Well, to begin with, I tremble in the presence of the Diva.
As well you should.
But don't you think VH1's "Divas" has ruined the whole Diva market, by
anointing lightweights like Brandy and Mariah Carey? Nowadays even a 98-pound
weakling like Fiona Apple gets passed off as a Diva. Hasn't that diluted
That's a good question. But no, I don't think so. Because a true diva knows
that half the people you mentioned aren't true divas.
What was your inspiration for starting 3 Black Chicks?
A question: I love movies, and I had written a synopsis of what I was going
to see last summer. And somebody I knew laughed at that and said, "How come
there aren't any black reviewers who are nationally know?" I said, "I don't
know; let's do it."
What about Wesley Morris at the San Francisco Examiner? Or Elvis
Mitchell at the New York Times?
We didn't know of them. We did a search on the internet, and we didn't find
anybody. If they're not on the internet they don't exist. We'll amend our
statement: There's nobody nationally known except for us and Elvis.
And Wesley; don't forget Wesley!
Ebert needs new co-reviewers every week. Has he been courting you?
Nope. I don't even think he knows about us. I've been surprised by the attention
we've gotten. We just started back in July. We contacted Ebert's web site, and we
got the standard form letter back, saying, "We can't answer everything." That
was back in August.
You've gotta work the phones. Email's a waste. The phone is how you get
through to people. Ebert's got total jokers on his show now. You could do
Ebert's show no sweat.
I'll keep trying as soon as I can get some time.
There are rumors that for a while you were actually running the show with
only two black chicks.
We've always been three. And
always been in the background. We had a third person who actually reviewed,
but she couldn't keep up because of other obligations. But we already had
the name and the persona of the three of us. So what are you gonna do? You
can't just be 2 Black Chicks. So Lala's there, but she's really in the
Has she done any reviews?
No. She's going to start, though, because there's talk of a book. And we
need to get more reviews on the site so we can put them into the book. So
she's going to pick up some slack on the weekends when she can.
Right now, the site isn't making any money. We're hoping that when the site
starts making some money we can start doing reviews of books, CDs and so on.
Do you make any money from the ads?
No, that's just Link Exchange. We've probably made about $300 on the site.
We're hoping some big fish will notice us and want to advertise on the site.
Which do you prefer critics-only screenings or those public
screenings where there are all these people who won tickets from a radio
Public. I always go to the promotionals. Every now and then I'll catch a
press screening, but I really prefer the promotionals.
Why is that?
Because I get a good feel for what the audience is thinking. I like to write
my review for an audience. I write them as if I'm talking to my best
girlfriend, rather than trying to figure out what the director was thinking
and talking about the cinematography and whatnot. So with the audience you
get a better feeling. Plus I like to see the reactions to the trailers so I
can get a good feeling for how the movie's going to do. At a press screening
you usually don't get trailers.
You usually don't get reactions either.
I saw a press screening of
The World Is Not
Enough, and there were no ooohs, no ahhs, just the sound of paper
flipping. I just saw Gladiator, at a promo screening, and everybody
was clapping and cheering it was great.
Do you think there are some movies comedies and horror movies for
example that are better to see with a black audience than with a white
I think the type of movie is what matters. If it's a black movie, it's
better to see it with a black audience. Consequently, a lot of the
mainstream comedies just don't have a big black audience.
With horror movies, it's better sometimes. Like with Scream III. Or I
can go even further back than that. You remember when The Blob came
out in 1987 or so? I saw The Blob with all my friends. There were about
40 black people in the audience and it was so much fun! I think we scared the white
people out because we were making so much noise. And that was a lot more
It was the same thing with the Elm Street movies, where white people would
kind of sit still for the flimsy "How can we kill Freddy" storylines, but
black people recognized Freddy as the only character worth cheering for.
On the flipside, sometimes seeing a movie with a black audience can be a
hindrance, because there are some movies you just don't need to talk
through. Sometimes we don't quite grasp that.
You were pro-Blair Witch Project because it didn't have any
I'm only opposed to onscreeen violence when there are children in the audience. And I
just thought it was time to have the kind of thriller like they had in the
sixties, where you're scared either because of the music or because of what
I was happy to see you give a tentative
thumbs up to
Mystery Men, the most underrated film of 1999.
Absolutely, it cracked me up. And I like it that they tailored the humor and
the violence to a younger audience.
I saw that movie late in its run, and it seemed to me there was a
Mystery Men cult building, with some kids in the audience having
memorized the script so well that they could do Rocky Horror-type
call and response. And here's another wrinkle on the black audience/white
audience theme: The white kids all seemed to know Pee Wee Herman's lines and
the black kids knew Kel Mitchell's lines. So there was a dialogue among the
Wow, I wish I had seen that at the end of the run then.
I don't know if that's a cult of the movie so much as a cult of the actors.
We still see Pee Wee Herman on TV all the time. And Kel is on Nick At Nite.
So I think that may be people following the actors.
You say you have no tolerance for bad films. But sometimes, when you
think of how many people put so much work into a movie, and then you see
some critic just give it some really mean, abrupt, offhand snipe, don't you
feel sort of bad?
