Category: 25 MIF & TV



‘Lessons from the Screenplay’ has quickly become my favorite video essay series in breaking down why some films and TV shows work (and some don’t)…

Today, Michael Tucker breaks down Killmonger and Black Panther, and to say I was enthused by his thesis is an understatement.




The numbers tell me this is post 1,000 on this site.  ONE THOUSAND! So now is as good of a time as any to say thank you.  Whether you come here daily, weekly, or whenever the mood strikes. Whether you come for the music or the politics. Whether you come to hear my opinions on other people’s projects or want to know more about when I have something out there to promote.  Whether you come to see me be a complete nut or be deeply spiritual and introspective.

I enjoy it, I enjoy all of it.  And I appreciate all of you.  Some I’ve known since teenage years, a few who knew me before there was really a ‘me’ crawling around.  A few new-ish friends who quickly become a type of family.  Some of you we’ve gone on separate ways and (one of the better things about the interwebs) we find as each other as adults and build relationships we weren’t ready for when we first met.  Some of you motivate me more than you know, and I sense sometimes the feeling is mutual.  And some of you I’ll probably never meet ‘in real life’ and this is our ‘thing’.  Such is life these days.

Anyway, so much has happened, just skimming over the first thousand.  What will happen by the time I get to 2K?  I’m looking forward to it.

Cheers to you all.  Ladies and Gentlemen, once again, the Carleton Singing Knights!


You guys can thank W. Kamau Bell for today’s post…

On the last episode of the ‘Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor Ever’ podcast, they finally got around to ‘Glory.’  No one really argues about this film.

I had to go back and look up the clip below though.  I remember the first time I saw this like it was yesterday.  Sitting in class during black history month, I say without trying to be funny that I teared up AND caught the Spirit the first time I saw this scene.

The power of cinema and I love my people and the importance of seeing some version of yourself and people you know I rolled into one.



The stats tell me today was one of those days my blog exploded; no surprise since The Jeffersons were obviously part of the ‘Most Important Black TV Shows’ list I did a few years ago when I started this.

Rest in Peace Sherman Hemsley.  Your comedic timing was special.



It’s funny how ‘timing’ plays out sometimes.  Between Red Tails, the Help, and Sundance, there’s been a lot of public and private conversations already this year about the direction of where black cinema is going.  Everyone has their own opinions, but the truth is none of us can look at the landscape and say, ‘This is definitely what’s going to happen next.’  I do think there is one thing we can ALL agree on though…

It’s going to be a LOOOOOOOOONG time before any Hollywood studio even partially bankrolls a film like Malcolm X again!

Personal bias aside, that’s one of many reasons I argued Spike’s epic was the Most Important Black Film ever made, which you can read here:

Today the film comes out on Blu-Ray.  Now if you keep up with me at all you know I don’t really use this space for that type of promotion, but like I said, when’s the next time we’re going to get one of ‘these’ out of the studio system?  So yeah…

I’ve still got your back Spike!


So like a lot of you, I’m getting geared up to see Red Tails in a couple of weeks.  To get my mind ready for that, I went on Netflix Instant this weekend and rewatched A Soldier’s Story for the first time in what must have been 2o years.  The trailers already let us know that in terms of action sequences there’s not going to be a contest between the two films.  But as far as story goes…the jury is going to be out for a few more weeks.  I never wrote about this really good film when I did this blog’s signature list a couple of years back, but it’s never too late to do an honorable mention breakdown.  You can search the blog if you aren’t aware/forgot what the five categories stand for:

Relevance: The film is about a black captain going down to Louisiana during World War II to do an investigation of the murder of another black officer, most likely by the Ku Klux Klan.  Need I say more?

Legacy: Men of Honor is a great film, and I have a soft spot for Cadence (Oh don’t you know, that’s the sound of the man, working on the chain…ga-a-ang!), but I can’t look at Red Tails without looking at A Soldier’s Story as a direct descendant with its period story and primarily black male cast.  Is there a Denzel Washington, a David Alan Grier, a Howard Rollins, a Robert Townsend in the movie about to come out?  Could be; time will tell I guess.

Craft: I named four black actors and there’s another five faces you know in this movie as ‘That Guy’ even if you would have to look up their names.  The film is based on an off Broadway play, and there’s enough A game in this film to replace the actors who were replaced from the Broadway production.

Crossover: Not much.  To this day this is one of those, by us for us films.

Apollo: Outside of the references to the Negro Leagues that definitely went over my head as a kid, I completely forgot Patti LaBelle was in this movie.  Doing Patti LaBelle things. And yes, that’s a compliment.

