TIFF 2019: In ‘Dolemite Is My Name,’ Eddie Murphy makes a way out of no way Hollywood loves films about itself. Finally, we’ve got one from a black perspective.

TORONTO — If there’s one thing that Hollywood loves, it’s films about the hometown business. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Hail, Caesar!, La La Land, The Artist, Sunset Boulevard, Tropic Thunder, The Day of the Locust, Slums of Beverly Hills, Trumbo, Saving Mr. Banks and Hollywoodland, just to name a few. (Then there’s a subset of this genre dedicated entirely to stories about Marilyn Monroe, a well that never seems to run dry.)

There’s just one issue with these films: They suffer from a self-indulgent racial myopia. Films that tell stories of what it’s like to be a minority in Hollywood are all too rare. Enter Dolemite Is My Name, a new Netflix film starring Eddie Murphy that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

In Dolemite Is My Name, Eddie Murphy plays Rudy Ray Moore, who dreams of making it big but is down on his luck.

Courtesy of TIFF

Directed by Craig Brewer, Dolemite Is My Name shares some familiar beats with your typical film about the movie business, namely a persevering protagonist who dreams of making it big but is down on his luck. This time, he’s played by Murphy, who stars as Rudy Ray Moore, the real-life figure who crafted the Dolemite character and the blaxploitation-era films centered on him.

Moore is an over-the-hill vaudevillian with a potbelly who works as the assistant manager of a record store in Los Angeles and never seemed to catch a break. He sings, he dances, he tells jokes. When he left his sharecropping daddy back in Arkansas, he dreamed of becoming a movie star.

Dolemite Is My Name tells the story of how that finally happened and the challenges that Moore faced getting Dolemite made. Although he didn’t know a thing about filmmaking, Moore miraculously assembled a team through his own grit, hustle and charisma. He persuades a hoity-toity thespian named Jerry Jones (Keegan-Michael Key) to co-write the first Dolemite film with him after the character he’s created becomes a hit on the black nightclub circuit. Dolemite wears a wig, carries a cane, dresses like a pimp and tells jokes in verse. Moore doesn’t have the looks, acting ability or panache of Harry Belafonte or Sidney Poitier, but he has something else: a tremendous knack for entertaining, and an understanding that sometimes a little crude humor makes you forget that you’re broke.

Moore’s director, D’Urville Martin (Wesley Snipes) is a lot like Jerry Jones: a black actor with real credits who can’t break out of the shadows and into the meaty, demanding roles that go to white leads. Snipes gives Martin an assortment of truly gut-busting affectations, from a pinkie nail perfect for escorting a bump of cocaine to his nose to an eye roll that’s just begging to be memed. It’s Snipes’ funniest and most inspired comic role since he played Noxeema in To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar, which came out in 1995. He upstages Murphy, who plays Moore as a showman who’s been humbled but not broken, in just about every scene the two share.

Genocide, systemic injustice and police violence were among the themes that dominated the TIFF films I saw this year, and frankly, Dolemite offered a welcome reprieve. What a relief to see something so nakedly committed to entertaining its audience, and which made the case for doing so with such passion.

What a breath of fresh air to see a film in a genre that’s way too dominated by whiteness, revealing, in funny and stylish fashion, how black artists make a way out of no way.

But Dolemite Is My Name offered more than belly laughs and a light bit of popcorn fare about how a low-budget Shaft-inspired comedy came to be a hit. So many of Moore’s struggles, which largely center on drumming up the money to give himself work when no one else will, are still relevant for black artists trying to make it in the film business today. I’ve spoken to many promising black artists who, like Moore, have had to beg, borrow and steal to get their art made in front of people’s eyes. That’s the story of the early days of Numa Perrier, Ava DuVernay, Issa Rae, and of so many black directors of the L.A. Rebellion. So many talented black directors are forced into becoming new iterations of John Cassavetes because Hollywood still struggles to see how employing them is profitable.

Despite their limited viewpoint, I enjoy films about classic Hollywood more often than not. The best ones help us understand what an enormous undertaking it can be to make and release a feature film, and how many people and jobs are involved in such an enterprise. They shed light on eras gone by and the troubles that characterized them, such as the tyranny of the studio system and the struggles against McCarthyism. Plus, the costuming is just delicious.

Costuming, by the way, is essential to Dolemite Is My Name. Oscar-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter makes the film a feast for the eyes with an array of 1970s trends, from wide-lapel suits in eye-searing colors to polyester getups that look as though they’ll burst into flames if they come too close to a naked lightbulb. What a breath of fresh air to see a film in a genre that’s way too dominated by whiteness, revealing, in funny and stylish fashion, how black artists make a way out of no way. With any luck, Dolemite Is My Name will make the case for more such films to come.

The Met Gala 2017 was a La La Land Serena may have debuted her baby bump, but La La Anthony was the real MVP of the Met Gala

The dress code for this year’s Met Gala, the short name for the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s annual benefit, was supposed to be experimental and hip. After all, the current Costume Institute exhibition honors Rei Kawakubo, the Japanese designer behind avant-garde fashion house Comme des Garçons, which she founded in 1969.

