Category Archives: Best of

Seven Sistas of Television, 2016

To quote the great show Hamilton Musical: “Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.” On the latest Cinema in Noir, we chatted about how it’s almost an embarrassment of riches with the amount of quality television that is being produced.  And many of these amazing series feature women of color in prominent roles.  2016 marks my 5th year doing my year-end seven sistas post and this year it was particularly hard narrowing this list to seven. But here they are, my seven sistas of television, 2016.

1. Erica Ash as “M-Chuck” on Survivor’s Remorse and “Bridgette” on The Real Husbands of HollywoodErica Ash is one of the most underrated women working in television. She pulls double duty bringing the drama on Survivor’s Remorse and hilariously goes toe to toe with Kevin Hart on the Real Husbands of Hollywood. Erica was included in my Seven Sistas of 2015 last year as an honorable mention. In 2016 she was a shining star.

2. Kylie Bunbury as “Ginny Baker” on PitchPitch is a show about being the first.  But this isn’t my first time raving about it’s star, Kylie Bunbury. Back in 2013, I fell in love with Kylie in the now defunct series Twisted.  Today she portrays the first woman signed to a major league baseball team. And Kylie does so with the same strength and vulnerability that first caught my attention.

3. Michaela Coel as “Tracey” on Chewing GumI heard about the series Chewing Gum for the first time a couple of months ago. At the time, I added it to the never-ending-Netflix-queue and moved on. When I finally watched Chewing Gum this week I literally laughed the entire time.  Michaela Coel is the quirky black girl icon we have been clamoring for.

4. Issa Rae as “Issa” on InsecureIssa Rae was a Hollywood MVP before Hollywood knew her name.  I first fell in love with her work back in 2011 when she released her web series Awkward Black Girl. Fast-forward to 2016 and Issa is bringing the same unique perspective and fresh voice that the world deserves to the masses via Insecure.

5. Jurnee Smollett as “Rosalee” on UndergroundJurnee Smollett has been delivering stand out performances for over almost 20 years.  In Underground she portrays Rosalee, a house slave turned runaway with the same dignity, strength, and badassery that we have come to expect from her performances.

6. Lorraine Toussaint as “Donna Rosewood” on Rosewood

Yall know how much I love me some Lorraine Toussaint. It is well documented. This season, I was ecstatic that her character on Rosewood got a storyline worthy of her amazing talent. And in true Lorraine form, she delivered an amazing performance.

7. Rutina Wesley as “Nova Bordelon” on Queen SugarIt is a revelation to watch Rutina Wesley on screen.   As Novalee, she embodies the spirit of a loving sister, a loyal friend, and fierce protector.  Rutina’s portrayal of the perfectly imperfect Nova is one of the best of 2016.

HONORABLE MENTION – The Women of Luke Cage (Rosario Dawson, Simone Missick and Alfre Woodard)Seven Sistas of Television, 2016

I could go on and on, but yall already know!

Who would you put on you Seven Sistas of Television, 2016 list?

 

My Best of 2015 (And a Few I Saw So You Don’t Have To)

My best of 2015!!! On the last #CinNoir chat of 2015, my co-hosts and I listed our favorite films of the year.  In case you missed it, check it our here.

Here are my choices for the best of 2015:

  1. Advantageous

Best of 2015Hands down, one of the best of 2015. Great story, talented cast, people of color portrayed in the future; this sci-fi indie flick is awesome on many levels.Side note: We chatted with director Jennifer Phang this year. See what she said about the film here.

2.  Ayanda

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A vibrant coming of age story set in South Africa. Filmmaker Sara Blecher shows a side of South Africa that Americans rarely get to see on the big screen.

3.  A Ballerina’s Tale

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One of my favorite documentaries of the year.  The film follows the amazing career of ballerina Misty Copeland. Four reasons you NEED to see it here.

4. Brotherly Love

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A Romeo and Julietesque love story/crime drama.  The film is actor Cory Hardict’s best work in my opinion. Brotherly Love is suspenseful and has a great plot twist at the end. My #CinNoir review here.

