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How Marsai Martin became the youngest executive producer in Hollywood

Almost two years ago, Universal Pictures released the body-swap comedy Little, which stars Marsai Martin, Issa Rae, and Regina Hall.

Given by the looks of the trailer and the starry line-up, the new comedy could be the funniest movie to hit theaters in 2019. Regina Hall plays Jordan Sanders, a ruthless tech mogul who shows little regard for her overworked assistant, April (Rae).

After a confrontation with a young girl, Hall wakes up to find that she has turned back into her 13- year-old self, (Martin), leaving the underappreciated assistant April (Issa Rae) to tend to her young boss, given that she is the only one who knows her secret.

As Jordan heads back to grade school to live the life of a young adolescent, April is instructed to take over for her at the office and run the company.

The comedy also stars Justin Hartley, Tone Bell, JD McCrary and Rachel Dratch. The film will be helmed by Tina Gordon, who will also direct the upcoming 2019 comedy What Men Want starring Taraji P. Henson.

Girls Trip screenwriter, Tracy Oliver co-wrote the screenplay for Little, along with Gordon. The upcoming comedy was produced by William Packer, James Lopez and Black-ish showrunner and creator, Kenya Barris.

Little was based on an idea by Martin who came up with the film’s premise after watching the 1990’s classic, Big. At the age of 10, Martin went on to pitch the idea to Black-ish showrunner Kenya Barris, after the ABC show’s season 1 finale. With Barris enthralled with the idea, he rallied mega-producer Will Packer to bring the project to life.

While the body-switch comedy isn’t a concept new to Hollywood (17 Again, 13 Going on 30, Freaky Friday, The Change Up), the film is formative for the reason that a 14-year-old Marsai Martin will now hold the title as the youngest executive producer of a major Hollywood motion picture in history.

What’s more, this is a film created by a black girl, starring black women, directed by a black woman and written by black women, and therefore shows there is nothing little about the amount of Black Girl Magic that went into creating this film.

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She woke up like this. #LittleMovie

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Speaking on her achievement, Martin told The Root,

“It doesn’t matter if you are four or 84, there’s no limit to what you can do. And if you prove that you can do it, you don’t have to wait… A 13-year-old created this film and it turned out to be a wonderful, Black girl magic fulfilling and loving film. I think that is probably what I want to let kids know about, like, ‘Oh, wow, she made this really dope film at this young age, that means I can do it, too.'”

Little is set to hit theaters April 12. Who else is already hyped?

How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already shaking sh*t up in Congress

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, better known as AOC, is perhaps the most high-profile new member of Congress.

Many have followed her story since the 29-year-old child of Puerto Rican migrants and former waitress and bartender unseated a 10-term Congressman to win New York’s 14th congressional district. Indeed, three weeks before the Democratic primary election, the polls showed Cortez to be 36 points behind the incumbent.

Cortez, however, ended up defeating Joseph Crowley by 15 points and was a result that sent shock waves through the Democratic party. Her achievement does not simply demonstrate that polls are an unreliable indicator of election results — the election in 2016 already proved that.

Her remarkable achievement is owing to the fact that her “radical” platform connected with people.

For many, AOC has reinstalled hope in the democratic process for some Democrats, in addition to those who identify or are registered as independents, who have been discontent with the inaction of the political establishment.

Cortez is one of a formative new class of Congresswomen including, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar.

Yet, AOC’s story at its core is an underdog story. Moreover, it is the promise of the ‘American Dream’ — the recurrent message and reminder of our ability to rise up and excel during improbable circumstances —  a message that has been the discursive fabric of the U.S.

Attention, however, often does not come without scrutiny and criticism. Indeed, AOC has repeatedly had to ward off critics from both sides. Some moderate Democrats may have concerns that their party is moving “to the left, to the left,” while others are bemused by the amount of media coverage AOC has received.

For instance, Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), the two-term senator of Missouri described Ocasio-Cortez as “a bright and shiny new object” of the Democratic party and warned that translating rhetoric into policy and legislation is a much harder enterprise.

Conservatives have repeatedly attempted to slander the new Congresswoman. With critics hyper-focusing on her appearance and raised questions about her credibility, background and the factuality surrounding her Bronx upbringing.

As part of a smear campaign, a video of AOC dancing as a college student surfaced online. But instead of slandering the newly-elected Congresswoman, it became an internet sensation. In fact, AOC’s responded to the video dancing to the 1970 Motown classic “War” outside her Congressional office and the video earned 20 million views.

Since her election, her constituents have followed her journey to Washington and Ocasio-Cortez’s social media presence has garnered a huge following. She is a politician who has recognized that in our digital age, social media is a public sphere just as politicized as the streets have formerly served in this nation.

So, what draws people to the young Congresswoman? I think there is an overall desire amongst people for transparency and authenticity; concepts that are simultaneously rendered through the 29-year-old’s use of social media.

From her kitchen table Instagram stories, poking fun at the somewhat archaic customary traditions of the White House, offering a behind-the-scenes look of the life of a lawmaker, to dishing out facts surrounding the numerous institutional injustices and derogatory rhetoric repeatedly produced by the current administration, AOC is an important political presence and voice within the context of the domestic and global political climate.

Her use of social media on her first week on the job resembles that of an orientation day at college, not only making her relatable but is also likely encouraging other young people to participate in the democratic process.

Plus, her social media posts are also highly accessible, through both its content and form. On the request of advocates, AOC began adding captions for the deaf community and this move is another example of the 29-year-old’s inclusive platform and her investment of making sure that the voice’s of the most marginalized register to others. During her first week of office, AOC has already clearly set up her political agenda and is ready to have her rhetoric translate into policy.

