Slice-of-life stuff, a grab bag of childhood memories. Not as egregious as Apollo 10.5, and with better music. The daughter Troy gradually becomes the lead character, things amp up cinematically when she stays with family in Virginia and Spike smooshes the aspect ratio as hard as Troy’s aunt’s dog gets smooshed in the sleeper sofa – and then amp up emotionally when mom Alfre Woodard dies after a very short (screentime-wise) illness.
Zelda Harris didn’t win her Young Artists Award category, but she was up against Kate Winslet and Natalie Portman, and they were all trounced by Anna Chlumsky anyway.
Old Man Yells At Cloud: The Movie. Not tightly assembled, smoothly edited, or well mixed (too much of Marty laughing on the soundtrack). Just a 3+ hour Q&A hangout with comedian Fran Lebowitz. Alec Baldwin and Spike Lee and Olivia Wilde appear as guest interviewers, some archival TV interviews are thrown in. I wanted her quote from episode 6 about only ever being able to understand one’s contemporaries, but don’t have netflix at this location, oh well.
Giving Spike shit about sports:
A fun concert movie of a Byrne show, starring the man himself in fine vocal form, a full barefoot band, and two excited theater kids. Unfortunately it’s impossible to watch this without comparing with Stop Making Sense, the best concert film ever made, especially when they keep performing the same songs, giving me flashbacks to those performances, the staging, the lighting from 35 years earlier. Byrne even does his signature dance moves during “Once in a Lifetime,” which doesn’t work great for me, despite being a crowd pleaser… in fact, I realized during “Burning Down the House” that it’s mirroring SMS‘s decision to not show the audience except in occasional scraps. I made note of some fave songs… “I Zimbra” is very fun, the first song with the entire band, and I need to revisit “Everybody’s Coming to My House” and “Toe Jam.”
Byrne with his understudy and Mary Jo Pehl:
Leading the barefoot band:
The lead cops, whose casting may be holdovers from when this was first planned as a Martin Scorsese picture, get first billing, but the film belongs to Mekhi Phifer as Strike, sort of the D’Angelo Barksdale of this story. He’s a mid-level drug dude with a stern and intense boss (Delroy Lindo) whose heart (and stomach) isn’t in his work. The poor guy either executes a rival or guilts his brother into doing it, and he’s such a harmless dude that even the cops help him get away in the end. Whoever called this a trial run for 25th Hour nailed it.
Keitel and “Chucky”:
Strike tries to get himself a protegee named Tyrone, but keeps getting yelled at by Tyrone’s mom. Some Spike Lee weirdness keeps you on your toes – the climactic murder by Tyrone is foreshadowed in a VR game, and what was up with that “No More Packing” billboard with the gun in a lunchbox? Best of all is when Harvey Keitel, terrible at his job, is telling Tyrone what he should say to get off for the killing, appearing by the kid’s side in alternate-flashback versions of the events.
Somebody was not careful when writing character names – with only a few lead roles, why would you name four of them Ronny and Rodney, Errol and Darryl? Also funny to hear an interviewee correct the cops’ pronunciation of his name “Jesus,” with John Turturro standing right behind him.
“There were atrocities on both sides.” Let’s see if I have this straight… American gold intended to pay Vietnamese allies fighting vietcong was found by Chadwick Boseman’s squad… CB wants to distribute it to Black countrymen, but is killed by accident by Delroy Lindo, who then hides the gold along with surviving buddies Isiah Whitlock, Clarke Peters and Norm Lewis.
The four return to Vietnam in present-day with Delroy’s son Jonathan Majors (Monty in The Last Black Man) and tour guide Vinh, locating the gold and the remains of their commander. This is where I thought they’d turn on each other out of paranoid greed, per the Sierra Madre comparisons I’d read, but it’s the already unstable MAGA-hat Delroy who holds the others hostage, and their smuggler middleman Jean Reno leading the fight against them. Only Peters and Majors make it out alive, and about a sixth of the gold is donated to Black Lives Matter, which ain’t bad. Whoever said this movie has more aspect-ratio clowning than The Grand Budapest Hotel was right, and I hadn’t heard about all the injections of historical photos. The only part I didn’t buy is an anti-landmine organization happening to walk by moments after someone steps on a mine.
