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February 8, 2008 5:57 AM   Subscribe

Time Magazine's 25 Most Important Films On Race
posted by hadjiboy (69 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
ARRRGH. Okay, you know what? I'm done with these. I'm simply not reading any more "list" articles that refuse to offer the list on one page, or at the very least offer an alternative to ordering you to click through 26 popup-laden and graphic-heavy pages to find out the top picks. Jesus Christ, even the print version wants you to print 26 individual pages. You're the largest media company in the world, Time-Warner. Learn to build a fucking website. Cracked.com shouldn't have an easier-to-read site than you.


/rant
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:29 AM on February 8, 2008 [13 favorites]


Ahhh. The pain of 25 clicks!
posted by jmd82 at 6:30 AM on February 8, 2008


Kibbutz's 25 Most Important Films on Racing (self-link)
posted by Kibbutz at 6:32 AM on February 8, 2008


I Am Legend? I Am Legend?
posted by jmd82 at 6:38 AM on February 8, 2008


No House Party? No House Party 2?

And for that matter, no Big Momma's House? No Big Momma's House 2?
posted by billysumday at 6:49 AM on February 8, 2008


I Am Legend!?
posted by delmoi at 6:51 AM on February 8, 2008


I ain't readin' 26 pages.

*sits and waits for someone to cut and paste the list to the thread*
posted by dobbs at 6:56 AM on February 8, 2008


I clicked. It was worth it. Interesting list, and I really must see add a number of these to my "to watch" list.
posted by orange swan at 7:03 AM on February 8, 2008


Has anyone seen The Blood of Jesus (1941)? Looks really interesting.
posted by billysumday at 7:11 AM on February 8, 2008


Lame. There's no Quicksilver, no Chariots of Fire, no No Days of Thunder.

oh wait... wrong kind of race... how about this one then: Greased Lightning. One of the better Richard Pryor movies.
posted by inthe80s at 7:16 AM on February 8, 2008


Was Harold and Kumar on the list?

What about Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo?
posted by Mister_A at 7:24 AM on February 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


1. They forgot The Emperor Jones (1933).
3. They forgot No Way Out (1950).
4. At least they didn't include Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967).
5. Bless them for including Richard Pryor Live in Concert.
6. Bless them for including one of the best films of the 1990s, Eve's Bayou.
posted by goatdog at 7:24 AM on February 8, 2008


And for those not reading the list, they included I Am Legend as an example of how Will Smith is "the last movie star," the only guy who can reliably open a movie. They weren't commenting on its qualities as a movie.
posted by goatdog at 7:26 AM on February 8, 2008


I still have problems with the headlines implicit assumption that "films about race"="films about black people." It is as if white people have nothing to do with the history of the race in the United States. But even if you accept the articles framing of "films about race"="films about black people," there are still some omissions I'd quibble with:

Shadows (not only the first film directed by John Cassavetes and a granddaddy of American independent film, but a great story about tense interracial friendships and racial "passing.")

I Walked with a Zombie (a chilling tale about the racial oppression behind the plantation system smuggled into a B horror movie from the 1940s)

One False Move (a great neo-noir by black director Carl Franklin about an interracial trio of murderous criminals on a path to a showdown with a white cop in an Arkansas small town; Franklin would late direct Devil in a Blue Dress; actor and co-screenwriter Billy Bob Thornton would also become a star)

The Cool World (early underground film by female director Shirley Clarke was the first film about black street gangs, decades before Boyz 'n' the Hood; it also set precedents for breaking censorship taboos about nudity and profanity)

Shaft (The original version of this film is one of the first examples of a script originally written about a white man that was redone when a black actor was cast as the protagonist. Aside from being wildly popular, it touched off the whole boom in studio and independent blaxploitation films in the early 70s. It showed that you could have compelling black action heroes win big box office without turning them into Sydney Poitier-style goodie-goodies.)
posted by jonp72 at 7:27 AM on February 8, 2008


No Blazing Saddles? What in the wide, wide, world of sports is wrong with that magazine?
posted by bondcliff at 7:31 AM on February 8, 2008 [2 favorites]




Madea's FaIL
posted by kittyprecious at 7:36 AM on February 8, 2008


I came here to say what bondcliff said. Also, no Night of the Living Dead?
posted by Cookiebastard at 7:40 AM on February 8, 2008


And for those not reading the list, they included I Am Legend as an example of how Will Smith is "the last movie star," the only guy who can reliably open a movie. They weren't commenting on its qualities as a movie.

