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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Shelton Jackson Lee (Part 1)

Shelton Jackson Lee, a.k.a .Spike Lee, has definitely made his mark in American film. I may get flak for this, but I am not a fan of his earlier work....pretty much the whole first decade of his career is a write-off for me, even though I know others found it interesting and provocative. In my mind it was calculated, heavy handed p.r. marketing. The writing was weak but that marketing was on point. He also knew how to stir the pot by saying things he knew would incite a gamut of emotions in people. But I must say, as he's matured in age and filmaking style (he's 50 this I find his work very thought-provoking and visually arresting. My next couple of posts are dedicated to the extensive filmwork of Mr. Lee....reading over his filmography, I sometimes forget the amazing dedication he's made in his field, and was reminded of his contributions once again, for better or for worse.

I'm gonna start with the films I have seen of his thus far, broken down by decade. First up:

She's Gotta Have It (1986): A good subject matter for a fresh out of the gate director, black female sexuality. Though I found it completely off the mark on how most black woman feel toward sex (even the liberated ones), the black and white filming was refreshing, and it did incite a few catch phrases....anyone remember "Please, baby, baby pleeaase"? What happened to the lead, Tracy Camilla Johns? The last time I saw her she was in "New Jack City". That's kinda messed up.

School Daze (1988): It's a comedy, it's a drama, it's a social statement, it's a view into historical black colleges, it's a musical, IT'S A HOT MESS! Overly ambitious, trying to put 5 movies worth of material into one. Gotta give him points for inserting musical numbers though....haven't seen anything quite like it before or since. Features a pre-Martin Tisha Campbell, a righteous Lawrence Fishbourne, and a cameo by Samuel Jackson in a shower cap, that when I first saw the movie I thought was some cracked-out local Spike put into the film.

Do The Right Thing (1989): The story of racial relations coming to a boil on a hot summer New York day. Over the years I have learned to keep my mouth shut over this one. For some reason that completely and totally escapes me, this film is well loved by the multitudes. I thought it was completely overwrought, heavy handed, overbearing, and shrill. It even made one of my favorites, Danny Aiello, get on my nerves. It seemed to be saying one thing with Spike's character and then completely veered off in another direction with no solid explanation. I won't even get into the Rosie Perez performance. There were so many characters in this film that were so weird and cartoonish (Radio Raheem, the Ruby Dee and Ozzie Davis characters) that I just could not get into it. But to each his own.... if you can give me some insight on why you like this film, I would appreciate it in the comments; maybe it can help me look at it in a new way.

By the way, I was actually in the club and witnessed the first meeting between Spike and Rosie....she danced to "Doing The Butt" in front of him at his birthday party and shook her ass in his face for 10 minutes, which kinda explains the opening sequence "Do The Right Thing", that shows her bouncing and writhing for an endless amount of time (which also led to her long-term gig on "In Living Color" as a choreographer). Parlay, parlay, girl!

1 comment: said...

How interesting, IW. I share much of your opinion on these films! :)