blackface.jpgThe checkered history of blackface
Before signing on to Ben Stiller’s “Tropic Thunder,” a Hollywood satire about the making of a war movie, Robert Downey Jr. worried that the film could destroy his career. In it, he plays an award-winning Australian actor who takes his craft (and himself) so seriously that when he’s offered a role originally written for a black soldier, he undergoes skin-darkening surgery and adopts a vocalization style, both on and off the camera, that suggests a mash-up of Redd Foxx and Rambo. The movie has drawn its share of protests so far — advocates for the disabled picketed the premiere and called for a boycott because of the liberal usage of the word “retard.” So far, Downey’s surgical blackface has earned little but raves. Rolling Stone calls him so “off-the-charts hilarious that you want to stand up and cheer,” and The Star-Ledger’s film critic Stephen Whitty even goes so far as to suggest Downey could win an Academy Award nomination for the film.m Downey has told reporters the film pokes fun at the pretensions of Hollywood actors, not African-Americans. “It’s entertainment that’s set up by people who are high-minded enough to not be racist or offensive,” he says. (Continue Reading…)

Federer, both Williams sisters upset at Olympics
Roger Federer’s bid for his first Olympic singles medal has ended with a loss to American James Blake. With the sort of lackluster performance that was once unthinkable for Federer, he was eliminated in the quarterfinals on Thursday night. Meanwhile, Serena and Venus Williams both lost as well. The Federer upset was a stunner in that Blake had won only a single set in their previous eight matches. But the top-seeded Federer is battling a yearlong slump that has left him stalled at 12 major titles, two shy of Pete Sampras’ record. (Continue Reading…)

Officer charged in death of Tasered man
A Louisiana grand jury indicted a former police officer on a manslaughter charge in the death of a man who was Tasered nine times while handcuffed, prosecutors said Wednesday. Scott Nugent also was charged with felony criminal malfeasance in connection with the January death of Baron “Scooter” Pikes. Pikes, a 21-year-old sawmill worker, tried to run from Winnfield police, who wanted to arrest him on a warrant charging him with cocaine possession. A coroner’s report found that Pikes was handcuffed and on the ground when first stunned with a Taser and might have been dead before the last two 50,000-volt shocks were delivered. Nugent, who authorities said was the arresting officer, was suspended and ultimately fired in May. If convicted, Nugent could get up to 40 years for the manslaughter charge and five years for the criminal malfeasance charge, Winn Parish District Attorney R. Chris Nevils said. (Continue Reading…)

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