The Voice Silenced – Whitney Houston (1963 – 2012)

For weeks I have been making references to this year’s Grammy award show.  Never could I have imagined that many would be tuning in this evening to pay collective homage to one of the greatest singers of our time – the one, the only, THE VOICE, Ms. Whitney Houston, who passed away yesterday at age 48.  Like other people to whom I’ve spoken, I am still in shock from the news of her untimely passing.  I literally watched CNN for hours last night, trying to make sense of it all by listening to the video tributes, the breaking reports, and remarks from colleagues and friends.  But none of it helped to settle the unease I was feeling.

That unease, very much like if not equal to that which I’d felt when Michael Jackson passed, comes from losing yet another music legend I’ve adored since I was a child.  You see, there is a Whitney song I can reference for mostly every major period in my life.  And though I’ve never met, or even seen Whitney Houston live in concert, her music and voice are so comfortably familiar it is quite hard to imagine a life without her.  Even more disheartening, I was anxiously awaiting the première of the Sparkle remake,  which I anticipated to be a huge vehicle for her return to film; and if early reports of Whitney’s phenomenal performance are accurate it most certainly would have been.  And speaking of film, Terry McMillan can just stop the press as far as bringing Getting to Happy, the sequel to Waiting to Exhale, to the big screen.  I mean, how can we accept anyone else but Whitney Houston returning as Savannah?

Ken Erlich, Grammy’s executive producer, reported to CNN last night that Jennifer Hudson would be performing the tribute to Whitney Houston on tonight’s show.  Like many of her contemporaries, Jennifer cites Whitney as one of her biggest influences and I remember how excited she was when Whitney presented her with the Grammy back in 2009.  I’ve also read that Chaka Khan will be doing a tribute, but am not certain how accurate those reports are.  It would make sense that Chaka Khan would be allowed to do so, considering Whitney sang backup for her as a teen and paid tribute to Chaka at the end of her cover of I’m Every Woman.

I cannot even begin to touch all that Whitney Houston accomplished in this post and do it fair justice.  I really cannot believe that I am writing this about her at all.  My prayers and heartfelt condolences go out to the Houston family, especially to her daughter and mother.  I share the You Tube link below for Whitney’s My Love is Your Love video in which she boldly sings “if I should die this very day, don’t cry, ’cause on earth we wasn’t meant to stay. And no matter what the people say, I’ll be waiting for you after the Judgement Day.”  I will miss you Ms. Houston.  Rest in Peace.

Until next thought family, Thomasena.

My Love is Your Love (Whitney Houston, 1998 Arista):

In Honor of Black History Month

I cannot start today’s topic without paying tribute to the music/media icon who elevated a local Chicago dance show to the longest continuously running, first run, nationally syndicated show in TV history.  I am of course talking about the legendary Don Cornelius, who passed away Wednesday at age 75.  The circumstances surrounding his death are being investigated, but despite what may have occurred he will always be remembered as the creator of a revered platform that highlighted and celebrated black music, fashion and dance culture.  Nothing can or will diminish Don Cornelius’ contributions to American television, nothing.

So, being it is the beginning Black History Month, I thought it would be fitting to give a few recommendations of movies that are must sees if you haven’t seen and also programs to be aired this month as follows (in no particular order):