5. Creed 

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The latest installment in the Rocky franchise, Creed is the boxing film for people who don’t like boxing films and for those who love them. The film boasts amazing performances from Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone and Tess Thompson.

6. Dope

Dope-movie-poster (1)Dope is a fresh look at the lives of  three black geeks who find themselves in a sticky situation when they are forced to become drug dealers. I love the film because of it’s exploration of the black nerd, a side of our culture we rarely get to see in the big screen. You can hear my #CinNoir review here.

7. Lila and Eve

Lila-and-Eve-MovieI had some reservations about this one but was pleasantly surprised. And the plot twist in the second half really elevated the film beyond my initial Lifetime movie label. Viola was great in the film and this is my favorite JLo performance in years.

8. Room 

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Rarely is the film adaptation of a story as good as the book.  But this is one of those exceptions. Brie Larson’s performance is pitch perfect.

9. Straight Outta Compton

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One of the top grossing films of the year, it chronicled the history of one of rap’s greatest groups. And despite a few flaws, the cast delivered amazing performances.

10. What Happened, Miss Simone

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My other favorite documentary of the year.  The film is great because it shows the trials and tribulations behind Nina’s genius.

Last, and MOST certainly, the least.  Here are my picks for the worst of 2015:

Paul Blart Mall Cop II – Self explanatory

Get Hard – Will Ferrel and Kevin Hart…what could go wrong? Everything.

The Man in Apartment 3 B – Think BET Arabesque film. Yep. For real.

Blackbird – I wanted to like this film. But it fell flat.

What films are on your best of list for 2015? Worst?

Seven Sistas of Film 2015

In my opinion,  2015 has been an underwhelming year for film.  Despite a bunch of mediocre movies, these women have given us some memorable performances. So with a few hours to spare, I give you my seven sistas of film 2015.  Enjoy!

Viola Davis as “Lila” in Lila and Eve

Seven SIstas of 2015 Viola Davis

Viola Davis never disappoints. In Lila and Eve she delivers another powerful performance as a mother dealing with the loss of her son. I mourned with Lila, felt her pain, and even rejoiced as she fough to regain her sense of self. Viola drew me in from beginning to end.

Jacqueline Kim as “Gwen” in Advantageous

Seven Sistas of Film 2015

In Advantageous, Jacqueline Kim portrays a mother desperate to do whatever it takes to provide for her daughter.   From the begining Jacqueline, as Gwen, exhibits a sense of urgency that is palpable and heartbreaking. She delivers an amazing performance.

Sanaa Lathan as “Leah” in The Perfect Guy

Seven Sistas of Film 2015

Sanaa Lathan is one of the few bright spots in The Perfect Guy. Despite a super predictable plot, she shines in the second half of the film when she transforms from Ms. Woe is Me to Ms. I Can Save My Damn Self and exhits the fierceness and fearless that she does so well.

Fulu Moguvhani as “Ayanda” in  Ayanda

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I was unfamiliar with  Fulu Moguvhani before I saw Ayanda. The South African actress  gives an amazing debut performance as a girl trying to find her niche while preserving the legacy of her father. Fulu exhibits the kind of scene stealing charisma that Hollywood careers are made of.

KeKe Palmer as “Jackie” in  Brotherly Love

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It has been really cool following Keke Palmer’s career as she transitioned from child actor to young adult. She holds her own as Jackie in the Romeo and Julietesque drama.  Keke displays a level of toughness and vulnerability that makes her performance ring true.

Teyonah Parris as “Lysistrata” in  Chi-raq

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So, I didn’t love Chi-raq. But I loved Teyonah Parris in Chi-raq (this makes sense). I have been a fan of Teyonnah since I saw her in last year’s Dear White People.  Just as Lysistrata carries the weight of Spike Lee’s Chicago on her back, Teyonnah carries the often heavy-handed Chi-raq with bravery, dedication, grace and believability.

