Category: Entertainment

Review: New doc shows how Beyoncé changed Coachella, forever

Beyoncé is extremely private, and only lets you know what she wants you to know, when she wants you to know it — typically, in a surprise post be it on her website or Instagram.
But throughout the years, she’s slightly cracked open her door to reveal parts of her life and personality — apart from what she gives through strong singing and extraordinary dance moves — to help remind us that though she is epic and flawless, she is still mortal.
“HOMECOMING: A film by Beyoncé,” which premiered Wednesday on Netflix, captures the human side of the superstar singer with behind-the-scenes, intimate moments of a mother, wife and artist tirelessly working on what’s already become one of most iconic musical performances of all-time: Beyoncé’s headlining show at the 2018 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
The performance marked the first time a black woman headlined the famed festival and made Beyoncé just the third woman to score the gig, behind Bjork and Lady Gaga. Beyoncé took on the role seriously — as she does all live performances — giving the audience a rousing, terrific and new show highlighted by a full marching band, majorette dancers, steppers and more that is the norm at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
The film takes it a step further to showcase what was happening to get to the historic moment: you see a mother bouncing back from giving birth to twins via an emergency C-section; an African American woman embracing her family’s history and paying tribute to black college culture and honoring black art; and the world’s No. 1 pop star defying the odds yet again and pushing herself to new heights, creating an even wider space between herself and whoever is No. 2.
Simply put, Beyoncé changed Coachella — forever — and performing after her is like trying to out-ace Serena Williams or dunk better than Michael Jordan: You won’t win.
Woven into the film are audio soundbites from popular figures to help narrate the story: Nina Simone speaks about blackness, Maya Angelou talks about truth, and Tessa Thompson and Danai Gurira explain the importance of seeing people who look like you on large screens.
Beyoncé speaks, too, saying that she dreamed of attending an HBCU, though she explains: “My college was Destiny’s Child.”
She also says the importance of her Coachella performance was to bring “our culture to Coachella” and highlight “everyone that had never seen themselves represented.”


So many people were represented during those performances last April — her stage was packed with about 200 performers, from dancers to singers to band and orchestra players. Beyoncé kicked of the performance dressed like an African queen, walking up the stage as the jazzy, soulful big band sound of New Orleans is played. After letting her dancers and backing band shine, she emerges again, this time dressed down — like a studious, eager, hopeful college student.
The musical direction and song selection flows effortlessly and was purposely crafted to tell a story: the first song is 2003’s “Crazy In Love,” a massively successful No. 1 hit and her first apart from Destiny’s Child. It also was Beyoncé’s first of many collaborations with Jay-Z. But then comes “Freedom,” representing the Beyoncé of today, unconcerned with having a radio or streaming hit, but more focused on the art, and the message.
And her message was loud and clear on “HOMECOMING”: Her performance is a homage to the culturally rich homecoming events held annually at HBCUs, but also showcases Beyoncé’s own homecoming — her return to her roots, and how she’s found a new voice by reinterpreting her music through the lens of black history.
Young, gifted and black, indeed.

“HOMECOMING: A film by Beyoncé,” a Netflix release, is rated TV-MA. Running time: 137 minutes. Four stars out of four.

At Nipsey Hussle’s Memorial, Los Angeles Comes Together to Mourn

LOS ANGELES — Thousands of mourners are expected to gather in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday to honor the life of Nipsey Hussle, the Grammy-nominated rapper who was fatally shot last month and whose success and commitment to redeveloping South Los Angeles made him a local hero.

The funeral, billed as a “celebration of life,” will be held at the Staples Center. All tickets for the event, which were free, were claimed online within minutes of being made available earlier this week. The arena’s capacity is 21,000.

Tens of thousands of fans are expected to gather around the venue, where a public memorial for Michael Jackson was hosted in 2009. The two-hour service will begin at 10 a.m. local time and will be followed by a procession from the Staples Center through South Los Angeles.

Hussle, born Ermias Joseph Asghedom, channeled his upbringing and adolescence as a gang member into music that spoke powerfully to many who live in Los Angeles’ most vulnerable neighborhoods. As his star rose in recent years, Hussle brought investments and attention back to the area, earning the adoration of his neighbors and fans.

Though he developed a following far beyond Southern California, his death last week struck a particularly painful chord among residents of the Crenshaw District, where he grew up. His clothing store on Slauson Avenue in South Los Angeles, The Marathon Clothing, had become a potent symbol of local success and black entrepreneurship, a theme he addressed regularly in his music. His fans clung to lyrics that melded familiar rap bombast with exaltations about self-discipline and long-term financial planning, a break from a music culture that often emphasizes flashy spending.

