Monday, March 31, 2014

Tishuan Scott (INTERVIEW)



Tishuan Scott
“The Retrieval” Interview
with Kam Williams

Great Scott!

Tishuan Scott was born on October 27, 1979 in Shreveport, Louisiana. He attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia as an Oprah Scholar, where he matriculated towards earning his Bachelor of Arts in Drama and Psychology in 2002. He then attended the University of California at Los Angeles’ School of Theater, Film & Television as a Lloyd Bridges MGM/Outer Limits Fellow, where he received his Master of Fine Arts in Acting in 2006.

Tishuan was recently seen as “Kenieloe,” a Ghanian guru, in Andrew Bujalski's 2013 Alfred P. Sloan Sundance Award-winning film ”Computer Chess” and as “Moses Washington” in the Lifetime Network TV movie “Deliverance Creek.” Here, he talks playing “Nate,” a freedman gravedigger for the Federal Union Army, in “The Retrieval.” He landed the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) 2013 Special Jury Prize for Acting ­ Breakthrough Performance in that Civil War Era adventure.

Kam Williams: Hi Tishuan, thanks for the interview.
Tishuan Scott: It’s my pleasure. Thank You, Kam, for the interview.

KW: Congratulations on winning the Breakthrough Performance at the South by Southwest Festival.
TS: Thank You! I love SXSW! I love Austin!

KW: What interested you in The Retrieval?
TS: The story, writing, characters, and relationships. It’s history.

KW: It explores the themes of trust and betrayal during slavery, just as 12 Years a Slave. How would you compare the two pictures?
TS: The films’ singular comparison is that Solomon Northup is a free man who is enslaved for profit through the brutal trade and oppression of the system of slavery, and my character, Nate, a freedman, is sought after to make a profit, a bounty, by the patty-rollers who seek to re-enslave him. Both films share an insight to the great capitalization of the African-American male life, to be debased as worthless, yet so extraordinarily invaluable. There are also grander contrasts between the two films, however: 12 Years: 1841; The Retrieval: 1864. 12 Years: Pre-Emancipation Proclamation; The Retrieval: Post-Emancipation Proclamation. 12 Years: Brutality; The Retrieval: Humanity.

KW: 2013 was a banner year film for black film: 12 Years a Slave, 42, Fruitvale Station, The Butler, etcetera. What effect do you think that will have on Hollywood in terms of opportunities for African­Americans in front of and behind the camera?
TS: I believe it transcends Hollywood. It’s bigger than that! Our film has played in Toronto-Ontario, Calgary, Montreal-Quebec, Brazil, Australia, France-Deauville, Serbia, Greece, Germany, London, Istanbul-Turkey, Belgium-Ghent, Egypt-Luxor, and all over the U.S. in a myriad of film festivals, clearly displaying that there is an international and national interest and demand to see dark chocolate-skinned folks on the silver screen to observe and immerse an audience in the forgotten histories of who we are as a people and what we were as a nation. This canon of films will inspire many indie filmmakers and, hopefully, Hollywood to realize that our wealth is in our history, that we have so very many stories yet to be told. All five films have African-American male leads. You left out Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom – that makes six! That is exemplary and thrilling, but there are also stories with African-American women that must be told. We need African-American female lead actresses in films, in tandem with African-American male leading actors.

KW: How do you pick a role?
TS: I don’t believe I pick them. I think the universe sends me what’s for me. What attracts me specifically to roles is the heart of the character. How does the story move me? What is the character’s journey or driving force? Where is the character headed? Why is the character headed there? There absolutely and unequivocally has to be depth.

KW: You got both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in theater before starting your career. Do you recommend that route to aspiring actors?
TS: Yes. I met Samuel Jackson at our 2001 Morehouse College Gala: Candle in the Dark. I tell people what he told me. “Take your time. Get your education.”

KW: Are you also interested in writing and directing?
TS: Yes.

