Mervin Malone
This is a place — a BLOG, if you will — about music, film, culture, the arts and whatever else co-exists and generates popular culture. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008
You Guessed It: Nader's Back!

PhotobucketWonder of wonders...

As if to blunt the momentum of a recently re-energized Democratic Party, consumer advocate and perennial presidential candidate, Ralph Nader, has again tossed his hat into the rapidly dwindling ring of prospective U.S. presidential candidates. Nader announced his candidacy on Sunday, February 24, on Meet the Press with Tim Russert.

Ralph's timing for the announcement is odd, but – given his past presidential attempts – not entirely unexpected. Contrary to most reports – which are stating this as Nader's third run, this latest 2008 bid actually qualifies as his [Nader's] fourth; Ralph ran in 1996 and – most infamously – 2000 as the Green Party candidate, and again in 2004 as an independent.

Nader's aforementioned 2000 run remains the defining moment of his political career; one of the most closely contested U.S. presidential races in history, that contest [2000] saw then-Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore loose the highly contested state of Florida by a few percentage points – a fact attributed to Nader's presence in the race, as it is widely speculated that the few votes taken away by Nader would've went to Gore and not Bush. Katherine Harris, Bush's brother Jeb and the Supreme Court also figure into this as well, but there is no denying Nader's role. It has since been found that Gore actually won more popular votes than Bush, but the U.S. Supreme Court's involvement sealed the proverbial deal for the Republicans.

Honestly – I don't know what Nader hopes to achieve. I don't buy his contention that he [Nader] would've stayed out of the race had the Dems chosen Edwards (or even Kucinich) as their frontrunner. More, one of the main planks on which the consumer "advocate" [Nader] prides himself – healthcare reform – has been extensively discussed by the two remaining Democratic candidates, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton; while not Nader's own single-payer plan, Clinton and Obama's respective positions are – at the very least – steps in the right direction. Also, Ralph's own "anti-corporate" platform – while speaking a great many bitter truths about corruption in Washington – seems rather vapid when taken in context with the fact that he [Nader] is a bestselling author who has continually marketed and published his books via corporate-owned media and/or publishing. Heck, Nader – a man who has long prided himself on "social justice" – said next to NOTHING when the Florida fiasco (to which he is forever linked) saw a disproportionately high number of African-American voters disenfranchised and intimidated at the polls. And though Ralph Nader has continually stressed his desire to bring third parties into the fold, it could be argued that his run in 2000 has all-but doomed a great many such parties with the "spoiler" stigma; the Green Party is seen as FAR less legitimate since his coming (and going) that year.

Sadly, Ralph Nader hasn't seemed (intellectually) honest in years. I can remember in 2004 – when he ran as an independent – he claimed that he was going to peel off votes from the Republican Party as a great many of them were disillusioned with the war in Iraq and Bush's record deficits (?). He knew that statement was untrue when he made it. By that reasoning, I – as a left-leaning independent who's occasionally disappointed with the Democrats – would go vote for Pat Buchanan or David Duke (?) – ridiculous!

When all is said and done, I think Ralph Nader has a very personal ax to grind with the Democratic Party. I don't feel that his presidential pursuits are ego-driven as most have suggested (though there is no denying that there is an egotistical aspect to much of Nader's rhetoric) – nor do I feel that he is "senile" as others have surmised; no – I think Ralph Nader's continued attempts for the highest office in the land are nothing more than cold hard acts of vengeance. How else would one explain his continued attacks on Democrats – even those who entertain his ideas and try to slowly incorporate them into their platforms? Indeed, am I the only one that noticed that when Nader ran in 2000, he continually leveled political attacks on Al Gore and said next to NOTHING about George W. Bush? Also, in 2004, Nader consistently attacked Kerry and the Democrats for trying to "keep him off the ballot", but was nowhere NEAR has critical of Bush and the war in Iraq. That same year [2004], Nader even added insult to the social injury of thousands by speaking in front of the Congressional Black Caucus and totally dismissing their fears on his run; in case he and his supporters haven't noticed, African-Americans have been some of the hardest hit by Bush administration policies (or lack thereof)!