It's a list about racial movies. Putting I Am Legend is the equivalent of a lifetime award, "Well, his movies may not be significant to race on their own, but him being black and being bankable is important." That may deserve some merit in its own respect, but not with respect to individual movies about race.
posted by jmd82 at 7:51 AM on February 8, 2008


This is badly thought out on so many levels. Boggles the mind.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:53 AM on February 8, 2008


It's a list about racial movies. Putting I Am Legend is the equivalent of a lifetime award

Under your rules, which they declined to follow, their choice of Judge Priest wouldn't work either, because it's there as an example of a film featuring Stepin Fetchit.
posted by goatdog at 7:54 AM on February 8, 2008


Where the hell is:

To Sir with Love?
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?
Watermelon Man?
Black Like Me?
Birth of a Nation?

Who the hell made this list?

Oh, I see, the list isn't actually a list of the most important films on race, that is just Time's inflamatory title, it's a list of the 25 films that most uplifted black actors. My response to that, who the hell made this list?
posted by Pollomacho at 7:56 AM on February 8, 2008


Ugh, gag me.

First, lets please not call this "The 25 Most Important Films About Race". If you're going to do this exercise for Black History month, at least properly title your list to be honest about your exclusion of every other race in the United States, instead of implying that these films are the be-all and end-all of cinematic race relations.

Secondly, Birth of a Nation is probably more "important" (whatever that means) than all of these films listed in terms of race. I can only account for its exclusion for film's like I Am Legend and Madea's Family Reunion (which probably weren't the most important films released about race the month they were released) as an ultra-PC ommission. Yeah, yeah, "contributions of African-Americans" and what not.

Thirdly, it doesn't even get its own picks right. I can accept divisive films like Jonathan Demme's Beloved or creaky melodramas like Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? and Spielberg's race films (which, even if they're not that good, are probably more "important" than most of the films here). But seriously, where is Night of the Living Dead (which, even watching it now, still feels radical in its use of a black lead), Douglas Sirk's The Imitation of Life (far more ambitious about race relations than its predecessor), or Waiting to Exhale (the film you'd really want to namecheck—not Madea— if you wanted to talk about the black film market. And it was directed by Forest Whitaker for Christ's Sake!)?

Gah, it's Time Magazine, I don't know why I even bothered. I guess I should give it some props for Carmen Jones and Killer of Sheep.
posted by Weebot at 8:04 AM on February 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Black or not, the web designers and advertising moguls at Time should be strung up by their pinky toes.
posted by mistersquid at 8:04 AM on February 8, 2008


Weebot has read my mind.
posted by biffa at 8:08 AM on February 8, 2008


That's a bizarre list. I'm not going to bother to quibble, but will just point folks interested in Hollywood and race to 1949's Intruder in the Dust:

Intruder in the Dust is one of the best of Hollywood's postwar "racial tolerance" cycle--a cycle that would come to an abrupt end in the politically paranoid 1950s. Based on a novel by William Faulkner, the film takes place in a small Mississippi town...Juano Hernandez plays an African-American landowner who is arrested on a murder charge. Resentful of Hernandez' industriousness, the white townsfolk are eager to see him hang...

Intruder in the Dust stands out among other films of its period with its refusal to stoop to any form of condescension towards its black characters or to rationalize the behavior of the bigots. Though produced by MGM, the film wisely displays none of that studio's patented glossiness, opting instead for a dusty, sun-scorched, fleabitten veneer that enhances the film's basic realism.


