This month’s article is long as I was off the two and a half weeks around the holidays. I used the bulk of my time to relaxing and watching TV. Since the list is so long I decided to use the plot summaries from the platforms listing or IMDB.com. I will try not to gush too much but most items in this long list are worth watching.
If this month had a theme, it seems to be music, all types of music.
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey: An imaginary world comes to life in a holiday tale of an eccentric toymaker, his adventurous granddaughter, and a magical invention that has the power to change their lives forever.
Jingle Jangle is a JOY BOMB, I found myself wanting to hear and sing the songs over and over. I loved that the production featured a girl who loves science. With outstanding performances from Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, newcomer Madalen Mills, with support from Ricky Martin and Phyilcia Rashad even after the holidays are long over it’s still worth a watch.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: Chicago, 1927. A recording session. Tensions rise between Ma Rainey, her ambitious horn player and the white management determined to control the uncontrollable “Mother of the Blues”. Based on Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson’s play.
Every superlative you have heard about this movie is earned and I believe they will run out of awards when the season starts this Spring. The award buzz for Chadwick Boseman’s passionate portrayal of Levee would still be there even if this wasn’t his final project. Viola Davis is the kind of actress who puts everything into a role; I think she must have channeled Ma’ Rainey when she was being filmed. Those two performances wouldn’t exist without the support of Colman Domigo and Glynn Thurman who also deserve some accolades. Finally I’ll highlight the makeup and set design: you can feel the humidity in that room just by looking at the skin of the actors. Take the time and fall into this world.
Bridgerton: Wealth, lust, and betrayal set against the backdrop of Regency-era England, seen through the eyes of the powerful Bridgerton family.
Based on the books by Julia Quinn, Bridgerton is the first production from Shonda Rhimes for Netflix. The plotlines of the 8 episode series can be found in 100s films and TV shows already on the air. What makes this production unique is the racially diverse casting. The family at the center of the show, the Bridgertons, and their main rivals The Feathertons are white. Prince Charming, is played by Regé-Jean Page, who is Zimbabwean and English. Other notable castings are the Queen of England and Lady Danbury. The costumes are not historically accurate but beautiful to see. There are a total of 8 books in the series and rumblings of additional seasons but I’d be fine if this is first year was all there was. The major plotline resolved itself and the cliffhangers I don’t care about. The show is well written and perfect escapist television.
Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker: Behind-the-scenes at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy and their award-winning version of The Nutcracker, which blends a variety of dance traditions.
This was interesting to watch as it follows the production from auditions to staging. The students are extremely talented and dedicated to this program that sets them up for opportunities as they get older. If you mssed seeing The Nutcracker live this past holiday season, this show will quench that thrist.
Teddy Pendergrass: If You Don’T Know Me (2018): This documentary explores the rise of Teddy Pendergrass, the first male African American artist to record five consecutive platinum albums against the backdrop of 1960s America, and his comeback after a life-changing accident.
For starters, I love R&B from the 90s on back. In 2002, I had the pleasure of seeing Teddy Pendergrass perform live in Washington, DC, his voice was smooth and powerful; the show was a lot of fun and I’m very happy I spent the money to attend. All of that to say, this documentary is incredible. With recordings from Pendergrass and interviews with his family and surving members of his band, the producers follow Teddy’s rise to stardom. They bring in the music, photos and some TV show appearances to tell his entire story. I was surprised that new footage of the car accident that paralyzed him was available. There is also a discussion of how he was able to return to singing and performing. If you love Teddy Pendergrass’ music, this is a must watch.
The album Amazing Grace is the best selling live Gospel Album of all time. Franklin fought the release of the documentary while she was alive and it came out 3 months after she passed. How good is this concert film? I watched it while getting my hair done, my stylist’s husband walked in between me and the TV holding up his church finger. I may have been ready for communion. We were at Sunday night service, it’s glorious. The footage was brilliant and Franklin’s voice is powerful. Just pull it up on Hulu and enjoy.
Sylvie’s Love: When a young woman meets an aspiring saxophonist in her father’s record shop in 1950s Harlem, their love ignites a sweeping romance that transcends changing times, geography, and professional success.
There are so few simple love stories with black leads especially set in the 1950s and 1960s. This story is realistic, grounded and beautiful. Leads Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha have amazing chemistry that lights up the screen. After years of seeing black love stories as being either a struggle or abusive, Sylvie’s Love is a refreshing and delightful film.
Soul: From Rotten Tomatoes, Joe is a middle-school band teacher whose life hasn’t quite gone the way he expected. His true passion is jazz — and he’s good, but when he travels to another realm to help someone find their passion, he soon discovers what it means to have soul.
What can I say about this production that hasn’t already been said. It’s what we expect from Pixar, well written, beautifully animated, full of emotion with a lesson we all need to learn. As an artist, a person living through trying times, it’s the message we all need.
The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart: An exploration of the history of the Bee Gees, featuring revealing interviews with oldest brother Barry Gibb, and archival interviews with the late twin brothers Robin and Maurice.
The history of the Bee Gees as told by the surviving brother Barry. I admit before this documentary, the Bee Gees only existed in Saturday Night Fever. To see how their careers progressed through the late 60s and beyond was fascinating. The producers dig into their writing process and how many songs they wrote for others. The film opens up with Barry discussing that all is brothers are gone; that hurt my heart. This is a beautiful tribute to his family.
That is all I’m going to review. Links to all the shows are included with the review. If you watch anything I suggested or have any suggestions for me let me know in the comments.