Friday, April 26, 2013

My 100 Favorite Albums of the 1960s: 20-1

Here we go: the top 20 esoteric/possibly obvious choices of my favorite albums of a decade.

20. Judy at Carnegie Hall, Judy Garland (1961)
This album won four Grammys. It's a great concert, and oddly my highest-ranked album of 1961.

19. A Hard Day's Night, The Beatles (1964)
I think this is really the culmination of all the early Beatles stuff; still got that R&B/skiffle sound, but the experimentation is about to (tentatively) start.

18. Let It Bleed, The Rolling Stones (1969)
This has my two favorite Stones songs, "Gimme Shelter" and "You Can't Always Get What You Want."

17. Days of Future Passed, The Moody Blues (1967)
Another one I used to listen to on the 8-track.

16. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles (1967)
Whether it's truly a concept album or no, it's still an amazing listen. Since I've entered therapy, I've been engaging in active listening exercises, and this is an interesting one to close your eyes and listen to. There's so much going on sonically.

15. Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Ray Charles (1962)
I love the way Ray draws out country music into an R&B setting.

14. Keep on Pushing, The Impressions (1964)
The best Chicago soul album ever recorded.

13. Let It Be, The Beatles (1970)
Somehow its both the Beatles' most overrated and most underrated album.

12. All Things Must Pass, George Harrison (1970)
Can you imagine how good some of this would've sounded on Beatles albums? That's okay, though, because it sounds spectacular all at once on this set.

11. Songs of Leonard Cohen, Leonard Cohen (1967)
Do you remember my concept of the 3am song coming out of the darkness? This is like the definitive 3am album. Perfect for the dark and stillness.

10. Highway 61 Revisited, Bob Dylan (1965)
Dylan's best album from start to finish, he said, as if he was the first person to ever say that.

9. Rubber Soul, The Beatles (1965)
My favorite Beatles album from beginning to end. My favorite one to listen to. I remember there was a building along I-88 in Chicago that had the album cover painted on the side for a long time... I think it must have been an ad for 97.9 FM.

8. Tommy, The Who (1969)
Another great album to just close your eyes and listen to. Maybe it's a cliche to put it up here, but I just love it.

7. Tea for the Tillerman, Cat Stevens (1970)
I have my Mom's vinyl of this, too. I started listening to it in junior high and I'd just play it over and over and over. I love Cat Stevens, but this is easily his best.

6. A Charlie Brown Christmas, Vince Guaraldi Trio (1965)
I can't even describe how much I love this album. The animated special has been ingrained in me for so long that it doesn't feel like Christmas without this album on. I'm not sure what the mixture is that makes this music work--it's sincere without being cloying, and it's bold without being pretentious, and there's something about the sound of the drums and the ease of the piano... it's perfect.

5. Jesus Christ Superstar: A Rock Opera (1970)
The original concept album, with Deep Purple's Ian Gillan as Jesus, Murray Head as Judas, and Yvonne Elliman as Mary Magdalene. Well, I've explained my soft spot for both musicals and certain aspects of the Christ story that don't have to do with moralizing. I first heard this in high school and I can still sing a LOT of it from memory (much to my wife's chagrin, sometimes). It just sounds raw and emotional and fresh to me; it never sounds dated because the emotional vocals are so strong.

4. The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, The Kinks (1968)
Not a single dud track on this fantastic album.

3. A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector (1963)
Another Christmas staple of just perfect music. I actually despise a large number of Christmas rock songs, but that Wall of Sound production just elevates this stuff, and the vocalists (particularly Darlene Love) are at their peaks.

2. Forever Changes, Love (1967)
To me, the perfect psychedelic rock album. Sometimes I think I could die happy after hearing "Andmoreagain." That's a song to be played at my funeral, along with the Zombies' "Hung Up on a Dream" and Cream's "Dreaming" and, of course, the Beach Boys' "Surf's Up." Which leads me to...

1. Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys (1966)
This is probably a surprise to no one. This is my favorite album of all time, bar none, and the album I've related to most over the course of my life. I guess this is actually technically a psychedelic album (given my comments on the previous album), but I've always thought of it more in terms of its baroque pop sound. Does anyone remember a story in Doonesbury where one of the characters was dying and all he wanted was to hear Pet Sounds before he died? That's how much I love this album. To hear it play and to pass on just as the dogs bark at the train on the final track... that would be a pleasant way to go, if you had to. When I'm an old, old man lying in my bed and waiting for the end, put this album on and just listen to it with me. This album just lifts me and lifts me and lifts me to heaven.

