I’m assuming this is how police work really is…sometimes it’s just waiting around, and sometimes it’s busier than can be. This HBO series goes into the inner-workings of a special task force of police detectives who work on complicated, complex cases…cases that require more time than most police would be willing to give. Season one deals with the tracking down of a drug kingpin in the Baltimore (where the show is set) projects. The entire season of shows is based on this one case…which is also how subsequent seasons are as well. No, it’s not boring…they catch small members of the drug gang and then they just keep working up the food chain until the catch some big fish. It’s intense and riveting and as exciting as any cop show I’ve seen (maybe even more exciting) even though the cast of criminals stays the same. If you like crime stories on TV, this one is a must!

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I think Lilies of the Field is a great movie, though I believe Sidney Poitier has done some better work, even though he won the Oscar for this role. I mean, this is a good movie with a ton of wonderful, uplifting messages, but it is not what I would call powerful like some of Poitier’s other work of this period, such as The Defiant Ones or No Way Out (1950). This one is just a sweet, innocent film about a man who comes across some German nuns and eventually helps them build the chapel they have been praying for. The camaraderie between the nuns and Poitier really “make” the film for me. The sisters do not speak any English and Poitier has a good deal of fun teaching them. It is a heart-warming film that prove Poitier can do it all…even teach a bunch of nuns to speak English!

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What do they call you? Well, if they call you Mr. Tibbs, watch out. One of the many films of the 1950s and 60s that Sidney Poitier did about race, this one would have to be the best…mostly since it is by far the most powerful. With the films The Defiant Ones (1958) and A Patch of Blue (1965), Poitier had cemented himself as one of the finest actors in American cinema – black or white. With this film, made in 1967 and directed by Norman Jewison, Poitier takes his acting to the next level…sheer power and passion. Also in 1967, he made another “race” based classic Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. That film, though emotional, does not hit at the anger and the murderous rage that racial issues bring out in some people…especially some from the mid-20th Century South, where In the Heat of the Night is based.

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One of the most loved and acclaimed movies of the 20th Century, Gone with the Wind is the winner of eight Academy Awards®, including Best Picture. Best Actress® winner Vivien Leigh stars as Scarlett O’Hara, who is simply one of the most timeless characters in cinema history, not to mention one of the prettiest Southern Belles ever. Starting in Margaret Mitchell’s iconic novel on life in the South before, after, and during the Civil War, Scarlett became engrained in the American consciousness as the epitome of beauty and selfishness. She spends most of her time pining over a man she can never have (Ashley Wilkes), and when she can finally have him, she wants the one she has had all along (the infamous Rhett Butler). Her fickleness, somehow though, comes off mostly as charming…the men in her life just simply understand that this is how she is. And every time she is let down by one of her beaus, her Mammy (Hattie McDaniel in her Oscar®- winning performance as Best Supporting Actress) is right there to help Scarlett survive. After all, tomorrow is another day!

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When a 1950s housewife falls in love with her black gardener, her life that was already in shambles threatens to complete fall apart. A great, powerful drama in the same tone of the early 20th Century melodramas, especially the Douglas Sirk-directed melodrama All That Heaven Allows. In All That Heaven Allows, Jane Wyman plays a recent widow with two grown children and Rock Hudson plays her gardener. The catch, in the Sirk film from 1955, was the age difference and that he is a lowly gardener and she is a prominent widow with means. Far From Heaven takes off where the Sirk film began and uses racial tensions as the barrier between the two potential lovers. Even though they are two different films told in two totally diverse perspectives, both of these movies are worthy of being seen for their brilliant 1950s styles and their powerful messages.

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In the tradition of Once Upon a Time in America or even The Godfather, this film is one of the finest crime sagas I’ve ever seen. From start to finish, I was captivated by both the stories of the criminal and the cop. And, unlike some other crime films of yesterday that had “saga”-like feels to them, this one is based in reality. Yes, it’s violent, but I have a feeling that the violence here is grounded in truth. This very possibly might have been how Frank Lucas’ Harlem streets were back in the 1970s. Lucas is a black man in the white business of heroin… “white” meaning, at the time, only Italian…as in the Mob. Lucas becomes bigger than any mob figure…he owns the Harlem streets. He has Mafiosi begging to work with his organization. Enter cop and wanna-be lawyer Richie Roberts, who makes it his job bring down Lucas and his entire network. The acting really puts this movie over the top…the screenplay and direction are stellar, but the performances make it a classic!

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No, not FAT…this phat means “pretty, hot and thick.” Thick, meaning large, which goes back to the original term of fat. Confused? Well, that aside, this film IS about a woman of size who is discouraged with her life…professional but mostly personal. As a woman of size myself, I found this film very positive in its depiction of the struggles a larger woman faces in the world. The main character here, Jazmin, is an aspiring plus-size fashion designer who designs her own clothes because she is fed up with the lack of colorful and vibrant options for women of size. Jazmin is a sexy, vivacious lady who, when she’s down and out, we really sympathize for. The movie, though, doesn’t seem to be milking the story for more pity…the trials Jazmin goes through all seem realistic for someone in her dilemma. I identified with her, as I’m sure much of the overweight female population will. Jazmin is Black, but she could be any color…her plight is the same. A fun, wild movie that actually has a decent, non-preachy message…something rarely done in Hollywood these days.

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Not the best WWII film ever made, but all-in-all a good story and a strong ending make this film a above-average war picture. Directed by Spike Lee, all of the type around this one at the time was that this is the black WWII movie. Lee felt that war movies of recent times have claimed to be very realistic, though he never saw any black faces among the soldiers. Miracle at St. Anna was Lee’s way to rectify this. But, it is so much more than a “blacks in WWII” film. I felt that most of the story, set in Italy, has little to do with race. And that Italy part takes up most of the film…and should since it is the core of the tale. And, yes, this is a tale…it’s a fairy tale about a young boy and his “chocolate giant.” With all of the mindlessly violent and ruthless WWII movies out there, at least this one offers a little allegoric change of pace to the non-stop action of wartime. Check it out for yourself!

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One of the best novels of the 20th Century is wonderfully adapted into one of the best films of the century, as well. Talk about a rarity! Many adaptations, especially those of well-received books, fall far from the mark usually. Either they are generally not good, or they are edited so much that the book’s story is hardly recognizable. In this faithful adaptations, Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning tale stays true…mostly because of the vivid performances, especially by Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. Peck won his only Oscar for his portrayal as the Southern Gentleman who is both a lawyer who defends innocent, yet African American, Tom Robinson and also the father of Scout and Jem Finch. Wonderfully directed and shot as well… the fictional town Lee created of Maycomb, Georgia really comes to life as a conflicted small-town. And the mood of the era…the 1930s…is also captured. Racism was rampant during these years…especially in the South. Southerners were still bitter over the Civil War and still saw Blacks as slaves. An almost-perfect interpretation of one of the more perfect books of American literature.

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