  1. Malcolm X (1992)= I am starting with this film because I recently had a close friend tell me she never saw the movie,  for which I believe Denzel Washington should have won the Best Actor Oscar (instead of that whole Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman nonsense).  Anyway, Spike Lee directed a cinematic masterpiece based on the life of the civil rights leader/activist and not only is it a must see, but a must have for the avid movie collector.
  2. Hollywood Shuffle (1987) = written, produced, and directed by Robert Townsend this comedy, which depicts the struggles of black actors in Hollywood, is too relevant almost 25 years later.
  3. Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999) = executive producer Halle Berry stars in this tragic tale of the first African-American to be nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award.
  4. The Great Debaters (2007) = another Denzel Washington driven vehicle based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson and the historically black Wiley college debate team that participated in the first interracial collegiate debate in the United States.  Also features outstanding performances from Jurnee Smollet, Nate Parker and Forrest Whitaker.
  5. A Soldier’s Story (1984) = adapted from a Pulitzer prize-winning play, this drama featured a much younger Denzel Washington and starred Howard Rollins, Jr. and the late, great Adolph Caesar in a mystery about a murder in a segregated WWII army unit.
  6. Red Tails (2012) = in theaters now, this drama is about the famous first African-American WWII fighter pilots, The Tuskegee Airmen.  See last week’s post for additional notes about Red Tails.
  7. The Color Purple (1985) = Okay, so I love, love, love this movie.  I own it, and will stop and begin to watch if I find it while channel surfing.  I had an opportunity to tell Danny Glover how much I appreciated his taking on the role of Mister and he kissed me!!!! Well let’s just say I don’t remember much after that, but I don’t believe I fainted 😛  This drama, which depicts Black life in the South in the early 20th century, had an outstanding cast, was beautifully filmed and the soundtrack is amazing.  Adapted from the 1983 Pulitzer prize-winning novel by Alice Walker, it received 11 Oscar nods and won NONE.  Yeah, I’ll leave that there before this post takes on another vibe :).  In 2005 a musical adaptation premiered on Broadway and is also a must see if you haven’t seen.
  8. Crash (2004) = I think this Academy award winner was one of the best movies, in recent years, to tackle the issue of race relations in 21st century America.  Also features a stellar cast, including Don Cheadle, Terrance Howard, Larenz Tate and Thandie Newton.
  9. The 2012 BET Honors = will air Monday, February 13th at 9pm on BET. You can also see last week’s post for additional notes about this program.
  10. The 43rd Annual NAACP Image Awards = will air Friday, February 17th at 8pm on NBC.  If you are an NAACP member you still have time to vote for this year’s nominees at  Voting closes at midnight PST on February 12th.

Well that’s my list.  I would also like to take time to acknowledge that since my gripe last post, TV ONE aired Find Our Missing this Wednesday night at 9pm, with a re-run showing immediately following at 10pm.  Also, I struggled to keep my eyes open this past Sunday at 11pm, only to become aware that BET was airing a re-run of performances from the 2011 Evening of Stars (so, why wasn’t that made clear in the commercials and/or on their website?).  Anywho, I’d like to know what movies you’d recommend for Black History month, and if you’ll be watching the Image Awards or BET Honors, so let me know.  Lastly, I will leave you with a classic Soul Train clip featuring the first performance on the nationally syndicated show.  Do you know who performed?  Hint: she still looks and sounds amazing, and she had a few guys called Pips backing her up :).

Until next thought, Thomasena.

Soul Train, episode one (Tribune Entertainment/Don Cornelius Productions):

Why are “good” shows airing so late on “African-American Networks”?

Music movie lovers please allow me to full-out vent this week, as I am greatly confused.  For years I’ve been an avid supporter of the missing and exploited children campaign and make it a point to send emails, spread by word of mouth, etc, when black children are missing, as we DO NOT get the same press attention as our white and hispanic counterparts. So I was excited when TV One announced they would air the new show Find Our Missing on Wednesday nights at…wait one minute because excitement quickly diminshed…10 PM!  What the heaven?  Why so late Cathy Hughes?  This a prominent cable network geared towards airing entertainment and NEWS relevant to the African-American community. We finally get a show that talks about our missing persons and many of us won’t watch, and a lot of that can be attributed to the time.  I understand that you don’t want to go up against let’s say CBS’s Criminal Minds series at 9pm, because that would be surefire show suicide.  But moving the series to let’s say 7pm, instead of those Living Single re-runs for one night, might make more sense in terms of viewership.