Tessa Thompson as “Bianca” in Creed

Creed_2015-21Tessa Thompson is one of my favorites. In Creed, she  gives a great performance as Bianca, the love interest of Michael B. Jordan’s Donny. What I love is that she is more than “the girlfriend.” She has her own storyline and goals and Tessa infuses the character with a sense of realness that makes her three dimensional.

Who do you think gave a memorable performance this year?

Seven Sistas of Television 2015

I think we can all agree that 2015 has been a stellar year for television. And when it comes to quality roles for women of color, television is leading the charge in Hollywood. Choosing my favorite for the year was a pleasantly difficult task. But here they are, my seven sistas of television 2015. Enjoy!

Tichina Arnold as “Cassie” on Suvivor’s Remorse

Seven Sistas of Television 2015

I have been down with Tichina Arnold for almost 30 years!  Little Shop of Horrors is one of my favorite movies and one of the reasons I started this blog. This year Tichina killed it as the Calloway matriach. She is a comedy legend and I love the levity she brings to Survivor’s Remorse. Her shining moment?  The vaginal rejuvenation episode.

Sidenote: We interviewed Tichina this year on Cinema in Noir and it was AWESOME! Listen here.

Loretta Devine as “Cynthia ” on The Carmichael Show and “CeCe” on Being Mary Jane

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Loretta Divine is one of the most talented women in Hollywood. There isn’t much that she can not do.  This year we were lucky enough to witness Loretta in not one but two memorable roles.  This summer she proved to be the MVP of the NBC sitcom, The Carmichael Show. Loretta’s one liners made her stand out among that cast of comedians.
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For her role as CeCe on Being Mary Jane, Loretta flipped the script playing the pro-black, fedora wearing extortionist who blackmails her way into Mary Jane’s life. Loretta’s performance was definitely tweet-worthy. She stole every scene she was in.

Taraji P. Henson as “Cookie Lyons” on Empire

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So we can all agree that 2015 belonged to Taraji P. Henson, right? Her portrayal of Cookie Lyons garned her numerous award nominations, a gig hosting SNL, and USA Today’s honor as Entertainer of the Year. What I love most about Taraji is her commitment. Cookie is the most outrageous (and quotable) character on primetime. And Taraji always brings her A game.

Niecy Nash as “Didi Ortley” on Getting On and “Denise Hemphill” on Scream Queens

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Niecy Nash is one of the most underrated women in Hollywood. I too am guilty of not recognizing how amazingly talented she is.  I started watching Getting On when it premiered in 2013 and was pleasantly surprised by her performance. The dark comedy allows us to see a different side of Niecy. I appreciate her understated and compassionate performance.

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On the flip side, Niecy’s performace as Denise on Scream Queens is over-the-top. But the entire show is over-the-top, so it’s perfect.

Danielle Nicolet as “Jenna” on Born Again Virginbav_sneakpeek_ep111

I really enjoyed Danielle Nicolet on The Game so I was excited when it was announced that she was starring in her own series on TV One. As Jenna on Born Again Virgin, Danielle gives a convincing performance as a blogger abstaining from sex until she finds Mr. Right.  The tension created from trying to keep her promise to herself and her attraction to her neighbor allows Danielle to comedically and adorably manuever the trials of a single and celibate woman.

Lena Waithe as “Denise”on Master of None

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Master on None is one of the best new shows of 2015 and Lena Waithe is definitely one of the hightlights of the series. Denise  is the BFF we all wish we had.  She is the hilarious voice of reason that is the perfect foil to Dev. Lena is a natural and I can not wait to see more of her onscreen.

Kerry Washington as “Olivia Pope” on Scandal

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Olivia Pope is been through it all. And regardless of where you fall on the pro or anti Olitz spectrum, there is no denying that Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope is a compelling anti-hero. This season her performances have ranged from “she’s breaking my heart” to “WTF is she doing” and Kerry kills it every time.

