Category Archives: Culture

21Nov/21

King Richard Beautifully Captures the Journey of Venus and Serena’s Father

There is always a sense of nervousness that comes over me when I hear of a biopic about historical Black figures coming to theaters. These projects could be beautifully developed like Ray or the opposite could unfold (insert name of one of many horrible biopics here). When it comes to King Richard, I was delighted to see this film was not another lukewarm attempt. I know some skeptics may automatically think the movie stars, Will Smith, as the father of two sports icons (rolls eyes), then cringe at the thought of Wild Wild West. And let’s not forget how we were painfully subjected to the Michael Jackson biopic, Michael Jackson: Man in the Mirror. I’m happy to say this was not the case! I walked away quite satisfied with this film and have some notables you can check out for yourself. 

Will Smith and Aunjanue Ellis Academy Buzz

Will Smith has been snubbed a few times at the Academy Awards, but he just may win this prestigious honor with his performance in King Richard. I found myself forgetting that Will Smith was portraying Richard William because of his fantastic performance. From mannerism to language, Smith captured the essence of Williams and even provoked some anger out of me during some of Richard’s questionable decision-making. The Richard character was compelling because he wanted the best for his children, he worked hard for them and loved them, but sometimes his insecurities got the best of him. His wife, Brandi Williams (Aunjanue Ellis), points out one of his biggest hang-ups in the film: he doesn’t want to seem like another dumb Black person to the world. It’s not easy writing a character the audience can cheer for and also be upset with, but the screenwriter and director do a great job tackling this dynamic. I found it especially intriguing to see this character portrayed so organically; a nod to Smith’s acting abilities. 

Smith was not the only actor to garner attention in the film; Aunjanue Ellis should also be acknowledged for her performance and considered for nomination, in my opinion. Her supportive, but firm, portrayal of Brandi Williams elevated her to my Top Five Favorite Black Movie Mom list. From her Sistah Girl role in Undercover Brother to Hippolyta Freeman in Lovecraft Country, Ellis has played strong and intelligent characters over the years, some of whom she seems to have channeled for this role. When Richard makes questionable decisions, she puts him in his place without embarrassing him. She even lets him know she has taken on the responsibility of holding the family down despite having her own ambitions. Another favorite Brandi moment for me was when she confronts her neighbor who called Child Services on them. She reminds the neighbor that they both have daughters (Brandi having five) and how tough it can be, then ends the conversation with “don’t make me come over here again.” All I can say is can we give Aunjanue her flowers now?

I can recall a few powerful moments in this flick. The first for me was when the neighborhood thugs assaulted Richard. They had tried multiple times to harass his oldest daughter while she studied during Richard’s practice sessions with Venus and Serena. Richard decided to get his gun from his security job and kill the group leader, but a drive-by shooting beat him to it. The other was when Richard argued with his wife after pulling Venus from her first pro tournament. This was a powerful scene and showed how supportive Brandi was of the family. 

The Film, The Story 

I often feel biopic movies miss the mark when it comes to making an exciting project, but King Richard held my attention and, from what I could tell, the entire audience’s attention throughout the whole film. It may be because I grew up watching the Williams sisters and remember each of the events portrayed in the movie. I think the acting, plot, soundtrack, and editing helped make this film amazingly nostalgic. This film could’ve easily lost its focus while covering any part of the Williams’ lives, but the filmmaker made a great choice following Venus’ first pro tournament and ending with her defeat which was really a win for the Black community. It was also good to see Richard sitting in the stands with the family to show support for his daughter. During most of the matches, he was out of sight. This is a reminder he would be there for his daughter no matter what the situation. Earlier in the film, Richard told a story of how his father watched him get beat up by three adult white men and then ran away as the beating continued. I can remember the commercials and the amount of support the Williams family received for representing the community. 

King Richard is also a reminder of how society looked at and still does look at Black families. It was assumed that since they came from Compton, they weren’t educated enough to make the decision to (or even willing to) take any steps to leave their rough neighborhood. Richard spoke confidence into his daughters, ensured they received a good education, and made sure they didn’t cave into the stressors of being young tennis players as many of their counterparts did. 

