The Essential Movie Library #46: Malcolm X (1992) - The Culture Files Blog - Los Angeles magazine
 
 

The Essential Movie Library #46: Malcolm X (1992)

There are few character portraits in the history of cinema in the same league as Denzel Washington's Malcolm X.

The contradiction, at once ironic and grand, of Malcolm X is that it’s a thoroughly old-fashioned studio biopic made by indie maverick Spike Lee about an African-American radical living in a time during which everything felt revolutionary. In the works for a quarter century, with white directors from Norman Jewison to Oliver Stone attached or expressing interest, the project finally succumbed to the not unreasonable logic that it should be made by a black director; and coming off the phenomenon of Do the Right Thing and finally given the chance to make his dream project, with a script originally written by an uncredited James Baldwin based on a book by Alex Haley (Roots), Lee was disinclined to compromise on the three-and-a-half-hour epic he always imagined.

In retrospect it’s hard to believe anyone could have thought any less running time would adequately capture the journey of one-time Malcolm Little (before his conversion to Islam) from criminal to convict to philosopher to minister to freedom-fighter to martyr, with evolutions along the way in his own thinking about racial relations in America. While the sprawling and passionate picture is stuffed with Lee’s bravura filmmaking, not least the vivid cinematography of Ernest Dickerson, its most inexorable virtue remains star Denzel Washington, who established himself as the great American film actor of his generation with not only the performance of the decade but one of cinema’s supreme biographical portraits; only Lawrence of Arabia’s Peter O’Toole and Lincoln’s Daniel Day-Lewis are in the same league.

Read them all:
The Essential Movie Library #45: In the Mood for Love
The Essential Movie Library #44: Touch of Evil
The Essential Movie Library #43: Once Upon A Time in the West
The Essential Movie Library #42: Belle de Jour
The Essential Movie Library #41: Apocalypse Now
The Essential Movie Library #40: Out of the Past
The Essential Movie Library #39: Branded to Kill
The Essential Movie Library #38: The General
The Essential Movie Library #37: Lord of the Rings
The Essential Movie Library #36: Aguirre, the Wrath of God
The Essential Movie Library #35: Raging Bull
The Essential Movie Library #34: The Rules of the Game
The Essential Movie Library #33: Chinatown 
The Essential Movie Library #32: Stalker
The Essential Movie Library #31: Weekend
The Essential Movie Library #30: Some Like It Hot 
The Essential Movie Library #29: Red River
The Essential Movie Library #28: The Passenger
The Essential Movie Library #27: Singin' in the Rain
The Essential Movie Library #26: Heat
The Essential Movie Library #25: L'Atalante
The Essential Movie Library #24: Sunrise
The Essential Movie Library #23: His Girl Friday
The Essential Movie Library #22: Black Narcissus
The Essential Movie Library #21: Blade Runner
The Essential Movie Library #20: Persona
The Essential Movie Library #19: The Shop Around the Corner
The Essential Movie Library #18: Lost Highway
The Essential Movie Library #17: Tokyo Story
The Essential Movie Library #16: 8 1/2

The Essential Movie Library #15: City Lights
The Essential Movie Library #14: Seven Samurai
The Essential Movie Library #13: Lawrence of Arabia
The Essential Movie Library #12: Citizen Kane
The Essential Movie Library #11: Jules and Jim
The Essential Movie Library #10: My Darling Clementine 
The Essential Movie Library #9: Double Indemnity 
The Essential Movie Library #8: That Obscure Object of Desire 
The Essential Movie Library #7: 2001: A Space Odyssey 
The Essential Movie Library #6: Casablanca
The Essential Movie Library #5: The Lady Eve
The Essential Movie Library #4: The Third Man 
The Essential Movie Library #3: The Passion of Joan of Arc 
The Essential Movie Library #2: Vertigo 
The Essential Movie Library #1: The Godfather Trilogy

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