Thursday, December 31, 2015

My 2015 Movies of the Year

Once again it seems like another year has flown by. It feels the older I get, the quicker time seems to move.

In terms of pure post output, this was my least productive year on the blog since its inception four years ago. I could use the same excuses of work, side projects, and other commitments, but the truth is, I have to be more disciplined in my time management and more consistent in my posts. With that said, though my posts were down considerably this year, I did manage to make it out to see some quality films.

Last year I didn't have a movie of the year, but there were nevertheless quality films I saw like "Beyond The Lights" for example. For 2015 my movies of the year are "Dope" and "Chef." I picked these films for very different reasons above the other titles I saw over the last 12 months.

I saw "Dope" while attending the American Black Film Festival last June and the film actually headlined the event. "Dope" centers around a high school senior named Malcolm played by Shameik Moore, and his two friends who are nerds at their local high school in Inglewood, California. Malcolm and his friends get invited to a party where a shootout occurs and Malcolm runs out only to find the drug Molly has been slipped into his bag. To make matters worse, he realizes he must sell the drug without being caught/killed all the while applying to get into Harvard. While the story takes place in the hood and involves drug dealing, I wouldn't consider this a 'hood movie.' The actors and director Rick Famuyiwa do a good job of making this film feel lively and even somewhat innocent despite its serious subject matter. Zoe Kravitz is very good in this film as well.

Monday, November 30, 2015

November Rule

The holidays are upon us and that means some dudes are having second thoughts about spending money and committing to their mates.

That is the basic premise of the movie "November Rule" which stars Mo McRae and Fresh Prince of Bel Air alum Tatyana Ali. They start out as partners, but McRae's character 'Steve' develops cold feet as the calendar flips to November and decides to dump Ali's character 'Leah' -- just as he has every previous girlfriend. Except this time Steve has a change of heart and realizes Leah is a true catch who he didn't truly appreciate until she was gone.

Along the way Steve's two friends represent both sides of the commitment fence: one is happily married and the other is happily single until he meets his new flame played by Lala Vasquez. All-in-all this is an enjoyable rom-com and worth a few good laughs.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

4 Years In

In the Fall of 2011 I sat down in front of my computer armed with an idea and plenty of time on my hands (I just finished a film and was, shall we say, unemployed at the time). From that, was the start of FilmSwag. The blog celebrated it's 4th birthday this past weekend. My baby is slowly growing up.

Since the blog has begun, I've been amazed at the ever evolving deep pool of roles that people of color have been getting in television (more so than film) these last few years. One of my early articles covered the fact that Taraji P. Henson openly complained that she was not featured in any of the ads or promos for the CBS series "Person of Interest." Four years later, it's safe to say Taraji has had the last laugh thanks to some show on Fox.

It hasn't just been more roles either, but whole families coming into the fray. Two of the more well known shows "Blackish" and "Fresh off the Boat," aren't just shows with families that happen to be black and Asian, but make a point to tell the narrative through the perspective of those characters. In order to tell these stories, you need to have writers who are familiar with everyday colloquiums and norms of a particular culture. These shows reflect that.

As for the future of this blog, I'm working on some upgrades and new content. I do admit, I haven't posted much this year, but I haven't forgotten about you guys, the readers, and I will continue to try and put good material out there. Here's to another 4 more years at least. Peace.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Looking Back at Rudy

College football returned last weekend just in time to whet our collective sports appetite for the coming Fall. It's this time of year where fans of teams hope to see their squad reach the College Football Playoffs and win a coveted National Championship. Last year, the world watched as a little known third string quarterback by the name of Cardale Jones beat Alabama and took care of Oregon to give the Ohio State Buckeyes their first National Championship since 2002. Coming into this season, I couldn't help but think of another unknown character who would never win a National Championship, but nevertheless became a part of all time college sports lore.

The name Rudy is synonymous with underdog stories. Here you have a barely 5 foot guy weighing 100 pounds soaking wet, who aspired to play college football at one of the most prestigious institutions in the land -- Notre Dame. After not playing for two years, Rudy is on the verge of giving up his dream all together. That is until he hears a speech from Roc, played by brilliantly Charles S. Dutton.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

John Singleton Looks Back at Ice Cube and Compton

This has been a big weekend for folks from the Los Angeles neighborhood of Compton. The film " Straight Outta Compton" has grossed nearly $60 million at the box office this weekend exceeding initial expectations. The movie which profiles the rise and influence of members of the world's most dangerous rap group, N.W.A., has reintroduced people to early West Coast hip-hop. It's interesting to see where guys like Dr. Dre and Ice Cube are now in their respective careers compared to where they stood 25 years ago. As powerful as N.W.A. was in the early 90s, it wasn't just the music that was influencing people, but film as well.

In 1991 a young up and coming director had a major splash with the release of his film Boyz in the Hood that told the story of a group of friends trying to make it out of their South Central L.A. neighborhood. They guy who directed that flick was a man by the name of John Singleton. It was Singleton who also gave Ice Cube his first acting gig and it's something that Cube is grateful for even to this day. Check out the clip below to hear John Singleton talk about Boyz in the Hood and the impact N.W.A. had on him in this 2013 interview on Canadian television.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Getting A Seat at the Table

As we move through the last week of July and trudge through the dog days of summer, it's worth remembering that the looming shadow just beyond the horizon, is our national reminder that football season is coming. Training camps began their annual commencement this past weekend, and a deluge of journalists will be there to report every touchdown, failed snap, and pick-six that takes place. One of those journalists is getting some much deserved shine.

