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Street Fight Review


Excellent
It's tempting to view politics as little more than a grudge match, an untelegenic blood match between a number of well-dressed liars who should be judged not for the substance of their statements, but rather the artifice with which they conceal their true intentions. That was certainly the manner in which the local and national media seemed to treat the 2002 Newark mayoral campaign, an unusually rough-and-tumble fight between a hard-headed incumbent and an idealistic upstart. Even though the outcome couldn't have been more crucial - given the city's desperate poverty and steadily rising crime rate - it was treated more humorously than anything else, the writers almost seeming to pine for the more colorful days of machine politics that the election harkened back to. But, as Street Fight - Marshall Curry's punchy, entertaining, Oscar-nominated documentary of the election - shows, that kind of corrosive cynicism ends up favoring the entrenched powers that be, no matter what dirt they may sling.

Going into the election, it looks a pretty easy choice. The incumbent, Sharpe James, had been mayor of Newark since 1986 and seems your typical city hall dinosaur. Lazy from a lack of competition and fattened off a suspiciously hefty salary (further boosted, many had it, by the endemic corruption James had narrowly escaped being jailed for in the '90s), James should have been a cinch for his challenger, Cory Booker, to take out. Booker is a choirboy type from the suburbs, a Rhodes scholar and college football star who went straight from Stanford to Yale Law School to Newark, where he moved into a housing project and set up a nonprofit organization before taking on James. He's tall, broad of shoulder, quick of wit, and self-assured without seeming pompous; in short, a campaign manager's dream. New vs. old, crusading vs. corrupt, the choice seems clear. As Curry ably shows, though, in places like Newark, the old guard hasn't stayed in power so long by playing nice.

Continue reading: Street Fight Review

Street Fight Review


Excellent
It's tempting to view politics as little more than a grudge match, an untelegenic blood match between a number of well-dressed liars who should be judged not for the substance of their statements, but rather the artifice with which they conceal their true intentions. That was certainly the manner in which the local and national media seemed to treat the 2002 Newark mayoral campaign, an unusually rough-and-tumble fight between a hard-headed incumbent and an idealistic upstart. Even though the outcome couldn't have been more crucial - given the city's desperate poverty and steadily rising crime rate - it was treated more humorously than anything else, the writers almost seeming to pine for the more colorful days of machine politics that the election harkened back to. But, as Street Fight - Marshall Curry's punchy, entertaining, Oscar-nominated documentary of the election - shows, that kind of corrosive cynicism ends up favoring the entrenched powers that be, no matter what dirt they may sling.

Going into the election, it looks a pretty easy choice. The incumbent, Sharpe James, had been mayor of Newark since 1986 and seems your typical city hall dinosaur. Lazy from a lack of competition and fattened off a suspiciously hefty salary (further boosted, many had it, by the endemic corruption James had narrowly escaped being jailed for in the '90s), James should have been a cinch for his challenger, Cory Booker, to take out. Booker is a choirboy type from the suburbs, a Rhodes scholar and college football star who went straight from Stanford to Yale Law School to Newark, where he moved into a housing project and set up a nonprofit organization before taking on James. He's tall, broad of shoulder, quick of wit, and self-assured without seeming pompous; in short, a campaign manager's dream. New vs. old, crusading vs. corrupt, the choice seems clear. As Curry ably shows, though, in places like Newark, the old guard hasn't stayed in power so long by playing nice.

Continue reading: Street Fight Review

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