It was part of a mini-surge in race movies that year - a trend the Time list passes over completely - and is considered by many the best of the lot:

Hollywood began to develop a conscience about racism in the 1940s, when our World War II fight against fascism began to raise consciousness about prejudice at home. As the decade drew to a close, 1949 brought four major American films that dealt with racial prejudice; while Pinky and Home of the Brave received more attention in the press and at the box office, and Lost Boundaries developed something of a cult following, Intruder in the Dust was at once the best and most underrated of this cycle about "the Negro Problem."

Based on a novel by William Faulkner and shot in Faulkner's hometown of Oxford, Mississippi with a primarily non-professional cast, the film possesses a strikingly dry, gravelly naturalism that owes more than a passing debt to the Italian neo-realist movement...While the film's attempt at a "feel-good" ending doesn't ring true, Intruder in the Dust is otherwise a rarity of its period, a "message movie" that's tough, unsentimental, and affecting, making its points without speechifying or mounting a soapbox.


The lead black role is played by Juano Hernandez, who is amazing - both for the time and in general:

It is anchored by a superb performance from Juano Hernandez as Lucas Beauchamp, a singular African-American character of the period: displaying pride and self-knowledge without a baseless arrogance, Beauchamp was a black man who refused to "act black," deferring to no one and seemingly secure in the knowledge that he is no better and no worse than any other man. Beauchamp's stubborn refusal to be beholden to anyone, even after he's accused of murder, would make him an unusual character regardless of race; for a black man in 1949, Beauchamp was just short of revolutionary, and Hernandez brought him to life with an uncommon strength and intelligence. Hernandez had only appeared in two other films (the previous one, an Oscar Micheaux cheapie called Lying Lips, was released ten years earlier) and, like many African-American performers, he had trouble finding the roles he deserved; but his turn in this film made clear that he was as strong a character actor as anyone in Hollywood.

It's well worth renting, and would top my "The 25 Most Underrated Films About Race" list, for sure.

Learn to build a fucking website.

What they've learned is they can sell more ads if they make you click more pages for content that could fit on one page. Same goes for all the major media sites; there's no reason to chop short articles into two or more sections but they all do it anyway.

posted by mediareport at 8:10 AM on February 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


WTF? They didn't include "Snakes On A Plane?" Geez...come on, TIME Mag, it was the very first movie to feature a black man whose job is to protect an endangered witness to a crime while simultaneously battling dozens of deadly snakes while flying aboard a commercial aircraft over the Pacific Ocean. AND...and...the same black actor also portrayed a heroic corporate executive slash adventurer who battled mutant sharks IN the Pacific Ocean before being unceremoniously eaten by one of said sharks.

Get with the program, TIME. This motherfuck**g sh*t is way more important than any of your 25 picks.
posted by davidmsc at 8:14 AM on February 8, 2008


What about Who Framed Roger Rabbit? That was chock full of racial tensions.
posted by graventy at 8:17 AM on February 8, 2008


Great post, the choices are interesting and I didn't know about half of these movies. It seems that moving to Europe and becoming successful leading roles was common.

However this Time article is one of the most poorly written articles I've ever read in a major magazine. Among the unnecessary and utterly ridiculously audacious proclamations of the status of the state of racism in American film (probably trying to be profound or just be outrageous enough to get readers), this little error stood out for me:

With regard to Stepin Fetchit: The lazy befuddlement of his characters seemed to represent the most contemptuous caricature of the race.

What they ACTUALLY meant was that the public had contempt for the character because he represented negative stereotypes, not that he had contempt for the public. I would think that a writer for Time magazine would have more discretion than to roll dice in a thesaurus. I looked through several dictionaries to see if "contemptuous" could be used in place of "despised" and could not find it.

Does anyone else think that all the tasteful and skilled writers have gone to book writing and blogs? IMO American mass media gets worse all the time, maybe I'm just more aware of it now...
posted by hellslinger at 8:21 AM on February 8, 2008


Oops, guess I should proofread my own writing... :)
posted by hellslinger at 8:22 AM on February 8, 2008


Mister_A: It probably should be, honestly, if this were really a list about race instead of just being 25 uplifting movies about African-Americans.

