Friday, September 29, 2017

Viva Diversity and Illeana Douglas!

She's one of the best and most under-rated actresses in the film business.  She always stands out and she's always good -- even if the movie isn't.  As Norman Maine in 1954's A STAR IS BORN mentioned, she just has "that little something extra."  She's actress Illeana Douglas.
Look at her work, comic and dramatic, in films such as Scorcese's GOODFELLAS and his remake of CAPE FEAR, in TO DIE FOR, GHOST WORLD, GRACE OF MY HEART and the comedy with my favorite of her performances, HAPPY, TEXAS.  She's also a walking bookshelf of Hollywood history.  TCM has utilized that knowledge of hers.  Illeana Douglas is one of the best guest hosts TCM has had since the esteemed late TCM host, Robert Osborne, started to reduce his fulltime duties years ago. 

Her passion for films and filmmaking (she also directs) plus her original looks at old films light up her segments.  I was thrilled to read that, starting October 2nd, she returns to host TCM's month-long salute to TRAILBLAZING WOMEN again.  She did this last year and her spotlight on women in film was terrific.  I loved and greatly appreciated that she brought women of color into the spotlight.  She had Rita Moreno and groundbreaking African American director Julie Dash as guest co-hosts.  Dash, who gave us 1991's influential DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST, was an excellent solo guest host last December after she co-hosted with Illeana.
I write this as a veteran entertainment news reporter who worked on network TV, national radio and as a contributor to ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY magazine.  Also, I've been a hardcore TCM fan since 1999.  However, in the last couple of years, I've grown increasingly frustrated at the scarce amount of African American representation in TCM segments.  This is something I'd mention in an entertainment news report.  The last African American guest host I recall seeing was Julie Dash in December of last year.  There's no Black person sharing wine in any of the three TCM Wine Club spots that air.  No Black person is a guide in the TCM Tour Bus commercials.  No African American actor or director has been seen as a guest co- host with Alec Baldwin for THE ESSENTIALS this year.  In the "Let's Movie" promo featuring all three TCM hosts, there's no African American presence.  In the last couple of years, we've rarely seen an African American talent as a monthly TCM Guest Programmer.  There was no Black TCM contributor on the red carpet in Hollywood for the TCM Film Festival coverage earlier this year -- and a highlight of the festival was a special 50th anniversary screening of IN THE THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT.  Screen legend Sidney Poitier, star of the racially-charged murder mystery that was released during the Civil Rights era, attended the screening as did several others involved with that Best Picture of 1967 Oscar winner.
This lack of African American representation has been especially noticeable over the last couple of years during Hollywood's "Oscars So White" issue, an issue NPR contacted me to talk about on the air.

Illeana Douglas will bring some diversity into the TRAILBLAZING WOMEN mix again, I read.  Thank you, Illeana!  One of her guest co-hosts will be Stephanie Allain, an African American producer who has the Oscar nominated HUSTLE & FLOW with future EMPIRE stars Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson on her resumé.
Allain's HUSTLE & FLOW earned Howard an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
Again....thank you, Illeana.  Representation matters.  TRAILBLAZING WOMEN starts October 2nd on TCM.

As for trailblazing director Julie Dash, big news about her came out this week.  She will direct a film about Rosa Parks, the legendary American, that centers on her serious activism ten years before her iconic moment of Civil Rights defiance on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

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