Josina Anderson is a well respected journalist who has covered a multitude of sports over the years, but is probably best known for her NFL coverage. She's be stationed at training camps, given live reports from the field, and as black woman, has stood out in an industry that has long been dominated by men.

So that's why it was good to see her not in the field this time, or outside some training facility, but with a prominent seat (literally) during a recent discussion on Raiders QB Derek Carr. We don't often see women -- especially black women -- with seats at the table when discussing sports, so it was certainly refreshing to see this. Much props, Josina. See you on Sundays this fall.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Super Producer Will Packer Offers Words of Wisdom

To say these are good times for Will Packer would be an understatement. Between movies and now not one, but two, new TV shows on deck, Packer is definitely making moves within the industry. It's good to know however that he isn't above sharing some wisdom with the public.

In an informative and revealing interview with New York hip-hop radio station Power 105.1, Packer discusses how he got started in the industry, the current projects he's working on, and gives some advice for aspiring filmmakers and producers.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Brandon Todd Rises to New Heights

There's a good chance that I'll never dunk a basketball in my life and I've learned to accept that. However, this video which features Brandon Todd -- a guy all of 5'5 -- has inspired me to think maybe there is some hope after all.

This video featured on The Atlantic website tells of how Brandon Todd always wanted to be able to dunk a basketball despite his short stature and limited hops. He put his body through hell and made some serious sacrifices all for just the possibility that one day his hard work would result in him doing something he'd always dreamed of but never achieved -- dunking a basketball. See if his work pays off.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Back from a Hiatus

This feels like learning to ride a bike again after a long absence.

This is probably the longest I've gone without blogging since I started FilmSwag some 4 years ago. It wasn't for lack of ideas -- there have been plenty -- but more of a self evaluation on where I plan to take this blog. I've been researching, attending conferences, meeting folks, and generally gaining a broader perspective on blogging and my purpose in it.

While I always enjoyed writing about film and media, I've lately been asking myself what do I bring to the table that's different than what you'll find on other sites, and how can I better showcase not only my work but others as well? So I'm thinking for now: less articles, more photography, increased video, and testimonials. Might also be abandoning Blogspot altogether -- stay tuned.

As for the foreseeable future however, I do plan on blogging more consistently and giving you guys, the readers, better and more unique content. Thanks for visiting.

                                                                                                                             - Warin

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

60 Years Later, Same Questions Still Being Asked

I had a brief Twitter discussion the other day in regards to Will Smith's later feature film titled "Focus." Based off the trailer, Smith plays some sort of con man and brings in a young woman (Margot Robbie) under his wing, who together they try to swindle the wrong guy and all hell breaks loose. Being that this is Hollywood, it seems fitting that Smith's character and Robbie's have some romantic dealings with each other over the course of the film.

What's striking about this to me is that once again Will Smith, one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood, (save for a few duds) has a white woman as his romantic interest. Some of you may be reading this wondering what exactly is the problem with this in 2015? The problem is that we still see far too few examples of black men and women loving each other in major Hollywood motion pictures.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Understanding Basic Film Shots

Back in 2013 I had the privilege of interning for a well known web series and got served a crash course in basic cinematography. Little things in terms of where the camera is located in relation to what is being filmed and how it's later edited, made a big difference on how I consume media today. Here are some examples from the reality show, "Welcome to Fairfax."

The Establishing Shot:

- The first shot you see in a new scene or segment is usually called the establishing shot. The reason why it's labeled this is because it's important to establish to the viewer (i.e. you) where exactly the next scene is taking place. In this first shot we see Mizzle (the guy in the shirt that says 'Youth') and Rick Ross (the real former drug kingpin Rick Ross from which the rapper by the same name took as his alias). Both are walking through a pair of open doors that look like the entrance to some coffee shop.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Thoughts on Beyond The Lights

A few weeks ago director Gina Prince-Bythewood, penned an open letter urging audiences to see her latest film, "Beyond The Lights." Having had the chance to view the film twice myself, I wholeheartedly agree more people should see this film.

"Beyond The Lights" stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw as pop star Noni, and Nate Parker as Kaz, the police officer who saves her life after an apparent suicide attempt. After saving her life, Noni and Kaz become close and their relationship evolves, much to the chagrin of their doting parents.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Look Back at 2014

2014 was a year of progress and one of resolve for me.

It was during that calendar year I really upped my camera equipment game: camera mount, overhead light, microphone, and a new tripod. On top of all that I got some editing software as well. Even picked up some books on producing in the process.

In terms of covering films and Hollywood, I was happy for Lupita Nyong'o winning an Oscar at last year's Academy Awards. I made proud to see another woman, and former movie of the year winner on this blog -- Ava DuVernay -- receive critical acclaim across the board for her film "Selma." Not to mention Gina Prince-Bythewood and her moving film, "Beyond The Lights."

In 2014 there was the continued rise of the web series and we can began to see web success spill over into the more traditional medium of television. Issa Rae is working on a show for HBO and the creators of BlackandSexyTV are doing a show for HBO as well. TV shows like "Blackish" and "How to Get Away With Murder" showed network TV executives (again) that shows featuring characters of color can not only succeed, but thrive, especially in the realm of social media.

Despite this progress, most films released from the major studios are still overly white and male focused. That old door however is being pushed against harder and harder every year. People want to see themselves on screen, and in 2014 people of color are making that happen through many different forums. Let's keep this going in 2015. Let us continue to get educated.