Hell, Mean Girls says more interesting things about race in its throwaway joke about "cool Asians" and "the Asian nerds" than some of these films. This list gets worse and worse the more I look at it.

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay looks completely awesome
posted by Weebot at 8:22 AM on February 8, 2008


Put me down for another Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle vote.
posted by AccordionGuy at 8:29 AM on February 8, 2008


That I Am Legend bit was utter bullshit.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 8:37 AM on February 8, 2008


Where's The Boy With Green Hair? No race movie pulls more punches that this one. It's not even in color!

Also, The Jerk.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:40 AM on February 8, 2008


No To Kill A Mockingbird? How about Monster's Ball?
posted by misha at 8:42 AM on February 8, 2008


Weekend at Bernies?
posted by blue_beetle at 8:47 AM on February 8, 2008


They forgot this one movie I saw in school that totally has some black people in it!!!
posted by ORthey at 8:49 AM on February 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Shaft (The original version of this film is one of the first examples of a script originally written about a white man that was redone when a black actor was cast as the protagonist. Aside from being wildly popular, it touched off the whole boom in studio and independent blaxploitation films in the early 70s. It showed that you could have compelling black action heroes win big box office without turning them into Sydney Poitier-style goodie-goodies.)

See, I've heard this before, but the character of John Shaft was black in the novels, and always was, so I'm not sure how much credence I give it. I think you're right, it should be included, inasmuch that that Shaft is a racially aware character in a movie not about race, the character is not motivated by race or politics, but by being a tough, smart private eye, which distinguishes it from Sweet Sweetback's Baad Assss Song.
posted by Snyder at 8:57 AM on February 8, 2008


Weebot:

Yea, I was only half joking there. Harold and Kumar represents a modern and, to me, heartening viewpoint on race issues.

And echoing pollomacho, how could they possibly leave out Watermelon Man ? It was funny and brutal and smart, kinda like Jim Brown.
posted by Mister_A at 9:06 AM on February 8, 2008


Looks like Richard Corliss and Richard Schickel are just doing lip service here, honestly. These monumental films in Black History or about black history, or "have black people in them" or however they determined it, don't make their top 100 movies of all time list. So maybe its just a list that they think black people will like?

Which *also* does not include Birth of a Nation, Triumph of the Will, or Night of the Living Dead.

So in short, this list sucks, the Times film reviewer guys suck, and they conceptions of race are simplistic and does a disservice to the use of film as a medium of social change.
posted by mrzarquon at 9:06 AM on February 8, 2008


No Jungle Fever? This is an outrage.

kidding
posted by psmealey at 9:16 AM on February 8, 2008


And where the hell is White Men Can't Jump?
posted by slimepuppy at 9:22 AM on February 8, 2008


For my bitchfest, I'ma go with Tongues Untied.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:36 AM on February 8, 2008


(but it's a close tie for me with Watermelon Woman)
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:36 AM on February 8, 2008


Richard Pryor in Blue Collar takes some beating for a strong performance in a great film by a black American actor, if that's all their criteria amount to.
posted by Abiezer at 9:36 AM on February 8, 2008


(Their choice of Stahl's Imitation of Life over Sirk's is telling.)
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:46 AM on February 8, 2008


I remember "Do the Right Thing" when it came out, and remember that it "felt" important while I was watching it. But having seen it years since, it is just a lumbering mess of a film that doesn't really add much of anything to the subject of race.
posted by psmealey at 9:50 AM on February 8, 2008


Um...ok, the US is the world, and "race" is a code for "black". That right there is offensive.

Interesting list, besides that, up until the last few. Not definitive, but I've seen worse.
posted by QIbHom at 9:50 AM on February 8, 2008


*SPOILERS*

Bamboozled. Hmmm. Gonna have to think about that one.

Lots of people didn't like it, but I kinda did. However, I think the whole thing would have gone off a lot better had they omitted the superfluous 30-minute "everybody gets killed" ending sequence. I was discussing this movie with a friend, who pointed out that Lee kinda has a problem with endings. The only exception that we could think of was 25th Hour, which is probably his least race-oriented film.

