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Mandatory X - Spike Lee’s Malcolm X
Denzel Washington delivers what many believe, his best performance as he completely transforms into the revolutionary spirit that was Malcolm X, in Spike Lee’s masterpiece of a film. You can clearly see why he was casted in this pivotal role. At the very beginning you go into the mind of Malcolm with his opening speech that jump starts the film. On screen they show the Rodney King beating. With powerful comments that strike your soul with every hit we watch brother Rodney take. Spike then takes us back to the war years in a 1940’s Harlem, where a young Malcolm then known as “Detroit red” hits the streets. With all the flavor of Count Basie’s big band blasting, it was hard not to jump out of your seat and glide across the floor as well.
Washington continues to show a vibrant energy that makes it hard to take your eyes away. The real relationship between him and shorty played by Spike Lee is a sense of brothers in crime. They both went on to run together and run the streets of Harlem with west Indian Archie played by Delroy Lindo. This is the point in the film Malcolm starts to change after going to prison and finding the teachings of Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm steps out of prison a man, renewed with a deeper understanding of the world and a consciousness for his people. Denzel spits fire from this point on and he will then share the screen with the ever-fabulous Angela Bassett who plays his wife Betty Shabazz. Bassett lights up the screen playing a strong and humble Muslim woman who stands confident beside her man.
You can see how Denzel shakes things up in a captivating scene where Malcolm holds a hostile crowd of thousands behind him, with the FOI by his side. With the wave of a hand, Malcolm disperses the crowd, “That’s too much power for one man to have.” At this point I was completely immersed in the film seeing how powerful, yet dedicated Malcom was to his work and building the nation. During this time there were rumblings underneath the surface about the leader Elijah having kids out of wedlock with his secretaries. Completely going against what Malcolm and the nation preached I felt this was the most pivotal point in the film. Denzel showed the conflict of Malcolm being torn apart by this revelation with great color. Bassett did a terrific job as well, bringing the facts Malcolm could no longer ignore. This left Malcolm with a choice between turning his back on his principles or staying true to a man he once looked at as a father.
The time came for Malcolm to bravely take his stand splitting from the Nation and traveling abroad visiting Mecca. This is where the true transformation happened in the film. Denzel shows us a deep spiritual awakening of Malcolm. Seeing blonde hair and blue-eyed Muslims sitting amongst him in the true sense of brotherhood, Malcolm began to open his mind more. Coming back from his trip Malcom’s life becomes in danger since the split from the Nation. People would be happier to see him dead than alive. Even to the point of firebombing his home with his children and wife present. The ending was near you could feel the weight on Malcolm’s shoulders because he knew many wanted to silence him.
The ending where Malcolm was assassinated was extremely difficult to watch with Sam Cooke’s “A Change Gonna Come” playing in the background. You can’t help but to cry and reflect about the fearless warrior orator who spoke truth to power. This strong, brave man who wasn’t scared to die because “he loved his people so much.” In all, I believe Spike Lee’s Malcolm X is a “Mandatory X” film you can watch over and over again. Released in 1992 this powerful piece of black history shows one of our most dedicated figure’s in history. Malcolm was and will always be “Our shining black prince.”
- Horace Glasper for Black History Mini Docs
Books and movie reviews about Malcolm X that should be mandatory for all followers and fans.
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Out of all the books written about Malcolm X this one is most essential. These are some of the major speeches made by the charismatic leader during the last tumultuous eight months of his life. In this period of time, his vision for abolishing racial inequality in the United States underwent a vast transformation. Separating from the Black Muslims, and creating his own organization, the OAAU (Organization of African American Unity) Malcolm's newfound goal after his infamous trip to Mecca was to unite the entire black diaspora with one purpose: Ending human rights abuse. This is Malcolm X in his own words and at his best.
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