Dear Young Black Pittsburgh

GSKY5160Dear Young Black Pittsburgh,

This letter is short, sweet and straight to the point.  It’s not filled with attractive anecdotes, but my truth as a Pittsburgh native.

Life MIGHT hand you shut off notices, rejection letters, government assistance and other tangible evidence of insurmountable failures.

These setbacks can also come in the form of friends, family, and foes…

Black Pittsburgh is supposed to be “inclusive” and, instead, even the smallest difference promotes exclusion.  Money and power reigns over servitude and generosity.

Some people will be intimidated by your strength and find ways to emasculate your talents.  The compare and contrast is a sign of their weakness to keep you from sitting at a table you were never meant to break bread on.

There are imposters amongst you that are NOT meant for the good of advancement and community. These wolves, in their rightful clothing, want the spotlight and not the sacrifice. They want awards and accolades, not ambition. They want quick finessing and not quality fixing.

But, don’t worry.  You will be okay!

The only advice I have for you is to rip up this letter, and any other letter that does not have a physical charge. There is work to be done. Actions speak louder than words and I am here to serve BESIDE you.

Trust in God and remain unapologetic in your journey!  In the words of my Pastor Brian James Edmonds, YOU ARE ENOUGH!

Much Love,

Merecedes J. Howze
Founding Owner, Movie Scene Queen

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Step Passes

STEP is the true-life story of a girls’ high-school step team set against the background of the heart of Baltimore. These young women learn to laugh, love and thrive – on and off the stage – even when the world seems to work against them. Empowered by their teachers, teammates, counselors, coaches and families, they chase their ultimate dreams: to win a step championship and to be accepted into college.

This all female school is reshaping the futures of its students’ lives by making it their goal to have every member of their senior class accepted to and graduate from college, many of whom will be the first in their family to do so. Deeply insightful and emotionally inspiring, STEP embodies the true meaning of sisterhood through a story of courageous young women worth cheering for. 

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The screening will be held on Tuesday, August 8th at 7:30 PM at AMC Waterfront 22.  For tickets, please comment below with your favorite dance/step movie.  MSQ’s Favorite: Stomp The Yard (2007)

Much Love,

Movie Scene Queen

Get On Up Passes

Comment below with your favorite James Brown song for a chance to win tickets to see his biopic, Get On Up.

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In his follow-up to the four-time Academy Award®-nominated blockbuster The Help, Tate Taylor directs 42’s Chadwick Boseman as James Brown in Get on Up. Based on the incredible life story of the Godfather of Soul, the film will give a fearless look inside the music, moves and moods of Brown, taking audiences on the journey from his impoverished childhood to his evolution into one of the most influential figures of the 20th century. Boseman is joined in the drama by Nelsan Ellis, Dan Aykroyd, Viola Davis, Craig Robinson, Octavia Spencer, Lennie James, Tika Sumpter and Jill Scott.

The screening will be held Wednesday, July 23rd at South Side Works Cinema beginning at 7:30 PM.

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Belle Passes

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Inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral, Belle is left to wonder if she will every find love. Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the color of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of her social standing. Belle falls for an idealistic young vicar’s son bent on change who, with her help, shapes Lord Mansfield’s role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England.

MSQ will host a screening of Belle on Monday, May 19 at 7:30pm at the AMC Waterfront 22. For your chance at two tickets, please comment below with your favorite royalty movie. I’ll start with mine: Richie Rich (1994). Granted little Richie Rich didn’t sit on a throne or hold a title, but he did live in a huge castle. I think that counts for something! Black Knight (2001) comes in a close second place. The movie is hilarious and a different type of project for my favorite funny guy, Martin Lawrence.

This contest closes Friday, May 16th at 5:00 PM. Any comments posted after that time will not be considered. Thank you!

Much Love,

Movie Scene Queen

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Passes

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” -Nelson Mandela

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Days after the December 5th death of South African Former President Nelson Mandela, The Weinstein Company presents a movie about his life, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Nelson Mandela (Idris Elba) served 27 years in prison and was very instrumental in the abolishment of apartheid and eventually became South Africa’s president.

The Movie Scene Queen has the opportunity for you to see the movie on Thursday, December 12, 2013 at 7:30 PM. The screening will be held at South Side Works Cinema (425 Cinema Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15203).