Venus and Serena

The two actresses who portrayed the Williams sisters were great. I love how they gelled as sisters on screen. The portrayal of Venus (Saniyya Sidney) in the last act was so exciting as I, too, could feel the nervousness she felt facing the number one tennis player in the world. Demi Singleton as Serena was spot on as the determined and strong-willed younger sister. I would say if this were a series, I would love to witness Serena’s growth into the icon she is, but the film should stay as is, a solo project. Save the biopic of Serena for later as its own story since she is one of the greatest athletes of all time. These two actresses made me think of all the young Black girls who will love this film and be inspired just as the real Williams sisters inspired people all over the world. 

I enjoyed this film and, undoubtedly, so did my fellow audience members in attendance. The film was so engaging that I found myself cheering for Venus during her epic match against the number one seeded even though I already knew the outcome of the match. With excellent acting and hard-hitting themes, I recommend everyone watch King Richard. I know I will be watching it for a second time with my beautiful strong Black nieces, looking for that spark of inspiration in their young eyes. 

You can catch King Richard on HBO Max and in theaters on Nov.19th.

 

16Nov/21

Bruised is a Redemption Story for both Jackie Justice & Halle Berry

Halle Berry showing off abs she gained while training for film Bruised on Netflix

I just viewed Netflix’s virtual advanced screening of Halle Berry’s directorial debut, Bruised, that I was invited to by the Urban Action Showcase & Expo anddd… I’m here for it. I watched it without bias or prejudgment and allowed the film to take me on the journey with Jackie Justice, the MMA fighter portrayed by Halle Berry. The synopsis of the film is a disgraced fighter finds redemption in the cage and the courage to face her demons when the son she had given up as an infant unexpectedly reenters her life.

The Good

First of all, Halle Berry is 55. FIFTY-FIVE. On November 8th of 2019, she posted her amazing rock-hard abs on Instagram that she achieved while training for the film. In the film, she is standing next to women half her age and was giving them a run for their money even during her disheveled scenes. Outside of her aesthetic, Berry did amazing with the fight choreography. In her post-screening Q&A with H.E.R., who wrote and sings the film’s anthem, Berry stated that she was given a script that was originally intended for an Irish-Catholic white woman. In her head, she rearranged the role for a Black woman who has been beaten up by life and had to find her way through. She was tasked with finding a director but ultimately opted to take on the role herself when no one could bring to life what she saw because it only existed in her head. With this freedom, she was able to capture the intensity of her fight scenes as she dreamed because she was also executing them WITHOUT a stunt or body double. Berry trained in various martial arts styles for over 2 years to make her role as authentic as she could.

The film also comes equipped with a great supporting cast. Stephen McKinley Henderson is Pops, the inspirational “old head” who remembers who Jackie was and sees who she can be. Sheila Atim is Bobbi Buddhakan Berroa, Jackie’s elite trainer and mental sanity. Adriane Lenox is Angel, Jackie’s mom with the hella ironic name. Then there is Danny Boyd Jr. as Manny Lyons Jr., Jackie’s son who reenters her life and stole our hearts as viewers.

The Not So Good

I fully expect this movie to be ripped apart. We’re in a day and age where everything Black people touch is scrutinized under a microscope. There are definitely some cringy and eye-raising moments that will probably need to be explored in post-release interviews. I’ll leave those up to your interpretation, but I will say that the script felt like a lot of stories that needed to be fleshed out more. We received the gist of Jackie’s origin (some of it was even predictable), but there was room left to round out how she spiraled into the Jackie we were presented with.

The was also a scene where Jackie should’ve cracked someone in the face and didn’t but I guess her leaving was sufficient (eye-roll).

