Spike Lee and Delroy Lindo Reunite after 25 Years for Da 5 Bloods

It has been two and half decades since veteran actor Delroy Lindo and Academy Award winning director Spike Lee hooked up for a feature film.  The pair reunited for Netflix’s newest release, Da 5 Bloods, a tale of five Vietnam War veterans who return to Asia to tie up some loose ends.

Lindo portrays Paul, a veteran suffering with PTSD, wrestling with some war secrets, and battling with a “fractious” relationship with his son. Even in this vulnerable role, he is a fierce, strong, and proves why he works well with a visionary like Spike Lee.

“I needed to do this,” said Lindo referring to his part in the film.

In a virtual roundtable hosted by the African American Film Critics Association, Lindo tells me, “Spike inviting me to be part of his projects has gifted me with these brilliant characters to play as an actor.” Lindo has graced us with his presence in three Spike Lee joint previously- Malcolm X (1992), Crooklyn (1994), and Clockers (1995).

“That’s a gift to any actor that a creative worker of Spike’s statute would just call you and say “hey man come do this”, not only the invitation to participate in the work, but the content of the part,” said Lindo.

There is an undeniable alchemy when Spike Lee is sitting in the director’s chair and Delroy Lindo is on the other side of the camera. Both Lee and Lindo admitted some of the most powerful scenes in the movie are opportunities where Lindo and the cast improvised such as the riverboat market scene and when Lindo’s character breaks off from the group.

Give Delroy Lindo his flowers now. He continues to solidify his seat with the Hollywood greats, and he is tremendously talented.

Also starring Chadwick Boseman, Isiah Whitlock, Jr., Norm Lewis, Clarke Peters, and Jonathan Majors, Da 5 Bloods, even in 2.5 hours, is hard not to watch.  The suspense, intensity, and striking attractiveness of war brothers coming together calls for a really good cinematic picture.

This film is a dark reminder that Black soldiers went halfway around the world defending a country where they were barely free.  Black servicemen fought on the front lines in Vietnam, while their brothers and sisters fought for voting, desegregation, and basic civil liberties.

The Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War were running congruently. Dr. King, Malcolm X, and JFK were all assassinated during this time. Imagine being a freedom fighter or person of color fighting a war abroad when there’s one in your own backyard.

For millennials, like myself, Da 5 Bloods is definitely an eye-opener. Even in fiction, the drops of relevant, thought-provoking history cause for deeper conversation about how Black people respond to war and the sacrifices a Black solider endures. I did not know much about the Vietnam War before watching this film, but I am now on a journey to find out more.

That is powerful remnants of a great film.

Selma

Dozens of films have been created to depict the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—but none have been as riveting and piercing as ‘Selma’. In delicate detail, the movie highlights the three 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches which ultimately led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The movie also resurfaces sensitive topics like MLK’s marital infidelity, FBI wire tapings and intimidation tactics, and the initial pushback from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

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Directed by Ava DuVernay, the movie has a crowded lineup including David Oyelowo, Oprah Winfrey, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Roth, Common, Lorraine Toussaint, and Cuba Gooding, Jr. Oyelowo and Ejogo were spitting images of the Nobel Peace Prize recipient and his late wife. From voice to posture to presentation, the pair is the most potent part of the film. Their lonesome moments together on screen echoes true unification of one of the greatest couples of all time.

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Even some of the notable moments in history makes your whole body shake in disbelief when ‘Selma’ reenacts the occurrences. For example, the 4 little girls and the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church is one of the country’s most heinous crimes. We ought to all be familiar with it, but for some reason when DuVernay gives her rendition of the bombing it takes cinematic recreation to a whole new level.

The same approaches civil rights activists displayed in 1965 are mirror images of the work being committed today. Riots and protests have emerged all over the country for Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner. In my mind the biggest uproar has been in the small suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. Ferguson has drawn thousands of people in hope to get answers and justice.

Selma is the ideal learning tool for this Black History Month. As the first major motion picture depicting Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life, ‘Selma’ can be a direct connection to opening up conversation about other tense cities like Watts in 1965, Los Angeles in 1992, and even, Ferguson in 2014.

Gun violence and police brutality in 2015 is what voting rights was in 1965– a call to action to promote unity and change. Fifty years later, racially motivated disparities of the world are an opportunity to respond like they did in Selma. Anytime we witness a racial injustice or inequality it is our duty to mount up in the same fashion as the leaders in Selma.

The most rewarding part of Selma is the showcase of the unsung heroes like Coretta Scott King, Andrew Young, Viola Liuzzo, John Lewis, James Reeb, and Ralph Abernathy. American history injects lethal amount of untold truths surrounding African American history. As a child, I was taught the bare minimum about slavery and Martin Luther King Jr. was the poster child for the Civil Rights Movements. It is pure excitement when movies like Selma, 12 Years A Slave, and Lee Daniels’ The Butler can bring cinematic clarity to these unknown circumstances of historical events.

DuVernay wasted no time getting straight to the point. My only question is: Where has Ava DuVernay been? Although she has other smaller film projects, we, as movie spectators, need more from her cinematic bank. Her delivery was mere perfection and visually, trumps every introductory African American History course by strategically focusing on the height of Dr. Martin Luther King’s career and intricate details that surrounded it.

5 STARS: ‘Selma’ is the best film of 2014 and serves a timely purpose in the wake of the civil rights and liberties that are currently being taken advantage of. This film is a fruitful yet frightening, gut-wrenching yet glorious reminder that Selma was just a battle in an on-going race war.

 

Selma Passes

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SELMA is the story of a movement. The film chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement. Director Ava DuVernay’s SELMA tells the real story of how the revered leader and visionary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his brothers and sisters in the movement prompted change that forever altered history.

A special screening of Selma (PG-13) will take place at South Side Works Cinema on Tuesday, January 06, 2015, beginning at 7:30 PM

Please comment below with your favorite movie based off of American history.  I’ll start with mine- Ghosts of Mississippi (1996). 

Much Love,

Movie Scene Queen

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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