Monday, December 30, 2019

The Best Movies and Plays of 2019

By Darlene Donloe

Depending on what side of the critic’s choice you’re on, 2019 was either a good year for entertainment or a bad year for entertainment. For me, it was just so-so!  It wasn’t stellar, but it also didn’t suck. There were some breakout performances from some actors and some real disappointments from established thespians. Whatever your thoughts, the year was still entertaining.

Below is my list of the “Best” Movies and Theatrical productions of 2019.


US – Jordan Peele’s black cast horror flick causes a big stir this year. Fantastic performance by Lupita Nyong’o.

Eddie Murphy in Dolemite Is My Name

DOLEMITE IS MY NAME – Eddie Murphy plays the comedian Rudy Ray Moore in this semi-biographical story.  This is a hilarious ode to the off-color comedian. The stellar cast includes Craig Robinson, Wesley Snipes, Keegan Michael Key, Mike Epps, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph. Murphy turns in a terrific, award-winning performance.

1917 - Two British soldiers receive seemingly impossible orders during World War I. In a race against time, they must cross into enemy territory to deliver a message that could potentially save 1,600 of their fellow comrades -- including one's own brother.

QUEEN AND SLIM – Lena Waithe’s drama about a man and a woman on a first day, who ultimately become fugitives on the run after the kill a cop – is a brilliant piece of work.

Cynthia Erivo in Harriet

HARRIET – Cynthia Erivo inhabits the spirit of the abolitionist Harriet Tubman in this epic bio.
From her escape from slavery through the dangerous missions, she led to liberate hundreds of slaves through the Underground Railroad, the story of heroic abolitionist Harriet Tubman is told.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD – Quentin Tarantino never disappoints. Actor Rick Dalton gained fame and fortune by starring in a 1950s television Western but is now struggling to find meaningful work in a Hollywood that he doesn't recognize anymore. He spends most of his time drinking and palling around with Cliff Booth, his easygoing best friend, and longtime stunt double. Rick also happens to live next door to Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate -- the filmmaker and budding actress whose futures will forever be altered by members of the Manson Family.

BOLDEN – New Orleans cornet player Buddy Bolden becomes a key figure in the birth of jazz, influencing countless musicians for decades to come.

WHEN THEY SEE US - In 1989 a jogger was assaulted and raped in New York's Central Park, and five young people were subsequently charged with the crime. The quintet labeled the Central Park Five, maintained its innocence and spent years fighting the convictions, hoping to be exonerated. This limited series spans a quarter of a century, from when the teens are first questioned about the incident in the spring of 1989, going through their exoneration in 2002 and ultimately the settlement reached with the city of New York in 2014. (Netflix)

(l-r) Michael B Jordan and Jamie Foxx in 'Just Mercy'

JUST MERCY – This true story of Bryan Stevenson, a young Black lawyer working on behalf of the poor who have been imprisoned and placed on death row, is riveting.  Jamie Foxx and Michael B Jordan star.

THE IRISHMAN – When Martin Scorsese, Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino team up, that’s a lot of star power. The result is a fine film about a man who purportedly killed Jimmy Hoffa. Fantastic film.

KNIVES OUT - When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey dies just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc arrives at his estate to investigate. From Harlan's dysfunctional family to his devoted staff, Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Thrombey's untimely demise.


JOHN LEGUIZAMO LATIN HISTORY FOR MORONS - A night of eye-opening historical narrative courtesy of Tony® and Emmy® Award winner John Leguizamo. The self-professed ghetto scholar schools America on Cinco de Mayo—no, it’s not the Latino Fourth of July—and every other aspect of Latin history they’ve misunderstood and forgotten to create a heartfelt and funny tribute. From a mad recap of the Aztec empire to stories of the unknown Latin patriots who won American independence, Leguizamo breaks down the 3,000 years between the Mayans and Pitbull into 110 irreverent and incisive minutes. (AHMANSON)

BETWEEN RIVERSIDE and CRAZY - You can’t beat City Hall, but you can try. In this 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy-drama by Stephen Adly Guirgis, ex-cop and recent widower Walter ‘Pops’ Washington has made a home for his newly paroled son in his sprawling, rent-controlled New York City apartment on Riverside Drive. But now the NYPD is demanding his signature to close an outstanding lawsuit, the landlord wants him out, the liquor store is closed, and the church is on his back — leaving Pops somewhere between Riverside… and crazy. (Fountain Theatre)

SUMMER – A look at the career of the queen of disco Donna Summer. The classic music is the star of the show. (PANTAGES) 

Cast of Two Trains Running 

TWO TRAINS RUNNING - It’s 1969 in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, where the regulars of Memphis Lee's restaurant struggle to cope with the turbulence of a world that is rapidly changing around them. With compassion, humor and a superb sense of place and time, Wilson paints a vivid portrait of everyday lives in the shadow of great events. (Matrix)

