Director Reginald Hudlin’s portrait of the late Hollywood legend Sidney Poitier was a highlight among the non-fiction titles included in the Galas and Special Presentations lineups for the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, which were revealed on Thursday (July 28).
First announced in January as part of Apple Original Films’ 2022 slate, Hudlin’s Sidney (pictured) profiles the Bahamian actor whose early stage success in New York brought him to the attention of Hollywood, landing him a leading role right out of the gate in the 1950 thriller No Way Out opposite Richard Widmark. Following a string of high-profile roles in such notable films as Blackboard Jungle, The Defiant Ones, Porgy and Bess and A Raisin in the Sun, Poitier marked a milestone as the first African American to win the Academy Award for Best Actor, for his performance in 1963′s Lilies of the Field.
Produced by Oprah Winfrey, the documentary will examine Poitier’s groundbreaking work on screen as well as his offscreen efforts as one of the leading celebrity voices in the Civil Rights movement, which burnished his image as an icon of liberal Hollywood.
Sharing a spot with Sidney in the TIFF Galas selection is Black Ice from director Hubert Davis, who previously helmed Giants of Africa, about Toronto Raptors GM Masai Ujiri’s Basketball Without Borders program. Davis’ new doc considers the history of racism in professional hockey from the segregated leagues of the 19th century to the present-day NHL, where Black players continue to face barriers and bigotry.
Making its North American premiere in the Special Presentations section is Brett Morgen’s eagerly anticipated meditation on the man and the myth that is David Bowie, Moonage Daydream, which bowed at this year’s Cannes before having its “people’s premiere” at the Sheffield DocFest. Another music doc, Kathlyn Horan’s The Return of Tanya Tucker: Featuring Brandi Carlile, about the making of country music legend Tucker’s comeback album, will also screen in Special Presentations, after taking home an audience award at the SXSW Film Festival in March.
Rounding out the doc titles in Special Presentations is Good Night Oppy, Ryan White’s chronicle of the Mars exploration rover Opportunity‘s 15-year journey to the Red Planet, and of the scientists and engineers who made the voyage possible.
The 2022 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 8 to 18. Further lineup announcements, including that for the TIFF Docs section, will be rolling out over the next few weeks.
The second thing I was reminded of when I first re-watched “Boomerang” this year was how good everyone looked. Each man was uncommonly handsome. Not handsome in a physically striking way — although some were that too. (Has a man in a movie ever looked better than Eddie Murphy does here?) But handsome the way a woman from an earlier time might describe a man who looks like he smells good. And the women, my God. Robin Givens, Lela Rochon, Grace Jones, Eartha Kitt, Tisha Campbell, Bebe Drake — all cooking with gas. Even the anonymous, scene-filling, office workers were levitating from cubicle to cuticle.
The cast was such an embarrassment of aesthetic riches that Halle Berry (Halle Berry! Halley motherf—in’ Berry!) was cast as the plain Jane who wins Murphy’s scoundrel heart with good manners and breathable fabrics, and it somehow works. The funniest scene in the entire movie — well, funniest during the re-watch — is when she breaks up with Murphy after discovering he cheated and tells him off with (paraphrasing) “Maybe I’m not pretty. Maybe I look like an old boot. Maybe I smell like chicken soup. But I have heart! I go to the gym! I hustle for loose balls!”
The first thing I was reminded of is just how great a movie it is. The late ’80s and early ’90s were a boon for canonical romantic comedies. “When Harry Met Sally” (1989). “Say Anything” (1989). “Pretty Woman” (1990). “Sleepless in Seattle” (1993). “Four Weddings and a Funeral” (1994). “Boomerang,” which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, doesn’t just exist in that category, it stands alone above it. It’s the funniest of them, which should be expected from a movie with Murphy, Martin Lawrence, David Alan Grier and Chris Rock. It’s also the sexiest. And not just in some abstract, implied, Victorian way, but the chemistry is palpable, and the romance is physical. I’m a grown man with a wife, two kids and a solid oak cutting board, and the pre-sex flirting between Murphy and Robin Givens still makes me blush.
