Film Reviews

"Concrete Cowboy" Tells the Untold Story of Black Urban Cowboys

In a refreshing coming-of-age story, the unacknowledged Black cowboy subculture finds recognition

You can tell how Concrete Cowboy is going to end within 15 minutes of watching the film. In it, a troubled Black teenager, played by Caleb McLaughlin of Stranger Things, is sent to live with his estranged father for the summer.

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TV Reviews

Review: "Genius: Aretha" Struggles but Cynthia Erivo Shines

The Hulu biopic series struggles to find the balance between narrative drama and the truth

Cynthia Erivo as the Queen of Soul

Genius: Aretha is an origin story in two parts. The Hulu series is split between two stories: a young Aretha coming into fame while balancing family and an older Aretha coming into her own sound while moving from gospel to pop music.

The result is an ambitious portrait of a legend which traces her genesis as an artist from her childhood to the peak of her career. While some elements of the series shine, especially Cynthia Erivo — whose acting performance and almost effortless renditions of Aretha songs anchor the show — at other points, it stumbles.

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Film Reviews

Netflix's "Operation Varsity Blues" Distracts from How Rigged College Admissions Actually Are

While the 2019 college admissions scandal showed the lengths the extremely wealthy are willing to go to get what they want, the college process is set up to favor rich, white students

Olivia Jade, daughter of Lori Loughlin who was charged with paying to get Olivia into USC

via Red Table Talk on Facebook

The new Netflix documentary Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal is a thorough look at how the college admissions scandal began, worked, and was eventually taken down.

Using the original wiretaps and actual conversations reenacted by actors alongside documentary footage of experts and people close to those indicted, Operation Varsity Blues is exactly as enraging as you would think — a portrait of privilege and a reaffirmation of how easily the extremely wealthy game the system.

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Film Reviews

The Beautiful, Subliminal Drama of David Fincher’s "Mank"

Among Fincher's best films, Mank handles it's subject with subtlety and style.

Lily Collins and Gary Oldman in "Mank"

Update 3/15/2021: Oscar nominations have just been announced, with Mank receiving a total of 10 — more than any other film this year — with nominations for Best Picture, Best Director (David Fincher), Best Actor in a lead role (Gary Oldman), Best Supporting Actress (Amanda Seyfried). The film also received well-deserved nominations for Cinematography, Production Design, Costume Design, Sound, Score, and Makeup.

David Fincher is not a director known for pulling punches.

In movies live Seven, Fight Club, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, he has demonstrated a willingness to linger on scenes of horrifying gore and violence.

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The Notorious B.I.G.

The Los Angeles Times

On March 1, Netflix released the documentary Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell, based on the life and death of iconic Brooklyn emcee The Notorious B.I.G.

The film captures the man born Christopher Wallace as he rose to Hip-Hop superstardom through never-before-seen home video footage and untold stories from the people closest to him.

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Top Stories

Friday Film Club: Andra Day Anchors "The United States vs Billie Holiday"

The "Strange Fruit" singer is an example of the toll celebrity takes on vulnerable women, especially Black women.

The last in the triptych of blockbuster Black movies premiering this Black history month — the former being Malcom & Marie and Judas and the Black Messiah — is the biographical feature film The United States vs Billie Holiday.

The Billie Holiday biopic has been long in the works. Finally, the story of Billie Holiday and her persecution by the US government is streaming on Hulu.

Big names have all teamed up to carry the weight of the story, from director Lee Daniels of The Butler to a screenplay based on the book Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari adapted by award winning-playwright Suzan Lori-Parks. The film also stars Trevante Rhodes of Moonlight, Da'Vine Joy Randolph of High Fidelity, and Andra Day, Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter known for "Rise Up" as Holiday herself.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday - Trailer (Official) • A Hulu Original www.youtube.com

The film sees Holiday at the height of her career, battling the censorship from the government, racism in her life and around her, and a drug addiction. The United States vs Billie Holiday makes clear that Holiday's smear campaigns, surveillance, and brief imprisonment were an effort to stop her from singing "Strange Fruit" — a carefully calculated operation by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics who feared Holiday's song would incite protest and unrest.

The song "Strange Fruit," known as one of the first and greatest commercial protest songs, is a haunting, unflinching condemnation of lynching and is now Holiday's legacy; but most people don't know its significance to Holiday nor the country.

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