Summer of Sam 1999

Still from Summer of Sam

流浪地球2 The Wandering Earth II (2023)

Still from The Wandering Earth II

悪は存在しない Evil Does Not Exist (2023)

Still from Evil Does Not Exist

Riddle of Fire 2023

Still from Riddle of Fire

American Fiction 2023

Still from American Fiction

Bên trong vỏ kén vàng Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (2023)

Still from Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell

Here 2023

Still from Here

보통의 가족 A Normal Family (2023)

Still from A Normal Family

Music 2023

Still from Music

The Dead Don't Hurt 2023

Still from The Dead Don't Hurt

He Thought He Died 2023

Still from He Thought He Died

Laberint Sequences 2023

Still from Laberint Sequences

Kuru Otlar Üstüne About Dry Grasses (2023)

Still from About Dry Grasses

بنات ألفة Four Daughters (2023)

Still from Four Daughters

ほかげ Shadow of Fire (2023)

Still from Shadow of Fire

La Bête The Beast (2024)

Still from The Beast

Aggro Dr1ft 2023

Still from Aggro Dr1ft

The Zone of Interest 2023

Still from The Zone of Interest

怪物 Monster (2023)

Still from Monster

Dear Jassi 2023

Still from Dear Jassi

Dream Scenario 2023

Still from Dream Scenario

Nu Aștepta Prea Mult de la Sfârșitul Lumii Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World (2023)

Still from Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World

Dispararon Al Pianista They Shot the Piano Player (2023)

Still from They Shot the Piano Player

Moon in Earthlight 2021

君たちはどう生きるか The Boy and the Heron (2023)

Still from The Boy and the Heron

Sira 2023

Still from Sira

Son Hasat The Reeds (2023)

Still from The Reeds

I Like Movies 2023

Still from I Like Movies

올드보이 Oldboy (2003)

Still from Oldboy

The Best Man 1999

Still from The Best Man

Belly 1998

Still from Belly

Sidewalk Stories 1989

Still from Sidewalk Stories

A History of the World According to Getty Images 2022

Still from A History of the World According to Getty Images

He Got Game 1998

Uncharacteristically high concept for Spike Lee films I’ve seen. And I have to admit, the concept is quite compelling.

There’s a bunch of stuff that doesn’t work: Ray Allen can’t act, Mila Jovovich’s character doesn’t really go anywhere. But then, there’s the absolutely riveting climactic 1 on 1, and I forgive almost everything else.

Still from He Got Game

The Final Insult 1998

Janine 1990

Alma's Rainbow 1994

Still from Alma's Rainbow

The Watermelon Woman 1996

Has parallels with Girl 6, in these women finding themselves, and power, in performers of the past.

Also has so much more to say about interracial relationships than Jungle Fever could ever dream of, through Cheryl’s relationship, The Watermelon Woman’s, and the metatextual relationship of Dunye’s (director, not character) with her white cinematographer.

I adored the still photography and all of the constructed historical documents of The Watermelon Woman. I was convinced, up until the end titles which explained otherwise, that she might have been real.

Still from The Watermelon Woman

One Week 1920

Still from One Week

Talk to Me 2023

Still from Talk to Me

Rear Window 1954

Still from Rear Window

4 Little Girls 1997

I was shocked at the actual usage/depiction of the girls’ bodies. It’s handled respectfully, and very briefly, but still.

Continues some of the effectiveness with the archive that I mentioned in Malcolm X, and given the different crews, I have to imagine that that’s Spike.

Still from 4 Little Girls

Girl 6 1996

Wild that Tarantino is in this in this way. Especially knowing Rapaport’s character in Bamboozled.

Along with Crooklyn, a strong contrast of Lee’s handling of female characters when he’s not the writer.

Seems at its most alive when transplanting the protagonist into historical roles/films, which permits a formal playfulness. There’s also some nice use of digital video when we see the callers, a nice prelude to Bamboozled.

Still from Girl 6

Distancing 2019

Disintegration 93-96 2017

Oppenheimer 2023

Still from Oppenheimer

Dead Presidents 1995

Still from Dead Presidents

Set It Off 1996

Still from Set It Off

Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight 1995

Still from Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight

Filipiñana 2020

Still from Filipiñana

Get on the Bus 1996

I was excited for this, because of the way it embodied a “black polyvocality” I’ve been thinking about lately. And on a surface level it does, but unfortunately so many of the worldviews expressed by these characters remain surface level.

As an example: a passenger, raised by his white mother in a white milieu, has his blackness questioned; a cousin of a question I’ve grappled with my whole life. Rather than engaging with it, the question is posed by a fool who gets details of slavery wrong, and so his provocation is dismissed. There is a stronger version of this debate that’s hidden, like so many of the other conflicts on the bus.

Still from Get on the Bus

Roter Himmel Afire (2023)

Still from Afire

The Boat 1921

Still from The Boat

One Week 1920

My first Keaton film watched in full. Shocked to realize during watching that because of the cultural continuity between Looney Tunes and silent comedies, I had a kind of intuitive understanding of the types of gags used. I literally hooted when Keaton uses the patio fence as a ladder. Here I was watching a human Bugs Bunny.

I’m curious how this reads or feels for those who didn’t grow up with syndicated Looney Tunes.

Still from One Week

Waiting to Exhale 1995

Late in the movie, Whitney Houston is telling her mother that she has other hobbies, and interests, and facets of her personality beyond men that her mother never asks about. And nowhere in the film do we get to see those.