Next up, BET.  Why in all of God’s creation would you choose to air the UNCF An Evening Of Stars this Sunday January 29th at…wait for it….it’s really ridiculous…11pm!!!  What board room brainiac thought of this one?  I can remember being a child, watching the late Lou Rawls host this education telethon with family members for most of the day.  Narrowed by BET to a 2 hour pre-taped televised event of performances, I’m scratching my head trying to understand how an 11pm airtime, on a Sunday, would allow adequate viewership/ratings for this program.  Just in case you are up watching, scheduled performances will include Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Anthony Hamilton, Marsha Ambrosius, and Musiq Soulchild, and a powerhouse duet featuring Ledisi and Patti LaBelle.  For those who wish to view the telethon in its entirety, it will air on Saturday January 28th (check local listings for times).

Lastly, BET will air the BET Honors on Monday February 13th at 9pm.  A 9pm time by itself isn’t so bad, but since it is a two-hour show on the first work night of the week, I believe it displays a classic case of bad timing.  This show not only honors entertainers who have excelled in their respective crafts, but also celebrates African-Americans in other disciplines who’ve excelled and made extraordinary contributions such as 2012 honorees The Tuskegee Airmen.  Also being honored this year are Dr. Maya Angelou, Spike Lee, Beverly Kearney,  and one of my all time favorite singer/songwriters the incomparable Stevland Hardaway Judkins, aka Stevland Morris, also and more famously known as Stevie Wonder 😉  Performances will be given by Jill Scott (this Philly shero stays busy doesn’t she), Jennifer Hudson, Common, Kelly Rowland, Willow Smith, and living legends Aretha Franklin and Patti LaBelle.

Alright people thanks for letting me veer off the music/movie issue a little and get some stuff off my chest 🙂   I’m asking each of you to support the TV One show Find Our Missing and please visit the Black and Missing Foundation’s website (see link below) to see missing person profiles.  The vast majority of African-American missing persons have trouble getting local attention, let alone national press, so it is important to seek out and share this information with each other.  I dedicate the song link below to those reading this who have or know others that are waiting for loved ones to return.  Until next thought family, Thomasena.

Black and Missing Foundation website:

You Are Not Alone, Michael Jackson (Epic, 1995 ):

Remembering A Jazz Blues Legend: Etta James (1938 – 2012)

Etta James in 1990

She was called a “gospel prodigy” because she sang at church and on radio at the tender age of five.  She was one of the pioneers credited with fusing rhythm & blues and rock and roll.  And she kept the good times rolling right up until she was not able to, her last album being released just last November to warm reviews.  I am speaking (of course) of the legendary, often emulated, yet incomparable Etta James, who passed away Friday at age 73 from leukemia complications.  Although her career was both blessed with success and plagued with controversy, Ms. James was still about her business and managed to carve out many achievements including her collection of six Grammy awards, including one in 2003 for Lifetime Achievement, and her 1993 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  She also was ranked 62 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s 2004 “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” list.

Had she lived, Ms. James would have celebrated her 74th birthday in four days (January 25th).  I pray her soul is at peace and that she will be celebrating with all those musical friends and family members who have gone home before her.  Rest in peace Ms. James :(.

Until next thought family, Thomasena

At Last (live performance; recording copyright 1999 MCA/Chess):

What’s New Music Movie Lovers?

The Boss Ms. Ross posing in a Bob Mackie at her last concert tour!

Happy New Year Everybody!  I am so glad to see the start of another year, and feel even more blessed that I can do what I love, and I absolutely love blogging about movies and music.  So, it goes without saying that I am thrilled about the upcoming award show season and with several upcoming tv and film projects.  First, I am soooo ready to see Red Tails, the action-adventure movie opening January 20th that depicts the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, an all Black aviator regiment that fought in WWII.  Executive producer George Lucas invested 93 million (58 for budget and 35 for distribution) to make sure this movie was made; despite and because of the long-held Hollywood belief that an action movie featuring an African-American cast would not fare well.   The cast includes such heavyweights as Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Terrence Howard, and also co-stars singer/actor Ne-Yo, Method Man and Tristan Wilds.  Let’s spread the word and support this film people (see link below to view the trailer).