The Best

Danny Boyd Jr in Bruised

Earlier I mentioned Danny Boyd Jr portraying Jackie’s son, 6-year-old Manny Lyons Jr. Danny should be about 11 now which should’ve placed him between 7 and 9, if the math is mathing, when he was filming. This young king’s facial acting tugged at all of our heartstrings. He had to play a traumatized boy inside a range of emotions from scared to angry and all I wanted to do was protect him. I was ready to fight errybody. Throughout all of the storylines, I just kept wondering how whatever was currently happening was going to inevitably affect Manny. He drew me in. He understood his assignment. Mission Accomplished.

Will You Watch Bruised?

I think you should. Bruised is directed and led by a Black woman. Check. It has a predominantly Black cast that shows a range of Black lifestyles. Check. The soundtrack is all women artists. Check. It has literally kick-ass fight choreo with women who are powerfully strong (no bad running scenes or terrible punches, praise whoever you pray to). Check.

Bruised releases on Netflix on November 24th.

Taji Vol29: Wata

Release Dec 7 2021 | Vol29 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Wata! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of @Honey.Scarlette captured by @TheOneWillFocus3. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, #BlackLoveConvo: “SPIKE: A Collection of Movie Photography With Contributing Photographer, David Lee” by Dapper Dr. Feel; our Community Spotlight, MAKEDA Maska-Fleurs by FLORAFFIA©; our highlighted Hair Feature with the Moriri project; “Solo Travel: Now That I’m Outside, Here’s How I’m Managing My Travel Anxiety by dCarrie; “A Simple (But Not Easy) Formula for Freedom” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “Pedagogy in a Pandemic” by Janelle Naomi; Our Vol 29 contributed photo story, “Wata;” Fitness Highlight; Vegan Fun with Earth’s Pot’s Creamy Dream Pasta; “Eugenics & Economic Depravity by the Numbers” by M’Bwebe Ishangi, Founder of Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement; Around The Way Girl Da Remix by Kaloni Cush of Seven Essential Creates; Featured Art Piece by @CraigCTheArtist; Comic Appreciation; Black Business Highlights; and more!!

Purchase your copy now at ‘Shop Taji’!

Taji Mag Vol29 Wata

Purchase Taji Mag | Vol 29

Taji Mag is the epitome of ‘Cultural Drip’ – elevating Black brands, narratives, and imagery to new levels of Black Excellence. We embody the traditional and modern royalty of Pan-African people via our quarterly digital and print publication and live events.

30Oct/21

SPIKE: A Collection of Movie Photography With Contributing Photographer, David Lee

David Lee

Movie set photos are the first of what we see of upcoming films. Before the trailers, the soundtrack singles, and promotional material, the images give the audience a visual of what is to come. Spike Lee‘s new book, SPIKE, features film still photos, behind-the-scenes, and on-the-set pictures of all of the Award-winning director’s life’s work. Most of the photographs were provided by Lee’s brother, veteran lensman, David Lee. David has provided photography for most of Spike’s films from She’s Gotta Have It to BlacKkKlansman. Taji Mag was able to discuss the creative’s experience and contribution to the new book. 

Picture of Spike Lee

Falling In Love With the Art 

David explained his first exposure to photography was when he was twelve or so. His mom had bought a brownstone and one of the tenants was a photographer. Lee said, “He (the photographer) taught me how to process black and white film. I had a 35mm camera with the screws falling out at the time. It was not that great of a camera.” When asked when he fell in love with photography, he said, “The moment photography really clicked was when I was at my maternal grandmother’s house in Atlanta. My grandfather had a Kodak Brownie camera and, to operate it, I had to look down. It gave me an idea of composition and, as I walked around with it, I saw perspectives changing and never forgot that experience. I understood that I could express what I saw from that moment on, and the camera would be my paintbrush. There is no getting tired of photography for me. My muse is in my photography.” 

David did photography throughout high school. In college, he aspired to be a renaissance artist much like Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, and other artists he was exploring at the time. His inspiration for the written arts came from his mother, an English and African-American History Teacher. His father, a musician, inspired him to explore music, but that all came to a halt around age twenty. He’d finally realized his creative potential and even wrote screenplays himself, but had difficulty writing essays. So he followed his true passion, photography. 

