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This week:
Dave Chapelle's Block Party

Filthy says:
"Not the best party, but the only one I was invited to."

I'm not in a fraternity and never have been, so I haven't seen <>I>Chapelle's Show on Comedy Central. I've heard it's funny, but only from people who are either incredibly unfunny or incredibly bad at describing what's so damn amusing about it. In fact, if you're thinking right now about e-mailing me to tell me I have to see it because it's an awesome show you might very well be a boring asshole without even knowing it. Maybe the shit is funny, I don't know. Now, I don't care because the fans are so fucking annoying with their repetition of punchlines that may have been funny out of context the first time, but sure as hell aren't the thousandth. Besides, I get the weird feeling that a hell of a lot of white kids like his show only because they think it makes them cool, and not because they actually get it.

What I do know is that Dave Chapelle as a comic has been both funny and shitty in the past. His jokes aren't that great, but what I like is his glee and the mischievous glint he gets in his eye when he's cooking up some new way to subvert a situation.

Dave Chapelle's Block Party is what the name says: a big-ass block party, for real, and filmed as a documentary. It took place some time in 2004 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, which is a pretty ragged area. I've been to a lot of block parties around here, and this one's nothing like them. In Arvada they usually end when a drunken dipshit tries reading the instructions on a bottle rocket by the light of his acetylene torch and fires the thing right into his eyeball. Who the fuck needs to read the directions? Also, our block parties have a patriotic purpose: to celebrate our freedom to get shitfaced, start a fight, cry in public, fall into a kiddie pool and vomit on a neighbors' lawn and/or spouse.

Chapelle's block party doesn't celebrate a national holiday. It's just a general good time sort of party meant to boost the self-esteem in Bed-Stuy, and do a little politicizing about black issues and black responsibility. The movie, directed by Michael Gondry, follows Chapelle as he plays ringmaster, organizing a roster of rappers like the Fugees, Kanye West and Mos Def, Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, smoothing things over with the locals and rounding up an audience. He goes to his own rural Ohio neighborhood and invites the cashier at the mini-mart and a local college drumline to come to the event. He even pays their way, though it's on cheapass charter buses. The movie alternates behind that sort of behind-the-scenes shit and the concert that, as far as I can tell, makes up the entire block party. Nobody throws up, gets drunk, fights or gets caught getting a blowjob from the toothless widow down the street.

That's part of the point. What Block Party does best is keep the proceedings upbeat, like a really great party. There's no badmouthing and no quarreling, just a neighborhood having a damn good time. Of course, that can be annoying, like when all the rappers can't stop gushing about how great each other are. We hardly get to see what they're talking about because the concert footage is so chopped up that hardly a full song gets shown in its entirety.

That's sort of okay because I didn't get as batshit excited as the crowd does. Some of the music included in the movie is all right. In fact, a piece where the drumline plays the melody for Kanye West is pretty damn good. Holy shit, though, the bulk must have been specifically chosen for its sameness, right down to the unclever use of fuck and shit. Hoq the fuck did they get some of the most creative and original rap artists to all do the same things on stage? Worse is that the political and uplifting messages made by Dead Prez and others are treated like some real deep shit when it's nothing more than freshman-year high school posturing to a beat. Most of it can be found with less dirty words in books by Steven Covey.

The best scenes, and the reason to see the movie, is Chapelle interacting with strangers. That's when he's the funniest and the movie is most fun. He's quick and has a genuine interest in making others happy. Maybe the coolest moment is when the Central State University drumline members find out they get to go to new York and perform in front of their rap idols. These are mostly poor black kids, and free trip to New York, to a legendary neighborhood for something this damn cool is pretty fucking spectacular and the kids are so damn excited it's contagious. The weirdest is a 60s burnout white couple living in a dilapidated husk of a church in Bed-Stuy who tell Chapelle he's welcome to rest his loins in their place. Chapellle challenges a Bed-Stuy kid to a footrace and yanks his chain like he was eight years old himself. And he thrills some daycare kids who have no idea how famous he is when he whips out a twenty dollar bill.

Three Fingers for Block Party. Though, by the end I was pretty worn down. What does it is the sameness of the music, the sameness of the crotch-grabbing and gesturing, the puffed up soliloquies by the artists about each other, and the uninteresting way the whole thing is shot by Gondry. At least nobody loses an eye.

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Janet Stokes of the Film Advisory Board

The Pink Panther is "Sheer enjoyment for all the family[!"

Doogal is "Laugh-out-loud funny!"

Filthy's Reading
Carl Hiaasen - Skinny Dip

Listening to
Pavement - Watery Domestic


Grizzly Man