Now I must admit I am not necessarily going to rush out to this next film, but since it stars two divas, one a country music legend and the other hip-hop royalty, I simply cannot overlook!  Yes, I am referring to Joyful Noise, which stars Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah, as well as KeKe Palmer and Jeremy Jordan.  The trailer shows a lot of singing, comedic tussling between Dolly and Latifah, and what seems to be a mix of inspirational and pop songs thrown in for good measure. It also opens this month on the 13th, and is rated PG-13 (some adult language).

Okay and this has nothing to do with movies or music, except for the fact that songstress Brandy will be guest starring this season, but Game On!!!!  Yes, I am very much a follower of The Game series on BET, which has its 5th season opener this Tuesday January 10th.

Lastly, here is a list of upcoming award ceremonies: Golden Globes (Sunday January 15th), Screen Actors Guild Awards (Sunday January 29th), 54th Annual Grammys (Sunday February 12th), 2012 BET Honors (February 13th), and the 84th Annual Academy Awards (Sunday February 26th).

PS – A HUGE SHOUT OUT to the person responsible for Gil Scott-Heron being posthumously honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s Grammy ceremony.  The incomparable Diana Ross (see my personal photo above from her 2010 concert) will also receive a Lifetime achievement statue, and Steve Jobs will be posthumously honored with a Grammy Trustees statue.

Alright people, that’s it for this posting.  Keep checking in for regular film and music news. Better yet click the follow tab (for most viewers will be top left, but also appears in bottom right with some browsers) to receive notifications for new postings. What films are you looking forward to seeing this year?  What award shows will you watch.  Talk to me in the comments section. 🙂

Until next thought, Thomasena

Red Tails official trailer (Lucasfilm, 2012):

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Peace and Blessings Everybody!  I know I’ve been MIA for three weeks, but this time of year for me is a mixture of bliss and busyness. But with the rush, I welcome the spirit of Thanksgiving, anticipate spending time with family at Christmas, and am so grateful for the prospect of God granting me a New Year and the blessing of a fresh start.  That being said, I won’t blog much if any for the remainder of the year (as I prepare to celebrate and spend time with family and friends) but thought it appropriate to share some of my favorite Christmas music before I continue on hiatus.

First up is White Christmas by the Drifters. I can remember my mother playing this record on 45 rpm (shout out to my fellow old heads)! An artist by the name of Joshua Held created an animation several years ago that depicts Santa singing this with his reindeer.  It is one of the cutest things I’ve seen and I look forward to sharing this by email distribution every year.  Check it out at the following link:

Next up is one of my favorite Christmas CDs, Give Love At Christmas by The Temptations.   The group had already went through various revisions in its lineup, but this album features prominent performances by then members Dennis Edwards, Otis Williams, David “Melvin” English, Richard Street, and Glenn Carl Leonard, with the latter member giving a stellar solo on the title tune Give Love On Christmas Day (see link below).  I also included a link for their classic version of Silent Night, featuring Dennis Edwards and Glenn, again, on lead.

Once I hear the Temptations version of Christmas, I start preparing to watch my fave Christmas cartoon…yep one look at the pic above and you’ve guessed it, A Charlie Brown Christmas.  In 2005, David Benoit released a tribute CD entitled 40 Years: A Charlie Brown Christmas, which featured the likes of Chaka Khan, Norman Brown, Brian McKnight, Vanessa Williams, and Gerald Albright to name a few.  One of my absolute favorites on this CD is Toni Braxton’s smoky rendition of It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (see link below).  The entire CD offers classically smooth sounds for Christmas, and even features an appearance from LaToya London (yes that LaToya London, alum to Jennifer Hudson from season 3 of American Idol).

My last music fave, that I’m sharing :), is the soundtrack from the holiday film The Preacher’s Wife.  Whitney Houston featuring the Georgia Mass Choir on Joy To The World  is my example of the ultimate let’s shout and give Him praise Christmas song!  It lifts me every time I hear it and I hope it does the same for you.  See link below and be blessed by it!.  If you don’t have this soundtrack in your collection, and you enjoy gospel and r & b, it is a must have.  The album also features production by Mervyn Warren, Kirk Franklin, Babyface, David Foster and a host of cameos (including Monica, Shirley Caesar, Cissy Houston and Whitney’s then hubby Bobby Brown).