“Photography will be the artistic expression that will be with me my whole life.” – David Lee

How to Capture the Moment 

Lee explained how he captured the moment by saying, “At first you just try to capture and cover everything. With digital, I shoot too much and bury myself in editing. I pride myself in picking the right photo out of hundreds to capture the moment. It’s a great position to have. After all, you are pretty much limited because sometimes your only shot is next to a camera.” Lee further explained, “You have to find the right space, the right lens, and get the shot that is usable. Most importantly, you have to capture the moment. It’s the visual component of visual storytelling.” 

Pictures from Mo’ Better Blues

David walked me through what it’s like to discover those good photos after shooting, stating, “Sometimes your good shots are intentional and other times you don’t realize what you have shot until later.” He recalled a moment when he caught a fantastic and unplanned shot, explaining, “…I just did photography for Denzel Washington’s new film Journal for Jordan. We had this one-shot with Michael B. Jordan; he was shirtless, as usual, and with a baby on a couch. Two film cameras are running on each side, so I had to squeeze in between them to find my shot. As Michael raised the baby, the baby reached down, grabbed the dog tags around his neck, and looked at it. All I could think was, “Yes! Yes! This is a great shot!” This was an unscripted moment, and I knew right away that was the shot.” 

David explained that he was proud of himself. The next break the crew had for filming, he downloaded the shot and showed the photo to Denzel on a computer. He recalled Denzel being so excited that he ran into another room to grab the co-star of the film, Chanté Adams, to see it. Once Chante saw the photo, she burst into tears. David continued to explain that Denzel called up Dana Canedy, whom the film was based on, and sent the image to her. “She too burst into tears. Everyone who saw that shot became emotional because it was as if it had channeled something”, he described.  

I asked David if he ever had a conversation with Denzel about his creative evolution over the years from Mo’ Better Blues to now Journal for Jordan. He replied, laughing, “You don’t have a conversation with Denzel; you listen. You do whatever he tells you to do.”  

David went on to talk about his history with Denzel. He humorously said, “While shooting Malcolm X, he was throwing me off the set so many times. I was messing up; he should’ve thrown me off the set. During the scene in Malcolm X where Malcolm is copying the dictionary in prison, I am under the table and below the camera, trying to get into a good position. Denzel was like, ‘Get out!’. He explained, “I didn’t take it personally because I [knew] I was distracting him. 

Favorite Films

When asked what films David loved shooting with his brother Spike, he said, “My favorites are Malcolm X, Do the Right Thing, The BlacKkKlansman, and Da 5 Bloods but I mostly like documentaries… When the Leveey’s Broke and If God Is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise.” He said Spike would send him off to take pictures for the films during the interviews and press. This threw me back into my documentary photography days”, David said excitedly. 

“It was hard for people to watch the opening death scenes of Clockers, but I had fun shooting!” David explained the research process and the method he used to recreate the photos he referenced, stating, “For research, Spike and I went to the Bronx homicide headquarters. We were able to look at pictures and look at old notes from investigations. I used that time to recreate the crime scenes and used my reference Weegee, a classic crime photographer in the 1940’s and 50’s. [With] projects like these, I like to showcase my creativity.”

I asked David how he became a part of this project to which he replied, “The editor, Steve Crist, got in touch with me through Spike. I started a months-long deep dive into my catalog.” David continued, “Three months into my search, I would remember having even more photos to go through. I would call Steve and tell him I had pictures of Lawrence Fishburne when he did the White Lines music video in NYU Film School. It allowed me the opportunity to go through my many years of work and find old photos. This book really covers the span of Spike’s career.”

