By Courtland Milloy firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 8, 2010; 5:30 PM
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."
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.
The movie "For Colored Girls" weaves together the stories of nine different women - Jo, Tangie, Crystal, Gilda, Kelly, Juanita, Yasmine, Nyla and Alice - as they move into and out of one another's existences; some are well known to one another, others are as yet strangers. Crises, heartbreaks and crimes will ultimately bring these nine women fully into the same orbit where they will find commonality and understanding. Each will speak her truth as never before. And each will know that she is complete as a human being, glorious and divine in all her colors.
Starring:Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine, Michael Ealy, Kimberly Elise, Omari Hardwick, Hill Harper, Thandie Newton, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose, Tessa Thompson - Director:Tyler Perry - Release Date:Opened Nov 5, 2010
The play "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf" is a 1975 play by Ntozake Shange. Initially staged in California, it has been performed Off-Broadway and on Broadway, and adapted as a book, a television film, and a theatrical film. The 1977 Broadway production was nominated for a Tony Award for best play.