Tag Archive: spike lee


 

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So yes, to say Spike is ‘back’ is condescending.  He’s been working.  The word I thought of last night as I walking out of the theatre was ‘accessible.’  This is the most accessible Spike Lee joint in a little bit.  My parents have no interest in seeing (and probably don’t even know about) ‘Chi-raq’ and ‘Da Sweet Blood of Jesus’, but they already asked me if I have an awards screener for ‘BlackkKlansman’ (which makes me chuckle).

Co-written by my old KU professor Kevin Wilmott, this film dramatizes the true story of Ron Stallworth, a black police officer who ‘infiltrated’ the KKK in the 70s.  John David Washington does fine carrying the movie as the title character.

Adam Driver: hates doing press, says absolutely nothing about his personal life, just wants to work his craft (so naturally I like him) probably plays his most ‘likable’ character so far.  Minor spoiler but he has a mini monologue about ‘passing’ about halfway through I thought was really good.

Actually, the character acting across the board here is A+.  Corey Hawkins shows up near the beginning as Kwame Ture and sets the tone for the film with a great sermon.  Topher Grace is hilarious as the kindly, corporate Grand Wizard of the KKK, David Duke.

Anytime we (the audience) got too comfortable, there was always a subtle (or at the end an overt) reminder of how dangerous and scary things get when we don’t check extremism.

Definitely a film of ‘America 2018’.   High recommend.

 

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Barry Jenkins’ trailer dropped this week, and I’m about to hop back onto HBO for Issa, and pretty high odds I’ll have some thoughts on Spike’s new movie next Sunday, and Tessa is…Tessa…

So this is as good of a video to start the week as any.

Enjoy!

 

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I had no expectations for the Netflix version of ‘She’s Gotta Have It.’  We have ‘Insecure’ now.  We have ‘Dear White People’.  We have ‘Master of None.’ We have ‘Atlanta’.  All good to great in different ways, all cover being young and/or black, and/or single, and/or living in New York City.  That’s one.

Two: for all the shows listed above, part of my (selfish) enjoyment is being a generation removed from the ‘voice’ of the show.  Spike is of the generation before me, so right or wrong, I had concerns about someone two generations removed writing about the current scene.

Very happy to say I couldn’t be more wrong.  The Netflix version of ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ is very much its own thing: funny and serious and topical and told through the ‘Spike Lee New York City’ lens.

Add Dewanda Wise to the list of talented, beautiful dark skinned actresses who are taking advantage of the shots they’re given.  The 2017 version of Nola Darling is still a proud Brooklynite with three male suitors; the series fleshes out her artistry and her interest in each of her suitors very well.

I know how problematic Spike has felt about certain elements of his first film.  Pretty much every adaptation here works for the better.  Mars Blackmon in 2017 is a half Puerto Rican hip hop head? (Genius.)  Opal feels less like a lesbian predator and more like, possibly, Nola’s true love? (Brilliant.)  The post-Thanksgiving sexual assault is now a script flipping, female gaze on male sexuality?  (Outstanding).

It was a perfect binge for the holiday weekend.  Well worth checking out when you have time.

 

 

kenobi

His birthday just passed, but Malcolm has been on my mind a lot heading into this Ramadan.  Not Spike’s dramatization of his life.  Not even Malcolm’s own dramatization, as expressed in the Autobiography.  I’m referring to the thorough breakdown provided in Manning Marable’s great book.

After he was gone, Malcolm’s legacy continues to grow internationally and it’s certainly everlasting.  But in his final days, he was all too aware the organization he gave his adult life to was trying to kill him.  The federal government had its eyes and ears on him (much closer than he probably realized).  He’s still one of the best orators and fundraisers for his cause, but in the immediate aftermath of his life, he left very little for his children financially.  At the end of the day, even the best among us are still human: what does carrying all that stress do to a man’s psyche?

God’s Plan for me to this point has played out as a series of ‘lessons learned from my heroes’: I’m more popular than I ever intended to be, but still have an extremely small inner circle, built on decades of trust and drama free bonding.  Financial stability taking priority over building a family.  The President of the United States is an overt Islamaphobe, but day by day the Resistance meets him with the checks and balances built in the system.

Hope, for the future.

