Review – Judy

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Let me say that if Renée Zellweger isn’t nominated for a Golden Globe, Oscar, BAFTA and any other award along the way for “Judy”, it’ll be criminal. Zellweger, after a long hiatus from films, showed us why she is one of the best actors of the modern era. I never thought that anyone could out-Judy, Judy Garland, but Zellweger came awfully close. She brought Garland to life, and it was as if we were flies on the wall watching Garland go through all of her highs and lows (unfortunately more lows than highs in this last chapter of her life and career). Out of the performances I’ve seen this year, Zellweger as Garland is one of the best, if not THE best. When Zellweger launches into Garland’s songs, it’s a bravura performance. Zellweger is actually singing all of the songs in the film and I think she’s done Garland proud.

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“Spoiler Alert”

Judy Garland was a victim of a brutal inhumane Hollywood studio system, that was particularly destructive (physically and mentally) for young girls and women. She never experienced a real childhood, LB Mayer was a brutish authoritarian figure in her life and drove her past what anyone, especially a child, should ever endure just to make a film. And we see a lot of this torture and psychological assault in flashback scenes during the time she was cast in the Wizard of Oz. They plied a young Judy Garland with prescription drugs to keep her up (19 hour days were commonplace), they gave her pills to sleep, they deprived her of food because in that era, starlets and full-blown female stars were never small enough for the big screen (not much as changed, though it is a little better now). Garland was mocked because of her looks, and according to the studio bigwigs, she wasn’t a great beauty like Lana Turner, Ava Gardner or Elizabeth Taylor (she attended the studio school with them) and her low self-esteem, insecurity, coupled with her drinking and drug addiction plagued her for the rest of her all too short life.

“Judy” turned a big glaring spotlight on a woman who had a great talent, and made millions of people around the world happy, but could never quite figure out how to actually live, and find the stability she craved and the happiness she wanted in her personal life. She had no support system and was left to her own devices. Garland was ill-equipped to deal with her problems because of how she was raised within the horrific Hollywood machine. “Judy” is both a tragic cautionary tale, and a horror story about how Hollywood can use a person’s talent to make lots of money, suck the life and soul out of them, then throw them out in a world that they’re unfamiliar with, leaving them to fend for themselves, and move on to the next victim.

Yes the film was a little slow, but Zellweger held your attention so astutely, that you simply overlooked a few continuity issues and some dangling subplots that could have been explored a bit more. Another standout in the film was Darci Shaw who played a young Judy. She showed a lot of range, showcasing a young Judy’s fear of LB Mayer and her rebellious streak with just wanting to be a teenager and do the things teenagers do…a very good performance.

Judy Garland died of a barbiturate overdose at only 47 years old after her 5 week engagement in London, which is where the film ends.

“We cast away priceless time in dreams, born of imagination, fed upon illusion, and put to death by reality”. – Judy Garland

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SYDNEY CHANDLER is a Los Angeles based freelance journalist, essayist, screenwriter and producer. Sydney has written and produced documentaries, features, shorts, TV dramas and comedies. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.

Black People Need to Wake-up. We’re in a Fight for our Survival.

Photo Courtesy of Gallup News

OP-ED – Written By Sydney Chandler

I stumbled upon an op-ed on the NEWSONE website written by a very capable writer, and he was rattling off the multitudes of reasons why folks need to stop telling Black people to settle for a candidate just to beat Trump in 2020. Which in fact, this was the title of the op-ed. Well, I’m here to tell him that he’s full of as much shit as Trump bloviating ad nauseam daily about his ahem…greatness, intelligence, mastery of deal-making (excuse me for a moment, I have something caught in my throat), his being “the chosen one” (a true God Complex) and Jews thinking of him as the King of Israel. It’s painfully obvious this master scribe is floating along in his dimly lit bubble, and doesn’t fully understand what we’re dealing with in this new Trumpian, I wannabe a dictator, a thousand lies a day, dysfunctional reality.

Link: Stop Telling Black Folks To Settle For A Candidate Just To Beat Trump In 2020

Because I grew up around the military as well as having family and friends in local, state and federal law enforcement, I fully understand the mandate of something or someone being a “clear and present danger”. Trump is a threat to our Democracy, freedoms, national security and our American way of life. We need to stop this march toward authoritarianism in its tracks. We are heading in a dangerous direction that could result in a very real apocalyptic, Handmaids Tale, doomsday scenario as long as Trump is in the Oval Office, and feels that he is above reproach and untouchable. We are already in a “Constitutional Crisis” and the much ballyhooed and long-awaited Mueller Report is literally a blueprint for Congress to start an inquiry into impeachment.

