One False Move 1992

Still from One False Move

Jungle Fever 1991

The movie ultimately doesn’t care about interracial relationships. This shouldn’t surprise, given Lee’s lack of experience, and noted opposition at the time (and maybe still?). Instead, the film cares far more about how the existence of these relationships provokes anxieties and insecurities in others.

Flipper and, especially, Angie don’t share what they really think about their relationship. Flipper says things (Angie isn’t afforded even that), but those statements aren’t really backed up or reinforced in any other way. Because Lee has nothing to say here.

Still from Jungle Fever

アルプススタンドのはしの方 On the Edge of Their Seats (2020)

Still from On the Edge of Their Seats

Planet X 2006

The Five Heartbeats 1991

Still from The Five Heartbeats

Pier Kids: The Life 2019

Still from Pier Kids: The Life

Beau Is Afraid 2023

Still from Beau Is Afraid

Daughters of the Dust 1991

Still from Daughters of the Dust

Mo' Better Blues 1990

Rewatched with commentary by K. Austin Collins

Something interesting in here about the way black middle-class professionals remain tethered to not-so-professional past or family that produces vulnerability. In Jungle Fever, too.

Also, just some gorgeous shots. The rotating dolly is inspired, but the double dolly shots are wack.

Still from Mo' Better Blues

Showing Up 2023

Still from Showing Up

Mo' Better Blues 1990

I didn’t enjoy it, but setting that aside, it’s still a delightfully rich text.

Particularly, I read this through the lens of Spike Lee’s relationship to Black Capitalism. There’s been plenty written that Lee is a shitty boss like other studio bosses, but Black. Bleek embodies a lot of that, stifling the careers of his employees, being capricious.

But Bleek is also framed as a put-upon worker, not getting his due from the club owners. Lee’s always remarkably even-handed in the treatment of his characters, so it can be hard to glean personal positions.

Still from Mo' Better Blues

How to Blow Up a Pipeline 2023

Still from How to Blow Up a Pipeline

To Sleep with Anger 1990

I seriously considered picking Danny Glover as my Artist of the Year, and performances like this are a big reason why.

I love how at first I wasn’t sure if Harry was pretending to be who he was, and then eventually I wasn’t sure if Harry and his “resurrected” pals were, in fact, ghosts. Each was plausible at any given moment.

Still from To Sleep with Anger

Dick Tracy 1990

Still from Dick Tracy

警察故事 III:超級警察 Police Story 3: Super Cop (1992)

Still from Police Story 3: Super Cop

Bound 1996

Discovering that I no longer (or never did) have a stomach for plan-goes-wrong movies

Still from Bound

Spike Lee & Company: Do It a Cappella 1990

日本製造 Made in Japan (2018)

Do the Right Thing 1989

Rewatched with the 1995 commentary from by Spike & Joie Lee, Ernest Dickerson, and Wynn Thomas.

Two surprises: Smiley wasn’t included until late drafts, despite being a really crucial character, in my view. The best scene (Sal & Pino chatting) was largely improvised once Smiley appears.

Both more fuel for my cinema as art of contingency and coincidence platform.

Still from Do the Right Thing

Do the Right Thing 1989

Struck by the opening. Visually exuberant. Also gratuitous in length and objectifying of Rosie Perez. Spike is a phenomenal visual artist with some obvious bad tendencies.

On rewatch, so much easier to pay attention to and appreciate the density of named characters in the background of scenes where they’re not the focus. Really sells the one-block, one-day setting.

Much warmer colors than I remember than the 35mm print I saw.

Still from Do the Right Thing

The Road to Magnasanti 2017

Game Night 2018

Still from Game Night

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves 2023

Still from Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Coming to America 1988

Far less funny than I expected. The film carries a legacy as a comedy when it’s actually a much sweeter romantic comedy than anything else.

Some weird morals and arcs in this. John Amos’s character craven pursuit of a rich son in law is delivered upon successfully. His indignity at being looked down upon by the King grates against his own condescension toward Akeem. Akeem and Lisa end the movie still without total agency in their marriage. And in the end, despite Lisa falling in love thinking he’s a goat farmer, she is “rewarded” with a future-queen’s life, reinforcing riches as a worthwhile goal.

Still from Coming to America

お早よう Good Morning (1959)

I’d talked to a friend about Ozu as this film “master”, and then the movie ends up being 90 minutes of fart jokes. Incredible.

Isamu was the perfect child character in a film. Endearing (“I love you”) and entertaining (any of his fist pump moments) in equal measure.

