Merry Christmas, everyone!
An early 90s classic.
There are some songs that you recognize immediately when they’re played over the airwaves. “Jump” by the rap duo Kris Kross was one of those songs.
That’s why it’s sad to hear of the passing of Chris Kelly last week who was Mac Daddy to partner Chris Smith’s Daddy Mac. The two of them combined to form Kriss Kross and in 1992 their single “Jump” appeared No 1. on the Billboard Top 100 for 8 weeks. More than 20 years later that single is still being played. R.I.P. Chris Kelly.
Last week the world — not just the film world — lost an icon in Roger Ebert.
Though Ebert’s official title was that of film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, he was much more than that to the movie going American public. “Two thumbs up” was a phrase that originated with Ebert and his former film critic Gene Siskel, that became synonymous with a positive review of a new film. How esteemed was Roger Ebert in the movie industry? He’s the only film critic with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
When it came to race and the social dynamics of the Hollywood studio system, Ebert didn’t shy away from those subjects either. During the 1990s, two of his choices for movie of the year centered around protagonists of color: “Malcolm X” in 1992 and “Hoop Dreams” in 1994. Lauren Williams of The Root does an excellent job of compiling Ebert’s reviews on some well known black films at the time. Ebert goes beyond the characters and main story of the films and asks larger hard hitting questions about the impact of these films within cinema.
On “Love Jones” Ebert writes:
“As the characters move from record stores to restaurants to the Sanctuary, we realize how painfully limited the media vision of black life is. Why do the movies give us so many homeboys and gangstas and druggies and so few photographers, poets and teachers? …”
On “Glory” Ebert writes:
“Watching ‘Glory,’ I had one reoccurring problem. I didn’t understand why it had to be told so often from the point of view of the 54th’s commanding white officer? Why did we see the black troops through his eyes — instead of seeing him through theirs? To put it another way, why does the top billing in this movie go to a white actor? I ask, not to be perverse, but because I consider this primarily a story about the black experience and do not know why it has to be seen largely through white eyes…
‘Glory’ is a strong and valuable film, no matter whose eyes it is seen through. But there is still, I suspect, another and quite different film to be made from this same material.”
Things to think about. Roger Ebert, you will be missed.
When we talk about the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, there are a few names that stand above the rest. Dr. Martin Luther King. Rosa Parks. Jesse Jackson. All very important and influential people. However, it could be said that the legacy of Malcolm X — perhaps not as clean cut as those other Civil Rights icons — is no less important and should not be treated as such. Fortunately for Malcolm, on this day 48 years after his assassination, his legacy is more than just a man known as a fire-and-brimstone orator, but as a man whose rise and conversion later in life was nothing short of remarkable.
In 1992, the biographical film “Malcolm X” was released starring Denzel Washington as Malcolm X and directed by Spike Lee. The film portrayed a man far deeper than just the angry dude pointing his finger in most textbooks. In the film we see a young Malcolm terrified as the Ku Klux Klan burns a cross on his lawn at his home in Nebraska. We see Malcolm’s maturation from a young hustler, to an educated prisoner, and eventually into one of the key leaders for the nation of Islam. Along the way we watch Malcolm become transformed with a pilgrimage to Mecca. Finally, there’s the dramatic scene of Malcolm’s death.
Personally, I thought the film was well done. Denzel was of course excellent, and I felt Spike did a good job of showing the audience the different moods and complexities of Malcolm X. Too often it becomes easy to label people –especially historical figures– through the narrow prism of good, bad, or insignificant. “Malcolm X” doesn’t allow for such easy assertions.
It’s worth noting that while filming “Malcolm X” Spike Lee went over the initial budget set by the studio and hence was fighting to secure more money to get the film released. Warner Brothers refused to pony up more cash and that’s when some well known African Americans stepped up and contributed to the project. Micheal Jordan, Magic Johnson, Bill Cosby, Janet Jackson, and Prince, were just some of the people who contributed to making this movie a reality.
“Malcolm X” was critically acclaimed upon release and opened many people’s eyes (including mine) to who he was and the legacy he left behind. 48 years later after his death, people continue to be educated.