Beyond the Previews: What’s Really ‘Beyond the Lights’

by Jackie

beyond_the_lightsBeyond the Lights is nothing like its trailer, and that’s a good thing. I wrote off seeing it because the previews led me to believe it would be a watered down, sappy version of The Bodyguard. I decided to give it a chance after reading some surprising reviews on Twitter, and I’m glad I did.

Underneath the syrupy love story between Noni Jean (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Kaz Nicol (Nate Parker), the film explores more complex themes like mental health issues, complicated family dynamics, sexism, race, and self-actualization. Though Noni, an exploited pop star, and Kaz, the hero cop who tries to save her from herself, have very different lifestyles, they both struggle with overbearing parents who live vicariously through their adult children. It’s this story that didn’t make the cut in the previews. It’s this story that makes Beyond the Lights a special movie.

I wish I didn’t judge this story by its cover, and had gone to see it earlier.







A*cute Review: The Five-Year Engagement

by Jackie

The Five-Year Engagement Hits Theaters April 27.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that there will never be another Wedding Crashers. Ever. Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, and Will Ferrell managed to forge a new form of rom com — one that is low on the rom and heavy on the com. Since then, what-else-could-possibly-go-wrong wedding movies like The Hangover and Bridesmaids have come close to achieving Crashers status by sticking to the formula: buddy comedy in which impossible hijinks ensue when another one bites the dust and decides to get hitched. The Five-Year Engagement starring Emily Blunt (Violet) and co-screenwriter Jason Segel (Tom) wins because it adds one more element to the mix — real-life drama.

The movie starts with a fairy-tale ending, and crams the couple’s five-year journey to their on-again-off-again wedding into two hours. Tom and Violet relocate from sunny San Francisco to frigid Michigan so that Violet can pursue her career in academia. Tom, poised to become head chef of a hot new seafood bar in the Bay Area, delays his dream and works in a sandwich shop while Violet gets closer to achieving her dream, and her boss.

Viewers will appreciate the film’s departure from the typical rom com formula. Tom and Violet become more than just characters with sarcastic one-liners, they slowly morph into a reflection of a real-life couple that struggles with the complexities of two individuals trying desperately to live one life. Things quickly go from “Nothing’s perfect” to “Nothing’s right” and they are left to decide whether the storybook ending they anticipated is worth writing in the first place.

But, “Elmo thinks there is no right cookie. You just have to pick one and take a bite.”  (It’s one of those, you-had-to-be-there moments. And, trust me, you have to be there.)

‘Dark Girls’: An Overdue Conversation on Colorism

by Jackie

Tar baby. Blue-black. Midnight. The schoolyard is a battleground for miniature warriors ready to launch insults before they’re insulted. The weapons formed against me when I was younger were any pejorative term for a person with dark skin — always aimed in my direction by other Black kids.

My parents did their best to counteract the ugliness of my peers (and yes, even some adults who swore that Ambi skin-lightening cream would “improve my appearance”), but it was not until college that I came into my own and began to not only appreciate, but celebrate my dark skin.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a screening of Bill Duke’s and D. Channsin Berry’s documentary, ‘Dark Girls,’ hosted by the National Council of Negro Women and presented by the Duke Media Foundation and Jackson & Associates Group, LLC. For an hour and a half, testimonies from women who have been warned against “staying in the sun too long,” coupled with historical and cultural analysis from historians, psychologists, and media experts, exposed colorism and how it is currently perpetuated in our society.

The film should be applauded for forcing viewers to have uncomfortable conversations. We have become too comfortable — downplaying Oscar-nominated actress Viola Davis’s truth that Hollywood glorifies a lighter brand of beauty, passing off ignorance as “preference,” and pretending that we’ve moved past internalized racism.

The documentary is a direct challenge to viewers to assess our role in continuing colorism. Whether it’s ignoring someone’s beauty (It’s what’s inside that counts), or hiding our prejudices under the guise of a ‘compliment’ (You’re pretty…for a dark-skinned girl), the film dares all who watch it to remove the taupe-tinted glasses that obstruct our vision.