Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone
Screengrab

Zoe Saldana Channels A Broken Woman (Not Nina Simone) In Offbeat Biopic

The controversial film directed by Cynthia Mort leaves us with more questions than answers about the legendary artist.

It’s easy to compare artists these days and it stems from a number of things. The influencers are still just as dynamic as the admirers, samples are noticeable than ever in all genres (blame nostalgia) and authenticity isn’t something that thrives in heavy amounts on the Billboard charts. To seek out true talent, one must dive deep into the music scene (or your Soundcloud), bringing a new definition to “discovering music.”

When it comes to Nina Simone, there's no one that can compare, and this is the reason why the biopic falls flat. While watching the Cynthia Mort-directed film, we're reminded that the singer is the best to ever do it, with endless news headlines and recreations of her legendary album covers making up the opening credits. Aside from this, the audience learns next to nothing about Ms. Simone, besides her battles with alcoholism, mental illness and a dynamic fashion sense. It also fails to answer the most basic of questions about the singer. Why was her music prolific? Who inspired her? It’s implied that we should know these things, yet uncovers the film’s discrepancies with the singer's family. If they were involved, we could have seen another side of the singer that was portrayed in the 2015 Oscar-nominated documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone.

The controversial film is also centered around Simone, played by Zoe Saldana, and Clifton Henderson (David Oyelowo), who is reluctantly taken to Bouc-Bel-Air, France from California after the two meet during her time in a psychiatric hospital. As her nurse, Clifton gains her trust and rises from her assistant to her manager. Zoe’s presence as the singer was publicly broken down due to the use of a prosthetic nose and dark makeup, a visual that is hard to ignore. The look is nail biting, especially in moments where the actress is in the shower or swimming in her pool. Due to movie magic it won't tarnish, but the thought is distracting.

With an archived interview carrying out the film, we’re taken back to the singer's childhood, her relationship with the Civil Rights Movement and the love for her daughter as Saldana sings Nina’s “To Be Young, Gifted & Black,” “Why? (The King of Love Is Dead)” and the opener/closer “Feeling Good.” The moments are short lived, and barely provide the right amount of oxygen into the life that was the singer's. In the end, a drained Clifton helps Simone bring her black girl magic to the states with a performance at Central Park.

Saldana’s singing voice is quite elegant (no lip syncing), but is just as offbeat as her accent that comes and goes between scenes. The actress gives her all in the film, especially in the moments where she is at odds with Clifton. In the few scenes where we see Nina exist alone, Saldana presents a troubled misunderstood woman, instead of Simone herself. David Oyelowo's innocent portrayal of Clifton is admirable, but his talent is wasted as producers failed to portray his backstory. A crying Michael Jordan meme or a sad Christopher Darden a la The People vs. O.J Simpson could have easily (but wistfully) replaced him. If the script or Morton was allowed into the editing process, Saldana and the other actors could have had more to work with.

In a twist, the best moment of the film is a phone conversation between Simone and Richard Pryor, played by Mike Epps. As Simone gushes about Clifton’s caring soul, the two look back on how their friendship began in a nightclub where a frightened Pryor performs his stand-up material for the first time. It’s a short moment bound to give you chills as Epps channels the iconic comedian with ease, making you mark your calendar for his upcoming biopic.

If you were hoping to discover more about the enigmatic singer, look no further than her music. “Mississippi Goddam” helps paint the portrait of a trying time in Black History and her recording of “Sinnerman” displays her vulnerable connection to her faith. If the film teaches us anything, we learn the talented ones carry a burden of knowing the truth and will always be misunderstood for it.

From the Web

More on Vibe

JC Olivera/Getty Images

‘Candyman’ Reboot Pushed Back To Next Summer

The long-awaited reboot of the ‘90s horror flick, Candyman, has been pushed back yet again. The film, written by Jordan Peele and directed by Nia DaCosta, is now expected to arrive on August 27, 2021.

Like many productions delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Candyman remake has been postponed more than once. In September, Universal Pictures removed the film from its calendar. Da Costa later explained that the film was made to view in theaters.

“We wanted the horror and humanity of Candyman to be experience in a collective, a community, so we’re pushing Candyman to next year, to ensure that everyone cans the film in theaters, and share in the experience,” DaCosta tweeted at the time. Her Twitter account has since been deleted.

Described as a “spiritual sequel” to the 1992 original, the reboot stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as the supernatural monster lurking within the character Anthony McCoy. The film’s premise finds McCoy (Abdul-Mateen) returning to the now gentrified Chicago area where the legend of Candyman first began.

