Review: Flint

Flint is a Lifetime TV movie about the public health crisis in Flint, Michigan caused by unsafe drinking water. Before the movie aired, I saw criticisms saying that the movie would make it seem like everything was all right now, even though it isn’t. Well, the movie did not do that at all. Continue reading “Review: Flint”

Watch This: Trailer for Flint

Flint is about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan and the 4 women who brought it to national attention. It premiers Saturday Oct. 28 on Lifetime TV. Continue reading “Watch This: Trailer for Flint”

The Wiz LIVE Announces Cast

NBC will air The Wiz LIVE! in December and the casting announcements so far have been inspiring.

Dorothy will be newcomer Shanice Williams. Here’s a video of her audition.

Williams will be on stage with Mary J. Blige as Evillene, Queen Latifah as The Wiz, David Alan Grier as the Cowardly Lion, Uzo Aduba as Glinda, Amber Riley as Addaperle, and Stephanie Mills as Auntie Em. Also featured will be Common, Ne-Yo, Elijah Kelley and Cirque du Soleil. Kenny Leon is the director.

Staging a musical live on television is an undertaking in itself, but adding Cirque du Soleil to the action should make for both spectacular challenges and spectacular action.

Many of those in the cast made their reputations as singers, but we aren’t used to seeing Uzo Aduba sing. Check this out:

Maybe Crazy Eyes stands frozen on stage when asked to sing in Orange is the New Black, but Uzo Aduba can belt out an aria on demand.

I’ve never been in a position in my life where I could see Broadway shows. The Wiz is one that has always been on my wish list. Actually, any musical would make my wish list.

In past years, NBC brought us Peter Pan LIVE and The Sound of Music LIVE. Now we have this holiday treat to look forward to. I intend to follow the yellow brick road.

Actors on Actors -UPDATED

Variety has created a series of conversations called “Actors on Actors” that are fascinating discussions between peers. Most of them are a man and a woman. I picked these three to include here because both the conversationalists are women, but don’t overlook the others at Variety Studio: Actors on Actors.

The women’s conversations are about art and craft and fame and the meaning of success.

 

 

UPDATE: Here’s another that just published with two women in conversation.

Bessie Release Announced by HBO

HBO’s biopic about Bessie Smith, Bessie is scheduled for release in the spring. The film stars Queen Latifah as the legendary blues singer.

Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith
Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith

The HBO synopsis of the film:

Queen Latifah stars as legendary blues singer Bessie Smith in this HBO Films presentation, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Dee Rees from a screenplay by Dee Rees and Christopher Cleveland & Bettina Gilois. With a story by Dee Rees and Horton Foote, the film focuses on Smith’s transformation from a struggling young singer into “The Empress of the Blues,” who became one of the most successful recording artists of the 1920s and is an enduring icon today. BESSIE also stars Michael Kenneth Williams, Khandi Alexander, Mike Epps, Tika Sumpter, Tory Kittles, Oliver Platt, Bryan Greenberg, with Charles S. Dutton and Mo’Nique.

Queen Latifah and Dee Rees were at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, where they discussed the film.

Queen Latifah and Dee Rees at Television Critics Association winter press tour.
Queen Latifah and Dee Rees at Television Critics Association winter press tour.

Rees, who wrote and directed the film, commented that Bessie Smith is part of a long line of women of color who reached success as female artists in a world dominated by men. Starting with Ma Rainey (played in the film by Mo’Nique) and moving through singers like Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, and many others up to the present day, Bessie Smith represents women oppressed by the world around them, but triumphant in spite of it.

Queen Latifah said she was first offered the part when she was 22. She didn’t even know who Bessie Smith was at that time. She’s obviously learned since and will probably do a much better job playing her now than she would have at 22.

Here’s Bessie Smith, who was bisexual, singing the blues about a man.

As you can hear, Bessie Smith had a particular style, timber, and cadence to her singing. I hope Queen Latifah doesn’t try to match it exactly, but simply creates a sense of the truth of who she was as a woman.

Gimmie Some of That Ol’ Time Music

Two biopics about two great but very different singers from the old days are in the works and I cannot wait to see them both. It’s early yet there’s no news on release times.

Bessie Smith

Queen Latifah to play Bessie Smith on HBO
Queen Latifah to play Bessie Smith on HBO

The first is a biopic for HBO about Bessie Smith. I’m seeing the name Blue Goose Hollow for this film, which may be the final name. Queen Latifah is producing the film and will star as blues singer Bessie Smith. The film was written by Dee Rees (Pariah). Also in the cast of this one are Mo’Nique and Khandi Alexander. Mo’Nique will portray blues singer Ma Rainey and Alexander will play Smith’s older sister.

I don’t think we need to worry about the singing in this one, since Queen Latifah has pretty much proved she can do anything with her voice she wants. Does Mo’Nique sing? I can’t find any evidence that she does, but with actors it isn’t surprising to find that they can do all kinds of performing – even if it’s something they’ve never had a chance to show off before.

Peggy Lee

Reese Witherspoon will star in biopic about Peggy Lee.
Reese Witherspoon will star in biopic about Peggy Lee.

Reese Witherspoon will star in a film about singer Peggy Lee. We’ve heard her sing like June Carter Cash, but Peggy Lee had a very different sound. It will be interesting to see how Witherspoon performs as a jazz vocalist. This one has been slow getting going. Writer Nora Ephron died before the project was completed. There was also an issue finding a director, but Todd Haynes (Far from Heaven) recently signed up for the job.

Everything seems to be in place now for this one to move forward.

Gimmie Some

Just in case you’re too young to know what these two legendary singers are all about, here are some samples, starting with Bessie Smith.

Here’s a little sample of Peggy Lee.