12-18-2017  2:46 am      •     
MLK Breakfast
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NEWS BRIEFS

Exhibit Explores the Legacy of Portland Bird Watchers

Dedicated bird watchers catapult a conservationist movement ...

Special Call for Stories about the Spanish Flu

Genealogical Forum of Oregon seeks stories from the public about one of history's most lethal outbreaks ...

Joint Office of Homeless Services Announces Severe Weather Strategy

Those seeking shelter should call 211 or visit 211.org. Neighbors needed to volunteer, donate cold-weather apparel ...

Q&A with Facebook's Global Director of Diversity Maxine Williams

A conversation on diversity and the tech industry ...

City Announces Laura John as Tribal Liason

Laura John brings an extensive background in tribal advocacy and community engagement to the city of Portland ...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

OPINION

Don’t Delay, Sign-up for Affordable Healthcare Today

The deadline to enroll or modify healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act is December 15. ...

The Skanner Editorial: Alabama Voters Must Reject Moore

Allegations of predatory behavior are troubling – and so is his resume ...

Payday Lenders Continue Attack on Consumer Protections

Charlene Crowell of the Center for Responsible Lending writes that two bills that favor predatory lenders has received bipartisan...

Hundreds Rallied for Meek Mill, but What About the Rest?

Lynette Monroe, a guest columnist for the NNPA Newswire, talks about Meek Mill, the shady judge that locked him up and mass...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

ENTERTAINMENT

Nina the movie
By Kam Williams | The Skanner News

Most of the pre-release buzz surrounding “Nina” has swirled around the debate about Zoe Saldana's darkening her skin, donning an Afro wig and wearing a prosthetic nose to portray Nina Simone (1933-2003). Apparently, in these politically-correct times, some consider the casting of Saldana as the dark-skinned title character to be a case of cultural appropriation, since she is of Dominican and Puerto Rican extraction and thus, by implication, not black enough to play an African-American.

The beleaguered actress was so beat up in the press that she's even publicly acknowledged the issue, admitting "I didn't think I was right for the part." However, I suspect anyone who actually sees the film would find Zoe's Africanized features to be less of a distraction than her singing.

For, while she certainly manages to hold her own, Nina's fans will undoubtedly be more disappointed by the absence of the haunting strains of The High Priestess of Soul's distinctive voice than by her impersonator's performing in blackface. Again and again, it's frustrating to have to settle for second-rate renditions of such Simone classics as "My Baby Just Cares for Me," "Feeling Good," "Black Is the Colour," "To Be Young, Gifted and Black," "I Put a Spell on You," and "Why? (The King of Love Is Dead)."

Thankfully, Zoe does a better job in the acting half of the role, convincingly capturing Nina's mercurial personality, from the imperious air, to the violent mood swings, to the substance abuse, to the bouts of depression and self-doubt. The movie marks the writing and directorial debut of Cynthia Mort who reportedly distanced herself from her own production, at one point suing over the final cut because she had lost creative control over the editing.

The story unfolds in North Carolina in 1946 with an adolescent Nina exhibiting promise as a classical pianist. From there, the film fast forwards to New York in 1965 where we learn that the once-promising prodigy has been reduced to playing jazz in nightclubs after having dropped out of Juilliard.

The narrative quickly shifts to L.A. in 1995, where we find her already on the downside of an illustrious career. She's just been committed to a mental hospital after being diagnosed as an alcoholic, paranoid, manic depressive.

As luck would have it, Nina was assigned an empathetic nurse (David Oyelowo) who would take a special interest in her welfare. Not only did Clifton Henderson help her escape the facility but he quit his job to accompany her to France where he would serve as her personal assistant.

It is that relationship which would endure until the end of Nina's life that is the focus of this warts-and-all biopic. Clifton spends as much time simply cleaning up the verbally-abusive, chain-smoking, substance-abusing fading star's act, as he does trying to find her gigs, given her well-earned reputation as a difficult diva.

Ignore all the blackface haters, singing aside, Zoe Saldana delivers a decent enough Nina Simone impersonation here to make you wonder what all the brouhaha was ever about.

 

Very Good ★★★
Unrated
Running time: 90 minutes
Distributor: RLJ Entertainment

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