The store transformed into a makeshift memorial on March 31 after Hussle was gunned down there over a “personal dispute,” according to the Los Angeles Police Department. The suspect, Eric Holder, was apprehended by authorities two days after the shooting.

For days outside the store, fans prayed, lit candles and left hand-written letters addressed to Hussle. One of the mourners was Candace Cosey, 32, who remembers him as Ermias from their time attending Hamilton High School together in the early 2000s, a magnet school on the West Side of Los Angeles. She recalled how Hussle would sell mix CDs to her and others at school, and how he later started selling music in the neighborhood out of his trunk.

She came close to tears as she pulled out a picture of him from the high school yearbook. “If you grew up here, you either knew him directly or you knew someone who knew him,” she said.

Even as his career took off, Hussle remained approachable and “big hearted,” she said. As he amassed fame and wealth, he continued living modestly while making investments in businesses in the neighborhood. And he could be very generous. When a colleague passed away several years ago, Ms. Cosey approached Hussle’s team to see if he could help with the funeral expenses. He contributed several thousand dollars, she said.

“He was about uplifting us. He hired people from the neighborhood who wouldn’t have had a job otherwise. He took care of so many people, and he invested in what he believed in, here, because he grew up here,” she said. “We have to keep that work going. It’s what he was about.”

[Read more about the community’s reaction to Hussle’s death.]

Hussle’s death has drawn attention far beyond the Crenshaw District. Celebrities and political leaders across the country have offered their condolences to Hussle’s family and friends. In an interview last week, Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles praised Hussle’s contributions to South Los Angeles, a community that he acknowledged has been historically overlooked by the city’s political establishment.

Mr. Garcetti said Hussle embodied the very idea of black entrepreneurship, a critical component of lifting the community and its residents.

“He represented redemption and hope. He had come from the world of gangs and gotten out,” he said. “This is a devastating shock to the stomach. He was really ambitious — he wanted to get African Americans into tech, on top of his music game, on top of his businesses.”

“Then to be killed in such a clichéd way, by guns, for a beef in South L.A., it feeds into too many stereotypes,” he said.

Velma Sanders, 60, said she did not listen to Hussle’s music but, as a lifelong resident of South Los Angeles, she felt pride watching his career grow in recent years. His presence, she said, was felt by everyone.

“He would be out here. He showed you that he didn’t fear where he grew up. He was proud of it,” she said. “He was building up this community, giving back to this community. He took that money and instead of buying something luxurious, a big home or whatever, he put it back in his community so these would not be vacant buildings. It’s just beautiful.”

[Read an assessment of Hussle’s music and its place in hip-hop.]

Manuel Pastor, a professor of American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California who has researched the demographics and culture of South Los Angeles, said Hussle’s killing “felt like a kick in the stomach.” He described Hussle as “a hometown guy lifting up his hometown.” Nothing illustrated this more, he said, than when Hussle and his girlfriend, the actress Lauren London, posed for a photo shoot in GQ in February at locations around South Los Angeles — not Hollywood, not downtown Los Angeles, not New York.

“This really hit hard. This was a hometown guy who stayed home,” said Mr. Pastor.

Mr. Pastor said Hussle had left the gang life but never rejected the culture of the community. Alienation and the search for identity amid violence and poverty often feed into gang culture, something Hussle spoke about openly.

“He did what many people ask of black celebrities, to come back to their community,” said Najee Ali, an activist in South Los Angeles who knew Hussle. He said the community is accustomed to feeling left behind when one of its own makes it big and finds fame.

“They all leave,” he said. “Hussle was the only one to stay in the community. He believed in the slogan, ‘Don’t move, improve.’ That’s what made him special.”

Hasani Leffall, 35, who knew Hussle, once worked for the rapper’s stepfather at a South Los Angeles restaurant called Bayou Grille. To emphasize the depth of feeling over Hussle’s murder within the black community of Los Angeles, he mentioned the murders of Tupac, Biggie Smalls, even Malcolm X and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Even with his fame, money and the support of the community, Hussle couldn’t escape the violence of the streets he rapped about.

Mr. Holder, the suspect in the killing, is an aspiring rapper who knew Hussle when he was younger. Mr. Holder, Mr. Leffall said, “represents a dark side about L.A., and a dark side about just men in L.A., in Crip life. There’s always somebody that just doesn’t like you, doesn’t like the fact that people love you.”