Honorable Mention

The Wives of  Real Husbands of Hollywood (Nicole Ari Parker, Salli Richardson Whitfield, Eva Marcille, Holly Robinson Peete, Erica Ash and Nadine Velazquez)

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The Broadtalk episode of Real Husbands of Hollywood was the funniest of the season.  These women are funny individually. But all together, they created a magically hysterical episode.  These women flawlessly portray their characters and disply their comedic talents which rival the undeniable insanity that is Kevin Hart.

Who do you think gave a memorable performance this year?

Seven Sistas of Film, 2014

2014 has been a pretty good year for film.  And these women have given us some amazing, fun and memorable performances. These performances run the gamut in terms of genre. So with a few hours to spare, I give you my seven favorite sistas of film for 2014.  Enjoy!

Rosario Dawson as “Chelsea” in Top Five and “Dolores Huerta” in Cesar Chavez

RosarioI have been a fan of Rosario for a while now. In Top Five, she effectively plays a journalist on a mission to find out why a comedian respects in no longer funny. As always, Rosario brings her charming nature to the role.

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Likewise, In Cesar Chavez, Rosario give us a glimpse of the force of nature that is Dolores Huerta.  I just wish she’s been featured more in the film.

 

Regina Hall as “Joan ” in About Last Night

about-last-night-regina-hallRegina Hall is a force to be reckoned with.  It takes a true comedic talent to hold her own against Kevin Hart, but Regina does just that. In About Last Night, she does more than hold her own, she brings the funny and will have you dying of laughter.

 

Taraji Henson as “Catana Starks” in From The Rough and “Terry” in No Good Deed

taraji-henson-from-the-roughTaraji plays a woman on a mission with fierce determination and heart.  This is evident in two of her performances this year.  In From The Rough, she portrays a dedicated coach with a band of unlikely golfers.

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In No Good Deed, she plays mother determined to save her own life and the lives of her children.  On both occasions, Taraji’s performances reminded me of why I enjoy her work.

 

Gugu Mbatha-Raw as “Dido Elizabeth Belle” in Belle and “Noni” in Beyond the Lights

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I don’t care what ANYONE says, 2014 belonged to Gugu Mbatha-Raw. The starlet starred in not one, but two critically acclaimed films, both written and directed by black women.  Has this EVER happened before? And Gugu delivered in the radically different roles.  In Belle she exudes hopefulness and passion.

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In Beyond the Lights she channels pop divas Rihanna and Beyonce in a way that makes you do a double-take. Both roles exemplify Gugu’s versitility and talent.

 

Teyonah Parris as “Coco” in Dear White People

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I thought I was gonna hate Coco, the blue-eyed, sometimes blond diva on the hunt for fame in Dear White People.  But in the capable hands of the super-talented Teyonah Parris, I found myself drawn to her every time she was on the screen. I long to see Teyonah more on the big screen.

 

Tessa Thompson as “Sam” in Dear White People

Sam in Dear White PeopleTessa Thompson is being heralded as one of the breakout stars of 2014.  And deservedly so. As Sam in Dear White People, Tessa brings life to the undergrad trying to establish her identity on a divided Ivy-league campus in our “post-racial” society.

HONORABLE MENTION: The Women of Selma

I previously mentioned in my Best of 2014 post that I have not yet seen Selma. But I am obsessed with the female cast, namely Carmen Ejogo, Lorraine Toussaint, Oprah Winfrey, Tessa Thompson. From what I’ve heard, this is no doubt a film about MLK (as portrayed by David Oyelowo). But the women of Selma hold their own and I can not wait to rave about them once I see the film. In the meantime, check out this featurette on the Women of Selma.

Watch here:

Who else gave a memorable performance this year?  Who is your favorite sista of film for 2014?

Seven Sistas of Television, 2014

2014 has been an AMAZING year for television.  It seems television is blazing a trail for women of color in leading roles. Trying to narrow down  this list down to seven was damn near impossible. But these seven women (plus a few bonuses :-)) have given us some complex, layered and memorable performances. So  I give you my seven favorite sistas of television for 2014.  Enjoy!

Viola Davis as “Annalise Keating ” on How To Get Away With Murder

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Viola Davis gave us one of the most “OMG WTF just happened” moments of 2014.  Actually, she gave us two or three courtesy of her work on the Shonda Rhimes show How To Get Away With Murder.