PLEASE COMMENT BELOW TO RSVP

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12 Years A Slave

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I’ll never know what it means to be a slave, producing forced, free labor, in the United States prior to the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. More definitively, I could not imagine what it would mean to be a legally free person and still be held captive for little over a decade.

To date, the story of Solomon Northup and his 1853 memoir’s adaption in Direct or Steven McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave is the closest, realest slavery account ever captured in a theatrical form. The movie goes beyond the explicitness of Roots (1977), the unfairness of Amistad (1997), and the vulgarity of Django Unchained (2012). 12 Years a Slave posthumously pays tribute to Solomon Northup’s strength, perseverance, and survival techniques to overcome his unfortunate predicaments.

British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor vividly and undoubtedly gets better with time. Keeping a low radar, Ejiofor has the makings to possess a seasoned career as Hollywood greats like Morgan Freeman or Sidney Poitier. As a legitimate Academy Award contender, Ejiofor has made leaps and bounds since his initial minimal roles like mean, ego-tripping drug lord, Victor Sweet, in Four Brothers (2005) (which is one of my favorite movies by the way).

Opposite of Ejiofor was a petite, frail African actress, Lupita Nyong’o, who made her American film debut as Patsey, bursting onto the Hollywood scene with a vengeance. Her first major role will most definitely be a memorable one. Patsey was delicate, calm, and graceful. On October 22nd, Nyong’o won the New Hollywood Award at the 17th Annual Hollywood Film Awards.

Brad Pitt’s role of a Canadian carpenter and abolitionist, Samuel Bass, was climax changing because Bass finally aided Northup to freedom. But Brad Pitt was microscopic compared to the entire scheme and progression of the movie. I expected for Brad Pitt to be in his usual picture perfection and he was just “eh.” (ok, borderline, mediocre)

You will lose yourself, forgetting that you are watching a movie but actually thinking you are trapped on the hot, cotton-infested Louisiana plantation with Solomon Northup.

In the theatre, I watched as people cringe in their seats, scream in visual agony, and even one woman, walked out of the theatre due to the movie’s intensity. These actions are only a testament to the movies life-like narratives of Solomon North’s 12-year longing to see freedom again.

5 Stars: There are some gruesome, harsh realities in 12 Years a Slave, officially making it the best movie I have seen all year and equally, the hardest movie to watch.

Locally, 12 Years a Slave opens at the AMC Waterfront, Cinemark Robinson Township, and Manor Theater Friday, November 1st.

CrazySexyCool: A TLC Story

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The movie had me at the opening credits!

VH1’s CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story, the #1 trending topic on social sites during its premiere Monday night, reignited the buzz and fan-based admiration for the Grammy award winning trio.

The movie covers a lot of the backstage occurrences that we never saw like Left Eye’s father’s murder, Chili’s chilling abortion, and T-Boz’s unexpected diagnosis of sickle cell anemia. For 150 minutes, viewers also enjoyed the great moments like when the girls heard their song on the radio for the first time or their very first tour with MC Hammer and Jodeci.

The movie clearly shows that although the three ladies came from different walks of life, they shared synonymous relationship turbulence. After burning down his Atlanta mansion, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes (Natia “Lil Mama” Kirkland) struggled with her jealousy-filled relationship with Atlanta Falcons WR Andre Rison. Rozonda “Chili” Thomas (Keke Palmer) had her own emotional rollercoaster with Atlanta songwriter and producer, Dallas Austin (Evan Ross). And Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins (Drew Sidora) had a couple celebrity flings with Jodeci singer, Dalvin, and West Coast rapper, Mac 10.

The love affairs showcased the deep tenderness and sacrifices they made for their careers and their significant others, especially Chili. Always been forced to be Austin’s presence due to work commitments, she was constantly reminded of previous loss. The abortion scene and the discussion about the decision set the entire tone for the movie and better explains Chili’s jumpy journey with Austin.

KeKe Palmer is all grown and up and simply beautiful. Palmer has evolved since her spelling bee days as Akeelah; however, I was not quite sold on her role as Chili. I never thought she resembled her, even from the promotional ads, but the movie solidified my suspicion. Palmer took on Chili’s emotions but did not really nail the physical aspects; maybe it was the bad front lace wig.

