History is a funny thing, in that it takes blood, sweat and tears to sometimes set the record straight. We know what we are taught, and we don't know what we're not told about. And in some cases, history is simply lost to the winds of time.
Thank goodness then, for Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, the prolific musician and frontman for the hip hop band "the Roots." He's the man responsible for preserving the memory of the Harlem Cultural Festival, a massive celebration of music, heritage, culture and Black Pride, that took course over six days spread out over the Summer of 1969. Questlove directs "Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)" and in doing so, he has not only preserved an important piece of history, but he's unearthed a treasure trove of clips that will live on forever.
It's "Groundhog's Day" meets "John Wick," in one of the most entertaining, surprisingly funny action films you'll ever see.
"Boss Level" is not based on any particular video game, but it just may be the very best video game movie ever made.
The title: "The United States vs. Billie Holiday," implies a movie that will feature some sort of lawsuit against one of the greatest jazz singers of all-time. But this is no court-room drama. Instead, the title categorizes not only how Holiday fought against the norms of the time, but how the FBI tried desperately to silence her voice both literally and figuratively.
One of the greatest things about film is the ability to learn and grow through the experiences of others not like yourself...stories told by people or points of view that you might not have otherwise experienced. In the mainstream, for example, we have rarely seen REAL stories about LGBTQ love and family life, let alone in a Christmas movie. Several minorities and groups - like the LGBTQ community - haven't had fair representation on film, to put things mildly.
With "Happiest Season," we get a bona fide lesbian Christmas comedy, one that is really funny, super-relatable to all and also full of heart. Maybe one future Christmas years from now, "Happiest Season" will be known as one of the better Christmas movies period, and not just that it's an LGBTQ Christmas movie.
If you're still buzzing from watching "Hamilton" on Disney+, HULU has answered your prayers. The new documentary called "We Are Freestyle Love Supreme" is a necessary watch for any fan of "Hamilton," and because I've yet to encounter anyone who has seen it and ISN'T a fan, then that means that this documentary is for us all.
The musical icon that is Lin-Manuel Miranda mentions a quote from Orson Welles in "We Are Freestyle Love Supreme." The quote says: "If you want to tell a story with a happy ending, it depends on where you want to end the story." For Miranda, his "happy ending" story is still being written, and you could have ended it at any point past 2015 and it would still seem like a fairy-tale. Of course that year, Miranda's "Hamilton" exploded onto the scene and the stage - and our culture - have never been the same.
Anybody who has seen "Hamilton" knows how profoundly talented Lin-Manuel Miranda is, but I'm here to say: You ain't seen nothin' yet until you see him in this doc. Miraculously, a camera was rolling waaaaay back in 2005, which was a pretty big year for the improv-hip-hop group, "Freestyle Love Supreme," a group of rag-tag, sensationally talented kids whose creative limits knew no bounds.
What is "improv-hip-hop" you might ask? Think of improvisational comedy, where a comedian doesn't work off of a script or memorized lines, and feeds off of the audience in order to create comedy right their on stage. Well, this is the same, but instead of telling a joke, this group would make up a rap. Improv by itself is an energy that cannot be bottled...it's highs of doing it successfully are only matched by the lows of bombing at it.
And Miranda wasn't the only "Hamilton" star at the center of it. Isn't it heart-warming to know that Alexander Hamilton wasn't just George Washington's "right-hand man," but that the actor who played him on-stage, Chris Jackson, also goes way back with his buddy "Lin-Man", and was also a part of Freestyle Love Supreme? And that "Hamilton" director Tommy Kail was too?
"We Are Freestyle Love Supreme" plays as a super-hero origin movie, and to see these now-legendary stars back in their unpolished youth is quite inspirational. Their trajectory towards world fame seems inevitable now, seeing just how talented this group of people was. The movie doesn't just focus on the stars we know though, but also the other players who might have missed out on the fame that "Hamilton" brought, but who remain ever a part of Miranda's life.
While it's humbling to hear Miranda discuss how he gets the same nerves in his stomach before each and every performance, or how the "Darkwing Duck" theme-song played a role in Miranda's early development, but the doc also includes an interesting side-story about one of the group's members, the uber-talented Utkarsh Ambudkar. Viewers may recognize him from movies like "Pitch Perfect" or a number of TV roles, but wait until you hear how he was almost Aaron Burr. I mean, I could never imagine Aaron Burr as anyone else that Leslie Odom Jr., but hearing how Utkarsh missed out on the role is a tragedy.
The fun of "We Are Freestyle Love Supreme" is not just that it works as a rags-to-riches success story, but how it deepens the meaning of some of the themes Miranda deals with in "Hamilton." This doc IS the room where it happened, and there's a million things that Miranda and crew STILL haven't done...just you wait.
Genre: Music, Documentary.
Run Time: 1 hour 30 minutes.
Featuring: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Chris Jackson, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Thomas Kail, Andrew Bancroft, James Monroe Iglehart.
Directed by Andrew Fried.
"We Are Freestyle Love Supreme" is now streaming only on HULU.
Wait...haven't we seen this before? It's deja vu all over again in "Palm Springs," but that's sort of the point in this bizarre-yet-compelling "Groundhog's Day"-style rom-com.
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