Anyway, I thought that Bamboozled was a good movie with a good message, but it definitely had its shortcomings. I never knew if I was supposed to take Wayans's character seriously. Also, Lee really could have done more character development on the two performers. I didn't get a real feel for their characters, especially Tommy Davidson's.

I don't completely agree with Ebert's review - I don't think that blackface should be completely off-limits, since it's a part of history and should be addressed. However, I think that to be able to pull this sort of thing off, the movie has to be of a quality greater than that of Bamboozled.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:54 AM on February 8, 2008


The lead black role is played by Juano Hernandez, who is amazing - both for the time and in general:

Another great film with Juano Hernandez is Stars in My Crown. There is a great climactic scene in the film where Juano Hernandez is an aging ex-slave with a small landholding about to be lynched by a white mob who basically want to steal his property, but a preacher played by Joel McCrae stands against the mob. I won't spoil it by saying how the scene is resolved, but it's an amazing movie moment and one of the most truthful portrayals of the Reconstruction period in pre-1960s films.
posted by jonp72 at 9:56 AM on February 8, 2008


Um...ok, the US is the world, and "race" is a code for "black". That right there is offensive.

No, just at Time Magazine, which obviously couldn't be arsed to think in any depth about about Chaos or even Flower Drum Song. *grar*
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:16 AM on February 8, 2008


Hrrb. If they're going to list Sidney Poitier movies from the 50s and 60s, they really should have chosen 1965's The Bedford Incident.

One of if not the first movie where a black actor doesn't play a black man, but just a man. Nobody talks about him being black, nobody calls him "nigger" or "boy," he never talks about a black anything, because it's not a movie about race, it's a movie about the cold war. With a black dude.

Also it's a cracking good movie.

For me, the big thing about Harold and Kumar is that it's a story about two very stoned overachievers, not the usual gormless slacker wastoids.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:19 AM on February 8, 2008


Pollomacho: Where the hell is: ...Guess Who's Coming to Dinner... Who the hell made this list?

Dude. The Heat Of The Night is so dramatically better and more important that Guess Who's Coming To Dinner that it's not funny. Yes, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner is a fantastic movie, but, come on, if you're going to pick a Sidney Poitier movie, then your choice is pretty clear.

QlbHom: Um...ok, the US is the world, and "race" is a code for "black". That right there is offensive.

I don't really find that incredibly offensive. The US is the world of film. Seriously. Or maybe you want to tell me about important French film of the early 1900s, or important movies coming out of India in 1923. There have been movies from many other countries since, but you can't really fault a list of films for focusing on Hollywood a little. And black/white relations are very, very important here, and have been important in Hollywood, too.

I have to say, though, that I felt your pain. I mean, it meant something to me to see Judge Priest up there, since John Ford is probably the greatest (or at least the second-greatest) director I know of. But going into this, I knew that the finest film about race that I've ever seen is Ford's The Searchers. But that's a movie about the genocide of Native Americans-- and I figured, this being a black history month thing, that they'd skip over it.

It is, however, the greatest movie about race ever made. I genuinely believe that. But its greatness is cloaked in subtlety.
posted by koeselitz at 10:25 AM on February 8, 2008


Considering what this list actually is, I'm going to go with pollomacho and Mister_A and be most shocked by the omission of Watermelon Man.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:35 AM on February 8, 2008


hellslinger: I would think that a writer for Time magazine would have more discretion than to roll dice in a thesaurus. I looked through several dictionaries to see if "contemptuous" could be used in place of "despised" and could not find it.

And that wasn't even the best of them. I laughed out loud on the very first review, the one for Body And Soul, at this:

But his unapologetic charisma and machismo — call it charismo — had no place in the official American movie industry.

Yes! Let us spread this wonderful habit of combining adjectives! It is both ridiculous and hilarious. Wait, I mean... ridicularious! What a fantastic way to make language simultaneously more fun and more inscrutable. Or... call it... funscrutable!

you all do realize that I'm going to be doing this all day now
posted by koeselitz at 10:40 AM on February 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't really find that incredibly offensive. The US is the world of film. Seriously.

