you are). When I was growing up I understood the facade that is popularity because I went to many different schools and I always had an objective perspective. I saw how some kids where fooled into thinking that they were somehow different from others just because others knew who they were. I ended up standing on both sides of that fence because I was a student athlete at every school that I went to so it didn't take long for people to know who I was, but I never let any level of popularity fool me, just as I could never let any level of fame fool me. From a business standpoint it is necessary to build your brand, nothing more, nothing less.

12. Any aspirations of getting behind the camera? Directing, writing?

Most Definitely, I hope to only be behind the camera one day. I will definitely try my hand at directing sooner than later and I have already been writing for years.

13. Where can all the new Redaric Williams fans go online to follow you? (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

I'm on every social media outlet, FB, IG, twitter, even Google+ all under the username Redaric Williams

14. Anything else you'd like to add?

Yes, whenever I get a chance to I ask that people look into my favorite charity, it can be found at they are fighting an amazing battle and need any and all people involved. They are the only charity that I know of that has separate accounts for operational cost and the funding of the cause. Meaning that 100% of any donation will go solely to clean water projects for those around the world who need them. Along with malnutrition the lack of clean drinking water is a root cause of illness and death for children worldwide.

[Photos via Google.]