20 Years of "Sister Act": An Appreciation
20 Years of "Sister Act": An Appreciation

20 Years of 'Sister Act': An Appreciation

On May 29, 1992, "Sister Act" opened in the U.S., and Whoopi Goldberg was finally given the spotlight. Granted, Goldberg had become an actress to watch after playing Celie in "The Color Purple" in 1985, and then a household name when she won an Academy Award for her comedic masterpiece Oda Mae Brown in 1990's "Ghost." But "Sister Act" still is, 20 years later, Whoopi's most indelible starring role. It's the crowd-pleasing fish-out-of-water vehicle most actors dream of eyeing when they stroll up to the plate for a much-needed hit.

It's a simple premise -- Reno showgirl catches mobster boyfriend offing his chauffeur, joins the witness protection program, gets placed in a convent, becomes "Sister Mary Clarence" and hijinks ensue -- that is gleefully constructed in its first 15 minutes, but the ride is such dumb fun that viewers never mind its formulaic setup. Seriously, try and pull yourself away from this one when it's on TV, and you've gotten sucked in to Whoopi's wisecracks. So many of "Sister Act's" one-liners are easy to spot from a mile away: when Mother Superior (Maggie Smith) tells the uber-skeptical Sister Mary Clarence, "There are three vows every nun must accept -- the vow of poverty, the vow of obedience, and the vow of... chastity," and Whoopi shakes her grand finger and says, "I am OUTTA here with that!", it's a broad, obvious joke, but one that the master comic effortlessly sells. "Sister Act," after all, was not produced to be edgy or provocative, but to earn belly laughs from 6-year-olds and 60-year-olds, anxious to see what inconceivable trouble the foul-mouthed nun will get into next.

The cast around Goldberg is pretty flawless, as it needs to be for this movie to work: Smith balances the star's brashness with her deadpan wit as the convent's humorless head, while Harvey Keitel walks over from the set of "Reservoir Dogs" to play the slick bastard that Whoopi is trying to lock up. As the fellow nuns, Kathy Najimy is excitable, and Mary Wickes is crotchety. But "Sister Act" lives and dies with Whoopi, of course. After earning an unexpected ring with "Ghost," Goldberg is in full Dwyane Wade attack mode here, making her outlandish character impossible not to root for. After Mary Clarence takes charge of the church choir and miraculously coaxes incredible vocals out of her pupils -- "We call that an A, with an attitude!" -- church passerby are soon packing the pews, in a musical sequence that is at once ridiculous and impossible not to appreciate. At the heart of it is Whoopi, shaking her ass in her holy habit and seemingly having a blast. It's not just a great performance from an on-her-game African-American leading lady, it's a DOMINATING performance, one that transforms an ordinary concept into a special one.

So, 20 years later, what is the cultural footprint of "Sister Act"? Well, there's the Broadway musical that opened in 2011 and currently stars Raven Symone, as well as the 1993 sequel, "Sister Act II: Back in the Habit," that is a joyful piece of popcorn cinema in its own right and introduced the world to some singer named Lauryn Hill. But more important than the film's spinoffs is its commercial success without a two-dimensional male character in sight. Long before "Bridesmaids" got everyone talking about the power of women in comedy, there was Whoopi and a bunch of nuns, cracking wise and earning millions at the box office. Goldberg may have taken a few missteps in the following years (cough, cough, "Eddie"), but with "Sister Act," she was able to appeal to all demographics without toning down her Whoopi-ness. "People don't like going to church. Why? Because it's a drag!" she says in "Sister Act." "But we could change all that! We could pack this joint!" Pack this joint you did, Whoopi -- and we're forever grateful to be able to relive one of your high points.

Check out our favorite clip from "Sister Act," where Whoopi and co. dazzle a packed church -- and the Pope! -- with some "I Will Follow Him":

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‘Boyz N The Hood’ And ‘You Got Served’ Actress Esther Scott Dies At Age 66

Esther Scott, the actress who appeared in Boyz n the Hood, Beverly Hills 90210, Full House, You Got Served and more, has passed away at age 66.

Scott died last Friday (Feb. 14), days after suffering an apparent heart attack. Her death was first reported on Tuesday (Feb. 18) by TMZ.

According to the site, Scott was found unconscious in her Santa Monica, Calif. home last Tuesday (Feb. 11) and remained hospitalized for several days before passing away on Valentine's Day surrounded by friends and family.

"She loved what she did. She would get stopped on the street often and people would recognize her -- but they didn't know her name," Scott's sister told the website. "Hopefully now people will remember her name, her work and the contributions she gave to the entertainment industry."

The Queens native began her career as a voice actress in the ‘80s series StarWars: Ewoks. Scott’s first credited feature film role was as grandmother to the character Tisha (played by Leonette Scott) in Boyz n the Hood.

