It’s Black History Month and I couldn’t be more excited for the Schmoedown fans to see the Black movie trivia exhibition match coming soon to Patreon! While I didn’t take part, I was there to watch and help with questions! I love that these films are being showcased and I got to thinking about how black films and black characters should be celebrated more and how they’ve been big part of why I love movies.
As a kid I grew up in an area where I was one or few of my kind. So since my world didn’t reflect what I saw in the mirror everyday, I’d look for it in the things I loved. Toys, shows and of course movies. The Meteor Man (1993) and Blankman (1994) were my superhero movies; Black men becoming heroes to save their neighborhoods. Kid ‘N’ Play’s Class Act (1992) was my life swap film; a nerd and a thug switch places and hijinks ensue. Coming To America (1988) and Friday (1995) were my comedies; a fantastical funny royal to urban fairytale and the daylong antics of two guys just chillin’ in their neighborhood.
I loved seeing thoughtful, well spoken characters like Morgan Freeman’s “Red” In The Shawshank Redemption (1994), guiding the story, observing the happenings with you. Or Ernie Hudson’s Winston Zeddemore In Ghostbusters (1984), sure he wasn’t a scientist but he was US, the audience, being dumbfounded by what’s happening but so there for the ride. Movies like Boyz N the Hood (1991) and Do The Right Thing (1989) showed us another side of life, a harder more real side, their struggles and conflicts. Waiting to Exhale (1995) and How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998) were great female driven character studies about love, loss and starting again. Set It Off (1996) And New Jack City (1991) were crime films with some great performances and gritty subject matter.
I could always find and enjoy films that had characters that were great to watch and represented black people in special ways. Silly 80s and 90s Action from Wesley Snipes in Passenger 57 (1992) and Carl Weathers In Action Jackson (1988). Or the badassery from the likes of Pam Grier in the 70s in blaxploitation films like Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974). Thoughtful classics that tackle race and social differences like To Sir With Love (1967), Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner (1967) and Imitation Of Life (1959).
As a fan of rom coms I love movies like Brown Sugar (2002), Something New (2006), Just Wright (2010), Two Can Play That Game (2001) and The Best Man films (2009/2013). They all had interesting angles on falling in love that I hadn’t otherwise really seen much of in more mainstream Romantic films. Movies like Boomerang (1992) and Strictly Business (1991), showing black men and women as smart, capable and highly successful were impactful growing up.
I wrote an article about how Robert Townsend’s 1987 film Hollywood Shuffle, about black actor stereotypes and the need to break out of that, has become a great pre-watch to Black Panther (2018), a predominantly black film that has a mainstream platform. All of this to say that Black films are essentially just films. The films and characters of color portrayed can be just as fun, interesting and impactful as any mainstream movie that is out there. I’m so glad black films are getting their due in the Schmoedown and I hope black movies and actors can be more ingratiated into the game.
Happy black history month!
– The Machine