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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Saturday, June 17, 2023

Tap (1989)

"Tap" (1989) is a drama film written and directed by Nick Castle and stars Gregory Hines, Sammy Davis Jr., Suzzanne Douglas, and Joe Morton. As the title suggests, the movie is mostly about tap dancing with a story of redemption. After the 1940s, there were few films about the tap dancing art form that once dominated American entertainment. In particular, tap dancing was a huge part of black entertainment culture during the 1920s, 30s, and 40s.

"Tap" introduced a younger generation to the dance style, so the film includes a mixture of performers from old to new. The legendary tap dancers in the movie were Sammy Davis Jr., Howard 'Sandman' Sims, Bunny Briggs, Steve Condos, Jimmy Slyde, Arthur Duncan, and Harold Nicholas. In addition, Savion Glover starred in the movie as a 14-year-old boy learning from the legends. At the time, Glover was starring on Broadway as a performer. Finally, Gregory Hines connects all the generations in the movie. Suzzanne Douglas performs alongside Hines, displaying her gracefulness as a singer and dancer. 

This film has become a historical artifact because this was the last time an ensemble of legendary tap dancers was in a movie together. The cinematography is excellent, and the music is fantastic. The story is also engaging because actors like Joe Morton and Dick Anthony Williams appear. If you're looking for quality entertainment, I recommend "Tap" for viewing.

Director: Nick Castle
Writer: Nick Castle

Starring Gregory Hines, Suzzanne Douglas, Sammy Davis Jr., Joe Morton, Dick Anthony Williams, Savion Glover, Howard 'Sandman' Sims, Bunny Briggs, Steve Condos, Jimmy Slyde, Arthur Duncan, Pat Rico, and Harold Nicholas

Max Washington (Gregory Hines), an ex-con just released from jail, is a veteran burglar and a talented tap dancer. Reuniting with his girlfriend, Amy (Suzzanne Douglas), Max is approached by her father, Little Mo (Sammy Davis Jr.), about a new dance production. Max's criminal past, in the form of his old buddy, Nicky (Joe Morton), also comes knocking, and he must decide between embracing dance and lapsing into his delinquent ways.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Just an Old Sweet Song (1976, TV Movie)

"Just an Old Sweet Song" (1976) was a made-for-television drama presented by GE Theatre which aired on several local network channels. Melvin Van Peebles wrote the script for the movie, and stars Robert Hooks and Cicely Tyson as the lead actors. 

By 1976, black actors started seeing more work in TV movies, especially with more programming featuring a primarily black cast. These films were welcoming counters to blaxploitation movies that were flooding the market. "Just an Old Sweet Song" is a story about a family from Detroit that moves down south. While there, they face various situations where the family tries to understand themselves and their societal place. As expected, Robert Hooks and Cicely Tyson were masterful, but the supporting cast was just as good, which includes Beah Richards, Lincoln Kilpatrick, Mary Alice, Kevin Hooks, and Sonny Jim Gains. 

Overall, the film is a good watch and honest with its intentions. I recommend the movie if you want to see legendary actors in their element.

Director: Robert Ellis Miller
Writers: Melvin Van Peebles, Jane Parker

Starring Cicely Tyson, Robert Hooks, Beah Richards, Lincoln Kilpatrick, Joe, Minnie Gentry, Edward Binns, Kevin Hooks, Eric Hooks, Sonny Jim Gaines, Mary Alice, Tia Rance, Philip Wende, Walt Guthrie, Lou Walker

Priscilla Simmons (Cicely Tyson) is a working-class mother who traded her "backward ways" of the South for a Nothern education. Now she has a husband, three kids, and a promising career. Her life in the big city is very ordinary until her mother's illness forces the family to venture across the Mason-Dixon line for the first time.