Friday, November 30, 2018

SUPPORT THE GIRLS Star Makes History

Brava, Regina Hall! The season for critics giving out their "Best Of" awards and citations for this year's film releases has begun. The season concludes with the January announcement of Oscar nominations. Regina Hall, who played one of the friends in the big hit comedy GIRLS TRIP, landed herself a great honor for another comedy.  The comedy is called SUPPORT THE GIRLS.  For her performance in it, Regina Hall became the first black female to win Best Actress in all the years of voting by the New York Film Critics Circle.  The first. And the New York Film Critics Circle has been voting since 1935.
SUPPORT THE GIRLS is an indie comedy. I don't believe it got a wide release.  I think it's harder than ever now for good independent features like this to squeeze in for nationwide screen time when every cineplex seems booked full of superhero action/fantasy sequels.  SUPPORT THE GIRLS is full of real people. The kind of people you know, the kind of people you've dealt with at work, and the kind of people you've been. I watched the movie on Amazon Prime.

If you saw GIRLS TRIP, Regina Hall played the friend who's a keynote speaker at the Essence Festival and stands on the brink of being "the next Oprah" with a major TV deal. She's the one with the handsome but triflin' husband.  SUPPORT THE GIRLS has Hall playing a more minimum wage working class woman in a culturally arid section of Texas.  It's a comedy, but not a comedy with large laugh-getting scenes like a GIRLS TRIP, BRIDESMAIDS, SISTER ACT, TOOTSIE or GHOSTBUSTERS. Hall shines in it.  If I placed SUPPORT THE GIRLS on a double bill in a revival movie theater, I'd bill it with FUNNY FACE. Yes, the delicious 1957 Stanley Donen musical starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. I shall explain.

Lisa (Regina Hall) is the manager of a Hooters-like sports bar/restaurant in Texas. When we first see her, she is crying behind the wheel in her car before she gets out to begin her workday. She's interviewing young women for cleavage-showing waitress jobs in the restaurant which is called Double Whammies. If some of those candidates had to work for you, you'd be crying in your car too. Bless their hearts.  Double Whammies does not have the style and success of a Hooters.  In fact, when a couple of waitresses jump onto the bar and jiggle for the men, the men yell at them to get out of the way because they're blocking the TV screens.

The women highlighted in SUPPORT THE GIRLS are the kind of folks who would be bit characters in other movies. Regina Hall has a role that, back in the 80s, easily would have gone to a Holly Hunter or Teri Garr.  Now -- about the FUNNY FACE angle. Did you see that musical? Remember how Audrey Hepburn's New York City bookworm character wants to continue studies in the philosophy of empathy but fashion magazine photographer Fred Astaire dances her off to Paris to join the world of high fashion modelling? She stresses the importance of empathy. She hopes to study the philosophy of empathy with a Professor Flostre while in Paris.

Lisa is empathy in action. We see this in one day of her life -- and it's not exactly one of the best days of her life.  Nevertheless, even though she wants to cry or scream or shout "Girl, have you lost your complete mind?!?!," she never ever loses her sense of empathy when dealing with co-workers. She treats Double Whammies and its staff as if it's one of the best restaurants at Disneyworld.

Lisa may not realize it, but she is very dear to her female staff. The compassion of this ordinary woman has had an effect on lives in an area where a gourmet meal would be a large pizza with pineapple chunks on it.  Lisa makes her daily check for mice in the kitchen. Notice how she deals with the Mexican cook who's in a situation that would've gotten him immediately fired in a place like Chili's or Applebee's or Hooters. But Lisa has taken time to understand his life outside of work and why he has that job. There's a lot of heart in that scene.  I loved Regina Hall in this film.

Tall, slim Danyelle, played by Shayna McHayle, is fabulous with her constant Virginia O'Brien-ish deadpan. Danyelle is a black single working mother. She greatly appreciates the fact that she can bring her little boy into the restaurant for a while during the day and Lisa will make sure he's okay. We see that the polite little schoolboy probably has an I.Q. higher than some of his mom's fellow waitresses.

Lisa is tough when she needs to be yet that toughness is always rooted in a compassion. She's one of those women who should be booted up a corporate ladder but has probably gotten used to seeing less talented people get promoted or get better jobs.  She deals with the kind of people who have been overlooked in life. She takes time to look at them. She treats them all with respect. She demands that everyone in her work environment also treat them with respect. Here's a trailer.
I admit that I have often wondered if my work, if my presence at work, has had an impact on anyone's life for the better. I also admit I often wonder this because I've been romantically unattached for many years. And not by choice. Lisa is single. When you're half of a couple, you tend to know that you're significant to at least one person in the world. We do sense that Lisa wonders if she's significant as she handles matters ranging from a burglar getting his head stuck in the Double Whammies air vent to helping a young woman with legal troubles.

By the end of this 90-minute movie, we see that the empathy of Lisa has had a sweet influence on the lives of women who work with her. They do appreciate that she...supports the girls.  Regina Hall, with her accurate accent, her carriage, her quiet compassion and empathy that would make Jesus Himself shout "You go, girl" and her civility in the face of personal disappointment, creates a character that shows her acting versatility. Regina Hall is terrific in SUPPORT THE GIRLS. Her previous credits include the 1999 film, THE BEST MAN with Taye Diggs and Terrence Howard, the SCARY MOVIE comedy franchise and the TV series ALLY McBEAL. I hope her Best Actress honor from the New York Film Critic Circle leads to other good movie script opportunities.

The first black women to be named Best Actress by the NYFCC in its 83 years. Wow. Viva, Regina!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

On the "Lauer Not Doing Well" Item

If I'm supposed to feel sorry for him, I absolutely do not. That was exactly how I felt immediately when I read this above an article from People Magazine: "Inside Matt Lauer's Quiet Life 1 Year After Today Show Firing: 'He's Not Doing Well'.
Since his network heave-ho, Lauer has been in retreat at his home.  More accurately, his multi-million dollar compound in The Hamptons. Reportedly, he'd also generated income from some property he owned in New Zealand. We read that he was given millions in his NBC exit package. Last year, we read that some of the women who were the objects of his irresponsible, in-office sexual urges were in the minimum wage category.  They were afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs. They needed the money. He made enough to afford a fabulous place in Manhattan and this place in The Hamptons.
That's what really riles me about the way People Magazine headlined that article. I re-tweeted it and dozens of folks tweeted that they had the same initial reaction that I did: They absolutely did not feel sorry for him. We all care more about the women.

