Director Spike Lee received a six-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival after the Monday night premiere of his new drama “BlacKkKlansman.” The movie, which tells the true story of an undercover African-American detective (John David Washington) and his Jewish partner (Adam Driver) who team up to infiltrate Klu Klux Klan in 1979, is incredibly timely. It even ends with footage of Donald Trump refusing to condemn the actions of white nationalists during the deadly 2017 Charlottesville riot.
There are a lot of digs at the current president throughout ““BlacKkKlansman” — one KKK member talks about embracing an “America first” policy and the film makes parallels between the rise of Trump and the political ambitions of former Grand Wizard David Duke.
Lee walked the red carpet wearing brass knuckles from “Do the Right Thing,” which said “love” on one hand and “hate” on the other. He was joined by cast members Washington, Driver, Damaris Lewis, Jasper Paakkonen, Laura Harrier, Topher Grace, and Corey Hawkins.
Charlie Murphy, the older brother of Eddie Murphy, a “Chappelle’s Show” star and an accomplished comedian in his own right, died Wednesday in New York City. He was 57. Murphy’s publicist confirmed the comedian’s death, and the cause of death was leukemia.
“We just lost one of the funniest most real brothers of all time. Charlie Murphy RIP,” Chris Rock, Murphy’s CB4 co-star, tweeted. “Charlie Murphy changed my life,” tweeted “Chappelle’s Show” co-creator Neal Brennan. “One of the most original people I’ve ever met. Hilarious dude. Habitual Line Stepper. So sad.”
After making his big screen debut in 1989’s “Harlem Nights,” directed by his younger brother Eddie, and appearing in bit roles in Spike Lee films like “Mo’ Better Blues” and “Jungle Fever,” Murphy’s big break came as a cast member on “Chappelle’s Show,” where “Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories” resulted in a pair of that series’ most memorable sketches.
Both sketches featured Murphy reminiscing about he and Eddie’s celebrity encounters in the Eighties, with Dave Chappelle portraying Rick James and Prince in the now-legendary sketches. Charlie Murphy also co-wrote “Vampire in Brooklyn,” another film directed by Eddie, as well as 2007’s “Norbit.”
Murphy also appeared in 1998’s “The Player’s Club,” directed by Ice Cube. The rapper paid tribute to Murphy on Twitter Wednesday, “Damn, sorry to hear about my friend Charlie Murphy. He took a chance on a young director in The Player’s Club. Always made me laugh. RIP.”
Growing up in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn, Charlie often stuck up for his younger brother; in defending Eddie, Charlie joked about fearing his mom’s wrath if bullies picked on Eddie more than the bullies themselves. That guardian role made Charlie a natural to serve as Eddie’s security guard as the comedian quickly ascended to stardom.
Due to Charlie’s propensity toward overreacting while guarding his brother – “Whoever say something, I almost gave this old man a heart attack on a plane because he asked us if we were a basketball team. I took that personally,” Murphy said in a Chappelle’s Show outtake – forced Murphy to embark on his own career.
One night at an Eddie Murphy stand-up performance, Charlie went after one heckler “who tried to squeeze the lemon.” “I took it as a personal crusade until they were like, ‘You’re a little overzealous in how you’re performing your job.’ So that’s how I ended up not doing [security] anymore,” Murphy said.
Birth of a Movement, a documentary about African-American newspaper editor William Monroe Trotter‘s 1915 battle against America’s first blockbuster movie – D.W. Griffith‘s infamous The Birth of a Nation – will have its broadcast premiere Feb 6, 2017 on Independent Lens/PBS.
The documentary film was produced and directed by Bestor Cram and Susan Gray at NLP in Boston, is executive produced by Sam Pollard and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (who is also interviewed in the film), is narrated by Danny Glover, and written by filmmaker Kwyn Bader and Edgar Award Winner and Pulitzer nominee Dick Lehr. Spike Lee and Reginald Hudlin appear in the film, as does Paul Miller aka DJ Spooky, who provided the score. There are also premiere screenings – open to the public – in Boston and NYC on Jan 30 and 31st, respectively.
