And Let Me Lubricate My Mind...

[Neil Drumming]

By way of introduction, I'm a screenwriter and an Aquarius. My interests include drinking, eavesdropping, browsing Blockbuster for films that I will then order OnDemand, streaming Netflix movies through my XBoxLive account, and telling people that I jog.

I feel at a loss seeing as how I have little to say about the topic of the day (week, month). MJ died. I was shocked. I'm a little sad. Yada, yada. I guess my great hope is that his death will somehow result in more people seeing The Wiz and giving that film the credit it deserves.  


My shoulder-chip goes like this: When I was a kid, my dad wasn't falling for that whole cable TV fad, so my family watched, you know, regular channels with numbers. My brother and sisters and I would get all excited whenever The Wiz would air on 11 or pre-UPN 9, or whatever, because that movie was about as joyfully black as anything we could imagine at the time. Not only did it have kick-ass Quincy Jones songs, grimy New York locations dressed up to look surreal, Richard Pryor, and the mom from What's Happening? sitting on the toilet, it also boasted Michael Jackson rocking the kinkiest afro possible, executing a spin on the YBR for what seemed like twenty full minutes. (And the yellow cabs wouldn't even stop for Diana Ross, an image which resonated with my parents and older siblings, if not with my school bus-riding ass.)

So, as happy as this Sydney Lumet-directed adaptation of the hit musical made the Drummings, I could never understand why the local newspaper's TV guide couldn't announce the flick's much-anticipated run without crapping all over it. I forget how the few-star review went exactly, but I know the word "overproduced" was in there somewhere and that the general tone was gleefully dismissive. 

Now, as a preteen, I was not one to look for trouble -- certainly not in the area of race. (My older brother's Public Enemy cassettes scared the pants off me.) But there was something about that hateful, little blurb running once or twice a year alongside glowing reviews of Mary Poppins or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang that rubbed me very much the wrong way. It was one of my earliest brushes with what I eventually decided was -- say it with me, folks -- racism!

Now, of course, I realize, having been an ornery pop-culture critic myself for a time, that the guy who wrote that review may have just been pissed at himself for having never written a slamming musical -- overproduced or otherwise. 
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Neil Drumming is a filmmaker, screenwriter, and journalist. He is a former staff writer and editor at Entertainment Weekly, and his work has appeared in Wired, The Washington Post, Vibe, Rolling Stone, Essence, and Vanity Fair.

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