Last year, when the righteous "Me Too" fire started, and we heard that women were afraid to speak out about sexual harassment from Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men, I knew exactly how they felt.  And I told my friend Keith Price that I did.  Keith is also black and also gay.  No, I was not sexually harassed. But, as a black man who worked in some temples of toxic white masculinity, I often felt a racial inequality.  However, I was warned to keep quiet about my mistreatment or else I'd lose my job. My average wage job.  Yes. I knew exactly why the women didn't speak up -- and I believed the women. I knew how the felt.

I believe that there are two sides to that toxic masculinity coin. One side has the sexual harassment and other disrespect for women. The other side has racism, racial inequality and white privilege.

As some of you friends and acquaintances know, I was contacted and hired by WNBC News in 1992 to be a regular on its soon to debut live weekend morning news program, called "TODAY in New York." We'd be the local lead-in for NBC's weekend edition of TODAY. I went to WNBC having had my own prime time celebrity talk show on VH1, having done guest appearances on CBS Late Night, and having been a guest host a few times on CNBC's TALK LIVE. The WNBC show premiered in September 1992. That summer, I'd been seen as the host of a month-long syndicated summer replacement night time game show called BEDROOM BUDDIES. (Critics hated that goofy but it was a fun gig. My director was Glenn Weiss, the guy who stole this year's Emmy Awards show by proposing marriage to his girlfriend during his acceptance speech.)  The point is -- I had skills and experience. In the first weekend of the show, I was switched from doing entertainment reports and celebrity interviews and assigned to be the man-on-the-street who'd tell viewers about community events like bake sales, street fairs and such. The initial invitation I got was to do film reviews and other entertainment pieces in-studio. That appealed to me because black talent was rarely, if ever, seen as a regular film critic on a live news program.

A couple of the white WNBC producers assigned to our show, people who'd neither read my resume nor seen my previous work, questioned whether or not I had the skills to cover entertainment. I was pissed and contacted my union. Then my boyfriend was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS. This was in 1992. Before QUEER EYE, WILL & GRACE and the ELLEN daytime show. Gay men with AIDS were treated like lepers. My partner was out of work and I became his caregiver. He eventually moved into my studio apartment with me.

A confidante in the WNBC newsroom warned me to keep mum on being gay and having a partner with AIDS even though I was in good health. He told me to keep quiet about it because management, at that time, was not really LGBT-friendly. So, I was angry that, with all my credits, I had to fight for equal opportunities at the job. I was angry that I had to keep quiet that my partner was terminally ill with AIDS. And I was angry that I needed the part-time job money to take care of myself and the man I loved. I felt like I wanted to scream but had to throw a hand over my own mouth.

Yes. I knew how those women felt.

When I did do celebrity interviews on the show, it's because I pushed and fought to do them. I had to push and fight harder if the celebrities were black or Latinx.

In 1993, I knew I wasn't the only person who felt a toxic Caucasian masculinity there. A white male network news producer, in a staff meeting, used a racial slur twice to refer to African soldiers. This story got out and made the local papers. The producer was contacted and -- admitted what he said without apology. He told the New York Daily News columnist that the term "jungle bunnies" is one that exists in the minds of many people.

He was not fired by NBC. He was not even suspended. You can imagine how black and Latinx employees felt about that.

When our local news show premiered, the male half of our 2-person anchor team was Matt Lauer. I worked with him for a month or so. Matt was replaced because NBC execs had started his ascension from local to network stardom on TODAY.

My partner passed in June 1994. I stayed with the show long enough to pay off his funeral expenses. In January 1995, my white male news director boss called me in for a meeting. He told me that my work was excellent and I was very popular with viewers.  However:
-- He wanted me to continue without a contract
-- I would remain part-time and not advance to full-time employment
-- I would not be moving up to any network opportunities.

I gave notice within the hour. Two weeks later, I walked away from a hit show.

Two months later, that WNBC news director asked me to come back. I didn't.

So when I read that Matt Lauer is "not doing well," I say "Bullshit." He may be miserable, but if he's still living on his multi-million dollar estate in The Hamptons, he's doing well.  It's the women that People Magazine should care about.  Just my opinion.

Here are some of "skills" WNBC producers didn't think I had. My VH1 talk show. I did it without a teleprompter, without cue cards and without an earpiece.




Monday, November 26, 2018

About MARY POPPINS RETURNS

When first I read that Disney planned to make a new Mary Poppins adventure, I wasn't exactly thrilled. Why? Because Disney has been making sequels to its animated classics -- like LADY AND THE TRAMP 2 and BAMBI 2 -- and live-action adaptations of animated classics.  A live-action DUMBO and THE LION KING are in the wings and waiting to be released. Why doesn't Disney delve into previously untouched fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen and The Brothers Grimm instead of making pleasantly forgettable animated sequels and less colorful live-action remakes of their animated classics? Then I read that Emily Blunt had been cast as Mary Poppins. Then I saw its first trailer for MARY POPPINS RETURNS. It opens a week before Christmas.  The sight of Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins won me over instantly. I especially loved her hat.
Disney is the parent company to ABC.  Recently, ABC aired a prime time news special devoted to MARY POPPINS RETURNS. Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Dick Van Dyke were interviewed. They're stars of the new Disney production.  Dick Van Dyke, now in his early 90s, starred in the 1964 original film with Julie Andrews.  I'm an Emily Blunt fan.  As for Lin-Manuel Miranda, his casting in MARY POPPINS RETURNS fills me with glee.  If kids embrace this feature, he'll be a beloved new member in Disney's family of characters just like we kids took to Dick Van Dyke in MARY POPPINS. And we were so young and enchanted by the movie that we had no idea his Cockney accent sucked.  All we knew was that Dick Van Dyke made us happy. Lin-Manuel Miranda could soon hold a very dear place in the hearts of children.
The prime ABC News special, of course, had a few short clips. We heard some of the new songs written for the film.  MARY POPPINS took home a Best Song Oscar for "Chim Chim Cher-ee." Screen newcomer Julie Andrews won the Oscar for Best Actress thanks to Disney's revolutionary fantasy/musical. That unique and complicated marriage of live-action and animation was supremely entertaining and the result of painstaking work, discipline and artistry. Andrews had to learn new songs, choreography with special effects, and act. MARY POPPINS was her first film.

On Twitter, a critic named Jason Bailey wrote:  "MARY POPPINS RETURNS is like a sweaty birthday clown, working its hardest to create lightness and mirth, conveying only desperation..."

