Category Archives: Colman Domingo

The Color Purple-2023

The Color Purple-2023

Director Blitz Bazawule

Starring Fantasia Barrino, Danielle Brooks, Taraji P. Henson

Scott’s Review #1,423

Reviewed March 16, 2024

Grade: B+

In 2023, director Blitz Bazawule recreated the famous 1985 cinematic version of The Color Purple by Steven Spielberg with mostly good results though it won’t be remembered like Spielberg’s is.

Bazawule is also a visual artist, rapper, singer-songwriter, and record producer so his version differs greatly from Spielberg’s in style and production design.

The ‘new’ version feels closer to what a feel-good Broadway stage version might feel like with incorporated musical numbers breaking up the drama and sometimes the comedy.

The Color Purple was a stage version and before that a much bleaker novel by Alice Walker so I’m not averse to comparing the 2023 version to all that preceded it.

Since we are talking cinema, although I’m more partial to the 1985 version mostly because that one packed a much greater emotional punch I think the numbers are a wise move and are choreographed well.

My favorite by far is ‘Hell No!’ an aggressive and anthemic stomp performed by a defiant Sofia (Danielle Brooks) and later reprised when mousy Celie (Fantasia Barrino) finds a set of balls.

We all probably know the story but here is a brief synopsis for those unfamiliar with the plot.

Set in the Deep South (Georgia) from the early 1900s until the 1940s, the main story follows the shy and put-upon Celie. She is raped and forced to bear the children of her father who then sells the babies. She is sent to marry and live with ‘Mister’ (Colman Domingo) who beats her and sets his sights on Celie’s sister Nettie (Halle Bailey).

Nettie and Celie are the best of friends but through circumstance lose touch for years.

The decades march on as Celie finds her voice and independence thanks to Sofia, jazz singer Shug Avery (Taraji P. Henson), and other kind folks.

The Color Purple is a lovely look at perseverance, extraordinary strength, and hope in the unbreakable bonds of sisterhood during a difficult time in history.

Black women especially were not always treated well.

The casting is uneven. I wasn’t completely won over by Barrino as Celie. The one-time ‘American Idol winner can sing and was Celie on Broadway in 2007 but I kept musing how exceptional Whoopi Goldberg was in the part in 1985.

Speaking of Goldberg, she appears in a cameo role early on as a midwife.

Henson, as Shug, has a tremendous voice and confidence providing the glamour and outrageousness needed for the role. However, she is supposed to be a drop-dead gorgeous woman who Celie is madly in love with and Henson doesn’t have the looks.

As my apt husband announced, Beyonce Knowles would have been a brilliant casting choice.

The standout is Brooks as Sofia, justifiably receiving the sole Academy Award nomination. The instant she appears on screen bullying her meek husband Harpo she has the audience wrapped around her finger giving as good a performance as Oprah Winfrey did in 1985.

While the musical numbers incorporate more of the Broadway-style they also contain a musical rock video vibe that takes away a bit of the cinematic production.  The dance moves are so perfect that they make the film feel ‘fun’ when it should feel ‘tragic’.

Even though Spielberg’s version was accused of excessive sappiness, it’s downright raw compared to the 2023 version. The finale is overly sentimental and the reunion of Celie and Mister, Mister now suddenly converted to a saint, is unrealistic.

Everything ends up so perfect for Celie and that’s all well and good but the fairy tale ending offsets some of the anguish she goes through early in the film.

Finally, Sofia’s big scene when she punches the mayor and other white townsmen lack the emotional heartbreak that the 1985 version did.

Held on its own merits, the film is a success. The Color Purple (2023) never drags and entertains from the first scene to the last. It’s a crowd-pleaser so those looking for a gooey experience will enjoy this version.

It’s safe waters without languishing towards dull or ineffectual.

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actress-Danielle Brooks



Director-Janicza Bravo

Starring Taylour Paige, Riley Keough, Colman Domingo

Scott’s Review #1,290

Reviewed August 16, 2022

Grade: A-

I’ve said this before when speaking about cinema but it bears repeating. I treasure the independent film genre and the creativity it allows. Usually, it’s a small group or sometimes even only one person with a vision and the ability to bring it to the big screen.

Budgets are almost always tight but that’s a good thing. Remember how 1978’s Halloween was made on a shoestring budget and took over the world?