Black people need to look at the BIG picture instead of looking at this presidential election cycle through the narrow scope of prior, normal presidential elections. Trump is not normal, his administration is not normal, he spews lies with wild-abandon, he incites hatred and avarice toward different races and ethnic groups, just this week he spouted a very disconcerting anti-Semitic trope that the Jewish people didn’t respond well to at all,  his supporters are rabid, violent and cult-like, the Republicans in Congress have been compromised because of their desire to push through their draconian legislation, and stack the federal courts with right-leaning judges and placing another conservative on the Supreme Court. That will not bode well for anyone in this country but ultra right-wing conservatives and evangelicals. Black people, YES, I’m talking directly to YOU…you must pull off the rose-colored glasses and really understand the threat.

Trump is showing everyone who he is and what he is capable of with his love affair with brutal dictators (Putin, MBS and Kim), and how he’s treating migrants and those defenseless children he has in deplorable conditions. When a dictator comes for one group, they will always find another group of people to hate and if necessary, dispatch. History bears this out. Countries have been destroyed and millions of people murdered under megalomaniacs like Trump. Out of the gate, he came for the Brown people (all Mexicans are murderers, rapists, criminals, etc), he’s going after women (wants to control our bodies and decisions), he came for LBGTQs (transgenders in the military), so what will stop him from coming for us? He’s still vilifying the Central Park 5 and they’ve been exonerated. Black people don’t have the luxury of being apathetic, indifferent, believing and spreading propaganda, not voting, hating candidates and announcing to the world we won’t vote for this one or that one because that’s not our candidate of choice, and we can’t be so blind and entrenched in our positions, to where we pretend that we do.

We are still the most hated and reviled race in this country. Hell, there’s so many preconceived ideas and stereotypes about Blacks in other countries, that when you don’t fit the images of what Europeans have in their heads, they’re blown away and speechless. Allow me to be clear…the very real issues we have now, will not be remedied with four more years of Trump. They will only become worse. As it is, racists feel emboldened to call the police on us for going about our everyday lives. Cops are murdering Black men without hesitation. This election in 2020 is not about the individual or their personal feelings, it is about the survival of our race. So we’d better register people to vote, then get them and us to those polls and vote down ticket in 2020 no matter who the Democratic candidate is, if we don’t want to find ourselves in a “Back to the Future” situation with our 21st century version of Jim Crow or worse.

SYDNEY CHANDLER is a Los Angeles based freelance journalist, essayist, screenwriter and producer. Sydney has written and produced documentaries, features, shorts, TV dramas and comedies. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.

Made It To The 2018 Cannes Film Festival

 

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The Cannes Film Festival is one of the most prestigious events within the entertainment industry. Careers are made, others are reignited and all are vying for the adulation of the press and fans, as well as validation from their peers. It’s like the qualifying rounds for the Olympics, except in this case, it’s next year’s Oscars.

One day soon, I’ll be on the other side of the camera because my projects will be contending for a nod from power-players as well as distribution. But at least after years of covering celebs and working in this industry, I know the pressure they’re under and how to handle the press.

But out of all of the premieres, award shows, various industry events, including the Oscars, Golden Globes and other film festivals, the Cannes Film Festival is still my absolute favorite. There’s something about the history and how everything about it, harkens back to that quintessential old Hollywood glam. I can almost see Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner, Dorothy Dandridge, Lana Turner, Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Paul Newman, William Holden, Marilyn Monroe, and the rest of the true old school  Hollywood glitterati, dressed in their finest gowns, dripping in diamonds and wrapped in furs, with the men in their dapper tuxedos, behaving in a manner that us mere mortals would imagine movie stars should…regal, otherworldly and what fantasies and dreams of a film career are made of.

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Famous Stars of the Cannes Film Festival

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Vintage Cannes Film Festival Photos

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Even walking through the corridors of iconic hotels like The Martinez and the Intercontinental Carlton Cannes (formerly just the Carlton Hotel), are filled with history. Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief starring Grace Kelly and Cary Grant has the Carlton  featured prominently. It really is true when people say…if walls could talk.

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Present day

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The Martinez

 

At the Red Carpet Hollywood Premiere of Avengers: Infinity War

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Women’s March LA – 2018

I arrived at the Women’s March VERY early with my staff because it was important to show support for what women, minorities and immigrants are facing in this country. While I was chatting with all of the wonderful men and women who came to march and protest, my god-daughter sent me a text that she and her friends were somewhere in the madness at 20 strong. I was more than proud of her because millennials are the group that will be negatively impacted the most with this administration’s policies. I was also proud of all the women, men, teens and younger kids gathering to make this year’s march a success, as well as to make their voices heard, not just in this country, but around the world.

