Netflix “Who Killed Malcolm X?” Doc: Nine Thoughts On Malcolm As CSI, Stagecraft Over Sincerity

1) Now everyone will see Newark the way I see it: as a small town. Treating it as a “small town with deadly secrets” was amusing. It is a place where, if you ride a bus or sit somewhere and be quiet, you will hear Old Heads talk about their time with The Nation. Now I finally understand why, in a city where historically you can get killed for looking at someone wrong, Bradley was able to walk around untouched. You also now know that we, as a group, care more about collective, community advancement than ideology and argument: the comment by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka that he learned from his father to “leave that alone because that won’t advance our cause” is classic Newark. Congrats to my brother, Baba Zayid Muhammad, for his honesty in this documentary. He educated me a lot about what this Black Power city is still like. I absolutely believe that Newark “got there first” in Black Power zealotry.

2) Continuing with Newark: why would Bradley be in Booker’s Newark mayor campaign commercial? Why would New Jersey Lt. Gov. Shelia Oliver be at Bradley’s funeral when she knew?!? Point-blank, Newark is a community service city, and all the community servants know each other. If you do “change your life around” and “do something positive,” particularly for our youth, we wipe your slate clean. That how we be. If Bradley had killed, say, Rahim Johnson, it wouldn’t even be brought up.

3) Last Newark note: I love the irony of Bradley’s high school being eventually being renamed after Malcolm. 🙂

4) It was extremely annoying that Peter Goldman, who wrote 85 percent of this documentary’s content back in the 1970s (!!!!!), was almost invisible, blotted out. The only thing more annoying is that Baba Zak Kondo was “second historical bananna” to David Garrow–this documentary’s Obi-Wan Kenobi. Kondo should have been the main voice here, and his wrap-up almost redeems this time-waster.

5) The big winner here was WABC-TV, who clearly sold a lot of footage. (Why did the documentarians keep misdating that Talmadge Hayer interview as 1970? That was very annoying and needs to be fixed!) See how great “Like It Is” was, folks outside of New York? Today I am very proud to have a doctoral dissertation that has a small part devoted to it. I will appreciate this Nextflix series forever if it leads to the show finally getting archived.

6) The “search” for Bradley was ridiculous stagecraft. And where were articles like these, since Bradley was so difficult to find? LOL! This program could have easily been cut by three hours. The phony drama should have been replaced with more on the Ali-Malcolm schism. That deserves its own doc or movie.

7) And speaking of future MX media products, my vote for the next movie or documentary needs to be solely based on his extraordinary travel diary. The fact that Malcolm tried to unify the African-Muslim world–and that he chose to return to America when he had choices to possibly stay alive longer–is a story that desperately needs to be told.

8) Um, where was this part? Did I miss it when I was in the bathroom? Did I miss any mention of the Minister? What’s going on? And if Goldman and Kondo were read so carefully, why didn’t Obi-Wan tell Luke that the FBI reported that Louis X was at the Newark mosque on the day of the assassination?!?

9) This could have been a lot worse, seeing that Henry Louis “Skip” Gates was the exec producer and Manning Marable’s wife a consultant. At least this is better than Spike’s treatment. This puts Spike’s movie in the fiction category the way Marable’s disastrous bio, at its best, put The Autobiography in that same category.

207-Word Review of “Harriet”

Powerful drama, beautifully executed. And Cynthia Erivo is a true star. But…..What kind of genre movie would you call a film where a hero has powers and accomplishes a heaping of derring-do, is deeply connected to her villain, has a secret identity (that the villain finds out during the climax), has a secret-ish headquarters, has an ally/adviser, gains a young sidekick, has to deal with a loved one getting killed and has the hero make a big speech in front of the villain before not killing him? Exactly. Is this proper for a world-historic figure? Did Kasi Lemmings hedge her bets about a 21st century, post-modern audience, or is this origin story the proper tribute to an abolitionist who was by all accounts a true wonder woman? I have my own opinion about the appropriateness of this (let’s just say the irritated historian ate the geek along with the popcorn and Welsh’s Fruit Snacks), but I’ll let the reader/moviegoer decide this one. I hope other films on Tubman put her in the historical context she and other abolitionists deserve–her spy days, the full scene of her Civil War battle, her relationship with other abolitionists. If alladat feels like school in comparison, then so be it.

