Not to play devil’s advocate- I found the direction in Do The Right Thing, especially the camera movement very masterful. The camera evoked pure rage. I felt the direction supieor to the writing.
^ Seems less like playing devil’s advocate and more like the truth. Spike’s a mixed bag, but Do the Right Thing is brilliant all around.
Hell no. I saw Do the Right Thing and that was enough to turn me off of his films.
“I’m curious what your objection is to ‘individualism’ and ‘personal responsibility’. Do you object to any ‘American’ individualist message, or do you think he communicated it poorly?”
Ameican individualism is an appeal to reductionism in most cases. It’s a justification to not look at the bigger picture and analyse everything at the unit level. and it’s unfortunate that this kind of irrationalism seems to catching on all over the world.
But in relation to Spike Lee, it’s a problem because he is trying to extract the macro from the micro. He focusses on small problems or events that are informed by wider social problems. The problem he runs in to is that when the issue is too complex or thorny, he resorts to the whole ‘oh you just gotta take responsibility for your own actions’ but that is just a complete cop out. An individual can’t achieve much on his own when the society itself is diseased and corrupt, and that is a hard reality that Spike runs away from far too often. At that point a shift often occurs from the macro to the micro, or the macro perspective either disappears, or becomes reduced in importance. It becomes all about the individual. She Hate Me is a classic example of that.
He also resorts to finger pointing in an absurdly self righteous kind of way. Take Bamboozled for example. Wayans character was obviously in the wrong, and the responsibility ‘message’ works in his case because he was acting purely out of self interest and abused his position of power, but when Spike applies the same sledgehammer morality to the homeless kid who is forced between choosing a life of poverty, or perpetuating negative black stereotypes as a way of earning a semi-decent living, Spike’s handwringing becomes simplistic to the point of absurd. I
“It’s not less intellectual just because it’s communicated in a populist way.”
Well if it has to be dumbed down to appeal to the masses, of course it’s going to be ‘less intellectual’, but that wasn’t really the point i was making anyway.
Jirin, i just want to add that there is a place for focussing on the actions of the individual, and that individual actions are not necessarily meaningless, but i think when dealing with complex social issues, it’s a cop out to pretend that the individual is not operating from some rule or bind, or from enormous social pressure. In Lee’s best films, he often acknowledges that fact and finds the appropriate synthesis, but too often i’ve noticed that he divorces the two when it’s convenient for him.
@ Danny: Are you sure you saw Do the Right Thing, by Spike Lee? Why didn’t you like it?
One word RACISM. Too much of it.
“when the issue is too complex or thorny, he resorts to the whole ‘oh you just gotta take responsibility for your own actions’”
I find that he makes quite a few community films. I would single out Get on the Bus and Crooklyn above the others
There is too much racism, but there’s too much in the real world and films rarely address it in any kind of challenging way. Most of the time, we get feel good pats on the back like Crash. Do The Right Thing brought to the screen perspectives on race that have never been seen before. Perspectives from flawed and complex characters who weren’t going to be able to join hands and sing Give Peace a Chance. Do I agree with all of Spikes conclusions – no. But I respect the hell out of this film for looking at this major societal problem in such an unblinking way. It’s also technically stunning filmmaking. Has heat ever been so vividly conveyed?
As an aside, I think Spike often comes across like such an ass in interviews that people often take it out on his film, which are usually much more thoughful. (Usually – Bamboozled, you’re on your own.)
Bamboozled is an absolute mess (and has a horribly miscalculated central performance) but when it works it’s Spike Lee at his best When it doesn’t it’s Spike Lee at his worst. I’d say it works about 50% of the time.
^^i’d probably agree with that, but one of its biggest problems is its length to me. I don’t hate Wayans’ performance. yes it’s one note, but there is something appealingly off kilter about it. But the real greatness in that performance was the casting decision by Spike, which is too often overlooked in critical analysis. Wayans conformed to ‘black’ stereotypes as often as he subverted them. For every knowingly subversive skit in Living Colour that turned race on its head, there was Mo Money and Blankman at the opposite end of the spectrum. So Wayans really was a brilliant casting choice imo. He understands the dilemmas faced by african american artists in the mainstream media because he has experienced it himself. But it’s true the performance is a little too broad to truly be effective in the way that it was probably intended.
I can’t get past the bizarre accent, plus it feels like Lee is calling ivy league african americans Uncle Toms. I should probably watch it again at some point since I only saw it once and that was way back when it came out.
I’d love to reevaluate it myself. Only seen it once long ago and incompletely at that. From what I remember it was good.
Does any hear think red hook summer could be the margaret of this year? His very flaw tour de force? Just putting it out there.