I still want to see MARY POPPINS RETURNS. I want to see her come out of the London sky to, once again, help the Banks children. The two Banks children are now adults with children.
When millions of us baby boomers were school kids, remember where we were emotionally the weekend of November 22nd, 1963? The youth and vigor and civility of President John F. Kennedy was horribly taken away from us. He was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on Friday, November 22nd. Two little children suddenly left without a father. A lovely young wife suddenly widowed. A White House family shattered. A nation shattered. Before the weekend ended, the man taken into custody as the assassin -- Lee Harvey Oswald -- would be shot and killed. The world seemed to be spinning out of control in the dark.  The whole country felt helpless, hopeless, and paralyzed with grief. President Kennedy's funeral, nationally televised, was the stuff of legend with majestically heartbreaking visual images that would sear into our memories.

In August of 1964, when kids were still on summer vacation, MARY POPPINS opened in exclusive engagements. It not only became a box office champion, it helped us heal. Parents could take kids to see it -- and we all could feel that it was alright to smile and laugh again.  We needed the cheerful, compassionate "Carry On" attitude of Julie Andrews.  We little kids could connect to the Banks children in MARY POPPINS. We understood how they felt. We not only needed some magic in our lives, we believed in magic.
We are still the Banks children. But older. We've loved. We've lost loved ones. We've lost jobs. Some of us lost our homes. We worked hard. We sacrificed for family. We were good. We were responsible. But our wishes still didn't quite come true. We've known disappointment, disillusionment and heartbreak. For many, our young sense of magic was repeatedly slapped out of us by the harsh realities of life and getting older. How many of us need a hug that we don't get? A kind word of encouragement that we don't hear?  How many of us just need a break? We want our sense of magic restored. We need some magic again.
Yes. I want to see MARY POPPIN RETURNS. Will Emily Blunt be the second woman to get a Best Actress Oscar nomination for playing Mary Poppins? We shall see. Will this follow-up win the Oscar for Best Song like the original film did?  I think Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman have a strong chance to be Best Song Oscar winners.  Here's one of their original numbers for MARY POPPINS RETURNS. Emily Blunt sings "The Place Where Lost Things Go."
MARY POPPINS RETURNS opens December 19th.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Hear Some Sammy Davis, Jr.

A James Garner drama was airing on TCM (Turner Classic Movies). MISTER BUDDWING is one of those 1960s, set-in-New York City gritty dramas that I love from that era. I love that they were shot on location and now show us how the city looked long before it was gentrified and Disney-fied. New York City. How I miss it.  In MISTER BUDDWING, James Garner and Katharine Ross play a Manhattan couple caught in the rain. The run into a church. The church is St. Malachy's in the Broadway theater district. It's my favorite house of worship in New York City.  MISTER BUDDWING has another scene that's shot in the theater district.  Right in Shubert Alley.
That Shubert Alley scene brings me to Sammy Davis, Jr. In the scene, Garner's character watches a woman (played by Suzanne Pleshette) engaged in a sidewalk chat with a man. He follows her a bit after she finishes her conversation.

We see the marquees and theater posters for Broadway shows currently on stage. Almost all the shows, I noticed, were made into movies: THE ODD COUPLE, LUV, NEVER TOO LATE and HELLO, DOLLY! One Broadway musical had a big, decorative marquee that's quite noticeable above Garner's head in a couple of shots. The marquee has an illustration of its star.  It's the only hit show that was not adapted into a film -- and, man, how I wish it was.  The show was the musical version of GOLDEN BOY starring Sammy Davis, Jr.

A lot of us classic film fans have seen the 1939 film version of the Broadway play. The film starred William Holden as Joe, the boxer, and Barbara Stanwyck as Lorna. For the musical, the boxer was now a black character from Harlem and his interracial romance with the Lorna character gave the play an extra punch then during the Civil Rights era.

My parents bought the original cast album.  It got frequent play in our house.  What a rich, wonderful score GOLDEN BOY had. Lyrical, jazzy, funny, touching and memorable.  Sammy Davis, Jr. was a huge star. That Broadway musical should've been made into a movie. But it wasn't. Neither was another Broadway musical that had a tasty score by Richard Rodgers. NO STRINGS, which made Diahann Carroll the first African American woman to win the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, gave us the song "The Sweetest Sounds." Set in Paris, it was the story of an interracial romance. Two Americans in Paris. She's a top high fashion model. He's an acclaimed novelist in an artistic lull -- until he meets her. "The Sweetest Sounds" was covered by the numerous popular singers and jazz artists of the day. But, did Hollywood rush to make NO STRINGS a movie? No.  I recall reading an entertainment news item that one major studio was interested -- if the glamorous black model was not black. The studio reportedly was interested in actress Nancy Kwan.

Then that would've diluted or evaporated the point the musical subtly made about racial freedom for black Americans in the USA.  The two sweethearts were free to romance in Paris but could they be as free in the U.S.? Could she get the same income and professional respect back home that she did in Paris? 1962's NO STRINGS and 1965's GOLDEN BOY -- two musicals with timely stories and top talent. Both Broadway shows had interracial romances at their heart and Hollywood was still timid about that in the 1960s. Keep in mind that NBC executives ordered Petula Clark not to touch her special guest, Harry Belafonte, during their duet on her network music variety special in 1968. Clark considered their orders rubbish. She was executive producer of her special. She took Belafonte's arm during their duet.

There were so many weekend afternoons I spent listening to this in my youth in L.A. It fueled my eagerness to see a Broadway show.  Here's the overture to GOLDEN BOY.

I memorized every single song on the GOLDEN BOY original cast album. It was one of my favorite albums in our family record collection. Sammy Davis, Jr's voice was at its best on the original cast album.  His leading lady had a voice that also touched my soul. Her voice was warm, passionate, honest.  Paula Wayne starred on Broadway then went on to teach future Broadway Tony winners. She had cancer and died early this month at age 84.  Here's Sammy Davis, Jr. and Paula Wayne doing their big love song from GOLDEN BOY. It's called "I Want To Be With You."

As I got older and entered my teen years, "Night Song" from GOLDEN BOY started to seep deeper and deeper into my heart.  Here was a young black guy from Harlem, a boxer, hungry for something...something better than he'd ever had growing up. He wanted to be noticed. And he's black. He's of a people who've been overlooked and treated as second class citizens. The line "Who do you fight when you want to break out but your skin is your cage?" really stood out to me growing up in the Civil Rights era.  I understood and felt the layers of his restlessness and confusion.  Listen to Sammy Davis Jr as Joe Wellington on the GOLDEN BOY original cast album sing "Night Song." Against his family's wishes, Joe turns to prizefighting to escape his ghetto roots.  Click onto this link:

https://youtu.be/QwhFxDzYjSo.

The lyrics were by Lee Adams, the music by Charles Strouse. Their the men who did the score for BYE BYE BIRDIE on Broadway five years earlier. That 1960 show was made into a 1963 movie.