“I’m really honored to be stepping into those shoes,” Abdul-Mateen said in an interview with Collider.com. “They’re big shoes to fill because, obviously, that’s an iconic character and a story that people relate to. Even people who have not seen it, have ideas about it, or they’ve still been able to interact with it, and that iconography has penetrated their lives. So, it’s an honor to be able to step into that, and to re-tell that story, and to introduce the mythology of Candyman back into the world, in 2020, and to put our own social lens and our own spin on it. I think that’s gonna be a lot of fun, to put that iconography back into the conversation.”

Continue Reading
Samir Hussein/WireImage

Daniel Kaluuya Explains Why His Upcoming Live-Action ‘Barney’ Movie Is “Really Needed”

Daniel Kaluuya shared an interesting take on Barney, and the motivation behind his up-coming live-action adaptation of the children’s series. The 31-year-old British actor is producing what will be a sobering interpretation of the lovable purple T-Rex, one that Kaluuya says is “really needed” at the moment.

“Barney taught us, ‘I love you, you love me. Won’t you say you love me too?’ That’s one of the first songs I remember, and what happens when that isn’t true? I thought that was really heartbreaking,” Kaluuya told Entertainment Weekly  in an interview promoting his upcoming film Judas and the Black Messiah. “I have no idea why but it feels like that makes sense. It feels like there’s something unexpected that can be poignant but optimistic. Especially at this time now, I think that’s really, really needed.’’

Mattel Films is co-producing the live-action Barney film alongside Kaluuya’s production company, 59%, and Valparaiso Pictures.

Barney & Friends originally aired on PBS from 1992-2009. The purple dinosaur and his sidekick,  B.J. and Baby Bop, taught legions of young viewers educational messages through songs and dance.

Aside from Barney, Kaluuya opened up to EW about portraying Black Pantry Party member Fred Hampton in Judas and The Black Messiah, co-starring Lakeith Stanfield.

“One of my aspirations was to show how brilliant these people were in every way, and what they were really doing, to show the full picture, away from the narrow narrative that has been portrayed. Show what they were really doing in this time, and how revolutionary their ideas were. It didn't necessarily mean destruction. They were actually about healing and loving and taking care of your community. These activities do not feel like they're associated with the Black Panther party but that's the foundation of it, which is why it spread.”

Continue Reading
Netflix/FilmMagic via Getty Images

Ludacris Announces Netflix Animated Series ‘Karma’s World’ Inspired By His Oldest Daughter

Ludacris has an animated series in the works. Karma’s World, which is inspired by his oldest daughter, Karma Bridges, is in development at Netflix, the rapper announced on Tuesday (Oct. 13).

“I’ve had a lot of accomplishments in my life, but everything that I’ve experienced seems to have led up to this point to where I can leave a legacy for all my daughters,” Luda said in a statement. “Karma’s World is one of those legacies. I hope this series will show kids that there are many ways to overcome difficult situations.

“This show is going to move hip hop culture forward, and show young girls that they have the power to change the world,” he added. “This project has been a long time in the making and I can’t wait to bring Karma’s World to the entire world.”

The series follows 10-year-old Karma Grant, a smart, resilient, and “deeply empathetic” aspiring singer and rapper with “big talent and an even bigger heart.” Karma pours out her deepest feelings and channel her emotions into the music that she hopes will one day change the world. The animated show chronicles how Karma begins to recognize the true power of music, and will tackle issues such as self-esteem, body positivity, friendship, family, and celebrating differences.

Karma’s World has been a decade in the making, Luda revealed in an  Instagram post.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

10 years in the making. THIS IS HOW LEGACIES ARE BUILT! • I’m pleased to announce that I will be joining the @netflixfamily, and bringing my new animated series #KarmasWorld which is inspired by my oldest daughter in partnership with @9storymediagroup and @BrownBagFilms to @netflix for the world to see! • It was important to me to provide a positive @StrongBlackLead to show our youth that there are many ways to overcome difficult situations, and that their dreams no matter how big are possible! I’m looking forward to finally being able to share what I’ve been working on behind the scenes for so many years! Welcome to Karma’s World! Click the link in bio RIGHT NOW!!! • #Ludacris #Netflix #AnimatedSeries

A post shared by @ ludacris on Oct 13, 2020 at 11:03am PDT

Besides creating the series, Luda is also executive producing alongside Vince Commisso, Cathal Gaffney, Darragh O’Connell, Angela C. Santomero, Wendy Harris and Jennie Stacey from 9 Story Media Group.

Karma’s World is a partnership between 9 Story Media and Luda’s production company Karma’s World Entertainment.

Continue Reading

Top Stories