(Almost) Everybody Loves Chris Rock

(Almost) Everybody Loves Chris Rock (photo)

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When Chris Rock’s young daughter asked him one day why she didn’t have “good hair,” the comedian extraordinaire began thinking about the issues surrounding African-American women and their tresses — or rather, their painstakingly and expensively straightened or even artificial hair. Directed by Rock’s Emmy-winning collaborator Jeff Stilson (“The Chris Rock Show”), the hilarious and occasionally horrifying new doc “Good Hair” investigates beauty salon culture and the lengths black women go to for the sake of self-esteem and societal pressures.

Rock himself acts as our guide, interviewing scientists about the toxicity of sodium hydroxide relaxers, schoolteachers and other working-class people who overspend on weaves (hair that comes from heads in India, another stop on Rock’s journey), and celebrities like Ice-T, Maya Angelou and the man who modeled his mane after his buddy James Brown’s: Reverend Al Sharpton. Framing the whole investigation is a stop in Atlanta for the Bronner Bros. Hair Show, an annual trade industry event whose headline attraction is a wild, avant-coiffure showdown between the top stylists of black hair. I sat down with Rock and his small entourage (his make-up woman was applying powder that can’t be appreciated here!) to talk ‘dos, don’ts and the $5 million lawsuit against the movie that was reported mere hours before our chat.

Are you tired of talking about yourself today?

You know what, doing press for this movie isn’t that bad because it’s not talking about me that much. The topic’s actually bigger than me. Even the stuff I’m in, it’s just me, so it’s not like I have to make up this bullshit talk about a character: “What would the character do?” [laughs]

Then let’s talk “Good Hair.” You’ve obviously been familiar with African-American hair your whole life, so what specifically did you learn from this project?

What did I learn? The money aspect of it, especially when you’re talking about someone without money, how much they spend on their hair was mind-boggling. You know that relaxer burns, but you didn’t know it could eat through a can. Little stuff like that.

The film could be called an exposé. What do you hope audiences will take from this?

Art, to me, is a break from reality. I never looked at art as changing reality, [unless there’s] an accumulative effect. If there were nine of these movies, I guess it might change something, but I don’t know. What I look for is for people to laugh and have a good time, and hopefully, they’ll remember the last time they laughed at me. “Hey, I laughed at him before! This guy really makes me laugh.” This is what I hope to achieve. [laughs]

10082009_chrisrock4.jpgIt is funny when you point out the ridiculousness, but you also bring up significant issues since many people will spend their last dollar to not have “bad hair.” Could that be considered an addiction?

I think the whole country has an addiction, spending beyond their means. That’s quite evident by what’s been going on the last few years, with this housing stuff and what-not. Hair is not exempt from that. You could do an exposé on TVs and the amount sold to people that couldn’t afford them last year. Did you need the flat screen? Americans have an addiction of too much anything, and hair is just one of those things.

You still point to the possibility of a cultural reversal. In the ’70s, Pam Grier made natural hair cool and sexy, but now celebrities like Beyoncé have their fashion product deals, which perpetuate the problem. Would it take role models like her going natural to create a sea change?

Halle Berry was pretty natural, and that didn’t seem to affect anything. I don’t know, things are just a style. Natural will be back, because everything comes back. It’s just not coming back right now. I keep saying this movie will end weaves and relaxers like “We Are the World” ended world hunger. You make an attempt.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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