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In an unprecedented move, Viola shed her make-up and wig in a pivotal scene that had the world talking.  As usual, Viola brings strength, grace, and an unparalleled sense of humanity to her character Annalise.

 

Nia Long as “Billie Page” on  The Divide

zap-the-divide-season-1-photos-20140715-001The Divide was hands down one of the best shows of the year. Unfortunatly, it was cancelled prematurely.  But we will always have one season of the awesome Nia Long as Billie Page. I love that Nia always brought the drama while playing this strong, intelligent, yet conflicted character balancing work, family, and a little corruption. The show may be gone, but Billie will love on in our hearts forever.

 

Kelly McCreary “Dr. Maggie Pearce” on Grey’s Anatomy

MaggieI have been a fan of Kelly McCreary since I watched her on the short-lived Emily Owens, MD. So I was super excited when she appeared on Scandal and doubly excited when I learned she was joining the cast of Grey’s Anatomy.  As the recently discovered sister, Kelly is bringing new life (and drama) to the long running series.

 

Naturi Naughton as “Tasha St. Patrick” on Power

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Power has to be one of the most underrated shows on television right now.  And Naturi Naughton is bringing it as the wife with her own agenda and goals. I am really impressed with Naturi’s career path.  Her transition from 3LW to serious actress has been great to watch.

 

Gina Rodriguez as “Jane” on Jane the Virgin

1.02lWhen I saw Gina Rodriguez in the indie film, Filly Brown, I knew that sooner or later, the world would know her name.  And I was right.  Although the scenarios on the show can be over-the-top and outrageous (as a good soap should be), never have I doubted Jane’s sincerity or the respect Gina has for the character.

 

Tracee Ellis Ross as “Bow” on black-ish

10218196 We’ve know for a while that Tracee Ellis-Ross excels in comedic roles. So I was overjoyed by her return to television comedy.  This time around we  get to see an older, wiser Tracee as Bow, the matriarch of the Johnson Family on black-ish.  Tracee ‘s hilarious interactions with the kids has her in the race for best TV mom of 2014.

 

Lorraine Toussaint as “Vee” on Orange is the New Black

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Full disclosure: I am obsessed with Lorraine Toussaint. So,  I was more than excited when I found out she was going to be on one of my favorite shows.  And boy did she deliver.  As a fan, I got a see a completely different side of the actress. Lorraine’s portrayal of Vee had me shook. I loved every minute of it.

HONORABLE MENTION: Abby, Jenny, and Mama Mills on Sleepy Hollow

Mills-sisters-forehead-touch-Sleepy-Hollow-2x09-e1416336896862On Sleepy Hollow, the Mills sisters (played by Nicole Beharie and Lyndie Greenwood) personify badassery every single week.  But one of my favorite moments of the season came when we got to meet their mother, played by Aunjanue Ellis.

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I loved the backstory and the chemistry between the three characters.

Who else gave a memorable performance this year?  Who is your favorite sista of television for 2014?

My Best of 2014 (And a Few I Saw So You Don’t Have To)

On the last #CinNoir chat of 2014 we listed the best and worst of 2014. In case you missed it, check it out here.

Here are my choices for best of 2014:

1. About Last Night

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Kevin Hart and Regina Hall are the supporting cast in this remake of the 80’s favorite, but they steal the show They are SO freaking hilarious together.

2. Belle 

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How often do we see a British costume drama with a person of color in the lead? Never. Ever. Until Belle.  This is an important film. And it’s really good.

3. Beyond the Lights

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It’s so rare that we get to see true love portrayed on the big screen between two leads of color. The chemistry between Kaz and Noni is palpable. You fall in love with them immediately.

4. Boyhood

BoyhoodShot over the course of 12 years, Boyhood is simply a once in a lifetime cinematic experience. It’s made even better with great performances by the cast.