Sammy Davis, Jr. was an astonishing multi-talent. Hollywood never utilized his skills in a true star lead role the way it did his Rat Pack buddies Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.  Like those other Broadway shows we see advertised in MISTER BUDDWING, I wish GOLDEN BOY had also received a big screen treatment.










Saturday, November 17, 2018

Hollywood Gold for Cicely Tyson

A goddess gets some gold. The magnificent Cicely Tyson is a goddess of all that is good about the art of acting.  This weekend, at a gala Hollywood event, she will become the first African-American woman to receive an honorary Oscar for her memorable performances.  To me, it's the Academy's way of saying "Dear Cicely, We are so sorry that Hollywood not only dropped the ball on having opportunities for excellent actresses of color, it dropped the ball and then deflated it."  It is hard to believe that the Oscar nomination the remarkable Cicely Tyson got 45 years ago is the only one in her credits.  TV was the bucket of cool water for another actress of color whose garden of opportunities after critical acclaim and an Oscar nomination was oddly bone dry.
Oscar history was made when three black actors received Oscar nominations for their 1972 performances:  Diana Ross in the Best Actress category for LADY SINGS THE BLUES, Paul Winfield in the Best Actor category for SOUNDER and Cicely Tyson in the Best Actress category for SOUNDER. Directed by Martin Ritt, SOUNDER also received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.

I saw SOUNDER as a Saturday matinee with my student discount card when I was a kid in Los Angeles. Seeing that tale of a black family, sharecroppers down South during the Great Depression, made me feel so significant. Although she was playing a poor woman, a poor woman treated like a second class citizen because of her race, there was something regal about Cicely Tyson's performance. There was a majesty in the spine of that character that I saw but the white folks in her world did not.  As for the now classic scene in which husband and wife are reunited -- the scene in which Rebecca, on the porch, sees way off in the distance that her husband, Nathan, is coming home from jail and he's fine -- well, that moment in the movie theater audience was as memorable as the scene itself.  Everything you wanted or needed to know about the depth of love that man and wife had for each other is realized in Cicely Tyson's running scene.  People in the audience, black and white, gasped in awe of Cicely Tyson's touching and powerful acting in that scene.

Cicely Tyson has a Tony Award for Broadway work and three Emmys for TV performances.

Oscar winner Rita Moreno was interviewed on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) and revealed that she had no Hollywood script offers for seven years after she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for 1961's WEST SIDE STORY. She turned to television.
Look at Cicely Tyson's filmography after her stunning Oscar-nominated performance in SOUNDER. The next major performances delivered by Ms. Tyson were are all network television. Hollywood offered no good script opportunities after SOUNDER.  Like Rita Moreno, she turned to television and she won Emmys for her work.  After 1972's SOUNDER, we saw Cicely Tyson on TV in:

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MISS JANE PITTMAN (1974)
ROOTS (1977)
KING -- as Coretta Scott King opposite Paul Winfield as Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. -- (1978)
A WOMAN CALLED MOSES -- as Harriet Tubman -- (1978)
THE MARVA COLLINS STORY -- as the dynamic Chicago area teacher whose inner city classroom accomplishments were so astonishing and inspirational that she was profiled on CBS's 60 MINUTES -- (1981).

Television gave Ms. Tyson those opportunities after her Oscar nomination.  Hollywood did not.  Hollywood should have. The fact that Cicely Tyson has only one Oscar nomination should not be a point of pride for Hollywood. As we know now, the major Hollywood studios were not keen on green-lighting black stories to go into production.  Actors and actresses of color did not get nearly the same amount of opportunities their fellow white actors got.

The great James Earl Jones was bestowed an honorary Oscar. He wowed Broadway audiences with her performance in THE GREAT WHITE HOPE. He won a Tony Award for it.  He repeated his role in the 1970 directed by Martin Ritt. He got a Best Actor Oscar nomination for it.

That is the only Oscar nomination James Earl Jones has received. After that towering performance, he was outstanding as the first African-American U.S. President.  This was in the THE MAN, a 1972 production based on a best-selling novel.  On TV, this racially frank and gripping drama was an ABC Movie of the Week. It had a script by Rod Serling. THE MAN co-starred heavyweight veteran actors Burgess Meredith, Lew Ayres, Martin Balsam and Barbara Rush.  Based on a true life government story, James Earl Jones was also excellent in 1975's THE UFO INCIDENT about an interracial married couple involved in government UFO reports. Jones co-starred with Oscar winner Estelle Parsons.  This too aired on network TV. Both those TV presentations had stories good enough for Hollywood big screen productions that could've been highly-promoted and shown in theaters nationwide.  Come 1977, James Earl Jones won global fame as the voice of Darth Vader in STAR WARS.

One of the most electric nights of theater I have ever experienced was the night I saw James Earl Jones on Broadway as the father in the original cast of August Wilson's FENCES. That was in the 1980s. When it ended, I was positive that residents in Hoboken, New Jersey could hear the loud, long cheers and applause the Broadway audience gave during its standing ovation. James Earl Jones gave a legendary performance, one that gave you goosebumps the size of M&Ms.  He won a Tony Award for it. The play won a Pulitzer Prize. But I never read a show biz report that James Earl Jones had been tapped by a top Hollywood studio to star in a film version of that drama about a black working class family.  Thanks to Denzel Washington, we finally got a film version (starring Washington and Viola Davis) in 2016.

This weekend, when Cicely Tyson receives her Honorary Oscar, it should also come with an apology.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Nominate Spike Lee for a Best Director Oscar

Infiltrate Hate. Did you see the Spike Lee film BlacKkKlansman? It's based on a true story, which may seem hard to believe when you see it. It's now on DVD. Ron Stallworth, who was interviewed by Scott Simon on NPR earlier this year, was a police detective in a Colorado city in the 1970s. He's African American. The intelligent, ambitious, young black cop infiltrated the KKK. He even got a membership card. Stallworth started his infiltration on the phone. He didn't "sound black," so the KKK representative couldn't tell he was having a phone conversation about white supremacy with a black man. There's a local Colorado branch planning race war violence. With the help of a Jewish fellow police officer, Stallworth goes undercover. Both cops come in direct contact with national KKK leader David Duke. Both come in contact with racism within the police force. The source material for this gripping, powerful film is the 2014 memoir, Black Klansman, by Ron Stallworth.
A black man in Colorado winds up being the police bodyguard to visiting KKK leader David Duke. You have to see how this happened.  There are two forces at play. There's the White Power of the Klan and there's the Black Power movement emerging because a new generation is ready to beat down decades of racial oppression and violence from the White Power movement.
This White Supremacy action has not all been hooded and in the dark. It was highlighted as heroic in D.W. Griffith's famous and infamous 1915 box office hit, THE BIRTH OF A NATION. In Griffith's widely popular epic film were offensive black images and stereotypes that still infuriate today. And that film was an early Hollywood blockbuster. Dr. William Shockley was an American physicist who won a 1956 Nobel Prize for Physics.  Dr. Shockley shattered his reputation later when he publicly made the racist claims that the Negro is genetically, intellectually inferior to the white man. There was Brown v Board of Education. The Supreme Court had to declare school segregation unconstitutional. These facts come up in BlacKkKlansman.                                

