Bessie stars Queen Latifah as legendary blues singer Bessie Smith. Think of it as a series of vignettes – events and scenes that aren’t necessarily tied into a smooth narrative.Continue Reading: Review: Bessie
The Last Thing He Wanted stars Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, Rosie Perez, Willem Dafoe, and Edi Gathegi. It was directed by Dee Rees, based on a novel by Joan Didion. Doesn’t that sound fabulous?Continue Reading: Review: The Last Thing He Wanted
Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams is a science fiction anthology of 10 episodes streaming on Amazon. Instead of reviewing the anthology as a whole the way I normally would a TV season, I’ll briefly discuss each individual episode.
Various writers took the short stories of Philip K. Dick and made them into the individual tales of Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams. There’s no reason to watch them in any particular order. They all stand on their own.
I always preface these end of year lists with a disclaimer. I don’t see everything. I don’t subscribe to everything and I don’t go out to the theater weekly. Nobody is telling me what to see or paying me to go see things. I’m just watching what looks good to me. So, with that said, let me talk about 12 great films I saw in 2017 that were directed by women. Continue Reading: A Dozen Wonderful Films Directed by Women from 2017
Mudbound grabs you from the first moments and won’t let go. It twists you up, wrings you breathless, and spits you out gasping. Finally, whew, finally, it shows you a break in the cloudy skies to let in a beam of sunshine. Continue Reading: Review: Mudbound
Mudbound is the latest from director Dee Rees. It’s the story of two families – one black, one white – bound uneasily together on the muddy farmland of the Mississippi Delta during the Jim Crow era. Continue Reading: Watch This: Trailer for Mudbound
Electric Dreams, or more correctly Phillip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, is an anthology sci-fi series based on the short stories of Phillip K. Dick. It has 10 stand alone episodes. It’s coming as an Amazon Prime original.
Continue Reading: Watch This: Trailer for Electric Dreams
When We Rise is an 8 hour mini-series to air on ABC on four nights. When We Rise tells the story of the LGBTQ rights movement, tracking key figures from their first days as activists to the present day. Continue Reading: Watch This: Trailer for When We Rise
HBO’s biopic about Bessie Smith, Bessie is scheduled for release in the spring. The film stars Queen Latifah as the legendary blues singer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s a little sample of Peggy Lee.