Moonlight (2016): Academy Award Winner for Best Picture 

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A poster for the film featuring the three lead actors playing Chiron.

“Moonlight” is both a disarmingly, at times almost unbearably personal film and an urgent social document, a hard look at American reality and a poem written in light, music and vivid human faces. A.O. Scott (The New York Times)

The fragility and preciousness of the spirit, the odds that are stacked against sensitivity, the distortions that can be inflicted on the soul — these are familiar subjects and sources of passion in literature and film. In “Moonlight”… they find fresh and renewed expression. -Mike LaSalle (The San Francisco Chronicle)

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Director Barry Jenkins said that Harris’ portrayal was inspired by both his mother and that of the screenwriter (Tarrel Alvin McCraney).

At some point, you gotta decide for yourself who you’re going to be. Can’t let nobody make that decision for you. -Juan tells 9 y.o. Chiron (AKA Little)

This gem of a film was shot (on location, mainly in Liberty City section of Miami) over a mere 25 days- WOW! British actress Naomi Harris (Paula) had a quite busy schedule, so her parts were filmed over 15 days. I FINALLY saw this movie last week; it stayed on my mind for the next couple of days. The acting is VERY good, BUT much is also done w/ silence, cinematography, and music. 

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Father figure Juan (Mahershala Ali) teaches Little (Alex Hibbert) to swim in the ocean.

If you watch this actor closely, not only is he in the moment, but his body seems to be in constant motion even when he is sitting still. Like a hummingbird. -Excerpt from IMDB review of Mahershala Ali

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Little (Alex Hibbert) forms a friendship with Kevin.

You feel as if you are watching a real boy cope with life.There are parts where the film asks you what would you do IF you were Chiron? The camera is placed so that it puts you (the viewer) in the place of Chiron. 

Stop putting yo’ head down in my house! You know my rule. It’s all love and all pride in this house! Do you feel me? -Teresa declares to teenaged Chiron

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I was MOST impressed by teenage Chiron (Ashton Sanders- now age 21).

The main conflict is Chiron’s inability to define himself. We realize that he doesn’t fit into any of the categories available to him, so he forces himself into the tough guy persona of Black (last third of the film). 

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Black (Trevante Rhodes) reunites with a grown-up Kevin (Andre Holland) in Miami.
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Black (Trevante Rhodes) gives Kevin (Andre Holland) a ride home.

I was VERY pleasantly surprised to see Andre Holland (who I just fell in love w/ in The Knick)! He has a LOT of charm and ease as Kevin, a man who turned his life around after a rough life as a teen/young man. He is surprised to see how Chiron (AKA Black) has turned out, yet also concerned. Heck, I want Kevin to cook ME dinner… LOL!  I’d never seen Trevante Rhodes before, BUT now I’m hoping that he gets some more meaty roles in which he can showcase his talent. Check out this film for yourself (if you haven’t yet)! 

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Greenleaf (Season 1): Episodes 11-13

NOTE: This post contains SPOILERS for the TV drama series, including the Season 1 finale.  Season 2 begins March 15, 2017 on OWN.

Episode 11: Men Like Trees Walking

Sophia is a very interesting character, she is the only pure & innocent one I hope she doesn’t get lost in all the adult turmoil.

Grace loves Noah because based on what she told him, he is “home” to her. Isabelle to me is controlling and insecure, Noah seems more himself with Gigi… with Isabelle, he seems uncertain… and if this were reality, Isabelle should probably move on (that’s what a real friend would tell her) as Noah is indecisive and you don’t marry indecisive.

-Comments from viewers

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The Bishop (Keith David) has many worries on his mind.

Calvary is losing money and members, b/c of recent scandals (murder of Officer Nelson; shooting of Mac); the deacon board is NOT happy. Gigi learns that Ray is taking her to court for custody of Sophia. Bishop won’t speak to Gigi. Jacob, realizing that his father won’t give him back his role (assistant pastor), meets w/ the minister of Triumph Church, Bassie Skanks, Bishop’s rival. Charity decides to record a CD of songs to sell online to raise money for the church. Kevin (still sleeping on the couch) gets closer to Adrian. Mac, who is in jail, has questions about Hell.

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Jacob (Lamman Rucker) playing basketball at Trinity Church.

This ep pits the women against the men, in various different ways. Alexa is back, w/ a lawyer, b/c she MAY sue Calvary for firing her. Jacob is shocked to see her again; I (briefly) wondered if he still cared for Alexa. Bishop comments: “Pray for her. She’s chosen the hard road.” Hmmm… what exactly could that mean? What did you think of the (sly) way that Jacob approached Skanks at the basketball court? Skanks reveals to Jacob that Alexa attends Triumph. Jacob says that won’t be a problem if he comes to work there. 

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Lady Mae (Lynn Whitfield) talks to Kevin (Tye White) re: his troubled marriage.

Did you think that Charity was being TOO hard on Kevin? After all, we know that Kevin has NOT cheated yet; he’s just looking at pics of men. However, he did enjoy chatting (and also flirting a BIT) w/ Adrian in the past. Kevin and Adrian go out to dinner at a nice restaurant (w/ candles). Hmmm… I was NOT expecting that to happen! Commentators said that Kevin was testing himself. Adrian walks out when Kevin declares: “I’m not gay.”