Of course, it was a comedy released in 1992, so some of it has aged like hot milk. (The lazily queer-phobic jokes, especially. Which, even 30 years ago, felt injected from a worse movie.) Still, it introduced a world and a set of characters so magnetic and tactile that it felt — still feels — aspirational without being utopic. Like all those Ebony and Essence magazines on the dresser in my nana’s basement grew sentient and became infatuated with marketing strategies for women’s perfume.
It also contained one of the five funniest scenes of the past 50 years (the Thanksgiving dinner scene — which, among other things, introduced “you’ve got to coordinate” to the zeitgeist); had at least three of the best man-on-man on-screen hugs I’ve ever seen; introduced us to Grace Jones’s indelible Strangé; reminded us that, in a just world, Robin Givens would have been as famous for her femme fatales as Sharon Stone and Michelle Pfeiffer were. And it had the single greatest instance of “Line in the Movie Becomes the Title of a Hit Song.” A category I just invented to recognize the genius of transmuting Berry’s “Love should have brought your a– home last night!” to Toni Braxton’s “Love Shoulda Brought You Home.”
During the second re-watch this year — which occurred during a sleepy Saturday last month — I was transfixed by Murphy. His Marcus Graham was such an influential movie character that he ruined the romantic lives of an entire generation of now 40- to 50-year-old Black men. Who (like me) watched that movie during their formative years and (like me) believed that all you had to do to persuade a woman to forgive your transgressions is show up at her job with some random cute Black kids and tell her you have the sads.
Seriously, the entire make up scene goes like this (paraphrasing).
Him: It’s been months. You haven’t answered my letters.
Her: You hurt me. I hate you.
Him: That sucks.
Her: It does.
Him: I’m sad.
Him: Do you still love me?
Her: I’m scared.
And then the movie just … ends with them walking down the street together, presumably to go to the Container Store.
(Other questionable lessons: If you sleep with your homie’s crush, he’ll forgive you if you hug him on a Harlem rooftop. Your friends will be happily sexless as long as they can live vicariously through you. You can sleep with literally every woman you work with and still be unfired, unsued and good at your job.)
It introduced a world and a set of characters so magnetic and tactile that it felt — still feels — aspirational without being utopic.
None of this is possible without Murphy’s performance, which needs context to truly appreciate. In 1992, he was widely considered the funniest person on earth. In “Boomerang,” though, he suppresses that comedic charisma — he’s maybe the seventh funniest person in the movie; he’s mostly just reacting to other characters — and becomes a suave and smoldering romantic lead. We’ve had male comedians make dramatic turns into, well, drama (Robin Williams, Tom Hanks), action (Michael Keaton) and Republican politics (Ben Carson). But who else could’ve toggled from the frenetic comedic impressions in “Coming to America” to convincingly sexy enough to be the most eligible bachelor in New York City?
The answer is that no one else could’ve done that, but that didn’t stop impressionable young men (like me) from aspiring to be Marcus Graham like he was Michael Jordan. And at least MJ was realistic. ’Cause it’s easier to dunk from the foul line than to be in a love triangle with Givens and Berry.
HBO Max Acquires Streaming Rights for MILESTONE GENERATIONS, A Documentary Film About DC and The First Black-Owned Comic Book Company, Milestone Media
The Film, Directed by Justice A. Whitaker, Produced by Courageous Studios and Presented by Ally, Is Available to Stream July 29 on HBO Max
BURBANK, Calif. (July 22, 2022) – Today at San Diego Comic-Con as a part of DC’sJim Lee and Friends panel, Milestone co-founder Denys Cowan and DC Chief Creative Officer and Publisher Jim Lee announced the forthcoming documentary MILESTONE GENERATIONS, a film directed by Justice A. Whitaker. The film will be available to stream on HBO Max beginning July 29. An extended trailer for the film was debuted exclusively to Comic-Con audiences:
Narrated by award winning actor and musician Cliff ‘Method Man’ Smith, MILESTONE GENERATIONS chronicles the relaunch of Milestone Comics and Milestone Media’s mission to address not only the lack of superheroes of color in comics, but also the lack of storytellers of color creating the content.
