Populist Picks/Rob Patterson

Spike’s Debut

DVD: She’s Gotta Have It, the first feature film by now veteran filmmaker Spike Lee, has at long last been released on DVD. In addition to being a delightfully touching and sweetly sexy story, the 1986 film not just established Lee’s trademark style but was a pivotal movie in the birth of the modern American independent film movement and all but a watershed in African-American film, ushering in a new black cinematic consciousness and opening the doors for the next generation of filmmakers. But don’t see it — or see it again — because it’s an important film; see it instead because it’s a true delight to watch.

BOOKS: I’m a sucker for rock star autobiographies, and not just because I’m a sucker for rock’n’roll. The best of them take us behind the imagery and reveal the real person behind the media profile. Some may find The Heroin Diaries by hard rocker Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe a bit grueling with its almost day-by-day account of his crazed consumption of junk and coke. But what impressed me was his self-awareness as he descended into the throes of addiction of exactly what he was doing to himself, running counter to the usual state of denial that dances hand in hand with addiction. And even though he recounts some of the most over the top rock star behavior in a realm where that’s par for the course, Sixx reveals himself as an immensely likable guy who has a good idea what the source of his demons is — one guesses that’s a prime reason why he survived and got straight and sober — and a rather ingenious rock music conceptualist who repackaged the music’s most rebellious edges into a commercial juggernaut in the 1980s.

Even more likable is Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood, whose book Ronnie is a breezy recounting of his life in music that also touches on his substance abuse problems — albeit in less detail than Sixx does, but with a similar openness and honesty about it all. Wood has always been a Stone and a rock star whose ready smile and twinkling countenance make him seem like a musical icon who is still very human and touchable — I spent a little time with him in the mid 1980s and can attest that he’s a wonderfully unpretentious and friendly bloke with little if any star attitude — and his book is a quick read that may not be momentous but is certainly an enjoyable tale of growing up poor but happy in postwar England, falling in love with music, and then rising to the top of the rock heap without losing his soul.

TV: ABC’s new hit comedy Samantha Who? has become an immediate favorite for a number of good reasons. First, it’s a network sitcom with a moral foundation underneath it as its young adult heroine Samantha Newly awakes from a coma with amnesia as a woman transformed from a nasty, self-absorbed diva into a genuinely sweet and kind woman, and has to deal with all the drama she left behind with her former personality. It also shows the growth of Christina Applegate — who played the teenaged wench Kelly Bundy on Married With Children — into a charming comic actress in the mold of Lucille Ball. With only a few episodes left in its first season, it’s well worth catching up on when it comes out on DVD and then following its second season as the show makes a strong case for “just be nice” with humorous charm.

From The Progressive Populist, March 1, 2008

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