Well, my fall blues is about to kick in. It always happens around this time. A beginning-to-get-chilly New York City begins to signal that Jack Frost is preparing for his nip (sans the tuck), which can often inspire me to stay inside more (unless there's something to do). We've not "fallen back" yet with the clocks (that's this weekend) and I'll actually off-set some of the immediate effects of that "dark-too-soon" feeling since I'm off to Santa Barbara and Los Angeles tomorrow on assignment (through next week). So, if on Tuesday, I'm still a little down, I may head out to West Hollywood and let the "Queens of the Night" cheer me up on Halloween. Not necessarily my scene, but could be fun. (Somebody will be "playing" Miss Ross!!! SMILE!).
Another recent pinch of pop culture that I just knew was going to make me depressed is coming out this weekend for the world to see. It's a movie called "Catch a Fire" starring Derek Luke, Tim Robbins, and Bonnie Henna. Ed Gordon, host of "Our World with Black Enterprise" (http://ourworld.blackenterprise.com/), and a couple
of his staffers (who are dear friends), invited me to a private screening held at Tribeca Grand Hotel. I agreed, kicking and screaming as my thought is the film and its subject matter would inspire me further into sadness, given I knew it was about South Africa and apartheid -- not the most feel-good fare (for a fellow that loves musicals). So, as I'm heading into the city from North Jersey, one of my buddies called and asked me if I saw the e-mail that popped up in our respective e-mails (He checks the listservs of e-mails that come into him to see who else was sent said e-mails), and it was just the distraction I needed to turn around, go home, and NOT have sit through this movie that I was expecting to be a downer. (I must explain. Another friend of ours had just sent an mp-3 leak of Jennifer Hudson singing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" from her turn in "Dreamgirls" - THE MOVIE - and word was "You must hear it now!"). Well, reluctantly, I kept heading to the screening of "Catch A Fire", but I did stop by Kinko's, and for 35 cents a minute, I listened to Jennifer Hudson sing to the gods - reinventing fabulously the famous song that Jennifer Holliday made legendary in 1981, and - joy! - I still had 30 minutes to spare before the screening. And since standing in my commitments is what I do and who I be, I soldier'd on to what I knew was going to be a dreary film. (But I did want to honor the generous invitation.)
In the dark room, I navigated to a seat next to friend and model/actress Monica Miller. As I sat and confirmed that I had missed nothing with Monica, I began to hear the sounds of Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff", which --- given my resistance --- was an enrolling tune to hear off the top (for a little boy like me). In this early, "musical" scene, we establish Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke) as an obedient, but responsible, family man. Soon, however, the horrors and unfairness of 1980s South Africa begin to bleed graphically through the sometimes dark plot. Make no mistake. Antiterrorism investigator/asshole Nic Vos (Tim Robbins) is at the helm of what turns Chamusso from law-abiding - even docile - and apolitical into a rebel.
Fortunately, for the audience, this film (based on a true story) takes on the texture of a "thriller" right alongside the history lesson that reminds us how outrageous and unfair the tactics of the white-minority defenders of apartheid were. Because of that "action saga" energy, I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. And not being familiar with this particular story (for each oppressed person in South Africa, there are millions of stories), I found myself on the edge of my seat until the end. Then, with a time lapse, we witness the story arc out of pain and into forgiveness. I won't ruin the story for you, but as I tried to wrap my brain around the fact that this was a real man's life told on the big screen, I couldn't believe it when that man, Patrick Chamusso and the entire cast of the project walked into the screening room for a Q&A. I told the cast, the director (Phillip Noyce), and the producers and screenwriters -- all of whom were in attendance: "I smell OSCAR!!!!". Across the board, I found the script to be compelling, the direction to be smart and stimulating, and the "creme-de-la-creme" of performances - especially the understated elegance and strength that came out of the actress who plays Chamusso's wife, South African native Bonnie Henna. Patrick Chamusso agreed. I told him to get his tux ready for that walk down the red carpet in 2007. How great that in 2006, Hollywood is releasing not one, but two pictures that tell a story from different parts of the "motherland" - the other being Forest Whitaker's "Last King of Scotland" (his turn as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin), who reeks of Oscar himself. (And if Eddie Murphy, Beyonce, Jamie Foxx, and Jennifer Hudson deliver in "Dreamgirls" as the hype is instructing, we all might be screaming the screams of one little Milwaukee girl-turned-SUPERSTAR (from our linoleum kitchen floors): "Colored people on! Colored people on!". Talk about DREAM... GIRL!!!!