Hamish Downie has a new type of column that started back in December as his Holiday playlist. It was so popular that he decided to make it a monthly recurring column with a movie playlist for each month. Thanks Hamish for creating a new concept for TG Geeks.
If you have seen any of these films, let us know your thoughts.
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As a caucasian, mostly cisgender Australian, I can’t pretend to have any special knowledge about Black History Month, nor do I want to. But, in honour of the month, I’ve chosen to look at the milestones along the road to Halle Berry, one of the last true movie stars, becoming the first African-American winner of the Best Actress Oscar.
Dorothy Dandridge is a true force of nature in this film. She was the first African-American Actress to be nominated for an Oscar in a leading role, but lost to Grace Kelly. If you’ve watched the Opera, basically you know the story. And even if you haven’t watched the Opera, it’s very likely that you still know the incredibly famous music. Dorothy was a singer in her own right, but was dubbed for the film as she wasn’t an opera singer. We learn in the following film that Eartha Kitt was up for the part, and she would have also been amazing, but Dorothy really owned this film. Also, she reunited with her “Bright Road” co-star Harry Belafonte, who was so handsome in the film.
INTRODUCING DOROTHY DNADRIDGE
At this point in her career, Halle Berry had most notably done Spike Lee’s “Jungle Fever”, cult film “BAP*S”, and the hit adaptation of “The Flintstones”. Her star was on the rise, but was struggling to find really meaty roles. She then produced and starred in the telemovie about Dorothy Dandridge for HBO, and soon won a SAG award, a Primetime Emmy, and a Golden Globe (when GGs mattered). X-Men and Monster’s Ball followed. It was co-written by Shonda Rhymes before Shonda Rhymes was Shonda Rhymes, and even had a female director (look at Halle Berry breaking down all kinds of doors). Honestly, the telemovie goes through Dorothy’s story at lightning speed, and really needed at least a part 2 or a full miniseries. But, Halle Berry’s performance in the film is incredible and humanising.
A couple of years later, Hally Berry was starring in “Monster’s Ball”, which would be her ticket to Oscar Glory and her stamp on history. Having recently watched Carmen Jones and Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, I can’t help feeling like the spirit of Dorothy Dandridge was there in her tour de force performance in this film. Actors sometimes say that the characters they play stay with them long after the film or play, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility. This film is about a Racist Police Officer in the South, who starts an intense relationship with the woman whose husband he has recently executed. It features a wonderful performance by Heath Ledger in a small, but important role; Peter Boyle from “Everybody Loves Raymond”; and was Produced by Lee Daniels (I’m surprised that he wasn’t the director). The writers of the film were inspired by the journey of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and their rise to fame and Oscar Glory with “Good Will Hunting”, so the two struggling actors wrote this as a star vehicle for themselves, however, they only got small roles in the subsequent film. But, what a film! My only criticism is that the leads are all too good looking, but it is a movie after all.
Halle Berry has certainly had some ups and downs in her acting career, but I am truly excited about her directing debut. The Netflix film is incredible. It’s a bit like “Rocky”, except with Halle Berry in the lead looking for redemption and getting her son back via success in the ring. Originally, the film was written for an Irish lead, but Halle took the inspired decision to make it about an African American fighter and to make it her directorial debut. Actor-Directors often focus only on the performances, but in this film the Action is also expertly directed. Perhaps this isn’t surprising considering Halle has mixed Action roles in with her Dramas and Comedies, and it shows in this fantastic debut.
I hope you enjoy this month’s selection, and let us know what your favourite films for Black History Month are.