Cinema in Color Review #6: Our Friend, Martin

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Disclaimer: I do not claim ownership of any photographic material used unless otherwise noted. This blog is intended for purposes of film criticism, commentary, and humor. If you wish to start this journey from the beginning, start with the prologue here.

*****

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SAMURAI, IT SEEMS MEMBERS OF YOUR SPECIES IN A PLACE CALLED BILOXI, MISSISSIPPI HAVE CREATED QUITE A CONTROVERSY RECENTLY. EXPLAIN?

What controversy?

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Oh. Um… Yeaaaaaaaah…

Alright, so you’re familiar with Martin Luther King, Jr., right?

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DO I NEED TO GIVE YOUR TESTICLES A PAINFUL SQUEEZE TO REMIND YOU WHY I’VE ABDUCTED YOU?

Fair point.

So, long story short, after slavery was abolished, as I pointed out in my review for Life, America managed to preserve forms of slavery decades afterward. Because after 600,000 dead soldiers, we somehow still couldn’t quite shake our addiction to forcing people to work for free. At the same time, black people’s rights were severely restricted under new laws upheld by an 1896 Supreme Court case that decided these laws were constitutional. Segregating public bathrooms, railcars, water fountains, movie theatres, restaurants, public swimming pools, schools, and even entire neighborhoods and towns by race was found to be legal under one simple premise of legal logic: Separate but equal.

The logic went that so long as facilities provided to each race were equal in quality and function, then those facilities could be legally segregated by race. It’s like separating the laundry by color so long as both got equal amounts of detergent and then not quite following through on that last part. At least, that’s how Randall Wallace would explain segregation.

God, I hate that movie.

Anyway, this period of legal racial segregation came to be known as Jim Crow.

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Because nothing screams “constitutional” like a singing, dancing caricature of your entire race.

A series of movements to end racial segregation occurred in the 20th century, the most famous of which happened in the 1950s and 1960s. It would be more accurate to say this movement was lead by many great activists: Medgar Evers, Bayard Rustin, Malcolm X, Diane Nash, James Baldwin, Josephine Baker, Rosa Parks, Ralph Abernathy, Ella Baker, Stokely Carmichael, Thurgood Marshall, etc. Hell, Marshall’s mentor Charles Hamilton Houston, arguably the one man most responsible for defeating de jure racial segregation, died in 1950 before the end of Jim Crow would become reality. He isn’t called “The Man Who Killed Jim Crow” for nothing.

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If you can’t beat Jim Crow, you can still make the son of a bitch eat crow.

Buuuut… sigh.

If we’re being completely honest, history books and commemorations are like that brat in your kindergarten class that never wanted to share. It’s why over thirty Roman senators could knife Caesar in the back, but the only one everyone remembers is Brutus.

So, as a result, the Big Name of the civil rights movement was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This guy was the top dog, the head honcho, the big cheese. If the civil rights movement was a train, King was the conductor. If the civil rights movement was a fancy restaurant, King was the head chef in the big, poofy hat. If the civil rights movement was the Starship Enterprise, King was the bald guy in the captain’s seat shouting, “Make it so!”

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Justice… The final frontier…

So, in 1983, in honor of his contributions to civil and human rights, a federal holiday set on the third Monday of every January was created in his honor.

The holiday wasn’t without controversy. When the U.S. Senate debated the bill making Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a holiday, Republican senators Jessie Helms and John Porter East of North Carolina submitted a 300-page document as part of a filibuster against the bill. The contents of that document alleged King was a filthy pinko Commie cocksucker. Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat from New York, promptly called the document “a packet of filth,” threw it on the Senate floor, and stomped on it.

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Awwww… Moynihan, we worked really hard on that packet of filth.

Actually, speaking of Dr. King, since his birthday is coming up, we should watch something to educate you more about the man!

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EXCELLENT IDEA! I MUST ADMIT THIS MONARCH OF YOURS SOUNDS INTRIGUING.

He’s… not a monarch. King is just his last name.

Anyway, let’s take a look at Our Friend, Martin… the time-traveling animated children’s special. Continue reading

Cinema in Color Review #1: Boyz N The Hood

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Disclaimer: I do not claim ownership of any photographic material used unless otherwise noted. This blog is intended for purposes of film criticism, commentary, and humor. If you wish to start this journey from the beginning, start with the prologue here.

Konichiwa, pardner. I am the Wild West Samurai.

Let’s kick this off by going way back to the year 1991.

It was a pretty fucked up year, by several standards. The United States invaded Iraq, won, left, and didn’t go back for 12 years. Soooo… it qualifies as a victory like how a premature ejaculation qualifies as getting laid, only to find your one-night stand at your doorstep years later. With a teenager in tow. It was also a year of profound pop-culture fuck-ups. Axl Rose showed how much of an ass he was by attacking a fan at one of his concerts. Three goats were sacrificed so that Ed Sheeran could be born.

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I wish your voice wouldn’t work like it used to before.

Sorry. Was I thinking out loud? Anyway, 1991 was also the year Bryan Adams’ song “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” made it to number one on the Billboard charts – for seven godforsaken weeks in a row. Like Kevin Costner’s acting in the film the song was written for, it was phoned in, soulless, and as riveting as listening to paint dry on a white picket fence. Outside a bland white house. With a bland white family eating bland whitebread sandwiches inside – with mayonnaise on top. And it won the 1992 Grammy Award for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television.

Dark times, people. Dark times.

Had it not been for the brass pipes on Angela Lansbury and her vocal work on the song “Beauty and the Beast,” done in one take – yes, this was done in one take – Adams might have won the 1992 Academy Award for Best Original Song. But he didn’t. The Fire Lord was stopped. Zelda was rescued. Middle-earth was saved. And that’s all that matters.

1991 wasn’t all bad, though. The Soviet Union dissolved, the Berlin Wall came all the way down, and the Scorpions released a bitchin’ single about it.

Nirvana released their magnum opus Nevermind and their single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” not only topped the Billboard charts the next year, it ushered in a wave of grunge music that defined the ’90s. A Tribe Called Quest released their album The Low End Theory the same day as Nevermind, and proceeded to do for alternative hip-hop what Nevermind did for alternative rock. Prince released Diamonds and Pearls, with “Cream” as his last number-one single. A little-known rapper named Tupac Shakur kicked off his solo career with the release of 2Pacalypse Now, with the promise of more spit to come. Michael Jackson released Dangerous, his last good album (fight me). Ice Cube went from a rap career to starting his film career. Whitney Houston sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl, proceeding to blow the minds of 80 million people and holy fucking shit, I feel old. At least one person from all these acts is now dead: Phife Dawg, Kurt Cobain, Tupac, Whitney, Michael, Prince…

Well… except Ice Cube. He’s still around and actually done pretty well for himself: Four kids, been married the equivalent of 4,380 Britney Spears-length marriages, and has never had a rap sheet in his life. Props, man, props. And that film career of his? That started with a role in Boyz N The Hood, written and directed by a young and unknown John Singleton. After mentioning The Homesteader as the first known film ever made with an all-black cast and crew, it only made sense to start with another first. At the 1992 Oscars, John Singleton was the first African-American to be nominated for Best Director. What caught my attention when I’d first read about the film was that in 2002, it was selected for preservation as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress. I remember quirking an eyebrow at that.

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Really? This… weirdly-titled motion picture with a Z in place of an S?

So, is it that good?

With an alien breathing down my neck to review this, do I have a choic-?

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GET ON WITH IT, HUMAN!!!

Right, right! Yes! This is Boyz N The Hood.

Continue reading