KW: The Harriet Pakula­Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?
TS: I don’t care for remakes. There’s soooo much undiscovered material out there; old and new. I want to be original. August Wilson’s “Fences,” Gloria Naylor’s “The Men of Brewster Place,” Richard Wright’s “The Outsider,” “Black Theater USA – Plays from 1847-1938” has a myriad of material yearning to be on the stage and screen! Those are classics to me.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
TS: Would you like a free home renovation and free lawn landscaping?

KW: Would you mind saying something controversial that would get this interview tweeted?
TS: Legalize marijuana President Obama! Think of how many African-American males who would have to be freed from prison and how many it will save from ever being incarcerated!

KW: Have you ever had a near­death experience?
TS: Yes. I’m thankful for 9 Lives!

KW: Have you ever accidentally uncovered a deep secret?
TS: Yes. The United States of America: 1863­1963.

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
TS: Today. It’s the kind of laugh where you throw your head back and laugh to the sky.

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
TS: Jolly Ranchers, watermelon and apple-flavored.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
TS: Essays actually. W.E.B. DuBois’ “Criteria for Negro Art,” “The Guiding Hundredth,” “On the Wings of Atlanta,” and “On Our Spiritual Strivings.” Nietzsche’s “On the Pale Criminal” and “On the Three Metamorphoses.” Solomon Northup’s 12 YEARS A SLAVE was the last novel that I read. But it was in August before I reread the aforementioned essays.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
TS: Italian.

KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
TS: A hummingbird. Monarch butterflies. Seeing my garden growing. Good food and family dinners.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
TS: My reflection. And I love it!

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
TS: I wish for recycling to become a major industrial agriculture. 

KW: The Jamie Foxx question: If you only had 24 hours to live, how would you spend the time?
TS: Surrounded by my family and the best of my friends on a tropical island with exotic palms, our skins glistening in the sun, feet promenading through the hot sand, eating mangos and strawberries and dark chocolate and sushi, drinking mango and rum, listening to music inspired by drums, and dancing and laughing.

KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
TS: A peacock!

KW: The Ling­Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
TS: Playing with my Superman and performing sermons for my mother, granny and auntie with my Little Golden Book, a small glass of orange juice and a napkin to wipe the sweat from my unwrinkled brow. My most memorable lines they say were, “Just like Jeremiah said, ‘It was like fire, shot up in his bones’!” and “Lawd, thank you for the washing powder!”

KW: The Melissa Harris­Perry question: How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?
TS: I discovered that the heart is a breakable thing, but also discovered my capacity to love another person. 

KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?
TS: Flying.

KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
TS: A passion for what they do, an undying zeal and fervor to never give up and accept and embrace failures as the building blocks to the pyramids of success.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps? TS: Join SAG-AFTRA!  And keep your head to the sky, for it is the stars, the ancient and everlasting stars that will guide you.

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
TS: Zarathustra, Ubermensch and Herald of the Lightning!

KW: Thanks again for the time, Tishuan, and best of luck with The Retrieval.
TS: I think I heard someone before say, “Luck is for the godless.” Wish me Godspeed! Amen Ra.

KW: Godspeed it is then, bro!
TS: Thanks, Kam.

To see a trailer for The Retrieval, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8HmcHTtOKg

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Thomas Keating (FILM REVIEW)