If my mom were still alive, that first sign above referencing the 1960s, is the one she’d be holding. She believed in equality, was a staunch feminist and would have been at this march, or some march across this country. But she also would have been thoroughly pissed-off that we’re back at square one. But believe this, we’ll make it right mom, one day soon! We cannot and must not continue to allow history to keep repeating itself.

Today women and our allies, came together across this nation and around the world for the Women’s March. Let’s get something done. Rallies and protests are great, but we need to come together as a cohesive unit every single day and not just one day out of the year. I don’t want my nieces, god-daughter or any young girl in and outside of this country, to still be fighting the same fights we’re fighting today, and the fights our ancestors thought would be in my generation’s rearview mirror, against an extremist, patriarchal government who wants to have total control over women, our reproductive rights and how high up the ladder of success we can go. Our gender should NEVER be a deciding factor on any achievement in our lives, and our bodies and what’s inside of them, are our own to govern. The Handmaid’s Tale is a work of fiction and we should never EVER allow something like that to become a life imitating art moment.

As for immigration, everyone should be welcome in this country no matter what race, creed, ethnicity or religious affiliation. The Statue of Liberty says: Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

There’s no caveat in that statement which says you’re only welcome if you’re White. This is only one of a multitude of reasons why we’re marching, protesting, resisting and signing people up to vote. The very heart and soul of this country is dependent upon reclaiming our right to call ourselves decent and moral people. We cannot and will not allow a small group of racist oligarchs and kleptocrats to reverse the progress we’ve made in the US regarding race, religious freedom, immigration and women’s rights just because they long for a bygone era of White Male Supremacy. The buck stops with each and everyone one of us and by now, we should have all had ENOUGH!

Film Review: Proud Mary

I wanted to support Taraji P. Henson in her film “Proud Mary” and I’m glad I did. I know the critics savaged it and Rotten Tomatoes gave it 23%. But I’m veering off the freeway with this film. I think a lot of critics didn’t like it because they didn’t understand it, nor did they pick up on or appreciate the nod it gave to the so-called “blaxploitation” films of the 70’s. Another issue the critics appeared to have with Proud Mary is that it wasn’t filled with a ton of CGI, Special EFX and grandiose stunt sequences with the hero, or in this case, the heroine doing a lot of slow motion acrobatics, while mowing down 100 bad guys trying to kill her.

Proud Mary is a definite throwback to 70’s linear storytelling. It wasn’t filled with a multitude of subplots, random characters popping in and out, with no real connection to the overall narrative, and a bunch of not too subtle societal messages pounding the audience over the head like a sledgehammer. People in the theater also didn’t need a Ph.D in – “I think I’m so damned clever filmmaking”. It was a very easy film to watch and follow. The cinematography was clean, the action was just enough to move the story along and make you go WOW, the acting was good; Taraji P. Henson killed it as a badass hitwoman who can dispatch her targets without a second thought. Jahi Di’Allo Winston, who played the kid she looked after, was great. Danny Glover was also on-point as the crime boss Taraji’s character Mary worked for. Everyone cast in Proud Mary did their jobs well.

Were there some issues, of course. I thought the first half of the film moved a bit slow and there were a few small holes in the storyline, but it wasn’t enough to say Proud Mary is a bad film. The major problem with Proud Mary is that it wasn’t promoted enough, and for those who are addicted to slick, colorful, special EFX-laden films with an abundance of camera angle trickery, you’ll probably find Proud Mary boring and flat. But if you want a film that follows the screenwriter’s go-to, as in Freytag’s Pyramid, then you’ll find a warm place in your heart for Proud Mary.

As a sidenote: There were two films in the same vein as Proud Mary. The 1980 film Gloria with Gena Rowlands and the 1999 remake of Gloria with Sharon Stone. If you ever saw either of those films and liked them, then you’ll probably like Proud Mary.

Commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. and His Enduring Legacy

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“Racism is still that hound of Hell which dogs the tracks of our civilization” – Martin Luther King Jr. in 1967 from his speech Where Do We Go From Here.

Today we commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. who was prophetic and could clearly see the future of this country. Here we are in 2018, revisiting what King and others during this era, hoped would be in our rear-view mirror. We can still ask – “What happens to a dream deferred”? We have been plunged into a battle between good and evil, twisted and antiquated ideologies on race and gender, versus progressive, forward thinking regarding diversity and equality for all. We’re at the crossroads of our morality as a nation; if we ever want to stand on moral high-ground again, we must be better, do better and cast aside those who are dragging us into the abyss of hatred and injustice.

