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Have You Heard: BEYOND THE LIGHTS

Friday, November 14, 2014

I was listening to The Movie Man's 6 Second Review for Beyond the Lights this morning on the Elvis Duran Show and I just knew he was going to give a curt dismissal ending in "I'm Out" -  But he was IN! He gave it a more than six second rave! Not that I need validation from The Movie Man to like or support a movie, but it did prove this movie has cross over appeal, not just with white and black audiences but, male and female.

You know who else really liked the movie? Another new Tinsel & Tine Blog Contributor - Terri Heard.  I introduced you to Mikhail last month who interviewed writer/director Justin Simian of Dear White People and now I've found another terrific writer.

I really like Terri's fun, descriptive style and she's really put a lot of her personality into the piece.  So please see Beyond the Lights, more than celebrating African American female leads, the movie works and is worthwhile seeing in the theaters. T &T's LAMB Score: 4.5 outta 5
- Le Anne Lindsay, Editor

Falling for the (Fake) Fairy Tale 

 by Tinsel & Tine Blog Contributor Terri Heard


Okay, true confession time: were you one of those little Black girls who ran around with a sweater on your head pretending you had long, Marcia Brady hair? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

* slowly raises hand *…

Yep, that was me – and my sister, and the neighborhood girls and my classmates so don’t judge me…much. Whoopi Goldberg built a whole classic monologue on this tragi-comic little phenomenon and it was funny because it was true. Admit it, we all wanted that hair. We wanted it. Our mothers wanted it. Our boyfriends wanted it. And we made damn sure we got it with years of greasing, hot combing – remember Eddie Murphy’s “hot tub” routine; somebody needs to do a “hot comb” routine – relaxing, and anything else we could think of that gave us the look. When I finally realized just how much physical – those combs and chemicals hurt – and financial – no, I did not want to spend hundreds of dollars at the hair dresser every month – pain this routine put me through, I gave it up – but only when the pain became too much.


That’s the struggle at the heart of romantic drama Beyond the Lights. Who do you want to be? How do you want to do it? How much pain are you willing to endure and how much pride are you willing to jettison to achieve it? Just like all of us, the struggle starts early for tween-age Noni (India Jean-Jacques), a biracial/Black girl growing up in the London ghetto of Brixton with her ambitious white single mother, Macy Jean (Minnie Driver). In the opening scene, Macy Jean is driving through London desperately looking for a hairdresser who can tame her daughter’s kinks into something that will appeal to a panel of talent show judges the next day. Although the hairdresser is sympathetic, Macy Jean pulls no punches. It’s obvious that Noni’s chances are sunk before she even gets to the stage when the spotlight falls on a blond, blue-eyed Shirley Temple wannabe who’s got the camera-ready polish and contrived sweetness we’ve all wanted to stomp on at one time or another. With that sleek, shining hair, Noni’s rival is everything Noni isn’t. In her still kinky, barely tamed hair and geeky glasses, Noni just stands up there flat-footed and sings – an aching, a cappella version of Nina Simone’s “Blackbird.” but Noni is brilliant. The judges and audience love her – but not enough. Noni comes in second to you know who. Noni might be happy, but Mama is not. In a wrenching scene masterfully emoted by Minnie Driver, Noni’s mother forces her to throw her trophy away – because second-best is just not good enough. Not now. Not ever.

Fast forward to the 21st century and Noni is all grown up and on top of the world. The glasses are gone. A glossy weave has replaced her kinks. She’s got the number one single. She’s dating the hottest rapper. She’s just won a Billboard Music Award. And her debut album is ready to drop any day. Unfortunately, so is Noni. Minutes after Noni checks into her hotel room, police officer Kaz Nicol (Nate Parker) is forced to break down the door to find Noni cold and crying, sitting on the edge of balcony, her legs dangling over the side and her hands ready to let go at any minute. And that’s just the first act.

Director-screenwriter Gina Prince-Bythewood struggled for five years to bring this tender, thoughtful story to the big screen. Romantic films featuring Black male and female leads are usually crowded out by superhero franchise films, ultra-violent gore fests, or mindless action flicks. With Beyond the Light, just as she did with Love and Basketball, Prince-Bythewood carves out a space for the kind of story that warms your heart while making you think. Watching Noni claw her way back from that emotional cliff, will leave you captivated and wanting to see this film again and again. It’s nothing less than a love letter to Black women and the strong Black men who support them.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Recording Artist Noni 
 The film’s warmth is due in no small part to the luminous Gugu
Mbatha-Raw who brings the adult Noni to life with a combination of fragility and fire in one vibrant, vulnerable package. She’s has a gift for conveying the full spectrum of emotions without ever saying a word. You always know what she’s thinking or feeling every moment she’s onscreen. You can’t help but feel for and with her in every scene. Less emotive, but no less charismatic, Nate Parker brings a Denzel Jr. vibe to his role as Kaz, a police officer with ambitions of his own that could collide with Noni’s. His intervention to save Noni drops him straight into a media firestorm that threatens to capsize his own career and forces him on his own journey to rethink who he is. He delivers a quiet, understated performance that rides a fine line between conveying the rock solid man you’ve got tucked away in your fantasies and a real human being with his own flaws and needs. The result is a romance that, stripped of the celebrity trappings, feels very real.


Minnie Driver is absolutely superb as Noni’s grim stage mother. Always a likable screen presence, Driver doesn’t shrink from conveying all of her character’s meanness and mendacity while at the same time hinting at the complex motives that drive her. While you can’t genuinely like her, you nevertheless can’t help but feel for her even if you can’t cheer for her.

Danny Glover brings a comforting familiarity to his role as Nate’s father. While not as driven as Noni’s mother, his character also has ambitions for his son. And just like Macy Jean, his attempt to live his dreams through Nate points to nothing but trouble.

On a side note, it’s fun to play spot the cameo with the rest of the supporting cast. Keep your eye out for Chaka Khan, Sanaa Lathan, Gayle King, Don Lemon, and a slew of stars from the BET Music Awards ceremony during which part of the film was shot.

The Verdict? If you loved Love and Basketball – and honestly who didn’t? And if you didn’t, what are you, a terrorist? – you’ll love #BeyondtheLights. Prince-Bythewood combines timeless warmth and tenderness with up-to-the-minute commentary on the costs of fame particularly in the cut-throat music industry. While you may leave feeling uneasy about the costs of fame, you’ll also leave uplifted by the notion that love – love for yourself and your partner – conquers all.

Terri Heard has been a writer and editor for TV Guide, for whom she’s interviewed Chris Rock, Chaka Khan, Christina Aguilera and more. Based in Philadelphia, she’s currently working on her first novel, Dirty Lens.






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is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

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Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?
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