And there you have it. I was thinking of maybe going through the Billboard charts and doing a list of my 100 favorite singles of the decade, too. It's also been requested that I do a list of my 100 favorite films of the 60s. So maybe it'll be lists for a while. Who knows?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

My 100 Favorite Albums of the 1960s: 40-21

40. Sunflower, The Beach Boys (1970)
What I think of as the mid-point of the Beach Boys period I love, and includes two of my favorite songs, "This Whole World" and "Forever."

39. Revolver, The Beatles (1966)
The first psychedelic Beatles album still sounds really damn good.

38. The Doors, The Doors (1967)

37. Odessey and Oracle, The Zombies (1968)
This has so far been a collection of great psychedelic music... Dreamy string arrangements and reverb echoes. Totally my scene.

36. Another Side of Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan (1964)

35. The Beatles, The Beatles (1968)
AKA the White Album.

34. Music from Big Pink, The Band (1968)

33. The Smothers Brothers at the Purple Onion, The Smother Brothers (1961)
This is my highest-ranking comedy album of the decade.

32. Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul, Otis Redding (1965)
Of all Otis' albums, this is the one that's the best listening experience. No lulls at all.

31. McCartney, Paul McCartney (1970)
I don't think he ever sounded this good again, honestly. But Paul's solo music really isn't my kind of stuff.

30. Beggars Banquet, The Rolling Stones (1968)
For a little while in my senior year of high school, I'd psych myself up to face the day with "Street Fighting Man."

29. Abbey Road, The Beatles (1969)
It may indeed be a bunch of half-songs, but listening to them all at once is like being carried away on a cloud, man.

28. Pleasures of the Harbor, Phil Ochs (1967)
This album has Ochs' most damning song ("Outside of a Small Circle of Friends") and his most desperately beautiful ("I've Had Her").

27. People Get Ready, The Impressions (1965)
One of the real pleasures of doing this project was getting to listen to a lot of great soul albums I'd just never heard before. I had a real gap in my experience for not having listened much to the Impressions. It's another one of those instances of feeling a little foolish for missing out on this great music, but being thrilled to experience a great deal of it for the first time.

26. Help!, The Beatles (1965)

25. September of My Years, Frank Sinatra (1965)
The strongest and deepest of Sinatra's concept albums, this one his feelings about turning 50 and looking back on his life and toward a future. I think this was probably his last truly great album.

24. John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, John Lennon (1970)
Lennon at his most raw.

23. Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, Derek & the Dominoes (1970)

22. Axis: Bold as Love, The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1967)
Has my favorite Hendrix song, "Castles Made of Sand."

21. At Last!, Etta James (1961)

Tomorrow: top 20, including one more live album and two for Christmas.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My 100 Favorite Albums of the 1960s: 60-41

60. Hums of the Lovin' Spoonful, The Lovin' Spoonful (1966)
This is my favorite album of theirs all the way through, and it has my second favorite Spoonful song, "Darling Companion."

59. Crosby, Stills & Nash, Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969)
This album and Deja Vu compliment each other so perfectly.

58. Sammy Davis, Jr. at the Cocoanut Grove, Sammy Davis, Jr. (1963)
A great, very jazzy set. Love the bongo-driven medley of songs from West Side Story.

57. Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin (1969)

56. The Kinks, The Kinks (1964)

55. To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With, Bill Cosby (1968)
It's mainly that second side, which is like a great spoken word autobiography.

54. Hot Buttered Soul, Isaac Hayes (1969)

53. Sinatra at the Sands, Frank Sinatra (1966)
This is basically the Sinatra concert of my dreams, and I love his banter with the audience. It's a great album to listen to as the sun goes down and just relax with.

52. Younger Than Yesterday, The Byrds (1967)

51. Please Please Me, The Beatles (1963)
I love how raw the Beatles sound on this recording.

50. At Folsom Prison, Johnny Cash (1968)
Man, there really are a lot of great live albums in the 1960s...

49. Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin (1969)

48. With a Little Help from My Friends, Joe Cocker (1969)

47. David Bowie, David Bowie (1969)
A little rough, but this has a couple of my favorite early Bowie songs, and of course "Space Oddity."