So we’re all on to Red Tails in a couple weeks.  The standard has been estabished…

Classified X


It’s both impossible and unfair to expect any one film to try to explain the entire history of African-Americans in cinema.  But I tell you what, ‘Classified X’ is as close as they come.

This documentary, written and narrated by Melvin Van Peebles, traces the history of blacks in cinema, and how movies, Hollywood studio movies, were not remotely immune to portraying the stereotypes that were prominent in the culture at large.  I think I’m part of the last generation that had ‘Mammy’ in their Tom and Jerry cartoons and Bugs Bunny in blackface; ‘Classified X’ brings back all those clips and some that are even more blatant than that.

The senior Van Peebles uses his own career and childhood memories growing up on the South Side of Chicago as the backbone for their story.  It both makes sense and in a way I think limits the power of the narrative.  He’s being completely accurate when he says his film ‘Sweet Sweetback’ convinced Hollywood to create the blaxploitation era; at the same time it still feels like a little bit of a Humblebrag.

That nitpick aside I genuinely feel this is required viewing for anyone with a remote interest in the history of black cinema.  I caught in on Netflix Instant but I imagine there are other ways to see it since it’s a documentary…


The metrics I get back have made it clear that the signature piece of this blog in its lifetime has been ‘The 25 Most Important Black Films & TV Shows’ that I wrote a couple years back.  When new people seek out either me or a project I talked about, the search engines will usually spit out a link to a review to one of those pieces.

So here’s what I did this weekend…

1. Long overdue really, but I added a ‘Popular Topics’ tab over there on the right.  From there, you can select ’25 MIF & TV’ (or any other major topic), and find all the pieces I wrote related to that one topic.

2. As of late I’ve gained the ability to place YouTube links directly into my posts (which I didn’t have when I created that lists two years back.  So without re-ranking the lists, I went back and added clips to the vast majority of posts I did related to that category. In a lot of the cases, I was able to go from talking about a scene to just putting the scene I was referring to into the post.

3. For most of the films I just found a trailer so if you haven’t seen the film, you can judge for yourself (based on how it was originally marketed) if you want to track it down. It is QUITE funny to see how dated 70s, 80s and 90s trailers look to us now. In the case of Hollywood Shuffle and She’s Gotta Have It, it’s really interesting to see a young Spike Lee and Robert Townsend use the trailer to personally try to sell you into seeing their debut films.  Independent cinema, baby!

4. Finally, just to start your week right, 2 of the best minutes of ‘black film’ in recent memory.  AIM HIGH WILLIS!!! AIM HIGH!!!!

So awhile back my friend @thecheesefry turned me on to Flickchart, and I promised after I ranked 1000 films (a solid number I think for anyone who calls himself a film geek) that I would post what my favorites are. The question I used when ranking was this, “It’s Sunday afternoon, there is nothing on but these two films, which one am I watching?”  Before I get to my top 20, here are a few things I learned.

1. 1000 films…that’s a lot of movies.  But I give you my word I really have seen all 1000 films I’ve ranked (to this point).

2. A lot of the ‘classic’ films?  You really only need to see them once. (A somewhat surprising revelation to me.)

3. Depending on what your ‘question’ or criteria is for choosing one film over the other, you can learn a lot about someone’s personal tastes with a time killer like this list.

4. I knew I was a big Gary Oldman fan, but even I didn’t realize how big of a Gary Oldman fan I was.

So enough chatter, here is my top 20, with a little comment about each one.

20. Bram Stoker’s Dracula – my favorite ‘bad’ movie of all time.  Gary Oldman chews up the scenery, but Winona and especially Keanu in a historical period piece.  Alrighty.  And I know it fits the over the top mood of the whole film, but Beast Dracula having his way with Lucy in the second act can still get a ‘What the Hell?!?’ out of me.  Good Times.

19. Vertigo – I also have soft spots for ‘Psycho’ and ‘North and Northwest’, but this is the Hitchcock film that rose the highest.  One of my favorite endings definitely; I think the first time I saw it, my feeling was ‘Now THAT was a movie!”

18. The Shawshank Redemption – Like a lot of people, this one was under my radar until it came out on video.  Also on the short list of films me and my father enjoy equally.

17. Ocean’s Eleven (2001) – Granted the deck was stacked in terms of cast (pun intended) but this is a great Hollywood movie.  Clooney at his peak, Vegas looks fantastic, great use of Clair de Lune at the end.  Easily a personal favorite of the past ten years.

