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Biograpical epic of Malcolm X, the legendary African American leader. Born Malcolm Little, his father (a Garveyite Baptist minister) was killed by the Ku Klux Klan. Malcolm became a gangster, and while in jail discovered the Nation of Islam writings of Elijah Muhammad. He preaches the teachings when let out of jail, but later on goes on a pilgrimage to the city of Mecca, there he converts to the original Islamic religion and becomes a Sunni Muslim and changes his name to El-Hajj Malik Al-Shabazz. He is assassinated on February 21, 1965 and dies a Muslim martyr.Written by
The original director was going to be Norman Jewison, but he withdrew due to outside pressure demanding a black filmmaker. See more »
Malcolm and Betty's ice cream sodas go from half empty to full again between shots. See more »
In the name of Allah the merciful, all praises due to Allah, Lord of all the worlds. The one God to whom praise is due forever. The one who came to us in the person of Master Fard Muhammad and raised up the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Amen.
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Are we gonna bring him on? Yes, we gonna bring him on. Well let us hear from our minister, Minister Malcolm X. Let us bring him on with a round of ...
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During the opening credits the American Flag is shown and near the end it starts burning and leaves a giant X, which is part of the movie's title. See more »
There's two ways to look at this movie: as an entertaining evening filler, a roller-coaster of a movie, it's very successful -- strange, and no mean feat, for a biopic about a radical black leader from yesteryear. As a biography however, which is supposed to tell you the truth about a person, I think it's simply a piece of blatant propaganda. I see it as a lost chance to do the man Malcolm X Little justice, and also to show up the critical aspects of his persona.
The acting is great, I particularly enjoyed Angela Bassett as Malcolm X's wife Betty Shabazz, as well as director Spike Lee playing Malcolm's zoot era friend, the wily Shorty. Overall this movie is well made, as can be expected of a great director such as Spike Lee.
OK, let's focus on content, then. Malcolm X wasn't Martin Luther King, but this movie portrays him like he had been King's ghetto version. In his autobiography, Malcolm X describes himself as having started as a street thug, although one who was driven to this life by racism, who was transformed in prison to a black minister and leader. An alternative but possibly more enlightened way to describe his career would be that he took up the same profession as his father, that of a black separatist minister (his father had followed Marcus Garvey, Malcolm followed Elijah Muhammad instead).
Another fact that the movie didn't bring out is that the Nation Of Islam are no Muslims. They were an idiosyncratic black American sect which borrowed some formal aspects from Islam, and sold Elijah Muhammad instead of adhering to his prophet namesake. One interesting question to ask yourself about Malcolm X is, when did he figure out that the NOI were about as halal as ham hock? If he really only became wise to the game after Muhammad had kicked him out, that would have made him seem a bit dim in the intellectual department (and I don't think that he was anything but sharp). But if he found out before then why didn't he leave the sect by himself? Does anyone really buy his magic transformation into a proper Muslim and non-racist on the hadj he went on after he had been forced to leave NOI? In the movie, Malcolm starts to doubt Elijah Muhammad pretty abruptly when he finds out that he has fathered children with his -- very much younger -- secretaries. This is shown melodramatically where the mothers are dressed up in their full freaky NOI costume, have their darling children playing around their feet and profess that they are only worried about their toddlers' wellbeing, i. e. present the picture of purity. I didn't buy that either, neither in the film nor in Malcolm X's life.
There are simply some aspects this movie should have addressed, some questions it should have raised. Instead it "cultivates" and adulates Malcom X. Apart from being a fierce speaker and writer, what actual plans did Malcolm X have? Did he implement them, did they work out, did they fail? How serious was he about separating the races, or was that just rhetorics? Did he actually further or hinder the Civil Rights movement? Didn't he, especially in the light of Obama, fail quite badly by his own standards? One scene I didn't buy at all was when Malcolm liberates a black man from racist police imprisonment. He threatens the officer in charge by telling him to look out of the window, through which we see a thin row of NOI goons standing before the police precinct. Somehow the captain freaks at the sight of 20 dudes in suits and ties and immediately gives in. In the following scene, Malcolm gives them a sign and they turn around like robots and march off. Wow, that's how the NOI fought? Too bad Martin Luther King hadn't thought of that. Although I'd advise anyone not to don suit and tie and descend on the local police outpost yet. Spike Lee feeds us off with simple cinematic razzle-dazzle.
Spike Lee also tells us quite unambiguously that Malcolm's father was murdered by the KKK, where this is at best highly speculative.
Another point: were the NOI with their guru, their uniforms, their sex separation and their bodyguards not perhaps a pretty scary outfit? Scary not only in "the KKK had finally met their match"-sense but more as in "made the KKK seem like a regular bunch of guys with a hood fixation, and the John Birch Society like a bunch of hippies"? Just a thought.
Then in the final scene Spike Lee serves up a "I'm Malcom X" scene which wouldn't have looked out of place in a Stalinist propaganda film.
Malcolm X once said that all his achievements should be blamed on Allah, and only his failings on himself. Spike Lee should have taken his word. If you want to learn more about Malcolm X, then even his autobiography is a better choice.
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