Bill Nunn, the actor best known for playing Radio Raheem in Spike Lee’s film “Do The Right Thing” and Robbie Robertson in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy, has died. He was 62.
Lee, who worked with Nunn on “He Got Game,” “School Daze” and “Mo’ Better Blues” in addition to “Do The Right Thing,” posted on Instagram Saturday to confirm the actor’s death. Lee wrote that Nunn passed away earlier that morning in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa.
“Radio Raheem is now resting in power,” the director wrote. “Radio Raheem will always be fighting da powers dat be. May God watch over Bill Nunn.”
The director followed up soon after with a second tribute:
“Radio Raheem. Let me tell you the story of Right Hand, Left Hand. It’s a tale of good and evil. Hate! It was with this hand that Cane iced his brother. Love! These five fingers, they go straight to the soul of man. The right hand: the hand of love. The story of life is this: static. One hand is always fighting the other hand, and the left hand is kicking much ass. I mean, it looks like the right hand, Love is finished. But hold on, stop the presses the right hand is coming back. Yeah, he got the left hand on the ropes, now, that’s right. Yea, Boom, it’s a devastating right and Hate is hurt, he’s down. Ooh! Ooh! Left-Hand Hate KOed by Love. If I love you, I love you. But if I hate you…Mookie: there it is, Love and Hate. Raheem I love you bruh…”
The actor made his film debut in Lee’s 1988 film “School Daze.” He also gained recognition for his role as Nino Brown’s bodyguard Duh Duh Duh Man in Mario Van Peebles’ film “New Jack City.” In “Regarding Henry,” he played Bradley, a physical therapist who helps the titular Henry (Harrison Ford).
Spike Lee’s 1986 film “She’s Gotta Have It” is headed to Netflix as a 10-episode series with all new actors.
The streaming service has ordered a remake of the film, which will also center on Nola Darling, a Brooklyn-based artist in her late twenties struggling to define herself and divide her time amongst her friends, her job and her three lovers: The Cultured Model, Greer Childs; The Protective Investment Banker, Jamie Overstreet; and Da Original B-Boy Sneakerhead, Mars Blackmon.
According to Variety, Lee will direct each half-hour installment and serve as executive producer on the project with his wife and producing partner Tonya Lewis Lee.
Lee released the following statement on the series pickup:
“SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT Has A Very Special Place In My Heart. We Shot This Film In 12 Days (2 Six Day Weeks) Way Back In The Back Back Of The Hot Summer Of 1985 For A Mere Total of $175,000. Funds That We Begged, Borrowed and Whatnot To Get That Money. This Is The 1st Official Spike Lee Feature Film Joint And Everything That We Have Been Blessed With In This Tough Business Of Film All Have Been Due To SGHI.
Now With The Passing (August 8th) Of The 30th Anniversary, It’s A Gift That Keeps On Giving. We Are Getting An Opportunity To Revisit These Memorable Characters Who Will Still Be Relevant And Avant Garde 3 Decades Later. With All That Said It Was My Wife, Tonya Lewis Lee, Producer In Her Own Right, Who Had The Vision To Take My Film From The Big Screen And Turn It Into An Episodic Series. It Had Not Occurred To Me At All. Tonya Saw It Plain As Day. I Didn’t.
We Are Hyped That NETFLIX Is Onboard With This Vision As Nola Darling, Mars Blackmon, Jamie Overstreet And Greer Childs DO DA DAMN THANG Now, Today In Da Republic Of Brooklyn, New York.”
Universal’s N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton has been named Best Picture by the African American Film Critics Association, one of three categories it topped along with Best Ensemble and Best Supporting Actor for Jason Mitchell. Best Director went to Creedhelmer Ryan Coogler, while its star, Michael B. Jordan, won for Breakout Performance and Tessa Thompson was named Best Supporting Actress. Best Actor went to Will Smith for Concussion and Best Actress to Teyonah Parris for Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq.
