Happy New Year! For the first time, ever, I feel a real sense of change and promise for 2016. I’m determined to make this a great year and a part of that will be sharpening my writing skills by posting regularly on this blog.
I’ll admit it: nothing initially sprang to mind when thinking about what I’m looking forward to seeing this year. However, after reading a few lists and engaging in one of my favorite past-times (i.e. watching trailers on YouTube), I discovered that 2016 isn’t looking too bad on the media front. In addition to watching any programming that celebrates diversity, here are a few upcoming T.V. shows and movies on my Must-Watch List.
Superstore– I was super excited to hear about America Ferrera’s return to television after seeing commercials for this comedy series revolving around the employees of a Walmart-esque store. Though I somehow missed the first 3 episodes, I made sure to tune in after stumbling across the show earlier this week. I laughed more than a few times during the latest episode, which centered on pranks involving a store mannequin and a comical battle of parenting skills as two employees vie to raise their co-worker’s unborn child. Add in The Office style docu-camera shots and a diverse cast and I’m ready to watch weekly.
American Crime – Though Scream Queens was not nearly as funny or well-executed as I expected, I do like the anthology-style shows that have become trendy as of late. With the increase in high-intensity dramas on primetime, television has become more cinematic in recent years. Anthology series avoid the pitfalls of dramas, which are forced to find new twists and turns, by crafting a completely new story and set of characters each season. I missed last season of American Crime as I was abroad, but I’m looking forward to catching Regina King, who won an Emmy for her work on the show’s first season, in action on the new season. John Ridley, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of 12 Years a Slave, is the show’s writer and producer and the nuanced characters he has crafted shine in just the first episode.
The Family – ABC now has my attention both in the fall and winter thanks to its strong line-up of dramas. The Family is inspired by the creepy, true story of a family who reconnects with their son, who returns home after being abducted years beforehand. Though I can pretty much guess where the story is going thanks to an overly-detailed trailer, the show still looks intriguing. Joan Allen is an amazing actress and I am enthralled by the idea that this family is housing a psychotic impostor.
AfroPop: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange– I stumbled across AfroPop this summer on NYC TV, a local station in New York. The series features documentaries and films centered on an issue that greatly interests me as a filmmaker: telling the stories of the African Diaspora. One of the most powerful films I saw last year was thanks to this program. Sound of Torture follows Meron, an Eritrean radio host based in Sweden who interviews and aids Eritreans held captive in torture camps near the Egyptian-Israeli border. After a trip to the border to meet with some of the refugees she has helped rescue and meet with aid workers, Meron has to deliver the terrible news to one man that his sister, who has been missing for 2 years, died at 19 years old while crossing the border. In one of the most emotional scenes I have seen captured on film, he calmly thanks her for the news before letting out a wail deep from within his core. I commend AfroPop for bringing such critical independent films to larger audiences and anticipate another great line-up this year.
The Get Down – Like most folks, I was skeptical when Baz Luhrmann was announced as the creative force behind Netflix’s series about the birth of hip hop. Besides having a love-hate relationship with the over-the-top visuals that have made him a household name, I was disappointed that a person of color was not selected to helm the show and ensure the South Bronx would be portrayed authentically. However, I am certainly singing a new tune after seeing the trailer. A plethora of young actors of color are featured, including Shameik Moore from the summer hit Dope, and Luhrmann’s style will be put to good use in the disco sequences.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 – This is one of my favorite romantic comedies from the 2000s, so I was pleasantly surprised to hear that a sequel would be released more than a decade after the first. Much of the original cast is returning, including everyone’s favorite Windex-welding Dad, as Toula’s parents find themselves headed to the altar after a mistake with their wedding certificate. Toula’s teenage daughter is preparing to go off to college, giving Toula the chance to utter the famous phrase “Why you want to leave me?”
Chocolat – I learned of this film via the foremost blog on cinema within the African diaspora, Shadow and Act. Omar Sy stars as Rafael Padilla, a former slave born in Cuba who becomes one of the first black stars of the French vaudeville circuit. He struggles to be taken seriously as a person and performer, with most of his audience conflating him with his work as Chocolat, the clown. Fingers crossed the film will be picked up by an American distribution company!
Ghostbusters – So, I haven’t actually seen the original (blasphemous, I know), but I love the idea of remaking a classic with an all female cast of really funny comedians. Plus, it gets bonus points for diversity as Leslie Jones rounds out the group.
Moana – Disney is finally adding a Polynesian princess to its universe with their latest animated film. Moana leaves her island home with the demigod Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) to find adventure. The music will be created by none other than Lin-Manuel Miranda, so you know it’s gonna be amazing.