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The Great Gordon Parks Has Died... And Dana Reeve Has Gone As Well

Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...

Gordon Parks was an exceptional filmmaker and an inspirational human being. He led a life that mattered. He was 93 years old when he passed away today, and he packed more life in those 93 years than most people can even imagine. He was a writer, a composer, a filmmaker, a photographer, a journalist, and a hero. I look at the laundry list of his accomplishments, and I am humbled.

And, yet, I’m willing to bet 99% of our talkbacks make some sort of SHAFT joke.

Which is to say that, like most filmmakers, Parks will forever be identified first by the largest mark he made on pop culture, and that would have to be SHAFT. It’s such a good movie, and more people know the iconography of it than have actually seen it, thanks to the omnipresence of the song and references to it. “He’s a bad mother…” “Shut yo mouth!” “Just talkin’ ‘bout Shaft.” One of the most famous musical exchanges in history, easily, and the film Parks made defined the sense of cool that not only inspired that song, but that also generated as many imitations as STAR WARS or RAIDERS, inspiring black and white filmmakers alike to try and capture that same sense of urban grit that Parks got so right in his film.

He worked at LIFE magazine in the ‘40s, the ‘50s, and the ‘60s, documenting America with a specific and unflinching eye. He was a hard-edged social critic as a photographer, and when he made the leap to filmmaking with THE LEARNING TREE, based on his own novel, he made a sensitive but unsentimental film about a young man’s struggles with race and growing up. It’s a great movie, and I wish there was a DVD line that made sure that every title in the National Registry was readily available for viewing. THE LEARNING TREE is not currently available on DVD. Whoever owns the rights, the nicest thing you could do to honor Parks would be to get this out on DVD soon. Please. I’d love to have a great copy of it.

He may have stopped making films over twenty years ago, but that doesn’t matter. Gordon Parks will be missed, and it is my sincere hope that people revisit his work, not only as a filmmaker but also as a photographer, and that they will take fresh inspiration from everything he accomplished.

Dana Reeve, only 44, has died of lung cancer as well this week. The widow of SUPERMAN actor Christopher Reeve leaves behind a teenage son. I find the entire Reeve family story almost unspeakably sad, and the thoughts and prayers of everyone at AICN go out to Will Reeve and the rest of their surviving family.

"Moriarty" out.

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