A Look Back at Half & Half

Last weekend, Twitter was ablaze with talk of the 30th anniversary of the premier of the iconic A Different World.  Fans watched and live-tweeted their favorite episodes while reminising about the impact the show had on a generation of TV viewers. The show produced many stars including Jasmine Guy, Kadeem Hardison, and Jade Pinkett-Smith.  Another A Different World alum is writer and producer Yvette Lee Bowser.  After A Different World, Bower went on to executive produce another classic black sitcom that also recently celebrated a milestone anniversary.

Half & Half

On September 23, 2002, Half & Half premiered on the now defunct UPN.  The series focuses on a pair of half-sisters who are attempting to build a relationship while living in the apartment building owned by their father. The series stars the ageless Rachel True as Mona, the older, more level-headed sister and  Essence Atkins as Dee Dee, the younger, more sheltered spoiled sister. The cast also includes the mothers, portrayed by television legends Telma Hopkins and Valerie Pettiford as Phyllis and Big Dee Dee and Obba Babtunde as Charles Thorne, Mona and Dee Dee’s father.  Chico Benymon and Alec Mapa round out the cast as Spencer, Mona’s best friend/coworker and Adam, her assistant.

Half & Half

Half & Half was my everything.  My 22-year-old self LOVED the dynamic between the sisters. And as a twenty-something, recent college graduate, I found myself drawn to the show.  I tuned in to experience the sisters’ journey of discovery as they tried to navigate their careers and dating while balancing family/daughter/sister duties. I could relate. My Monday nights were all about Girlfriends and Half & Half.  But whereas Girlfriends was where I wanted to be, Half & Half was my reality.

Half & Half

While I loved all of the characters on the show, Mona Thorne was my favorite.  She was an OG Awkward Black Girl.  Her eclectic taste in music, her boho fashion sense, and her hilarious relationship with her mother reflected my life at the time (sidenote: I am still convinced that Phyllis  Thorne is based on #MyMomBarb). Mona helped me embrace my quirky and awkward self. Mona was also a natural hair, curly girl icon for me.  Her curls were ALWAYS popping!  I didn’t realize it at the time, but seeing Mona’s natural hair helped me embraced my own. She represented a different kind of black girl magic. The kind my younger self desperately needed to see.

At it’s peak, Half & Half was the fourth highest rated on UPN.  However, when UPN transitioned to The CW, the show was axed before the start of the 2006 season.  The untimely demise of Half & Half left a hole in my Monday nights and my soul. For over a decade I have wondered “Who did Mona choose..Chase or Lorenzo?” But alas, that question will remain one of televisions great unanswered questions.

You can catch reruns of Half & Half on BounceTV.  Fifteen years after it’s birth, it remains one of my faves.

Seven Times My #BlackGirlSoul Quickened While Reading the 2017 Emmy Noms

The 69th Primetime Emmy nominations were announced this week. While scrolling through the list of nominees, I has a few WTF! moments.  For example Modern Family is nominated for the 1000th time again this year.  Honestly, I don’t know ANYONE who still watches the show. Yet, there it is, taking the spot of several more deserving comedy series.

But I also had several Oh Hell Yeah! moments.  The super talented  Sterling K. Brown is nominated for his role on one of my favorite show, This is Us, which is also nominated.

Emmy nomination

Also, shout out to Ron Cephas Jones for his Best Supporting Actor nomination.

Alas, there is a lot of Black Girl Magic in this years nomination list.  Previous winners Viola Davis,  Cicely Tyson, and Regina King received nominations for their work on How to Get Away with Murder and American Crime respectively.  Additionally, the Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series category boasts three female actors of color: Uzo Aduba for Orange is the New Black, Thandie Newton for Westworld, and Samira Wiley for The Handmaid’s Tale.

Below are the seven nominations that made my #BlackGirlSoul jump for joy when I read them:

Tracee Ellis Ross, Best Actress in a Comedy Series

I have loved Tracee from the moment I met Joan Carol Clayton on Girlfriends. She is hilarious and her nomination follows her win at this years Golden Globe Awards. I hope this  is a sign for a win come September.