In his long and internationally celebrated film career, director Spike Lee has never, ever been nominated for the Best Director Oscar.  If he does not get a Best Director Oscar nomination for BlacKkKlansman, there is seriously something wrong with the Academy. This is one of the top films of 2018 and one of the best films of his career.

And you did read that correctly.  Spike Lee directed DO THE RIGHT THING (1989), JUNGLE FEVER (1991), MALCOLM X (1992), the documentary 4 LITTLE GIRLS (1997), SUMMER OF SAM (1999), and INSIDE MAN (2006)…to name of few of his joints (productions). He's directed actors to Oscar nominations -- Denzel Washington for MALCOLM X and Danny Aiello for DO THE RIGHT THING. He's acted in films he directed and co-wrote -- SHE'S GOTTA HAVE IT, DO THE RIGHT THING and MALCOLM X, for example.

But unlike actor/directors such as Woody Allen, Kevin Costner and Mel Gibson, Spike Lee has never, ever received an Oscar nomination for Best Director. The Academy bestowed him with an honorary Oscar.

You'll be disturbed to feel that the racist poison the cops try to stop in the 1970s has surfaced and spilled out again in modern-day America. In the movie, we know that it's not like DR. STRANGELOVE, FAIL-SAFE or SEVEN DAYS IN MAY. It's not a case of "it could happen here." The last ten minutes slap us hard in the face with the grim American reality that it did happen here just a year ago. Spike Lee holds a mirror up to this age of "Make America Great Again."
John David Washington, with his fierce full moon-shaped Afro, plays Ron Stallworth. John David is the son of Denzel Washington.  John David did his daddy proud. Adam Driver should be in the Oscar race for his performance as Flip Zimmerman, the Jewish cop who goes undercover with Stallworth. I cannot think of another actor who could've played that good role better than Adam Driver did. He is like the lovable and versatile Greenberg, a member of the Polish acting company in the 1942 Ernst Lubitsch classic, TO BE OR NOT TO BE. The troupe of players in the WW2 comedy outwits an audience of Nazis. In the theatre lobby, Greenberg is surrounded by the harshest critics he could ever face. He's surrounded by Nazis. The actor outwits and escapes them by performing Shylock's speech from Shakespeare's THE MERCHANT OF VENICE. The Nazis are clueless to Shakespeare. Flip Zimmerman, like Greenberg, is surrounded by some of his harshest critics -- Jew-hating klansmen who don't realize he's really a Jew. The cop has to be an actor, totally in the moment, to outwit them and escape their circle of evil. Flip pretends to be Ron Stallworth and meets to fill out his application for klan membership.

BlacKkKlansman should get the following Oscar nominations come January:
Spike Lee for Best Director
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Picture
Adam Driver for Best Supporting Actor.
Spike Lee co-wrote the screenplay with the amazingly talented Kevin Willmott.  Willmott, also a black man, is a professor of film at the University of Kansas. He wrote and directed a mockumentary about race that is just genius and wickedly, brilliantly funny.  It's a 2004 production called C.S.A.: THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA.

It's an account of alternate history if the South had won the Civil War. This "documentary" is done by a British TV crew and aired on a Northern California PBS-like station.  Everything -- station IDs, local commercials, classic film clips, interviews -- everything is done is if we live in the Confederate States of America.  It's like if Woody Allen's ZELIG meets the Key & Peele and Dave Chappelle comedy shows we saw on cable's Comedy Central. Classic film fans will marvel at Willmott's twist on film history and his knowledge of it.  In this mockumentary is a scene from a silent D.W. Griffith film in which we see Abraham Lincoln, in blackface, caught trying to flee on the Underground Railway.  It looks exactly like actual footage from Griffith's THE BIRTH OF A NATION. There's a classic 1940s film in which an obviously British and white actor is in blackface seriously playing a Southern plantation butler. It's laughable.

However, in the mid 1940s, after she'd played Queen Elizabeth I followed by the housekeeper/narrator in William Wyler's WUTHERING HEIGHTS, ivory white British film actress Flora Robson was covered in dark make-up and played the side-eye giving, formidable Haitian maid in the Warner Bros. romantic drama, SARATOGA TRUNK, starring Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper.  Hollywood gave Caucasian Flora Robson a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for playing a dark-skinned Haitian maid.  Writer/director/film professor Kevin Willmott knows his film history.

C.S.A.: THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA had me laughing so hard my sides hurt.  The reviews for it were terrific.  When I worked on-air with Whoopi Goldberg on her national weekday morning radio show out of New York City (from 2006 to 2008), I got a DVD copy, gave it to her, and enthusiastically suggested we do a phone interview of Kevin Willmott for a segment on the show. I'd contacted him, highly praised his work, and asked if he'd be open to doing an interview if she agreed to it.  He was most gracious, very grateful and quite open to the idea of an interview.

For some reason, Whoopi was not as enthusiastic as I was.  I was frustrated and disappointed that I couldn't give him some national exposure in 2006/2007 and introduce listeners to this gifted black talent.

Whoopi's radio show got canceled.  Kevin Willmott went on to co-write screenplays with Spike Lee. His BlacKkKlansman was recognized, praised and honored at the Cannes Film Festival this year.  Screenwriter Kevin Willmott could wind up getting an Oscar nomination early next year.