No. What makes me feel bad is when I really rip somebody personally. I feel
bad that I ripped Patricia Arquette's teeth. But as for the movies, here:
I'll tell you three movies that I've ripped:
Universal Soldier: The
Journey. All three of those movies, but particularly 13th
Warrior and Universal Soldier, the studios knew were bad. They
didn't hold press screenings, they kept
changing the release dates. Nobody was doing press junkets. Same thing with
thing with Sean Connery and Uma Thurman.
Ah, The Avengers! Everybody wanted that movie to go away.
Exactly. So I don't feel bad at all.
But The 13th Warrior is a perfect example. Definitely, it's a bad
movie. But it's also pretty clear that they really tried. Many people put a
lot of effort into making that a decent movie, but it just wasn't working. I mean
nobody sets out to make a piece of shit. And when you consider how much
time they spent on it, isn't it regrettable when a critic just writes a 30-second
zinger demolishing the whole project?
Well, you know what? You have to be prepared for that. I get hate mail
constantly. At first, I would cry, like "Oh! Nobody likes me!" But you know,
when you put yourself out there you have to put yourself out there with a
We get nothing but hate mail. It still makes me cry.
There you go.
A lot of our hate mail comes from people who are just disappointed that
we're not a porn site.
Oh, hello, talk about porn sites. Can I please tell you how many people
site's a porn site? You should see
the search results. I track where people are coming from and what they're
searching for: "big black ladies," "fat, nasty black chicks."
You've just got to brazen out the name.
Well I appreciate your seeking us out. People are becoming aware of us. The
studios know about us. I see their hits on the site all the time.
The Matrix for avoiding the infamous Brother Rule, which
states that black guys particularly in supporting roles
always die in movies. But don't you think the really ingenious thing
about The Matrix was
that it played against the Brother Rule? Like, as soon as Morpheus
gets captured you're thinking, "Oh, there goes the brother!" But then they
faked you out! Don't you think they were aware that we'd have the Brother
Rule in mind while we were watching it?
Oh absolutely. And then beyond that, the only people of Zion that we see are
black. Oh yeah, they knew the rule. And that is so cool. They pulled
something you didn't expect at all.
OK, but you gave a really enthusiastic
review to The
Green Mile, and come on that's the Brother Rule all the way.
Well, yes and no. The Brother Rule is more in effect for action and science fiction
movies Star Wars, Star Trek, The Matrix those kinds of
movies. But even if we were
going to apply the Brother Rule to The Green Mile, in my opinion
The Green Mile was such an excellent film that the Brother Rule
doesn't even matter.
There you go. Some things are more important than rules.
It transcended the rule!
And your one
Gladiator was that it violated the Sister Rule. Wasn't that
incredibly strange, having this black woman getting chopped up in the ring?
Were they just trying to be post-modern?
You know, I've gotten a lot of feedback on that from both sides. From what
people are telling me the Romans at that time saw Africans as the ultimate
warriors. So to them, she was a warrior and not a woman, and that was a
compliment to her.
That's what people are telling me. I'm like, Hmm, all right, she's laying in
pieces on the ground...
And how about the fact that Djimon Hounsou doesn't get to kick one white
guy's ass the whole movie? Did you notice that?
I did, but I was expecting him to die, actually. I was expecting him to take
a spear for the white guy, because that's how the Brother Rule works.
Yeah, but I suspect the Brother Rule may actually be in decline. We seem
to be seeing the last days of it. Then again, you never know. This country's
disappointed us before.
You never know. Mark my words: Allen Payne is in The Perfect Storm,
and he's the only black guy on the ship. So he's getting washed overboard
Well you are now on record as predicting that. You came up with the
all-time greatest exception to the rule: The fact that Keith David survives at
the end of John Carpenter's The Thing. Which of course was the
most underrated motion picture of the 1980s.
That is my favorite horror movie of all time. The 20th anniversary of
The Thing is coming up, and I'm really hoping they'll re-release it.
Because that movie was so underrated when it came out. Critics just ripped
See? When you rip a movie don't you ever worry about having to eat your
words later? Or is that just the bullet you've got to take?
That's the bullet you've got to take.
What about "Spoiler Alert!" Isn't the whole concept of the "Spoiler
Alert" kind of irritating? Who are we all protecting? It's like we all have
to carry water for the movie industry, and be on our toes so we won't give
away their precious secrets.
For me it's not to please and appease the studios. It's really for the
people who read the reviews and say "Well I didn't want to know that. You
told me stuff I didn't want to know." I took heat for Sleepy Hollow
because I told that Christopher Walken was the Headless Horseman.
Which you find out like 15 minutes into the movie.
Right. And people ripped me to shreds for that. Excuse me: He went on Leno
saying that; it was in the commercial; it was on the website. Get over
yourself. So we keep the alert up so people won't email us saying "Oh, you
gave away a big secret."
You have a traffic-light rating system, which allows for three different
ratings. Is that designed to break the binary tyranny of the
We just brainstormed on that. We didn't want to use anything that anybody
else was using. The thumb system is played out. And even the three-tiered
system is limiting. We're trying to come up with a system where we can have
five. Because some movies are really in between a green and a yellow or a
red and a yellow.