  • FYI: David Lee has provided photography for films Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, John Wick, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Broken Flowers. He is also providing photography for the Denzel Washington-helmed film, Journal For Jordan

SPIKE is genuinely a celebration of Spike Lee’s life and serves as a documentary in book form. I spent a couple of hours revisiting the time in my life when each film was released. It was so cool to see pictures of the handwritten script pages and how many actors/actresses were featured in Spike Lee films before becoming household names, i.e., Samuel L. Jackson, Giancarlo Esposito, Alfre Woodard. I was surprised to find out through the book former President Barack Obama took his wife, former First Lady, on a date to see Do the Right Thing before they were married. Whether you are a creative, movie lover, or Spike Lee fan, you will appreciate the nostalgic journey that David Lee’s photos provide. 

SPIKE will be released on Nov.17th and can be purchased at https://spikelee.chroniclebooks.com/

Picture from Do the Right Thing
07Sep/21
Ty Vaughn Travel N Shit

Audacious Adventure with Ty Vaughn

When was your last adventure? Did you read that and think of your last vacation? What was the last exciting thing you did close to home? I’d like to introduce you to a woman who has made it her business (quite literally!) to embark on memorable adventures close to home, Ty Vaughn.

On her 40th birthday, Ty decided to follow the lead of one of her favorite shows “The Amazing Race” and step off of her first zipline platform. Skydiving, paragliding, parasailing, kayaking, ATV off-roading, bungee jumping, rappelling and thirty ziplines later, Ty Vaughn is now Adventuress Ty. Once a month, she organizes group trips for other thrill-seekers to join her in embarking on what she may describe as “a mighty gush of freedom” at different adventurous locations around her home state of California. 

dCarrie: What obstacles have you overcome to authentically engage in adventure?

Ty Vaughn: To be honest with you, I personally have not thought about it like that. I just saw something I enjoyed watching on T.V. every week and decided, I want to do that. These activities have always been here, but sometimes cultural ignorance and lack of exposure prevent you from enjoying these life experiences. I will say, I wish this would have been part of my childhood. I’m quite sure having had more of an outdoor adventure lifestyle would have encouraged me to appreciate the complex yet simplicity of nature. I’m all in Now!

dCarrie: What does adventure do for your wholeness? 

Ty: Being an adventure junkie sets me apart! You cannot function like a normal human being willfully jumping off of bridges, ziplining across cables, paragliding over the ocean, or parasailing off of a boat! You’ve got to be pretty confident and assured in yourself! My adventures are not optional, they are a necessity. They give me clarity of thought and a peace that is not found anywhere else; they are surreal and serene. I love the clean crisp fresh air, the sound of nature, and the feel of nature. I love the multitude of colors that change with each season. My mind tries to comprehend but it cannot. The outdoors are my sanctuary, it’s the place where I decompress and recharge. It’s a space for me to appreciate the craftsmanship of God and how amazing He truly is.

Head over to travelnshitpodcast.com to check out more of Adventuress Ty and her story in episode 143, Audacious Adventure Near and Far of Travel N Sh!t Podcast.

07Sep/21
Finance

What Banks Don’t Want You to Know

“Banking is necessary. Banks are not.” ~ Wells Fargo 2004 Annual Report

Fact: The average American doesn’t have $400 in their savings account. This is linked to both poor financial habits and the way the banking system is set up. Banking is the most important business in the world! Without it, all business comes to a screeching halt. However, a little unknown fact is in order for banks to function, they rely heavily on us.

Unbeknownst to most, banks do not lend out their money, they lend out ours. What’s more, they cannot make a loan unless it has a deposit, and we are the source of where funds derive. These monies come from our deposits.

How were we convinced—better yet—lured to supply them with our hard-earned monies? With the help of consistent commercial advertisement, we are duped daily to believe they are the safest place to keep our monies.

Heard of the Fractional Reserve Lending System? Each time you deposit money in your bank, made consistently from our paychecks that create a guaranteed and indefinite supply of funds, banks 10x that deposit that can be then used to create loans that only banks profit from.