Ocasio-Cortez has been able to draw the attention of a number of constituents, some of whom are new voters, through her policy platform that includes Medicare for all, a federal jobs guarantee for all Americans who want a job, along with a livable wage and abolishing the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Ocasio-Cortez has continued to show her influence in steering discourse, by proudly claiming the externally ascribed labels like “radical” and “socialist” — words that have been historically tainted in political discourse in the United States.

Yet, perhaps AOC can credit her colleague and fellow DSA member, Bernie Sanders, who during his presidential campaign trail, did a lot of work to help normalize the idea of a democratic socialist in the Oval Office.

In truth, the “radical” ideas and policies AOC endorses — in regards to healthcare, gun control, climate change, and the ridding of corporate money in politics — the majority of Americans actually do favor.

Additionally, AOC has become the face of the Green New Deal, which aims to make the U.S. 100 percent reliant on clean energy in a decade. Though the climate change legislation was originally viewed as a highly ambitious, it is now supported by nearly two dozen congressional colleagues.

If the legislation were to be passed, the Green New Deal will be funded by 70 % marginal tax rates on the wealthiest Americans. In other words, the tax is applicable to those who earn more than $10m, and any sum above the $10m would be taxed at a high rate. To put even more simply, if you don’t earn $10m, you’re good.

Yet, Republicans are invested in convincing people to not entertain the idea. They argue that the rich shouldn’t be taxed more and if they did, it would actually be more harmful to the rest of us, which is simply false.

AOC is also an outspoken critic of President 45.

Trump’s national address to the audience last night — that was rather a desperate and vehement attempt to strike fear into the hearts of the populous — was characterized by the false claim that there was a growing crisis at the southern border.

The address timely followed the broadcasting of the 60 minutes interview with the newly-elected Congresswoman. AOC was asked in the interview with Anderson Cooper Sunday night, whether she believed President Donald Trump was a racist. Her response:

“Yes, yes. No question. The president certainly didn’t invent racism,” she said. “But he’s also given a voice to it and expanded it and created a platform for those things. The words he uses, which are historic dog whistles of white supremacy.”

Even after receiving a backlash from the Oval Office, Ocasio-Cortez doubled down on her claim with this Tweet.

Her denouncing of Trump as a racist will, and already has dominated headlines. But a crucial part of the 60 minutes interview is the moment in which AOC is asked how she is going to fund the Green New Deal. In her answer, she exposed the hypocrisy and double standard when it comes to the way in which a politicians’ platform is received. She asserted,

“No one asks how we’re going to pay for this Space Force. No one asked how we paid for a $2 trillion tax cut,” she said. “We only ask how we pay for it on issues of housing, health care, and education. How do we pay for it? With the same exact mechanisms that we pay for military increases for this Space Force. For all of these ambitious policies.”

When her economic proposal was endorsed by Paul Krugman, economics Nobelist and New York Times columnist, the discourse on taxing the wealthy seemed, if only momentarily, feasible and reasonable, because it is.

As a consequence of her age and gender, Ocasio-Cortez is held at a different than other politicians. But this is not an atypical narrative for women who enter traditionally male-dominated spaces and industries.

As the second-longest government shutdown in U.S. history continues until Trump surrenders his plan to build is “beautiful” megalomaniac border wall, we should continue to look to the likes of AOC who shows hope and delivers an optimistic message about the present and our future.

As she declared in her late-night interview with Stephen Colbert, “Trump isn’t ready for a girl from the Bronx.”

The best storytellers in the game: 8 screenwriters already crushing 2019

Writing a screenplay is an underrated art form. If you’ve ever glanced at a screenplay, you may have thought writing a script isn’t such a difficult task.

Yet, don’t let the minimalist and simple layout fool you and take away from the fact that making a good screenplay is anything but easy. It’s hard to write dialogue that actually sounds like how people talk in everyday life without it being arbitrary. It’s difficult to, not completely on dialogue, move the plot forward or totally provide exhibition on the background of your characters.

In a conventional narrative arc, the protagonist has to have a clear objective and the antagonist, whether that is another person, an entity or perhaps, the protagonist themselves, must function as the primary obstacle in preventing the main character from achieving their goal.

In short, you have to put your protagonist through the wringer and raise the stakes along the way, so that once we get to the end of the story, the protagonist has earnt that goal — whether it is getting someone out of jail, saving the world from a zombie apocalypse or winning over the heart of a love interest. In a screenplay, the characters’ actions reveal who they are and therefore, why we as viewers, should stick with them along on their journey.

Here is a list of screenwriters that made a name for themselves in 2018 by pushing the boundaries of genre, creating complex characters who we root for despite their problematic actions, and of course created compelling narratives that left an impression on us, days after our viewing.

Sara Colangelo, The Kindergarten Teacher

In Colangelo’s film, audiences watch a kindergarten teacher go to extraordinary and somewhat problematic lengths to shepherd the talent of her student who she deems a child prodigy.

Written and directed by Colangelo, the tense narrative explores the power dynamics that are embedded in being a teacher and mentor.

A graduate of NYU, Colangelo is a New York-based writer and director whose short films have screened at festivals around the world, including Sundance, Tribeca, and SXSW.

Colangelo’s debut feature, Little Accidents, had its world premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and was subsequently nominated for a 2015 Independent Spirit Award.

Raymond Lawrence Riley, aka Boots Riley, Sorry to Bother You

Before making his feature film debut, Boots Riley spent years working as a community organizer and as the frontman of the leftist hip-hop group, The CoupAt 47, the Bay Area activist and rapper ultimately created a highly original, satirical, blistering critique of capitalism with one of this year’s best films, Sorry To Bother You.