Still from Waiting to Exhale

路边野餐 Kaili Blues (2016)

Still from Kaili Blues

THE FIRST SLAM DUNK The First Slam Dunk (2022)

Still from The First Slam Dunk

Clockers 1995

Challenging to watch this after Strapped. While Clockers has almost all the artistry, the story itself, of a man caught between the hood and the cops, I find far superior in Strapped.

It’s also interesting that both films began as works (Clockers the book, Strapped’s original screenplay) that centered the cop, and the director actively re-centered the narrative. Strike just has a lot less stuff going on than Diquan. He’s an object in the actions of other subjects, rarely a subject himself.

Still from Clockers

Higher Learning 1995

Four years later, Columbine ushered in the modern era of school shootings. This movie clearly evokes Kent State, but it’s hard to read it now outside of our current context. From the earliest scenes with Remy, I had the sensation “this is gonna end is a school shooting”. I’m curious how contemporaneous students felt.

The cops repeatedly targeting the wrong guy, letting the (eventual) shooter get away, and then trying to take the shooter in peacefully, and all infuriating in their now- (and possibly then-) well-documented truth.

Still from Higher Learning

Walking in the Time of Uncertainty 2023

Still from Walking in the Time of Uncertainty

Drop Squad 1994

Still from Drop Squad

Crooklyn 1994

A rewatch. I just loved spending time with this family. As one of four children, with one sister among us, there’s so much in the kids’ dynamic that stirs up memories of summer of the four of us at home.

Still from Crooklyn

Tunnel Vision: An Unauthorized BART Ride 2023

Living on Tokyo Time 1987

Otemba 1988

Still from Otemba

Joy Ride 2023

Opens up a number of weighty topics (Audrey’s cultural “whiteness”), with apparently no plan or interest in resolving them. Then slaps on a death scene/revelation that didn’t feel necessary for any of the preceding or proceeding material. I was angry that I teared up.

Still from Joy Ride

Chameleon Street 1991

Still from Chameleon Street

Black Is … Black Ain’t 1994

Still from Black Is … Black Ain’t

Malcolm X 1992

I’m not fond of biopics. So this was already at a disadvantage.

Lee’s characters often operate primarily on a symbolic level, so seeing Malcolm so developed, constantly evolving, is a nice change. It helps, of course, that he was a real man. But no man’s life can be compressed into the length of a feature film without omission, abbreviation, and untruth.

The most powerful image comes at the end, the glimpse of Malcolm, in color, behind a video camera, smiling, filming himself. In that moment, it becomes easy to forgive the previous myth-making, and recognize that he was just (in all the complexity that entails) a man.

Still from Malcolm X

Independence Day 1996

Still from Independence Day

Past Lives 2023

Still from Past Lives

Basic Instinct 1992

Still from Basic Instinct

Shinjuku Boys 1995

Still from Shinjuku Boys

Menace II Society 1993

There’s lots to be said about how Menace does what it does, but for the moment I’m focusing on what it does.

Given the film is a direct response to Boyz and its sentimentality, what is this really doing differently? In pursuit of being more “real”, I’m reminded of the essay But Compared To What. What does Menace hope to achieve in being the authoritative voice of the hood film? Perhaps at best it’s trying to reach those turned off by aspects of Boyz’s presentation, but is this so different? Maybe that’s its successful sleight of hand.

Still from Menace II Society

The Phantom of the Opera 2004

Still from The Phantom of the Opera

Strapped 1993

Suffers from some PSA-level sonic and visual choices. Set that aside though, and its construction is pretty wonderful.

The film elicits empathy for Diquan despite being a former drug dealer (and then gun dealer), in contrast to Boyz’s straight Tre. Better conveys how precarity dulls the risks of criminality than Menace, without dipping into its near-nihilism. These characters are never served well by “doing the right thing”, and we understand why. Also has a proto-The Wire attention to the brutal inertia of our systems (in the projects, in the precinct, and across state borders).

Still from Strapped

Deep Cover 1992

Still from Deep Cover

Color Adjustment 1992

Still from Color Adjustment

だってしょうがないじゃない What Can You Do About It (2019)

Still from What Can You Do About It

World War Z 2013

Still from World War Z

Phantom of the Paradise 1974

Still from Phantom of the Paradise

Chronicles of a Lying Spirit (by Kelly Gabron) 1992

Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. 1993

Teenagers make dumb decisions and non-decisions all the time. Having been one doesn’t make observing it less frustrating. That feeling boiled over at the end, with the garbage bag. I get what I think the film’s going for around agency and self-authorship, but still.

I compare this to Never Rarely Sometimes Always, whose protagonist spoke very little. Both Autumn and Chantel are trapped in their circumstances and trying to do something about it. Our empathy for Chantel is assumed to derive from confessional direct address, but I don’t think that works for me. Autumn’s is achieved largely through visual means.

Still from Just Another Girl on the I.R.T.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse 2023

Still from Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Dressed to Kill 1980

Still from Dressed to Kill

Boyz n the Hood 1991

I don’t think I’d seen this movie from start to finish before, but certain beats, especially Ricky being dragged up on the couch, were baked into me and are felt in a more primordial part of my brain as a result of seeing them so young.

Still from Boyz n the Hood

阿金 The Stunt Woman (1996)

Still from The Stunt Woman

Polite Society 2023

In Arthur episodes that focus on Muffy, she, due to her bratty nature, inevitably makes a mess of things. But rather than letting her live with and learn from the harm she causes, the episode finds some way of making her faults positive in some way, and she never has to actually learn a lesson.

Ria is a Muffy.

Still from Polite Society

Juice 1992

Still from Juice

Vanishing Chinatown: The World of the May’s Photo Studio 2020

Body Heat 1981

Still from Body Heat

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?!?