Zola (2021) is a wonderful example of the freedom allowed in independent filmmaking.

The film is not for everyone and I think it knows this. Marketed as a black comedy it’s a mixture of drama and comedy and a dark story sometimes difficult to watch. Comic moments are contained within but sometimes it’s unclear whether we are supposed to laugh or cringe.

I was enthralled by the film not only for the story but for instances of visual magnificence like the dazzling opening shot of lead character Zola (Taylour Paige) in multiple forms of bubbles and sparkles surrounded by quick editing shots.

She boldly asks the audience “Y’all wanna hear a story about why me and this bitch here fell out? It’s kind of long but full of suspense.”

From the moment the first line is uttered we know we are in for something sassy, salty, and dangerous.

Gorgeous and technically superior cinematography mixed with sex, drugs, and foul language would resurface throughout the film.

The story is loosely based on a viral Twitter thread from 2015 by Aziah “Zola” King and the resulting Rolling Stone article “Zola Tells All: The Real Story Behind the Greatest Stripper Saga Ever Tweeted” by David Kushner.

Eventually, portions of the tale would prove to be embellished.

Zola (Paige) is a Detroit waitress who strikes up a new friendship with a customer, Stefani (Riley Keough), who convinces her to join a road trip weekend of dancing and partying in Florida.

What at first seems like a fun trip quickly turns into a deadly journey involving a pimp, Stefani’s clueless boyfriend, some Tampa gangsters, and other unexpected adventures.

Director, Janicza Bravo, a New York University graduate, is someone to watch out for. Zola is her first full-length feature and reminds me quite a bit of Tangerine (2015) and American Honey (2016), two superior independent films.

At other times, the film contains a sprinkling of the underappreciated 2019 film Hustlers starring Jennifer Lopez.

Bravo is not afraid to delve into the down and dirty lives of characters that most people would quickly dismiss or avoid altogether. Stories about strippers, prostitutes, and pimps can be a tough sell. The sex work industry is not always pretty.

Zola contains the raunchiest scene I have ever seen. As Zola and Stefani sit on the toilet going to the bathroom the camera pans from overhead, revealing not only their naked bums but also the waste excreted into the toilet.

The setting of Florida where much of the action takes place hits home to me, remembering several boozy vacations in various parts of the state. A somber gloominess enshrouds the characters as they traverse an otherwise bright and sunny landscape.

I love the detail and mixture of pretty and poisonous but was left knowing very little about the personal lives of the characters. I wanted to know how Zola and Stefani ended up where they did.

Considering the subject matter, Bravo thankfully doesn’t make the film violent or abusive. Instead, she peppers the dark comedy and over-the-top turns with her characters, especially the pimp (Domingo) and Stefani.

When Zola (2021) ends, there is an unsettling feeling of uncertainty and a lack of conclusion that I wish were different. Still, the creativity and the ability to create desperate characters willing to do anything to make some cash is fascinating.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Film, Best Director-Janicza Bravo, Best Female Lead-Taylour Paige (won), Best Supporting Male-Colman Domingo, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing



Director Steven Spielberg

Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones

Scott’s Review #476


Reviewed September 10, 2016

Grade: A

Lincoln is a 2012 film, which received a slew of Academy Award nominations. There appear to be differing opinions about the film itself, however.

Lincoln has audiences divided over whether it’s a brilliant film or a snore-fest.

My opinion leans decisively toward the former.

I recognize that (especially the first half) the film is slow-moving, but I found it engrossing and well-made.

Even the subtle aspects (costumes, art direction, lighting) are masterfully done.

I found Daniel Day Lewis’s (Abraham Lincoln) lengthy stories intriguing, not dull and found it to be a wonderful history lesson.

Steven Spielberg does what he does best- he creates a Hollywood film done well. He also has done controversial, shocking, or experimental, but the mainstream fare is his forte.

This film is not for everyone, but if you can find the patience it will be an enlightening experience. If nothing else, a thing or two may be learned.

Oscar Nominations: 2 wins-Best Picture, Best Director-Steven Spielberg, Best Actor-Daniel Day-Lewis (won), Best Supporting Actor-Tommy Lee Jones, Best Supporting Actress-Sally Field, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing, Best Production Design (won), Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing



Director Ava DuVernay

Starring David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo

Scott’s Review #248


Reviewed June 19, 2015

Grade: A-

An Oscar-nominated factual feast, set in the mid-1960s during the Civil Rights movement, Selma (2014) is a re-telling of the life and times of Martin Luther King Jr. and the struggles that black Americans endured during a tumultuous period in history.