SKINTIGHT - Hanging on by a thread after her ex-husband gets engaged to a much younger woman, Jodi (Tony Award winner Idina Menzel, RentWicked) retreats to her dad’s swanky Manhattan townhouse. But rather than the comforts of home, she instead finds her aging father’s new live-in boyfriend, Trey—who is 20. In his new comedy, Joshua Harmon (Bad JewsSignificant Other) brings neurotic family drama to the forefront as father and daughter contend with the age-old questions of how to age gracefully in a world obsessed with youth and where love fits into it all. (Geffen)

Karole Foreman as Lady Day 

The place is a seedy bar in Philadelphia. ... Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill is full of heart-melting numbers like "God Bless the Child," "Strange Fruit," and "What a Little Moonlight Can Do". Billie bares her loves and losses in this intimate and stunning Tony Award-winning production. (International City Theatre)

KEY LARGO - This is a bold reimagining of Maxwell Anderson's Broadway hit that became the iconic noir film starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Returning from World War II, disillusioned Frank McCloud travels to a hotel in Key Largo to pay his respects to the widow of a fallen friend. (Geffen Playhouse)

Ruben Santiago-Hudson

A magical, musical and deeply personal work written and performed by Tony Award-winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson. It's a reminiscence of his 1950s childhood in a small town on the banks of Lake Erie. (Mark Taper Forum)

MIKE BIRBIGLIA’S THE NEW ONE – The comedian and storyteller didn’t want to become a father so he wrote a postpartum solo show about it. The result is hilarious! (AHMANSON)

Thursday, December 26, 2019

2019 IN MEMORIAM: It's So Hard To Say Goodbye


A number of noteworthy people closed their eyes for the last time in 2019. They were writers, actors, directors, musicians, publicists, entertainment executives, activists, community leaders, and politicians. All were influential in their own way. And, before leaving the planet, they all made their mark and touched the lives of so many.  This column remembers their legacies and pays tribute to those who passed this way.  Respect!


Jan. 5 – Mungau Dain, an actor from the Pacific Islands. He was 24.

Jan. 6 – Kwamie Lassiter, former Arizona Cardinals safety. He was 49.

Jan. 7 – John Lyle, Tuskegee Airman.  He was 98.

Jan. 7 - Clydie King, backup singer. She was 75.

Jan. 10 -  Larry Cunningham, member of The Floaters - “Float On.” He was 67.

Jan. 15 – Carol Channing, actress, singer, Broadway and film icon.  She was 97.

Jan. 19 – Tikey “Trap House” Patterson, rapper. He was 35.

Jan. 22 – Kevin Barnett. Co-creator/executive producer of Rel. He was 32.

Jan. 26 – Dr. James Frank, former commissioner of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. He was 89.
James Ingram

Jan. 29 – James Ingram. Soul singer. He was 66.

Jan. 31 – Susan Jarreau, widow of singer Al Jarreau.


Feb. 3 – Dr. Michelle King, the first African American woman to lead L.A. Unified. She was 57.

Kristoff St. John

Feb. 3-4 – Kristoff St. John, the actor is known for his role in The Young and the Restless. He was 52.

Feb. 6 – Lonnie Simmons, music producer, exec. He was 74.

Feb. 7 - Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, first black Major League Baseball manager. He was 83.

Feb. 9 – Blaine “Cadet” Johnson, rapper. He was 28.

Feb. 9 – Willie Bo, rapper. He was 21.

Feb. 10 – Nehanda Abiodun, Revolutionary who fled to Cuba. She was 68.

Feb 11 – Harvey Scales, singer, songwriter, producer. He was 77.

Feb. 15 - Kofi Burbridge, keyboardist, flutist. (Tedeschi Trucks Band)  He was 57.

Feb. 16 – Rev. Dr. John Cherry, founder of From The Heart Church Ministries. He was 79.

Feb. 19 - Don Newcombe, legendary LA Dodgers pitcher. He was 92.

Feb. 19 - Artie Wayne, songwriter/singer/publisher. He was 77.

Feb. 28 - Nathaniel Taylor, actor. Rollo on Sanford & Sons. He was 80.


March 2 - Janice Freeman, a contestant on The Voice. She was 33.

March 3 - Sharon Woodson-Bryant, journalist, mentor.  She was 71.
March 3 - Med Hondo, the firebrand French-Mauritanian pioneer of African cinema.  He was 82.

March 9 - Freeda Foreman, former boxer and daughter of two-time heavyweight champion George Foreman. She was 42.

March 10 – Reggie Rutherford, entertainment executive/cameraman/stage manager. He was 66.

