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A&E Feature
Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010

16 of the best cops-and-robbers movies of all time

As a lifelong cinéaste, I have a great affinity for movies of many different kinds. But if forced to name my favorite genre, I’d choose cops-and-robbers, especially those that tell the story of ingenious, big-time heists. You know, caper films. The twists and turns of well-planned bank jobs, jewel robberies or insurance frauds get my movie heart racing. So here’s my super 16 caper flicks, in alphabetical order...
A&E Feature
Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Audiences transfixed by post-World War II dramas

There was a time when powerful, mature movie dramas of black-white racial conflict caused a stir throughout America. I’m not talking about the 1960s, when the modern Civil Rights Movement flowered, or the ’70s, when Blaxploitation films were running wild. I’m talking about the post-World War...
A&E Feature
Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Movie title songs helped ‘Mr. Rhythm’ hit it big

Question: Which vocal artist—male or female—has the most movie title songs to his or her credit? Answer: The late, great Frankie Laine. And not only did he sings the most, but his evocative, storytelling songs were also the best and most memorable. With a distinctive style derived from black singers, Laine was one of the most popular male vocalists of the 1950s. He recorded hit after hit during that decade. But it was his movie title songs that still live on...
A&E Feature
Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009

Spike Lee’s classic 20 years later

During my days with the New York Daily News (1987-91), I wrote a number of Op-Ed pieces about the infamous Tawana Brawley rape case. Along with Al Sharpton, I believed her then, and I believe her now. In 1989, when director Spike Lee’s explosive Do the Right Thing came out, my wife and I hurried to see it, unaware that a key scene involved Brawley. It took place when pizza parlor...
A&E Feature
Thursday, Nov. 27, 2008

Remembering Widmark, Scofield and Heston

People like to talk about the demise of famous people happening in threes. And never was this tale more noticeable than during the period of mid-March to early April with the passing of film giants Richard Widmark, who was 93, Paul Scofield, 86, and Charlton Heston, 84. Each of these actors was renowned for the realism they brought to unforgettable performances in so many memorable movies. All together, the legendary trio appeared in 234 big screen and television vehicles. Indeed, they were actors for the ages. Widmark appeared in 75 films, beginning in 1947; Scofield (also a noted British stage actor) showed up in 33, beginning in 1955, and
Film
Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Remembering TV’s Caped Crusader

“Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear...” No, I’m not referring to the legendary “Lone Ranger” radio show of the 1940s and early ’50s, I’m talking about the twice-weekly “Batman” series on late-afternoon and primetime television in the late 1960s. It was high camp played to perfection—stunningly creative and outrageously funny. The hilarious simplicity of TV’s Adam West (Batman), Burt Ward (Robin) and a gaggle of veteran supporting thespians, trumps the foreboding vision and craven villains in Hollywood’s big star “Batman” films of the last few decades.
A&E Feature
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Spike Lee versus Clint Eastwood

I am an unabashed admirer of Spike Lee movies, especially Do the Right Thing (1989) and Malcolm X (1992). His achievements as a director are among the most notable of the last 20 years. Thus, I took to heart Lee’s recent criticism of Clint Eastwood for failing to use black actors in Flags of Our Fathers and its companion piece, Letters from Iwo Jima (both 2006). In fact, some 900 blacks participated in this bloody World War II battle, including my late uncle, Lonnie Brake, a U.S. Marine from Milwaukee. On the whole, though, Eastwood has an admirable record . . .
A&E Feature
Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Racial casting in the movies

In the bad old days, black people in America were forced to endure demeaning minstrel shows and watch sheepishly as singing star Al Jolson performed in blackface. He wasn’t the only one. Other big-name white stars working in burnt cork included Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Ava Gardner, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. In more recent years, even the likes of Gene Wilder, Billy Crystal and Robert Downey Jr. have corked-up to the consternation of millions of black folks who love movies. And some readers may recall Burt Reynolds playing an Indian in TV’s “Gunsmoke” in the 1960s. Hard to believe? Maybe not.

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