Friday, January 23, 2009

The Great White Hope

Martin Ritt, 1970 (8.2*)
This is a hard-hitting and Pulitzer prize-winning play by Howard Sackler about boxer Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight champ. James Earl Jones recreated his Tony-winning Broadway role, and it rightfully made him a star – he even looks like a good boxer, not an actor boxer (like Stallone).

Jones was nominated for an Oscar®, and should have won. Jane Alexander as his mistress was also nominated. The film is primarily about the racism throughout American that brought up each new “great white hope”, or inferior Causasian boxers, in attempts to dethrone Johnson. This is really a tough film to watch, especially with liberal use of the N word (even from Johnson himself), because you know this man will not get equal treatment or respect, no matter what. Johnson also flaunted his celebrity, with Caucasian girlfriends, expensive coats, taunting chatter to the fight crowds, which made the hatred even worse. (To paraphrase 48 hours, he was everyone's worst nightmare, a black man with a title..)

Martin Ritt (Hud, Norma Rae) bravely exposes social injustice in his films, and was once blacklisted, which he covered in the film The Front, with Woody Allen playing a dramatic lead for Ritt. When I tried to see this film in Georgia just after release, the theater was evacuated for a bomb threat, so the racism exposed in the film still brought out the worst in people half a century later. This is a great sports and boxing film, which must be seen in widescreen, if you can withstand the hatred you’ll witness.

Quote: (when he weighed less then Brady) Can you believe that? The man says I’m lighter than you!


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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