Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Brooklyn Loves Michael Jackson 29 August 2009: Photography by Barry Michael Cooper

photo by Barry Michael Cooper 29 August 2009
by Barry Michael Cooper

These are some photos I shot during Spike Lee's celebration of Michael Jackson's life-- an amazing event titled Brooklyn Loves Michael Jackson--Brooklyn's Prospect Park on 29 August 2009. 

photo by Barry Michael Cooper 29 August 2009
photo by Barry Michael Cooper 29 August 2009
photo by Barry Michael Cooper 29 August 2009
photo by Barry Michael Cooper 29 August 2009
photo by Barry Michael Cooper 29 August 2009
photo by Barry Michael Cooper 29 August 2009
photo by Barry Michael Cooper
photo by Barry Michael Cooper 29 August 2009
photo by Barry Michael Cooper 29 August 2009
photo by Barry Michael Cooper 29 August 2009
photo by Barry Michael Cooper 29 August 2009
photo by Barry Michael Cooper 29 August 2009
photo by Barry Michael Cooper 29 August 2009
photo by Barry Michael Cooper 29 August 2009

photo by Barry Michael Cooper 29 August 2009

Monday, February 10, 2014

Postcard From Cannes 2012: Photography by Barry Michael Cooper

photo by Barry Michael Cooper 17 May 2012. 
by Barry Michael Cooper

Just a few of the photos I shot back in May 2012, during my trip to the 65th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France. I was working with mega-star music producer and business mogul Sean Diddy Combs on a project. These are stills from a mini-doc I shot while I was there titled "Postcard From Cannes 2012," which I may post sometime in the near future, GOD Willing. Cameras: Fuji Finepix HS 30 EXR, and a Motorola XPRT Smartphone (click on each photograph to enlarge the image).
photo by Barry Michael Cooper 19 May 2012

photo by Barry Michael Cooper 17 May 2012

photo by Barry Michael Cooper 17 May 2012
photo by Barry Michael Cooper 22 May 2012

photo by Barry Michael Cooper 18 May 2012  
photo by Barry Michael Cooper 22 May 2012

photo by Barry Michael Cooper 17 May 2012

photo by Barry Michael Cooper 18 May 2012
photo by Barry Michael Cooper 17 May 2012

Monday, November 11, 2013

“Rick Ro$$”: A Novel by William L. Roberts

An essay by Barry Michael Cooper
“When the streets changed, it seemed like the lyrics changed. Most people are going to listen to what’s going on in the streets first, before they listen to rap, to consider what’s real and what’s fake. So if it’s drugs in the streets, that sh*t is going to wind up in rap. And that made me say, ‘Fk that, let me start rapping.’ And being that people knew what I had went through, you already know it’s real. I ain’t got to yell at you to tell the truth. So when a cat grabbed a Mobb Style tape, they separated that from the other sh*t. ‘Yo, this is fact. This other could be fiction.’ It’s like the streets versus Sesame Street.”
Azie Faison, former Harlem cocaine kingpin, at the 12 September 2011 Paley Center roundtable for the VH1 documentary Planet Rock, and how his 1987 emcee crew Mobb Style, influenced Biggie, Tupac, Nas, Jay-Z, and Rick Ro$$.
If Kendrick Lamar is Hip Hop’s Dylan (as Rap Mu$ick, LLC struggles not to go blowin’ gently into the wind of that good night), then William L. Roberts is its F. Scott Fitzgerald. His Gatsby is named Rick “Rozay” Ro$$. Unlike Fitzgerald, Roberts has stepped from behind the pen to actually and inhabit and breathe life into his fictional creation. Roberts’s Ro$$ is undoubtably one of the most fascinating, enigmatic, and controversial rap personas, in a grotesquerie populated with ghettofabulous mythologists.

Like Prohibition in the 1920s, the American Crack Epoch of the 1980s birthed a generation of desperate young African American men swirling in the twisted dervish of a politicized and shadowy narco-economy. Emboldened by the cri de guerre of Never Get High On Ya Own Supply, this battalion of the disenfranchised, this army of tabulae rasae rewrote themselves into a dollar green team with triple beam schemes. Street-tested and scarfaced soldiers charging headlong into the battle for the American Dream.

Friday, April 19, 2013

RockaByeBaby (Cassie's New Jack Pretty Lullaby)

by Barry Michael Cooper

I'm in a two-door
I'm in a new lane
I'm countin' new money
I need a new name
(I know what you want)
You want/everything...

