Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Godspeed John Singleton

Director John Singleton died yesterday, April 29 2019, at the age of 51. The cause was a massive stroke. He was the first African American ever to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Director and, at age 24, the youngest person ever nominated for that award as well. It was for the movie Boyz n the Hood (1991).

John Singleton was born on January 6 1968 in Los Angeles, California. He attended Blair High School and Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California and the USC School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles. Mr. Singleton's debut film, Boyz n the Hood, would prove to be both a critical and financial success. It earned him not only a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Director, but also one for Best Original Screenplay. In the Nineties he directed the films Poetic Justice (1993), Higher Learning (1995), Rosewood (1997), and Shaft (2000). He served as a writer on the films Poetic Justice, Higher Learning, and Shaft.

In the Naughts John Singleton directed the films Baby Boy (2001), 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003), and Four Brothers (2005). He directed an episode of the documentary TV show 30 for 30. In the Teens he directed the film Abduction (2011). He directed episodes of the shows Empire, American Crime Story, Rebel, Billions, and Snowfall. He also co-created the TV series Snowfall.

John Singleton was certainly a pioneer. At the time that Boyz in the Hood came out, both Spike Lee and Robert Townsend had made inroads into American cinema, but it was arguably directors like John Singleton, Mario Van Peebles, and Reginald Hudlin who would spur a boom in black-centred movies in the Nineties. If Boyz n the Hood proved successful both critically and financially, it was because Mr. Singleton already displayed considerable skill as a director. He certainly had his own style, always making sure that the visuals in a film re-enforced the story he was telling. He was one of the few directors in recent years whose style could truly be described as cinematic, even when he was directing for television. Of course, it should be little wonder. A devoted cineaste, his influences included John Cassavetes, Francis Ford Coppola, Akira Kurosawa, Gordon Parks, Martin Scorsese, François Truffaut, and Orson Welles.

As Mr. Singleton loved classic film, it should come as no surprise that he was a guest programmer on TCM in 2008. He showed a diverse group of films, including Lassie Come Home (1943), Meet John Doe (1941), High Noon (1952), Gunga Din (1939), and Psycho (1960).

John Singleton was a remarkable director and a true pioneer. It is sad that his life ended much too soon.

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