At the time of Bamboozled, there were shows like Homeboys From Outer Space. Blackface in prime time was not an impossible concept. Wayans is good, probably based on some pundit who sold out. The film reminds one of Bert Williams, it is a great film
^^it also made sense years later when Southern rap became all the rage from 2003-2004 onwards, and a lot of black rappers were ‘cooning it up’, so to speak, and playing to outrageous stereotypes. The film was referenced quite a bit, and served as an inspiration for a satirical concept record by Little Brother about the problem:
Minstrel shows exploited racial stereotypes for the sake of mainstream entertainment. Sounds like 90% of rap videos to me.
This is my most anticipated movie of 2012, reminds me of Get on the Bus and He Got Game
it looks like Crooklyn too.
I’ll see it, but i’m not expecting much. weren’t early reports negative?
^Yeah, reviews out of Sundance were scathing (apparently there’s some shocking violent/controversial twist that comes out of nowhere halfway through the film?).
Like Oliver Stone’s new film, I have zero interest in this new one.
if critics truly hate things they are usually worth seeing
it seems intresting
Since Joks brought up Crooklyn, I thought I would bring up my post from the last page since nobody really responded to it. What did you folks think of the elongating effect that Spike used in the portion of Crooklyn where Troy goes down South. I suppose that it was supposed to represent the South feeling alien to Troy, but it just kept going on and on for about 15 minutes, and I personally thought it just looked really bad. At first I thought there was something wrong with my TV/DVD. Anyways, I was really surprised that such a visual filmmaker would use an effect such as this. But aside from that, I really enjoyed Crooklyn.
That said, I really need to see some newer Spike films. I don’t think I’ve seen anything since Summer of Sam.
“Anyways, I was really surprised that such a visual filmmaker would use an effect such as this.”
Why would you be surprised? You said yourself he is a visual filmmaker. Lee is always experimenting with formal techniques. Agree that I need to see some of his newer films. I caught “Crooklyn” on tv a few months ago and thought it was warm and well-made.
Captain, i’m in two minds about that effect too, but as Bobby pointed out, Spike LEe is always taking risks visually, and sometimes it works and other times it doesn’t. That’s just the nature of the beast i get.
Spike is always interesting though, even when he is bad. there is one exception though: The Miracle Of St.Anne or whatever it was called. That is the first time i’ve ever been bored during a Spike joint.
Yeah, but this seems like more than just a risk. It seems like a bad decision, where I can’t even imagine how he came to make that decision. Yes, he’s experimental, and that’s great, but that just doesn’t even seem like Spike Lee in that section. Haha, I am trying to think of something to compare it to, but am drawing a blank. It’s just that bad. But maybe I am alone in thinking that part of the film is awful though?
But without that effect, I would agree with you Bobby, that it is “warm and well made”, and probably would be my 2nd favorite Spike Lee film (joint ;)
From the Times:
NEW YORK — When he took the stage after the world premiere of his new film “Red Hook Summer”at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Spike Lee had other things on his mind besides the movie. The director embarked on a series of digressions, riffing on everything from the whiteness of Utah to the supremacy of the New York Giants.
Then he dropped what amounted to a smoke bomb in the normally polite confines of a post-screening question-and-answer session. Hollywood studios, he said, “know nothing about black people.” It was the start of a self-admitted “tirade” about what he saw as the inherent racism, or at least ignorance, of Hollywood. By the time he finished, the entire room was sitting in silence.
The moment offered a telling snapshot into Lee’s career. At 55 and with little need for validation, Lee is making films as audacious as ever, brass-knuckled yet textured affairs, like the tough urban drama “Red Hook,” that hark to his 1980s and early ’90s heyday.
PHOTOS: Spike Lee’s fighting spirit
Yet more than ever he seems unable to get out of his own way. Millions of people know that Lee retweeted shooting defendant George Zimmerman’s incorrect address a few months ago as part of the grass-roots campaign on behalf of Trayvon Martin. A far smaller number, it’s safe to say, know Lee has a challenging new film coming out.
The behavior raises two questions that are inextricable from Spike Lee, 2012 edition. Is he one of the best filmmakers working in America today? And if he is, why do so few people seem to talk about it?
On a warm spring day, Lee sat in his coolly stylish office in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn (an autographed poster of a Fellini movie, vintage New York baseball paraphernalia), much of his person tricked out in Knicks gear as he flipped the sports pages of a New York tabloid. His beloved NBA team had just eked out a win in a playoff elimination game, but things weren’t looking good. He gave a short bitter laugh. “Live to fight another day,” he said, tossing the paper into the trash.
PHOTOS: Spike Lee’s controversial quotes: A brief history
It’s a comment that could apply equally to the director. Many artists with Lee’s dossier — more than two dozen films, a pair of Oscar nominations, countless film-festival prizes, a couple of Emmy wins, a reputation as an icon of the independent film movement — might show signs of mellowing. But he continues an almost reflexive need to needle that began almost the minute he came on the scene a quarter-century ago.