The AAFCA honors excellence in cinema by creating awareness for films with universal appeal to black communities, while emphasizing films about the black experience and those produced written, directed and starring performers of African descent. It will hold its awards ceremony February 10 in Hollywood.
Here’s the full list of winners:
Best Picture Straight Outta Compton (Universal Pictures)
Ryan Coogler,Creed (Warner Bros.)
Best Ensemble Straight Outta Compton (Universal Pictures)
Will Smith, Concussion (Sony)
Teyonah Parris, Chi-Raq (Roadside Attractions/Amazon Studios)
John Legend‘s career transcends his success as an artist. Over the past decade, he’s established several philanthropic and social justice organizations where he uses his influence to make a difference in the lives of others.
The “Glory” singer will be presented with the NAACP President’s Award at this year’s NAACP Image Awards.
“His contributions to music and artistic creativity have been recognized by peers and fans worldwide, and he is greatly admired for his humanitarian efforts” said Cornell William Brooks,President and CEO, NAACP.
“Legend remains a true inspiration through his philanthropic work and I am truly proud to honor his altruistic efforts both domestically and internationally by bestowing upon him this year’s NAACP President’s Award” added Brooks.
Previous honorees include Kerry Washington,President Bill Clinton, Soledad O’Brien, Muhammad Ali and most recently, Spike Lee.
In 2007, Legend established “The Show Me Campaign” with the mission of providing students with a quality education as well as end the school-to-prison pipeline. Similarly, he recently launched, #FREEAMERICA, a multi-year culture change campaign focused on ending mass incarceration.
The nine-time Grammy award winner, Golden Globe and Oscar winner also has a successful production company, Get Lifted Film Co. that strives to provide TV and film content that’s inclusive and inspirational.
Legend, 37 and his wife, model Chrissy Teigen, 30, are expecting their first child this summer.
Watch Legend accept the coveted honor when the NAACP Image Awards air live on TV One Friday, February 5th at 9pm.
Harlem-based cinema foundation ImageNation will honor the brightest entertainers and advocates who exude “Black Excellence” during the annual Revolution Awards, set to take place in New York next month.
The awards’ theme, eloquently titled Cocktails, Cinema & Revolution, will honor famed director Ava DuVernay, MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry, Black Lives Matter, and actor Hill Harper on Feb. 10.
ImageNation founder Moikgantsi Kgama shared her thoughts about how this year’s show will tie into Black History Month.
The Revolution Awards came to fruition in 2003, honoring the accomplishments of activists, actors, and artists who step outside the box to help improve Black and Latino communities. Past honorees and participants include Spike Lee, Congressman John Lewis, Erykah Badu, Lee Daniels, Talib Kweli, and the late Ruby Dee.
“History is being made everyday. This event celebrates Black History Month by recognizing our most inspiring change agents while highlighting ImageNation’s newest monthly film program Cocktails & Cinema. I am looking forward to the Revolution Awards returning to an epic evening of honoring those who make a difference,” said Kgama.
In addition to the awards, the film 1982, starring Hill Harper, Sharon Leal, Wayne Brady, Troi Zee, La La Anthony and Ruby Dee, will be screened. The movie stars Harper as a father protecting his daughter from his wife’s battle with drug addiction. Harper will also engage in a discussion of the film with director Tommy Oliver, image activist Michaela Angela Davis, and noted psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere.
The event is open to the public. To find out how you can be part of the magic during Black History Month, get a ticket here and find out more about ImageNation’s 20-year legacy here.
In a unanimous vote Thursday night, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences‘ 51-member board of governors approved a sweeping series of changes designed to diversify its membership, the academy said in a statement Friday.
The board committed to doubling the number of women and minority members in the academy by 2020.
