Malcolm x

May 20, 2010
By Anonymous

Malcolm X is quite a biography, an intense in-depth story of the slain civil rights leader, often misunderstood by his supporters, and murdered by his own kind that betrayed him. Visually and dramatically, Lee pulls out all the stops, but it's Washington's performance that really energizes the film, and he's an exhilarating presence throughout. The Academy at least recognized his work with a nomination, but he never got the press exclaiming how well he had transformed himself into the character. s film was unfairly snubbed at Oscar night and it only got 2 nods for best actor and best costume design, and not for its screenplay, direction, or for best film.

Centerpiece of the film, Denzel Washington, spent an entire year preparing for the role. Cutting down on alcohol, pork, and researching intensely through reading and by talking with numerous people who knew Malcolm first hand. The work pays off so well that the viewer can easily forget that this is a dramatic re-creation and not a documentary, as Washington moves far beyond cliché to create a nuanced and complex portrait of the controversial leader. Denzel, in my opinion proudly and elegantly mastered this skill full and enigmatic political revolutionary of the 1960's. Denzel delivers speeches the way I imagine Malcolm delivering them; he relates to his family that way too; his eyes show pain that way. The supporting cast is also very good, but this is deffinently Washington’s film.

It’s a fascinating story, Malcolm Little's(X) childhood had spent much of his youth as a crook and gangster, living for the moment and taking no pride in his race. He was known as Detroit Red, he straightened his hair, and he went with white women. Eventually, this lifestyle and a society intolerant of blacks and even less tolerant of black criminals caught up with him. A stay in jail changed his life, as he was introduced to the teachings of Black Muslim separatist Elijah Muhammad (Al Freeman Jr.). Detroit Red emerged from prison as Malcolm X and a powerful force was unleashed on American society.

The main part of this film is what happens when he cleans himself up, Malcolm becomes a Muslim and dedicates himself to furthering the cause of the black man. Malcolm is charismatic and a powerful speaker filled with intense passion. He becomes the movement’s dominant spokesperson, taking uncompromising positions, including a demand for complete separation of the races. Malcolm decries ‘Uncle Toms’ like Martin Luther King Jr., who collaborate with white liberals. Malcolm's makes a life with the "Black Muslims", he was given a house, he got married, and had children of his own. Though things within the movement did not stay peaceful for long.

Jealousies within the movement gradually under minded Malcolm’s position, and when he learned that Elijah Muhammad hasn’t lived the pure life as he preaches by committing adultery and fathering 4 children with two separate woman, a disillusioned Malcolm retreats to Mecca to reassess his religion and his approach to black nationalism. When he returns, Malcolm is ready to take a different, more co-operative approach. But his life ends soon after, in a bloody and horrible assassination in 1965, in front of his wife, children, and closest friends.

This story is the stuff of great cinema, and Spike Lee delivers just that. Through my maion concern was that he dwells far too long on Malcolm’s early life. We’re nearly an hour into the film before he even goes to jail, let alone encounters the Muslim faith. Even though this movie is a staggering 3 hours and 23 minutes. While it’s important to put Malcolm’s later accomplishments into context, this could have been done in considerably less than an hour of cinema. Though the movie compared to the book gave me a great deal of insight onto the power that Malcolm X had, I never realized the speed and amount of power that this man had.

The film’s final scenes are particularly affecting, as Malcolm knows he has limited time, yet proudly he carries on. It’s heartbreaking to watch his young family, knowing that he’s not going to be with them as they grow up. And after Malcolm’s assassination, Lee ends with two wonderful scenes Ossie Davis's eulogy, and a classroom scene with young children proclaiming, "I am Malcolm X", followed by Nelson Mandela adding his own thoughts on Malcolm’s importance. Showing that Malcolm truly gave a life long impression of people everywhere.

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