Spike Lee: The Man Behind the Camera

I always love it when other members of this post blog information, quotes or interviews with Spike Lee. I feel like we spend a lot of time in class conjecturing about what Spike Lee was thinking or trying to say with each one of his films, so sometimes it is nice to get to check our conjectures with actual evidence of Lee’s thought process. With that in mind, I thought I would end the semester by sharing some cool facts about Lee.

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Final: Critiques of Lee’s Malcolm X

I thought Malcolm X was fantastic. While researching the joint’s critical reception, I was pleased to discover that many critics had similar reactions. Even those with serious qualms with the film generally seemed pretty damned pleased that a major Hollywood studio was producing and financing a movie commemorating the life of Malcolm X. One reviewer wrote, “That this man is the subject of the first big budget Hollywood movie on the life of a black historical figure is, in and of itself, nothing short of a coup” (Yousman 2014).

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4 Little Girls: Initial Impressions Thread

From a 2013 interview with Spike Lee:

THR: How did you come to decide it should be a documentary over a narrative film? Why did you make that change?

Lee: Because it was a dumb idea when I wrote that letter to do it as a fictional account. It had to be a documentary. I didn’t want actors recreating the stuff. I wanted the parents, the mothers, the fathers, the sisters, the brothers. I wanted documents of them. I did not want this to be actors doing this. I wanted this to be a documentary.

THR: 4 Little Girls was your first documentary. It must have felt like a huge undertaking.

Lee: Documentary is storytelling. So I don’t really, to be honest, have a different mindset between my narrative and my documentary filmmaking. It’s about storytelling.


Chi-Raq: Working Within the System?

Spike Lee sets the majority of the film in and around the military armory, a locus of state power filled with guns and cannons. Lee’s choice in setting has two somewhat opposing effects. First, the setting enables Lee to demonstrate how those without power can subvert the system to gain power. The gang of black women use their sexuality to take over the armory (see screenshot) and, eventually, make Chicago safer. At the same time, however, Lee’s setting demonstrates how those typically denied power still often work within the system to gain power. The gang of women do not destroy the armory and all of its guns; they take it over. Similarly, the gang of women do not fight refuse to be objectified but instead use their value to men as objects for sex as a way to get men to meet their demands. Continue reading “Chi-Raq: Working Within the System?”

Initial Impression Thread: Malcolm X

I absolutely loved this movie, though I am not sure I liked all of the techniques Lee uses within it. The movie isn’t up on Moodle for me to create screenshots yet, but I found it odd that Lee used some of his more experimental/informal techniques in such a serious, otherwise realistic movie. For example, I was confused why Lee had the camera spin when Malcolm X was waiting for yet another person to call him and threaten his murder, and I didn’t like it when Malcolm X seemed like the drugged-out young men in Crooklyn and his surroundings disappeared. These techniques seemed kind of juvenile for such a mature film.

As soon as the movie is up on Moodle, I’ll post screenshots to illustrate the points I discuss. What are your thoughts?

Midterm: When Collectibles Come to Life

In “Bamboozled,” Spike Lee uses multiple angles to display the swiftness with which Pierre’s collection of Black Americana collectibles proliferates. As a result, Lee’s audience comprehends the power of the past and understands that racial equality does not yet exist. In this post I will focus on one scene in particular: the scene in which Pierre speaks to his mother on the phone (1:42:30).

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Initial Impression Thread: Crooklyn

About half of our blog watched the movie on Friday night in Professor Parham’s office (I realized a few hours after the movie that everyone there is in this blog group). It was a pretty intimate setting, which turned out to be a very nice thing once we got to the end of the film. It’ll be interesting to compare the experiences of the Friday night viewers and the Sunday night viewers.

Black-on-Black Violence in Video Games

Compared to the other movies we’ve watched thus far, Inside Job seems only tangentially related to issues of race and racism in America. Of course, this is not quite true. Inside Job is a Spike Lee film, after all. But Lee’s discussion of race is much more subtle. It does not take center stage. Instead, race comes up in the small interactions, away from the gunfire and the guns. It occurs, for instance, during interactions between the white Ms. White and the black Detective Frazier, in which Ms. White threatens Frazier’s job and reputation, and Frazier responds by telling Ms. White to “kiss my black ass.” Racism also rears its head when there is a Seikh who is automatically considered more suspicious because of the turban he wears.

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