I yi yi, now that is offensive. This has actually never been the case and it is less so the case now than perhaps ever before.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:44 AM on February 8, 2008


koeselitz: I don't really find that incredibly offensive. The US is the world of film. Seriously.

stinkycheese: I yi yi, now that is offensive. This has actually never been the case and it is less so the case now than perhaps ever before.


Eh, I spoke too broadly, true. But is it so odd to read a discussion of the history of 'film' that focuses on Hollywood, which made the vast majority of films in the world before 1950 at least? "Sloppy," maybe, but not "offensive." Get in a time machine, walk up to Jean-Luc Godard in Paris in 1958, and ask him what the twenty greatest films of all time are. He'll list sixteen or seventeen American movies, a Renoir, and something Italian. A few years later he'd add something Japanese. Still, the big movies on his list would've come out of Hollywood. It's not a form of racism or undue privilege to say that Hollywood's important.

It does piss me off to see I Am Legend on there, although it is a fine zombie slasher flick.
posted by koeselitz at 10:54 AM on February 8, 2008


Also of interest - a couple days ago. Slate published a great writeup of In The Heat of the Night.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:07 AM on February 8, 2008


It's not a form of racism or undue privilege to say that Hollywood's important.

Not at all.

But just as foreign (to the US) directors are likely to namedrop US directors or Hollywood films as favourites, so too are the top US directors - and here I'm admittedly thinking mostly of the so-called film school generation - likely to namedrop foreign directors or films as favourites. It goes both ways.
posted by stinkycheese at 11:29 AM on February 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yes! Let us spread this wonderful habit of combining adjectives!

If that caught on, it would be a disastrophe!
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:49 AM on February 8, 2008


race ?
posted by nicolin at 12:14 PM on February 8, 2008


For my money, the most important film on race is Putney Swope.
posted by 8 Bit at 12:43 PM on February 8, 2008


the thing that really gets me is that they've not even considered documentaries.

"with all deliberate speed" leaps to mind.
posted by CitizenD at 2:17 PM on February 8, 2008


On preview: I Am Legend = produced by Time Warner. (Then again, Show Boat was MGM.)
posted by not_on_display at 3:37 PM on February 8, 2008


Things I learned from this post:

1. All movies are made in Hollywood.
2. Only Americans have "races."
3. Only black Americans have "races."
4. Any movies with black Americans in prominent roles are "about race."
5. Americans are so self-absorbed that they don't even notice any of these.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 4:33 PM on February 8, 2008


A Raisin in the Sun. Must see.
posted by John of Michigan at 5:20 PM on February 8, 2008


But the old version, with Sidney Poitier and the guy from Hogan's Heroes, Kinchloe.
posted by John of Michigan at 5:21 PM on February 8, 2008


Two observations:

1. This is a very black/white centric compilation (obviously), and
2. Missing Spike Lee's "Get on the Bus". Definitely not his greatest work, but a strong indictment of Black America of the mid-90's.
posted by 80onelove at 11:33 PM on February 10, 2008


koeselitz: Yes! Let us spread this wonderful habit of combining adjectives! It is both ridiculous and hilarious. Wait, I mean... ridicularious! What a fantastic way to make language simultaneously more fun and more inscrutable. Or... call it... funscrutable!

LMFAO

I didn't catch that, maybe the mass media have gotten to me. (looks around suspiciously)

And why stop at just two? We could totally beat this concept into the ground as they do with all of this crap, like combining hack, fucking (for style), and some braindead "Friends" quip into a new super adjective and put it on the cover of ASSHOLE weekly, BEHOLD YOUR NEW SUPERADJ (thats right, more where that came from):

HACKTALFUCKULONORMOUS

EAT YOUR HEART OUT TIME MAGAZINE/NBC/MTV.

If this is the kind of thing that our pop culture has deemed as clever and funny, "the Terrorists have already won".
posted by hellslinger at 11:22 AM on February 11, 2008


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