The so-called “great men of history” are all well and good, but have you ever heard of one Madam C.J. Walker? No? Well then, Netflix has got you covered, because the first trailer for their upcoming biopic-miniseries based on the African-American entrepreneur’s epic life-story just dropped today.
Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer plays the Louisiana-born businesswoman who rose to fame and a considerable amount of fortune in the early 20th Century, becoming America’s first self-made female millionaire and the wealthiest African-American woman in the United States. This retelling of C.J. Walker’s life appears to focus on her relationship with her family, including her daughter A’Lelia and her second husband, Charles. But the trailer also puts plenty of attention on the lavish luxuries of the Gilded Age that C.J. Walker, after a hard-fought struggle to become one of the country’s leading developers of women’s cosmetics and beauty products, was able to enjoy. There’s even a couple of elaborately choreographed dance sequences which look like a lot of fun – and trust me, it was hard to resist dancing when I heard Ruby Amanfu’s “I’m A Ruler” playing over the trailer.
Spencer is surrounded by an excellent supporting cast, including Tiffany Haddish (who has been slowly transitioning from comedy to drama with mixed results), Blair Underwood, and Carmen Ejogo, who plays Spencer’s business rival. Self Made is directed by Kasi Lemmons, who recently directed a more high-profile biopic of another African-American pioneer: abolitionist and Civil War heroine Harriet Tubman, whose story Lemmons adapted in Harriet. Hopefully, Self-Made will help to get people talking (and most importantly, learning) about Walker and other African-American historical figures who may not be instantly recognizable to the general audience.
So how does Self-Made look to you? What other African-American icons deserve to be immortalized in film and on TV? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!
I’ve gotta get a message to you, dear film-aficionado: get your fancasts ready, jive to the sweet sounds of 70’s pop, and rejoice – the Bee Gees, one of the world’s most beloved and recognizable music groups, are finally getting their own movie. Following the huge success of films like Bohemian Rhapsody (the Academy-Award winning Queen biopic), and Rocketman (the Academy-Award hopeful and Elton John biopic), and the promise of more to come (a…Boy George biopic?), the Bee Gees, whose personal lives are a dramatic and compelling story of triumph and heartbreak, accompanied by an upbeat disco soundtrack, were inevitably going to end up on the big screen at some point – nonetheless, it’s very exciting to see it happen in the lifetime of Barry Gibb, the last surviving member of the band (Maurice died in 2003 of medical complications at the age of 53, while Robin died from cancer in 2012, aged 62).
It’s also exciting that Paramount will be the ones to make the film. While that’s not entirely surprising (they are, after all, the studio that brought you Rocketman, mentioned above), it is especially fitting since it was a Paramount movie, Saturday Night Fever, that helped to turn the Bee Gees into the household name they are today: the film’s soundtrack, for which the group wrote iconic songs such as “Stayin’ Alive”, became the best-selling movie soundtrack of all time upon its release in 1977 and, in the words of music supervisor Bill Oakes, “breathed new life into a genre that was actually dying”. And now, perhaps because of that fateful union of film and music, the Bee Gees themselves will be stayin’ alive in the memory of filmgoers for years to come. It brings a tear to the eye, that’s for sure.
Paramount has bought the rights to the story of Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb, and all of their music, and Bohemian Rhapsodyproducer Graham King is already attached to the film. So, while Paramount searches for a writer and director, it’s time for us fans to start considering who should be cast in the lead roles (since, obviously, that’s the most important question). Share your suggestions in the comments below!
Fred Rogers is one of those incredible, iconic figures that lingers in the background of the public conscious – at times, he almost seems less like a person than an embodiment of some higher concept, some divine enigma. There’s no way anyone could ever be Fred Rogers, because Fred Rogers literally isn’t possible in the world we live in. Even during the time he lived in, he was viewed as an eccentric, an anomaly. These days, he’s positively alien.
But Tom Hanks is going to try to recall the man’s presence into his own performance as Fred Rogers in the upcoming biopic A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, regardless of how difficult that task will be. The first trailer, released today, is a tantalizing glimpse into a world in which Rogers still lived and breathed, a world so blessed by his presence that people would spontaneously start singing the Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood theme song on subway trains when they spotted him (something that actually happened in real life). It’s a world where cynical journalists could learn the values of empathy and compassion from the man himself. It’s a world that seems so unreal it might be set in an alternate reality.
And as for Hanks, he’s so very…Hanks…it’s hard to imagine that he is Fred Rogers, no matter how many sweaters and sneakers he goes through: his voice, for one thing, sounds very little like Rogers’, and his face is much younger-looking (casual observation: how is it that Tom Hanks ages but doesn’t get old?). It’s hard to tell from a trailer, too much of which is focused on our cynical journalist and his family dynamics, but Hanks hasn’t yet captured the essence of Fred Rogers, at least for me.
For comparison, here is Fred, the man himself:
And here is Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers, looking oddly plastic:
I mean, appearances are beside the point. Tom Hanks is a great actor, one of the best, and that’s what’s going to make or break this movie. But I’m keeping my expectations to a minimum for the moment.