Sunday, July 10, 2011

Crazy 80's Project: Hollywood Shuffle

My Crazy 80's Project (click the link for more details) gets started with a film that wasn't on my original list. It wasn't until StinkyLulu mentioned Hollywood Shuffle, a film I had seen clips from years ago on some "race in film" documentary but had forgotten about since, that I realized I had to make room for it. The film, through various comedic sketches, discusses the state of roles for black actors in Hollywood and the effect of seeing all black men portrayed as jive-talking, hustling fools has on the race. Star, director and co-writer Robert Townsend makes some wonderful observations (most of which, sadly, have not changed much since 1987) and skewers them head-on, most notably in the "Black Acting School" sketch: a commercial for a fake school which teaches African Americans how to act more "black" for the movies. Students are taught how to jive talk and walk like a black--by white people, of course. While Townsend and company make some great points, it often feels like the material could have been pushed in far more uncomfortable ways. The sketches are good on their own, but with a runtime of only 75 minutes, the film's structure is flimsy at best, never really in the moment unless in a sketch. This isn't necessarily a criticism, as great commentary can come from sketch comedy, but Hollywood Shuffle is merely Saturday Night Live next to the off-the-wall examination of racial stereotypes in Hollywood Bamboozled's Network. B

1 comment:

StinkyLulu said...

I'm so glad you got to see this. As you note, it's not perfect or especially substantial but it's I do think it a really interesting film. And as one who lived through the 80s, I sometimes have to remind myself what tv/film was like before Fox (and then the WB and then CW) came along.

If you haven't seen the trailer, you should. The opening/closing frame is, I think, really key.