Tag Archives: Kerry Washington

Film Review: Dope

Written by Jeff Bannis




What can one say about DOPE? Firstly, that it’s a far more intelligent comedy than the usual Hollywood effort.  It also has a cast list packed with young talent that will entertain and charm the most hard-bitten of cinema-goers.  On top of that, there are some thought-provoking moments that really hit home.

The opening scenes, where we meet Shameik Moore‘s Malcolm establish him as a nerdy kid who, in the best traditions of high school comedy, is mercilessly bullied by jocks.  In voiceover, Malcolm complains he is unpopular because he does “white stuff”, like read books.  Malcolm is obsessed with 90s rap music, as are his friends Diggy and Jib (played by Kiersey Clemons of Transparent and Tony Revolori of Grand Budapest Hotel).  One’s a lesbian, the other is just odd,  like Malcolm they’re also outsiders.

When not on the run from the jocks, our geeky chums like to play in their rock band, Awreeoh (geddit?) or hanker after girls. Malcolm’s current crush is on smart ghetto girl Nakia, played by Zoe Kravitz. Nakia also attracts the amorous attentions of hood-with-a-heart, Dom (A$AP Rocky).

Set in a tough neighbourhood, named “the Bottoms” in the film but in reality a thinly disguised Inglewood LA, its only a matter of time before the eponymous illegal substance rears its head.  Finding himself in accidental possession of a massive drugs cache, Malcolm has to figure out a way to avoid the law and keep various drug-dealing villains off his tail while securing a scholarship to Harvard. Piece of cake!

Its a complex set-up but there are some truly funny lines along the way. DOPE has a winning cast, some genuine laughs and the film’s light approach persuades you to stick with it. It’s a departure from its producer, Forest Whitaker‘s last success, the excellent Fruitvale Station, although the two share the same camerawoman.

On the demerit side, for a film that sets out to debunk black stereotypes, DOPE misses its targets.  Malcolm and his friends all love 90s rap, so why do they choose to express this through dated, post-punk pop music (courtesy of executive producer Pharrell Williams)?  The stuff Awreeoh perform really is rubbish but its presented, embarrassingly, as quality.  Now, perhaps its aimed at the assumed demographic for a John Hughes-influenced teen comedy, but its inclusion here implies that rock is the default musical form for intelligent teens, rather than just for white people.  Why don’t Awreeoh just make 90s-style rap?

On a similar note, in a piece direct to camera, Malcolm challenges the audience to examine their supposed surprise that he wants to go to Harvard.  This falls flat because “disadvantaged kid achieves excellence” is such a well-established trope in Hollywood, we can all write this film’s ending. Who exactly do the makers think will part with hard cash to see this film?  For its likely audience, it isn’t a revelation that black youths strive to achieve – it’s a revelation when they make it.

Rick Famuyiwa is not a debutant director – his forthcoming HBO movie, Confirmation, which stars Kerry Washington as Anita Hill will doubtless raise his profile even further.  But DOPE’s weak points are due to his uncertain handling of tone, especially noticeable in intimate scenes.

The film scores hugely when it throws the over-complex storyline away for a while and lives in the moment. The LAPD need to put out an APB on model-turned actress Chanel Iman right now, because she absolutely steals this movie with a hilarious cameo.  It doesn’t play any part in the story but it’s genuinely funny, sexy and lifts the whole endeavour into the arena of anarchic fun that is surely the initial intention of every comedy writer.

It’s not giving much away to say that DOPE has a happy ending.  In a manner that’s not fully expounded on-screen, Malcolm acquires a backbone and starts standing up for himself.  The fact that he shows this by selling drugs and in a willingness to use violence undermines the film’s message somewhat but it puts necessary story elements to bed.

Dope has great entertainment value and is ambitious in trying to satirize the stereotyping of black people as criminals and their white clientele as warm, freedom-loving human beings.  If in rounding all the bases it loses its way, it should be forgiven if only because it takes such a refreshingly grown-up stance on stubbornly immovable social barriers.

© 2015 Jeff Bannis

Dope In Cinemas 4 Sept

Meet The Artiste: Filmmaker Rick Famuyiwa

Kerry Washington Makes Impassioned Plea For Equality In Emotional GLAAD Awards Speech

Written by: Curtis M Wong (Huffington Post)


“Scandal” star Kerry Washington is winning raves for her powerful, impassioned speech at the 2015 GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles in which she called for equal rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community along with women and racial minorities.

“There are people in this world who have full rights and citizenship — in our communities, our countries — around the world. And then there are those of us who to varying degrees do not,” Washington told the crowd. “We don’t have equal access to education and healthcare, and some other basic liberties like marriage, a fair voting process, fair hiring practices.”