March 10 – Pius Adesanmi, Nigerian-born Canadian professor, director of Carleton University's Institute of African Studies and a professor at the Ottawa school.

March 13 - Michael Wycoff, singer/pianist. He was 63.

March 15 - Johnny Lam Jones, former New York Jets and UT Longhorn player. Olympic Gold Medalist. He was 60.

March 18 – Andre Williams, R&B singer-producer. He was 82.

Eunetta T. Boone

March 20 – Eunetta T. Boone, TV writer, producer. She was 63.

March 21 - John H. Adams, Jr. Tuskegee Airman. He was 96.

March 26 - Ranking Roger, co-founder of General Public, English beat singer. He was 56.

March 24 - Bob Slade, radio legend. 

Nipsey Hussle

March 31 – Nipsey Hussle, rapper. He was 33.


April 2 - Lorraine Branham, Syracuse University Newhouse dean. She was 66.

Kim English

April 2 – Kim English, gospel singer. She was 48.

April 16 - Kent “Boogaloo” Harris, legendary songwriter. He was 88.

April 26 – Larry “Flash” Jenkins, actor. He was 63.

April 26 – Jessie Lawrence Ferguson, Boyz N The Hood actor. He was 76.

John Singleton

April 28 - John Singleton, director, screenwriter, producer. He was 51.

May 8 - Chris McNair, father of Carol Denise McNair who was killed in the 1963 church bombings. He was 93.

May 15 –Chuck Barksdale, bass singer of the legendary group The Dells.  He was 84.

May 19 - Melvin Edmonds, co-founder and co-lead singer of After 7.

May 21 - Binyavanga Wainaina, one of Africa’s best-known authors and gay rights activists.    He was 48.

May 28 – Willie Ford, The Dramatics co-founder, and bass singer. He was 68.

May 28 - John Gary Williams (The Mad Lads). He was 73.

May 30 – Kam Williams, prolific journalist and film critic. He was 66.

May 30 – Patricia Bath, pioneering ophthalmologist. She was 76.

May 30 – Frank Lucas, (American Gangster) American drug trafficker.  He was 88.


Leah Chase 

June 1 - Leah Chase, owner of Dooky Chase restaurant in New Orleans.  She was 96.

June 4 - Billy Mayo, Actor. He was 61.

June 9 - Bushwick Bill, Geto Boys rapper. He was 52.

June 14 – DJ Official, Grammy award-winning producer. He was 26.

June 27 – John Shearer, photographer. He was 72.

June 28 - Paul Benjamin, actor. He was 81.

Jada Russell

July 2 - Jada Russell, CEO of High Style Marketing and PR. She was 45.

July 5 - Tyshon Dye, former Clemson running back. He was 25.

July 9, Phil Freelon, architect and co-designer of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.  He was 66.

July 10 - Jerry Lawson, baritone lead singer, and arranger for The Persuasions.  He was 75.

July 13 – Sadie Roberts-Joseph, founder of the Baton Rouge African American Museum. She was 75. 

July 14 - Pernell ‘Sweet Pea’ Whitaker, Hall of Fame boxer who won Olympic gold. He was 55.

July 15 – Edith Irby Jones. The first black student to enroll at an all-white medical school in the South and later became the first female president of the National Medical Association. She was 91.

July 16 – Johnny Clegg, a South Africa musician who performed in defiance of racial barriers imposed under the country’s apartheid system. He was 66.

July 17 – Elijah “Pumpsie” Green, the former Boston Red Sox infielder was the first black player on the last major league team to field one.  He was 85.

July 19 - Al McKenzie, The Temptations music director. He was 57.

July 22 - Art Neville, Neville Brothers. He was 81.


Aug. 2 – Dr. Carl Bell, psychiatrist; a national leader in treating childhood trauma resulting from violence. He was 71.

Aug. 3 - Shannon McDonald, Lancaster Commissioner. She was 43.

Toni Morrison

Aug. 6 – Toni Morrison, novelist (Beloved). She was 88.

Aug. 12 – Darryl Drake, Pittsburgh Steelers Wide Receivers Coach. He was 62.

Aug. 12 – Rev. E.V. Hill II, senior pastor of Mount Zion MB Church in Los Angeles. He was 52.

Aug. 14 – Al Broomfield, singer. He was 65.

Aug. 16 - Nancy Parker, New Orleans award-winning broadcast journalist.  She was 53.

Aug. 16 - Franklin Augustus, New Orleans stunt pilot.  He was 69.

Aug. 17 - Cedric Benson, Former Longhorn, NFL running back. He was 36.

Aug. 25 - Gerald Buddie Tiller, Dem Franchise Boy Member.

