New Moon Movie Night: Dolemite Is My Inspiration

Welcome to our moon-synced movie review show hosted by Saira Barbaric and Neve Mazique-Bianco. This South Seattle creative duo do multidisciplinary work together and individually. For this show, they are thrilled to join their love of astrology, rituals and pop culture.

by Saira B

If we haven’t met, I’m Saira B. I’m a performance artist, filmmaker, and a huge fan of film, magic, and social history. I’m half the podcast New Moon Movie Night with Neve, who you might know from this recent story in the South Seattle Emerald. In each episode, we discuss astrology and pop culture in sync with the new moon – traditionally a time of clarification, reflection and intention setting.

I had a soft spot for 2019 Dolemite is my name right now. In the first two minutes, Snoop Dogg pops up – playing DJ Roj – to talk aloud about the film’s hurdle. The rapper-record-dealer-DJ tells Rudy Ray Moore, played by Eddie Murphy, “Sometimes our dreams just don’t come true.” This statement prompts Moore to replicate his motivation and the point of the film, “They [dreams] always can!”

Dolemite is my name is my pick for this new moon movie. I chose it because I love the cast, 1970s period movies and the blaxploitation genre in general. I hadn’t watched it before for two reasons. First, I was wary of the all-white writing and directing team preying on the life of a performer whose character I find awkward to my modern sensibilities. Second, I had already seen black dynamitea 2009 blaxploitation satire so perfect you’d swear it was from 1972. black dynamite is the love child of cult action icon Michael Jai White and references the 1975 original Dolemite in several ways. I thought, who needs the comedian tribute when we have the martial artist tribute? I have been corrected. Dolemite is my name is a period biopic with pace, style, and a heartwarming ending. It highlights Rudy Ray Moore as a historic touchstone that connects comedy, black American culture, and the birth of hip-hop culture.

“I am not a wanderer. I’m a repository of African American folklore,” said Ron Cephas Jones as Ricco – a homeless man who walks into Moore’s record store. The film’s first act shows how Rudy Ray Moore’s filtered “liquor store sage” jokes led to his signature brand of diss-heavy, boastful jokes set to a beat. This mark made Dolemite the character a hit on stage and screen and continued in tone from newbie to current MCs. The story focuses on Moore’s first film as Dolemite, told through a series of montages that guide character development and follow the filmmaking process. I’ve lost count of the number of edits in this film. Perhaps this is where my love for 1970s hair and clothing cuts and colors comes to roost. For some, the pace can get tedious.

The screenwriters made a strong choice about the beginning and the end of the film. Rudy Ray Moore was an artist from his teenage years until his death. Trying to encompass more of Rudy Ray Moore’s life would have been way too much, but the film still has the frenetic biopic pace of aiming for as many points as possible in two hours. We cover the birth of his character, the success of a stage acting career, the gathering of his team, the making of a film almost scene by scene and the endless barrage of closed doors as Moore completes the first film. Dolemite. We follow screenings and meetings until a big premiere. The final scene brings tears to my eyes. I admit this is where that original weak point is hit again. Rudy and a car full of fellow filmmakers prepare to spend a night alone at the film’s premiere. They read the reviews and expect the worst, only to encounter crowds of admirers. Moore in the film chooses to forgo the premiere to stay with the fans who await their turn with his film. He sees the fruits of his labor and the love of his people first hand as his film is a financial success.

To sum up Moore’s impact even faster than the movie, Rudy Ray Moore lived until 2008 and was considered by Snoop Dogg and many others to be a father of hip-hop, not just lyrically, but also in style and subject. Moore has released over 25 albums and appeared in over 20 films and music videos, including Dolemite sequels between 1976 and 2002. The love early rappers have for him is clear in his list of video cameos and track appearances. I left my post-movie search hole excited and inspired because I saw myself and so many people I adore in Uncle Rudy’s relentless style, genre-hopping, and groundbreaking styles. Yes, I’m going to adopt the name Snoop Dogg for the man. I may not like the pimp-as-hero trope because it downplays the harm and trafficking that pimps actually do. I can, however, recognize the impact of the character, who created a musical pathway for people to thrive and not turn to manipulating and abusing other humans for profit.

Check out an older Rudy Ray Moore in the opening and closing of this video from 1999.

Listen to Rudy Ray Moore in the intro to Busta’s Genesis album, 2001.

Craig Brewer Dolemite is my name lives in the genre I like to call Movies About the Magic of Movies. It’s a mark against her for me. I love its magical realism, but this very specific genre includes movies like The Earth which I find pretentious and navel-gazing, even as a movie buff. Dolemite is my name wins me back by showing a time I adore, the full DIY energy of making indie films, and the reward given to Moore for sticking to his raunchy black comedian style. Would I want to see Moore do a live set if I went back in time? Probably not. Do I watch this movie now to cheer myself up when I get discouraged by my artwork? Absolutely.

I recommend Dolemite is my name if you like :

  • movies about movie magic
  • coming of age tales
  • see a wide range of 1970s black fashion

I do not recommend it if:

  • you are not comfortable with extended profanity
  • Your eyes are getting glassy from the edits
  • you don’t like eddie murphy

I only recommend the original from 1975 Dolemite if you have a strong stomach for badly made movies and pimp plots as an action hero. To know more Dolemite is my name and the April 30 new moon, watch this episode of New Moon Movie Night.

📸 Featured Image: New Moon Movie Night is a podcast made by a pair of nerdy and disabled artists, Saira and Neve, with movie picks and spoiler-heavy discussions synced to the new moon. Image courtesy of New Moon Movie Night; edited by Emerald staff.

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