I wonder if Whoopi has seen the movie. She should. You should too.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Josh Groban, So Good as THE GOOD COP

Have you heard him sing?  Oh, my Sweet Baby Jesus. He's got the gift. If we were in the 1940s and 50s when Hollywood studios still reigned and gave us movies starring performers they had under contract, Josh Groban would've been snatched up in a heartbeat by a major studio like MGM, Paramount or 20th Century Fox. He'd have been cast in some original musicals and top songwriters of the day would've have written new tunes for him to introduce the way they wrote new tunes for Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. He would've introduced songs that would become new entries in the Great American Songbook of standards.  He's that good.  Netflix now really makes me sad the old classic Hollywood studio system no longer exists to make Josh Groban a star. Why? Because a new series on Netflix stars Josh Groban and it's a winner.  It's not a musical. It does, however, display his smooth, solid acting chops and appealing character. Crimes are solved in a smart, sophisticated series called THE GOOD COP.  Josh plays the good cop.  He wears glasses and affordable business attire. He looks like your typical bookworm. He plays by the rules. Always.
The same cannot be said of his roommate. His roommate was a cop who got into a little trouble and had to do some time behind bars. This older cop is the father to Groban's young cop.  Tony Danza, in mighty fine form, plays the hipster dad who wishes his obsessive son would loosen up a bit.  But, deep down, dad is quite proud of his brainy cop son.  They live together in a borough outside of Manhattan. Just a couple of working class men -- solving murders.  If THE GOOD COP had been a traditional network TV series back in the days of TWIN PEAKS, MOONLIGHTING, HILL STREET BLUES and NORTHERN EXPOSURE, it would have been a hit.  It's inventive, original, funny, well-played and very entertaining.  It's hip without trying to be hip. It's has a jazzy score, atypical for a cop series but perfect for the tone of this show. It fits the characters.
 Here's a taste of the different kind of crimefighting team you'll see on THE GOOD COP.
The third episode features actor John Carroll Lynch as an ex-boxer framed for murder.  You've seen John Carroll Lynch a lot but may not know his name the way you know a Tom Hanks or George Clooney.  Lynch played the husband opposite Frances McDormand in FARGO, he was the large and intimidating suspect in ZODIAC and he creeped you out as Twisty the Clown on TV's AMERICAN HORROR STORY.

I was drinking coffee, home alone on a Saturday night, as I watched the episode. I did a forceful DTST (Danny Thomas Spit Take) with a mouthful of coffee, belly laughing at an unexpected entrance the big ex-boxer made to get some advice from the cop dad.

That episode took me back to when I had fun staying in on a Saturday night to watch some good TV shows. This is an excellent vehicle for Josh Groban. Veteran TV actor Tony Danza delivers again.  There's nice chemistry between the two lead actors. Oh! And the open of the first episode is wonderful. Beautifully written. The whole dynamic in the relationship between father and son is realized as we see them in a car at a stoplight that's out of order. I hope this show gets an order for more episodes.  It's on Netflix. I totally dig THE GOOD COP.

Friday, November 9, 2018

We Love Michelle Obama

BECOMING, the Michelle Obama memoir, comes out this Tuesday. I'm sure it's already a best seller. You've probably heard that, in it, she wrote that she cannot forgive Donald Trump for putting her family's safety at risk with his whole birther movement.  That was his constant, disrespectful assertion that President Obama was not a true American. That he was African. (Fast forward in your mind and think about when he called Africa a "shithole country" in January.)  He demanded to see President Obama's birth certificate.  Mrs. Obama wrote that Trump's whole birther claim was "crazy and mean-spirited, of course, its underlying bigotry and xenophobia hardly concealed. But it was also dangerous, deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks. What if someone with an unstable mind loaded a gun and drove to Washington? What if that person went looking for our girls?"

I cannot blame Michelle Obama one bit for having those feelings. Look at the Trump-fan kook who recently got caught sending mail bombs to broadcast and political Trump critics.
I'm a TV veteran. Several times, as a performer, I've had to sign a contract. Every single contract had the standard morals clause. That clause basically says that you, the talent, will behave yourself in public and not do anything that would embarrass the production or otherwise raise a stink. When Trump started that racially offensive birther business, he was host of THE APPRENTICE on NBC.  I thought for sure that the network would put that fire out immediately and/or suspend him. No. He kept at it. Tweeting his birther mess. Saying in TV interviews. All the while, we black folks are getting angrier and angrier at his white privilege disrespect of President Barack Obama.  Trump lied about President Obama and the network fed his reality TV game show host ego even more.

Did Trump not have a standard morals clause in a contract? Or did network executives not care about the feelings of Black Americans?

Yes, NBC later fired Trump after he called Mexicans "rapists and murderers." To me, that was a cosmetic move.  NBC had spent nearly $2 billion to purchase Telemundo, Spanish-language television.  Who were the people who wanted to slap the orange off of Donald Trump for that racist comment about Mexicans? Telemundo viewers.

Trump still got star treatment as he entered the presidential race.  Remember how TV critics across the board slammed Matt Lauer for a lightweight town hall interview of candidate Trump? Lauer grilled Tom Cruise harder than he did Donald Trump.  That gave me the feeling that Trump was the NBC/Universal candidate.  The Access Hollywood tape scandal? I think aging frat boy Billy Bush was fired for not protecting Trump. Billy, whom I've worked with, was hired by local WNBC News in 2001 with absolutely no TV experience and no journalism background. He was a rock morning radio DJ who was quite comfortable telling you that he was related to not just one...BUT TWO...U.S. presidents. He went network four months after his local debut. He started doing pieces on TODAY. Within a few years, in a move that seemed like a modern-day gender bender version of ALL ABOUT EVE. he was hired as a contributor on ACCESS HOLLYWOOD and eventually replaced the older male host.

My point? NBC likes the GOP.

Before the election, I had dinner with a very upscale white buddy of mine in New York City. He's been making a fabulous income for years and considers himself to be liberal. But he wasn't going to vote for Hillary.  He considered the reality TV game show host the lesser of two evils. He giggled at the "silly" birther thing.  I switched to the non-giggle lane with him in the passenger seat.  I explained seriously why the birther thing made us black people livid.  He didn't really get the racist undertones of what Trump was doing. He just saw him as the goofy rich white guy with the weird hair. I brought up the Central Park Five and how Trump called for the execution of five black/Latino teens, unjustly sent to prison, who were later found to be innocent. He hadn't really paid attention to that. He'd felt that Trump would be good for the country. I felt that network TV news was ignoring the red flags of what he was saying.

It came down to this.  Trump's Obama disrespect and the nasty things he said about Mexicans... that really had nothing to do with my very upscale white buddy's life.

But now he's been forced to get "woke."  Charlottesville. Putin. Kavanaugh. Mass shootings vs the NRA. Trump's constant lying and his assault on freedom of the press. Racism. Anti-Semitism.

Did Trump have a moral clause in an NBC contract in his years hosting The Apprentice? Why did news get dazzled by the orange smoke of his celebrityhood and not do the work of calling him out on his lies and racial offensiveness?  News should've paid attention to how angry we black folks were at Trump's birther bullshit. His racial disrespect for The Obamas was a major red flag and now he's also disrespecting the press. Yes. News should've paid attention to the anger of us black folks. To borrow a line Claudette Colbert did in 1942's THE PALM BEACH STORY, we knew Trump's birther business was "just an overture to the opera that's coming."
There you have it. A few thoughts from me. I can't wait to read BECOMING by Michelle Obama.




