Eleanora Fagan, aka Billie Holliday
(April 7, 1915 – July 17, 1959)
Original, quirky, unexpected, legit-interesting and wickedly funny with a solid story backbone. The antithesis of hack. Brilliantly cast. And it has a KILLER theme song: Jevetta Steele’s “Calling You.” Without falling into stereotype, Bagdad Cafe takes angry black woman Brenda (the incomparable CCH Pounder) on a life-changing journey thanks to the lonely German tourist Jasmin (Marianne Sägebrecht), who sets out to transform her own life when she falls into Brenda’s dusty little cafe.
Also on this ride are Brenda’s introverted musical prodigy son Salamo (real-life tenor Darron Flagg, who played the music in the film); her free-spirited, biker-loving daughter Phyllis (a budding Monica Calhoun); the family’s spiritually expansive, ex-Hollywood set decorator friend (Jack Palance!); and Brenda’s estranged husband, Sal (G. Smokey Campbell) — who narrates from afar.
And all this kookiness works beautifully because Bagdad Cafe is an honest story about the kind of growth we hope for as human beings.
Is it surprising that this is a foreign film?
Our TBT is dedicated to “Strange Days” (1995), the “sexy kinetic thriller” and feminist gem which was directed by Kathryn Bigelow and co-written by two dudes, James Cameron and Jay Cocks (insert joke here). The film portrays a perilous time when violence and lawlessness were rampant and technology was used to satisfy society’s desperate quest for escapism and most base urges. Sound familiar?
As leading lady Mace, Angela Bassett is a thing of wonder and beauty. She’s gorgeous, strong, smart, sexy and self-possessed.
A raw, pre-Licks Juliette Lewis is Faith, the dysfunctional flipside of Mace: a tragically beautiful hot mess. Both women are doing their best to navigate what many thought would be the ‘end of days’ — New Year’s Eve 1999.
And of course, Ralph Fiennes is….damned fine (even as an oily virtual reality dealer). There are also plenty of hot character performances by thespians who later became well-known faces: Vincent D’Onofrio (where Brooklyn at?); Tom Sizemore, Glenn Plummer (in a brilliant and timely turn as militant rapper Jeriko One), William Fichtner, Josef Summer, Richard Edson and Canadian Michael Wincott.
There’s a lot going on here. Social turmoil, police brutality, technology, the economy, race, America’s general agitation on the eve of the new millennium. This dystopian thriller is smarter and more interesting story than a lot of what we see lately. First off, it’s set in an Los Angeles that actually looks like L.A.: multi-cultural and multi-racial….throughout the film, not just the scenes of poverty or violence. The fact that there is a militant rapper whose gripes with the system are presented as legit seems astounding in retrospect. (The film was released only 17 days after the verdict in O.J. Simpson’s trial.) Last but not least, this film represents the best of feminism — that which shows women as they really are: are equally capable of the best and worst of what it is to be human.
Maya Angelou (4.4.28 – 5.28.14)
“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.”
“You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.”
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
Well played, lovely lady.
Thank you for shining your brave, elegant, brilliant, passionate, sassy, truthful light on us.
Enjoy the next leg of your journey!
Misogyny….it’s so tired, so neanderthal — so repulsive, so useless. Yet and still, unlike the extinct pint-sized sub-species, misogyny and it’s little brother, male chauvinism, continue to live. This post could go anywhere, but we will focus on how this cancer keeps contaminating one of our fave things in the world: film.
It’s hard to believe, but in this day and age, there are still those who are seriously selling the B.S. line that a woman should not/cannot carry a film. Films like the sci-fi flick “Gravity.” Not long ago, director Alfonso Cuarón revealed that he was pressured to change the gender of the lead character of “Gravity,” played by Sandra Bullock, to be male. ( And let’s be clear: Cuarón wrote the “Gravity’s” script about this woman character with his son.)
Enough of this ridiculous knee-jerk assumption that stories of adventure, intrigue, daring or importance are testosterone territory. One of the most memorable characters in contemporary science fiction, Ripley from the “Alien” film franchise (rocked out by Sigourney Weaver), was written as a man, but director Ridley Scott thought the movie would be more interesting if Ripley was a woman. Now imagine how much less memorable “Alien” would’ve been as yet another sci-fi flick with a male protagonist battling aliens in deep space. See how that works?
Clearly, some people (and by ‘people’, I mean pathetic men and the pea-brained women who let these dudes shape their thinking) are very resistant to the reality that women and men are equal. Not the SAME, but equal in value. Everything in science, nature and divinity confirms this. And no amount of misogyny, chauvinism, male worship or plain old wishful thinking is ever going to change that fact….so for the love of God, deal with it and stop trying to derail great storytelling with your intellectually impotent nonsense. Here’s a 21st century news flash: like so many other things once thought to be the exclusive domain of men (voting, driving, running one’s own sex life, being boss, having a bank account, and yes….even acting), the jobs of lead actor and (gasp!) even film director, have both fallen into women’s greedy little hands. And guess what? We’re not going anywhere.
Strictly speaking this is not necessarily futuristic, but it feels like it, no? Maybe the sexy robotic thing that Wendy & Lisa have going on? In any case, enjoy.
And hopefully, it’s A-U-T-O-MATIC that you will support a new direction in science fiction. ROXË15 has 11 Days left on IndieGoGo.
Back the campaign, support indie film!
…it is from yours truly. Catch the pitch clip for my music documentary mini-series, Flipsides of the Black Musical Experience. Digging deep: this mini-series looks at the little-known stories of black artists who made their mark in unexpected genres. Unconventional musical masters marching to the beat of their own drums. (Per our licensing agreement, this link will only be available to the public for a short time —- watch it while you can!)
And BTW, Flipsides of the Black Musical Experience is looking for a production home….interested parties, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Rock on.
Remember these? It’s hard to believe no one thought twice about how big and incredibly awkward cell phones were when we first got them into our hot hands. Thank God technology has evolved, because when they were born, mobile phones had to be the most cumbersome and inconvenient status symbol ever. My mother had a huge, supersonic pager, then a bulky car phone, then a big ole’ generator-sized cell phone. And while my father gave her oversized, unelegant gadgets the side-eye, I was fascinated…no, obsessed…with the whole idea of a phone with no cord. That you could take anywhere. (Didn’t take much back then.)