46. I'm the Greatest Comedian in the World, Only Nobody Knows It Yet!, Jackie Mason (1962)
Jackie Mason's self-deprecating comedy is very, very easy to relate to and very, very funny.

45. Magical Mystery Tour, The Beatles (1967)

44. Reach Out, The Four Tops (1967)
Mostly I think of the Four Tops as a singles band, but this album is pure excellence from start to finish.

43. Aerial Ballet, Harry Nilsson (1968)

42. After the Gold Rush, Neil Young (1970)

41. I Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You, Aretha Franklin (1967)

Tomorrow: lots of obvious choices, 40-21.

Health Report Update

So, I'm happy today, and I realize I'm not a hundred percent sure how to handle it.

First thing this morning when I got up, I had a problem with my laptop. Windows didn't load properly, and I immediately started to feel the stabs of warm panic in my gut. This actually happened to me once already, a couple of weeks ago, after a big Windows update, and that was the day I got set off so badly and was so unable to cope with it that my therapist put me in suicide intervention.

I've been doing a lot better with my suicidal thoughts, trying to make myself realize that I don't actually want to kill myself, I just want some way to stop everything, to put everything on hold and escape my concerns. I'm trying to talk myself through that, or talk with Becca about it, and just acknowledging these feelings instead of doing what I usually do (trying to put my head down and hope it'll all pass without bothering anyone else) is beneficial in itself. It makes me feel less hopeless, and I feel like I'm building better coping devices and am becoming more aware of what sets off the panic in me so I can avert it.

So as I was restarting my computer and hoping Windows loaded this time, I just talked myself through it. Told myself that I've got a disc to restore my computer and all of the really important stuff is backed up and other things can most likely be replaced. I kept myself calm and steady, and I didn't panic or think suicidal thoughts or lose hope.

But the weird thing was, I couldn't really be happy with the victory. I didn't know how to be. I'm not used to it. I'm not used to being happy, really. I'm used to being happy in spite of everything going wrong around me. I'm not used to being happy because things went right or because I did something emotionally healthy. I'm used to freaking out and having an emotional meltdown. I didn't quite know how to handle not doing it. It was like feeling incomplete. What a weird reaction to have. I mean, nothing was really wrong at all with how I was handling the situation. I'm just not at all used to this. I'm prepared to be taken to an emotional low point, and I wasn't. I wasn't at all. So what the hell am I supposed to do when I'm not freaking out? I really don't know yet...

Then, when I did my once a day email check (I'm not ignoring anyone ever, I just only think to check it once a day), I saw an email from my Dad. I've been reluctant to talk to him about what's going on with my therapy because I just always have had this idea that I can't explain it to him and that he wouldn't think of it as something really serious, like it's really a genuine problem. I feel like there's a lot he's said in the past that rejects the notion of mental or emotional problems as legitimate health concerns. But I also probably didn't give him enough credit to be straight with him, too.

So he sent me an email saying he'd been looking at my blog and that he'd had no idea how traumatized I was by Ellen dying, and also that he'd had no idea how bad my struggle with anxiety and depression really is. He sent me the most supportive email, and I just wasn't expecting it at all. It really affected me.

It's like I'm just not really prepared for anything to go well. I'm always defensive. I always have my guard up. I'm always ready to overreact. I just don't have any faith that things might go well sometimes. There's always a part of me that's afraid that if I'm too happy, something bad is going to have to go wrong in order to balance everything out.

It's putting me off how confused I am about my reactions.

I have to internalize the idea that if something bad does happen, it was going to happen no matter how happy I was before it did.