Thursday, November 8, 2018

The First Amendment and Films I Recommend

This is another week of heartache and national grief.  This morning, we awoke to the news that there has been another mass shooting in America. People were killed in a popular social center bar/nightclub in Thousand Oaks, California.  I grew up in Southern California.  In my youth, I knew Thousand Oaks to be a quiet, arid community. Apparently nothing had changed in all the decades since -- until now. The country music bar and grill in Thousand Oaks was frequented by college students. On KNX Radio out of L.A., I heard a Thousand Oaks resident cry and say that her community had always been "a safe haven." This is the worst mass shooting in America -- in 11 days.  We haven't yet dried all our tears from the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, a crime motivated by anti-Semitism. November 9th, by the way, marks the dark anniversary of Kristallnacht, a wave of hate against Jews in 1930s Germany.

Heaven help us.  Something...something has to be done to stop this.  Our national leader does not seem to care about this.  Mass shootings are becoming as American as apple pie, yet he remains loyal to the NRA.

About our leader -- did you see yesterday's press conference?  He mocked Republicans who lost in the midterms, claiming that they lost because they were not loyal enough to him. He verbally insulted and bullied reporters. The White House pulled the press pass of CNN reporter, Jim Acosta. A black female reporter asked Trump about declaring himself to be a "nationalist," which he did in a rally. She asked the important question about the racist undertone that being white and calling one's self a "nationalist" may have. He interrupted and accused her of asking him a "racist question."  Remember that he's the man who called Mexicans "rapists and murderers."
Today, veteran network reporters are commenting on how yesterday's presidential behavior was far worse than anything experienced when Nixon and Reagan were grilled with extremely tough press questions that held them accountable. And those presidents never had a press pass pulled.  Yesterday's pulling of a national reporter's press pass was something shockingly new. And this happened from a president who took office without prior political experience. He was the egomaniac real estate millionaire who became a popular reality game show host on network TV.
In the 1980s, Steven Spielberg's THE POST would have caused a lot of buzz and, I feel, it would have done quite well at the box office. But today, movie screens have been dominated by follow-ups featuring comic book superheroes.  I paid to see THE POST in 2017. The audience applauded during it and at the end.  I watched it twice this week on HBO.

Donald Trump seems to have the same regard for our Constitution that he would have for a fast food restaurant napkin.  Yesterday's press conference was him wiping his greasy fingers on the First Amendment.  The Marvel Comics characters have made enough money.  See something about non-caped characters.  Real life people at work, in journalism, who did the hard work even when threated with imprisonment.  They stood up for Freedom of the Press. They stood up for the Constitution.

See Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep as newspaper co-workers who realized they had to set aside the fluff celebrity pieces and acknowledge that American liberties were at stake.  Watch THE POST, a very fine and very important film that did not get nearly that amount of moviegoer love that it should have.
As the drama in THE POST ends, we see burglars break in at The Watergate Hotel.  The Washington Post was faced with another political crime from the same White House administration, the administration of President Richard M. Nixon, in the same decade. To Nixon, the press was his "enemy."

After you watch THE POST, see Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford in Alan J. Pakula's 1976 classic, ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN. This movie opens where THE POST ends.
In both of these true stories, we see women and men who did the hard, the unglamorous and grueling work of a free press.  I happen to feel that a free press is a sharp golden sword in our great democracy.  The current administration wants to dull that blade.

THE POST and ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN.  These films are relevant and timely. They remind you that our freedom of the press is vital and that it is at stake.  Yesterday's White House press conference alone was visual proof of that.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Jeff Goldblum on CBS SUNDAY MORNING

The 1980s was a great decade to land in New York City for TV work.  That's what I did. I was hired by WPIX TV/Channel 11 to relocate from Milwaukee to Manhattan. I'd be doing entertainment features on local TV. Celebrity interviews and such. I'd be at WPIX for two years and then I'd get an offer to national exposure as a daily veejay and talk show host on VH1.  Back in those days, you could pass a lot of celebrities on the streets of New York City. Or see them in a supermarket or hardware store or diner.  If you interviewed them once -- and the interview was good -- they'd remember you if you were scheduled to interview them again for another project. For me, Jeff Goldblum was a celebrity who remembered me back then. I was flattered. If you're a Jeff Goldblum fan, he'll be profiled on CBS SUNDAY MORNING on November 4th.
I've had a couple of interview opportunities with Jeff Goldblum in the 1980s and a couple of casual encounters.  Each single one was fun -- like the fun some of us used to have when we were kids watching Saturday morning cartoons on TV while eating a bowl of Trix cereal.
He's a tall, slim, jazzy bird of character who's been around and noticeable for a long time.  In the first 20 minutes of the 1974 revenge drama, DEATH WISH, starring Charles Bronson, you'll see Goldblum as one of the criminals who terrorizes Hope Lange as the wife opposite Charles Bronson as the NYC architect.  In 1974, Goldblum had one line -- one wacky line -- and managed to stand out in the Woody Allen classic, ANNIE HALL. In 1980, network TV tried to make him a star opposite Ben Vereen in the private eye duo series, TEN SPEED AND BROWN SHOE. It was canceled. But Jeff Goldblum's role as the People Magazine writer in the hit 1983 movie, THE BIG CHILL, really clicked with the public. It was around that time I interviewed him for the first time. Then I'd run into him at New York publicity parties when he was dating and then newlywedded to actress and fabulous feminist Geena Davis.  They seemed to be the perfect couple.  For one thing, they were almost the same height.
 Jeff Goldblum congratulated when I got the VH1 gig.  He knew I'd moved up from local to national TV work.  For VH1, I made many trips from New York to L.A. to tape segments for my talk show. On one return trip, I was reserved in business class from L.A. back to New York.  The flight was fully booked. When I reached my aisle seat, I heard a warm "Hey, Bobby." My seatmate would be a smiling Jeff Goldblum.

This was the first time in my life I'd ever sat next to a celebrity on a flight. I knew that many stars prized their privacy, so I made sure not to get all giddy and be an interruption.

Well, Jeff Goldblum chatted like we were old high school buddies. He chatted about VH1. He chatted about the in-flight meal. He chatted about the groovy music he was listening to on his Walkman and he shared his earpieces so I could hear some of it.  He'd been cast in a new upcoming Robert Altman feature. He was soon to start rehearsals and he had his script with him. So he asked me to run lines with him to prepare for Altman's BEYOND THERAPY.

Jeff Goldblum was one of the chattiest men I'd ever sat next to on a flight, a bus, a subway, or any other kind of mass transportation.