Although he expressed regret the morning after the Sundance screening, explaining that “I’m here to talk about the movie, and everything else distracts from that,” he showed a more pugilistic side in his office. “What I said was the truth,” he said. “I just left off a couple of ‘mother—,’” finishing his word with a seven-letter profanity.
A few years ago, Lee got into a war of words with Clint Eastwood about an absence of black people in Eastwood’s “Flags of Our Fathers” — an altercation that resulted in the grizzled director telling Lee to “shut his face.”
His prickliness is evident in an interview too: He balked when asked how studios handle black issues. “Why would they check in with me? I’m not the black cultural czar,” he said, with a hint of hostility.
Lee may be “the hardest-working man in show business since James Brown passed,” as “Red Hook” co-writer and co-producer James McBride said. But he can also seem to work overtime supplying ammunition to his critics, generating as many headlines as film reviews.
Yet inescapable in all this is that in combativeness also lies, perhaps, some of his genius. Clarke Peters, the"Treme" actor who stars in “Red Hook,” said that the two are impossibly entwined. “I think Spike is at the mercy of his creativity,” the actor said. “It’s just got to come out of him, whether it’s in his work or his outspokenness.”
And therein lies the paradox of Lee: To tone down his fighting spirit is to curb what makes his work so exciting. But to keep the fighting spirit high is to, at times, prevent large numbers of people from noticing that work.
Passion at work
At a point when many directors would take an easy paycheck, Lee is crafting some of the most interesting pieces of his career. He has branched out to various passion projects, like the multi-part Katrina documentary “When the Levees Broke” and, beginning this week, Mike Tyson’s one-man show, “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth,” which he’s directing in a limited Broadway run.
There are probably few contemporary American directors taught as often in college classrooms. Some of that teaching done by Lee himself, who at NYU guides young talents like"Pariah" director Dee Rees.
Perhaps nothing offers as much evidence of Lee’s mid-career renaissance as “Red Hook.” There’s a case to be made that the movie is his best in years, evoking early Brooklyn-based classics like “Do the Right Thing.” There are numerous callbacks to that film, including Lee appearing in quick bursts as the memorable Mookie, still delivering Sal’s pizza, and more indirect allusions, with its storyline about a boy coming of age in a neighborhood filled with socioeconomic tension. (In the intervening years Brooklyn has seen a rush of gentrification, becoming a place where yuppies and hipsters live cheek-by-jowl with the working class.) This time, though, Lee adds issues of religion. And he does it all in a quintessentially Lee way — pushy but not preachy.
Following the story of Flik (the first-timer Jules Brown), an Atlanta adolescent who is sent to live with his preacher grandfather nicknamed Da Good Bishop (Peters), it shows a boy who seeks to resolve conflicts common to growing up anywhere while also layering in issues particular to Brooklyn and the black community. All this before it packs a third-act punch (let’s just say it involves religion and a heinous sex act).
There are also numerous sermons as well as plenty of street interactions between Flik, Da Good Bishop and various locals — Lee has compressed a few of these scenes from the Sundance cut, but the film still clocks in at over two hours — which can give “Red Hook Summer” a languorous feel. Yet “Red Hook” is bracing stuff, a movie that aims to ask difficult questions about big subjects like race, religion, urban renewal and parenting, bolstered by a vérité look and a melancholy score from piano maestro Bruce Hornsby.
The movie is also the latest chapter in Lee’s ongoing saga about Brooklyn. Though he lives with his wife, attorney Tonya Lewis, and their two children in the very different precincts of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Lee was raised in Brooklyn, and he sees the movie as a way to weigh in on some of the changes that have rattled it — particularly with pointed scenes contrasting the middle-class white newbies and the less-well-off black perennials.
Photos: Spike Lee’s fighting spirit hits new heights on film and beyond.
Spike Lee’s ‘Red Hook Summer’ to be rated R, not NC-17
Photos: Spike Lee’s controversial quotes: A brief history
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DSCC.org/Bush-Tax-CutsTo pull all of this off, Lee took real gambles. He made the film on a brutal 19-day schedule, often shooting without permits. To find several of the child leads, he recruited at a New York theater school; the children said that when Lee first came to their class they didn’t even know they were reading for a movie part.
He financed the low-budget movie (under $1 million) with his own money, using many of his students as crew members, and for the first time in his career is partly paying for the distribution himself, retaining a tiny New York company to help. (The movie hits New York theaters next week and Los Angeles venues two weeks later.)
Nor was the shoot easy. “Red Hook” (named for the waterfront Brooklyn neighborhood) features actors playing gang members in hardscrabble housing projects, and the sight in those projects of the Bloods’ trademark red bandannas prompted various factions to harass Lee and his crew. “People think of Spike as this king of Brooklyn, but it’s not like he strolls through as the lord of the manor,” Peters said, recalling the sight of gang members lurking.
