Archive for April, 2009

Ernie Barnes 1938 – 2009

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 28, 2009 by blax

erniebarnes

Sugar Shack painting features on the sitcom "Good Times"

Sugar Shack (1971)

I’m saddened by the loss of a great artist and personal influence, Ernie Barnes, who passed away yesterday in Los Angeles. Barnes, a former pro football player who gained worldwide recognition for his Neo-Mannerist paintings of sports and everyday life, is probably best know for his work on the long running series Good Times as well as his cover art for Marvin Gaye’s I Want You. Kanye West, Bill Withers and the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Commitee are among those who commissioned work from the artist. Ernie Barnes will be sorely missed by many.

Blaxploitation in Japan

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 27, 2009 by blax

soulblackjapan

Found this ill book on Ebay today. It’s a Japanese  Blaxploitation poster book from 2001 called Soul of Black Movie (I love a title peppered with a hint of Nippon style broken English).  It’s a little pricey for me and I wasn’t able to pull the trigger but it is a great cover and I’d love to have it in my collection. Given the Japanese  obssesive attention to detail, it’s sure to be Blaxploitation porn!  I may even learn to read Japanese because of it. Bonzai!

Shirley Clarke’s The Cool World (1964)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 23, 2009 by blax

Not to be confused with Cool World (Ralph Bakshi’s last animated feature film) The Cool World is a real, raw and straight from the streets of Harlem, U.S.A. Satorially, the brothers on the cover of Manchild In the Promised Land (see the post below) look a lot like the characters in this film but slightly older. This is a period I’m very interested in right now: mid-Sixties style in cinema, including but not limited to the urban milleu. Satorial mindedness aside, The Cool World is the story of Duke, a teenager making his way through the minefield that is 1960s Harlem. Played superbly by a 14 year old Rony Clanton (who would 10 years later star in the classic The Eduacation of Sonny Carson) Duke looks to by a gun from the neighboorhood hustler Priest (Superfly‘s Carl Lee) in order to become president of his gang. Stark, rhythmic and hip, The Cool World is the unknown and rarely seen  gem of American Cinema Verite.

Claude Brown’s Manchild in the Promised Land (1965)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 14, 2009 by blax

manchild

Mentioned in my previous post and here for your enjoyment is the classic memoir, Manchild in the Promised Land  (1965) by Claude Brown. This beautifully worn 1st edition copy was also found in the same Bushwick thrift shop as the previous post’s Hustler. The sartorial sense of the brothers on the front cover (check the two tone car coat, cropped slacks and chucks combo) is what first caught my eye, not to mention the classic signage of the old Loews Theater and the Harlem Lanes. The title of the book is beautifully written on the cover which gives it a decidedly personal quality and brings to mind why I’m drawn to things with character and history.

Henry Williamson’s Hustler (1965)

Posted in Uncategorized on April 6, 2009 by blax

hustlerfront

Not much is said about the influence of literature on the Blaxploitation film genre. Sure, there is mention of Iceberg Slim (Pimp and Trick Baby are required reading, in my opinion) and Donald Goines (who was somewhat contemporaneous with the Blaxploitation genre) but little is written about the autobiographical works that preceded it. These popular books began to prove that there was a viable (read: profitable) audience for a realistic portrayal of Black life. These early works of non-fiction depicted the harsh realities of the inner city and the tough decisions many Blacks had to face once the dreams of an urban utopia dissipated for these new migrants from America’s South.

Released during the same year as the Claude Brown’s renowned autobiography Manchild in the Promised Land (1965), Henry Williamson’s Hustler! (1965) is a fascinating tale of a man whose life existed outside the rules set by American society; where violence and crime were as normal as the greater populace’s morning coffee. True to its title, Hustler! explores the illegal means Williamson uses to survive in his life outside the margins. Thiefs, racketeers and junkies inhabit Williamson’s milieu and would, only few years later, inspire the celluloid dreams of Blaxploitation. Told to and recorded by Williamson’s welfare worker on the Southside of Chicago from 1961 – 1963, it is an unusual story of a man who makes no apologies for doin’ wrong or much of a political statement about his “Blackness”. Sadly long out of print, Hustler!’s starkly minimalist cover only enhances the world the reader will discover once inside. The savvy bibliophile will scour their local used booksellers in search of Williamson’s visceral tome. Dusty fingers and all, it’s a decision you won’t soon regret.