Thomas Keating: A Rising Tide of Silence
Film Review by Kam Williams
 
Poignant Portrait Pays Tribute to Modest Trappist Monk 

            Father Thomas Keating is a very influential theologian despite the fact that his is not as much of a household name as some of his contemporaries like the Dalai Lama and Deepak Chopra. That’s because the 91 year-old cleric got a late start after having spent the bulk of his life under the radar as a Trappist Monk withdrawn from the world and operating under a vow of silence.
            How exactly did he land on that Spartan path? Well, as a sickly 5 year-old, Thomas had promised God to enter the priesthood if he were allowed to survive a life-threatening childhood disease. So, upon completing his studies at Yale University, he kept his word by joining an ascetic order located in rural Rhode Island.
            However, he would resign in 1981 and start talking again in order to be able to share his unique brand of Eastern-influenced Catholicism with the masses. He subsequently moved to an abbey in Colorado where he founded the Contemplative Outreach program.
            Over the intervening years he also wrote 30+ books about his meditative approach to spirituality. His Earth-friendly philosophy basically suggests that “The more we know about nature, the more we know about God.” In that regard, it reminded this critic of a passage from Shakespeare’s As You Like It which reads “And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.”
            Co-directed by Peter Jones and Elena Mannes, Thomas Keating: A Rising Tide of Silence is an endearing biopic whose only flaw is a slight tendency at times towards hero worship. For, although the endearing documentary’s humble subject obviously has little interest in such glorification, the filmmakers can’t help but gush, cinematically, in the process of placing him atop a virtual pedestal he probably wants no part of.
            The picture is at its best during relatively-introspective interviews conducted with Thomas which intermittently arrive between glowing accolades from colleagues and distracting reminders that, as an Ivy League grad, he could’ve written his own ticket had he gone the conventional materialistic route.
            But it was apparently hard for the directors to leave well enough alone and just let Thomas speak for himself. A poignant portrait of a transcendent figure for the ages with a simple message that ”Forgiveness is at the very center of Christianity.”

Excellent (3.5 stars)
Unrated
Running time: 75 minutes
Distributor: Temple Rock

To see a trailer for Thomas Keating, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2MrMDpwchA   

Being Ginger (FILM REVIEW)



Being Ginger
Film Review by Kam Williams

Bittersweet Expose Explores Redheads’ Rough Lot in Life

             Everybody knows blondes have more fun, but what about redheads? They have the least pleasure according to Scott Harris, the producer, director and primary subject of Being Ginger. In this bittersweet expose, the ostracized underdog explores his plight in particular as well as that of his fellow, so-called “Gingers” in general.
            We learn that the 31 year-old filmmaker has apparently been saddled with low self-esteem ever since being mercilessly teased about his hair during his formative years. He sets about illustrating that point by confronting one of his former schoolteachers who, rather than stepping in to stop the torture, had joined in the bullying.
            The inept educator even admits on camera to having threatened to hang Scott on a hook, if he didn’t stop blubbering, so that his classmates could pummel him like a piƱata. As a result of such repeated mistreatment, the poor boy ended-up an adult lacking in self-confidence, especially when it comes to the ladies.
            Scott claims women don’t find redheads appealing due to a basic look which is more goofy than virile. Consequently, he’s never been in a long-term relationship. Convinced that his soul mate must be out there somewhere, he decided to shoot a movie chronicling his desperate search for the girl of his dreams.
            To that end, Scott looks for Ms. Right everywhere he goes, whether in a nightclub, on a college campus, at a redhead convention, online (at www.DateGinger.com), or by boldly walking down the street wearing a sandwich board advertising that he’s available. Which, if any, of these approaches works? Far be it from me to ruin the resolution of a delightful documentary’s denouement.
            Actually, as a black man born with red hair and freckles, what I found far more thought-provoking was the question of whether I might have been emotionally scarred during my own childhood in a way similar to Scott. After all, I’d often been referred to as “Carrot Top” and “Kraut” as a kid, and was not particularly popular with the opposite sex.
            Ultimately, I’ve come to the conclusion that those hair-related nicknames never bothered me as much as being the brunt of racial epithets. And I doubt that most females are so superficial as to reject a guy out of hand just because of his hair color.
            Nevertheless, I don’t want to minimize the trauma Scott suffered since he did such a fine job, here, of illustrating the source of his angst. Ronald McDonalds of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your Cheetos-colored coiffures!