What got under people’s skin at Sundance was a scene in that third act that involves the Bible and one of the worst crimes you can imagine. The film’s sales agents even stood in the lobby before the screening and warned festivalgoers that the movie would be “divisive.” Afterward, the online commentator Erik Childress of efilmcritic.com wrote, “I have so many negative things to say about Spike Lee’s ‘Red Hook Summer’ that I don’t know where to begin.” He was one of the more gentle skeptics.
McBride said he was opposed to the questionable scene and debated Lee about it. Lee said he knew from the start that he had to include it, because to simply suggest it offscreen was to shy away from the very things he wanted to confront. “It’s not pretty, but it was something that needed to be dealt with,” he said, adding that it may have been the most difficult scene he’s ever shot.
But Lee said he was untroubled by the reaction that the disturbing plot turn had come out of left field. “I like storytelling where the filmmakers are two steps ahead of the audience; otherwise what’s the purpose of doing a film?” he said, almost unconsciously returning to a favorite theme. “People have been conditioned by the Hollywood formula, A to B to C all the way to Z,” he said. “They’ve been bamboozled, hoodwinked.”
Yet all the filmmaking ambition in the world can’t disguise this fact: Lee can be his own worst enemy. And he seems to know it. To interview the director is to watch a man at war with himself — about how much of a provocateur he should be, about whether speaking one’s mind is an obligation or a distraction.
Asked how he felt about “The Help,” a race-themed movie that was one of Hollywood’s biggest hits last year, he paused for a long 10 seconds, then said, “No comment. No comment,” before giving a knowing laugh that suggested, you won’t trap me.
But then, a minute later. he lets it rip on another race-themed subject. “There’s not a black person in Hollywood who has greenlight power,” he said, when asked a general question about Hollywood liberalism. “All these executives, the gatekeepers, they’re all Democrats, they all fundraise, they support Obama. But you go into their offices and the diversity they talk about is not reflected in their workplaces, it’s not reflected in their hiring practices, it’s not reflected in the films they make.” Lee, who has occasionally made bigger-budgeted studio films, such as the 2006 hit “Inside Man” for Universal, said he encourages black students to become executives to tilt this balance of power.
McBride, who also co-wrote Lee’s period war picture “Miracle at St. Anna,” acknowledges that Lee can be direct. But he says the filmmaker is hardly malicious and doesn’t merit the kind of backlash he receives.
“He’s honest, and he doesn’t make small talk, so people think he’s abrasive,” he said. “But I don’t think he wakes up in the morning and thinks ’I’m going to shake America by its boots.’ I think he just wants America to think.”
It is admittedly hard not to feel that the subjects of Lee’s movies are responsible in some part for why filmgoers have chosen to ignore him; there aren’t that many high-profile socially conscious filmmakers working today to begin with, let alone those willing to repeatedly touch the third rail of race.
There was a time when one might argue that these media dust-ups might have actually helped Lee; after all, as a young filmmaker looking to make a name for yourself, a little extra attention never hurts. But for an established name they serve mainly as a distraction.
What’s more, when Lee was first starting out, the public was inclined to buy tickets for difficult independent dramas. It’s hard to conceive of now, but even a lesser-regarded Lee film like “Jungle Fever” grossed $32 million when it came out in 1991, $53 million when adjusting for inflation. But moviegoers have turned increasingly to comic-book spectacles and youthful fantasies, which makes Lee’s fight for filmmaking relevance harder than ever.
Lee chooses not to express regrets about either his work or his kerfuffles. “I don’t look back,” he said, and “I don’t explain. What’s the point? I’m done with that. It impedes progress. I just focus on the ongoing effort to do what I set out to do — build a body of work for 40 Acres and a Mule,” his production company.
Lee is next directing a remake of Chan-wook Park’s “Oldboy” with the backing of mainstream Hollywood companies. (Asked how he might switch up the movie’s Asian settings and themes, he said, “I’m not going to tell you that,” and then let go a laugh somehow both good-humored and dismissive.)
The movie comes with big stakes. It’s a new take on a piece that was a favorite among film fans around the world and also stars well-known names like Josh Brolin and Sharlto Copley. The combination of these elements with Lee’s chops could open a new avenue for Lee and bring the focus back to his films — if a certain combative alter ego doesn’t get in the way.
Only a great director could make something like Red Hook Summer
great pacing, editing, acting, music and a story about past and future, holding onto what you can
one of the first films of the 10s that feels ultra modern
if it did not falter a bit for about 20mins, I would label this his best film and the best of the 10s
still a great experience.
was going to message you during the week about that one Den. With any luck ill be seeing it in the next.few days.