Tuesday, January 11, 2011

An Article On Tyler Perry That I Wish I Had Written

I know that this review of Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls is more than a few months old, but I decided to post this article because it did a great job of articulating some of the strong feelings that I have for Mr. Perry's work in general.  I also find Cortland Milloy to be an unbelievable columnist.

I've never stepped foot in DC a day in my life, but I usually make it a point to check WashingtonPost.com for his work.  He has a point of view that definitely seems to be underrepresented and under-appreciated in television, radio, print or online media.

For Black Men Who Have Considered Homicide After Watching Another Perry Movie

By Courtland Milloy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 8, 2010

Can anyone name a movie that came out recently starring a black man who wasn't a sociopath? Someone who had a terrific screen presence, like a young Paul Robeson? And he portrayed a character who was complex and fully drawn? Did he respect black women, too?

Anybody see that movie? I didn't. But surely it's out there somewhere, right? An alternative to those Tyler Perry films portraying black men as Satan's gift to black women? But where is it?

Maybe I didn't hear about it because of all the buzz over Perry's "For Colored Girls," which opened Friday and is based on Ntozake Shange's 1975 stage play, "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf."

Or maybe I didn't hear about it because I was retching too loudly after seeing "For Colored Girls" - and reading so many inexplicably glowing reviews.

"This movie is powerful," Demetria L. Lucas wrote recently in Essence, the nation's premier magazine for black women. "It is incredible. The performances in it are astonishing, but most of all, this film will leave you lifted."

Me, I thought the movie should have been renamed: "For Black Men Who Have Considered Homicide After Watching Another Perry Movie."

"Oscar buzz, breaking news," read the Hollywood Reporter on Friday. "Will 'For Colored Girls' blindside Tyler Perry's critics?"

Too late. I was blindsided while watching the movie, especially when superstar Janet Jackson appeared onscreen looking like Michael Jackson with breast implants.

"Don't laugh," says Shadow and Act, an online publication about black films and filmmakers. " 'For Colored Girls,' an Oscar contender?"

Oscar for what?

In the category for best infection of a black woman with a sexually transmitted disease that renders her infertile. . . . And the winner is: black man.

For best down-low, double-dealing husband who has sex with wife while sneaking around having sex with men on the streets. . . . And the winner is: black man.

For best portrayal of a guy who at first seems nice but turns out to be a rapist. . . . And the winner is - OMG, his third of the night - black man!

"You may need some time alone after viewing 'For Colored Girls,' " wrote Tonya Pendleton for BlackAmericaWeb.com. "Whatever you may think of the fact that it was Tyler Perry who finally brought the award-winning 1974 Ntozake Shange stage production to the big screen, it will move you."

So will ex-lax.

"You will want to know that two kids get thrown out the window by their father," wrote Jane Nosonchuk for Hamptonroads.com. "The scene is well done."

Do I hear another Oscar nomination?

"The men in the movie are all bad guys except for the cop," Nosonchuk wrote. "They are a means to an end rather than any lead characters. Also, a back-room abortion may disturb some."

You think?

What an awful year for movies featuring black actors. Samuel L. Jackson in "Unthinkable." Thoughtless would be more like it. "Brooklyn's Finest" had a nice cast, with Don Cheadle and Wesley Snipes. But Richard Gere and Ethan Hawke got top billing. "Our Family Wedding" with Forrest Whitaker was okay. But how many black wedding comedies can you watch? Even preacher T.D. Jakes is coming out with his own copycat wedding movie next year.

Surely Spike Lee and Denzel Washington could team up for a sweeping historical drama - say, a black sharecropper's son, educated in a one-room schoolhouse built by slaves in Alabama, who grows up to become one of Wall Street's most powerful CEOs.

Smarter than Gordon Gekko and more complex. With a cameo appearance by former Merrill Lynch chief executive Stanley O'Neal.

Maybe you saw the kind of movie I'm talking about. If not, maybe it's time to make one.


*Artwork courtesy of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

1 comment:

Erin E. said...

I read this back when it ran....I understand what he's saying, but I was honestly moved by this movie. Like in tears in the end. I have never read the play but many of my friends have and speak highly of it. It's a relatable, timeless ma...terial that speaks to a diverse group of women. Even if you haven't experienced their specific struggles, you can still, as a woman understand and somehow feel the pain, struggle, and eventual redemption in each story.

Unfortunately the black male is more of an antagonist or catalyst in the plot. There aren't men outside of those that have direct interaction with each of the leading ladies. That is intentional of course. You can't be mad at that. It's not all Perry's doing. He adapted a piece that was written for black women. This isn't the film to be mad at for that. It had a specific intentions as a play back in the 70s and Perry held onto that for the film. This is why me and many other women were touched/moved by this film.

P.S. I am highly critical of Tyler Perry as a filmmaker and don't think he adapted this story well. If you're gonna turn a choreo-poem into a feature film, some of the elements of the poem have to be eliminated in order to reach a different audience, with different expectations. I digress. He had great material to work from which didn't make this a complete failure.