Social Value? Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas

“I think there’s a lot of stuff out today that is coonery and buffoonery. I see ads for ‘Meet the Browns’ and ‘House of Payne’ and I’m scratching my head. We’ve got a black president and we’re going back. The image is troubling and it harkens back to Amos ‘n’ Andy.” – Spike Lee,

This guy, Tyler Perry, is practicing coonery. Me, I'm just a clown.

This guy, Tyler Perry, is practicing coonery. Me, I’m just into buffoonery.

I walked into Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas thinking of myself as some sort of anthropologist out to see a cultural artifact that I certainly wouldn’t relate to, probably wouldn’t understand, and definitely wouldn’t enjoy. The only time I’ve seen Madea, Tyler Perry’s cross-dressing, truth-telling, large-boned grandmother, or anything else involving Perry for that matter (yeah, I skipped Alex Cross), has been in trailers and commercial spots. And, like pretty much every other adult white male in America, I rolled my eyes at Madea and scoffed at those who would stoop to enjoy Perry’s shenanigans. Spike Lee, after all, is right (this time anyway): just watch any commercial for a Tyler Perry project and you immediately have to wonder how in the world any self-respecting person, of any color, could view his work as anything other than regressive. Continue reading

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Philip Seymour Hoffman. 1967-2014.

Philip-Seymore-Hoffman-Hunger-Games-Catching-Fire

Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead today.  The actor won an Oscar and the affections of a wide audience throughout his celebrated career, earning heralds on stage and on screen, building a resume of work so prolific and consistent that it’s shockingly easy to forget one great role in favor of another.  Preliminary details remain fragmented as to the cause of Hoffman’s passing, but those that have emerged paint a dark picture.  He was forty-six.

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Justin Townes Earle, Live at The Gray Eagle, 5/23/12

This is what Justin Townes Earle looks like when he’s really into his songs. He has long hair now. In case you were wondering.

I’ll admit that I was a little apprehensive about going to see Justin Townes Earle on his most recent tour, in support of his new Memphis-soaked album, Nothing’s Going to Change the Way You Feel About Me Now. The album, while palatable enough, just hasn’t stuck with me at all. This spring I’ve found myself spinning Beach House’s Bloom and Sleigh Bells’ Reign of Terror; both of which stand in stark contrast to JTE’s almost bland aping of Americana.

But the tickets were only $14 dollars and Townes Earle is a great songwriter. So, despite the state perpetual exhaustion that I’ve been in over the past three months, I decided to go. And I’m glad I did. Continue reading

Foster Fable: The Kid with a Bike

 

I, Nathan, look at The Kid with a Bike not only as a cinephile, but as foster parent for the past four months. 

The Encarta Dictionary defines the word “foster” as a transitive verb meaning, 1. Mature Child – to provide a child with care and upbringing, 2. Develop Something – to encourage the development of something, 3. Keep Alive Feeling or Thought – to keep a feeling or thought alive. The dictionary goes further, “Giving or receiving a home and parental care and upbringing, usually on a short-term basis, although unrelated by blood or adoption. Foster care is provided for children whose natural parents are dead, absent, or unfit or unable to look after them.”

This is the technical definition, and there’s nothing wrong with any of these given meanings. They all cover some aspect of the foster experience; what they don’t get at, though, is the true essence. One can give a home, but that does not mean the home is received with grace. One can encourage the development of a child, but that doesn’t mean the child is interested in being developed; and the feeling that we are keeping alive – a sense of family and belonging – is nearly impossible to hold on to when the child knows that his or her biological parents are unable to give them the real thing. To foster a child is to care for.  Continue reading