Ralph Nader is a man with an honorable background of taking corporations to task and empowering consumers against these selfsame corporations. However, his ongoing presidential aspirations – which reek of vengeance and (consequently) estrangement – continue to taint his brilliant legacy.

Take a hint, Ralph! It's not your running for president, but your motivations for seeking the presidency that make people doubt you!

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Posted at 09:32 am by Mervin Malone
Thought (1)  

Sunday, February 17, 2008
"The Wiz" Gets Its Proper Due!

Photobucket

And yet ANOTHER quintessential classic from my youth has been given a proper remaster!

On Tuesday, February 12, Universal Studios re-released The Wiz in a commemorative 30th Anniversary edition set. The film has (at last) been given a much-deserved anamorphic widescreen presentation. More, the DVD's audio has been re-rendered in two appealingly powerful formats – Dolby Digital 5.1, and DTS 5.1. By comparison, the original 1999 DVD release was recorded in disappointing Dolby Digital 4.0 audio. The Wiz: 30th Anniversary Edition includes (as a bonus) a music CD containing choice songs from the film – perhaps the only downside to the set; The Wiz (Original Soundtrack) has been widely available since 1998, so a bonus DVD of special features would've been more appropriate.

A lavish production, The Wiz was directed by renowned director, Sidney Lumet (Serpico, 12 Angry Men, The Verdict), and produced by Rob Cohen and featured music by Quincy Jones. The film starred Diana Ross as Dorothy, Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow, the late Nipsey Russell as the Tin Man, and Ted Ross (also sadly gone) as the Lion. More, the film featured appearances by Lena Horne as Glinda, as well as Mabel King and Richard Pryor (himself, the “Wiz”) – both of whom are tragically no longer with us.

The Wiz – in the tradition of a great many movie musicals before it – was the big-screen adaptation of a highly successful Broadway musical that preceded it. The film was widely panned by critics in its initial 1978 big-screen release. Indeed, admirers of the 1939 Victor Fleming-directed film, The Wizard of Oz, which starred Judy Garland in her timeless turn as Dorothy – a much earlier adaptation of the L. Frank Baum children's novel on which both films are based – were ESPECIALLY critical of this 1978, all-black cast version, unfairly dismissing it as just a blaxploitation-style remake (?). Film historians, however, more often attribute the then-denouncement of The Wiz to lead actress Diana Ross being cast as Dorothy; singer Stephanie Mills, who'd originated the role [Dorothy] in the initial Broadway run of The Wiz in 1975, had been originally intended for the big-screen production. Mills – then 21 – had been desired by Berry Gordy – the film was a joint Motown/Universal Pictures venture – to play Dorothy. However, Diana Ross – then 33 – had expressed an interest in the role and quite determinedly acquired it by going around Gordy straight to executive producer, Rob Cohen.

Personally, I've never thought of The Wiz as a "re-make" of the film The Wizard of Oz, but rather a different interpretation of the L. Frank Baum novel on which both films [The Wiz and The Wizard of Oz] are based. More, I suspect the critical bashing rendered on The Wiz in its initial 1978 release had more to do with cultural differences than anything else. I mean – historians have long drawn suspected correlations in Baum's symbolism and commentary on various political themes – most notably the Yellow Brick Road and the gold standard monetary system. Also, Lumet's The Wiz – despite some obvious differences – was actually more faithful to the book than Flemings' 'Wizard of Oz. For example, Dorothy's slippers were silver in the book and The Wiz, whereas they were made ruby in 'Wizard of Oz. Also, there were two "good" witches in Baum's book and the The Wiz, but one in The Wizard of Oz. No – I suspect a lot of the viewing public just didn't understand the urban themes present throughout The Wiz – and there were many; in layman's terms, I proudly say, it's a black thing!

Despite its rough launch and poor showing at the box office in '78, The Wiz remains a cult classic with many African-Americans, kitsch aficionados and '70s enthusiasts to this day – of which I am all of the above. Get your copy today!

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Posted at 03:46 am by Mervin Malone
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