Game of Thrones Writer Reveals List of Must-Watch (or Re-Watch) Episodes Before Season 8

With the season eight premiere of Game of Thrones looming, you’re probably trying to determine your best approach for briefing yourself before winter officially comes. Well, you can stop spinning in circles over your too-little-time conundrum — Game of Thrones writer Bryan Cogman just revealed the must-watch episodes from seasons one through seven. You can forget about any other rewatch guides you may have seen floating around the internet because Cogman clearly knows his stuff. In fact, he’s the only GoT writer (along with showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss) who’s been with the hit HBO show from the beginning.

If you haven’t watched a single episode of GoT yet, suffice it to say there are spoilers ahead. See also: Better clear your calendar for the next two weeks. You’ve got some catching up to do.

Not surprisingly, the first two episodes of the very first season top Cogman’s list. Citing “Winter Is Coming” and “The Kingsroad,” Cogman told Entertainment Weekly, “Let’s start the rewatch with a double feature, shall we? Taken together, these two episodes serve as a mega-pilot as so much of Episode 1 is devoted to simply meeting with various characters and understanding the world of the show.” It’s the second episode, explains Cogman, that gets you invested in those characters. “Episode 2 really makes you care. I remember watching a rough cut of the opening sequence (in which Jon bids farewell to his family and heads for the Wall) on my laptop in Belfast and thinking: This works! We have a show!” Cogman said, pointing out another episode-two perk, “Oh, and Episode 2 is the one where Tyrion slaps Joffrey (not for the last time).

That’ll get you started, sure. But your homework is far from finished. Cogman recommends chasing the first two episodes of the fantasy drama with the following:

Season One

Episode nine: “Baelor”
Episode ten: “Fire and Blood”

Season Two

Episode three: “What Is Dead May Never Die”
Episode six: “The Old Gods and the New”
Episode nine: “Blackwater”

Season Three

Episode three: “Walk of Punishment”
Episode four: “And Now His Watch Is Ended”
Episode five: “Kissed By Fire”
Episode nine: “The Rains of Castamere”

Season Four

Episode six: “The Laws of Gods and Men”
Episode eight: “The Mountain and the Viper”
Episode ten: “The Children”

Season Five

Episode eight: “Hardhome”

Season Six

Episode five: “The Door”
Episode nine: “Battle of the Bastards”
Episode ten: “The Winds of Winter”

Season Seven

Episode three: “The Queen’s Justice”
Episode four: “The Spoils of War”
Episode seven: “The Dragon and the Wolf”

Dying to know why Cogman considers these episodes required watching? You can read his full thoughts here. And, hopefully, you’ll have your bearings about you by the time Game of Thrones returns for its final season on Sunday, April 14.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco | Official Trailer

Directed by Joe Talbot and starring Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors, Rob Morgan, Tichina Arnold, and Danny Glover. Winner of the Sundance Best Director and Special Jury Awards. The Last Black Man in San Francisco — Summer 2019 SUBSCRIBE: http://bit.ly/A24subscribe From writer/director Joe Talbot and starring Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors, Rob Morgan, Tichina Arnold, and Danny Glover. The Last Man in San Francisco – In Theaters Summer 2019. RELEASE DATE: Summer 2019 DIRECTOR: Joe Talbot CAST: Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors, Rob Morgan, Tichina Arnold, and Danny Glover Like The Last Black Man in San Francisco on FACEBOOK: http://bit.ly/facebook_LastBlackManSF Follow The Last Black Man in San Francisco on Twitter: http://bit.ly/twitter_LastBlackManSF Follow The Last Black Man in San Francisco on Instagram: http://bit.ly/instagram_LastBlackManSF

Box office: ‘Madea Family Funeral’ overperforms; ‘Green Book’ surges after best picture win

Tyler Perry’s final Madea release was not enough to unseat Universal’s “How to Train Your Dragon” trilogy-ender at the box office this weekend.

“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” maintained the top spot after two weekends at the box office, adding $30 million for a cumulative $97.7 million, according to estimates from measurement firm Comscore.

Lionsgate’s “A Madea Family Funeral” opened at No. 2 with $27 million, above analyst predictions of $18 million to $20 million. It earned a 24% “rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. “Madea,” however, on 1,800 fewer screens, had the higher per-screen average, $11,077, to “Dragon’s” $7,010.

The final movie in the long-running series, “A Madea Family Funeral” is Perry’s biggest opening since 2010’s “Why Did I Get Married Too?” opened with $29 million. The previous year, “Madea Goes to Jail” opened with $41 million, his highest opening.