Only the most daring fashion souls actually wear head-to-toe Comme des Garçons. Some of her garments don’t actually look like something a stylish person would (or should) wear. So the stage was set to see which famous folks would have the courage to wear Kawakubo’s designs on this year’s red carpet. The answer? Not many. But those who did — Rihanna, Tracee Ellis Ross, Maxwell, and Pharrell Williams’ wife, Helen Lasichanh — are definitely not what you would call shrinking fashion violets.

The Met Gala, once a lily-white, insiders-only affair for people in the fashion business, now attracts a hugely diverse set of attendees. The event is superpricey (tickets go for $30,000 each, and tables run to $275,000), the guest list is very exclusive, and the red carpet tends to encourage the kind of damn-the-torpedoes fashion chances that celebs used to take.

MVP

La La Anthony attends the “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art Of The In-Between” Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1, 2017 in New York City.

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The MVP award goes to actress and mother La La Anthony. Last month she announced a surprise separation from NBA superstar Carmelo Anthony amid infidelity rumors, but last night she issued a fashion smackdown via Instagram to the world and perhaps her estranged husband (and former Met Gala date): “Unbreakable” is the caption. Anthony’s sheer, long-sleeved black gown just put designer Thai Nguyen Atelier on the map.

Assist Leader (On Court and Off)

Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez attend the “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art Of The In-Between” Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1, 2017 in New York City.

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Making their official red carpet debut, newly minted power couple A-Lo (or J-Rod, which sounds slightly naughtier), brought old-school Hollywood glamour to this year’s Met Gala. The retired Yankees slugger Alex Rodriugez stood by as Jennifer Lopez shined in a full-on baby blue princess gown by Valentino. A-Rod was careful to avoid stepping on J-Lo’s dramatic train.

Rookies of the Year

Offset, Quavo and Takeoff of Migos attends the “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art Of The In-Between” Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1, 2017 in New York City.

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Migos.

Quavo, Takeoff and Offset apparently know the secret to winning the Met Gala’s red carpet. All three looked fearless in matching Versace suits, sets of glittering rings, and blinged-out bracelets and watches. One of Quavo’s chains was the bust of Yoda. While the looks were relatively safe for their first go-round at the Met, they were still out here looking bad and boujee.

Rihanna, Tracee Ellis Ross, Maxwell, and Pharrell Williams’ wife, Helen Lasichanh — definitely not what you would call shrinking fashion violets.

Game Winner of the Year

Lupita Nyong’o attends the “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art Of The In-Between” Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1, 2017 in New York City.

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Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o is a bona-fide red carpet star. Last year, her striking hairdo was a tribute to singer Nina Simone and African sculpture that complemented her green jewel-toned gown. This year, the Yale grad switched it up for a bold orange, off-the-shoulder dress with floral plumage at the bust by Prada. She paired it with Tiffany & Co. jewelry.

Coach of the Year

Rihanna attends the “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art Of The In-Between” Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1, 2017 in New York City.

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Rihanna always comes to the Met Gala in theme, but never looking cartoonish or Halloween-y. This year she wore a floral gown from the fall 2016 Comme de Garcons collection. She paired it with magenta eye makeup and a topknot. But she is no stranger to slaying the red carpet. At the 2015 gala, she infamously donned a couture Guo Pei gown for the Met’s “China: Through the Looking Glass” theme.

Most Improved Player

Mary J. Blige attends the “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art Of The In-Between” Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1, 2017 in New York City.

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Serena Williams attends the “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art Of The In-Between” Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1, 2017 in New York City.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Tie: Mary J. Blige and Serena Williams

Williams debuted her lovely pregnant belly along with her fiance, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. Her emerald-green halter dress had a romantic mermaid hem flourish.

Kim Kimble, hairstylist to the Bronx-born Blige, gave her blonde tresses an edgy cut with a high, swooping top. The black lace gown was by La Perla Haute Couture.

Honorable Mention

Zoe Kravitz attends the “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art Of The In-Between” Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1, 2017 in New York City.

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Zoe Kravitz was giving debutant goddess vibes in a pink-and-black satin Oscar de la Renta column. But the Mad Max: Fury Road star let her short platinum pixie cut speak for itself. The daughter of Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz always rocks a millennial hip-girl appeal.

What Had Happened Was: 2/27/17 Oh, you didn’t know? We got you.

GAME. BLOUSES.

The 89th Academy Awards ended the only way a ceremony celebrating Hollywood could possibly end — with a major plot twist. When the award for best picture was initially announced, the Hollywood-inspired musical La La Land came away with the win. But even before the award was announced it was apparent actor Warren Beatty was hesitant to call the crew’s name — more so than to just build anticipation. He double-checked the envelope and then proceeded to call the La La Land cast and crew up.

This subtle, but noticeable, hesitation made a ton of sense, when a minute or so into the film’s acceptance speeches, it was announced that Moonlight had actually won best picture. There was drama, suspense, climax, frustration and exasperation on the part of folks on Twitter, pointing out that the announcer said the movie exemplified diversity … which La La Land did not.

BLESSINGS

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1. YOU HEAR WHAT YOU WANT WHEN YOU POPPIN’

2. IT’S A RAP

3. ONLY GOD CAN HELP YOU NOW

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