Tyler Perry is the most prolific, successful and unapologetic filmmaker blending faith and film.  His comedic first feature, Diary of a Mad Black Women introduced Madea, the broadest, most imposing and insightful black “Mama” since Hattie McDaniel in Gone with the Wind.   Perry put on a house dress and high heels to offer Madea’s comedic observations and moral corrections.    It was a tribute to his aunt and the mother who raised him.

Born outside the studio system in Perry’s Atlanta home, Diary of a Mad Black Woman became an unexpected hit, earning $50 million on a modest $5 million budget.   Only indie studio Lionsgate understood how many black moviegoers had already discovered Madea through Perry’s popular stage plays.   Years of touring on the ‘chitlin circuit’ with his melodramas had created brand loyalty.  Lionsgate and Perry have teamed up for a string of hits aimed at his devoted audience, from Madea’s Family Reunion to Why Did I Get Married? and Meet the Browns

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Tags | Film

Poetry Friday returns: Vassar Miller

Today's poet is Vassar Miller, whose inspiring and challenging story can be read on The Curator today. I encourage you to read the article, which will help illuminate the poem for you.

Without Ceremony

Except ourselves, we have no other prayer;
Our needs are sores upon our nakedness.
We do not have to name them; we are here.
And You who can make eyes can see no less.
We fall, not on our knees, but on our hearts,
A posture humbler far and more downcast;
While Father Pain instructs us in the arts
Of praying, hunger is the worthiest fast.
We find ourselves where tongues cannot wage war
On silence (farther, mystics never flew)
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Painting Over Murals That Divide

The murals created in sectarian neighborhoods during the troubles, a generational conflict between the Catholic and Protestant communities of Northern Ireland, are a dark reminder of the conflict’s legacy. Most often found in public housing estates, the murals were markers of community identity and a visual enforcement of division between communities.

With ongoing political efforts to address the heritage of division and communities overcoming the barriers that separated Catholic from Protestant, the violent murals of Belfest have come under increasing scrutiny. In a community awakening to life with less fear of violence, are the sectarian murals an important historical reminder of the past or do they continue to reinforce the divides many people are working to overcome?

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Tags | Art

Life Lessons from the Sofa

I love a good documentary. I feel like I can learn more from a well-made documentary than I ever can from watching hours of American news media. I especially love movies that expose injustice, cultural issues, or a side of humanity that is misunderstood or under-represented.

Last night, we watched Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains. I thought this would be a movie that documented the life of Jimmy Carter (which it did, and he is my new hero). But what I really learned about from the film was the ongoing struggle between Israel and Palestine. I've been aware of this conflict, but never really fully understood all the implications. This movie was so informative and I feel like I have a new compassion for both sides caught up in this struggle. Check it out - your thinking will be changed.
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Tags | Film

Three movies to look for

I recently saw the Coen brothers' new comedy, Burn After Reading. I believe it's releasing this weekend, so technically I guess I can't say too much. But let's just say that it is my kind of movie - a little dark, a little weird, and very funny. They somehow managed to make both George Clooney and Brad Pitt deeply unattractive (not a small feat, my friends), and Brad Pitt in particular is kind of astounding as a bouncy, vaguely juvenile personal trainer who shares a penchant for adventure with Frances McDormand. Also notable is the appearance of Richard Jenkins, who I am happy to see popping up all over the big screen lately.

I finally watched The Band's Visit the other night, which is now available on DVD. It's a sweet, funny comedy about an Egyptian classical folk band that gets accidentally stranded in the wrong Israeli town en route to a cultural exchange. Instead of the ethnic tension I was expecting, the film is mainly about people learning from each other and bettering one another's lives, all in the space of an evening. This is very likely going to be one of my top ten films of the year, and it's well worth seeing. (Incidentally, it's also good for people who are just getting into subtitled films; about half of it is in English, since that's the language held in common between the two groups.)
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Tags | Film

Creating Culture

The September issue of Christianity Today features several creators of culture, including my friends Makoto Fujimura and the folks at Wedgwood. If you haven't seen the article yet, be sure to pick one up - in NYC you can find it at the Union Square Barnes and Noble.

And for anyone seriously interested in the "creating culture" dialogue, plan now to come to NYC for International Arts Movement's Encounter 09 "Art in Action," February 26-28, 2009.

With presenters including former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins, LIGHTPAINTER Eva Flatscher, artist Makoto Fujimura, philosopher

Costly Gestures

The Whitney Biennial in New York City is a significant exhibition of important contemporary art in this country. Like its counterparts in other communities, the Whitney exhibition showcases the talents of curators (those who select and present the art) and artists who are starting new threads in the visual arts conversation.

This year the artist Ellen Harvey was included in the Whitney Biennial. One recurring theme of Harvey’s work is the exploration of the interplay between art and different environments. In one work of art she installs mirrors on a set of windows that are etched to portray the scene outside invaded by rampant nature as if the city had been abandoned. In another set of pieces, she used chalk to incorporate the appearance of beautiful carpets on the surface of the grey sidewalks in an urban environment. Her work outside of the gallery walls helps us see what was there before and question our acceptance of things that lack the visual vitality of color, pattern, and decorative life giving. We are forced to ask why we accept the harsh mediocrity of so many city landscapes.

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Tags | Art

CDs and Books and Massive Anxiety Attacks, Oh My

There is a lot of talk these days about the perilious future of both recorded music and book publishing. As a recording artist and author, I furrow my brow in the general direction of both topics. I was intriguiged by this recent article by music journalist Chet Flippo. He refers to a "massive anxiety attack" that has plagued the music industry for some time and discusses specifically his concerns that commercial uncertainty is breeding an artistic insecurity that is robbing recording artists of their "mojo". (I think one can draw some parallels to what is happening to many authors in the world of book publishing as well.)

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Tags | Music

August Reviews

Truckin' through August, rounding up summer's dying embers:

Brideshead Revisited is a luxuriously heavy exercise in passionate glances and tacit emotion from the other side of the pond (think of last year’s Atonement and you’ll be in the right neighborhood) directed by Julian Jarrold. By muting the Catholicism of Waugh’s novel, the film doesn’t have a compelling reason to exist—the class struggles are no longer relevant, and the “enlightened” depiction of a gay character, while tactfully handled, is a touch self-congratulatory. Emma Thompson easily dominates her scenes as Lady Marchmain, and Patrick Malahide is grossly convincing as the protagonist’s unfeeling father (first glimpsed playing chess with himself).

Pineapple Express is a likeably scrappy (or scrappily likeable) stoner comedy, at least for a spell. After a promising start, the freewheeling plot turns transparently formulaic, culminating in an overlong gun battle in a lone warehouse. The inspired pairing of Seth Rogan and James Franco (with Danny McBride shuffled in as a wildcard) reaps modest rewards, but it’s Craig Robinson’s performance as a sissyish hired goon that pries open the barrel of laughs. Produced by Judd Apatow (who else?) and directed by David Gordon Green, who once possessed something approaching a personal style.

Tags | Film

The Curator

Today marks the launch of a brand-new web publication called The Curator. You can find it at www.curatormagazine.com.

Here's the mission statement:

The Curator is a web publication of International Arts Movement (IAM), which announces the signs of a “world that ought to be” as we find it in our midst, and seeks to inspire people to engage deeply with culture that enriches life and broadens experience.

In keeping with IAM’s belief that artistic excellence, as a model of “what ought to be”, paves the way for lasting, enduring humanity, The Curator seeks to encourage, promote, and uncover those artifacts of culture – those things which humans create - that inspire and embody truth, goodness, and beauty.

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