5. Dear White People
Dear White People

This is a rare glimpse into the life of the black undergrad on a predominately white campus. I love the film because it focuses on the black college experience outside of the dance team/step team/drum line.

6. Gone Girl
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Never is the film adaptation of a story EVER as good as the book. Until now. Gillian Flynn’s screenplay, David Fincher’s direction, and the performances by Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck were all pitch perfect.

7. Life Itself

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This is the best documentary I’ve seen this year.  The film is a beautiful tribute to a man who spent his life loving, watching, and talking about film. I think Ebert would give it two thumbs up.

8. Maleficent

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Angelina Jolie shines as the misunderstood title character in this retelling of Sleeping Beauty.

9. St. Vincent

St. VIncentI love that in this coming of age film, Melissa McCarthy gets to play the straight woman to Bill Murray’s cantankerous Vincent.

10. Top Five

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Hand’s down, my favorite Chris Rock film.  A very smart film with tons of hilarious and purposeful cameo appearances. Sidenote: If The Academy gave awards for cameos, DMX would be a front runner.

HONORABLE MENTION: My Best Film of 2014 That I Have Not Seen Yet: Selma

 

Best of 2014

Selma opened in NY, LA, ATL, and DC on Christmas Day, and does not arrive in NC until January 9, 2015.  So, I have not yet seen the movie yet but I already know I will love it 🙂

 

Last, and MOST certainly, the least.  Here are my picks for the worst of 2014

Sex Tape – Yep, it’s as bad as you thought.

Think Like a Man Too – I really wanted to love this film. I REALLY  did not love it at all.

A Million Ways to Die In The West – Should have been called A Million Reasons I Wanted to Die While Watching THIS Movie.

Get on Up – The only saving grace for this movie was Chadwick Boseman’s performance. But not even Chadwick could save it this chaotic mess of a movie. AND most of my girl Tika’s work was cut, so yeah…I’m salty.

Cuban Fury – Never heard of it?  Yeah, there’s a reason for that.

 

What films are on your best of list for 2014? Worst?

Seven Sistas of Television, 2013

Khandi Alexander as “Maya Lewis” on  Scandal

RS KAScandal fans have been clamoring to know more about the family of Olivia Pope.  At the end of last season we met her father and this season we got to meet  Mama Pope.  Khandi shines as the mysterious Maya.  A highlight of the season?  Her ode to the walking dead, arm gnawing scene.  THAT took guts.

 

Angela Bassett as “Marie Laveau” on American Horror Story: Coven

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Angela Bassett always delivers, so I wasn’t surprised by how much I enjoy her as the voodoo queen who goes toe-to-toe with witches of the coven.  But I was ultra impressed by her cool, calm, and collected characterization.  Angela’s portrayal of  Marie is totally bad ass.

 

Nicole Beharie as “Lt. Abbie Mills” on  Sleepy Hollow

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I have admired Nicole Beharie for a long time now.  So I was super excited when i heard she was starring in her own show.  What makes it even better is that it’s a sci-fi series, a genre that has long excluded people of color. Abbie Mills is complex,   funny,  and kick-ass. Nicole totally rocks as Abbie.

 

Kylie Bunbury as “Lacey Porter” on Twisted

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I was unfamiliar with Kylie prior to Twisted but she has become on of my faves. As Lacey, a girl torn between her past and present, peer pressure and what she thinks is right, Kylie exudes strength and vulnerability in her portrayal.

 

Tia Mowry-Hardrict as “Stephanie” on Instant Mom

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I was so happy when I found out Tia was returning to television.  And Instant Mom is the perfect vehicle for her.  She get’s to flex her comedic chops as the young step-mother of the three kids. Tia really shines in comedy and has found her niche on the show

 

 

Sherri Saum as ‘Lena Adams” on The Fosters

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Sherri got her start on the soap operas Sunset Beach and One Life to Live, so she is no stranger to drama.  On The Fosters Sherri  has opportunity to explore the ins and outs of a same sex relationship ass one-half of a couple with three children and two foster children.  As Lena, we see Sherri’s altruistic and soft-hearted side (quite a contrast to Keri Reynolds on OLTL).