If you make a bi-weekly $1000 deposit acquired from your job to your checking account at your bank, they turn it into $10,000 by way of the Federal  Reserve. The bank must keep $1000 on their books BUT… they can lend out  90% (or $9,000) of the now suddenly made up $10,000, affixed with a high rate of interest ensuring profit on top of the gift we give them with each deposit. Now multiply that by the hundreds-of-millions of folks employed and the billions they send to banks!

This is called Arbitrage or the act of taking advantage of the money market with said strategies not shared with the public. While these banking families continue to create bloodline wealth with each deposit, we’re lucky to get 1.8% through a savings account—which often requires a sitting balance of $10,000 or more. 

The greatest fact is you don’t need banks to build sustainability because they were never designed for us to do so. You don’t need their loans nor to store your savings with them to create wealth. But there are a few strategies we can use to our benefit.

How would you like to become your own bank using similar strategies to create a coffer of resources so you’ll never have to apply for a loan, credit, or have to crowdfund?

In order to do so requires a will to forgo what you’ve been taught. I invite you to join the Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement where I show you ways to live off your savings and investments without falling victim to job loss or being taken advantage of in money markets rigged to fail.

Join the Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement 

M’Bwebe Ishangi, Founder and Author 
A Pot to Piss In: Intergenerational Wealth Planning for Black People 
Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement 
cryptowokemovement.com 
cryptowokemovement@gmail.com 
Facebook & Instagram: @cryptowoke

07Sep/21

Magical Curation

I have come to know that magic, energy, and people never die and always have a purpose. Schools have the power to curate all three if done with great intention. Yet, when our young people share what their purpose is, all too often their energy and magic (or passion) are destroyed or not nurtured. It can look like a child who doodles in the corner of their work or draws on the walls in your home, a child who sings constantly and memorizes many songs with ease or just talks a lot. These are gifts, passions, and, dare, I say magic. But how is this expanded and nurtured?

In this new reality, any energy that is poured in can be seen almost immediately. Young people have access to and connection to more ways to develop, expand, and share their gifts. Find ways to cultivate this as often as you can as deeply as you can. For the child that draws on walls, find some chalkboard paint and let them make a different image daily. For the child who sings constantly, ask them to record their songs and make jingles. For the child who talks a lot, allow them to conduct interviews with people and share the knowledge of what they learn. Find creative ways to encourage the flourish. Children will bloom where they are planted, but they do need life energy breathed into their magic, their passion, and their purpose.

Photo by Iiona Virgin

06Sep/21

Beckett is a Horror Movie That Ended Like A WWE Match

Synopsis: While vacationing in Greece, American tourist Beckett (John David Washington) becomes the target of a manhunt after a devastating accident. Forced to run for his life and desperate to get across the country to the American embassy to clear his name, tensions escalate as the authorities close in, political unrest mounts, and Beckett falls even deeper into a dangerous web of conspiracy.

My Impression

My reaction to the Beckett trailer was, “Okay, so…this film has to be produced by Jordan Peele because it looks like a version of Get Out overseas.” I mean, the protagonist Beckett, a Black American, crashes a car his car into a house in Greece, and his white girlfriend ends up dying instantly. Yeah, I can see this story going in an interesting direction. A horror movie indeed. 

Does the writer give an exciting and compelling reason for Beckett to be on the run? Not in my opinion. The film had an unexpected twist, but my guess was the local authorities were trying to kill Becket because he unintentionally killed his wife, who we discover was a spy of some sort, but that wasn’t the case. By the end of the film, I was disappointed.

It was crazy that Beckett uncovered that the local authorities were trying to kill him to keep a politically driven kidnapping under wraps. Beckett saw the kidnapped child of an important political figure right after his crash. 

The chase and tension in the film were great. I felt like Beckett couldn’t catch a break though; the locals were surprisingly friendly and even knew how brutal the police were. Multiple tried to help him, despite facing terrible interrogations or maybe even death for their assistance. 

Beckett Beatings

Now for the many ass-whoopings Beckett took in this film. John David Washington made it believable that the character was a regular non-fighting citizen. I’ve known Washington to play some badasses and to see this character get destroyed the whole movie was a change. During the movie, I was like damn I hope he has some good health insurance.

