Universal’s Get On Up is currently making the rounds doing its movie premieres. The very first opening was at the world famous Apollo Theater in NYC on July 21st. The Atlanta Georgia opening is Friday July 25th. The L.A. premiere is July 31st at Mann’s Chinese Theater, soon followed by the U.S. theatrical release on August 1st. So we have N.Y., Atlanta, and L.A. with red carpet events, but wait, I am leaving another red carpet event out, Augusta, Georgia.
When Augustans found out that a James Brown movie was being made, we were ecstatic. James Brown was still alive then and Spike Lee was hired to direct the film. Little did we know that James Brown’s life would be cut short on Dec. 25th, 2006. After Brown’s death, a free for all occurred with messy litigation ensuing. The rights to the movie were in limbo for some time, but finally Mick Jagger and Brian Grazer stepped in to make the movie a reality. Spike Lee was out as the director and Tate Taylor was brought in to direct. It was then that Augusta found out that Get On Up would not be shot in Augusta. All shooting locations were to be shot in director Tate Taylor’s home state of Mississippi. Furthermore, Augusta wondered if we would be left out altogether.
That’s when a rallying cry went forth to bring the premiere of Get On Up to Mr. Brown’s hometown of Augusta, GA. A Facebook page was set up; influential locals started lobbying for the premiere to be brought here. Even I wrote a guest column in the local Sunday paper concerning the push to bring the premiere of Get On Up to Augusta. All that work finally paid off and Augusta was granted its own red carpet event attended by the family, local actor Keith Robinson, lead star of the film Chadwick Boseman, and director Tate Taylor.
The who’s who of Augusta came out in droves. That includes local celebrities, politicians, people who knew Mr. Brown here in Augusta, and local taste makers. Everybody that brought a ticket to the special showing was given the opportunity to have their name called on the red carpet and take pictures. Most people just chose to enjoy the ambiance of the total experience. Media from the surrounding area in Georgia and South Carolina lined the red carpet to cover the event.
Those of us who were fortunate to get tickets to the sold out event were given wristbands for entrance. We also received another pleasant surprise as all attendees were given free popcorn and drinks. (We all know how expensive movie snacks are.) The Regal 20 Cinemas sectioned off half of the theater for the showing of Get On Up. Three theaters were occupied for the screening.
Before the show began, James Brown’s two daughters Yamma and Deanna Brown, along with director Tate Taylor and Chadwick Boseman addressed the crowd. They wanted to thank everyone for supporting the movie and showing up. Boseman revealed that he’s a product of nearby Anderson S.C. and had a lot of family that showed up to support him. With all of the pleasantries out of the way, it was finally the moment we all had been waiting for. It’s show time!
The movie started off with one of the funniest scenes of the whole movie. Many who know the events in the life of James Brown can recall the incident where somebody was using his bathroom at his building here in Augusta. It is unclear whether Mr. Brown was mad because someone used his bathroom or because they forgot to spray some air freshener after they did their business. But the whole situation is overblown when Mr. Dynamite gets his shotgun from his truck. It was the beginning of the end for Mr. Brown when he put a bullet hole in the roof. This led to a two state chase from Augusta to Aiken, S.C., where Mr. Brown’s truck was riddled with bullets. It was later discovered that Mr. Brown was high on PCP while this was all going on. Chadwick Boseman absolutely kills this scene in the movie.
The rest of the movie centers on certain events of Mr. Brown’s life, while leaving out quite a few notable episodes. I guess when you have lived such a full life; it would take a four hour movie to cover everything. The events that they did cover were well acted and exciting. There were no down scenes in the movie. The dance and musical scenes were on point and the comedic scenes were too. I encourage everyone to check out Get On Up weather you like James Brown or not.
Watching the movie, you can’t help but come away understanding the complex character of James Brown more. Seeing the turmoil in his early life and how his mother and father abandoned him really drives home the point of why he was so resilient. Seeing the domestic violence between his mother and father and then later between him and his second wife Dee Dee, played by Jill Scott, one can only wonder if it was a learned behavior by Mr. Brown. A troubled childhood is no excuse for violence towards women, but it does give some context to the situation.
Get On Up briefly touches on Mr. Brown’s drug use and violence towards women and for those of us in the know, it really leaves a lot of his most embarrassing moments out. I guess if they put all of his negatives in the movie, it would make for an unsympathetic character. The truth of the matter is, Mr. Brown was a very complex man. He would help the poor and be very charitable and then exhibit violence and aggression to those he loved. Mr. Brown would make a song like Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud and then hobnob with President Nixon. Mr. Brown was certainly his own man.
Most of those men and women that we put on a pedestal are complex figures. They have their great moments and their not so great moments. James Brown is no different. Those people that he hurt the most have forgiven him and recognize his greatness and good qualities. They choose to focus on the good that he did for the community and the healing that he brought to peoples of all colors. They still give turkeys and toys to the unfortunate in Augusta in his name during the holidays. In addition, his daughter Deanna has founded J.A.M.P., which is a music academy for local Augusta children.
In essence, the best of James Brown will outlive any negativity that he generated while he was on this earth. That should be the goal of any decent human being. That was the goal of James Brown. I’d like to personally thank James Brown for standing up for Augusta and equating us with all the major cities of the world. I’m sure he would have been proud to see Augusta stand up for him.
P.S. The two major problems that I had with the movie were glaring omissions and James Brown breaking the fourth wall throughout the film.
Glaring omissions: One of the biggest ones was the cape man Danny Ray being missing from the film. I got a chance to speak with Danny Ray and he was just as surprised as the rest of us as to why he was left out. He was J.B's cape man and emcee for 46 yrs. He mentioned that it was a lot of things that the people making the movie probably didn't know about James Brown because they never consulted him. Another glaring omission is that of J.B.'s third wife Adrienne. She was a big part of his life and died tragically due to complications from plastic surgery. (like Kayne West's mother) Jmaes Brown's son as a result of that marriage Darryl Brown was recently interviewed on Jimy Bleu's radio in N.Y. and he agreed with Danny Ray. Darryl felt it was a travesty that Danny Ray wasn't in the movie and also stressed that many people who knew Brown intimately were not consulted, including himself.
Breaking the fourth wall: For those that don't know, breaking the forth wall is when a character interacts with the audience watching the movie. Several times J.B. looks at the audience and narrates the movie. This takes away from the seriousness of the film. It's no big secret that this movie will be compared to Ray. While I loved Chadwick Boseman in this film and hope he gets an Oscar, I can't help but thinking that the campy nature of the film may hurt his chances. It would be one thing for Boseman to break the forth wall during comedic scenes, but he does this during some dramatic moments.