Martin Luther King Jr. has been gone for almost 50 years, and I feel that he would weep with sadness, and be consumed by the horror at how this country has regressed after the light of hope was cast across this nation with the election of Barack Obama, our first Black President. We have allowed racists and bigots to once again, overtake the good and decent denizens of the United States of America, and we must slay this insidious dragon once and for all if we are ever to fulfill the vision Dr. King had for our country and the world.

Let us not forget his partner in life as well as in the cause, the great lady, Coretta Scott King.

“Freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others”. –Coretta Scott King.

She continued King’s legacy and because of her, he will never be forgotten and neither will she. Coretta Scott King is also the one who wrote the letter warning about Jeff Sessions racist leanings, yet Trump appointed him Attorney General, so Trump’s denials and platitudes ring hollow as always.

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As we navigate the hate-filled terrain in our country, we need to remember that “WE THE PEOPLE” have choices. You see this photo, it is from the March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his powerful “I Have a Dream” speech. We can make this happen again. Millions of us have had enough of the vile racism, bigotry and divisiveness coming from Trump and his agents of evil. The only way to put this administration on the ropes and to make a permanent change in this country, is to not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. The time for action is NOW! Don’t allow all of those who fought and died for freedom, justice and equality, to have their sacrifices be in vain.

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“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly,” – Martin Luther King Jr.

The Hypocrisy of #WhyWeWearBlack at the Golden Globes

 

 

Today journalists and Hollywood celebs will be at the Golden Globes and the celebs have this “movement” of #WhyWeWearBlack. Everyone is supposed to show up in Black to show support for women (and some men) who have been victims of sexual harassment, assault, rape and gender inequality . But here’s why I call bullsh*t…they all knew this behavior has been going on for decades and sat idly by, and said nothing and did NOTHING while collecting their millions. They watched other women suffer some of the most heinous indignities a woman could suffer. The few brave women who DID speak up, and risked their livelihoods, had their reputations sullied and their careers ruined.

Rose McGowan has been screaming about Harvey Weinstein for well over a decade, but not one of these women in the industry came to her defense. Meryl Streep, who has been in the industry for 40 years, feigned ignorance and guess what, many of us didn’t buy a damned thing she was selling with that Pollyanna routine. But here we are, on the backs of regular brave women and a few non-A listers, celebs such as Eva Longoria, Jessica Chastain, Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington, Tracey Ellis Ross, Ashley Judd, Brie Larsen and others, have come up with this idea of wearing all black to the Golden Globes and want other women across the globe to post videos of themselves wearing black to show solidarity. I call even more bullsh*t.

This is just another feel-good cause célèbre. Ordinary women such as Tarana Burke, who started the #MeToo movement, have been fighting the good fight against sexual harassment for decades. But on cue, here comes these celebrities piggy-backing off her hard-work, and had it not been for those on Twitter calling out Melissa Milano for her appropriation, Tarana Burke wouldn’t have gotten her due. As it is, Time didn’t even have the decency to put her on the cover for a movement being honored that she started. Throughout history, it’s never been celebrities who made significant changes to laws and mindsets in this country, it was regular people like us.

It really pisses me off that celebrities attach themselves to important issues like this, and use them as another avenue for publicity…for themselves of course. Yes they have a platform, but they should have been using that platform a long time ago. This has now became nothing more than the latest “Birkin bag” to them. If they truly wanted to send a message to Hollywood and to all of the victims in and outside of the US, then how about not showing up to the award shows this season? Not continuing to contribute to the pomp and ceremony, would have spoken louder than any black gown worth thousands. But realistically speaking, we all know that would never happen because they’re far too addicted to walking red carpets. Some have said they wouldn’t protest or boycott the show entirely because many of their friends and colleagues were nominated. So in essence, they don’t mind throwing some support in the direction of victims, as long as it doesn’t preclude their night of patting each other on the back.

Shonda Rhimes and 300 other prominent women in the entertainment industry are behind the Time’s Up initiative aimed at eradicating abuse, harassment, marginalization and under-representation in the work place, which on the surface appears to be a good thing. But let’s take a wait and see on what it is they really accomplish. Afterall, celebrities start initiatives and foundations all the darn time and some are successful and others are suspect. But in the end, us hardworking regular women are the ones who will ultimately create the environment we want to live and work in, while celebrities are comfortable in their bubbles, only peeping out from behind the gates to see if they can get something out of our hard-work, dedication and determination to end this rape and harassment culture that’s infected our society for way too long.