 

139-Word Review of “Spider-Man: Far From Home” [SPOILER-FREE]

“Spider-Man 2” from 2004 (the powerfully ballooned version of “Spider-Man,” vol. 1, no. 50, “Spider-Man No More”) is this writer’s gold standard of “Spider-Man” films. Although “Spider-Man: Far From Home” was extremely effective, it didn’t reach that mark. It got real close, though. Then came the first post-credit sequence. That mere two minutes blew theater-goers’ minds and blew “Home” into “Spider-Man 2” territory. It was so shocking that the film’s second post-credit sequence, a somewhat surprising one to a Marvel (Comics) Zombie and completely perplexing if one is just a Marvel movie fan, almost fell flat. Which is quite an accomplishment for Marvel, a studio that, before this film, was criticized for making movies with plots that don’t move characters forward, action without real stakes and filled with heroes who face no consequences. No more, indeed. Wow, wow, wow.

256-Word Review of “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” [SPOILERS]

How do you mess up the same story twice? How do you make arguably the best X-Men story ever into mediocre entertainment 13 years after the same producers/writers/directors did it the first time? Simple: throw the comicbook story away because, like Batman-movie-killer Joel T. Schumacher or, even better, Zack Snyder, who seemingly thought every DC movie was some sort of “Watchmen” prequel, you think your vision is more important. There’s a reason this film has been correctly savaged: after almost 20 years, critics and fans are tired of this version of the X-Men, and they are waiting for Kevin Feige to take over. Because when he does, Cyclops, Storm and Jean will stop being supporting characters to J-Law (why even bother calling her Mystique when she does nothing? To be honest, I almost cheered when Jean killed her; she should have died at least one movie ago), Michael Fassbender (Dude, change your mind about James Bond, and do one film!), and James McAvoy. The “Dark Phoenix” story is simple to adapt, as either of these X-Men animated series can show you: Jean goes out of control, and each individual X-Man(/Woman) has to search his or her conscience how to handle it. But that would require each X-Man to be a fully developed character we would actually care about. (Quiz: Who plays Storm? You don’t know, right? See??? 🙂 ) And so one of the classic 20th century superhero stories will never get its proper due.  So when does “Spider-Man: Far From Home” come out again?

71-Word Review of “Avengers: Endgame”

This epic is many things, among them a meditation of how powerful love, honor, duty and friendship can be, if among the right group of people. An extraordinary end–and make no mistake, it is an ending! Deserves its place among the greatest superhero films ever made, even if detractors will correctly point out that it’s the sequel to 21 films, one that mined all its predecessors to create a perfect-hits collection.

 

 

A New Book I’m In About The “Black Panther” Movie

The official media material says:

Black Panther earns three Oscars. Since its inception Marvel Studios’ Black Panther has provoked and stoked a wide range of interest, and now that the blockbuster film is the recipient of three Oscars the film’s acclaim extends beyond the box office.
No, it didn’t get the top prize, but it was a barrier breaker as Ruth Carter was the first black woman to ever win in the Costume Design category; and another first for a black artist when Hannah Beachler took the trophy, which she shared with Set Decorator Jay Hart, in Production Design. Additional spice arrived when Ludwig Goransson earned an Oscar for the Best Score in a Motion Picture.
These awards and other nominations for Black Panther augurs well for populist cinema that is traditionally scorned when it comes to taking home the coveted awards, particularly an Oscar, which is Marvel’s first.
It’s a good bet the honors to Black Panther will not only boost the appreciation for populist cinema, it should also enhance the appeal of a number of products and projects such as Black Panther: A Paradigm Shift or Not? the forthcoming anthology at Third World Press, edited by Haki Madhubuti and Herb Boyd. “All of the celebration and awards for the film is nothing to thumb your nose at and we at Third World Press extend all our good wishes and hope we can do as well with our publication,” said Madhubuti, the press’s publisher and founder.
The anthology, which includes more than forty writers, film critics, scholars, and activists, has a timely appearance and should be able to reap some of the renewed media attention the film has sparked. Among the contributors are Nicole Mitchell Gantt, Jelani Cobb, Brent Staples, Abdul Alkalimat, Bobby Seale, Robyn Spencer, Diane Turner, Greg Tate, Maulana Karenga, Marita Golden, and Molefi Keta Asante, et al.
As may be discerned from the contributors the anthology is a compilation of mixed views and opinions―with both praise and a critique of the film. “The film has aroused a variety of conclusions, a wellspring of differences that we felt compelled to give them a forum,” said Boyd. “Like the film, the views expressed in the book are often very provocative.”