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LA La Land’s Director Damien Chazelle

La La Land has been nominated for 14 Academy Awards.  Many people feel that this film marks the renaissance of the musical.  If so, it is a new type of musical. One that pay homage to the films of yesterday with Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers but one which attempts to ground itself in reality according to writer/director Damien Chazelle:


I liked this film and I did feel the humanity, however, I also wanted to FEEL the dancing. Unfortunately, I felt the level of dance difficulty was so common, so human that I could do those moves myself.  And while that is what it appears that Chazelle and team were going for, I wanted more.  I wanted to see something greater than myself – dancing that excites and inspires.  May this desire to see phenomenal dancing is why I LOVE movies like Singin’ In The Rain, West Side Story, The Wiz and All That Jazz – The dance numbers were aspirational if not unattainable for the mere fan.  They set a standard and I felt a bit let-down with La La Land. The high dance quality in the films mentioned above made performers like Kelly, Rogers and Astaire special – the real triple threat! For me, the story, the music and the acting in Chazalle’s film might have one floating in La La Land but the dancing left his cast outside the studio with the rest of us trying out our moves on a cardboard box on Hollywood and Vine.

Words Matter! The Obama Years:The Power of Words

Over eight years, President Obama delivered more than 3,500 speeches and statements – officially ending his era with a farewell address on Tuesday in Chicago. His speeches ranged from redefining patriotism, candidly addressing race relations, inspiring hope and healing, and turning divisive moments into an opportunity for national unification. But which are the moments that history will remember? A new hour-long Smithsonian Channel special tells the story of Barack Obama, “writer in chief,” and takes viewers inside the defining moments of his political career through the prism of his most memorable speeches. THE OBAMA YEARS:THE POWER OF WORDS, narrated by actor and producer Jesse Williams, premieres on Monday, February 27, 2017 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

I got a chance to interview executive producer Charles Poe, SVP, Production, Smithsonian Channel about the making of the film, which is a must see!

I know that the political climate is such that people who Hate Obama or Love Trump may say “I don’t want to see anything about Obama” but this film doesn’t get into policy.  This film is about Obama’s ability to use words and connect with the nation during trying times.  Some may say that these events are political because they are about race, mass shootings and religion and they would be right in that all these issues impact the political landscape. But if you can suspend, for a minute, the political angle and just observe how Barack Obama was able to use words to inform, educate, inspire and console, you will see a man who love him or hate him was able to connect with the nation in a personal and unique manner.

OSCARS:Writing Adapted Screenplay

Did you know that three African Americans have been nominated for an Oscar for Writing Adapted Screenplay?  This is SIGNIFICANT! There is Barry Jenkins  and Tarell Alvin McCraney for Moonlight and …

Source: OSCARS:Writing Adapted Screenplay

OSCARS:Writing Adapted Screenplay

Did you know that three African Americans have been nominated for an Oscar for Writing Adapted Screenplay?  This is SIGNIFICANT! There is Barry Jenkins  and Tarell Alvin McCraney for Moonlight and August Wilson for Fences.  While this is not the first time two films have been nominated ,it is important as we look at this year’s reversal of #OscarsSoWhite – recognizing that it is not all about the acting.  Yes, there are other categories where African Americans are nominated and I will comment about those  in an upcoming post but it is exciting to see the writers getting their shine.  Most recently John Ridley won in this category for 12 Years a Slave which many people considered a “Black Movie” given the subject matter of slavery.  Interestingly, I don’t feel that Moonlight and Fences is getting the same “Black Movie” talk.  There is no doubt that these films could fall in the “Black Movie” bucket but the discussions surround them feel different.  Could it be that while August Wilson is looking at Black life, these characters transcend mere Blackness?  Could it be that Denzel and Viola et al have have taken these not so hidden figures of broadway and given them life beyond there melanin? Could it be that Moonlight while about a black boy trying to navigate the perils of the city and find himself is crafted in such a way that people think less about color and more about his predicament?  I don’t know but I know that the ability of these films to be more than “Black Films” is tied directly to these writers.  People want to see movies they can relate to and the ability to take a Black experience and make it interesting and universal is exciting and hopeful.  I don’t think for a minute that movies will solve our racial divide but I do think they play a role in showing how people of color share many of the same dreams and hopes of their White counterparts.  I do think movies help add dimension to issues and aspects that might make us different.  I also think movies provide a forum where we can discuss issues that me might not have if we had not seen the film.  I’ve always felt that August Wilson was a national treasure (may he rest in peace) and people in the theater world have know this for a while.  I’m so glad that the world is able to see his genius on the big screen.  And talk about genius, Jenkins and McCraney found a way to tell a specific story in a universal way.  A way were people are talking about this young mans challenges more than his environment – WoW!

Both movies are worthy of their Oscar nominations but more importantly they are worthy of your viewership.  – Just Something To PonderScreen Shot 2017-01-25 at 11.32.10 PM.png


Check out The AAFCA Report

Reggie Ponder, The Reel Critic, on “Central Time” with Veronica Rueckert and Rob Ferrett.

Reggie Ponder, The Reel Critic, makes his year-end appearance on “Central Time” to discuss the films nominated for the Golden Globes as well as holiday releases we have all been waiting for. From award nominated films like Moonlight, Manchester at Sea, and Hell or High Water to new releases like Fences Rogue One and Assassin’s Creed, Reggie, Veronica and Rob talk movies and take a few calls.

Fences: Stephen Henderson & Jovan Adepo Talk with Reggie Ponder, The Reel Critic

Fences stars and is directed by Denzel Washington.  Reggie Ponder got a chance to talk to two of the ensemble members about the film.