Whether you see it as exploitative or purely appropriate, home video distributors devote a significant percentage of their January and February output to films that celebrate or can be celebrated for Black History Month. Much to my disappointment, the release of Spike Lee's truly amazing 'Malcolm X' was delayed due to music rights issues (we can guess it might have been his use of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come"). But a worthy companion piece showed up on Blu-ray last week: Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Alice Walker's novel, 'The Color Purple.'
Embarrassingly, it was one of the very few Spielberg movies I'd actually never seen. (When a black friend announced this fact to his Facebook friends, the comments almost uniformly offered the only possible excuse I could have for not having done so: that I'm white.) But Warner Brothers' new digibook Special Edition not only offered me an overdue chance to patch this gaping hole in my appreciation of the filmmaker's body of work, but to see if its decades of acclaim were in fact all they were cracked up to be. All of which is why 'The Color Purple' is the subject of this week's "Shelf Life."