Cage Examination #16: Amos & Andrew

Film: Amos & Andrew
Demeanor: That of a delightfully charming transient.
Hair Quality: If Peter Loew had bitchin’ sideburns.
Performance Quality: Six Cages Out of Ten.

The early ’90s are like a decade unto themselves. So much happened over the course of the years between 1990 and 1994 that you almost have to split the decade in half due to the wild cultural shifts that took place at the midway point. In the early ’90s, there was still something of an ’80s hangover permeating every element of popular culture. That specific era of culture can almost be tied beat-for-beat with the first Bush presidency, as the years between his 1988 election win and his exit in 1992 are so culturally hyperspecific that you almost want to blame him outright for the existence of Hammer pants and Spike Lee’s career.

Not that Spike Lee’s career is entirely worth dismissing, mind you. While I maintain that the director has made exactly one movie worth watching in the last decade and a half (the fantastic 25th Hour), his early works were incredible, searing portraits of race relations in the era. Do the Right Thing and Jungle Fever helped galvanize a new brand of forthright conversation about how different ethnic cultures interact with one another during the post-’80s sorting out period. 

If pre-1992 was the time for earnest discussion of race relations via film, then post 1992 is when Hollywood decided it okay to start making fun of it again. How else do you explain the existence of Amos & Andrew, a slapstick buddy comedy that might as well be a giant “But see, black guys are like this! And white dudes, they’re like this" joke from some hack comedian’s stand-up routine on Evening at the Improv. Amos & Andrew is practically to Spike Lee’s filmography what Hot Shots is to Top Gun. It’s a movie in which idiotic white people harass a semi-militant, but generally well-meaning black man (Samuel L. Jackson), and no less than two actors, including Nicolas Cage, put on accidental blackface. It’s a parody of racial tensions of the era, and the very definition of “too soon.”

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