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SPIKE LEE'S LATEST STANDS WITH YEAR'S BEST FILMS

Marvin Worth, who produced the film with Lee, has been trying to bring "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" to the screen for the past two decades. The result of his tenacity is neither as exciting nor stimulating as it might have been - especially under the guidance of Lee, whose 1989 masterpiece "Do the Right Thing" remains the most original and thought-provoking work yet to emerge from today's African-American movie scene.

One also looks in vain for signs indicating that, as Lee has publicly stated, no white director (such as Norman Jewison, originally slated for the project) could have probed so insightfully into this subject. Insofar as the picture falls neatly into the patterns of Hollywood storytelling, it seems a product of long-established white sensibilities as well as the African-American perspectives of Lee and his collaborators.

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"Malcolm X" is nonetheless a carefully conceived and smartly produced achievement. It stands among the best films of this increasingly impressive movie year.