As I mentioned last week in my coverage of 'The Color Purple,' the celebration of African-American culture known as Black History Month starts today, which means that audiences will be treated to a variety of films of wildly varying degrees of relevance to that particular experience. Some of them will, like Spielberg's film, examine important moments in the timeline of blacks in America; but others may just feature black actors or a cast comprised of largely African-Americans but otherwise offer little or nothing that reflects the actual experiences of most black people. And while a handful of other films may in fact feature absolutely no black people whatsoever, they might inadvertently offer a lesson in sensitivity and openness to different ideas and cultures that folks who are not African-Americans can recognize and relate to a little bit more easily.
All of which brings us to 'Pleasantville,' Gary Ross' 1998 directorial debut. I'm not entirely sure that Warner Home Video intended this film to be one of the titles on their list of Black History Month titles, but given the fact that they released it on Blu-ray on February 1, it feels surprisingly relevant, not the least of which because it manages to teach many of the same lessons without forcing white people to watch a movie about black people. That said, I was curious to see whether it had grown heavy-handed in the 12 years since its initial release, which is why 'Pleasantville' is the subject of this week's "Shelf Life."