Aug. 26 - Isabel Toledo, designer for Michelle Obama. She was 59.

Aug. 27 - Pedro Bell, artist of Funkadelic album covers. He was 69.


Sept 4 - Lashawn Daniels, Grammy-winning songwriter. He was 41. 

Sept. 5 – Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. He was 95.

Sept 6 - Clay McMurray, songwriter, producer and engineer.

John Wesley

Sept. 8 - John Wesley, actor. He was 72.

Sept. 9 – Joan Johnson, co-founder of Johnson Products Company. She was 89.

Sept. 14 - Juanita Abernathy, U.S. civil rights advocate. She was 88.

Sept. 14 – Azellia White, one of the first African American women to earn a pilot’s license in the U.S.   She was 106.

Sept. 20 – Veniece Starks, Atlantic Records promo rep.  She was 79.

Sept. 27 – Jimmy “Dollar Bill Y’all” Spicer, rapper. He was 60.

Jessye Norman

Sept. 30 – Jessye Norman, regal soprano/Grammy-winner. She was 74.

Sept. 30 - Annette Butler, singer married to Jerry “Iceman” Butler.  She was 81.

Oct 1 – Louis Rankin, dancehall artist. He was 66.

Diahann Carroll

Oct. 4 – Diahann Carroll, groundbreaking actress. She was 84.

Oct. 5 - John Mbiti, theologian and an Anglican priest, he punctured myths about African religions. He was 87.

Oct. 11 - Charles Jones, co-founder of Capital City Mambo Sauce. He was 45.

Oct. 16 – Patrick Day, boxer. He was 27.

Elijah Cummings

Oct. 17 – Elijah Cummings, legendary Baltimore Congressman. He was 68.

Oct. 17 - Ray Santos, Latin music maestro. He was 90.

Oct. 22 – Mary Stampley, daughter of gospel singer Micah Stampley. She was 15.

Oct. 22 – Willie Brown, Oakland Raiders cornerback. NFL Hal of Famer. He was 78.

Oct. 24 - State Sen. Leroy Johnson, First back Georgia state senator elected after Reconstruction. He was 91.
Rep. John Conyers

Oct. 27 – Rep. John Conyers, former Detroit Congressman; longest-serving African American in Congressional history. He was 90.

Oct. 29 – John Witherspoon, comedian. He was 77.

Oct. 28 - Andile Gumbi, former Simba in Broadway’s The Lion King. He was 36.


Nov. 5 – Ernest J. Gaines, novelist, “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” and “A Lesson Before Dying.”  He was 86.

Nov. 8 – Jackie Moore, known for her 1970 hit “Precious, Precious.”  She was 73.

Nov. 10 - Bernard J. Tyson, Kaiser Chairman/CEO. He was 60.

Nov. 11 – Charles Rogers, former Detroit Lions wide receiver and Michigan State University football star. He was 38.

Nov. 18 – Jamarr Antonio “Bad Azz” Stamps, rapper. He was 43.

Nov. 20 – Harrison Dillard, a four-time Olympic champion. He was 96.

Nov. 20 – Almaas Elman, a Somali-Canadian aid worker, and activist.

Nov. 27 - Rev. Clay Evans, legendary preacher and gospel icon. He was 94.

Nov. 20 – Pastor Dimitri Bradley, City Church of Richmond. He was 51.

Nov. 23 - Barbara Hillary, trailblazer explorer. First black woman to reach north and south poles. She was 88.

Nov. 25 – Rev. George Clements, Holy Angels pastor, and advocate for civil rights and adoption. He was 87.

Nov. 29 - Irving Burgie, songwriter of Calypso hit “Day-O”. He was 95.


Dec. 4 - Dr. Margaret Lawrence, pioneering Black female psychoanalyst, and pediatrician. She was 105.

Jarad Anthony "Juice Wrld" Higgins

Dec. 8 – Jarad Anthony “Juice Wrld” Higgins. He was 21.

Dec. 13 - Richard Hatcher, Gary, Indiana’s first African American mayor and first African American mayor of a large U.S. city. He was 86.

Dec. 15 - James “Radio” Kennedy, the inspiration behind the movie, “Radio.” Cuba Gooding, Jr. played him in the movie. He was 73.

Dec. 16 - Earl Paysinger, former LAPD first assistant chief.  He was 64.

Dec. 16 – Ruby Collins, singer. She was 51.

Dec. 18 - Coach Herman Boone, T.C. Williams High School football head coach played by Denzel Washington in "Remember The Titans."  He was 84.
Dec. 21 – Robert Seth Hayes, former Black Panther. He was 72.

Dec. 24 – Edward Aschoff, ESPN football reporter. He was 34.

Dec. 25 – George Moore, former newsman, deejay, and radio personality.