She went on to note:
Now you would think that those kept from our full rights of citizenship would band together and fight the good fight. But history tells us that no, often we don’t. Women, poor people, people of colour, people with disabilities, immigrants, gay men, bisexuals, trans people, intersex people. We have been pitted against each other and made to feel there are limited seats at the table for those of us who fall into the category of ‘other.’

“I don’t decide to play the characters I play as a political choice, yet the characters I play often do become political statements,” she said, before calling for “more diverse LGBT representation” and “more employment of LGBT people in front of, and behind, the camera.”

“Having your story told — as a woman, as a person of colour, as a lesbian or as a trans person, or as any member of any disenfranchised community — is sadly often still a radical idea,” she then added. “There is so much power in storytelling, and there is enormous power in inclusive storytelling, in inclusive representations.”

The 38-year-old actress was honoured with the Vanguard Award at the March 21 ceremony, which took place at the Beverly Hilton.

© 2015: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

Angry Black Woman!

Written by Graeme Wood


Are All Black Women Seriously Angry; Especially When They Are Successful?

Here’s a slightly old news story but one that is still relevant and does need addressing in our global society. As some of you will have read back in September there was an angry social media storm following a New York Times article that characterised US TV writer Shonda Rhimes (currently even more famous for hit TV series “Scandal”) as a ‘tough angry black woman’.SHONDA-RHIMES-GILDED-LILLYS

Rhimes is the writer/creator behind some of the most successful series on America TV in recent years ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ ‘Private Practice’ and ‘Scandal’. Last month she launched her latest project ‘How To Get Away With Murder” starring Viola Davis (The Help) –. The controversial article by New York Times writer Alessandra Stanley suggested that Rhimes had based all her lead characters on her own persona of ‘an angry black woman’, while, in a back handed compliment, added she had done more for the image of African-American women than anyone else since Oprah.
Stanley focussed on Chandra Wilson’s Bailey character and Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope in Scandal, while omitting other leading characters, played by white actresses’, such as Ellen Pompeo’s Meredith Grey from Grey’s Anatomy.

The article praised Rhimes’ re-imagining of African-American women on television progressing their image from benign, reassuring characters like Clair Huxtable on ‘The Cosby Show’ but in the process painted Rhimes as a fierce, haughty authority figure unable to create characters other than those based on herself. Stanley also side swiped other black lead actresses’ of US TV Shows as mere side-kicks in comparison to those on Rhimes’ shows.

She also stated; As Annalise, Ms. Davis, 49, is sexual and even sexy, in a slightly menacing way, but the actress doesn’t look at all like the typical star of a network drama. Ignoring the narrow beauty 21MURDER-viola-davisstandards some African-American women are held to, Ms. Rhimes chose a performer who is older, darker-skinned and less classically beautiful than Ms. Washington, or for that matter Halle Berry, who played an astronaut on the summer mini-series “Extant.”

The reaction came thick and fast on Twitter with a clearly bemused Rhimes posting; “Wait. I’m Angry AND a ROMANCE WRITER!!?? I’m going to need to put down the internet and go dance this one out. Because ish is getting real.”

Actors from Rhimes’ shows also took to her defence on social media with Grey’s Anatomy’s Ellen Pompeo posting: “NY Times you set the world back with a review of a television show based around the RACE of the lead. Is the show good TV or not?”

Online sites all rushed to post articles slating the NY Times article and defending the varied nature of Rhimes’ characters, Stanley herself initially remained unrepentant insisting her profile of Rimes was actually more positive than deeming or racist and she had used a headline grabbing writing technique previously used in many other articles designed to draw the reader in before delivering her style of praise for the award winning work Shonda Rhimes has been widely acknowledged for in the International TV industry.

This is what Stanley had to say; “I didn’t think Times readers would take the opening sentence literally, because I so often write arch, provocative ledes that are then undercut or mitigated by the paragraphs that follow.”

The good news; “well as best as it could be” is that New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan eventually sided with those aggrieved by the Shonda ‘bombshell attack’ and concluded: “The readers and commentators are correct to protest this story. Intended to be in praise of Ms. Rhimes, it delivered that message in a condescending way that was – at best – astonishingly tone-deaf and out of touch.”

How to Get Away With Murder

How to Get Away With Murder

It should be pointed out that at least three different editors at the NY Times read the article prior to given it the approval green light to go live – doesn’t that also tell us something about the ignorant short-sighted world we still live in.

Do you think Alessandra Stanley was misunderstood or do you believe people had a very good a reason to get upset?

You can read a few of the articles flying around in the fire-storm including the original NY Times article below:
Wrought in Rhimes’s Image
Viola Davis Plays Shonda Rhimes’s Latest Tough Heroine

And a TPM Livewire response here:

New York Times – Public Opinion Page (Editor’s response)

Alessandra Stanley defends her article

What if Shonda Rhimes is an Angry Black Woman? (by Hari Ziyad)