Sunday, August 30, 2015

Compton, Viola and DWTS

STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON took hip-hop to the top of the box office again.  The N.W.A. rap group biopic was number one at the box office for the third consecutive weekend.  Does NBC's TODAY Show know about this hit movie?  Here's why I ask.  Universal has had a good summer.  The Today Show is a product of NBCUniversal.  But the network morning news show seems to be treating this Universal release like its a casual acquaintance instead of a popular member of the Universal family.  
I didn't see Today Show features on Straight Outta Compton like I did on other Universal releases.  Check for yourself.  Google "Jurassic World The Today Show" and see how many Today segments pop up.  Then do "Minions The Today Show."  Google "Trainwreck The Today Show."

Universal's Jurassic World, Minions and Trainwreck got a generous amount of airtime and promotion on Today. There were celebrity appearances and interviews.  Now Google "Straight Outta Compton The Today Show."

See?  Just a couple of box office news mentions.  If I was an entertainment news columnist, I'd be curious about that exclusion.  Especially in a year such as this in which diversity has been such a hot topic. A hit Universal movie with black actors in the lead roles and a black director got nowhere near the attention as the yellow Minions did from that animated Universal hit.  What kind of message does that send out to African-American viewers from NBCUniversal's Today Show?  I'm just curious.

Great news a few days ago came from and The New York Times.  Tony Award winner and 2-time Oscar nominee Viola Davis will star in a film adaptation of August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize winning play, FENCES.  The movie will be directed for 2-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington.
La Davis currently stars on the ABC hit drama series, How To Get Away With Murder.
Thank you, Lord!  It's about time we saw a film adaption of Fences.  The fact that we haven't highlights Hollywood's need to get it together and embrace diversity.  Acclaimed African-American playwright August Wilson won TWO Pulitzer Prizes.  Fences won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987 for drama and it won the Tony Award for Best Play of 1987.  August Wilson's play The Piano Lesson won the 1990 Pulizer Prize for drama.  Neither play ever got a big screen Hollywood treatment.  Compare that to August:  Osage County by Tracy Letts.  It won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play.  In 2013, we saw the movie version starring Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Benedict Cumberbatch.

James Earl Jones won the Tony for Best Actor in the original production of Fences.  Broadway's hit 2010 revival starred Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.

Viola Davis and Denzel Washington each won a Tony Award for the production and it won the Tony for Best Revival of a Play.

Yes.  It's about time that at least one of the Pulitzer Prize winning plays about African-American family life written by August Wilson made it to the big screen.  Fences and The Piano Lesson are vehicles with choice, intelligent roles for black actors.                                                                                    

Viola Davis and her husband started their own production company.  Reportedly, she will play Harriet Tubman in a project for HBO.  Tubman was the abolitionist and humanitarian who was born a slave.  She escaped slavery and was one of mighty forces of the Underground Railway.  Also, it's been reported that Tony Kushner -- Pulitzer Prize winner for the play Angels in America -- is writing a movie project for Davis that has already gotten a greenlight from Fox Searchlight.  She'd play Barbara Jordan, the first African-American congresswoman from the deep South and the first woman ever elected to the Texas Senate.

I've written before the Whoopi Goldberg and Viola Davis have made Hollywood history as the only black actresses to have two Oscar nominations each to their credit.  In the entire history of the Oscars, no black actress has been nominated more than twice.  To me, that's a major statement on the lack of script opportunities for good black actresses as compared to white actresses.

I believe that Viola Davis will make history as the first black actress to get a third Oscar nomination.

A new season of ABC's DANCING WITH THE STARS will be upon us.
 Us Weekly reported that Paula Deen, the former Food Network cook who got herself in hot water with some old school racial insensitivity matters, will join the cast for the 21st season.  If DWTS had a member of the controversial Duck Dynasty family on the dance floor, it's no surprise that Paula Deen will be on tap.  She will attract viewers, y'all.  She can use the dance floor to repair her image and prove that she embraces racial diversity.  How?  By dancing with a buffed, cute black man.

The DWTS casting format has been as follows:  Someone gay, someone with a physical disability, someone well into his or her senior years, a black pro athlete, a "sassy" black female celebrity, a celebrity hunk who will look good dancing shirtless and someone connected to a Disney-owned production because Disney is the parent company to ABC.  The dance show reportedly has already booked singer Chaka Khan to work you with her "sassiness."  Love me some Chaka Khan!
Other contestants booked so far are Bindi Irwin whose late father was Steve Irwin, "The Crocodile Hunter."  Nick Carter, formerly of The Backstreet Boys, will dance. Also in the cast this year is Victor Espinoza, the Mexican jockey who rode American Pharoah to Triple Crown history.

For the gay contestant, my guesses are:  Frankie Grande, a YouTube personality who's shown up on ABC's Good Morning America recently.  He's the brother of singer Ariana Grande.  If he dances, she'd be in the audience.                                                                                                                                        
Mario Cantone, comedian and frequent guest co-host on The View.  But I don't think he's been on The View lately.  Maybe he's been taking dance lessons?                                                                                                                                  
Olympics swimming champion Greg Louganis would be great.  I'm surprised DWTS hasn't contacted singer Randy Jones, the cowboy of The Village People disco music group.  Randy is fit, handsome and would be willing to dance.                                                                                                                
EJ Johnson, the son of Magic Johnson, has the festive vibe DWTS loves.  He lost weight and looks fabulous.  And, if he was a contestant, his proud papa would be in the audience.

Country singer Chely Wright is a possibility.  She came out and energetically promoted her coming out on Twitter by contacting other gay celebrities.  I think the DWTS producers probably would've loved Andy Cohen but he's attached to NBC/Universal right now and preparing the launch of his radio show on SiriusXM.  Their big "get" would've been Caitlyn Jenner -- but Caitlyn was not interested.

There you have it.  My guess for new season contestants on Dancing With The Stars.  All the new season contestants will be announced this coming Wednesday, Sept. 2nd, on ABC's Good Morning America.  One thing's for sure -- I will be totally unfamiliar with a few of those people trotted out as "stars."

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