Leslie Jones, Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Leslie has experienced some serious hate from online troll and outright racists.  I love that she is receiving attention for her immense talent.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Best Television Movie

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This movie tells the story of a black woman whose cells are used to advance medical sciences without the knowledge or consent of her family.  It’s an important story. And did I mention that two of my absolute faves, Renee Goldsberry and Oprah are in the cast? Needless to say, I am THRILLED for this nominations

Lena Waithe, Best Writing for a Comedy Series (w/ Aziz Ansari)#BlackGirlSoul

Hands down, the highlight of this season of Master on None is  the “Thanksgiving” episode. Co-written by Lena Waithe, the episode details Denise’s coming out story. The writing is perfection.  And the casting was pretty epic too.

Which leads me to my next happy #BlackGirlSoul moment…

Angela Bassett, Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

They could not have selected a more perfect person to portray Denise’s mom on Master of None than Angela Bassett.  There really is not need to expound…she’s Ms. Bassett.

Ava DuVurney, Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming (with Spencer Averick)

I adore Ava and The 13th is probably the most important film that I’ve watched this past year.  She deserves every accolade that comes from this important film.

Kira Kelly,  Outstanding Cinematography for Nonfiction Programming (with Hans Charles)

This last  nomination made my #BlackGirlSoul quicken, my heart flutter, and my smile widen.  Black women are rarely discussed for their behind the scenes contributions to film and television.  I am OVER THE MOON excited that Kira is being recognized.

The 69th Primetime Emmys will air on September 17, 2017.

 

 

Q & A with Gina Prince-Bythewood (Cinema in Noir)

Gina Prince-Bythewood is one of my FAVORITE directors.  On the latest edition of Cinema in Noir, my co-host Candice and I had the opportunity to chat with Gina about her series Shots Fired.  At Cinema in Noir, we have been very vocal about how much we LOVE the limited edition series, so this was a treat.

Gina

During the conversation, Gina spoke about the decision to delve into television, re-teaming with her Love and Basketball star, Sanaa Lathan and what it was like filming in my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. It was an insightful conversation. Although it will be bittersweet, I can not wait to see how the story concludes when the season finale of Shots Fired airs on May 24.

Gina

We kicked the show off with my review of the film Everything, Everything.  Directed by Stella Meghie, the film stars Amandla Stenberg, Anika Noni Rose, and Nick Robinson.  Based on the young adult novel by Nicola Yoon, the film is a coming of age love story about a girl forced into seclusion due to a rare illness and her desire to experience life.

We also chatted about the upcoming Wonder Woman film and the lack of promotion we have seen for the film.

Listen Here:

Tribeca Review, Shots Fired and Dear White People (Cinema in Noir)

On the latest edition of Cinema in Noir, my co-host Candice gave her review on some of the films that debuted at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. The one that I am most excited about is The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson.

I first heard about the LGBT activist a few years ago and can not wait to see her story on the big screen.  You can check out Candice’s review here.

We also chatted about two shows that people are talking about.  The first is Shots Fired.

Tribeca

The show is created and executive produced by power couple Reggie Rock Bythewood and Gina Prince-Bythewood. It stars Sanaa Lathan and centers around a small town that is the scene of racial discord after a black police officer shoots an unarmed white teen.

We also chatted about Dear White People, the new Netflix series that is based on the 2014 film of the same name.

The show hilariously tackles the black experience on an Ivy League campus.

Listen here:

Missed an episode of Cinema in Noir?  You can catch up here, here, and here.

Three More HIDDEN FIGURES we NEED to See on the Big Screen

On the latest edition of Cinema in  Noir, my co-hosts and I discussed women of color in period films. It didn’t take long for the discussion to turn to HIDDEN FIGURES.   As you probably know by now, the film centers around the three brilliant African American women who worked behind the scenes at NASA. Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson aided in the successful launch of John Glenn into space. HIDDEN FIGURES is a very important film.

hidden figuresThe  Black Girl Magic in HIDDEN FIGURES runneth over. The cast is superb and the story is historical,  but relevant.  I can’t count how many times during the course of the film I uttered an audible “amen” or nodded my head in silent agreement. No, I have never had to walk a mile to use the restroom at work. But I identified with the struggles of doing a job without the title or pay that aligns with the duties involved or having someone try to minimize your contributions to a project.  HIDDEN FIGURES  is a rallying cry to anyone whose had their contributions trivialized in the workplace.

