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Malcolm X (Two-Disc Special Edition)
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Adapted from the novel, "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" written by Alex Haley, this is an amazing biopic of one of the most influential African American leaders to date. It follows the life and times of Malcolm Little through his transformation to Malcolm X and his departure from the Nation of Islam. Spike Lee's epic film captures the internal struggles, the spiritual, political and structural changes that Malcolm Submitted himself to throughout his life to achieve his changing goals.]]>
Less remarkable but far more impressive than the ordinary behind-the-scenes compilation feature included on most DVDs is a new documentary titled "By Any Means Necessary: The Making of Malcolm X." The star of this show is definitely Spike Lee, a controversial figure in his own right for the pugnacity that has always followed his career as a director. It's a worthwhile look at the production company's uphill battle against the studio, the extraordinary efforts that went into getting all the details of a period picture right, and the technical challenges the crew faced in bringing such painstaking detail to the screen with an artistic integrity that comes through in every frame. Lee's well-known ego gets an even greater forum in his rambling, long-winded, and downright boring introductions to a handful of insignificant deleted scenes. It's also odd that Lee's contribution to the commentary track is the least interesting. His observations are often along the lines of "I love this scene," or "Ooh, watch this!" Interspersed with Lee's "Spike Lee fan club" notes are reflections by cinematographer Ernest Dickerson, editor Barry Alexander, and costume designer Ruth Carter that dig a little deeper into the fine points of the production's logistics. In all, this Malcolm X special edition is a sensible upgrade, and thankfully not just for Spike Lee fans. --Ted Fry
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Much has been said about the 1992 film, so I'll concentrate on the extras. First of all, the widescreen is not so wide that it makes you squint to see it. It's at a good porportion. But the edited scenes are really interesting. We see previously unseen footage of Denzel as Malcolm courting Angela Bassett as Betty Shabazz (in a rather touching way). We see Denzel/Malcolm putting an initiate through the rigors in an amusing fashion, we see him studying and feeding his hunger for books while in jail, and we see some interesting scenes of Denzel/Malcolm making anti-racist and pro-brotherhood statements near the end of his life to a young white girl and an Arab he meets in Mecca. A lot of people who miss the point about Malcolm's transformation should see those scenes (which actually appear in the original book).
(Slight complaint, the stuff about the Sphinx's black nose being shot off by Napoleon is a bunch of BS that didn't happen, even Molefi Asante admitted this on 60 minutes a few years ago. So it's just as well that that scene was not included in the original film).
Also, "Baines" was actually John Bembry, aka Bimbi, who encouraged Malcolm to read in prison. It was actually Malcolm's real life brothers who really introduced him to the Nation of Islam teachings. Not a complaint, just a clarification.
There is also an excellent documentary about the making of this film. A real Horatio Alger type story of how Spike beat the odds through dogged determination to raise the money to make the film the way he felt it needed to be made. It was sad to realize that the film was not as popular as hoped among young people upon it's intitial release and the "Malcolmania" of the early 90s turned out to be a fad, but at least this DVD will give people the opportunity to learn from Malcolm's story.
Then there is the uncut 1972 documentary "Malcolm X. The raw, uncut REAL Malcolm talking strong and taking numbers! This is a brilliantly edited collection of chronological clips of Macolm, Elijham Muhammad, the young Louis Farrakhan, and all the other major players into an excellent biography without additional narration. It lets the viewer decide in an excellet fashion.
So see the 1992 movie, then the "making of" documentary, then the deleted scenes, and THEN the 1972 documentary and you'll get the next best thing to reading all there is to know about Malcolm X thought. Enjoy it, I did. College and high school teachers will REALLY want this for their history classes.
The screenplay closely follows Alex Haley's collaboration with Malcolm X on his autobiography, from his early days as a hustler and pimp, to his transformation and his rise to prominence in the Black Muslims and beyond. In so doing, it traces much of the history of the twentieth century African American experience
As another reviewer so inelegantly (and ungrammatically) put it, Malcolm Little sold drugs and women, robbed and lived in the underworld. However, this recognizes far less than half of this compelling and incredible story. This beginning was important only to underscore how far he ultimately came, and leads the viewer to wonder what would have happened had he not been murdered.
Wonderful casting including Angela Bassett as his wife Betty, DelRoy Lindo and particularly Al Freeman Jr. as Elijah Muhammad. It was a rather predictable crime that Spike Lee, Denzel Washington and this film did not dominate the Academy Awards.
Now, to narrow in on the film and not just the man, Spike Lee really outdid himself this time. With Denzel Washington, traditionally a great actor, playing Malcolm X you knew the movie would at least be spearheaded with strength. But this is more then that, because the elaborateness of it all just conveys to the viewer so much of the times, the thoughts, and the conflicts that surrounded Malcolm and those tumultuous times he lived in.
I'd be lying if I did not say this is excellent, and then highly recommend it; so, I'd like to don this hat of honesty and tell you watch it, a lot of you'd like, but make sure to see it at least once (Oh yeah, and the book's quite excellent too)
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