 

Gabourey Sidibe “Queenie” on American Horror Story: Coven

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Gabourey is one of my faves.  I have loved her in almost every role she has been in since Precious.  As Queenie she holds her own against a racist maid and her fellow witches in the coven and  she has definitely gotten to do some wild and crazy things this season, namely Minotaur sex.  I just hope that Queenie survives this latest trauma and returns for the second half of the season

 

Who else gave a memorable performance this year?  Who is your favorite sista of television for 2013?

Seven Sistas of Film, 2013

2013 has been an amazing year for film.  And theses women have given us some amazing, fun, heartbreaking, and memorable performances. These performances run the gamut in terms of genre. Below are my seven favorite sistas of 2013.  Enjoy!

 

Essence Atkins as “Kisha” in A Haunted House

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I have been a fan of  Essence Atkins since she was a teen on the sitcom Smart Guy.  And I LOVED her as little Dee Dee on the cancelled- too- soon series  Half and Half.  So I knew that she had comedic chops.  But it takes a true comedic talent to hold their old against one of the Wayans and Essence does JUST that. She was definitely one of the highlights of the film.

 

Halle Berry as “Jordan” in  The Call

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In the film Halle plays a Los Angeles 911-operator who is traumatized and guilt ridden after she makes a fatal mistake during a call. Six months later she receives a similar call and is determined not to make the same mistake. Halle gives a solid and compelling performance.. She excels as a woman on the verge of losing it.  She shines in the role and handles it with the necessary restraint and emotion.

 

Monica Calhoun as “Mia” in The Best Man Holiday

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It’s hard to stand out in an ensemble cast. But Monica Calhoun manages to do just that in the highly anticipated sequel to 1999’s The Best Man.  This time around Mia is happily married to Lance and the mother of four children.  She gathers the gang back together for a Christmas celebration at her palatial home.  Mia and her situation serves as the catalyst that brings the group together. Monica’s performance is subtle, emotional, and tugs on the heart strings.

 

Danai Gurira as “Adenike” in Mother of George

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I was pleasantly surprised by Danai Gurira’s performance as Adenike. She immersed herself in the character.  Danai’s portrayal of a women torn between traditional Nigerian customs and American culture, being a devoted wife and an independent woman  is nuanced.  She displays a level of vulnerability and  depth that allows you to feel every emotion she goes through.

 

Deborah Mailman  as “Gail” in The Sapphires

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The Sapphires tackles issues of race, the Stolen Generation of Australia, and  family. The film is based on the real life story of a group of Aboriginal women who are discovered at a talent showcase and transformed into a soulful group who travel to sing for the American troops.  As the eldest sister in singing quartet, Deborah Mailman portrays Gail with equal parts protective love and  sarcastic wit. Her performance is quite impressive.

 

Lupita Nyong’o as “Patsy” in 12 Years a Slave

RS Lupita N.

I was completely moved by Lupita Nyong’o’s performance in 12 Years A Slave.  While Chiwetel Ejiofor is the heart of the film, Lupita’s Patsy is the soul.  Her performance is heartbreaking and soul stirring.  In the pivitol scene where Patsy endures a rather excessive punishment, your heart literally stops in the moment.  Lupita’s strength and courage as an actress is compelling and captivating. She humanizes Patsy in a way that is palpable.

 

Oprah Winfrey as “Gloria” in The Butler

RS Oprah W.

Oprah Winfrey only appears on screen every blue moon and when she does it is a treat.  Her performance in The Butler is no exception. As the alcoholic wife of the the butler, Oprah paints a  multi-layered portrait of a woman who wants to support her husband but has her own issues to work through as well.

 

What else gave a memorable performance this year?  Who is your favorite sista of cinema for 2013?

My Favorite (and Least Favorite) Films of 2013

On the last edition of Cinema in Noir of 2013, my co-hosts, our guests Fariha Roisin and Whitney Greer, and I listed our favorite films of the year.  Several people have asked if the lists will be posted, so here is my personal list of my favorite films of 2013.

