One False Move 1992
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.
アルプススタンドのはしの方 On the Edge of Their Seats (2020)
Planet X 2006
The Five Heartbeats 1991
Pier Kids: The Life 2019
Beau Is Afraid 2023
Daughters of the Dust 1991
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.
Showing Up 2023
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.
How to Blow Up a Pipeline 2023
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.
Dick Tracy 1990
警察故事 III：超級警察 Police Story 3: Super Cop (1992)
Discovering that I no longer (or never did) have a stomach for plan-goes-wrong movies
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.
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.
The Road to Magnasanti 2017
Game Night 2018
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves 2023
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.
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.
Watched the sing along version in theater
Also probably got COVID here
അനന്തരം Anantaram (1987)
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.
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.
Book of Days 1989
John Wick: Chapter 4 2023
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.
皇家戰士 Royal Warriors (1986)
Зеркало Mirror (1975)
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.
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.
Ethnic Notions 1986
Cocaine Bear 2023
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.
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.
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.
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
The Horse 1973
Sampung Mga Kerida Ten Little Mistresses (2023)
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…)
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.
bell hooks: Cultural Criticism & Transformation 1997
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.
千禧曼波 Millennium Mambo (2001)
Killer of Sheep 1978
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
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.
The Killing Floor 1984
살인의 추억 Memories of Murder (2003)
タンポポ Tampopo (1985)
Possessor Uncut 2020
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.
Cooley High 1975
Low Tide: DLC 2022
Pusong Bato Stone Heart (2014)
Spencer Bell, Nobody Knows My Name 2021
Thomasine & Bushrod 1974
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.
Mass of Images 1978
Ajube Kete 2005
Cotton Comes to Harlem 1970
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.
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.
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.