Remember the I LOVE LUCY episode where The Ricardos and The Mertzes are on the flight back from Europe to New York? Lucy Ricardo has a 25 pound piece of cheese wrapped in a baby blanket. She thinks kids fly free and she's trying to pass the cheese off as a baby so Ricky won't have to pay extra. Lucy's seatmate, a mom holding a real baby, keeps trying to engage Lucy in conversation and get a peek at her infant. After a few minutes, Lucy pretends to be asleep.

I did that same exact thing to Jeff Goldblum somewhere over Colorado.

When I was a kid, I dreamed of interviewing and being up close to movie stars.  I never thought that one would talk my ears off while I was strapped in to my seat.
I must add that, as cool as he seems to be onscreen and in interviews, he was that cool sitting next to me in flight.  I just needed a few minutes of quiet. I really dig Jeff Goldblum and have ever since our first meeting. I hope we meet again. Watch him on CBS SUNDAY MORNING.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Rebel Wilson Weighs In

The British comic actress apparently has a new movie coming out and it's a romantic comedy. Just yesterday, I blogged that white entertainment journalists and TV hosts can and do often overlook the accomplishments of black actors, actresses and filmmakers. In the previous blog, which is about Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, I point out how I watched two high profile white entertainment press members on live network TV cover the Oscar nominations yet not give one single mention to the huge Hollywood history Viola Davis had just made when she was announced as a nominee. Well, it has happened again.  This morning, I read the Huffington Post online article about full-figured British star, Rebel Wilson.  Her new movie is called ISN'T IT ROMANTIC?  When Rebel was a guest on the festive daytime TV talk show, ELLEN, Rebel said, "I'm proud to be the first-ever plus-sized girl to be the star of a romantic comedy."
 I thought, "Really? Does Queen Latifah know about this?"

To me, Rebel Wilson's comment to Ellen DeGeneres was not exacty -- to use the title of one of Rebel's hit comedies -- PITCH PERFECT.
Queen Latifah is, by no means, skinny. She got the handsome guy in the race/gender bender romantic comedy called LAST HOLIDAY. This was a 2006 American remake of a lovely classic British film that starred the great Sir Alec Guinness.  Like Guinness in the more subdued original, she's a person who decides to really live her life when she's told she has a terminal illness and only weeks to live. I highly recommend the 1950 British original. It's an absolute gem, funny and touching.  LL Cool J was Queen's leading man in the remake.
Just last week on TV, I saw Queen Latifah in the light 2010 romantic comedy, JUST WRIGHT co-starring Common. He shoots and she scores in that basketball-centered romantic story.
Before she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, comedian/actress Mo'Nique starred in the 2006 romantic comedy called PHAT GIRLZ.  In it, Mo'Nique played a plus-sized aspiring fashion designer and department store employee. Her lead character may be insecure about her weight but she needn't be. She'll get the handsome guy at the end. Here's a PHAT GIRLZ shot with Mo'Nique on the right.

And what about Ricki Lake in the 1988 John Waters' hit, HAIRSPRAY?

I think you get my point. This is why I frequently write about the accomplishments of black artists in the entertainment industry. Our history can often be overlooked. I like bringing attention to it.

Here's a trailer for Rebel Wilson's ISN'T IT ROMANTIC? It opens in a couple of months.







Thursday, November 1, 2018

Octavia Spencer, Black History and GREEN BOOK

You know how I love to champion major breakthroughs in the field of diversity and inclusion for people of color in the film/TV industry.  Even today, our history and accomplishments can be totally overlooked by high profile white entertainment journalists.  I don't write that in a mean-spirited way. It's just a fact that I've noticed on network TV.  Here's an example involving two white gentlemen whose work I like.  In January 2017 on ABC's Good Morning America, less than five minutes before the live announcement of Oscar nominations, ABC entertainment news anchor Chris Connelly and People Magazine editor in chief Jess Cagle were on the show's daily anchors. Connelly mentioned that he was eager to see if black actors would get nominations because the "Oscars So White" controversy was still hot from the previous year.  The nominations came out.  I let loose a loud cheer in this apartment for Viola Davis. Her first Oscar nomination was for DOUBT. Her second was for Best Actress for THE HELP, co-starring Octavia Spencer. Octavia won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for THE HELP.
That January 2017 morning, Viola Davis got a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for FENCES. That is why I cheered. She had just become the most Oscar nominated black actress in all Hollywood history.  It was Viola's third nomination.  I have been an Oscars history geek ever since I was in high school. Also, I'm proud to have years of national TV, radio and print entertainment reviewer/interviewer credits under my veteran belt. So, watching the Oscar nominations be announced every year is like a religion to me.

Neither Chris Connelly nor Jess Cagle said that Viola Davis had just made Oscar history. They overlooked the Denzel Washington history that same morning. He was a Best Actor Oscar nominee for FENCES. The 2-time Oscar winner had received his 7th nomination. The next year, he's continue his reign as the most Oscar-nominated black actor in Hollywood history with an 8th nomination.

Chris Connelly and Jess Cagle also missed the history that Denzel Washington was the first black actor to receive a Best Actor Oscar nomination for a performance in a film he directed -- a film that also got an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.  Washington was one of the film's producers and he received an Oscar nomination in the Best Picture producer category.  He also directed his co-star to her record-breaking, history-making third Oscar nomination.

The two guest entertainment journalists missed all that history about Viola Davis when they discussed the Oscar nominations live on ABC's Good Morning America.

By the way, ABC is the network that airs the hit prime time legal drama series, How To Get Away With Murder starring...Viola Davis.  Chris and Jess didn't mention that either.  Viola Davis won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for FENCES.

Yes, I have pitched myself for years to work for ABC on its morning show. I never got a response.
Oscar winner Octavia Spencer went on to receive two more Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominations -- for HIDDEN FIGURES and THE SHAPE OF WATER.  Octavia Spencer is now tied with Viola Davis.  They are the two most Oscar-nominated black actresses in Hollywood history.  They have three nominations and one win each.

The movie GREEN BOOK opens this month. It's already generated solid reviews and Oscar buzz in Best Picture category.  This film is based on a true story and a real-life travel guide that helped African American motorists travel safely through the Jim Crow South. Mahershala Ali, Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner for MOONLIGHT, stars with Viggo Mortensen.
If GREEN BOOK does get an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, Octavia Spencer could make Oscar history again. She's one of the film's executive producers. Brava, Octavia!


Look Again at WEST SIDE STORY

Famed veteran director Steven Spielberg is forging ahead with his plans to remake WEST SIDE STORY. He has cast his Tony and his Maria. He...