Something I heard this week really struck a chord with me: You can’t be a person of faith and question God’s timing in the same breath.

As I’ve spent the past year locking back into my path, I’ve felt a lot of anger over time lost.  But I can’t have it both ways.  Human emotion shouldn’t be repressed, but at the same time, I shouldn’t let the scope of my ambition blind me to the progress that’s being made toward the endgame.  Even if I’m frustrated with the pace.

God’s timing.  Will of the Force. Trust the Process.  By whatever name you call it, I’ve improved on accepting things as they are (for now) and not as how I think they should be in my mind’s eye.  I’m still here, there’s still time.  I feel balanced in both my personal ambitions and also in doing what I can to serve the generation coming up behind me.

Good mindset to start Ramadan.

See you in June.

 

dearwhitepeople

For the oldheads among us, the double victory run of the studio system acknowledging that a) there’s an audience for ‘Atlanta’, ‘Insecure’, and ‘Get Out’, and b) not only that, but it’s quality storytelling, continues with the Netflix version of Justin Simien’s ‘Dear White People.’  And I know I’m not the first to say this, but I agree it’s an improvement over the film.  Taking full advantage of the platform, a line of dialogue in the film that serves as backstory is nearly always fleshed out into a half hour episode that gives the audience more empathy for ‘why’ even characters you may not gravitate toward, do the things that they do.

Was the film geek in me biased from episode one with the ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ visual tributes?  Sure, but nods like this are subtle in each episode.  (Quick setup for the completely uninitiated: like the film, the story is set off when a blackface party is thrown by one of the fraternities on a predominantly white campus).  Justin directed a few of the episodes, I noted Tina Mabry’s name in the credits, but if you have to pick one episode, yes, the now Academy Award winner Barry Jenkins ‘Episode V’ is the strongest.

Ten not quite half hours.  I honestly wasn’t planning on getting through the whole season in one weekend, but sometimes the story keeps you that engaged.

Check it out.

 

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While my childhood was one of many defined by what came next, as an adult I can’t really argue with anyone who feels ‘Off the Wall’ is a superior album.  Spike’s documentary captures all the reasons why.

As the title suggests, the first half covers the journey and how (absurd as it sounds now), Michael Jackson was having a hard time figuring out how to be taken seriously.  He was the bubblegum kid singer, he was the novelty at the front of the novelty act the Jackson 5.  As (a nice interview choice here) Kobe Bryant explained, young Mike was a hardcore student of his craft.  Not just studying Sammy Davis Jr’s moves, and James Brown’s moves, but how the industry treated them as black stars.

After ‘the Jacksons’ became a success after leaving Motown, it was time.  The concert footage really captures why ‘Rock With You’ is one of my favorite videos.  No one (in all the good and bad ways) was more theatrical than Michael Jackson, but he could blow you away with nothing but the microphone in his hand.  A great vocalist.

The last third of the film is the track by track breakdown.  Everyone from Questlove to his brothers, to Stevie Wonder breaking down ‘the last great disco record.’ Rock With You. Off the Wall. She’s Out of My Life. I Can’t Help It. Turn this Disco Out.

Yep, that album still holds up.  So does this doc.

Was a Showtime exclusive for a long time, now you can rent it on iTunes and I assume your other digital channels.

 

denzel

Still in a Denzel state of mind for a variety of reasons.  I know many of you won’t mind today’s song choice.

Enjoy.

 

spikeartfradieu

Nope wasn’t in the room Saturday night, I was (literally) down the street.

But thank you internet (and the Academy) for letting us see this.  I’m big on letting people know you appreciate them while they’re here to feel your appreciation.

Your East Coast bias aside Spike, I can personally attest to two of the seeds you helped plant and nourish getting those standardized test scores high enough to grow into a movie producer and a movie director (and a LOT more).

And as you know there are hundreds if not thousands more. So thank you.

First, I could watch this introduction all day…

And then, his actual acceptance speech…

Enjoy!

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(As I’m reminded I have to figure out how to crash the Governor’s Awards…)

Enjoy!

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A beautiful Terrance Blanchard composition.

And within this clip, Denzel, Wesley, Giancarlo, John Turturro, CHARLIE MURPHY!!!

And Spike…man.

(smiling)

Enjoy!