Written and directed by Spike Lee

In its best and most horrifying moments, Bamboozled has the feel of a future gone sickeningly wrong: an America painted in blackface--everyone from the rabid TV studio audiences howling for a modernized minstrel show called Mantan, to the performers guiltily smudging their faces backstage, to the shamelessly corked-up network executive grinning in the control room and "keeping it real."

This is explosive stuff, closer to Orwellian dystopia in its tactics than any kind of media satire, beyond even the hyperbolic variety where television turns us all into maniacs (see Network). The images tap straight into some hotwired place, almost derailing the movie itself--as they have most critics, whose dutiful mortification at seeing blackface used as a guerrilla strategy (even a crude or misguided one) has, indeed, resulted in one of the most compelling reasons to go see it. Bamboozled hurts like nothing else released this year.

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