Before the opening-weekend box office returns even came in, it wasn't too hard to tell how American Gangster would do. The gritty crime drama, starring Oscar-winners Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, was in high demand almost a month before its release and available on high-quality bootleg DVDs. Superbly crafted by director Ridley Scott, the movie garnered acclaim most everywhere and, predictably, grabbed the box office's top spot too, pulling in a whopping $46 million-plus and making Gangster the most successful debut of a crime drama in history.
There's a scene in Bamako that captures what director Abderrahmane Sissako hopes to convey better than any other moment in the film. It's when Mamadou Kanoté, a poor, elderly Malian man, belts out an impromptu song in front of a courtyard full of stone-faced lawyers and judges holding a mock trial in a middle-class couple's backyard. It's the film's powerful scene, and it's shown without a translation -- a commentary, perhaps, on what it means to say something that no one will ever care enough to take the time to understand.
The dissolution of Somalia into further violence thanks to Ethiopia's invasion of it in the last few weeks is a horrific development for East Africa. It's devastating to the perception of the United States abroad as well. Ethiopia said that, beyond a concern for the integrity of its borders, tacit U.S. support led it to invade Somalia. That support became even more explicit when the United States tried to capture Fazul Mohammed and two other alleged high level al-Qaeda terrorists Monday with military strikes in southern Somalia.
Though it perhaps plays a more positive role than ever before in American popular culture, race has played an unmistakably divisive role this election season. The Republican leadership showed its true colors with the instantly infamous ad it funded in Tennessee playing into the lingering aversion among Southern voters to interracial sex. Americans shouldn't quickly forget that though the ad attacking black congressman and Senate candidate Harold Ford was pulled by many Tennessee TV stations late last month, it wasn't pulled everywhere.
Those who still think of OutKast merely as a pair of hip hop artists may have failed to notice the spaceship these two young Atlanta natives have been flying around since well before 2003. That's the year Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, which had even the most vehement hip hop antagonists swooning, was released. The hard-to-compare, even-harder-to-define double disc won the Grammy for album of the year and sold 11 million copies. It's safe to say that, with the Tuesday release of Idlewild, their sixth album, and the opening of a film by the same name today, OutKast's André Benjamin (André 3000) and Antwan Patton (Big Boi) have secured themselves a distinct place in the pop pantheon -- even if it is a very, very bohemian place indeed.