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Film experts from 'The Micheaux Mission' podcast pick the summer's best movies

Elizabeth Wellington, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Entertainment News

PHILADELPHIA — Two men. One podcast. Every Black movie.

That’s the tag line for Philadelphia-based movie buffs’ Len Webb and Vincent Williams’ popular podcast, "The Micheaux Mission."

Named after Oscar Micheaux, the early 20th century Black indie screenwriter, considered the first Black film maker, "The Micheaux Mission" offers listeners funny and insightful reviews of the acting, directing, storylines, and cinematic worthiness of Black movies. Each month more than 15,000 “missionaries” — from Mount Airy to Australia — download the show.

This week’s podcast takes on the 1995 Will Smith and Martin Lawrence classic, "Bad Boys" and marks the duo’s 300th show.

But what makes a Black movie?

“Well there is the obvious criteria: movies with a predominately Black cast or the main antagonist or protagonists are Black,” said Webb, who is a founding member of the Afrofuturist podcast "The Tribbles."

 

Yet it’s also about perspective.

“The podcast space is very white and very male, and much of our work doesn’t get addressed at all,” said Williams, who is an English professor at Drexel University. “You might get people talking about "The Color Purple," "Do the Right Thing" and "Blazing Saddles," but they are all coming from the same perspective. Rather than complain about it, we, like Oscar Micheaux, decided to do it for ourselves.”

Over the years, "The Micheaux Mission" has reviewed 300 films, including four by Micheaux. Williams calls the 1920 silent film, "Within Our Gates," which examines Black life in the early 20th century Jim Crow era, a landmark in early Black filmmaking. “It’s a wonderful example of how Micheaux responded to the negative propaganda of his contemporaries,” Williams said, comparing it to "Birth of a Nation."

Usually Webb and Williams agree, especially when it comes to the legacy of the late Sidney Poitier, the horror of "Candy Man," and the beauty of Nia Long. But it’s when Webb and Williams don’t see eye-to-eye that the podcast is at its funniest.

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