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On the Rise: Nicole Beharie

Can you think of any black actresses under 30 who are headlining films? Take your time.

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On the Rise: Nicole Beharie
Photo: Warner Bros.

Back in 2009, there was a little limited-release movie called American Violet, about a real-life, wrongfully-convicted single mom who fights back against The System. In all likelihood, the film wasn’t on your radar, because frankly, it didn’t deserve to be. Not much more than Lifetime fluff, the racism-combatting underdog tale preached like a PSA, and reduced fine actors like Alfre Woodard and Will Patton to vessels for lousy dialogue. Burning like a sparkler at the film’s center, though, was poised and petite Nicole Beharie, whose excellent breakthrough performance in the leading role unfortunately got buried in the rubble of the movie’s missteps. Taking a stock character and imbuing her with specific, plausible verve, Beharie displayed a towering talent in stark juxtaposition to her diminutive frame, immediately joining the ranks of so many fine actors who make bad movies watchable. Beharie’s turn didn’t go entirely unnoticed. She won that year’s Best Actress trophy from the African-American Film Critics, and also scored nods from the Women Film Critics Circle and the Black Reel Awards. But that she didn’t find much subsequent success beyond these specialty-group kudos is as valid a sign as any of how much harder starlets of color need to work to break out in this business. Countless white ingenues of lesser talent and beauty have surpassed poor reviews and box-office returns to ink scads of deals, often for the hard, simple fact that they’re more bankable. Can you think of any black actresses under 30 who are headlining films? Take your time.

All of this isn’t to say that Beharie hasn’t gotten any breaks. The same year she did American Violet, the now-28-year-old actress co-starred in the football drama The Express, and in 2010, she appeared opposite Jill Scott in an actual Lifetime film, Sins of the Mother, which might be best summed up as a PG Precious. The majority of viewers probably know Beharie from her work in Steve McQueen’s Shame, in which she portrayed Marianne, sex addict Brandon’s (Michael Fassbender) one true shot at tame, loving monogamy. Again, with only a few key scenes at her disposal, Beharie proved her ability to elevate a somewhat disappointing picture, and more importantly, she revealed pluck, and an interest in daring fare crafted at the hands of a burgeoning auteur. Yes, Beharie disrobed in the film, but her moxie was in her willingness to align herself with the material in general, and put her trust in a director with a distinct vision. Beharie is no hollow fame-seeker with an uncertain moral compass; she’s a Juilliard alum with a theater background and a thing for The Bard, having garnered a Shakespeare scholarship and trained in the U.K. (She also has the fortunate distinction of having dated our beloved Fassbender for a spell, but, ya know, that’s neither here nor there).

Starting today, Beharie can be seen in Brian Helgeland’s 42, a Jackie Robinson biopic that’s been cranked through the Tinseltown machine, but thankfully transcends the white-Hollywood-charts-black-history traps that have hampered movies like The Help. Beharie plays Rachel Isum, Jackie Robinson’s wife, and rather than predictably fading into the background as the little, faithful woman, she’s a substantial and memorable presence in the movie. She often singlehandedly personalizes 1940s-era racism, containing in her face a whole community’s worth of pain when she gazes at a “Whites Only” bathroom sign, or looks on while her living legend of a husband is relentlessly pelted with the N-word. The role undoubtedly sounds minor, but Beharie makes it as grand as possible, thanks to her palpable empathy toward the character and the genuine chemistry she achieves with onscreen squeeze Chadwick Boseman (also remarkable). However rosily, 42 is going to educate a lot of viewers about the rise of Robinson, but here’s hoping it also propels the rise of Beharie, who’s bound to gain her most exposure yet from the film’s release. For now, she’s reportedly banking on a pilot for Fox, playing the female lead in a TV version of Sleepy Hollow, developed by the gents behind Fringe. If all goes well, Beharie will have followed a path similar to that of Scandal star Kerry Washington, another superb black actress who turned to the small screen when the big one didn’t properly exploit her gifts. As they say, you go where the work is.

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Watch: The Long-Awaited Deadwood Movie Gets Teaser Trailer and Premiere Date

Welcome to fucking Deadwood!

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Deadwood
Photo: HBO

At long last, we’re finally going to see more of Deadwood. Very soon after the HBO series’s cancellation in 2006, creator David Milch announced that he agreed to produce a pair of two-hour films to tie up the loose ends left after the third season. It’s been a long road since, and after many false starts over the years, production on one standalone film started in fall 2018. And today we have a glorious teaser for the film, which releases on HBO on May 31. Below is the official description of the film:

The Deadwood film follows the indelible characters of the series, who are reunited after ten years to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought.

And below is the teaser trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAcftIUE6MQ

Deadwood: The Movie airs on HBO on May 31.

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Watch: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Gets Teaser Trailer

When it rains, it pours.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Photo: Columbia Pictures

When it rains, it pours. Four days after Quentin Tarantino once more laid into John Ford in a piece written for his Beverly Cinema website that saw the filmmaker referring to Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon as Tie a Yellow Ribbon, and two days after Columbia Pictures released poster art for QT’s ninth feature that wasn’t exactly of the highest order, the studio has released a teaser for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film was announced early last year, with Tarantino describing it as “a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood.”

Set on the eve of the Manson family murders, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), as they try to get involved in the film industry. The film also stars Margot Robbie (as Sharon Tate), Al Pacino, the late Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, and Bruce Dern in a part originally intended for the late Burt Reynolds.

See the teaser below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Scf8nIJCvs4

Columbia Pictures will release Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on July 26.

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Watch the Stranger Things 3 Trailer, and to the Tune of Mötley Crüe and the Who

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence.

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Stranger Things 3
Photo: Netflix

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence. On Friday, Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt, a biopic about Mötley Crüe’s rise to fame, drops on Netflix. Today, the streaming service has released the trailer for the third season of Stranger Things. The clip opens with the strains of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home,” all the better to underline that the peace and quiet that returned to the fictional rural town of Hawkins, Indiana at the end of the show’s second season is just waiting to be upset again.

Little is known about the plot of the new season, and the trailer keeps things pretty vague, though the Duffer Brothers have suggested that the storyline will take place a year after the events of the last season—duh, we know when “Home Sweet Home” came out—and focus on the main characters’ puberty pangs. That said, according to Reddit sleuths who’ve obsessed over such details as the nuances of the new season’s poster art, it looks like Max and company are going to have to contend with demon rats no doubt released from the Upside Down.

See below for the new season’s trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEG3bmU_WaI

Stranger Things 3 premieres globally on July 4.

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