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

Here. ***1/2

BLUE SKY (1994)
Interesting drama about an Army scientist (Tommy Lee Jones) in the early 1960s and his family. His wife (Jessica Lange) is somewhat mentally unstable and finds a lot of validation in the attention of other men, which is tearing the family apart. Meanwhile, he clashes with his superiors about the safety of nuclear weapons testing. These two story threads cross and lend meaning to one another in an interesting way, held together by Lange's riveting performance. Tony Richardson's final film. ***1/2

David Mamet has always made compelling films, it's just that this one is compelling the way a train wreck is compelling. A bizarre, pointless film that promises before it begins that it's a work of fiction and has nothing to say about the Phil Spector murder case, and then proceeds to try to say repeatedly that Phil Spector was railroaded and probably innocent and that all women are totally captivated by him, none of which I think are true. What was the point of this disaster? Mamet obviously finds Spector captivated, but the script is totally nonsensical and Al Pacino probably makes the only choice he could make with the dialogue (if by "dialogue" you mean "random collection of semi-related words in almost coherent order") by basically acting as if he's having a stroke through the whole movie. It's hard to look away from because you can't believe that actual human beings are participating in this thing. It makes Liz & Dick look like serious, competent, prestige filmmaking. Zero stars.

Inconsequential, occasionally amusing, totally innocuous political satire that follows the pattern of every other political satire without adding anything new or notably funny. Cute waste of time, but utterly forgettable. **

Lars von Trier's bizarre, compelling, confrontational, almost mystical, relentlessly cruel meditation on grief and depression. Hard to describe and quite nihilistic, but the performances of Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe as a grieving couple out among nature is as hard to look away from as it is hard to watch. ***1/2

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My 100 Favorite Albums of the 1960s: 80-61

80. Face to Face, The Kinks (1966)

79. Etta James Rocks the House, Etta James (1964)
Boy, this list is really making a lie out of my earlier assertion that I'm not really a fan of live albums.

78. What We Did on Our Holidays, Fairport Convention (1969)
Really, it's a straight line through this album, then Unhalfbricking, then Liege & Lief, all released in 1969 and all of them some of the best folk music ever recorded.

77. Freak Out!, The Mothers of Invention (1966)
A lot of Frank Zappa is hit or miss for me, but I do love this first album all the way through.

76. Begin Here, The Zombies (1965)
Fantastic debut album.

75. Deja Vu, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (1970)

74. Pandemonium Shadow Show, Harry Nilsson (1967)

73. Howlin' Wolf, Howlin' Wolf (1962)
Well, I said I'd cheat a little, and here's an instance of it, since this is technically not an album but a collection of six singles and B-sides released from 1960 to 1962. I would have Moanin' in the Moonlight on, too, if I were making a 1950s list. Maybe I will at some point.

72. Switched-On Bach, Wendy Carlos (Walter Carlos) (1968)
I actually have my Mom's old vinyl of this.

71. Hair: Original Broadway Cast Recording (1968)
I actually prefer the 1979 movie soundtrack, though.

70. The Band, The Band (1969)

69. Are You Experienced, The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1967)

68. Curtis, Curtis Mayfield (1970)

67. In the Court of the Crimson King, King Crimson (1969)

66. Gorilla, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (1967)
I'm a big fan of Bonzo Dog, but this is probably the only album of theirs that never lulls.

65. Folk Singer, Muddy Waters (1964)

64. Scott, Scott Walker (1967)

63. The Genius After Hours, Ray Charles (1961)

62. The Soul Album, Otis Redding (1966)

61. Disraeli Gears, Cream (1967)

Not much commentary today, but right now all I want to do is relax with some of this great psychedelic, soul and folk music. Tomorrow, basically more of the same, including live albums and comedy, with numbers 60-41. It's not very interesting, I suppose, but it keeps me off the streets.

Richie Havens 1941-2013

Monday, April 22, 2013

My 100 Favorite Albums of the 1960s: 100-81

I mentioned somewhere or other that I've been doing a massive project for the past couple of years: listening to all of the music I ever wanted to listen to, in chronological order. I've just finished up with 1980, but I thought I'd jump back into the sixties and make a big list of favorites. Haven't done a big list around here in a while. So, in my journey through the 1960s, here are my 100 favorites of the many, many albums I listened to, 20 a day for the rest of the week.

A couple of ground rules, though:

First, I count in units of 10, so the years active here are 1961-1970.

Second, no greatest hits albums or compilations. I always feel like that's cheating to have them on the same list as proper albums, because compilations are the cherry-picked best.

Third, I apologize if this list isn't really that different from the myriad of greatest albums lists already in existence.

Fourth, as always, I reserve the right to cheat my rules because they're my rules.