Milestone Media – co-founded in 1993 by artist Denys Cowan, writers Dwayne McDuffie and Michael T. Davis and Black Enterprise EVP/Chief Content Officer Derek T. Dingle – collaborated with DC to create the fictional city of Dakota, and some of the most unique and innovative characters in comics, such as Static, Icon, Hardware, Blood Syndicate and more. Last year Cowan, alongside Milestone Media partner and award-winning producer Reginald Hudlin, relaunched Milestone Comics with DC to continue the Milestone mission in the future.
The film examines the founders’ trajectory throughout the last 30 years, detailing their unwavering commitment, passion and perseverance to rise to the top of the comic book industry as black creators. With tenacity and dynamic artistic expression, the creators of Milestone Media continue to influence culture and ignite revolutionary change through characters that reflect the lived, black experience.
MILESTONE GENERATIONS connects to the present industry need to identify, support and elevate emerging diverse writers and artists within the comic book world, highlighting The Milestone Initiative, a program from DC, Milestone Media, Warner Bros. Discovery and Ally that aims to empower the next generation of Black and diverse comic book creators.
Cartoonist and writer Ivan Velez Jr. (“Tales of the Closet,” Blood Syndicate,” “Ballad of Wham Kabam”); DC Publisher and Chief Creative Officer Jim Lee; writer and widow of Dwayne McDuffie, Charlotte (Fullerton) McDuffie; DC Senior Art Director Curtis King Jr.; voice actor Phil LaMarr (“Static Shock!,” “Justice League,” “Justice League Unlimited,” “Samurai Jack”); former DC President and Publisher Paul Levitz; journalist and author Angélique Roché (“My Super Hero is Black”); Milestone Media artist and color editor Jason Scott Jones; and filmmaker and author Dr. Sheena Howard (“Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation”) are among those interviewed for the project.
The film was produced by Courageous Studios – working with DC and Ally, the presenting sponsor – and was directed by Justice A. Whitaker (“Restrictions Apply”/Vice News, Untitled Full Circle Documentary/WestBrook Studios).
The history of music in Black film is so rich, it demands a fourth tribute at the Hollywood Bowl. Following the first three wildly popular installations in 2014, 2016, and 2019, Reginald Hudlin’s Black Movie Soundtrack returns for another evening of music, movies, and more! Grammy-winning musical director Marcus Miller returns to run the show, and comedian Craig Robinson will reprise his role as host.
Featured performances will include tributes to SIDNEY POITIER and celebrating the 30th anniversary of BOOMERANG!
KID AND PLAY!
And more to come!
Programs, artists, dates, prices, and availability subject to change.
EXCLUSIVE: Eddie Murphy is set to star in Candy Cane Lane, a Reginald Hudlin-directed holiday comedy for Prime Video. Produced by Amazon Studios, Imagine Entertainment, and Eddie Murphy Productions, the comedy was acquired as a spec script written by Kelly Younger and inspired by Younger’s childhood holiday experiences. Production begins this winter in Los Angeles.
Murphy is producing alongside Imagine’s Brian Grazer and president of features Karen Lunder, and Charisse Hewitt-Webster. The film reunites the team behind the 1992 hit Boomerang. It marks the seventh collaboration between Grazer and Murphy. Plot details are being kept under wraps, and production will begin this winter in Los Angeles.
Candy Cane Lane will premiere on Prime Video in more than 240 countries, as the first film under Murphy’s three-picture and first-look film deal with Amazon Studios. That deal came on the heels of Coming 2 America, a film that moved from Paramount to Amazon during the pandemic and became the #1 streamed movie its opening weekend, per Amazon, and had the biggest streaming film opening weekend in 2021. Per Nielsen, it was the top streamed movie among Black audiences that year.
Said Hudlin: “The holiday season is my favorite time of year—just ask my family about my nine-hour Christmas playlist. I‘m excited to be working again with Eddie Murphy, Brian Grazer, and Amazon.”
Said Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke: “As we know firsthand with our hit Coming 2 America, Eddie is someone who brings global audiences together, and we can’t wait to make it happen again. We look forward to seeing the multi-talented Reggie Hudlin take the helm in bringing this future holiday classic to life!”