Starring Lakeith Stanfield as a young telemarketer in Oakland, the film follows the protagonist as he climbs the ranks of his corporate company after realizing he can make more sales by speaking with a “white voice” (David Cross dubs these lines). Though the film has an absurdist and surrealist quality, it is grounded through its unapologetic examination of race in America.

The notion of “the white voice” in the film is emblematic of the kind of racial performativity that characterizes everyday life and the kind of the code-switching that are at times necessary for Black folk to employ as a means of social and economic mobility. In other words, sometimes you need to “use your white voice” to get ahead within a political-economic system that is dependent on exploitation in order to be sustained.

On what is next for Riley, he disclosed in an interview with The Guardian that he is currently writing two films. He has also linked up with Michael Ellenberg who brought Game of Thrones to HBO in a TV series deal. He is also writing and directing an episode for Guillermo del Toro’s horror anthology series 10 After Midnight.

Joe Robert Cole, Black Panther

Joe Robert Cole is responsible for co-writing the screenplay to the groundbreaking Marvel hit film Black Panther with the director, Ryan Coogler. Cole first began writing screenplays in college at UC Berkeley and his career as a screenwriter includes the 2006 coming-of-age drama ATL and the 2011 indie thriller Amber Lake, which he also directed.

A year later, Cole was invited to join Marvel Studios’ writer program, where in-house writers help develop possible screenplays for lesser-known Marvel characters.

Cole’s work on American Crime Story: The People v O.J Simpson earned him an Emmy nomination and it was after this critical-acclaim that the writer landed his biggest project yet, the opportunity to write what is now the third highest grossing film — ever. The Black Panther co-writer is now set to write and direct the Netflix drama, All Day and a Night. 

The film follows the POV of a young criminal after his arrival in prison as he looks back on the days preceding his arrest and the circumstances of his childhood to find clues to his way forward in life and his survival, and will take place across three parallel narratives. Cole will also team up with Netflix for Failsafe, a film adaptation of a Vault Comics story by F.J. DeSanto and Todd Farmer.

Cole will write the script while Michael B. Jordan is set to produce the project through his company Outlier Society Productions. It is unclear whether Jordan will star in the project since the actor is in high demand at the moment and is taking his turn at the director’s chair himself. Plus, Cole will also pen the script to the Call of Duty sequel.

Cheo Hodari Coker, Creed II

Annapurna Pictures

Being a former music journalist turned television writer, seems like the perfect equation to write the script for the biopic on the legendary The Notorious B.I.G.

Before landing the epic gig of depicting the life and death of one of the biggest names in music and culture, Coker’s made a name for himself at outlets such as The Los Angeles Times and The SourceCoker biggest deal yet has to be penning a co-writing deal to write the eighth installment of the Rocky franchise, Creed II, with Rocky himself, Sylvester Stallone.

The film has been a monumental success and has brought in $109.6M domestically and is expected to surpass the first film’s box office figure of directorial $109.7M. The sequel has also made been a huge success at the global box office, earning $138M.

Coker’s producing credits include cop drama Southland, and the critically acclaimed Showtime series, Ray Donovan. And though Marvel and Netflix pulled the plug on Luke Cage, the former showrunner of the superhero series has found a new long-term home with Amazon Studios.

Jordana Spiro, Night Comes On

After premiering at the Sundance Film Festival this year and winning a NEXT Innovator Award at the festival,  Spiro’s first feature film for Night Comes On is a visual declaration of her talent as a filmmaker and powerful storyteller.

The film’s premise is as follows: On the eve of her 18th birthday, Angel LaMere a young Black queer woman is released from serving time in a juvenile detention facility. Haunted by her past, she embarks on a journey of retribution for her mother that threatens to destroy her future.

Jordana Spiro is also an actress that has starred in numerous films and television series including Netflix’s, Ozark and TBS comedy television program, My Boys. Spiro co-wrote the script with Angelica Nwandu.

Angelica Nwandu, Night Comes On


Night Comes On may officially mark Nwandu’s entry into the film industry, yet Nwandu is widely known as the CEO and founder of the Instagram-based media company, The Shade Room.

Amazingly, The Shade Room was her backup plan after she and Spiro received a grant to fund the film after they submitted the script got accepted in the Sundance Screenwriters Lab.

Nwanda combined her love of celebrity gossip with her love of writing and founded the company in 2014. Within the first year the account garnered over 700k followers and now the media empire has close to 15 million followers on Instagram.

Now with one of the biggest platforms, she is creating a lane for herself in entertainment unlike anyone else.

Courtney Kemp Agboh, Power

Though 50 Cent is the face of the hit Starz drama Power, he is not the one scribing the dialogue to one of Ghost’s intense and powerful monologues. The creator and showrunner of the hit cable series, Courtney Kemp Aghboh, however, admits the rap superstar-actor is a source of constant creative inspiration for the series.

But Kemp Agboh didn’t just come out of nowhere. Like many women of color in the entertainment industry, she has been grinding and climbing her way to the top. Her drive is indicative of the show she has created.

She has had a long stint in the industry. After writing an article for GQ magazine, titled “How to Date a Black Woman,” her authorial voice garnered the attention of two comedy producers and it was here she looked to make moves within the industry.

She landed a spot as a writer on the series The Bernie Mac Show, in 2015. Her other writing credits include CSI, In Justice, Eli Stone, My Own Worst Enemy, Happy Town, Hawaii Five-O,  and finally, her big break, The Good Wife.

Kemp Agboh continues to boss up and has signed a multi-year overall deal with the premium channel’s parent company, Lionsgate. The deal includes several commitments from Starz to develop series through her End of Episode company, including potential spinoffs of Power.