Very Good (3 stars)
Unrated
Running time: 69 minutes
Distributor: Garden Thieves Pictures / Quad Cinema

To see a trailer for Being Ginger, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyt0wXLKrMY 

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Bag Man (DVD REVIEW)



The Bag Man
DVD Review by Kam Williams

De Niro-Cusack Crime Caper Comes to DVD   

            At first blush, The Bag Man reads a lot like The Transporter, the 2002 action film about a courier hired by a mobster to deliver a mysterious package without opening it. After all, the title character of this adventure has been asked by a crime boss to pick up a bag for him without examining its contents.
            However, besides sharing that basic premise, the two pictures don’t have all that much in common. Where The Transporter is a special-effects adventure peppered with car chases and pyrotechnics, The Bag Man is a relatively-cerebral affair, a multi-layered mystery featuring unpredictable twists and turns as a well as a femme fatale with inscrutable intentions.
            At the point of departure, we find a powerful gangster named Dragna (Robert De Niro) aboard his private plane where he’s giving very precise instructions to the protagonist. Jack’s (John Cusack) assignment is to take possession of an ostensibly priceless satchel and then wait for Dragna inside Room 13 at a seedy motel located somewhere in the country.
            Of course, this proves easier said than done, when a cornucopia of colorful characters commence to covet the very valise he’s been asked to protect. The fun starts when Jack’s shot in the hand by Bishop (Danny Cosmo), the gangster who just handed him the package.
            Then, while checking in, he alarms the paraplegic desk clerk (Crispin Glover) by assuming the suspicious name “Smith” and by paying in cash. Next, he has to deal with curious cops who have decided to stake out the premises.
            But his biggest challenge of all is presented by Rivka (Rebecca Da Costa), a gorgeous damsel-in-distress on the run from a couple of goons herself. Will the scantily-clad stranger in need of a knight in shining armor be Jack’s undoing?
That’s the burning question for the balance of the madcap, high body-count adventure once the two opt to join forces.
            An intriguing enough whodunit to keep you guessing, thanks to a decent script and game performances by De Niro, Cusack and newcomer Rebecca Da Costa.

Very Good (2.5 stars)
Rated R for violence, sexuality and profanity
Running time: 109 minutes
Distributor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Behind-the-Scenes featurette.

To see a trailer for The Bag Man, visit:

To order a copy of The Bag Man Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit:

Top Ten DVD Releases for 4-1-13



This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams


Top Ten DVD List for April 1, 2014                       

When Jews Were Funny

Psych: The Eighth and Final Season

Doc Martin: Series Six

An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story

Cop Shows of the ‘70s

Lost Islands

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Nature: Ireland’s Wild River

Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda

The Pirate Fairy


Honorable Mention

The Bag Man

American Experience: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

War of the Worlds: Goliath

Delivery Man

Noah’s Ark

Dragons: Defenders of Berk [Part One]

Essentially Spring: Dora’s Easter Adventure

The Dick Van Dyke Show: Classic Mary Tyler Moore Episodes

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 4-4-14



OPENING THIS WEEK
Kam's Kapsules:      
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun         
by Kam Williams
For movies opening April 4, 2014
                      

BIG BUDGET FILMS

Afflicted (R for profanity and gory violence) Horror flick revolving around a couple of BFFS (Clif Prowse and Derek Lee) whose vacation of a lifetime far from home morphs into a neverending nightmare when one becomes infected with a mysterious disease which slowly starts to consume his entire being. Co-starring Baya Rehaz.    

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (PG-13 for gunplay, pervasive action and intense violence) Cold War Era sequel pits the Marvel Comics superhero (Chris Evans) against a new nemesis, a Russian assassin (Sebastian Stan) wreaking havoc around Washington, DC. Cast includes Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Mackie and series creator Stan Lee. 
 
Dom Hemingway (R for nudity, sexuality, violence, drug use and pervasive profanity) Jude Law plays the titular character of this crime comedy as a just-paroled safe cracker who’s determined to collect a bonus from his mob boss (Demian Bichir) for not snitching on him while behind bars. With Richard E. Grant, Emilia Grant and Kerry Condon.