16. Coming to America – I talked about how great this movie is in the ’25 Most Important Black Films’ section (cross site plug).  I’m not the first person to say this but it’s true, it’s by far the most quotable black film ever.  One of my few regrets in life is not walking off the stage like Randy Watson after my last step show.

15. Batman Begins – As a pair of my friends can attest to, the last time I came out of a movie theater jumping up and down and pumping my fist.  And I was well into manhood when this film came out.

14. The Manchurian Candidate (1962) – Everyone knows this film is underrated, they’ve remade it with Denzel, and I still feel like it doesn’t get its just respect.  The assassination of the real president a year after the film was made will always hold the original down. And I just recognized the irony that next I have…

13. JFK – Whatever you choose to believe about what happened that day in Dallas, strictly as a film ‘JFK’ is phenomenal.  In my lifetime, maybe no other film has demonstrated how powerful the medium can be in terms of making people think about the world around them.

12. Return of the Jedi – I’m old enough to remember when people trashed this as ‘the weakest Star Wars film’.  Those were the days right?

11. City of God – Best non-Italian gangster movie ever?  Maybe.  I have fond memories of ‘City of God’ being to film what ‘the Wire’ was to television.  Out of nowhere, people were telling me, ‘YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS!’, setting my expectations low so I wasn’t disappointed, then telling five other people ‘YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS!’

10. The Empire Strikes Back – The Dark Side never had, or never will look this damn cool and bad ass ever again. “Luke, Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father…”

9. A Streetcar Named Desire – Young Brando at his physical peak, when he was clearly passionate about acting.  Nuff said.

8. Eddie Murphy: Raw – I’ll be the first to admit that some of the jokes here are extremely overboard (and especially ironic given the rumors and run-ins with the law Eddie has had since then), but I’ll take this over ‘Delirious’ every time.  Eddie was still the kid from Saturday Night Live on Delirious, here is when he is ‘Eddie Murphy: Movie Star’.

7. Airplane – Now the ‘joke a minute’ genre has been watered down to the point that the films are usually not funny at all, but the originator is still the best of the bunch in my opinion. ‘Stewardess, I speak jive…’

6. Once Upon a Time in America – It’s not a perfect movie, but I still love the ambition of it. I think everyone has or will have at least one non romantic relationship that will end badly.  And in the end, did Noodles just get high and imagine what could have been?

5. Superman II – Christopher Reeve will always be the perfect Clark Kent/Superman, and Terrence Stamp gave the Gary Oldman performance before we knew of Gary Oldman.  “Kneel before Zod!  ZOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

4. The Dark Knight – the Prince of Gotham lost this round and I couldn’t have been happier.

3. The Godfather Part II – Best sequel ever.

2. Roots – Technically not a ‘film’ in the way the others are, but Flickchart put it on the list, so here it is.  Still debating at what age this will be mandatory viewing in the Aziz household.  Five seems too young…

1. Malcolm X – What did you expect?

Honorable Mention

One of the side effects of being in the house so much lately is catching up on movies on TV/DVD.  One of the films I caught maybe should have been on my 25 Most Important Black Film list from a couple years ago.  Maybe.

Regardless, I’m not changing the past, but will give this a film (and maybe others down the line) an honorable mention.

Men of Honor is based on the true story of the first African-American diver in the Navy.  Starring Robert Deniro and Cuba Gooding Jr, Men of Honor is a formula film that shows you why there is a formula.

On to the tale of the tape…

Relevance: The previously mentioned storyline makes it more than relevant.  You toss in the black director (George Tillman Jr. of Notorious and Soul Food), and you have yourself a black film boys and girls.

Legacy: It’s definitely a family friendly film and very rewatchable.  As I talked about the film with one of my fellow film geeks, the question was raised, “Was this Cuba Gooding Jr’s last good lead performance?”  Discuss.

Craft: You have two Academy Award winning actors.  One of the beauties of Men of Honor is how DeNiro and Cuba Gooding Jr. (both of whom know how to show out) let the story be the star of the film.  Score one for Tillman here.

Crossover: Even now, Men of Honor isn’t what people think of when they say ‘urban film’.  It was distributed by a major studio and top billed by one of the greatest actors of our lifetimes.  In many ways, it’s the type of ‘urban film’ Hollywood would love to recreate.

Apollo: While the climax of the film (Breashear earning his way back into active duty) would be the obvious choice, I’d say the scene where he earns the crew’s (and audience’s) respect by taking his diving school final (and passing even though he gets sabotaged) is great melodrama.  It seems somewhat implausible but hey, that’s why they’re called movies.

On that note, more later…