Murphy is coming off an Emmy win for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy series for his return in hosting Saturday Night Live, 35 years after he left the show to become one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood, with 48 Hours, Beverly Hills Cop and Trading Places among his successes. Those were all theatrical releases but lately he has been thriving in the streaming world, drawing strong reviews for playing Rudy Ray Moore in Dolemite Is My Name for Netflix. He’s producing and starring in Beverly Hills Cop 4 and opposite Jonah Hill in the Kenya Barris-directed You People, both for Netflix.
Younger’s credits include writing/developing several projects for The Muppets Studio. He co-created and co-executive produced Muppets Now, and wrote and co-executive produced Muppets Haunted Mansion, and has story credit on Disney Animation’s Ralph Breaks the Internet. He also contributed to Frozen 2, Moana, and Raya and the Last Dragon during his time serving as a member of the Disney Animation Story Trust.
Murphy is repped by WME, ML Management and Ziffren Brittenham; Hudlin is repped by CAA and Younger is Verve and Myman Greenspan.
It was the summer before my first year of college, and I was enthralled by a movie (and its music) that had just arrived in theaters: “Boomerang,” starring Eddie Murphy. But I was drawn to the movie’s antagonist, Jacqueline Broyer, the glamorous, ambitious advertising executive. Played by Robin Givens, she was one of the few African American female characters to be the main love interest in a romantic comedy at the time.
My attention, however, was supposed to be on Murphy. That’s because in 1992, “Boomerang” was intended to be the film that turned him into a romantic leading man. Having risen to stardom in the 1980s with a series of hit comedies — “Trading Places,” “48 Hrs.,” and “Beverly Hills Cop” — he entered the 1990s aiming for more culturally nuanced films. The idea was that he would play more complex characters, like the debonair advertising executive Marcus Graham in “Boomerang” (1992), his first and only rom-com.
“We’re calling this our Cary Grant picture,” Brandon Tartikoff, then chairman of Paramount Pictures, told The Los Angeles Times, explaining that while audiences would get the “funny, smart, hip” Murphy they loved, the film would “mark a greater sensitivity” in his roles.
Directed by Reginald Hudlin of “House Party” fame, “Boomerang” was, in many ways, a success. It was among the highest-grossing movies of the year, eventually earning $70 million domestically and $131 million worldwide. Its soulful soundtrack, which I played on repeat during the summer of 1992, was also a hit. Produced by Kenneth Edmonds, known as Babyface, Daryl Simmons and Antonio Reid, known as L.A., it included Boyz II Men, A Tribe Called Quest and newcomer Toni Braxton, and reached No. 4 on the Billboard 200.
But most critics panned the film. In The New York Times, Janet Maslin described it as an “uneven, ostentatiously upscale comedy,” while The Los Angeles Times’s Kenneth Turan considered it “a multimillion-dollar vanity project.”
They were talking about one of the few films at the time to feature a majority Black cast and — in an era when social realist movies like “New Jack City,” “Boyz N the Hood” and “Juice” dominated — to show African Americans existing in a world unburdened by guns, drugs or tragic death.
Instead, “Boomerang” was a mix of fantasy and nostalgia. In a nod to an older generation of Black Hollywood glamour, the film cast the legendary Eartha Kitt, who as the sultry and purring Lady Eloise played off her iconic role as the first Black Catwoman. At the same time, Grace Jones, in the role of the prima donna Helen Strangé, appeared as an over-the-top version of the public persona that made her such an exotic muse for Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and her frequent collaborator and partner from 1977 to 1984, Jean-Paul Goude.
Aside from the stellar ensemble of David Alan Grier, Martin Lawrence and Chris Rock, the movie is best remembered today for Halle Berry. She played Marcus’s colleague turned girlfriend, Angela Lewis, the down-to-earth artist whom he cheats on with Jacqueline but who wins his heart in the end. Between the romantic comedy “Strictly Business” the year before and “Boomerang,” Berry was soon able to expand the types of roles for which she’d be considered after her seminal performance as a drug addict in Spike Lee’s “Jungle Fever” (1991).