Episode 12: Veni, Vidi, Veci

Deacon Sykes (Connie) discusses women’s day with Lady Mae and wants Gigi to preach; Mavis has problems with her club- it’s going to have to close. Gigi, Ray, and Sophia attend the custody hearing. Charity and Kevin talk about his feelings.

Kevin finally tells his wife that he has feelings for men. Charity (understandably) gets VERY upset, slaps and hits him, and then doubles over in pain- YIKES! She is taken away to the hospital in an ambulance; Kevin goes w/ her. The rest of the family looks on w/ worry.

Episode 13: What Are You Doing Here? 

Bishop visits Mac, and Mac asks him to be a character witness at his hearing. Bishop refuses, even though Mac threatens him re: some secret they share. Skanks drives Jacob to a plot of land across from Calvary where he intends to build a $40 million community center for Triumph. Henry (Mac and Lady Mae’s father) comes again to Calvary, but is stopped by Noah.Grace learns that Henry is terminally ill; she asks Kevin to help find Henry a hospice, and Kevin agrees.

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Gigi (Merle Dandridge) learns of her father’s illness.

At the annual ladies’ lunch, Lady Mae gives a sermon (“The Virtuous Woman”) and the the audience misinterpret it as her endorsement of Gigi. The ladies give a standing ovation to Gigi. Lady May looks on in dismay; she had been wanting to preach herself

Gigi tells her dad that she wants to go back to Phoenix with Sophia, but Bishop reveals that he has Parkinson’s and needs her to stay and preach. (Charity guessed something was wrong in Ep. 12.) Bishop knows that Gigi is a leader, like him; Jacob can’t fill that role. 

Bishop tells Jacob the Lord’s will is for him to be his eyes and ears at Basie’s new community center. Jacob is surprised; he hadn’t thought of his work in THAT way before. We know that Bishop can be sly! What do you think of Pastor Skanks? He seems like he could be up to something shady. 

Kevin is looking at a pic of a handsome, preppy black man on his phone. It’s NOT a guy from a hookup app; it’s a man who run a program (gay conversion therapy). He asks Charity to read about it. She does so, then decides that she needs space, so  Kevin should move out for the time being. Look at the disappointment on Kevin’s face! 

Grace takes Henry to a hospice. He reveals that Mac has been giving him hush money (as he knows re: a church that was intentionally burned down many years ago). Whoa- we need to wait to get details!

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Mavis (Oprah Winfrey) and Lady Mae (Lynn Whitfield) have a face-off.

I was impressed by the BIG fight between Lady Mae and her sister, Mavis, at Mavis’ bar. Oprah STILL has her acting chops (in case anyone doubted it), though she rarely takes roles! So far, she has appeared in 3 eps of Greenleaf.

Ray arrives (in a red convertible, as he promised) to take Sophia away for the summer. Two police cars arrive after they drive off. We see that Mac is out on probation. Cops and officials walk up the stairs; we know that they will arrest Bishop. 

Greenleaf (Season 1): Episodes 7-10

NOTE: This post contains SPOILERS for the TV drama series executive produced by Oprah. Greenleaf premiered on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) on June 21, 2016. Season 2 begins March 15, 2017.

You can almost feel the history behind all their flaws and all that they’re going through. -Merle Dandridge, actress

It is about time a TV series dealt with the world of organized, profit-motivated religious organizations. I like the idea for this show, as well as the story and the characters and the angle they take in relating the narrative. It is an imagined glimpse into a secret world of powerful people who profess piety and modesty, but can’t live it and we get to see them at their best and worst. I want to see it get multiple seasons. But the scripts have to get better. They need to be outlined better and the dialogue needs to be more subtle in relaying information as well as doing so in a natural manner in which real people speak. So far, they have tried to cram too much information in each sentence. -Excerpt from IMDB review

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Oprah (center) with actors Merle Dandridge, Keith David, and Lynn Whitfield

Episode 7: One Train May Hide Another

Jacob (Lamman Rucker) and Kerissa (Kim Hawthorne) are working as a team now (which is VERY good to see). Kerissa is ALSO a strong woman, but she has to live in the same household as Lady Mae (who obviously favors Jacob out of all her kids). Alexa (the flirty, leggy blonde) who Jacob had an affair w/ earlier in the season was fired from her role Bishop’s secretary. Corinne, the new (plus-size/nonchalant) secretary, is someone that “my son would keep his hands off,” Bishop (Keith David) jokes w/ Mac (Gregalan Williams).

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Mac gives money to his father (played by veteran actor Bill Cobbs)

 …during the Lady Mae, Mac and dad scene, the dad in his drunken rant called Lady Mae a high yellow whore, and how she wasn’t even his! Which makes the possible abuse of Lady Mae from the dad even more plausible. The relationship between both Lady Mae and Mac is very interesting. You could see how torn Mac was, yes he is disgusting, but you truly saw the layers between him and Lady Mae slowly start to peel back.Viewer comment

We learn more about Mac in this ep; he’s NOT a cartoonish villain. But wasn’t that fantasy involving the troubled teen girl (forgot her name) disturbing? And I’m sure SOME viewers noticed (as Shaka Smith noted on Black Hollywood Live) the resemblance between the beautiful girl in the classic portraits book and Sophia (Desiree Ross)- creepy! 

