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October 16, 2005 - The 2005 Black Movie Awards (BMAs)

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Now with the Los Angeles Sentinel, columnist and film critic Joy Childs first appeared in the pages with Affirmative Action Should Not Keep Me From the Movies, from August 22, 2004. Here she reports on an event last Sunday you can catch on television on the 19th. "It is I, Joy" may be a recurring feature here, if we can talk her into it.

The 2005 Black Movie Awards (BMAs): A Celebration of Black Cinema - Past, Present and Future

By Joy Childs

October 12, 2005


As most of us film aficionados know, the African American experience on film has been largely unrecognized, undocumented and unrewarded.  At long last, thanks to the sheer determination of Jeff Friday (Film Life Inc.) and his co-executive producer Suzanne de Passe (de Passe Entertainment) and their partners at TNT, lovers of black film will be able to see the Black Movie Awards when the show debuts on October 19.


Taped on October 9 at the Wiltern Theater, this ninth annual ceremony was a classy, funny, touching, star-studded affair.  Host Cedric the Entertainer opened the show by putting it in its historical perspective: When Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to win an Academy Award, was crowned Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her role as Mammy in "Gone with the Wind" (1939), she also was the first African-American to attend the Academy Awards as a guest, not a servant - though she did have to sit in the back of the theater at the awards ceremony.


No doubt, then, she would have reveled in the moving tribute paid to Sidney Poitier, the second African American recipient of an Academy Award for acting in 1963's "Lilies of the Field."   Introduced by Academy Award nominee Don Cheadle ("Hotel Rwanda"), Poitier received the BMA's Hall of Fame Distinguished Career Achievement Award, which honors "an individual who has blazed trails, opened doors and accomplished great victories against all odds."  After a stirring ovation, Poitier, who was celebrating 58 years in the business, told the audience that early in his career, he had vowed he would take no role that would demean black men.  As history has shown, in so doing, he became black cinema's first leading man. 


After this august tribute, two stunning screen beauties, Vivica A. Fox and Regina King, presented Terrence Howard for the Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for his much-heralded star turn in "Hustle and Flow" as a pimp going through a mid-life crisis who attempts to become a successful rapper with a little help from friends in his Memphis 'hood.  It was only fitting, then, that Anthony Anderson would receive his very first statuette for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for his career-enhancing stint as one of those friends.


Another Academy Award nominee ("Sounder," 1972), Cicely Tyson, who also deservedly received a standing ovation, presented the Rising Star Award to Kimberly Elise.  This award, bestowed on the talent who "represents the best and brightest of cinema's future stars," overwhelmed Elise, prompting her to dub Tyson her "northern star" for Tyson's legendary commitment to portray only strong, positive images of Black women.


Kimberly Elise doubled her take-home when she was awarded the Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role as the "Mad Woman" in "The Diary

Of…".  Superbly talented actors, Hill Harper and Idris Elba, presented the Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role to Taraji P. Henson for her aptly named Shug, a pregnant young woman in the pimp's entourage in "Hustle and Flow." 


Nowhere else is there an HBO Director to Watch Award.  And there was no one more deserving of this award than Rodney Evans for his six-year quest to make "Brother to Brother," an homage to the Harlem Renaissance and the many brilliant gay and lesbian authors of that period.  Outstanding Television Movie, presented by "Love Jones'" attractive screen lovers, Nia Long and Larenz Tate, went to "Lackawanna Blues, while presenters Robert Townsend and Tracee Ellis Ross announced Tyler Perry as the recipient of the Outstanding Achievement in Writing award for "Diary of a Mad Black Woman."  For his semi-autobiographical account of his years as the high school basketball coach who controversially benched his undefeated team due to their collective poor academic record, Thomas Carter received Outstanding Director honors for "Coach Carter" from Debbie Allen.  None of these awardees could be there.


The spectacular evening came to a close with two spectacular awards.  The first - the Classic Cinema Hall of Fame Award, given to "a revered film that has had an indelible impact on society" - was presented by Margaret "Shug" Avery from that historically memorable motion picture to the genius behind the soundtrack, Quincy Jones.  He announced that the Oprah-produced, Broadway musical version of "Purple" will debut 20 years to the day it opened in theaters in November 1985.


The last special tribute of the evening was a fitting encomium to the life's work of Ossie Davis for being "a dedicated artist and human activist whom we will eternally celebrate." The honor was made all-the-more poignant by Ruby Dee's teary acceptance of the celebration of her late husband's 66-year film history.


By show's end, it was pretty clear from the audience's reactions throughout that the Outstanding Motion Picture award would go to either "Hustle and Flow" or "Crash" - and "Crash," it was, with the acceptance speech delivered by Don Cheadle, who was accompanied to the stage by Terrence Howard, Larenz Tate, Loretta Devine and the producers.


It is hoped that this awards ceremony - which simultaneously celebrates the cinematic accomplishments of individual African Americans and raises public awareness of the black experience on film - will some day level the playing field for African American actors.



Copyright 2005 – Joy Childs



Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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