Honorable mentions:

1. The great, essential compilation set Nuggets: Original Artyfacts of the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968. It doesn't qualify by my rules because it's a compilation and it didn't come out until 1972, anyway, but it's amazing. It got me through high school some nights, and it's still one of the best listening experiences you can have. It's wonderful, and even though it doesn't go here, I just had to mention it.

2. SMiLE by the Beach Boys, which probably would be number 2 on this list if it had actually been released. It wasn't officially released until two years ago, but what an amazing listen.

Alright, starting at number 100, with possibly minimal commentary, here are

My 100 Favorite Albums of the 1960s

100. God Bless Tiny Tim, Tiny Tim (1968)
Did I lose anyone right off? I thought for sure this would be some kind of grating joke album, but I actually found it surprisingly pleasant to listen to. Maybe I was softened up to like Tiny Tim from watching so many Laugh-In reruns on Nick at Nite as a kid, but I found the record to err on the sincere side of weirdness.

99. Safe at Home, The International Submarine Band (1968)

98. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Neil Young (1969)

97. Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius, Stevie Wonder (1963)
I love the energy of this album; Wonder really holds the crowd and gets them into the show, which is what I want to hear on a live album. Live albums aren't always favorites of mine. This is actually the only Stevie Wonder album on this list. If I were doing a 1970s list (which I might), they'd nearly all be on there. Like a lot of records from the 1960s, there's a lot of filler and less interesting covers on Wonder's albums. A compilation of his 60s singles, though, is invaluable. I have At the Close of a Century and play it an awful lot. There is nothing like soul music. Nothing.

96. Live at the Apollo, James Brown (1963)
Another example of a terrific live album. In fact, this album is so terrific that I love it even though I'm actually not a fan of James Brown.

95. The Electrifying Aretha Franklin, Aretha Franklin (1962)

94. 2000 Years with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner & Mel Brooks (1961)

93. Improvisations, Ravi Shankar (1962)

92. Elton John, Elton John (1970)
I actually have a huge soft spot for pretty much Elton John's first 10 or so albums.

91. The Beach Boys' Christmas Album, The Beach Boys (1964)
I love a well-done Christmas album. This one has been a staple for me since before I can even remember, honestly. I used to listen to it on an 8-track.

90. My Generation, The Who (1965)

89. Blood, Sweat & Tears, Blood, Sweat & Tears (1968)

88. Blind Faith, Blind Faith (1969)

87. Shades of Deep Purple, Deep Purple (1968)

86. Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow...Right!, Bill Cosby (1963)
To this day, his routine about Noah is still the thing I find funniest from Cosby's stand-up. though there's one other Cosby album I like more. (Teaser?)

85. Truth, Jeff Beck Group (1968)

84. Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5, The Jackson 5 (1969)

83. Vanilla Fudge, Vanilla Fudge (1967)
I am also a huge fan of psychedelic music.

82. Bringing It All Back Home, Bob Dylan (1965)
Lots of Bob Dylan on this list, of course. I've always loved his music, to the annoyance of most of the people I've ever known.

81. Marvin Gaye Recorded Live on Stage, Marvin Gaye (1963)
An amazingly fun, high energy album from a guy who had stage fright.

Tomorrow: 80-61, obviously.

Kristen Bell Mondays

Sunday, April 21, 2013

School Daze and a Ramble About Racism

Earlier this week I saw Spike Lee's film School Daze for the first time. I'm not much of a Spike Lee fan, but having fairly recently seen and completely re-evaluated my opinion of Do the Right Thing, I saw this was on cable and decided to check it out. I'd not seen any of Lee's pre-Do the Right Thing work before, but now I  was curious to see how he developed as a filmmaker leading up to Do the Right Thing, which I once uneasily dismissed but now easily consider one of the greatest films ever made.

School Daze was surprising. On one level it's a silly campus comedy about getting laid and frat rivalries and losing the homecoming game. But right underneath, there's so much going on, and what was really fascinating to me was that there was subject matter being addressed that I had never seen addressed in a film before. The film takes place at an all-black college, and there's a serious discussion about whether or not there is still a need for all-black colleges in an integrated society. The film touches on a kind of racism that I don't see discussed much in American filmmaking, which centers on complexion and straightness of hair. There's a lot of talk about what makes a black person "black enough." Laurence Fishburne's character is leading a movement to get the school to divest itself of investments in Apartheid South Africa, with a heavy implication that the health of the black community in America is implicitly measured by how involved that community is in what happens in Africa; Giancarlo Esposito tells him to his face that he's American and should worry about America instead of acting like black Americans owe Africa anything simply because their ancestors came from there.