Jordan Peele, Us

Though Get Out was Peele’s directorial debut, many know Peele as the other half of the hilarious comedy duo, Key and Peele. Their skit comedy show, also starring Keegan-Michael Key, garnered a huge fan following and Peele became known for his uncanny impersonation of President Obama.

When Jordan Peele wrote the screenplay for Get Out, it began as a playful writing process with Peele exploring his favorite film genre, horror. As he continued to write, however, he realized the social gravity embedded in the narrative he was crafting.

For Peele, pairing the plot of a Black man going to meet his white girlfriend’s family with the genre of horror, was the most fitting way to tell the story of being a Black man in America. Recently, the director interrupted the Christmas festivities by releasing the creepy and spine-tingling official trailer for his new film, Us.

The new horror film follows the story of Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) and Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke), who take their children to Adelaide’s childhood beach house in Northern California for the summer. Adelaide, however, becomes increasingly paranoid about her family’s well-being as she is haunted by a past trauma.

The ominous pair of gold scissors that are of front and center in the film’s poster has been inscribed in the mind of horror film enthusiasts and admirers’ of the filmmaker who are keenly awaiting the film’s premiere in March next year.

While Peele is continuing to work within the generic conventions of horror, he has also entered into a different dimension. Peele is rebooting the classic sci-fi/horror series, The Twilight Zone, set to be released and streamed on CBS All Access next year

How Kenya Barris uses his real life to make some of the best shows on TV

The more personal a story is, the more universal it becomes. It is a notion that certainly rings true for the creator and showrunner of the hit ABC comedy series Black-ish, Kenya Barris.

After securing four successful seasons in the cut-throat landscape of network television, in addition to garnering Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for Best Comedy Series, Barris has a lot to be proud of.

Black-ish centers on the story of Andre “Dre” Johnson Sr.; an African-American man who grew up poor but who now resides and brings up his family in an affluent and predominately white suburban neighborhood.

Dre works as a successful advertising executive. His wife, Bow, is a doctor. Dre, however, worries that his four children’s privileged upbringing renders their Black identity to be somewhat compromised.


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It’s time for Dre to embrace the great outdoors! #blackish

A post shared by black-ish (@blackishabc) on Jan 5, 2019 at 10:22am PST

While Barris cited the influence The Cosby Show had on the writer growing up, he explained in an interview with People magazine, that the Cosbys could have easily been substituted for a white family. In creating the hit ABC sitcom, Barris said,

“The world is changing, and that’s being reflected by the Johnsons. I wanted to do a show about what it was like to be a black family living in this environment.”

For this, Barris looked inward and drew from his own upbringing and his own family.

The showrunner has repeatedly dramatized real-life events, implanting conversations he has had with his children, his wife’s struggle with preeclampsia (a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure) and the premature birth of one of their sons. Barris said,

“The seed of the show came from my own family I looked around and saw that my kids were not like little black kids that I remember growing up. And, I looked around at all their friends … and they were not like the little white kids I remembered. I wanted to be honest with what it’s like sort of raising your kids in a different environment than you were accustomed to being raised in,”

Barris admits there are parallels between himself and Dre.


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My NBA HOOPS pahtna!!… @leyahbarris !!!!! LET’S GO CLIPPERS!!!!! @laclippers

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More specifically, there are similarities between the Barrises’ and the Johnson’s whose middle-class status as Black families, expose the implications and pressures of assimilation, that come with entering a higher socio-economic class.

In speaking to People, Barris described his upbringing,

“We were definitely poor, but we never felt like we were destitute. We were in a situation where everybody around us was broke too, and we didn’t even know it. I didn’t know until I got out of that situation and looked around.”

The second oldest of four siblings, Barris grew up Inglewood and Pacoima, California. His mother was a real estate agent and his father was General Motors factory worker.

The family’s life changed dramatically after Barris’ father won a huge settlement after losing a lung from a chemical accident. Their new-found wealth allowed the family to move to a middle-class neighborhood and enabled his siblings to attend private school.


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On our way to #SugarBeach – St. Lucia!!!!!!! Leggo!!!

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Barris entered Clark Atlanta University with the goal to study medicine and graduated with a degree in radio, television and film. After graduation, he returned to L.A. and worked as a production assistant.

Admittedly, during his college days, Barris had a stint as a standup comic. While he recognized he didn’t exactly have what it took to be a standup comedian, he did have a comedic voice.

After “selling jokes” for $25 each to comics like the late Bernie Mac, he realized while he may not be the best at delivering the jokes, he could certainly write them.

During this time, Barris’ love and passion for writing grew and he continued to apply his comedic voice to write television scripts which eventually got him steady work as a staff writer for a variety of TV shows.

After selling the hit reality television series America’s Next Top Model, Barris had a comfortable financial cushion that allowed him to move onto his next project.

Barris’ show about an educated middle-class Black family, however, shouldn’t be viewed as a simple ‘diversified’ take on the American Dream or propagation of the bootstrap theory.

Nor, should we view Dre’s didacticism and investment in teaching lessons to his kids about ‘Black culture’ as confining Black identity as homogenous or monolithic. The show has become an important vehicle to explore larger social issues, for both Black and white audiences.

Black-ish, as the title suggests — is that critical in-between space — a liminal space that is produced when Blackness intersects with class and thereby, provokes the weighted ontological question — what does it mean to be Black and how does performance and presenting oneself in a certain way inform this definition?

What’s more, it exposes the tension in how Black people are sometimes perceived as “not Black enough” or “too Black,” as well as how the Black middle-class are sometimes  conceived by the Black community as apolitical, or ‘assimilationist,’ who find themselves abandoning their Blackness or actively calibrating their identity to be accepted by the hegemonic culture and avoid discrimination.