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Noah is surprised to find G.G. at his door late at night.

Isabelle (Anna Diop) decides to pack up her drawer of stuff from Noah’s house and go stay w/ her parents until the wedding. He is surprised by this sudden decision of hers, and it turns out to have been a BIG mistake (or error in judgement, if you prefer). Gigi (Merle Dandridge) comes over to Noah’s to talk re: what to do re: Mac, but then they kiss, and things escalate quickly! They spend the night together, after telling each other “I love you.”

Episode 8: The Whole Book

Gigi does “the walk of shame” from Noah’s (which is on the estate) to the mansion. Lady Mae (Lynn Whitfield), who had trouble sleeping, knows EXACTLY what her daughter has been up to- awkward! 

Isabelle throws shade when she asks Gigi about who her plus one will be for the wedding. When Gigi quickly replies that it’ll be her daughter, Sophia, Isabelle replies: “Well, I pray that you meet someone on the dance floor.” Though Isabelle is younger, smart (a teacher), and beautiful, she is clearly threatened by the fact that Gigi and Noah (Benjamin Patterson) were childhood sweethearts. 

I liked how it wasn’t neccessarily a black-white thing, but… it’s about how the police department treated black people. Shaka Smith

Officer David Nelson, who Gigi  had been counseling, leaves his hotel room to come for to Calvary for SUN services. Gigi greets him in the driveway, glad that he’s not leaving the community (after his recent acquittal). Suddenly, David is shot by the brother of the teenage boy he killed earlier in the season.

Episode 9: The Broken Road

It looks like the (openly gay) choir director, Carter, will be hired at Calvary. However, he’ll be hired as a 1099 (independent contractor), Uncle Mac tells Charity (Deborah Joy Winans), b/c he has sued two employers in the past. Earlier, Charity had explained to Bishop that Carter’s partner was laid off and needed health benefits. We see that Charity and Carter are becoming VERY close pals; her husband, Kevin (Tye White), is being shut-out. 

Jacob and Kerissa have a (VERY awkward) talk w/ their teen daughter, Zohra, re: Uncle Mac. She munches on pizza and wonders why her parents are acting so serious. Zohra is SO cute and funny in this scene! (I’m impressed by the youngsters who play Zohra and Sofia; they seem like real cousins trying to figure stuff out- religion, family, etc.) Later on, when Zohra confides in Sofia, Sofia admits “I always thought he [Uncle Mac] was nice.” Zohra wisely concludes: “I think that’s how it starts.”

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G.G. holds Noah’s hand and talks re: taking down Mac for his abuse of young women.

Isabelle, after briefly meeting w/ Gigi, can sense what’s up. She marches over to Noah’s office and demands the truth; however, Noah just silently stands there, looking guilty. Isabelle takes off her engagement ring, throws is across the room, and declares the wedding off. When he tries to explain himself, Isabelle shouts “Don’t say my name!” It’s her way off taking back her power (as you may recall from Roots). She storms out, saying that the dysfunctional family (the Greenleafs) are only his problem now! (Remember how they were paying for the wedding; Mac had even decided to gift then the $800 cake.) 

Episode 10: March to the Sea

Kevin is still looking at men on that app (similar to Grindr); Charity is pissed off, and asks to see his phone. When Kevin refuses, she decides that he should sleep on the couch. Charity is several months pregnant (w/ twin boys); she does NOT need stress in her life! I think Kevin loves his wife, BUT is not in love w/ her. 

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Lady Mae, Mac, and Gigi in the aftermath of the shooting.

As we’d assumed at end of the last ep, Bishop shot Mac in Mac’s office; it was merely a flesh wound (bullet went all the way through). Gigi runs in and takes the gun, then wants to call 911. BOTH her dad and Uncle Mac (who was trying to blackmail Bishop) insist that the police NOT be called. Lady Mae comes in and sees to her bother’s shoulder; she ends up getting some blood on her hands(reminding me of Lady Macbeth). Gigi finally decides to call the police! In the next scene, Mac is in the stretcher; Bishop is in handcuffs w/ cops leading him out of the church.

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Ray and Sophia have a talk re: her new life in Memphis.

Sophia called her dad, Ray (a chef/restaurant owner); he flew into Memphis from Phoenix. I really liked the scene where Sophia tells a (skeptical) Ray that she LIKES going to church; it’s better than spending SUN at the mall, shopping w/ her friends (as she did back in Phoenix). There is a spiritual side to Sophia, who is also quite intelligent; usually, we don’t see teen girls portrayed in this manner in the media. 

We don’t know what all happened between Gigi  and Ray (who is white, as I’d already assumed from Sophia’s looks), BUT they don’t have a warm/friendly relationship. They were never married, but shared custody of Sophia. Gigi broke the law taking their daughter across state lines w/o asking Ray.