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS 

10 Rules for Sleeping Around (R for crude humor, sexuality, nudity, profanity and drug use) Screwball comedy revolving around the attempt by an adventurous couple (Jesse Bradford and Virginia Williams) in an open marriage to keep their sex life fresh and exciting long past the honeymoon. Supporting cast includes Chris Marquette, Bill Bellamy, Michael McKean and Wendi McLendon-Covey.

Alan Partridge (R for profanity, nudity and brief violence) Steve Coogan handles the titular role in this kidnap drama as a radio DJ whose help is enlisted by the police as a negotiator when a disgruntled colleague (Coml Meany) holds fellow staff members hostage with a shotgun. Featuring Felicity Montagu, Simon Greenall and Darren Boyd. 

Alien Abduction (Unrated) UFO adventure inspired by a family’s real-life ordeal while vacationing on Brown Mountain in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest. Co-starring Katherin Sigismund, Corey Eid, Jillian Clare and Riley Polanski.


Being Ginger (Unrated) Scott Harris directed and stars in this documentary about a redhead’s struggle to regain his confidence as an adult after being bullied as kid because of the color of his hair.

Flex Is Kings (Unrated) Brooklyn-based documentary featuring flex dancers and showcasing the underground scene on the mean streets of East New York where proponents choreograph their unorthodox steps. 

The Galapagos Affair (Unrated) Paradise lost documentary about the rapid decay of the Galapagos Islands since being settled in the Thirties by pleasure seekers with different definitions of utopia. Featuring voiceover commentary by Cate Blanchett, Diane Kruger and Connie Nielsen.   

Goodbye World (Unrated) Apocalyptic dramedy about a couple (Adrian Grenier and Kerry Bishe) raising a daughter (Mckenna Grace) in the lap of luxury whose life is upended when friends descend on their idyllic oasis after a computer virus triggers the collapse of civilization. With Gaby Hoffman, Ben McKenzie and Mark Webber.

In the Blood (R for profanity and graphic violence) Vigilante thriller about a woman trained to kill (Gina Carano) who decides to take the law into her own hands after her husband (Cam Gigandet) is suddenly kidnapped while on their honeymoon in the Caribbean. Cast includes Danny Trejo, Luis Guzman and Treat Williams.

Island of Lemurs: Madagascar (G) Morgan Freeman narrates this endangered species documentary, shot in IMAX 3D, offering a spectacular peek at lemurs’ struggle to survive as civilization continues to encroach on their natural habitat.

Jinn (PG-13 for terror and intense violence) Supernatural thriller about newlyweds (Dominic Rains and Serinda Swan) whose quiet, suburban life is turned upside-down soon after the husband starts receiving cryptic messages about a curse that has afflicted his family for generations. Co-starring Ray Park, William Atherton and Faran Tahir. 

Les Infideles (Unrated) A series of short films revolving around the theme of infidelity. Starring Jean Dujardin, Charles Gerard, Dolly Golden and Julie Nicolet. (In French with subtitles)

Nymphomaniac: Part Two (Unrated) Racy sequel finds frustrated heroine (Charlotte Gainsbourg) seeking sadomasochistic liaisons to revitalize her sex drive when she loses all sensation in her numb nether regions. With Stacy Martin, Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Jamie Bell, Uma Thurman and Willem Dafoe.

On the Other Side of the Tracks (R for profanity, sexuality, nudity and violence) Buddy cop comedy about a couple of mismatched partners (Omar Sy and Laurent Lafitte) assigned to crack a murder case. Cast includes Sabrina Ouazani, Lionel Abelanski and Youssef Hajdi. (In French with subtitles)

The Retrieval (R for violence) Unlikely-buddies saga, set during the Civil War, about the friendship forged between a 13 year-old orphan (Ashton Sanders) and the fugitive slave (Tishuan Scott) he’s been hired to escort back to the South. With Keston John, Christine Horn and Bill Oberst, Jr.