Perry’s Lionsgate deal kicked off with 2005’s “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” which grossed $50 million despite having a micro budget. “A Madea Family Funeral” is the 11th theatrical film to feature Perry as Madea over the course of 14 years. The Madea films have grossed more than $500 million to date.

In third place, Fox’s “Alita: Battle Angel” added $7 million in its third weekend for a cumulative $72.2 million.

At No. 4, Warner Bros.’ “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” added $6.6 million in its fourth weekend for a cumulative $91.7 million.

Following three Oscar wins, including best picture, Universal’s “Green Book” crept back into the top five after 16 weekends in theaters, adding 1,388 locations (the largest theater increase a best picture nominee has ever received the weekend following the ceremony) and $4.7 million for a cumulative $75.9 million.

This weekend’s haul is the third biggest weekend gross for the film. Ticket sales were at a high during the film’s initial wide release expansion in late November and again in late January in the wake of its five Oscar nominations.

Other Oscar winners that saw a notable bump this weekend include Sony’s animated feature winner “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” which added 1,661 locations (for a total of 2,404) and $2.1 million in its 12th weekend for a cumulative $187.4 million and Warner Bros.’ “A Star Is Born,” which added 490 locations and $1.8 million in its 22nd weekend for a cumulative $213 million.

Also new this week, Focus Features’ “Greta” opened at No. 8 with $4.6 million, just below analyst predictions of a soft $5-million opening.

The dark mystery stars Isabelle Huppert and Chloe Grace Moretz as a pair of New York transplants who bond over a sense of loneliness. It earned a 58% “rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

In a limited IMAX release, Neon released the documentary “Apollo 11” in 120 locations with $1.6 million, a per-screen average of $13,750. The film opens in traditional theaters next week.

A24 released Gasper Noe’s “Climax” in five locations with $121,655, a per-screen average of $24,331.

Next week, Disney debuts the highly anticipated “Captain Marvel,” starring Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson, which is expected to give the box office a much-needed jolt. The year-to-date total now trails 2018 by 25.8%.

HBO Film Revives Lurid Claims, Imperiling Thriving Michael Jackson Estate

Michael Jackson’s damaged reputation began to recover the day he died.

The lurid accusations of child molestation that had dogged him for years fell to the background as fans around the world celebrated the entertainer who had gone from pop prodigy to global superstar over a four-decade career. Flash mobs from Stockholm to the Philippines re-enacted his video scenes, and his music sales again broke chart records.

Now, nearly 10 years after his death, the dark side of Mr. Jackson’s legend has returned through a documentary that rocked the Sundance Film Festival and is being championed by Oprah Winfrey. In addition to delivering a hit to his mended reputation, the film poses a significant risk to the Jackson estate, which has engineered a thriving posthumous career, including a Broadway-bound jukebox musical.

The four-hour documentary, “Leaving Neverland,” to be broadcast on HBO in two parts on Sunday and Monday, focuses on the wrenching testimony of two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who say Mr. Jackson abused them for years, starting when they were young boys. While the accusations are not new, their revival in the #MeToo era, with its momentum of accountability for figures like R. Kelly, Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby, gives them new meaning.

“There has always been this shadow or cloud about Michael,” said Charles Koppelman, a longtime music executive who once served as a financial adviser to Mr. Jackson. “With this documentary about to be shown to millions and millions of people, and all the notoriety that it’s now getting, I think it will have a detrimental effect to the legacy and the estate.”

The estate has already begun its war on “Leaving Neverland.” It issued a series of fiery statements around the time of the film’s Sundance debut in January and has filed a petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court for arbitration, seeking $100 million in damages from HBO. In making its case, the estate — whose beneficiaries are Mr. Jackson’s mother and three children, as well as children’s charities — portrays Mr. Robson and Mr. Safechuck as “serial perjurers” for whom HBO has become “just another tool in their litigation playbook.”

The debate over the film is likely to be intense in black communities, where figures like Mr. Jackson and Mr. Kelly have their strongest defenders, said Yaba Blay, a professor at North Carolina Central University whose specialty is black racial and cultural identities.

“If you think R. Kelly tore black America apart, this is going to destroy us,” Dr. Blay said.

On Monday night, after the conclusion of “Leaving Neverland,” HBO and the Oprah Winfrey Network plan to broadcast Ms. Winfrey’s interview with Mr. Robson, Mr. Safechuck and the film’s director, Dan Reed.