Cassie, "I Know What You Want," from RockaByeBaby (2013)

"I'll never get used to anything.
Anyone that does, they might as well be dead."

- Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)

Before she became Holly Golightly, I'm sure Lula Mae Barnes -- that fantast, backwoods Texas-teenage-bride-turned-fabulous-New York-fabulist -- dreamed of dinner at the Four Seasons (and an even more improbable Breakfast at Tiffany's) -- each time a rooster or one of her babies screamed at the crack of dawn. Lula needed a new name, too; she was a moonshine girl powered by champagne dreams and jet plane schemes; dreams too big to crash and burn in the backyard barbecue pit of her small town's southern-fried discontent.

At least those are the lines I read between the lines of Truman Capote's (and Blake Edwards) 1961 paean to reinvention, self-discovery, trickin' and love (or at least an approximation of love), in the midst of Space-Ageratchet wretchedness.

Like Holly Golightly, model, actress, and Bad Boy Entertainment recording artist Cassie Ventura, reinvents herself on the truly impressive mixtape RockaByeBaby, as a hip hop/electro-pop gangstress, whose Giuseppe Zanotti's reek of jet fuel while speeding down the fast lane of the good life, before ascending into the rarefied skies of the great Louis Vuitton-yonder. Cassie's recording persona channels Keisha -- the fearless gun-woman I created for my 1991 screenplay New Jack City -- on the 13 tracks largely produced by the Portsmouth, Va., phenom Rob Holladay and executive produced by Sean Diddy Combs, Matty Rich, and Cassie.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New Jack, New Jack: Big City of Dreams

Wesley Snipes, Barry Michael Cooper, and Al Payne at Grants Tomb, New York City; 1 June 1990, the day "New Jack City" wrapped production.

By Barry Michael Cooper

Originally published 16 March 2011, on citypaper.com. Part One of a new series on Hooked On The American Dream titled, "Hollywood (But Maybe She Won't)."

Glitteraticosis is an opulent parasite that breeds in Hollywood’s narcissistic pools. It snarls with the delirious spume of mad fame and bites everyone in its path with the toxic infection of influence, money, and power.

Maybe that’s why on March 8, 2011—the 20th anniversary of 1991’s New Jack City—I still felt a bit woozy from that dazzling influenza. Sometimes I still can’t believe that “Kids Killing Kids: New Jack City Eats Its Young,” the story I wrote for The Village Voice, became the source material for a screenplay that launched the film careers of Wesley Snipes, Chris Rock, Mario Van Peebles, Allen Payne, and Ice-T—and proved a reset for Brat Pack member Judd Nelson. It feels like only yesterday that I was sitting in one of the Enoch Pratt Library’s second-floor reading rooms in the winter of 1987, bringing Nino Brown, Gee Money, Scotty Appleton, and the Carter Projects to life on stacks of yellow legal pads.

The engine that drove New Jack City was the late George Jackson, the film’s producer and a force of nature. A Harvard grad, George, like me, was a Harlem native. He worked for Richard Pryor’s Indigo Films and got his start on Pryor’s surrealist biopic Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling. I first talked to George on the phone from the loading dock of the Hecht Company at Lexington and Howard streets, where I worked in the stock department in 1986. He had read an investigative piece I wrote for Spin on Baltimore’s “Yo Boy” culture titled, “In Cold Blood: The Baltimore Teen Murders.”

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Clarke Peters in Spike Lee's "Red Hook Summer": Spiritual Blackout in the Valley of the Shadow of Death

The magnificent Clarke Peters as "Bishop Enoch Rouse" in  Spike Lee's phenomenal "Red Hook Summer"/photo credit 40 Acres

By Barry Michael Cooper
"For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of CHRIST. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works." 
2 Corinthians 11:13-15
"When you look into an abyss,  the abyss also looks into you." 
Frederick Nietzsche 
I'm just going to cut to the chase.

Clarke Peters should not only be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor, for his bravura interpretation of a conflicted man-of-the-cloth in Spike Lee's gut-wrenching Red Hook Summer, but Clarke Peters should win. Hands down, his portrayal of the complex, multi-layered preacherman  Bishop Enoch Rouse, is by far, one of the most virtuosic, skilled, and almost preternatural performances I have ever seen on film.