The film touches on black sexism in a surprisingly shocking way; frankly, I was also shocked because I consider Spike Lee a director who participates in sexism more than actually being appalled by it. It even touches on how townies relate to students in one great scene with Samuel L. Jackson as a resident who hates the presence of the students, essentially calling them uppity and reminding them that no matter how educated they are, they'll still be niggers. Laurence Fishburne's weary-but-adamant "You're not niggers!" is a perfect line-reading; he's tired of this fight, but it's too important to let go of.

What's really ingenious about this film, too, is its rhythm. There are musical numbers in the film; one of them, a number about the tension between black women who straighten their hair and black women who don't, is especially brilliant because it allows the argument to be heard while dissolving the tension that was so charged as the scene began. But more than the musical numbers, there's also the soundtrack, the dialogue, a certain cadence to some of the spoken lines, dependent on comic timing and the occasional rhyming dialogue, and the editing that creates these rhythmic patterns that keep the film moving through its many characters and situations, touching on issue after issue while not losing any of its humor or urgency. It never becomes dry, or a lecture. And it is true that the film doesn't resolve anything or offer any solutions, either, but how can it? Much like Do the Right Thing, School Daze needs to raise its points just to get people to finally talk about them. You can't solve something you've barely addressed.

I haven't really been able to get School Daze out of my mind since I watched it. I wasn't quite sure what exactly it was that felt so different, so as I usually do when I'm critically mulling something over this much, I consulted Roger Ebert's review. He pegged it in the first line: "the black characters seem to be relating to one another, instead of to a hypothetical white audience." That was it: there's no white presence at all in the film. No white characters, no white point of view, no imagined white viewer. There's no attempt at all to interpret black campus life for a white audience. It's not interested in making things comfortable and conforming to white expectations of the black middle class.

It made me remember what things were like after Do the Right Thing came out. It was about that time that the media was talking about black people and "their" movies. We had "mainstream" movies, and "their" movies. And "their" movies were always depicted as being angry and unsatisfied, and that was reported on with this tone of fear. It was strange. When Do the Right Thing came out I was 13 and living in a predominantly white suburb. I didn't have much experience with black people other than depictions in the media and basically one black student that had been in my classes forever.

In 1988, The Last Temptation of Christ came out and that was the first time I was really aware that a movie could create so much anger and generate so much controversy. I didn't understand how the mere fact of the existence of this movie could make some people so angry. And when Do the Right Thing came out, it happened again. People were angry and scared. I saw so many news reports about it that basically boiled down to this (if we're just being honest): "I'm white and scared to death that this will remind black people how oppressed they are and then they'll murder all the white people." That was basically it. The emergence of a new black cinema immediately after had people scared. I remember when Boyz N the Hood came out and there was this sense that we should all be scared to go see it in the theater because black people would get angry and shoot you or some such bullshit. Every time a New Jack City or a Juice or a Malcolm X came out, there was always this weird sensibility in the air that I'd get from the adults in my life or in the media that the more movies black people had that reminded them racism exists (as if they had forgotten), the more dangerous it was for "mainstream" society.

Does anyone else remember this being a thing? It was like a weird game of "Is this going to be the movie that ignites racial war in the US?" It's like white people are fine with racism existing but the second black people have a problem with it, race relations are "dangerous." That's what I remember thinking at the time. The overreaction to Do the Right Thing and Boyz N the Hood totally changed my way of thinking about the world, because in those overreactions I could see the weird fear and dishonesty that caused them in the first place.

School Daze doesn't try and explain black middle class life to a possible white viewer, and that's one of the greatest strengths of the film. It's unconcerned with justifying itself. It's a bold, honest, frank, revealing movie disguised as a campus comedy. That it exists at all is, even 25 years later, a triumph.

Song of the Week: "Stupid Girl"

Rolling Stones, 1966.