 

Review: Blade Runner 2049 – Disappointing to Say the Least

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I saw the new Blade Runner 2049 and after waiting and waiting and waiting for this film, I am NOT at all impressed. Growing up, Blade Runner was my film as well as my dad’s. We saw it 3 times at the theater and it was our night when it was on TV. So it literally pains me to say that after viewing this current incarnation, I feel duped and let down.

First, the visuals and production value were spectacular. The professionals behind this visually stunning dystopian world, were at the top of their game. The casting was on-point. Ryan Gosling was perfectly cast as one of the new models of replicants, and can we chat about Robin Wright. Here’s an actress who was all but forgotten, then she landed House of Cards and has gone on to critical acclaim for her role as Claire in HoC, Wonder Woman and here she is as another serious badass in Blade Runner 2049. She’s an older actress who has found her niche; strong and powerful women and her role in Blade Runner 2049 is no exception.

Then of course there’s Harrison Ford…being Harrison Ford. He still has a lot of the spirit he portrayed in the original film as one of the Blade Runners, Rick Deckard. He was feisty, could throw a great punch, gave us some chuckle-worthy digs in his scenes with Gosling, but what I liked the most about his role was that he was allowed to age. Jared Leto appeared out of nowhere in the first half of the film with about 10 minutes of screen time, then you didn’t see him again until the end and this go around, he had about 7 – 8 minutes of screen time, and no one really knows anything about him other than he’s the blind evil genius behind the corporation who manufactures replicants, but Leto delivered, considering what he had to work with. The rest of the cast were amazing as well.

But the storylines…that’s where it went south. They were beyond convoluted and disjointed. This film was in desperate need of better writers. Just when you would try to become emotionally invested in one storyline, they’d jump to another one and leave you dangling. THEN, here comes a subplot inserted into the already dangling plot line and you’re sitting there completely annoyed. Blade Runner 2049 played like the writers and the director just wrote and shot this film on the fly.

With a few exceptions here and there, the dialogue was consistently flat. This film has an abundance of beautiful visuals, I can’t say that enough however, it’s a pity that more wasn’t dedicated to the storyline and the dialogue. It was all over the place. Characters popping in and out with no real backstory to inform the audience of who in the Hell these people were. Then when they feebly tried to give the audience an explanation, it became even more confusing and complex….but not in a good way. This film was filled with eye-rolling pretentiousness; metaphors and symbolism galore. This was a pseudo-psychological journey into a laborious and overwhelming dystopian world that failed to excite your imagination and make you long for more.

Then that ending…no words. Sometimes you simply have to see something for yourself to understand someone else’s disappointment. Oh by the way, the film is LONG…an hour-plus too long! Now chew on that.  #BladeRunner2049

The Wails of Our Ancestors

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Let’s be clear; sane, intelligent people know exactly who Trump is by now. If you don’t, then obviously you’ve been living in a cave for the last year. When Trump gave his first press conference in regards to the Charlottesville tragedy, that was exactly how he felt and who he is. Then that pathetic 2nd press conference was forced and he meant none of it…that wasn’t who he is. Yesterday’s press conference where the REAL racist Donald Trump emerged, supporting violent White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, Alt-Right and KKK criminals, should put a period at the end of the sentence for every decent person in this country. But on cue, we have his Black plantation brigade coming out in full-force to defend the indefensible.

 

Yes, these men and women have every right to put their trust in Trump and believe whatever they choose. However, we have a right to pull their Black cards and put them squarely in the box with the rest of his despicable surrogates. They are not grounded in reality; they seem to have developed amnesia about history and they can never be trusted because they’re as Malcolm X so succinctly put it, “the house negroes”. They’ll sell-out anyone and everyone who dares to challenge their “massa”. Each and every one of them are still on the plantation, yet think they’re making these decisions on their own volition…they’re not. They’ve been manipulated, brainwashed and seduced by those in a system designed to find our weaknesses and exploit them.

Though they may dress well, eat well, fly around on massa’s private jet, attend events with massa and massa may put a few coins in their pockets, but they’re still massa’s slaves. They seem to relish in the fact that they’re dancing with the devil and disrespecting all of the people who fought and died during slavery, segregation and Jim Crow. Those brave, strong and powerful men and women risked everything including their lives, in order to make sure that future generations would never have to be subservient to anyone, and have all of the rights and freedoms afforded to White Americans. Lynne Patton, Pastor Darrell Scott, Gerard Robinson, Paris Dennard, Bruce LeVell, Diamond and Silk and so many others in and around that administration, have jettisoned any semblance of morality, and these Black men and women have literally made our ancestors weep.

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