Lil Mama, on the other hand, absolutely blew my mind as the late Left Eye. She mastered her moves, speech delivery, and overall joyous, rambunctious spirit. It was as if Lil Mama was made for this role. There were moments in the movie, like her last moments in Honduras, where I actually thought I was looking at Left Eye.

VH1 (and Twitter last night) did not hold back on Mercedes Boy singer and former TLC Manager, Perri “Pebbles” Reid (Rochelle Aytes). The movie depicted her as an evil villain who took advantage of the jovial innocence of the 90s girls group and ultimately forced the girls into bankruptcy and seeking other management.

TLC commemorates the movie release with an album release, 20. The 20th anniversary album features hits like Waterfalls, Creep, No Scrubs and headlines with a brand new song, Meant To Be, which is also introduced in the movie.

4 STARS: Even though we know how the story ends with the tragic death of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, the movie reminds all TLC fans that Left Eye’s legacy lives on through the remaining members of the group. A really good made-for-tv movie!

If you missed last night’s premiere, VH1 is bound to play the movie several times this week.

And I know this is random, but can I just say that Cole from Martin (Carl Anthony Payne II), who played record executive L.A. Reid, looked good? He ain’t chubby and goofy looking no more. He was chiseled and fine!

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Captain Phillips

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Like many other movie critics, I’m falling in line to say “Captain Phillips” is one of this year’s best movies. Captain Phillips, based on a true story from 2009 headlines, is an action-packed tale of a group of Somali pirates who takeover a US container ship, MV Maersk Alabama.

Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks) is on a tight schedule to deliver 17,000 tons of cargo to Kenya. Ignoring several advisories to stay clear of the Somalia coast, Phillips still managed to get on the radar of 4 Somali pirates. Led by a frail, focused Muse (Barkhad Abd), the African bandits took the 20-person crew and ship hostage looking for riches and gold. When the heist comes up short, the armed men take veteran seaman Phillips instead.

Tom Hanks has had a seasoned career and is clearly capable of carefully choosing his craft. With his role as Captain Phillips, describing him as brutally brilliant would be an understatement. Packed with a couple of middle aged pounds, Hanks plays the distressed, lost man all too well (“Forrest Gump” and “Castaway”). But even as the bad guys, the four young African men who played the pirates really stole some of Tom Hanks’ shine. Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, Mahat Ali are young, fresh new faces that have emerged. Their dingy hungry mannerism, branded brotherhood and intense criminal escapade heightens the movie’s superiority.

If you haven’t already done so, I recommend that you read up on the real Captain Richard Phillips, who wrote a book about his hostage situation in 2010 called A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea.
In addition to the movie coverage, Phillips is still featured in recent news. This December, Captain Richard Phillips will be a witness in a lawsuit filed by some MV Maersk Alabama crewmembers against the shipping company citing that they ignored previous warnings about the dangerous pirated-infested waters to save time and money on the trip.

Have you noticed that significant moments in U.S. History have quickly made its way to the big screen lately?
The movies about Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not surface until years after their assassinations and civil rights work. Now, significant, newsworthy stories are being reenacted or adapted into movies shortly after they occur. For example, NBC and Dick Wolf’s Law and Order: Special Victims Unit episode that tried to kill two birds with one stone for its take on Celebrity Chef Paula Deen’s racist outbursts and the racially-motivated killing of Trayvon Martin.

In the box office, “Fruitvale Station” earned an unexpected $16 million worldwide for its portrayal of Oscar Grant’s last moments. I hold advanced technology and social media awareness partially responsible for the quick turnaround. When social injustice occurs, people quickly migrate to social media and advocacy groups to voice our concerns and demand action ultimately making it an ideal topic for any screenwriter. Although it did not constitute as a social injustice, the story of Captain Richard Phillips’ mighty rescue and return on Easter 2009, gained international attention and made for a great hero story. In less than 5 years, the nautical narrative has already surfaced a bestselling book and major motion picture.

5 STARS: Surprisingly, the Somali Pirates stole the show! Movie goers expect Tom Hanks to bring his best, but the entire cast relived such a tragic moment and turned an unordinary story into a picturesque movie.