The film includes dealings with then-President Lyndon B. Johnson and the famous and important 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights march, which led to the signing of the pivotal Voting Rights Act of 1965.

This film reminded me quite a bit of 2013’s The Butler in subject matter and style-ironic since Lee Daniels was slated to direct and instead signed on for The Butler.

Both feature a charismatic and intelligent black man struggling with racial matters.

Despite being an independent undertaking, it is glossy, polished, and reflective of the time. Both The Butler and Selma boast a huge cast, and historical political figures, in a tumultuous era in history.

Selma features a bevy of real-life figures from George Wallis to President Johnson to the obvious leader of the Civil Rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr., and his wife, Coretta Scott King, and the casting is very well thought out.

Tim Roth, David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, and Carmen Ejogo portray their roles professionally and passionately. None of the above received Oscar nominations and I am okay with that.

I did not feel that any were definite standouts from a crowded field of talent, though perhaps Ejogo could have been in the running with her understated though compelling performance.

The drama surrounding the lack of expected Oscar nominations is not shared by me. The truth is, the film was included in the Best Picture category and won Best Song.

While an emotional and compelling film, neither is it a masterpiece nor will change the art of cinema, though I must stress it is good.

I find Selma to be an important film- a look back on history and the shame and humiliation placed on blacks who attempted to obtain voting rights. A heartbreaking scene depicts a determined woman (played by Oprah Winfrey) being denied this right by a cold and racist authority figure as she is asked impossible and tricky questions to prove her patriotism, which of course, she cannot possibly answer correctly.

Yes, the film is directed by a black, female director (Ava DuVernay) and yes, one might argue that it has a black point of view. However, the film successfully sympathetically portrays several white characters and avoids the assumption that all white people were racist in this period.

Let’s face it- racism still exists, especially in the South, and in the 1960s even more so. I did not find the message in black people vs. white people’s terms, but rather as a humanistic struggle for rights.

And the struggles continue as the film makes abundantly clear in the message of the film.

While King was a life changer to the black people of the United States, his life was abruptly cut short in his prime. One wonders how much more good this man could have achieved.

The song “Glory” is an emotional, powerful number, especially during the marching and subsequent slaughter scenes highly emotional and effective.

And who will not become teary-eyed as the innocent marchers are beaten and treated like cattle, simply for taking a stand? One will gasp at the senseless bombing scene that rocks a building and takes four innocent little girls’ lives away with it.

Selma successfully transplanted me to a time before my time and made me appreciate and capture the positive and negative experiences of a race of people not long ago.

This film inspires and moves me and teaches me what a movement occurred in 1965.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Picture, Best Original Song-“Glory” (won)

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Feature, Best Director-Ava DuVernay, Best Male Lead-David Oyelowo, Best Supporting Female-Carmen Ejogo, Best Cinematography

Lee Daniels’ The Butler-2013

Lee Daniels’ The Butler-2013

Director Lee Daniels

Starring Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey

Scott’s Review #81


Reviewed June 30, 2014

Grade: A

Director, Lee Daniels, is a recent favorite of mine (Precious-2009, The Paperboy-2012) and his latest The Butler (2013) is an excellent, true story, undertaking.

While the trailer looked appealing, I was concerned that the film might be overwrought or have a Hollywood sappiness.

While it’s a Hollywood film, it is also a powerful, emotional experience.

The viewer is taken on a journey from 1926 through the current president from the viewpoint of White House butler Cecil Gaines (Whitaker), who serves several presidents and is privy to the goings-on in the White House.

He is played by Forest Whitaker and his boozy, troubled wife is played by Oprah Winfrey.

Both give tremendous performances.

The Butler is a political journey through time and I love the authenticity of each decade from the sets to the costumes to the hairstyles.

The casting of the Presidents is curious (Robin Williams as Eisenhower and John Cusack as Nixon), but works nonetheless.

The rivalry between Cecil Gaines and his rebellious son is quite interesting as the viewer sides with each individual at different times.

The film is more emotional than I anticipated and much of the audience was teary during scenes of heartbreak and triumph.

I feel The Butler (2013) is a must-see for everyone.