1. 12 Years a Slave

12-years-a-slave-poster

 

This was the most gut wrenching cinematic experience that I’ve ever had.  There are moments when you will want (or rather need) to look away.  But director Steve McQueen makes it nearly impossible.  The performances of Chewitel Ejiofor, Luptia Nyong’o, and Michael Fassbender are masterful and worthy of all the praise and accolades they are getting.

 

2. 20 Feet From Stardom

RA 20 Feet

This documentary tells the unknown story of the women behind some of music’s greatest songs.  Lisa Fischer, Merry Clayton, and Judith Hill are all featured in the film that explores the sometimes tumultuous world of background singing. It also chronicles their often futile attempts to jump start their own solo careers.

 

3. 42

RS 42

42 tells the heroic story of the legendary Jackie Robinson, the first black man to play major league baseball.  This film boasts an inspiring story, great direction and an amazingly talented cast.   Chad Boseman and Nicole Beharie shine as a loving couple who shared their lives and dreams together.

 

4. The Best Man Holiday

CIN Best Man

 

This film will have you on an emotional roller coaster.  I laughed, I cried, I laughed more, and then I cried again.  But above all I was thoroughly entertained.  BMH may be one of those rare instances where the sequel is better than the original. Kudos to Malcolm Lee and the entire cast!

 

5. Free Angela and All Political Prisoners

free-angela

 

This documentary, directed by Shola Lynch,  gives a behind the scenes look of the events leading to the arrest, trial, and ultimate acquittal of the infamous and iconic Angela Davis.  What makes the film so effective is the first hand accounts of her journey by Angela herself. Also, in the capable hands of Lynch, the film paints a portrait of a sometimes vulnerable woman in love, fighting for her life.

 

6. Fruitvale Station

Fruitvale

 

Fruitvale Station tells the story of Oscar Grant.  This film packs an emotional punch that begins with the very first frame of the film.  The writing and direction are superb and the performances are heartfelt and powerful.When the credits started rolling, I literally sat in the dark theater, processing what I’d just witnessed.   Seeing Fruitvale in the wake of the Trayvon Martin case made the film that  much more impactful.

 

7. The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete

IDMP

 

Mister and Pete tells the story of two young kids who have to learn to take care of themselves after their parents prove incapable. Despite the bleak title, the film is a hopeful story.  Bolstered by the an excellent screenplay and the exceptional performances by it’s stars Skylan Brooks and Ethan Dizon. Mister and Pete is hands down the most underrated film of the year.

 

8. Mother of George

MoG

 

Mother of George is director Andrew Dosunmu’s second feature film.   In this film, a Nigerian couple must deal with issues of infertility. Danai Gurira’s portrayal as a women torn between traditional Nigerian customs and American culture,   is nuanced and effective. Visually, the film is stunning. Director of Photography Bradford Young’s inherent genius coupled with Dosunmu’s background as a photographer make for one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen this year.

 

9. Mud

Mud

 

In this film Matthew McConnaughey delivers another masterful performance in the role of Mud, a drifter in hiding.  His chemistry with his young co-stars is palpable and the scenes between the three are exceptionally well acted. Even Reese Witherspoon (whom I have lukewarm feelings about) gives an impressive performance.

 

10. The Sapphires

RS THe Sapphires

The Sapphires is based on the real life story of a group of Aboriginal women who are discovered at a talent showcase and transformed into a soulful group who travel to sing for the American troops.  The performances by Deborah Mailman is especially impressive.  And the music is great.  It’s a must see.

 

The worst of 2013:

Girl Most Likely – I am a huge Kristen Wiig fan and wanted to love this movie. Sadly, I didn’t even like it a little bit.

Grown Ups 2 – I saw this at the $2 theater.  I wanted a refund.

The Lone Ranger –  Johnny Depp as Tonto?  I didn’t even make it past the trailer.

Scary Movie 5 – I dozed off several times in the theater. So…

Temptation – Jurnee Smollett did her best but the story was ridiculous and offensive.