And while we’re on films, if you’re looking for some suggestions of holiday movies for the family why not rent (or buy if you don’t own) The Preacher’s Wife (Whitney Houston, Denzel Washington, 1996), Last Holiday (Queen Latifah, Morris Chestnut, Gabrielle Union, 2006), or This Christmas (Loretta Divine, Idris Elba, Regina King, Delroy Lindo, 2007)?

Well, those are a few of my favorite things and I hope you get some enjoyment out of the links I’ve shared.   I would like to say thanks to those who have been following my blog, as well as those newly signing on, and look forward to sharing with you more music & movie thoughts in the upcoming year.  I pray peace for you and yours this season.  Until next thought, Thomasena

Give Love On Christmas Day, The Temptations (Motown, 1980):

Silent Night, The Temptations (Motown, 1980):

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Toni Braxton (Peak Records, 2005):

Joy To The World, Whitney Houston feat. the Georgia Mass Choir (Arista, 1996):

Oscars 2012…Eddie out, Billy in?

That’s right fellow movie lovers, and those who like me were waiting to see Mr. Murphy take his turn at the helm.  Eddie Murphy has bowed out, following the whole Brett Ratner debacle, and will not host next year’s award ceremony.  Subsequently, Billy Crystal has stepped in and will return to the Oscar stage as host for the ninth time.  Personally, I think Billy was one of the funnier hosts but I enjoyed Whoopi Goldberg and Ellen DeGeneres as well.  I wish Ellen would take another shot at hosting, since she has polished her skills with her talk show daily for nine seasons and I am certain can more than hold her own.

With Eddie stepping down, the Academy loses a huge opportunity to grab a younger and more diverse audience this time around.  There were many people, I know several, who were planning to tune in just because Eddie was hosting.  Oh well, I am saddened Eddie is out, but there are a couple of things I am happy about this Oscar season.  In one of the pre-show award ceremonies, the Governors Awards which took place last Saturday, James Earl Jones was presented with an honorary Academy Award.  He has done some great work, including his roles in The Great White Hope, Field of Dreams and everyone knows him as the voice of Darth Vader from the Stars Wars saga; but my favorite James Earl Jones role will always be that of Eddie Murphy’s father in Coming to America.  Dangit, another Eddie reference…darn you Mr. Murphy :).

Anyway, Oprah Winfrey was also given the Hersholt Humanitarian Award, for her philanthropic work (most notably her school for girls in South Africa).  Since the nominations for the big night won’t be announced until January 24th next year, I can’t get excited about much else ;).

If the Oscar host selection was up to you, who would you choose?  Okay, in case you have more than one, you can give at max three.  Will Smith, Whoopi Goldberg and Ellen DeGeneres (or any combination of the three) would be my choices.  Let me know what you think :).

Until next thought, Thomasena.

A Salute to “Smokin Joe”

I’d like to take a pause this blog from my normal focus and pay tribute to the legend and former heavyweight boxing champion, Mr. Joe Frazier (1944-2011).  A humble man of Carolina origins, who made Philadelphia, PA his home, he lost his battle to liver cancer yesterday at age 67.  As a child growing up in North Philly, and a boxing fan, I took pleasure walking past the boxing gym he built in my neighborhood and catching glimpses often of Mr. Frazier outside.  He opened his gym to help guide and train local boxers after his boxing career ended; and although that career was stellar, 32 wins (including 27 KOs) and only 4 losses, his light was often dimmed by more charismatic figures, most notably his boxing nemesis Muhammed Ali.  He wasn’t as dynamic or entertaining as a speaker (at least the general public never cast him as such) and subsequently his accomplishments weren’t as celebrated.  Even locally, more Philadelphians currently sing the praises of the fictional “Rocky” character than of  Mr. Frazier.

I won’t dwell on the negativity between the two boxers, because this is a tribute and they have since made amends.  That being said, Muhammed Ali was quoted yesterday as saying “the world has lost a great champion. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration.”  I dedicate the song and link below as a token of my respect and admiration for Mr. Joe Frazier.  Rest in Peace Sir.  Until next thought family, Thomasena.