In “Leaving Neverland,” Mr. Robson, 36, and Mr. Safechuck, 41, tell parallel stories of being drawn into Mr. Jackson’s inner circle as boys. Mr. Robson met Mr. Jackson on tour in Australia at age 5 and moved to the United States two years later to be near his idol. Mr. Safechuck was 8 when he was cast in a Pepsi commercial and met Mr. Jackson.

Both men say Mr. Jackson abused them while charming their families at his 2,600-acre Neverland compound in Los Olivos, Calif. He also warned them to keep their sexual relationship secret, the men say. READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/03/business/media/leaving-neverland-michael-jackson-estate.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Farts&action=click&contentCollection=arts&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=sectionfront

Rolling in the deep: HBO film looks at roller skate culture

NEW YORK >> First-time documentary filmmakers Tina Brown and Dyana Winkler lugged their cameras to Central Park in New York one day to capture the last few people still passionate about roller skating. Rinks across the country were gone. The activity seemed dead.

“We were shooting a piece about what we thought was the end of the era of skating with what we thought were the last men standing,” said Winkler. “We thought, ‘Who roller skates anymore?’”

They may have come for a funeral but they found something else entirely. Two young African-American skaters approached them and asked them what they were doing. “They said, ‘Skating’s not dead. It just went underground,’” Winkler recalled.

Winkler and Brown decided to go find it. Five years and 500 hours of footage later, they’ve emerged with the HBO film “United Skates,” a fascinating look at the rich African-American subculture of roller skating, which is under threat.

“We hope that our viewers will learn something they didn’t know about, fall in love with something they didn’t know about, and maybe be compelled to care enough to protect it,” Winkler said.

The documentary explores how roller rinks were the sites of some of the earliest fights of the civil-rights era and how they later became the launching pads for hip-hop artists.

It shows how unofficial segregation lives on, with so-called “adult nights” that feature metal detectors and masses of police, something not used when whites come to skate. It also shows how rinks are being closed as communities chase more revenue by rezoning for retail use.

“There’s a bigger story to tell and we can use the joyous beauty of roller skating as the sugar to spoon-feed some of these bigger issues. That’s when we started to peel back the layers,” Winkler said.

That day in Central Park changed the trajectory — and the lives — of the filmmakers. The young skaters they met invited the women to come and see what had happened to skating. And so they got on a night bus to Richmond, Virginia.

The duo — one Australian, one American — approached a roller rink at midnight. It was far from funereal: There was a line down the block, music was pumping, skaters were dressed to kill and everyone seemed to know each other.

“We stepped into this world,” said Winkler.

They soon learned that each city had different skate dance styles — Baltimore has “Snapping,” Atlanta has the “Jacknife” and in Texas you do the “Slow Walk” — and how such a tight fellowship among skaters is forged that they will fly across the country to get together.

Embraced by the community, Winkler and Brown never paid for a hotel room or car rental or a meal while crisscrossing the country interviewing some 100 skaters. The skaters themselves opened their homes and drove them around.

The documentary features interviews with hip-hop legends like Salt-N-Pepa, Coolio and Vin Rock of Naughty by Nature. John Legend is an executive producer and the film received the Documentary Audience Award at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The cameras also follow Reggie Brown, a roller-skating ambassador and community advocate. In a phone interview, he explained that roller skating teaches patience, athleticism, purpose, positive reinforcement, determination — and getting up after a fall.

“Roller skating is a little bit more than going in circles on a couple of wheels,” he said. “It’s fun. It’s an enjoyable exercise. It’s healthy and there are a lot of great benefits. But the socioeconomics benefits to roller skating are higher than anybody can think of.”

“Name me another activity that’s family-affordable, that you can go to on a Saturday and take five members of your family and you can skate for four hours and everybody can have a good time and exercise.”

“United Skates” is a documentary made partially by the subjects themselves. Winkler and Brown, who began the project as beginner skaters, enlisted skaters to shoot scenes and used their rink skills to help capture footage.

“They would push us from behind at these high speeds and we would just focus on the camera and just pray,” said Winkler. “It really was collaboration. They like to say we taught them how to shoot and they taught us how to skate.”

The cameras capture one suburban Chicago family-owned rink’s gut-wrenching decision to shut its doors — among thousands that have done so in the past decade — and the filmmakers are not shy about hoping their film can stem the tide of closures.

“Obviously if we could save one rink, if we could have one rink reopen because of this film, that’s a huge step forward for this community and we hope that will have a ripple effect,” said Brown.