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Lee Daniels’ The Butler

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“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

From the director of Precious, Lee Daniels’ The Butler is a 126-minute chilling depiction of a Black White House butler’s humble life. In the heat of the Civil Rights Movement, Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) and his wife, Gloria (Oprah Winfrey), had to use love and dedication to keep their family together. The eldest Gaines’ child, Louis (David Oyelowo), migrates back down South to join civil rights protests, while their younger son, Charlie (Elijah Kelley), is called off to serve in the Vietnam War. In addition to tending to his family, Cecil Gaines also had to take care of the First Family. Serving 34 years and 7 presidents in the White House, he was programmed to not let the heated racial tensions in the country effect his work.

Featuring an all-star line-up with big Hollywood names like Oprah Winfrey, Forest Whitaker, John Cusack, Robin Williams, Melissa Leo, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jane Fonda, Lenny Kravitz, and Terrance Howard, it’s no wonder why this movie was destined for greatness.

Filled with five Academy Award winners, the two actors that really stole the show only appeared on screen for seconds. Down South rapper David Banner and Pop music legend Mariah Carey played Cecil Gaines’ parents in an opening heart-breaking scene. We’ve seen Nick Cannon’s wife before with the no-makeup role as Precious’ case worker but this character developed more meaning. And David Banner, without saying more than a few words, captured the entire essence of a Black man’s inferiority complex towards a White man. Reminding viewers that although slavery was abolished by 1926, mental captivity, cheap labor and physical dominance were still keeping African Americans bound to former plantations all over the South.

In the movie, prominent historical figures are present like civil rights leaders Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jesse Jackson . Also including a handful of presidents, the movie showed the administrations of former United States Presidents Dwight Eisenhower (Williams), John F. Kennedy (James Marsden), Lyndon B. Johnson (Liev Schreiber), Richard Nixon (Cusack), and Ronald Reagan (Alan Rickman). Highlighting the most momentous events in the mid-1900s, Lee Daniels’ The Butler retells the stories of the lunch sit-ins at Woolworth, the assassinations of JFK and MLK, the Vietnam War, and the election of the first African American United States President, Barack Obama.
One of the biggest takeaways from the movie is a scene where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Nelsan Ellis), shortly before his death, explains to a group of his peers in a motel room why Black domestic help is so important. He declares that Black maids and butlers, from raising White children to cleaning toliets, defy the racial stereotypes that African Americans are lazy and untrustworthy. MLK goes onto say that although other Blacks see the help as subservient and subversive they are actually creating a strong work ethic and dignified character in the minds and hearts of White people.

The real Cecil Gaines, Eugene Allen, inspired the movie derived from a Washington Post’s Wil Haygood article “A Butler Well Served by This Election,” and he too, had real encounters with Dr. Martin Luther King during his tenure at the White House. In 2008, after a nationwide search and 57 phone calls, Wil Haygood, an award-winning biographer and movie associate producer, stumbled across Eugene Allen, an elderly Black man who went from pantry man to head butler at the White House. Haygood called Mr. Allen’s story “biblical.”
After several trips to the Allen residence, Haygood reflects on the impact his article has, “There’s a movie inspired by the story that I wrote and it’s not a movie about any of the presidents that he served, it’s a movie about him,” adding, “it’s a story both epic and intimate because it’s about black love and we don’t get to see enough of that on the big screen.” Similar to Cecil and Gloria Gaines, Eugene and his wife, Helene, were married for 65 years.

Also from the Weinstein Company, Fruitvale Station left a more lasting impression on me than Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Both movies are remarkable and tell a small town story on a global front, exposing the horror to people who might have originally been blinded. Unlike Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Fruitvale Station gave you a clear climatic timeline and made it easier to keep up with the story. On the other hand, Lee Daniels’ The Butler felt like I was watching 75 years of history being crammed into one movie making it a lot to digest one sitting.

4 STARS: It’s as if Oprah can’t make short movies. Despite its length, the movie guides you on a tearful voyage through history from slavery to sharecropping to serving. Inevitably, the movie leads to a more constructive conversation of the advancements of African Americans in this country and it rallies those same individuals to continue the fight for racial equality and justice.

MovieSceneQueen

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