PopCornucopia is all about free associative pop culture tidbits as they strike my fancy, just like kernels of corn exploding into fullness at a random and unpredictable pace. And of course, the cornucopia is the horn of plenty.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Black History Month: Netflix style

In honor of black history month, I thought I'd just pick few really nice films of recent years in keeping with spirit of the month that are available via Netflix Instant, as that is primary channel through which I've seen many of these. While disparate in subject matter, I've curated this compendium with an eye to the power of DIY that I think runs through all of these films in one way or another.

Black and White
A hometown gem,  Medicine for Melancholy realizes a vision of a very little told story, the black middle class experience in San Francisco. Starring Wyatt Cenac of the Daily Show, the nuance and beauty as well as its love for my dear San Francisco make this a standout indie flick.

Medicine For Melancholy from Strike Anywhere on Vimeo.

And more recently, Tall Enough, a short film by the same director, Barry Jenkins available on DramaFever, is quite lovely reflection on interracial relationship stuff.

Paint a portrait of tomorrow with no colors from today
Worth it alone for an opening scene with Cornell West and Tavis Smiley--two legends of the black mainstream intelligentsia--praising him, Still Bill is a touching documentary covering one of the greatest and most modest troubadours ever to grace the face of the earth. This film made me cry and totally fall in love with Bill Withers. See for yourself why this film merited the waterworks

Red monster
And just today, I caught Being Elmo. It's a heartwarming, if limited profile of Kevin Clash, the man behind Elmo. While Sesame Street definitely featured Black folks in front of the camera from the get-go (including Roscoe Orman, who I met when I was a child--yes I got Gordon's autograph!), Clash was probably the first black muppeteer. It airs on PBS in April. I love that Clash made his own puppets, and you see him as an artisan, creator, and performer. I had no idea he shot into the puppetry stratosphere as a 17 year old wunderkind elected in high school as most likely to be a millionaire.

Watch Meet the Man Behind Elmo on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.

Favorite moment? Proof of Clash's (and Elmo's) star power, he puts together a video of celebs wishing is daughter happy birthday for her sweet sixteen. And it is filmic gold when the tape is rolling and we see Clash's weeping juxtaposed with LL Cool J's onscreen appearance eliciting a huge WOOOOOO! from the crowd as he blows a kiss with those famously lush lips.

Green Thumb
I love topiary. It is the first extravagance I will indulge when I become a multi-millioniare with an enormous mansion. And if he's still at it, I will have Pearl Fryar create my topiaries. A Man Named Pearl is a great little film about the man responsible for some of the world's finest topiaries. He fuels the economy of a small South Carolina town and puts them on the map. A chance encounter with topiary led to becoming a largely self-taught master of botanical art. Highly enjoyable.

Aaaaannnnndddd CUT!


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