The mission of The Department of Afro-American Research Arts and Culture to identify the global significance of the creative contributions pioneered by an international diaspora of Blackness
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Monday, January 7, 2013

Nothing But A Man (1964)


African-American rail worker Duff Anderson (Ivan Dixon) has left his 4-year old son with a nanny and now drifts through life with little ambition. Duff's outlook on life changes when he meets schoolteacher Josie Dawson (Abbey Lincoln), a gentle preacher's daughter. Although Josie's father (Stanley Greene) disapproves of Duff's lifestyle, the two eventually marry. Duff and Josie struggle to hold on to their marriage as Duff must face up to the oppressive racism of 1960s America.

Provoked (1989)

  • Cindy Ferda
  • McKeiver Jones III
  • Harold Wayne Jones
Have you ever been walking down the street, minding your own business, when an interracial gang pulls up in a car and asks you to join them? Well that's exactly what happens to Randy (Von Ornsteiner) when a vicious group of thugs comprised of Loverboy (whose shirt is perpetually open revealing his beer gut, and happily smiling, proclaims, "I was charged with rape!"), his mother Big Momma (whose character predates Big Momma's House (2000) by eleven years and predates Big Momma's House 2 by a whopping seventeen years - and is one of the best characters in "Provoked"), Slick, the token Asian, and Mad Dog, a white guy who wears a Members Only jacket and headband, and inexplicably carries a Tommy-Gun). They recruit Randy (now dubbed "Nick The Knife") to steal some money from the payroll office of the Sun Meadow Wines Building.

The heist goes awry when after shouting "gimme money!" repeatedly yields no results, they take four hostages. One of which looks like Estelle Getty and makings ear-piercing but funny noises. Unfortunately for them, the husband of a woman named Casey Kennedy (Maranne) is inside. She had plans to go on her honeymoon (Don't be alarmed when you see her showing off her new house on a homemade video, no one taped over this movie), but her newlywed husband Michael (Bob Fall) is inside.

Captain Rader (Jones III) is called in to handle the situation. Casey believes the police are moving too slow but Rader is having his own squabbles with Mayor Bender (Nick Roberts). Will Casey take the law into her own hands and save her husband or will McKeiver Jones III stand in her way as the gang is getting angrier and angrier? First a note about the name McKeiver Jones III. It is AWESOME. His first name is MCKEIVER. His last name is JONES. He is not the first, or the second. There have been at least three people in history named McKeiver Jones. Hopefully he had a son and his name is McKeiver Jones IV. His legacy should live on. In all seriousness, he is like a cross between Robert Townsend and Carl Weathers.

One of the flaws of the movie is that MJ-III should have done more. He doesn't show up until 29 minutes in. Yes, we had a McKeiver Watch. He just stands around and barks into a megaphone. It would've been nice to see him participate in some action scenes.

Then again, maybe not. The whole movie is amateurish and clumsy. The technical aspects of the film are inept. Most of the movie takes place in an unfurnished room in an office. The keyboard music score sounds like a drunk four-year old picking keys at random. However it did have a good message about cutting through all the bureaucratic red tape and just killing the baddies yourself. Predating 15 Minutes (2001) by twelve years, "Provoked" tries to make a comment about the media and crime. Most humorously when reporter Carla McKenzie (Porn star Zee) insensitively asks Casey in an on-camera interview "When do you think they will kill your husband?".

The tagline on the front of the VHS box is: "When Enough IS Enough." It is puzzling why the word "IS" is concentrated on so much. On the back of the box, it claims that the action scenes invoke Sam Peckinpah. Having choppy slow-mo in every action scene is not the same thing as his classic works.

On the bright side, the character of Machine-Gun Joe (Sprosty) livens things up in the latter part of the film. But even he should have done more.

Supposedly shot in eight days for $130,000 and released on Rae Don Home Video, We think it is time to get your McKeiver Jones III on.

Jazz On A Summer's Day (1959)

  • Louis Armstrong
  • Mahalia Jackson
  • Chuck Berry
Bert Stern captures the Newport Jazz festival of 1958 in vivid color and with clarity. While jazz is the primary focus of the film, Stern does meander to the America's Cup race that was being contested off Newport at the time, along with some diversionary local flavor, which gives us a sense of what it was like to actually be there. Continuing along this vein, during the festival itself, Stern spends much of his camera time observing the audience caught unaware reacting to jazz on a summer day; after all, live music does not exist in a vacuum. It's this footage along with the incredible jazz music that makes this documentary really special. As a viewer we get to react to the music, and react to the audience reacting to the music. That girl with the seductively cute smile in the yellow dress, and that gruff man hiding behind the shades with the nervous twitch are people that we can connect to from our own personal experiences at open air summer concerts. The feeling of community one gets as the music breaks down the barriers and the sun begins to set. Stern allows his moving compositions to develop and flesh out the character of his subjects, giving us a nostalgic feeling for a time gone by that may have occurred long before we were even born. It does not matter because we are there! But this particular slice of time has special significance, because jazz would soon be replaced in popularity by Rock & Roll. We watch it happen before our eyes as a young Chuck Berry takes the stage. Backed by some excellent jazz musicians, all looking "amused" but not taking very seriously the music that would knock them off the charts for good within a couple of years. As Berry's classic Rock & Roll riffs project across the audience, young people spontaneously jump to their feet and start moving to the rhythm while their parents watch, perplexed.

Round Midnight (1986)

  • Dexter Gordon
  • François Cluzet
  • Gabrielle Haker
In 'Round Midnight, real-life jazz legend Dexter Gordon brilliantly portrays the fictional tenor sax player Dale Turner, a musician slowly losing the battle with alcoholism, estranged from his family, and hanging on by a thread in the 1950's New York jazz world. Dale gets an offer to play in Paris, where, like many other black American musicians at the time, he enjoys a respect for his humanity that is not based upon the color of his skin. A Parisian man who is obsessed with Turner's music befriends him and attempts to save Turner from himself. Although for Dale the damage is already done, his poignant relationship with the man and his young daughter re-kindles his spirit and his music as the end draws near.