It is the same space between what filmmaker, poet, and activist, Marlon Riggs’ famously dubbed ‘Black is, Black ain’t, wherein, ‘authentic’ Blackness is often equated with the Black working class or living in ‘the hood.’


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Junior surprising his parents by taking a gap year was definitely one of your favorite #blackish moments this year! 😂

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In this sense, the series marshals an important discourse on Black identity and how sexism, patriarchy, homophobia, colorism and the cultural allegiance to Black institutions like the Church are imbricated in this very discourse.

Additionally, it explores how Black economic mobility does not have to leave one to abandon their racial heritage and identity.

Since Barris’ success didn’t come easy, and of course, didn’t happen overnight, he stresses the importance of teaching your kids the same values of gratitude and the importance of having a strong work ethic, especially when occupying a level of privilege and entitlement.

Kenya Barris is not only a shining example of this perseverance, but a role model and inspiration for any Black creative aspiring to tell their stories at the highest level.


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Thank you both for your service, warmth, leadership, and grace… we will miss you dearly. #potus🇺🇸 #flotus 🇺🇸

A post shared by Kenya Barris (@kenyabarris) on Jan 19, 2017 at 11:06pm PST

Though his time at network television has been rewarding, Barris has parted ways with ABC and signed a lucrative three-year deal with Netflix, that will see him produce content exclusively for the streaming service.

With reboots of Shaft, White Man Can’t Jump, and Cheaper By The Dozen, and even more original titles, expect to see more of Kenya’s work hitting a screen near you very soon.

The box office is lit this year: 12 films we’re hyped about in 2019

2018 turned out to be an impressive and groundbreaking year in film.

By the looks of the films that are set to be released this year, 2019 is shaping up to be no different and another stellar year jammed packed with superhero films, new installments of our beloved franchises, new releases from the hottest and most in-demand directors, as well as indie films lead by some of the biggest names in Hollywood.

Peep the list of the most anticipated films for 2019 and mark your calendars!


Directed by: Jordan Peele

Release date: March 15, 2019

People are so hyped to see Jordan Peele’s latest film that when the official trailer for his creepy and spine-tingling new film Us was released Xmas day, the trailer brought the holiday to a momentary standstill.

The ominous pair of gold scissors that are of front and center in the film’s poster has been inscribed in the mind of horror film enthusiasts and admirers’ of the Get Out director.

The new horror film follows the story of Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) and Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke), who take their children to Adelaide’s childhood beach house in Northern California for the summer. Adelaide, however, becomes increasingly paranoid about her family’s well-being as she is haunted by past trauma.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Directed by: Richard Linklater

Release date: March 22, 2019

Based on the novel of the same name, Cate Blanchett will star as an anxiety-ridden mother who suddenly goes missing prior to a family trip to Antarctica, prompting her teen daughter to figure out what happened.

The film will be helmed by Oscar-winning director and Texas native, Richard Linklater (Boyhood). It features strong supporting cast, including the likes of Judy Greer, Kristen Wiig, Billy Crudup and Laurence Fishburne.

The Lion King

Directed by: Jon Favreau

Release date: July 19, 2019

If the reception of a teaser trailer that was released on Thanksgiving Day, is any indication of how hyped people are to see a film, the live-action reboot of the Disney classic, The Lion King is bound to be a major box-office success.

Within only 24 hours, the teaser received close to 225 million views

The voice cast list offers an impressive list of stars. Beyoncé will voice Nala, Donald Glover will voice Simba, Chiwetel Umeadi Ejiofo will voice the film’s villain Scar, and of course, James Earl Jones will use his god-like voice again in reprising his role as Mufasa.

Toy Story 4

Directed by: Josh Cooley

Release date: June 21

Just after we got over the trauma of seeing our beloved characters disintegrate in the incinerator scene and heartstring-tugging ending in Toy Story 3, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Rex and the rest of the gang will return to screens next summer to embark on another adventure.

Little is known around the plot of the new installment. Since Andy is now at college, I am speculating the toy ensemble will reside with Bonnie who was featured in the third film.

Pixar did announce that Keanu Reeves and Patricia Arquette will be playing characters, though the animation group has not announced their roles yet.

Captain Marvel

Directed by: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck

Release date: March 8

Oscar-winner Brie Larson has joined forces with the Marvel Universe. Larson filmed her scenes for the hugely anticipated Avengers: Endgame that also hits theaters this year on April 26.

Her solo venture is set during the 1990s which sees Larson play air force pilot Carol Danvers who possessed mysterious superpowers.

Very little is known about the film and Larson has been required to remain extremely tight-lipped about the project. We do know that Jude Law will play the antagonist Yon-Rogg.

Rocket Man

Directed by: Dexter Fletcher

Release date: May 17

2019 will be marked by another major music biopic; a forthcoming film about the life of Sir Elton John.

Taron Egerton (Kingsman) plays the British pop star alongside newly Golden Globe winner, Richard Madden (Bodyguard) who will play the singer’s manager and partner John Reid. The film follows the early years of the chart-topping singer’s career and his rise to fame.

The film is produced by The Rocket Man himself, and his partner David Furnish, through their company Rocket Pictures. Billy Eliot writer Lee Hall has written the screenplay, while Dexter Fletcher, who also helmed Bohemian Rhapsody will direct the film.


Directed by: Todd Phillips

Release date: October 4

There are a lot of superhero movies out there, but Joker is the first supervillain movie where the antagonist’s story is front and center.

Director Todd Phillips (The Hangover trilogy) offers another interpretation of the Batman supervillain with Joaquin Phoenix taking a turn of the iconic role.