One of the worst beatings he took was in the subway tunnel, where he was punched and stabbed multiple times. Becket was basically knife practice, but he kept fighting and escaped severely injured. During the film, I can say Becket was a survivor because he would run every time, but of course not before getting hurt in some way. 

Becket redeemed himself by not getting caught and killed by the U.S. embassy staff member, Tynan, and escaping the attempts on his life. Beckett’s fights with Tynan and the female antagonist were hilarious to me. I guess he had a “Karen” trigger moment because he smashed the hell out of her head into the concrete. 

But the ending, the ending had me like…

I couldn’t believe it? Beckett jumped off the parking garage and landed on top of the car like Macho Man Randy Savage doing a high-flying elbow in a WWE match. He landed on the car like a sack of potatoes and saved the day. I am sure he had some internal bleeding and probably needed medical treatment for the rest of his life. Of course, the audience is lead to believe Becket sacrificed his life for the child since he was the cause of death for his wife. Although it was an attempt to pay off the heart on Becket’s hand-drawn tattoo given by his wife, there could’ve been a better way to end the movie. 

The film has entertaining moments but I was not happy about the ending or the plot involving the mafia and politics. Maybe if Becket or his wife had direct involvement in the kidnapping it would’ve made for a better story. I am always going to cheer on John David Washington as an actor but I have to be honest, this film missed the mark for me.

31Aug/21

Candyman: A Horror Classic Filled With Social Commentary

Candyman
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy/Candyman

I remember when the original Candyman first came out, I was scared out of my mind. Granted, I was only eight years old. To even think about saying his name five times in the mirror was a no-no because in my mind the Candyman was real. When news broke that Nia Da Costa and Jordan Peele would be working on the project, I knew horror fans would be in for a treat! This film (unsurprisingly true to its predecessor) provides horror, social commentary, storytelling, and lots of great camera work!

The Candyman Victims

In the first two candyman films, the victims were plenty and there was no discrimination. Candyman was carving up more people than a butcher on meat special Sunday. The 2021 film’s victims were all white and represented some of the stereotypical racists the Twitterverse has made famous of late, starting off with the arrogant art dealer and his girlfriend. This scene was artfully done as they could not see Candyman firsthand, but could only see his reflection (this visual occurs throughout the film). As Candyman is about to murder the art dealer, he slices through a projection screen showing Black people being violently attacked in the 50s during a protest; clearly, he is done with the historical injustice and ready for blood. Not only that, but the different parts of the art space flash red, white, and blue which could represent the American flag or police lights as the victims are being slain.

The rude and arrogant art critic was the next one to go after. She had me pissed after telling Anthony, a budding artist portrayed by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, about “his kind” ruining neighborhoods, an insult not only to him but also to his work. She said “artist” but the audience knows she meant “Black artist”. Before the art critic’s demise, Da Costa visually deceives the audience with the usage of reflections, mirrors, and camera angles. As Anthony walks the hall of the art critic’s home, he sees the reflection of Candyman and even sees Candyman mimicking his movement. This is preparing the artist to follow his destiny to become Candyman and it also shows that he, too, could be a victim. 

The teenage girls getting slaughtered in the bathroom scene was very reminiscent of today’s social media culture. Those girls did not give a damn what was going on and wanted to play the Candyman game. Their Asian friend fleeing the bathroom before saying Candyman for the fifth time had the audience cracking up because she obviously knew what was up and did not want that smoke. This murder scene in the bathroom was interesting. Seeing the girls pulled, cut, and lifted by Candyman’s hook without anyone actually seeing him was crazy. Great camera-work and editing made the invisible antagonist even scarier.

Side Note: Why didn’t anyone acknowledge that Anothony’s hand looked like a prop from a zombie apocalypse movie? Eventually, Brianna said something, but damn his hand looked disgusting after the bee stung him. Could he get some Neosporin or something? 

