Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Thinkin' about Spike Lee

My film consumption of late has featured a couple unexpected forays into the world of Spike Lee. A dude selling off his DVDs at Commercial Drive station had a copy of Summer of Sam, which I'd always wanted to see, even when I didn't realize it featured Adrien Brody as a persecuted punk rocker on the early CBGB scene. The film was utterly, surprisingly great, maybe now my favourite of Spike Lee's films. I'd enjoyed all of the early Spike Lee films I saw, in fact, back in the 1980's and 1990's, but somehow in the mid-1990's I kind of stopped caring. Critics praised 25th Hour (2002) as a return to form, so I went to see it when it was first run, but I wasn't so impressed that I ever looked it again. I revisited it last night and liked it a lot; while I remembered Edward Norton, of course, I had forgotten that Phil Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper, Brian Cox, Rosario Dawson and Anna Paquin were in it, each one of them doing great work, and all of them are a pleasure to watch. The film waxes a little too sentimental at times but if you want character-driven/ actor-oriented cinema it definitely delivers.
The trouble is, I don't want to see Spike Lee making conventional movies. I don't mind at all about him documenting slices of life in the non-black community, which he does really well, but I don't have any need for him as a commercial filmmaker, and I keep tuning out when he makes a film that any action filmmaker could have made, like, say, Clockers or, more recently, Inside Man. That film, as I recall it, plays like it could be a Tony Scott movie; it's certainly not a badly-made thriller, but so what? And all you hear about his recent films, if you hear anything, tends to be negative or dismissive; he's somehow gone from being one of the hotter young American filmmakers of his generation to being a marginal figure. In recent memory, I didn't go see Oldboy because I was put off by the apparent blatant theft of that dude's design work, and didn't really NEED an American remake of that film, anyhow; the Korean one is just fine, thanks. A few of his films on IMDB I have never even heard of, like Bamboozled or Passing Strange. It's pretty interesting that he would choose to remake the arthouse blaxploitation vampire movie Ganja & Hess (Da Sweet Blood of Jesus) but I don't even know how one would legitimately acquire that film these days. I don't want to buy it, it won't be at any Maple Ridge rental store or library, and I don't want to stream it online, so short of torrenting it, I'm not sure what can be done. I won't torrent it, though; it feels wrong to steal something that so obviously seems a labour of love (and one unlikely to make anyone a lot of money, at that). Wonder what else I'm missing, by not having followed Lee closely? Maybe I should see Miracle at St. Anna, or Red Hook Summer, or...?

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