I’m sure Phoenix knows he has big shoes to fill after the late Heath Ledger earned an Oscar for his riveting performance in The Dark Knight. Hollywood heavyweight, Robert De Niro will also star in the DC film.

Men in Black

Directed by:  F. Gary Gray

Release date: June 14

The Men in Black franchise has produced with a spinoff movie that shifts focus away from Will Smith’s Agent J and Tommy Lee Jones’s Agent K to a new generation of suit-sporting enforcers.

The spinoff stars Tessa Thompson as Agent M and Chris Hemsworth as Agent H who team up to solve a mystery that spans across the globe, blasting aliens all along the way.

Liam Neeson plays the head of the U.K. branch of M.I.B., while Emma Thompson stars as the head of the U.S. branch.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Heyday Films

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Release date: July 26

Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film will be a behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood in 1969 against the terrifying backdrop of the Manson murders that shook the nation.

The film centers on a former Western star and his longtime stunt double, who struggles to find success in the increasingly changing landscape of Hollywood. The cast includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Dakota Fanning, James Marsden, and Al Pacino. Braze.

If that didn’t stir enough excitement, there are strong rumors circulating that the film could be a starting point for a spin-off TV series, after Tarantino has reportedly gotten hold of the rights to a mostly-forgotten TV Western called Lancer.

Little Women

Di Novi Pictures

Directed by: Greta Gerwig

Release date: December 25

After the sweeping success of her film Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig will reteam with actors Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet, in the latest interpretation of the literary classic, Little Women.

The film features the queen of cinema, Meryl Streep, with the rest of the March sisters to be played by actress and activist Emma Watson, Florence Pugh (The Little Drummer Girls), and Eliza Scanlen (Sharp Objects).

The Irishman


Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Release date: TBA

When a project has the names Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel attached, it’s hard to believe that movie studios didn’t embrace the film that reunites the biggest names in Hollywood.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, De Niro and Scorsese were having trouble getting traditional financing from a studio before Netflix stepped up with the funds — a $140 million budget to be exact.

The mob drama that follows the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa is set to a limited theatrical release.

Gloria Bell

Directed by Sebastián Lelio

Release date: March 8

The Academy Award-winning director (A Fantastic Woman, Disobedience) remakes his 2013 Chilean drama without leaving behind its poignant coming-of-age narrative.

Julianne Moore stars as Gloria; a free-spirited divorcée who spends her days at a straight-laced office job and her nights on the dance floor, joyfully letting loose at clubs around Los Angeles.

After meeting Arnold (John Turturro) on a night out, she finds herself thrust into an unexpected new romance, filled with both the joys of budding love and the complications of dating, identity, and family.

The film is one of the few highly anticipated movies to be released next year by the NYC-based indie production company, A24.

Cyntoia Brown is finally getting her justice after serving 15 years in prison

15 years later, justice has finally been served. Cyntoia Denise Brown, a woman serving a life sentence for killing a man who bought her for sex when she was 16-years-old, has been granted clemency.

At the age of 30, Brown will be released to parole supervision on August after serving 15 years in prison. Before leaving office next month, Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee released a statement on his Brown’s case,

“Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16…Yet, imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 years before even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life.”

He continued,

“Transformation should be accompanied by hope. So, I am commuting Ms. Brown’s sentence, subject to certain conditions.”

In 2004, Brown killed Johnny Mitchell Allen, who Brown said had solicited her for sex and taken her back to his house. During her trial, prosecutors said that Brown shot Allen in the head while he was sleeping, stole money, guns, took his truck, and fled the scene. Essentially, they argued the killing wasn’t motivated by self-defense, but robbery.

Brown insisted that she was scared for her life by Allen’s behavior, and took money for fear of returning empty-handed to her pimp.

Nonetheless, a juvenile court found Brown competent to be tried as an adult. She was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery, and sentenced to life in prison, leaving her not eligible for parole until 2055.

Cyntoia was able to recount the night of her attack, and Allen’s death in the 2011 PBS documentary, Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story. Cyntoia explained that she was looking to get a ride to East Nashville to engage in street-based sex work when she met Allen.

Cyntoia characterized her survival strategies as survival sex work or teenage prostitution for an adult pimp nicknamed “Kut Throat.”

The years-old case drew the attention of several high-profile advocates including a US congressman, several Tennessee lawmakers, local human rights groups and a number of A-List celebrities.

Singer Rihanna, comedian Amy Schumer, reality star Kim Kardashian West, NBA star LeBron James, and actress/activist Ashley Judd were among those who called for Brown’s clemency.

Lawmakers and civil activists lobbied the governor to grant Brown clemency pointing to the years of abuse and forced prostitution that she endured in her youth. In a statement, Ms. Brown thanked the governor for his actions, she said,

“For your act of mercy in giving me a second chance. I will do everything I can to justify your faith in me.”

Brown’s case is indicative of the need for criminal justice reforms, particularly in the case of juvenile offenders, and especially those who are people of color.

Yet, her case is also emblematic of what activism and social media can do in enabling justice.

Regina King vows to hire 50% women in all upcoming films she produces

It’s been one year since the #TimesUp campaign officially launched but its message and agenda was visibly present at last night’s Golden Globes Award Ceremony.

Charlize Theron and Amber Heard wore Time’s Up ribbons, while stars such as Julianne Moore donned bracelets designed by Oscar-nominated costume designer, Arianne Phillip.


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On my way to the @goldenglobes ⭐️ @timesupnow

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Since last year, actresses and actors have increasingly used their star status to address the systemic inequality, injustices, and violations that have been rampant in Hollywood.