John “son of Denzel” Washington is Ron, a rookie cop who gets himself invited to a Klan meeting by being friendly with David Duke (Topher Grace) over the phone, and has to send his white (ahem, Jewish) coworker Adam Driver to the in-person meetings while working behind the scenes to bust these guys, which they kinda manage to do when a Klan wife accidentally bombs her husband while trying to murder Ron’s girlfriend. Spike has righteous cop protagonists but doesn’t entirely let the police department off the hook. His main point is made clear by the Charlottesville news footage closing the film, and even if he changes no modern minds, the movie is fun and inspired a good article about “the cruel sucking nullity of whiteness” in the dying days of the Village Voice.
The most awesome/unevenly ambitious Spike Lee movie since She Hate Me. I knew in advance that Teyonah Parris (Coco in Dear White People) has a plan to deny her man (Nick Cannon) sex until he stops fighting with a rival gang led by Wesley Snipes, but didn’t know she gathers a legion of women who commandeer an army base. The social issues within a heightened, unrealistic comedic production (rhyming dialogue, dance scenes, narrator Sam Jackson) make for a great combo.
Cowriter Kevin Willmott was here last week but I didn’t go see him since my parents were in town.
Not a Do The Right Thing sequel at all, except for some embarrassingly distracting cameos by Spike as Mookie, still delivering pizzas. Except for Clarke “Lester Freamon” Peters’s performance and one crazy shot when his church’s holy-cross-shaped fluorescent lights reflect in his eyes as he goes on a defensive preaching rant, almost the whole movie is embarrassing.
Frohawked Atlantan kid named Flik Royale (okay, the names are good) is dumped on his grandfather Enoch in New York for the summer. They don’t get along, grandpa forbidding junk food and yelling about Jesus all the time, and Flik hiding behind his iPad and hanging out with asthma-having girl Chazz. What do we know will happen when someone in a movie has asthma? Yeah, that happens. Flik almost bonds with his grandpa after Enoch’s friend gives him some good advice, but suddenly a dude named Blessing crashes into the church accusing Enoch of child abuse years ago in Georgia. This takes over the movie – the preacher gets beat down by some gangster kid who’d stolen Flik’s iPad earlier, and Isiah “Sheeeeeeee” Whitlock “eeeeit” Jr. appears as Detective Flood in his third Spike joint. Then Flik, having learned nothing but at least made a friend in the asthma girl, goes home.
Thomas Jefferson Byrd of Girl 6 and He Got Game plays a drunk deacon. A character named Mother Darling is played by Tracy Johns, star of She’s Gotta Have It. Movie has a couple of blatant Michael Jackson references (note Spike’s other movie this year is an MJ documentary) and some amusing DTRT references: the phrases “do the right thing” and “that’s the truth, ruth” show up in the dialogue. Seems harmless until “do the right thing” comes back as a terrible song towards the end. Overall the music is innocuous, picture is unexceptional (with digi noise) and dialogue is groany.
Great little indie movie, don’t know why I remember disliking it. Tracy Johns (her only other role was New Jack City) is Nola Darling, who strings three guys along without committing to any, finally dumps them all to stay independent. Tommy Hicks (Daughters of the Dust) is Jamie, who’d seem like a perfect man except that he keeps trying to make her settle down. John Terrell is an arrogant rich guy, and Spike (Mars Blackmon, great character names) is an immature joker, and Nola’s lesbian friend Raye Dowell is after her as well. Spike’s relatives make appearances (Bill plays Nola’s dad, Joie is her roommate).
Spike’s feature debut, with nice b/w cinematography by Ernest Dickerson, except when Tommy gives Nola a musical dance number for her birthday, shot in color.