I say that having been previously awed by the following: Denzel Washington in both Malcolm X and Training Day, Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood, Al Pacino in Godfather II and Serpico, Michael Wright in StreamersSugar Hill and The Five Heartbeats, Wesley Snipes in New Jack City and Sugar Hill, Burt Lancaster in Elmer Gantry, Allen Payne in New Jack City, Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence, Chris Rock in New Jack City, Dirk Borgart in Servant, Diahann Carroll in Claudine, Simone Signoret in Room at the Top, George Sanders in All About Eve, Morgan Freeman in Street Smart, Julie Christie in Darling, Michael Douglas in Wall Street, Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull, Tom Cruise in Magnolia, Robert Downey Jr. in Black and White, Richard Gere in Internal Affairs, Keith Carradine and Robert DoQui in Nashville, Jane Fonda in Klute, and Sir Laurence Olivier in The Entertainer. 

These are a few of the actors and performances that looped in the screening room between my ears, long after the end credits disappeared.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"Django Unchained": Nino Brown was Not an Abolitionist

screen-shot from "Django Unchained"/TheWeinstein Company

by Barry Michael Cooper
"Fellow-citizens; above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, "may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!" To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then fellow-citizens, is AMERICAN SLAVERY."
-Excerpt from the speech, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?"Frederick Douglass, 5 July 1852 

We as a nation, are no longer interested in history; we have become bewitched and enthralled by tweetstory; the 140 characters (or less) social documentation of a retrofitted deconstruction of the facts. We will make it up as we go along, just to get some attention,  some wiki/google pages, some dollars, and some relevance. Whether what we are transmitting is true...

...Or not.

The anthropological shorthand of Twitter has touched all aspects of our postmodern society; political, social, even personal. The spirit of Twitter's blue bird of paradox, has even flown into the gilded coop of Hollywood. How else can one explain the provocative, almost manic frenzy today--Christmas 2012-- across the country, over the release of director Quentin Tarantino's new film, Django Unchained?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Looking For Sanctuary Amongst the Towers of Ruin, Part 2 (The Wretchedness of All Things "Ratchet")

By Barry Michael Cooper

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"
Jeremiah 17:9 
Going into eight more years of the Obamian trek known as the Starship Yes We Can, and we have crashed into the forbidden planet known as What The F&^% Happened To Us?

We are murdering our Mom at home, before walking into a classroom full of innocent babies, and massacring  them with high-powered guns, before turning the weapon on ourselves.

We are excoriating our employees without mercy, when they fall for an insensitive prankster's phone call pretending to be royalty, and then left struggling for answers when an employee commits suicide.

We are shooting people dead at point blank range, because the music is too loud.

We are carving pentagrams into the backs of our children, because we foolishly believe the numbers of a particular day will illuminate the dark shadows of our souls.

We are eating each other's faces off.

We are shooting babies and families and soldiers at midnight theater screenings.

We are building collegiate sports powerhouses on the backs of sexually abused children.

We are driven by unknown voices from demonic earpieces that whisper, "Pull the trigger; it's God's will," as we murder unarmed teens wearing hoodies.

We are pushing this country to the brink of economic apocalypse just to get a political nut.

Our Providential GPS is broken.

We have lost our sense of direction.

We are directed by dollars and cents.

There is no more True North; only True Blood. Our fascination with vampires reflects our undead desire of wanting more and still not having enough.

We laugh at our superheroes who are stuck inside the phone booth, while capturing that image on our iPhone/Androids and upload it as the trending topic #Duh?Losing.

We have lost our authenticity as individuals in a maze of reality shows, which are just waiting to murder someone on camera; fraudulent reality shows that reveal the wretchedness of all things ratchet in us.

We are dub-stepping to a Mephisto Waltz that is too loud, out of tune, and out of time.

We are looking for the "Like" icon on the mirror for the image staring back at us, but we can't find it.

We are losing our joy. And there is no app for that.

We are looking for sanctuary amongst the towers of ruin.

GOD Help us all.

Be sure to order Barry Michael Cooper's debut anthology of street journalism from the 1980s (from his award winning reporting in The Village VoiceSpin Magazine, in addition to his more current essays on the Huffington Post), titled "Hooked On The American Dream-Vol.1: New Jack City Eats Its Young," which is now available on Kindle/Amazon. Don't have a Kindle? No problem; Amazon has a free app available for download, to read "Hooked On The American Dream-Vol.1: New Jack City Eats Its Young," on your PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Android devices. Only $1.99! Click here to go to the Amazon site.