Candyman
Teyonah Parris as Breanna Cartwright

Candymen 

I am not sure if the Brianna character’s name was inspired by Breonna Taylor, but I am going to assume that it was. To see her character go through so much and to witness the police bust into the row house and kill Anthony was definitely triggering. Nia De Costa did an awesome job hiding Anthony’s body from the camera’s view, creating a moment where the audience is not sure if the police shot Anthony or if they shot Brianna. That moment reminded me of the tragic story of Breonna Taylor and how her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, felt while holding her. 

The sequel tie-ins and legend of Candyman were also well written and showed that there were others who carried on the Candyman spirit. The way each was killed was much like how many innocent Black men and women have been killed. As Anthony, the final Candyman, walks around the police car showing the faces of the various Candymen, I could see the victims Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Atatianna Jefferson, Philando Castile, Saundra Bland, etc. 

The stories told via shadow puppets were a great idea. It gave creepy vibes but played on the idea of how many of us used to tell campfire stories and use shadow puppets for effect. It made me think of the television show “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”. 

Candyman
Colman Domingo as William Burke reading Clive Barker’s Weaveworld.
Clive Barker wrote ” The Forbidden” the story in which Candyman is based.

Was Will Right? 

As crazy as Will Burke, the Laundromat owner in Cabrini Green, was I would have to say he had a compelling reason for bringing the Candyman to life. The gentrification of the neighborhood as well as the police ignoring and killing people would drive a person to take extreme actions. It’s akin to when people ask, “Why are the neighborhood folk destroying their own neighborhood” after the wrongful death of a Black person by a police officer. It’s for the same reason. People get tired of feeling powerless, oppressed, and ignored. In this case, Will had seen enough injustice and wanted to give the Candyman all the blood he could possibly want in the form of justice for his people. Although, I must say he was crazy for kidnapping Brianna and for sawing off Anthony’s hand. Jesus, that was gruesome! Made me cringe! 

“Say His Name!” 

The film ends with a cameo of the original Candyman, Daniel Robitaille (Tony Todd), asking Brianna to “Tell Everyone”. This resembles the “Say Their Names” culture in which we live where we consciously recognize all the victims of hate crimes, police brutality, etc. Candyman exacting his revenge by killing the cops who took his life along with the one who tried to intimidate Brianna into telling a false story is seen as a sort of redemption for Black people, a story of vengeance I’m sure many people of color could appreciate. The idea of turning a horror icon into a spirit of vengeance was a great idea and I am not surprised the three writers came up with the idea to do so. Is Candyman worth watching? I’d say yes! Saying Candyman five times in the mirror? Hell no!

07Aug/21
Taji Mag Vol28 Fire

Taji Vol28: Fire

Release Sept 7 2021 | Vol28 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Fire! This volume’s cover features features the #SlayBells of @Queen__Reinvented. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, #BlackLoveConvo: “Bitchin’: The Sound and Fury of Rick James is a Music Love Story” by Dapper Dr. Feel; our Community Spotlight, Lady M Mannequins; our highlighted Hair Feature with Debra Hare Bey; “Solo Travel: Audacious Adventure” with Ty Vaughn by dCarrie; “The Value of Values” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “The Childhood Challenge” by Janelle Naomi; Our Vol 28 contributed photo story, “Fire;” Fitness Highlight, Dorian DuBois of EFitBrand; Vegan Fun with Earth’s Pot’s Savory Veggie Flatbread; “What Banks Don’t Want You to Know” by M’Bwebe Ishangi, Founder of Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement; Featured Art Piece by @TheOneWillFocus; Comic Appreciation with INFINITUM by Tim Fields; Black Business Highlights; and more!!

Purchase your copy now at ‘Shop Taji’!

Taji Mag Vol28 Fire

Purchase Taji Mag | Vol 28

Taji Mag is the epitome of ‘Cultural Drip’ – elevating Black brands, narratives, and imagery to new levels of Black Excellence. We embody the traditional and modern royalty of Pan-African people via our quarterly digital and print publication and live events.