As Women’s History Herstory Month comes to a close, here are three hidden figures who deserve to have their stories told.

Dr. Alexa Canady
Hidden Figures

HIDDEN FIGURES shows little girls of color that despite what people say, they can succeed in science and math. Alexa Canady attended a summer program focused on health careers and decided to pursue medicine. Although, she originally aspired to be in doctor of internal medicine but later became fascinated by neurosurgery. Despite being discourage from the field, Dr. Canady persisted and became the first black woman neurosurgeon in the United States.

Rose Butler Browne
Hidden Figures Rose

If you know me, you know I LOVE North Carolina Central University.  One of the most distinguished former professors is Rose Butler Browne.  Back when my alma mater was the North Carolina College, Dr. Browne worked tirelessly to educate students of color. Her journey began years before as she fought for her own education. While working full-time as a maid, she earned her bachelors degree in Rhode Island. Ultimately, she became the first woman to receive a doctoral degree in education.  She received it from Harvard.

Alice Allison Dunnigan
HIdden Figures

The recent #BlackWomenAtWork hashtag was partially inspired a condescending and disrespectful remark made to journalist April Ryan by the White House Press Secretary.  It is a reminder of the challenges that black women journalist face daily. Alice Allison Dunnigan is a journalist whose story deserves to be told. As the first African American woman to get White House Credentials and the first black female member of the Senate of House of  Representative press galleries, Dunnigan faced many challenges. Most noteworthy, she had to cover Senator Taft’s funeral from the servant’s quarters.

What other HIDDEN FIGURES do you want see on the big screen?

Happy Birthday Ms. Ross!

Happy Birthday Ms Ross!

In my world, March 26th is an unofficial holiday. Every year, in honor of this special day,   I like to pay tribute to Diana Ross, the singer, the actress, the legend. Although her film and television credits are few in comparison to her music credits, they are all memorable.

Happy Birthday Ms. Ross

Ross received critical acclaim in 1972 for her first film performance as Billie Holiday in the film Lady Sings the Blues. In his review of the film, famed critic Roger Ebert praised Ross for her willingness to transform herself for the role:

“As a gangly adolescent set out to work as a maid in a whorehouse, the diva Ross somehow manages to actually look gangly and adolescent. When she is transformed into a great beauty later in the film, it is a transformation, because she was brave enough and good enough, to really look awful at first.”

For her efforts, Ross earned a Golden Globe and received an Academy Award nomination.

Happy Birthday Diana Ross

Ross’ next two film roles in Mahogany and The Wiz did not garner the same critical acclaim as Lady Sings the Blues.  But both films are fan favorites. In Mahogany, Ross plays Tracy, an aspiring fashion designer who has to choose between career and love. The film is full of great fashion and great music. And Tracy and Brian (Billy Dee Williams) are one of my favorite movie couple of all time.

Directed by the late, great Sidney Lumet, The Wiz is a classic in my house. The all-black version of The Wizard of Oz  is considered to be one of the great financial film disasters of the time, but fans love it.

The all-star cast includes Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Ted Ross, Richard Pryor and Lena Horne. Visually, The Wiz is colorful and exuberant. When paired with the vibrant dance numbers and the soulful music, what’s not to love about it?

Happy Birthday Diana

The Wiz marked the end of Ross’ big screen career. However, she gave an amazing performance in the 1994 made for television movie Out of Darkness in which she portrayed a woman battling schizophrenia.

Here is a scene from Out of Darkness:

The movie is one of my favorite made for television movies. Ross was nominated for another Golden Globe Award for her performance.

Happy Birthday Ms. Ross

I am a huge Diana Ross fan and saw her perform live in concert last year.  Undoubtedly, she will go down in history as a legendary singer and performer. But I think Diana Ross is an equally talented actor. She once said,

“I’m not really a songwriter – I’m an interpreter. So in a sense, I am an actress first and foremost. I act out the songs, and I lead with my heart.”