Still from Good Morning

Grease 1978

Watched the sing along version in theater

Also probably got COVID here

Still from Grease

അനന്തരം Anantaram (1987)

Still from Anantaram

I'm Gonna Git You Sucka 1988

The good joke density was too low, with lots of time spent in a “barely amusing” register. But when it hits, it hits. Bernie Casey is delivering an excellent, almost Police Squad-ish performance as the straight man in an absurd world. The Inter-military Administrator scene is a perfect 60 seconds of cinema.

Still from I'm Gonna Git You Sucka

千年女優 Millennium Actress (2002)

Rewatched with an eye toward this as “multiverse” cinema.

I think this better delivers on the narrative and (especially) visual promises of multiversal storytelling than EEAAO or other recent examples. Perhaps this is just animation being a more flexible form for those tricks.

Still from Millennium Actress

Book of Days 1989

John Wick: Chapter 4 2023

Still from John Wick: Chapter 4

First Cow 2020

Screening followed by a Q&A with Reichardt

So much to love about this. To focus on just one thing, the dread established by the opening was almost enough for me to struggle to find pleasure in the joyous moments of King Lu’s and Cookie’s relationship. I was almost convinced that perhaps things wouldn’t turn out how I expected. Despite confirming my fears, the final sequence is so generous to them, ending on an image that let’s us leave in a moment of beauty than grief.

Still from First Cow

皇家戰士 Royal Warriors (1986)

Still from Royal Warriors

Pleasure 2021

Still from Pleasure

Зеркало Mirror (1975)

Still from Mirror

Tongues Untied 1990

Watched in response to School Daze, which I knew was commented upon. What I didn’t expect, but perhaps should’ve, was also a dissection of the Whiteness of the Castro.

Essex Hemphill’s poetry here is stunning, and helps further complicate the genre of Tongues Untied as not-documentary, not-diary film.

Still from Tongues Untied

Killing Time 1979

School Daze 1988

Just so full of stuff, so much so that everything gets rather thin. In doing so, becomes a document of all the forms of Blackness Spike can make fit in two hours. Which then makes the absences (e.g. homosexuality) particularly interesting.

Still from School Daze

Ethnic Notions 1986

Still from Ethnic Notions

Cocaine Bear 2023

Still from Cocaine Bear

Der Himmel über Berlin Wings of Desire (1987)

A man tells a stranger on the bus that on the east coast they get to see the sun rise, but here on the west coast, we only get to see it set.

For days afterward I repeated to family, friends, and coworkers just how wonderful life is. I want to observe and record. Mostly I never want to forget the awe and wonder of existence.

Still from Wings of Desire

苏州河 Suzhou River (2000)

Less than the sum of its parts, but some of its parts are superb. Everything before the POV switch could be repackaged into my new favorite short film. The later fairy tale parts are also stellar (the tattoo application scene). The purely Mardar segment in the middle isn’t terribly compelling, even if the setup is necessary for the things I liked.

Still from Suzhou River

Losing Ground 1982

Disconcerted by how much I saw myself reflected in both Sara and Victor.

It was unfortunate that the creative aspects of research and writing are downplayed in favor of the more cinematically suited outlet of acting, since Sara is still motivated by that same creative ecstacy. But I get it, the typewriter scenes aren’t riveting.

Still from Losing Ground

Ikwé 2009

Weather Forecast 2022

Minstrel Man 1977

It’s never obvious what kind of quality’s in store when watching a made-for-tv movie. Where The Killing Floor had stellar performances (esp. Moses Gunn), this managed to have some hard to forget imagery.

I’m watching a bootleg on youtube, scanned from a VHS copy that’s missing the first dozen seconds or so. This isn’t a “pristine transfer”. Even through that, the confrontation in Cairo looks as if it’s from another film entirely. When I close my eyes and think of the film, I see the image of Rennie walking through the crowd in whiteface. Haunting.

Also, some shots that feel like they were copied by Bamboozled.

My Brother's Wedding 1983

Still from My Brother's Wedding

The Horse 1973

Ronin 1998

Still from Ronin

Sampung Mga Kerida Ten Little Mistresses (2023)

Still from Ten Little Mistresses

Illusions 1982

The writing felt awkward at times, but all of that is forgiven by the studio recording booth sequence. An exhilirating demonstration of the paradoxical independence and dependence of the video and audio tracks, and a perfect depiction of the erasure of Black America’s contributions (to the war, to cinema, to…)

Still from Illusions

Within Our Gates 1920

Remarkable that, over 100 years later, the cinematic language of cross cutting in the flashback sequence is as potent and terrifying as any I’ve seen. Perhaps contributed to by the unpredictability of what might show up on screen, given my unfamiliarity with film in this era.