After winning the Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture, Regina King used her platform to announce the pressing need to improve the gender gap in Hollywood and other industries, despite the orchestra attempting to usher her off stage.

King persisted and pledged in her acceptance speech that she will ensure that all projects she produces will be staffed by 50% women in the next two years.

King won for her role as Sharon Rivers in Barry Jenkins’ screen adaptation of the James Baldwin novel If Beale Street Could Talk.

The also thanked Jenkins and his vision for storytelling in her speech, asserting,

“Thank you for your empathy, for telling stories so rich and for giving us a film that my son said when he saw it, it was the first time he really saw himsel“giving us a film that my son said to me when he saw it, that it was the first time he really saw himself.”

She went on to emphasize the cultural influence actors have in catalyzing change, expressing,

The reason why we do this is because we understand that our microphones are big and we are speaking for everyone. And I just want to say that I’m going to use my platform right now to say in the next two years everything that I produce I am making a vow — and it’s going to be tough — to make sure that everything that I produce — that is 50% women. And I just challenge anyone out there — anyone out there who is in a position of power, not just in our industry, in all industries, I challenge you to challenge yourselves and stand with us in solidarity and do the same.”

In a statement last week, Time’s Up, which aims to address systemic inequality and injustice in the workplace, in its second year, is calling for the number of women in leadership roles throughout all industries to be doubled.

“We created the fund because all people deserve to be safe at work, but safety alone is far from our end goal,” the statement read. “It’s the bare minimum. Sexual harassment stems from an imbalance of power. Issues of workplace safety for women, and especially for women of color, are but a symptom of the power imbalance that plagues nearly every sector. We won’t stop fighting until there is gender balance in leadership and all women have the opportunity to reach their full potential at work.”

With women of color taking charge, Congress is unlike ever before

January 3rd, 2019 marked a poignant and historic day in U.S. history as the 116th Congress swore in the most inclusive class of representatives ever.

Nancy Pelosi was elected speaker of the House and her election makes her one of just a few lawmakers to serve as speaker in two, non-consecutive Congresses. She last served as speaker from 2007-2011.

The fact that Pelosi will be at the helm of the House in the midst of a partial government shutdown is proof of the absurdity that has characterized Washington since Trump’s election.

The shutdown that has brought Capitol Hill to a halt since Christmas has left thousands of federal workers without pay. What’s more, the seizing of their income is on the account of Trump’s child-like tantrum over building his megalomanic border wall that had been the hallmark of his campaign trail.

Nonetheless, the partial government shutdown shouldn’t take away from this momentous day. The new Congress now boasts the largest number of women. In fact, there will be 102 women serving in Congress this term.

The Congressional Black Caucus and the Hispanic Caucus added more members than ever before. Connecticut and Massachusetts both electing their first-ever Black congresswomen. Jahana Hayes will represent Connecticut’s fifth district, while Ayanna Pressley, will represent Massachusetts’s seventh district. Additionally, Lauren Underwood became the youngest Black woman ever sworn into Congress.

In her speech, Pelosi described the occasion,

“It is a historic moment for the Congress, and a historic moment for the women of this country. It is a moment for which we have waited over 200 years. Never losing faith, we waited through the many years of struggle to achieve our rights. But women weren’t just waiting; women were working. Never losing faith, we worked to redeem the promise of America, that all men and women are created equal.”

Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) became the first Muslim women in Congress.

Tlaib is also the first Palestinian-American woman in the national legislature. She marked the historic occasion by wearing a thobe — a traditional Palestinian dress. Tlaib represents Michigan’s 13th Congressional District, which includes parts of Detroit and its surrounding suburbs.

Like fellow freshman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Tlaib is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. She has been a proponent of policies such as a $15 minimum wage, debt-free college, and Medicare-for-all, the abolishment of ICE and the impeachment of President Trump.

23 years ago, Omar was a refugee who came to the United States with her father. Now, she is the first Somali-American elected to Congress. She the first member of the US Congress to wear a hijab.

Rules were changed to allow Omar to wear a religious head covering on the floor of the House. Previously, there had been a 181-year ban on headwear.


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Hey, Ilhan’s dad here: Twenty three years ago, my family and I arrived at an airport in Washington DC. We were newly arrived refugees in this country, from a refugee camp in Kenya. I had heard about the promise of America, prosperity for all and hope for a better tomorrow. I could never have dreamed that twenty three years later I would return to the same airport with my daughter Ilhan by my side, the day before she is to be sworn in as the first Somali-American elected to the United States Congress. You, of course, can imagine how emotional this is and why I am incredibly proud of her. It’s an honor to have her represent me and our family is so humbled that Ilhan has the opportunity to serve in our democracy. I wish Ilhan’s grandfather could be here to witness this historic moment. He will be here in spirit as Ilhan will place her hand on his Quran for the ceremonial swearing in. Tomorrow, members of Ilhan’s team will be covering the events of the day. We all hope you will follow along and share in our excitement for what the New Year will bring. As Ilhan would say, forward together. Nur Mohamed #Hope #ilhan

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The first openly bisexual lawmaker, Rep. Krysten Sinema (D – Ariz) was also sworn into the Senate and had to faceoff with Vice President Mike Pence.

He is, of course, a vocal proponent of gay-conversion therapy and has passed laws (RFRA), that target LGBTQ people, making it easier for businesses and employers to discriminate against them.

On Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), wore white in honor of the suffragists who fought for women’s right to vote. Cortez is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

She’s just 28-years-old and just to put that in perspective, the average age of a United States congressperson is around 60.  Following her surprise victory in the Democratic primaries over incumbent Joe Crowley in June, Cortez will represent New York’s 14th congressional district in the House of Representatives.