I agree with her 100%. So to celebrate the life of the living legend, I challenge you all to take a Diana Ross Twirl Break and seize the day! Do it for Ms. Ross!

Happy Birthday, Ms. Ross

Music and Movies – #CinNoir Chat (ICYMI)

Music and Movies go together like peanut butter and jelly,  mornings and coffee,  Barack and Michelle.  During the latest #CinNoir Chat, my co-hosts and I relived some of our favorite moments in music and movies.  From amazing soundtracks to iconic songs from lackluster films, we discussed it all. We also mentioned some of our favorite movie musicals. Check out a clip from my personal favorite, Dreamgirls.

Additionally, we talked about two upcoming films.  A documentary about the legendary Prince is in the works.  Although it seems a bit soon, I am intrigued to see how the film takes shape.music and movies

Also, TV One is producing a biopic on Bobbi Kristina Brown, the late daughter of music icon Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown.

In case you missed the music and movies chat, here is the recap:

Happy Birthday, Renee Elise Goldsberry (aka Happy Birthday My Dearest, Angelica)

Happy Birthday, Renee Elise Goldsberry!!

Happy Birthday, Renee GOldsberry

I have been a fan of Renee since she started on One Life to Live as Evangeline Williamson.  She is also in one of my favorite movies, All About You, which features one of my favorite movie couples. Renee has tackled the theater, television, and film.  She is a truly talented performer.

Additionally, Renee is an accomplished singer and is featured on the All About You soundtrack. Renee also recorded her own LP entitled Beautiful.  Renee also exhibits her rapping skills as Angelica Schulyer on the Hamilton Broadway cast album.  Her work earned her a Grammy and a Tony award. RS Renee CD

Here is her AMAZING acceptance speak at the 2016 Tony Awards:

So, Happy Birthday, RENEE!!!

#NFOTD2016 – A Year in Review

As 2016 comes to a close and we gear up for 2017, the time has come for my #NFOTD2016 post.  As you all know, I have been participating in #NFOTD (New Film of the Day) for the past four years. For those who don’t know, NFOTD was started by film-lover and director of photography, Cybel Martin. Every day for the last year, #NFOTD2016 participants have watched a film that they have never seen before and tweet (and/or Instagram) about it.

Here are my #NFOTD2016 superlatives:

Favorite Theatrical Release: FencesDirector: Denzel Washington

Screenwriter: August Wilson

Cinematographer: Charlotte Bruus Christensen

Starring: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Jovan Adepo, Mykelti WIlliamson

 

Favorite Streaming/Online/At  Home: Miss Sharon JonesDirector: Barbara Kopple

Cinematographer:  Gary Griffin, Tony Hardmon, Kyle Kibbe

Starring: Sharon Jones

 

Favorite Most Obscure aka WTHAIW (What The Hell Am I Watching): Accidental LoveDirector: David O. Russell

Screenwriter: Kristin Gore, Matthew Silverstein, Dave Jeser

Cinematographer: Max Malkin

Starring: Jessica Biel, Jake Gylenhaal, James Marsden, Tracey Morgan

 

Favorite Documentary: 13th Director: Ava DuVernay

Screenwriter: Spencer Averick, Ava DuVernay

Cinematographer: Hans Charles, Kira Kelly

Starring: Michelle Alexander, Cory Booker, Henry Louis Gates, Newt Gingrich

 

Favorite Better Late Than Never: BasquiatDirector: Julian Schnabel

Screenwriter: Julian Schnabel

Cinematographer: Ron Fortunato

Starring: Jeffrey Wright, Michael Wincott, Benicio Del Toro, ClarecForlani

 

Member’s Choice: 9 Rides#nfotd2016

Director: Matthew Cherry

Screenwriter: Matthew Cherry

Cinematographer: Richard J. Vialet

Starring: Dorian Missick, Omar Dorsey, Robinne Lee

 

2016 resolutions

What new to you films did you love this year?  Want to track the films you watch in 2017? Here is the link to the #NFOTDSpreadsheet.  Feel free to save a copy and get to watching!