Under the Skin (R for violence, profanity, sexuality and graphic nudity) Sci-fi thriller, set in Scotland, about an attractive alien (Scarlett Johansson) with a van who picks up hitchhikers in order to seduce them before harvesting their organs. Cast includes Paul Brannigan, Jessica Mance and Adam Pearson.

The Unknown Known (Unrated) Donald Rumsfeld is on Oscar-winner Errol Morris’ (for The Fog of War) hot seat for the duration of this telling tete-a-tete during which the former Secretary of Defense defends the U.S. invasion of Iraq. 

Watermark (PG for smoking) H2O documentary examining how water has shaped humanity.
  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Stokely: A Life (BOOK REVIEW)



Stokely: A Life
by Peniel E. Joseph
Basic Books  
Hardcover, $29.99
414 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-0-465-01363-0

Book Review by Kam Williams

“It was Thursday, June 16, 1966… Less than a year before, President Lyndon Johnson had signed the Voting Rights Act… Stokely Carmichael was now in Mississippi to ensure that the federal laws… would apply to black sharecroppers living in plantation communities…
[Just] released from his latest stay in jail… Stokely’s voice broke through the humid Mississippi night…’This is the 27th time that I’ve been arrested,’ he shouted, ‘and I ain’t going to jail no more… We want black power!’
Carmichael made a case for political revolution. ‘We have begged the president. We’ve begged the federal government… Every courthouse in Mississippi ought to be burned down tomorrow!’
His life changed that night, and so did America’s civil rights movement. Black Power provoked a national reckoning on questions of civil rights, race and democracy.” 
-- Excerpted from the Prologue (pages 1-2)

            Stokely Carmichael (1941-1998) was born in Trinidad but moved to Harlem at 11 where he joined his parents who had already emigrated to the U.S. An outstanding student, he attended NYC’s prestigious Bronx High School of Science and Howard University before turning down a full-scholarship from Harvard Graduate School in order to do pursue his passion, namely, civil rights work in the South.        
            Stokely rose to the rank of Chairman in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, in which capacity he would forge a close relationship with one of his idols, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. However, he tired of the passive resistance approach after being repeatedly arrested, attacked, intimidated and terrorized by white supremacists for organizing poor black folks who just wanted to exercise their right to vote and to sit at a lunch counter.
            Another one of Stokely’s heroes was Malcolm X, a militant firebrand who was no fan of turning the other cheek. And when Malcolm was assassinated in 1965, a huge leadership void was created in terms of African-Americans advocating an “eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” political ideology.
            The very next year, Stokely, a charismatic speaker whose magnetism was matched only by his ambition, emerged as Malcolm’s heir apparent upon delivering his historic Mississippi speech during which he coined the term “Black Power.” He rapidly skyrocketed to icon status as he crisscrossed the country on the college and inner-city circuits. In 1966, he also founded the Black Panther Party which eventually blossomed into the preeminent, national, radical organization.
            Given Stokely’s notoriety and resume, one would think that a biography of him would’ve been published before now. After all, both Malcolm and Dr. King have been the subject of beaucoup bios.
            Perhaps Stokely’s been bypassed because he wasn’t a martyr, or because he left the U.S. for good after marrying singer Miriam Makeba in 1968. Regardless, thanks to Tufts University Professor Peniel Joseph, the fiery iconoclast is belatedly getting his due.
            Meticulously-researched and painstakingly-detailed, Stokely: A Life is a fast-flowing, informative read which intimately follows its subject from the cradle to the grave in absorbing fashion. In the process, this powerful portrait effectively repositions him as an uncompromising prophet who played a pivotal role in the struggle for black equality.
            A visionary of far more substance than the rallying cry he’d been reduced to by history.