Thursday, July 2, 2015

Milestones & Movie Tips

What a month June was.  Last month was one that slapped us cold and hard across the face with the fact did America didn't instantly become a post-racial nation when President Obama was elected.  We had the white racist terrorist killings of black people while they worshipped in a Charleston, South Carolina church. We had the controversy over the Confederate flag.

There were also golden breakthroughs in the color barrier.  Lester Holt FINALLY got the network promotion long overdue him.  And I'm not the only person who feels that way.  He makes broadcast history as the first black journalist appointed anchor of a Monday through Friday evening newscast on any of the senior three networks -- ABC, CBS or NBC.  He is anchor of the NBC Nightly News.
Back in the late 1970s through the early 80s when the late Max Robinson broke through the network anchor color wall, he co-anchored ABC's World News Tonight.
Robinson succumbed to AIDS in 1988.  For some odd reason, ABC has pretty much ignored his groundbreaking work and legacy.  Last month, in light of the Lester Holt appointment, an article in The New York Times put a spotlight on Robinson's accomplishments and reminded us that he helped open the door for other black TV journalists.  It thrilled me that someone remembered and wrote about it.  Mr. Holt becomes the first black journalist to anchor a weeknight network newscast solo.  He's not a co-anchor.  He's the first -- and we're 15 years into the 21st Century.  Think about it.  And he got the job because the white anchorman who had the gig acted like such a self-absorbed frat boy fabricating tall tales on TV about his journalism coverage in war-torn areas that he got suspended from his mult-million dollar job. Lester Holt replaced Brian Williams.  Williams has been reassigned to MSNBC.  Bravo, Lester!
"I want to bring more people to ballet, I want to see more people that look like me on the stage, in the school, and in the audience."  Those are words from Misty Copeland, the American Ballet Theater's first African-American principal dancer.  That quote appeared in The New York Times with the news of the historic breakthrough she's made in the fine arts.  Again...we're fifteen years into the 21st Century and there had never been an African-American principal dancer in the American Ballet Theater.
Reportedly, Ms.Copeland was told she had "the wrong body type" for ballet.  Yeah...right.  When I heard that, I thought of Fame on TV.  One episode of that NBC series, starring Debbie Allen as a fine arts school teacher in New York City, tackled the issue of that same limited view of black female dancers.  Fame was a 1982 to 1987 series.

Misty proved to have the right body to dance the iconic double role in Swan Lake. 

Making her Swan Lake debut was another first for an African-American dancer.
Brava, Misty!  Here's her book for some good reading over the 4th of July holiday.

We've looked at breakthroughs in TV and the ballet.  Now let's go to the movies.  The reviews for Terminator Genisys have been mostly ho-hum.  Arnold Schwarzenegger might be kicked to the curb at the box office.  Folks may prefer male strippers to another Schwarzenegger sci-fi sequel.  Magic Mike XXL has gotten happy thumbs-and-hormones up reviews from film critic friends of mine -- male and female -- whose opinions I respect.  Magic Mike, starring the immensely likable Channing Tatum, was a fun popcorn movie.  I hear that Magic Mike XXL is even better.  More fun.  If Magic Mike XXL is as hot as the trailer, it should bring in, I mean throngs of moviegoers.
Can you say "Pepsi, please"?  I think you can.  Magic Mike XXL looks like the kind of movie that dreams are made of.  Even the dry ones.

For laughs, see Spy with Melissa McCarthy in one of her best comedy outings since Bridesmaids, the bawdy comedy that earned her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination.  The same director, Paul Feig, guides her through this send-up of man-driven action thrillers and James Bond spy movies.  Take the old saying, "Behind every successful man is a woman."  Spy shows the truth of that while replacing that man with the woman.

Susan Cooper is 40, lives alone and she was raised by women who taught her to blend in rather than be assertive.  Her desk-bound analyst brilliance at the CIA basically keeps the vain, slightly chauvinist James Bond-type secret agent alive.  Jude Law gives a refreshing funny performance as the secret agent who's totally oblivious to the fact that passive Susan has a crush on him.
Something goes wrong for him and she's thrust into spy action as his replacement.  Jason Statham lampoons his own action hero movie image as the butch yet bumbling agent assigned to team with Cooper.  She does not blend in.  She's a bold and brassy rogue spy out to get the bad guys.
Most of us have had the experience of seeing a movie comedy only to be disappointed.  We discover that all the funny moments of the 2-hour comedy were in the 2-minute trailer.  That is not the case with Spy.  McCarthy keeps us laughing in this clever, action-packed movie.  She looks terrific, she's a pro at physical comedy and she's a mighty fine actress.  A full-figured, 40 year-old female spy giving us action like we saw in Goldfinger starring Sean Connery as James Bond?  Come on.  I loved it!

If you want to stay in and rent a classic cult favorite, try Lady in a Cage.  It came out the same year as Goldfinger.  I add this 1964 thriller because it stars Olivia de Havilland, a movie star since the 1930s in such films as Captain Blood (1935),  Anthony Adverse (1936),  and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938).
The actress got her first Oscar nomination for the 1939 classic, Gone With The Wind.
She and Hattie McDaniel (seen above) were both nominated for Best Supporting Actress.  McDaniel, the first black actor ever to receive an Oscar nomination, was the winner.  Olivia de Havilland went on to win two Best Actress Oscars -- for To Each His Own (1946) and William Wyler's The Heiress (1949).  The star from Hollywood's Golden Age has lived elegantly in Paris for decades.  On July 1st of this week, she celebrated her 99th birthday.  Olivia de Havilland has made the 90s look fabulous.
In the psychological thriller, Lady in a Cage, de Havilland plays a Los Angeles lady of comfort.  She lives in a three-story mansion back in the day when folks had rotary phones.  She has a disability so her home is equipped with an elevator to get upstairs and downstairs.  She's alone on the 4th of July when her home is invaded by thugs. An electrical problem traps her in the elevator.
Making his screen debut as the head thug is new actor James Caan.  He'd go on to play Sonny Corleone in The Godfather and sing to Barbra Streisand in Funny Lady.  He's the dad of Scott Caan on the CBS Hawaii Five-O revival.
The dark-haired dude with Caan in the above pic is Dominican actor Rafael Campos.  He played one of the tough New York City high schoolers in 1955's Blackboard Jungle.  Off-screen, Campos was the seventh of singer Dinah Washington's eight husbands.  Ann Sothern, also a movie star since the 1930s like de Havilland, had a supporting role as a old floozie in cahoots with the hoodlums.
Lady in a Cage runs about 95 minutes with definite suspense watching these cat-and-mouse characters played by Olivia de Havilland and James Caan match wits.
This low-budget 4th of July crime drama is pretty cool.  You can find it on DVD thanks to the Warner Archive collection.
Be careful, be cool, be loved, and have a great 4th of July weekend.  Save me a burger.


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