Dave Chappelle praises ‘Origin,’ Wright State ‘Drag Race’ star goes on tour and other pop culture news

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

We’re at the height of Oscar season and it’s important to remember there are always a handful of great films every year that are overlooked. The biggest omission for 2023: “Origin.”

Based on Isabel Wilkerson’s dynamic 2020 book “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” and excellently directed by Ava DuVernay, “Origin” is a very powerful and relevant account of race as seen through the divisive use of social hierarchy not only in America but India and Nazi Germany. The film’s imagery, scope and tone concerning race and discrimination at home and abroad provides compelling moments from the murder of Trayvon Martin to the differing perspectives of how police are viewed in white and Black neighborhoods.

On Jan. 12, I saw a screening of “Origin” hosted by Dave Chappelle at his YS Firehouse in Yellow Springs. The film was warmly received by a very attentive audience. “This film was beautifully shot, beautifully acted and beautifully directed,” said Chappelle, who praised its poetry and reflections on grief. DuVernay was scheduled to participate in a Q&A but was unable to attend due to inclement weather. However, via FaceTime, she thanked the audience for attending and enjoying the film in spite of its “tough subject matter.”

Following the film’s limited release Dec. 8 and especially in early January, a groundswell of support emerged in Hollywood as numerous celebrities hosted Academy screenings or shared their praise on social media. Ben Affleck, Cher, Angelina Jolie, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Regina King were among the staunch supporters. Ultimately on Jan. 23, the film failed to receive any Oscar nominations, particularly for Best Picture and Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor’s outstanding, emotional portrayal of Wilkerson.

You still have time to catch “Origin” in the Dayton area, specifically in support of Black History Month. The film is playing at Cinemark Huber Heights 16, Cinemark The Greene 14 and IMAX, and Cinepolis Dayton. Don’t miss this thought-provoking experience that also deserves to be required viewing in high schools across the country. After all, the more you know the more you grow.

Here’s what else you should know right now:

Drag queen Amanda Tori Meating on tour

Amanda Tori Meating, a drag queen with Dayton roots eliminated last week on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” is hitting the road this month with performances in Indianapolis and Cincinnati.

She’ll be joined by her fellow Season 16 queen Plasma (who earned raves from the judges for her fantastic Barbra Streisand impersonation) on Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 9 p.m. at Gregs Our Place in Indianapolis. She’ll appear solo on Thursday, Feb. 29 at 9 p.m. at The Flock in Cincinnati. Tickets for the Indy show range from $25-$32.50. Tickets for the Cincy show range from $20-$100.



Amanda is the drag persona of Wright State University graduate Philip Stock.

For tickets or more information, visit hardcandyevents.eventbrite.com.

“Purple Rain” musical to premiere in Minneapolis in 2025

The stage musical adaptation of the 1984 classic “Purple Rain” will have its world premiere in spring 2025 in Minneapolis, the home of the legendary Prince who starred in the film and won an Oscar for its songs and score.

The tale of an up-and-coming rock musician coping with family, romance and a rival band will be directed by Tony Award nominee Lileana Blain-Cruz (”The Skin of Our Teeth”) with a book by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning finalist Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, whose play “Appropriate” is one of the best shows I’ve seen on Broadway this season.

The Minneapolis world premiere is considered a pre-Broadway tryout which suggests doves could start crying on Broadway sometime in the 2025-2026 season.

Grammys score best ratings in years

Taylor Swift’s dominance and the sweet return of Tracy Chapman boosted the Grammys beyond expectations.

An average of 16.9 million viewers watched the Feb. 4 ceremony, marking its largest audience in four years. The Associated Press says the show peaked with 18.25 million viewers during the In Memoriam segment featuring terrific performances by Stevie Wonder, Annie Lennox, Jon Batiste, and Fantasia Barrino. Last year’s Grammys only reached 12.4 million viewers.

Considering Swift will likely be in the running next year with a chance to win a historic fifth Grammy for Album of the Year, I expect the ratings to be another knockout.

Special guests to join Usher for Super Bowl Halftime Show

Grammy-winning R&B star Usher doesn’t need any help selling his greatest hits but expect to see a few special guests join him for Sunday’s Super Bowl Halftime Show nonetheless.

The Guardian reports Usher told Entertainment Tonight it would be “foolish” not to have rappers Ludacris and Lil Jon share the stage with him since they are featured on his hit “Yeah!”

And in a break from tradition, the show will be two minutes longer than the standard 13 minutes from past years.

“I can’t explain why, but it’s a funny thing that I was able to do and craft,” Usher said. “That was a huge strategic thing that happened between me and my agency.”

Should be a great show!

Right Now with Russell spotlights pop culture every Friday and as news arises. From the latest in film, music, books and TV to the buzz of awards season and other hot button topics, the goal is to fill you in on what’s new in order to satisfy your entertainment cravings. He can be reached at Russell.Florence@coxohio.com.

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