101 essential films for Social Justice Warriors. A continually updating list.
The biopic of the controversial and influential Black Nationalist leader.
When the white girl at the college asks Malcolm X what she can do to help his people, he responds with a blunt "Nothing." Though Malcolm X would later come around on this idea, the context of that girl's question stands out. She precedes it by asserting that she's not a bad person despite what her ancestors did, and... it's not that simple. If your parents killed someone and stole their wealth, I would not argue that you stand trial for their crimes, but I would argue that the wealth they stole should be returned. That girl (and myself) have both benefited from the white supremacist world we live in, and though we are not guilty of enslaving people or…
If the montage at the end of this film doesn't make you well up, you may just be dead inside.
Yes, it's manipulative. Yes, it's largely working with the traditional conceits of a biopic. Yes, it has an agenda.
I could not give less of a shit.
This is transcendent cinema. This is one of our greatest directors, and one of our greatest actors, telling a truly epic tale. It's grandiose. It's full of emotion and heart. It's utterly captivating throughout. It feels like eight movies in one, and yet never feels disjointed.
I honestly am lacking some of the words. It's just great. Watch it. I know it's over 200 minutes long, but it shoots by, trust me. It's worth it. Lord knows it's worth it.
Film #27 of Project 90
”No, we've never seen democracy! All we've seen is hypocrisy! We don't see any American Dream. We've experienced only the American Nightmare!”
Malcolm X is all about its central character, although it is portraying some iconic moments of civil rights movement but at the center of that movement is a man whose revolutionary character change is the main focus of the film. In this epic depiction of the life of one of the most influential and of course controversial figures of contemporary America, director Spike Lee portrays a restless soul who is searching for ultimate peace and harmony, a man who never lived a quiet life, from his early gangster days as Malcolm “Red” Little…
When discussing Malcolm X people talk about Denzel Washington's performance, the scope of the film, and the importance of the subject matter. All those things are there and are great, but I was not at all aware how weird this movie is. The first third, in Malcolm's (or Red as he calls himself) "gangster" days, is almost cartoonish in its costuming, colors, theatrical acting and sets. It draws on the nightmarish/dreamlike quality of a film like Night of the Hunter and the raw spontaneity of Black musicals like Stormy Weather. I'm sure those who are more film literate than me could uncover a litany of influences and references.
The film also uses discontinuous editing at times, drawing attention to a…
Director: Spike Lee (Third Film)
Growing up, I don't think I really heard much about Malcolm X - the subject of this biopic. Rather the attention every Black History Month (an obtuse month in my opinion) would likely be focused on Martin Luthor King, or Nelson Mandela or one of those depicted as saintly characters. In regards to those two anyway, I never really heard anything other than the positives they contributed to society in general but also for civil rights/anti-apartheid movements.
What I never knew about these characters was in-fact that they weren't so saintly. The latter in particular; of course he was a great man in hindsight but like Malcolm X, he produced both great deeds;…
This is what Spike can achieve when he is focused. This is what happens when he is absolutely so passionate about telling a story that he doesn't allow himself to become sidetracked with too many issues. It helps of course that he has an actor truly hitting his stride in Denzel Washington. This displays a director bringing together all of his varied work tools to create a piece of work that will stand the test of time.
As with many of his early films the energy behind this biopic could be sourced from within the hip-hop community at the time. With artists such as Brand Nubian, Paris, KRS-One and Public Enemy…
Biopic of Malcolm X
The first hour is a real slog to get through and it becomes more formulaic than I would have liked; although Denzel is more effortless than I thought possible.
Amazing and powerful film. I was 14 and watched this with my dad. I left transformed.
Been meaning to see this one since high school.
Hey, Jesse Williams's BET speech had me feeling some kind of way.
A fantastic bio-pic and a wonderful portrait of an evolution of a man. Lee is also fantastic at connecting this to the modern world and not letting us forget this is a problem that has never been solved.
Also appreciate how Lee doesn't take sides, letting Malcolm's evolution speak for itself. Washington is fantastic.
Proof that a straight youth-to-death biopic can have powerful, singular delivery.
Ernest Dickerson's work here is, without hyperbole, perfect. The lighting changes dramatically as the film progresses, but renders evolutionary rather than superfluous.
Lee is at his best here with tone, timing, and pace - the three things he does best. It feels less like a biopic for the masses to consume, except when needed, and much more like Lee imaging Malcom's story as he always had in his head, while reading the autobiography, on a large canvass. That a biopic of this nature, size, and on this subject exists in this style is really extraordinary enough, that it succeeds is welcome.
Denzel carries this film, but much more subtle than he might've in Training Day.
At three hours and twenty minutes, the damn thing doesn't even feel long. How else could you tell that this thing is fantastic?
Denzel loses himself in this role; a genuine movie star here is the most genuine actor. Spike doesn't lose himself in the biopic, though; some complain that it's too generic, but what other biopic has such a lush color palette, such a bold finale, such a tight screenplay?
A little bit, I wonder if Malcolm X is just a pantheon-level person, and any great film about him would have to be this good. But I dare another film to capture its subject so effectively.
In many ways, a culmination of everything Spike Lee had done to that point. The length and scope of the film does end up meaning (perhaps inevitably) that some bits are less interesting, but those are thankfully few and pretty insignificant among the parts that do work.
I do think the film engages more with Malcolm X's ideology than it does with the man himself, but Denzel Washington's performance smooths that over somewhat, and I can't really fault the film for doing one thing it wanted to do so well and partially ignoring another part that it may not have even been as interested in.
A list that, if nothing else, proves the day-to-day usefulness of applied statistics.
Between 2015 and 2016, a series of…
Complete list. :-(