Black Butterfly (Deniece Williams, Let’s Hear It For The Boy, 1984 Columbia/CBS):

Does Remake = Lack of Creativity?

So, since last post I’ve been thinking about how remake crazy our culture appears to be.  I’ve had this conversation with friends and other creative folks, and often I hear someone make the statement that “we’ve just run out of original ideas.”  Is it that simple an explanation?  And is it a bad thing to remake a movie or cover a song if you can add something relevant to, invigorate, or dare I say improve the original?  I would answer with a resounding NO and I would like to share some of my faves to support.  Since this is such a broad topic, I’ve decided to focus on music in the key of Motown, and share a few examples of what I think are perfect song covers (I’ll touch on movies in another post :)).

I will start with the Heavyweight of Soul himself, Mr. Luther Vandross.   Luther was a master at taking decades old songs, re-arranging them and turning them into instant classics.  Who can forget his version of the Temptations hit Since I Lost My Baby? Luther made the melancholy song sound so sweet, and sang it so beautifully, I forgot how sad the lyrics were.  On to the next Motown cover, have you ever heard Chaka Khan’s version of the J5’s Got To Be There?  Like Chaka’s voice it really is beyond accurate description, so just take a listen below and let me know what you think. Sidebar: speaking of Chaka Khan, did you see the film Standing in the Shadows of Motown and hear her cover of What’s Going On with the Funk Brothers?  Again, take a listen with the link below because it’s so (add your own word here) I won’t even try to describe.

I once heard Tony Bennett say that Stevie’s version of his song For Once In My Life was the best cover he’d ever heard.  I mean Stevie took an old slow tempo standard and revamped into a funky R&B hit complete with harmonica solo.  Another sidebar: Stevie also took a mid-tempo tune he’d written as a teen for the late Tammi Terrell, All I Do Is Think About You, and updated it as the upbeat All I Do (with Michael Jackson, Eddie Levert, Walter Williams and Betty Wright all contributing background vocals) on his Hotter Than July LP.  Yep, that’s right I said MJ. Take another listen you’ll catch it :).  See below for a link to the once rare Tammi Terrell version.

Lastly, I can’t mention Motown covers and not talk about Philly’s own Boyz II Men and their version of It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday.  Boyz II Men successfully took a very nostalgic song, and anyone who’s seen the movie Cooley High knows what I mean, and made it their own.  And talk about invigorating, with their a cappella remake the song peaked at #1 and #2 on the Billboard Hot R&B singles and Hot 100 charts respectively (compared to peaking at #38 on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart when originally released).

What are some of your fave remakes?  I know I stuck to a specific period and genre, but are there more recent covers that you consider classics? Share your comments and let’s discuss.  Until next thought, Thomasena.

Chaka Khan  Got To Be There (Chaka Khan, 1982 Warner Bros.):

The Funk Brothers featuring Chaka Khan What’s Going On (Standing in the Shadows of Motown, 2002 Artisan Entertainment) :

Tammi Terrell  All I Do Is Think About You  (A Cellarful of Motown, 2002 Motown):

Sparkle Remake Ready To Start Production

I have to preface this blog with the following…SPARKLE IS MY FAVORITE MOVIE.  Hands down, of all time, I can repeat from opening song to finale, point, blank, period!  Okay, so now that I’ve established my feelings on the original, I will try to be as fair as possible while I discuss this remake.  Yep, fellow Sparkle fans, it is being remade with a tenative release scheduled for late 2012 or early 2013.

Okay here are the positives about this remake.  One, Whitney Houston is co-starring as the mom of the three singing sisters from…wait, will it still be 1950’s Harlem?  Don’t know, but she will be portraying the Effie Williams character. Sidebar for fellow Dreamgirls fans, Sparkle was made in 1976 and provided some inspiration for the 80’s phenomenon, including the name of powerhouse Jennifer Holliday’s character “Effie.” I am excited for Ms. Houston and hope this does well for her film comeback.