As for “Boomerang,” seen 30 years later the women’s big hair and shoulder-pad suits make it seem dated, while Marcus’s sexism and the film’s slapstick homophobia are jarring. But I was also reminded why my 17-year-old self was so drawn to the film in the first place. “When Harry Met Sally” might have modernized the rom-com gender dynamics for my generation, but Jacqueline was an outlier. Her work ethic, confidence, intellect and medium-brown complexion were rare in a Hollywood that hardly ever cast African American women as romantic leads.
And that was all Robin Givens. I first became enamored with her when she played Darlene Merriman, the well-dressed, sharp-tongued, hypercompetitive student in the mainly white honors class on the ABC sitcom “Head of the Class.” As an awkward Black girl at a predominantly white high school myself, I overly identified with characters in similar situations like Darlene or Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies) from the sitcom “Saved by the Bell.” But unlike Lisa, who never seemed to have a love interest, Darlene always seemed in command, making me want even more to emulate her fashion sense and the ease with which she flashed her wit and smile.
Despite Givens’s popularity on that show, when “Boomerang” premiered in 1992, it was her comeback vehicle. The star, a prodigy who had matriculated to Sarah Lawrence College at 15 and planned to go to medical school before pursuing acting full time, had married the heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson in 1988, only six months after meeting him, at the height of her career. When she ended their yearlong marriage, she was publicly caricatured as a golddigger seeking fame and wealth.
I remember the moment that stereotype really took hold. I was 13, and watching the “20/20”interview that Givens and Tyson did with Barbara Walters in September 1988. Sitting next to a conspicuously subdued Tyson, Givens disclosed that he was a “manic depressive” who had repeatedly physically abused her. Her admission that her time with him had been “torture, pure hell, worse than anything I could possibly imagine” garnered little public sympathy in that pre-#MeToo era.
After their divorce a few months later, Givens’s career was never the same. “Robin was a very controversial piece of casting,” Hudlin said in the audio commentary that commemorated the film’s 10th anniversary. “A lot of people were nervous that there was a lot of dislike in public because of her past with Mike Tyson. But, I thought that actually made her perfect for the role, that she was this formidable person and a match for Eddie Murphy, who also had an intrepid reputation as a ladies’ man.” He added, “I wanted the audience to feel like this would be a fair fight.”
Givens and Murphy had dated briefly before when she was a sophomore in college, and he was a cast member on “Saturday Night Live.” One of their most memorable tête-à-têtes onscreen occurs when Jacqueline, wearing a gray trench coat, has missed Marcus’s carefully curated romantic date. She swoops into his apartment to apologize for not calling or canceling. When he asks her to leave, she starts to do so, only to pause and share her big reveal: She is wearing lingerie underneath her coat. Once Marcus succumbs to her seduction, his comeuppance is now all but guaranteed as he falls even more deeply for a woman who does not want a monogamous relationship.
As Givens detailed in her 2007 memoir, “Grace Will Lead Me Home,” she retreated from the spotlight after “Boomerang.” She spent the next decade healing from her marriage to Tyson and raising her two young sons. More recently, Givens could be found shaping another teenage audience as the fabulous mayor and mother of Josie on CW’s “Riverdale,” and now she plays the powerful Jada Jet, chief executive of Jeturian Industries and mother of the heroine in “Batwoman.”
Her characters are as fashionable as ever, but their glamour now also comes with Givens’s well-earned grit. In the short-lived BET series “Boomerang,” Jacqueline’s son, Bryson (Tequan Richmond), was ambitious to a fault. “We imagine that Jacqueline’s place is probably cold, quiet and empty,” the show’s co-creator Lena Waithe said to me in a 2019 interview.
But I think that she actually birthed a new archetype: a Black woman who loves her job, is sexually autonomous and has a style all of her own. And when we look at her today, viewed alongside Black female leads on older shows like “Being Mary Jane” and “Scandal” or the more recent “Insecure” or “Queen Sugar,” Jacqueline seems more like a forerunner and a character worthy of being the star of a movie all by herself.