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Tyra Ferrell (#110 of 2)

Summer of ’91 John Singleton’s Boyz n the Hood

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Summer of ’91: John Singleton’s Boyz n the Hood

Columbia Pictures

Summer of ’91: John Singleton’s Boyz n the Hood

The idea behind John Singleton’s Boyz n the Hood was simple enough: to translate the reality of “hood life” to film in much the same way that the Eazy-E song of the same name did to music. But while Eazy-E and the rest of his N.W.A. compatriots’ penchant for juvenile jokes and hell-raising—best exhibited by their infamous music videos for “Gangsta Gangsta” and “Straight Outta Compton”—helped catapult them to worldwide fame, such antics limited the appeal of their social commentary. John Singleton took similar concerns and tried to reach out to a broader audience by creating a conventional, self-serious melodrama that reveals the daily life of a Los Angeles kid learning, true to the lyrics of the Ice Cube single that led the film’s soundtrack, “how to survive in South Central.”

Summer of ’91 Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever

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Summer of ’91: Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever

Universal Pictures

Summer of ’91: Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever

The interracial love story that anchors Jungle Fever is the least interesting element of Spike Lee’s 1991 joint. It’s the dull circle from which more compelling plot tangents offshoot. While the director is game for a surface-level exploration of the trials and tribulations of forbidden love, his once-controversial subject matter is merely a selling point designed to get asses into theater seats. Once Lee hooks his audience with the promise of sin, he pivots his social commentary to a tragic secondary character, just as Douglas Sirk did in Imitation of Life. This is appropriate, because Jungle Fever is the equivalent of a 1950s message picture. Expertly wielding his influences, Lee throws a dash of Delbert Mann and a soupcon of Stanley Kramer into the proceedings. Though the outcome is at times woefully dated, it’s also the origin of several ideas Lee would return to in subsequent films.