AMPAS President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announced the plan Friday after many of Hollywood’s A-listers slammed the organization for their all-white award nominees. “The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” she said in a statement.
The board approved reforms late Thursday to “begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition,” Isaacs explained.
It also approved a series of changes limiting members’ lifetime voting rights. “Beginning later this year, each new member’s voting status will last 10 years, and will be renewed if that new member has been active in motion pictures during that decade,” the academy statement said. “In addition, members will receive lifetime voting rights after three 10-year terms; or if they have won or been nominated for an Academy Award. We will apply these same standards retroactively to current members. In other words, if a current member has not been active in the last 10 years they can still qualify by meeting the other criteria. Those who do not qualify for active status will be moved to emeritus status. Emeritus members do not pay dues but enjoy all the privileges of membership, except voting. This will not affect voting for this year’s Oscars. ”
The move follows pledges by director Spike Lee and actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith to stay home from the Oscar telecast on Feb. 28, and calls for a boycott of the show online.
For the last three years, the awards body has been in the midst of a push for more diversity, inviting larger and demographically broader groups to join its 6,261 voting members. But given the size of the academy, and the fact that members belong for life, any change to the organization’s overall demographics had been incremental.
The academy will also launch a campaign to identify and recruit new members who represent greater diversity, the statement said, and will add new members who are not governors to its executive and board committees to influence key decisions about membership.
The National Basketball Association, alarmed by the death toll from shootings across the country, is stepping into the polarizing debate over guns, regulation and the Second Amendment with an advertising campaign in partnership with one of the nation’s most aggressive advocates of stricter limits on firearm sales.
The first ads, timed to reach millions of basketball fans during a series of marquee games on Christmas Day, focus on shooting victims and contain no policy recommendations. The words “gun control” are never mentioned.
The N.B.A.’s involvement suggests that a bloody year of gun deaths — in highly publicized mass shootings and countless smaller-scale incidents — may be spurring even some generally risk-averse, mainstream institutions to action.
Players who appear in the first 30-second ad, which will run five times on Friday, speak in personal terms about the effects of gun violence on their lives. Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors describes hearing of a 3-year-old’s shooting: “My daughter Riley’s that age,” he says. Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers recalls the advice he heeded as a child: “My parents used to say, ‘A bullet doesn’t have a name on it.’”
The N.B.A. said it held little internal debate about working with Mr. Bloomberg’s group. “We know far too many people who have been caught up in gun violence in this country,” said Kathleen Behrens, the league’s president of social responsibility and player programs. “And we can do something about it.”
But the decision may prove tricky for the league: While many of its teams are based in cities dominated by Democrats, a number of other teams — and millions of N.B.A. fans — hail from places where Mr. Bloomberg and his approach to guns are viewed with deep suspicion. Ms. Behrens said the league had not shown the ads to team owners, but added, “We’re not worried about any political implications.”
The Bloomberg-N.B.A. partnership was brokered by an unlikely figure: Spike Lee, a member of Everytown’s creative council, whose latest film, “Chi-Raq,” set on Chicago’s South Side, confronts gun violence with an unflinching eye.
Over breakfast at the Loews Regency Hotel in Manhattan in November, not long before the movie was released earlier this month, Mr. Lee proposed the idea for the ads to John Skipper, the president of ESPN, who then took it to Adam Silver, the N.B.A.’s commissioner. Mr. Lee insisted on the participation of Everytown, with which he collaborated on a protest march down Broadway after the film’s New York premiere.
In an interview, he sounded many of the themes that Mr. Bloomberg himself has emphasized in the past, saying it was time for “common sense anti-gun laws.”
“But because of the N.R.A., politicians and the gun manufacturers, we’re dying under that tyranny,” Mr. Lee said.
Mr. Bloomberg’s interventionist policies as mayor and his left-leaning tactics on guns have earned the vitriol of gun-rights advocates, who have mocked him with TV ads as an out-of-touch elitist.