Second positive, this vehicle is being driven in the very capable hands of the Akils (Girlfriends, The Game, Jumping The Broom) with Salim directing, Mara penning the script and both serving as co-producers.  Now, I pray that Mara’s script doesn’t stray too far from the original while simultaneously adding a little more depth to the characters; much like Ntozake Shange accomplished with the book she wrote for Freedom Theater’s (Philadelphia, PA) stage play version directed by Walter Dallas several years back.  Remember the scene where Dolores is preparing to leave home and is very condescending towards her mother?  Well Ntozake added the response from mom that many original fans like me appreciated.  In other words, Effie gave the real and didn’t just stand there like a bump on a log :).  For those who may not know, the original was written by Joel Schumacher, who went on to become a successful director with such films as The Lost Boys, A Time to Kill and the Batman franchise movies (Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin) just to name a few.  Now I am a fan but let’s be honest, there is an element of the African American ghetto life experience that he wasn’t able to pen in the original; so Ntozake’s version was a refreshing update.  I believe Mrs. Akil is capable of this as well and am curious to see how she handles.  Another sidebar, Schumacher also wrote the screenplays for both Car Wash and The Wiz.

Another positive, it’s reported that original music will remain (YES!) and new songs added will be produced by R. Kelly.  The original soundtrack was both composed and produced by the legendary Curtis Mayfield, who was the go to man during this period.  His track record prior to Sparkle included the Super Fly, Claudine and Let’s Do It Again soundtracks. The featured vocalist on the Sparkle soundtrack was none other than the “Queen of Soul” Ms. Aretha Franklin, or simply “Reefa” to some members of my family when I was growing up.  You know some of your friends/family called her that!  Come on, you never heard anyone call Luther Vandross “Lufa?”  Be honest :).  See link for the En Vogue remake of the classic “Giving Him Something He Can Feel” below (note: original “Levi” Dorian Harewood has cameo).

Now on to the big question, who is playing Sparkle?  Well, that would be season 6  American Idol winner Jordin Sparks.  Now, I am not mad at this choice vocally, but I must reserve my opinion about her acting ability.  She has some tough shoes to fill, Irene Cara’s to be exact, but Jennifer Hudson gave an Oscar worthy performance first time out the box (Dreamgirls) so anything is possible.  What I’m not too happy about?  Derek Luke being cast opposite Sparks as Stix.  Why?  Okay, Phillip Michael Thomas is not the most memorable singer, but he did sing.  Stix’s character is a singer/songwriter.  Can Derek Luke even sing?  Can he hold a tune?  Yes, he’s a remarkable actor and probably will lip sync, but I’m just saying. Remember this is my favorite movie and I am trying to be nice :).  Alright, moving on!

I could continue on ranting and making comparisons, but instead will summarize that Mike Epps, Omari Hardwick, Carmen Ejogo and Tika Sumpter (CW’s Gossip Girls) round out the main cast as Satin, Levi, Sister, and Delores.  Sidebar: Ms. Ejogo is an actress/singer who is married to the very talented Mr. Jeffrey Wright.  Satin’s character’s has been revamped as a comedian, not a gangster like in the original, so I won’t comment about Mike Epps playing Satin; but rather will reserve my opinion to see how the script changes shape the story.  I will say that I enjoyed Mike Epps in Jumping the Broom and I hope this gives him an opportunity to show another dimension.  Cee Lo Green has also been added to the cast, reportedly to play the opening act for the Williams sisters.  Lastly, I am very happy that fashion designer b. Michaels and two time Oscar nominated costume designer Ruth Carter are designing the costumes for this film.  The gowns are going to be fierce!

Okay, today’s blog is quite lengthy and I apologize.  I’m just passionate about this project and am looking forward to the release.  Are you a fan of the original movie?  Who would you have cast as Sparkle?  Stix?  What was your favorite song from the soundtrack?  Until next thought, Thomasena.

“Giving Him Something He Can Feel” (En Vogue 1992 Funky Divas):