Multitudes: Policing Black Art

Spike Lee's "BlackkKlansman" and Boots Riley's "Sorry to Bother You" are two of the most talked about films of the year, both from black artists. Guest blogger Rashaad Thomas suggests that our relationship with black art in America is more problematic and complicated than we realize. 

Rashaad Thomas is a USAF Veteran, essayist, and poet who resides in South Phoenix, AZ. He is a University of Arizona Poetry Center Blog contributor and Co-Curator of the azcentral. Poetry Spot.  His work can be found in the book Trayvon Martin, Race, and American Justice: Writing Wrong  HeartJournal Online, Columbia Poetry Review, and others.

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Chris Ayers
Spike Lee’s Slice of Life: Crooklyn

Five years after he set the screen ablaze with the insightful, incendiary brilliance of Do the Right Thing (1989), and as a follow-up to his 1992 masterpiece, the equally rousing Malcolm X, Spike Lee dialed back the thematic tone for a more intimate, semi-autobiographical look at spirited urban domesticity. Produced and directed by Lee, written with his siblings Joie Susannah Lee and Cinqué Lee, Crooklyn (1994) centers on the middle-class Carmichael family: mother and father Carolyn (Alfre Woodard) and Woody (Delroy Lindo) and their five rambunctious children, primarily the lone daughter, pre-teen Troy (Zelda Harris).

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Chris Ayers
No Laughing Matter: Fail-Safe

Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler’s 1962 novel “Fail-Safe,” which originally appeared in serialized form in The Saturday Evening Post, was a solid, intriguing property, and director Sidney Lumet and producer Max E. Youngstein were quick to secure the rights. The problem, however, was that their novel bore rather glaring parallels to Peter George’s own atomic anxiety tome, “Red Alert,” which had been published in 1958 and would soon see its own big screen rendering courtesy Stanley Kubrick. George sued the two political scientists and while the suit was settled out of court, the likeness between these sources beleaguered the resulting film adaptations as well, one far more than the other. Fresh off the scandalous success of 1962’s Lolita, Kubrick was preparing “Red Alert” as the ostentatiously renamed Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and he too took aim at Lumet’s comparable venture. As it happened, both Dr. Strangelove and Fail-Safe were set for distribution through Columbia Pictures, so a deal was made to release Kubrick’s film first, let it run its course, then promote Lumet’s later in the year. That proved to be a fateful and, as far as Hollywood history is concerned, a fatal decision.

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Chris Ayers
Great Cinema Podcasts

There was a time not too long ago when I was very excited to visit my local newsstand to pick up a variety of cinema magazines like Cineaction, Cineaste and Film Comment, as well as the occasional Entertainment Weekly. But a lot of the publications I used to read have either folded or moved to an online model. My consumption habits have also changed recently and more and more I find myself turning to podcasts to fill the void. So, I wanted to recommend a few film podcasts that I consider to be essential listens.

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Chris Ayers