Scott worked steadily throughout the ‘90s and ‘00s, following up her appearance in Boyz n the Hood with roles in Encino Man, Don Juan DeMarco, Illegal Blue, Species, The Craft, and Out to Sea.

Scott found success in both TV and film appearing as a judge in Austin Powers in Goldmember, a grandmother in You Got Served, as well as roles in Dreamgirls, Transformers, Gangster Squad, and The Birth of a Nation, The Steve Harvey Show, Party of Five, Ellen, Hart of Dixie, and Sister, Sister.

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Malcolm X’s Assassination To Be Reinvestigated After Docuseries Raises Questions

A documentary on Malcolm X’s assassination has prompted authorities to reexamine the case. In Who Killed Malcolm X? historian Abdur-Rahman Muhammad explores the many questions surrounding the death of one of history’s most pivotal figures. The six-part series originally aired on Fusion but has been gaining popularity since appearing on Netflix.

This February will mark the 55-year anniversary of Malcolm’s murder. The former Nation of Islam leader, who left the organization and changed his name to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, was gunned down inside Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965. Three members of the NOI, Mujahid Abdul Halim, Muhammad Abdul Aziz and Khalil Islam, were convicted for the murder and sentenced to life in prison.

As noted by the Innocence Project, Aziz and Islam always maintained their innocence, while Halim confessed to partaking in the fatal shooting. In 1966, Halim testified that Aziz and Islam had “nothing to do” with the murder. In 1978, Halim identified four other men as co-conspirators. His confession was supported by FBI documents obtained by civil rights lawyer William Kunstler. Prosecutors in the original trial claimed to have been unaware of the documents and New York State Supreme Court Judge Harold Rothwax ultimately rejected a motion to vacate Aziz and Islam’s convictions. Rothwax died in 1997.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance has since met with representatives from the Innocence Project “and associated counsel regarding the matter,” a spokesperson for the DA’s office said in an emailed statement, per NPR.

Although Islam died in 2009, Aziz, now 81, continues to fight to clear his name. He was freed on parole in 1985. The Innocence Project joined forces with civil rights attorney David Shanies to re-investigate Azis’s conviction. “We are grateful that District Attorney Vance quickly agreed to conduct a review of the conviction of Muhammad Aziz. Given the historical importance of this case and the fact that our client is 81 years old, we are especially encouraged that Mr. Vance has assigned two highly respected prosecutors, Peter Casolaro and Charles King, to work on this re-investigation,” the Innocence Project and Shanies said in a joint statement. “We look forward to working cooperatively with them to see that justice is done.”

Casolaro worked on the case of the Exonerated Five and King is a member of the Conviction Integrity Program of the New York County District Attorney’s Office.

As noted by the Innocence Project, there was no physical evidence linking Aziz or Islam to Malcolm’s murder. In fact, Aziz wasn’t even at the venue. The day of the murder, Aziz had returned home after being treated for a leg injury. He heard about Malcolm's assassination while listening to the radio that day, and has doctors and witnesses, to corroborate his story.

Watch the trailer for Who Killed Malcolm X? below.


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Ava DuVernay Named Director Of Nipsey Hussle Documentary For Netflix

Ava DuVernay's next cinematic feat will center on a hometown legend. According to Deadline, the acclaimed director will lead a documentary on Nipsey Hussle for streaming giant Netflix.

The announcement was made on Monday (Feb. 10), two weeks since DuVernay presented a musical tribute to the late rapper at the 52nd annual Grammy Awards. Hussle won two gramophones that evening: Best Rap Performance and Best Rap/Sung Performance.

In tribute to his birthday on August 15, the Emmy-award winning director shared a message on Twitter that expressed her gratitude for the interactions they had. "Grateful that he existed. Grateful we walked this vast earth at the same time," she wrote. "In the same city. Grateful that our paths crossed. Grateful for the work and wisdom he gave us."

For Nipsey. Ermias. Son. Brother. Partner. Friend. Artist. Champion. Grateful that he existed. Grateful we walked this vast earth at the same time. In the same city. Grateful that our paths crossed. Grateful for the work and wisdom he gave us. We miss you. Happy Birthday, Nip. xo pic.twitter.com/cNEZHUhiao

— Ava DuVernay (@ava) August 15, 2019

On March 31, 2019, Hussle, born Ermias Asghedom, was fatally shot outside of his Marathon Clothing store in Los Angeles. His death rattled various communities and prompted supporters and new fans to take a look back at this trajectory within music and entrepreneurship.

According to Billboard, other streaming services in the mix included Apple and Amazon. Alongside Hussle's family, the entrepreneur's Marathon Films will also helm production duties.

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