Still from Within Our Gates

bell hooks: Cultural Criticism & Transformation 1997

Still from bell hooks: Cultural Criticism & Transformation

She's Gotta Have It 1986

While used to quite different effect, the still photography (by Spike’s brother David) has echoes of the still sequences in Gordon Parks Jr.‘s work.

Exciting in its visual confidence, via conspicous lighting, framing, and lens selection. Structurally too, with the faux-documentary confessionals. Politically there is something weird about Spike Lee’s stated interest in the defense of black men with this film simultaneous with the flattened portrayal of black women.

Still from She's Gotta Have It

千禧曼波 Millennium Mambo (2001)

Still from Millennium Mambo

Killer of Sheep 1978

Still from Killer of Sheep

Several Friends 1969

There’s something delightful about the way these characters talk to one another, their mocking and disparagement of one another speaking more to the duration and depth of their friendships than any frustration about missing a party because the stove got stuck in the doorway.

Infinity Pool 2023

Still from Infinity Pool

Cornbread, Earl and Me 1975

Weird tensions present here, where the police are candidly presented as engaging in blackmail, framing, and a broader cover-up in order to protect their own, BUT ALSO the cops learn a lesson in the end.

There’s also an emphasis on Cornbread being “one of the good ones” in a way that I ascribe, perhaps naively, to the time. Would Cornbread’s life have been worth less if he was in fact “unemployed”, as the coroner insists on calling him, despite being a student? Though perhaps it’s a demonstration that even the most unimpeachable are still as likely to be smeared by those in power.

Still from Cornbread, Earl and Me

The Killing Floor 1984

Still from The Killing Floor

살인의 추억 Memories of Murder (2003)

Still from Memories of Murder

タンポポ Tampopo (1985)

Still from Tampopo

Possessor Uncut 2020

Still from Possessor Uncut

Skinamarink 2023

As a sequence of (largely) still images, this is quite lovely. There’s an hourglass-like composition that the film returns to often that I thought powerful, and the legos photograph well. This captures the shifting, uncertain form that items take late at night in the dark.

As an object of thematic or narrative meaning, it didn’t work for me. The ideas never cohere into much. They’re also too few in number and depth to carry 100 minutes.

Even so, I would have respected this as a piece of visual art if not for the jump scares. They cheapen the quiet tension, and reveal how bereft of real horror the film is.

Still from Skinamarink

Cooley High 1975

Still from Cooley High

Low Tide: DLC 2022

Pusong Bato Stone Heart (2014)

Spencer Bell, Nobody Knows My Name 2021

Thomasine & Bushrod 1974

Still from Thomasine & Bushrod

Intermittent Delight 2007

Tea 4 Two 2006

離騷幻覺-序 Dragon's Delusion : Preface (2020)

The Spook Who Sat by the Door 1973

Didacticism gets a bad rap. There’s something nice about watching this, and being knowingly preached at. I am the choir and I love it! What hurts, if anything, is that it’s been 50 years, and so much of the messaging in activist/revolutionary corners is the same, because so many of these problems have gotten worse.

It’s alien seeing police equipped with less for a riot than I now see for a protest. To imagine a world where I’m not on multiple continuous feed cameras at all times when in a public space.

Still from The Spook Who Sat by the Door

Aftersun 2022

Still from Aftersun

Mass of Images 1978

Dindo 2014

Ajube Kete 2005

Cotton Comes to Harlem 1970

Still from Cotton Comes to Harlem

Shots in the Dark with David Godlis 2020

Super Fly 1972

Interesting to compare to Shaft, which has far more interest in solidarity and collective action. This is brutally individualistic.

The best part was easily the montage (cinematically) of montage (photographically). Of course Curtis Mayfield’s soundtrack is astounding in isolation, but even more as the voice of the film’s narrator.

Still from Super Fly

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One 1968

There are some (like Justin Simien) who seem eager to ascribe a mastermind-like brilliance to Greaves that I think is unfounded. This film seems to show more than anything the role of serendipity in making great art. And rather than detracting from his accomplishments, Greaves’s manufacturing of serendipity, of making it to see what it is, is exhilirating to watch unfold. The emergent qualities of the film are the message, and a reading of overriding intent undercuts the revolutionary aspirations of documenting organic self-organization in miniature.

Still from Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One

Shaft 1971

Still from Shaft

Bus Nut 2014

Is That Black Enough for You?!? 2022

Watched in preparation for Spike Lee’s Artist of the Year run, mostly to set context for the late 60s and through the 70s.

Still from Is That Black Enough for You?!?