Her campaign platform included universal Medicare, abolishing ICE, gun control, a $15 minimum wage, and the end of private prisons.

Reps. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) and Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) shared a touching moment as they embraced on the House floor, wiping away tears, as their presence signaled them as the first Native American women in Congress

In the immediate aftermath of the midterms elections, many quashed any notion of the results as a “blue wave.”

Sure, Democrats didn’t take hold of the Senate, but they did take hold of Congress. The new members of the 116th Congress signal that some things are changing in Washington for the better.

Plus, photos of the new House members demonstrate a huge gap in inclusivity between the political parties.

Given, that the House representatives of Republican Party are a homogeneous group of white older men, it is important that the rest of the House is a group that better reflect the diversity that composes our society.

It’s impossible to defend R. Kelly after new docuseries exposes the truth

Documentary filmmakers are governed by a drive to expose the truth.

Dream Hampton employed this drive in creating the documentary series, “Surviving R. Kelly,” that brings together Kelly’s accusers and inner circle to detail the musicians life and the allegations of sexual abuse and pedophilia against R&B artist.

The documentary series provides an important platform for the survivors to share their stores of abuse against the R&B star. The series sheds light on a shocking and disturbing complicit system that enabled the abuse to continue and protected the troubled star from punishment. Criminal allegations made against the R&B singer aren’t new.

In 2002, Kelly was charged with 21 counts of child pornography related to his allegedly videotaping himself having sex with an unidentified underage girl. The case went to trial in 2008, but Kelly was acquitted on all charges.

The R&B artist is, however, finds himself in the spotlight again as the first installment of the documentary series and has re-sparked public outrage over the star. Speaking on the new allegations that are revealed in the series, Hampton, who serves as executive producer of the series, said,

“We have evidence of him raping underage girls, which is what sex with underage girls always is. There are whole systems in place: housing, runners, rules…There are women decades apart testifying to the kind of rules that they were subjected to living with this man, dealing with this man; there are hundreds, probably thousands of tapes made of them [by R. Kelly] without their permission. He’s also deeply manipulative; these are women who didn’t know each other, 20 years apart, and they’d be talking about being made to sign false confessions and he’d say, ‘This is my insurance that you don’t hurt me the way these other women have hurt me.’ So, I knew we were dealing with someone that we may not want to dismiss. He’s dangerous.”

The Lifetime series tells the story of through the experiences of his accusers, including the star’s ex-wife Andrea Kelly, who shared allegations of pedophilia and physical and sexual abuse perpetrated by the singer that span decades.

In addition, other survivors Asante McGee, Jerhonda Pace, Kitti Jones, Lisa Van Allen, and Lizette Martinez share their stories of abuse. #MeToo founder Tarana Burke makes an appearance, along with R&B singer Sparkle, R. Kelly’s brothers, and other people from Kelly’s inner circle.

Sparkle detailed how Kelly groomed her niece when she was 12. Jovante Cunningham reveals in the documentary that Kelly made teenage girls perform sexual acts in public, and had sex with a teenage girl in the studio as other people watched.

Many celebrities, however, refused to speak and participate in the documentary. Hampton told the Detroit Free Press,

“It was incredibly difficult to get people who had collaborated with Kelly to come forward,”

According to Hampton, Lady Gaga, Jay-Z and other former collaborators Céline Dion, Erykah Badu, Dave Chapelle, turned down interviews for the docu-series. Drummer of The Roots, Quest Love, also allegedly declined to participate. Hampton recalled the drummer saying to her,

“I would do anything for you but I can’t do this. It’s not because they support him, it’s because it’s so messy and muddy. It’s that turning away that has allowed this to go on.”

John Legend was the exception. Speaking on his participation in the project, he tweeted:

The explosive content of the LifeTime series literally incited violence (or a serious threat of it). Last month, the New York City premiere of the documentary series was canceled after an anonymous shooting threat was made to the venue.

Even before this incident, Hampton knew what she was getting herself into. Sexual assault cases are never easy to prove given the way our culture treats survivors who chose to come forward. This is especially the case for women of color and is especially the case when the perpetrator is a celebrity or public figure.

The docuseries will air in two more installments: Friday, January 4th at 9 p.m, and Saturday,  January 5th at 9 p.m.

The oversized backpack trend is the first sign 2019 is going to be wild

From thong jeans (that had a waitlist!), Croc high heeled shoes, denim high knee boots, clear plastic pants, and garden brows, 2018 was laden with crazy fashion trends.

2019 is no different.

While oversized or baggy clothing isn’t a new fashion trend, the Japanese retailer Plywood, however, seems to have taken the concept of exaggerated proportions very literally in creating a new backpack.


Plywood has created the ‘Backpacker’s Closet;’ a bag, so large it can be used as a wardrobe to transport your clothing and if you want to be creative, you could use it as a makeshift sleeping bag.

The oversized backpacks are designed by CWF and the bags retail for $234. They are sold in three colors: “sand beige,” “olive drag,” and “black.”

Plywood insists that the backpacks are appropriate for different occasions and settings from camping to carrying heavy textbooks to school or the essentials for a workday.


According to CWF, the bags “ideal for storage of clothes” and “can be used instead of a closet.”

The website explains, “If you live in a house with a small number of closets and you are having trouble with storage, you can also hide the things you do not want to show.”

CWF says the bags are designed to be functional. But to be honest, when I think about a functional backpack, I’m thinking of one such as the Northface surge backpack.


To achieve this, the backpack uses a third middle strap for optimal support as opposed to the standard two strap system.

According to the Plywood website, “the shoulder strap is designed to reduce the stress on the shoulder, making it easy to move and transport.”

That’s cool and all but the real questions is, are you rocking these bags in 2019?