Spike Lee 1957–
(Full name Shelton Jackson Lee) American director, producer, screenwriter, nonfiction writer, and actor.
The following entry presents an overview of Lee's career through 1996.
Spike Lee has become a cultural icon in America. Known for his outspokenness as well as for his films, Lee has attracted both controversy and critical attention. Tackling such topics as racism, the life of slain African-American activist Malcolm X, interracial relationships, phone sex, and the world of drug dealing, Lee's work has met with mixed reviews. His greatest impact in the realm of film has been the presentation of a different picture of African Americans to the moviegoing public, and his success has created opportunities for other African-American directors.
Lee was born on March 20, 1957, in Atlanta, Georgia, to William and Jacqueline Lee. His father was a musician and composer, and his mother was a teacher. While he was still a baby, Lee's mother nicknamed him Spike for his toughness. His family moved to Chicago and then to Brooklyn when he was very young, and many of his films are set in Brooklyn neighborhoods similar to the ones in which he spent his youth. His mother died in 1977, and his father later remarried a Jewish woman. From the beginning of his career, Lee has involved his family in his film productions. Lee's father scored several of his films, and his sister has acted in many of the movies as well. Lee attended his grandfather's and father's alma mater, Morehouse College, where he received his B.A. in 1979. He first became interested in filmmaking during college, and after graduation he attended New York University film school. His first film was a short parody of D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation, which was not well-received by the faculty. In the film he criticized Griffith's condescending portrayal of African Americans. He went on to win the Student Director's Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Joe's Bed-Stuy Barber Shop: We Cut Heads (1982). To make ends meet after film school, Lee worked at a movie distribution house cleaning and shipping film. His first film after N.Y.U. was the low budget She's Gotta Have It (1986), which won the Prix de Jeunesse from the Cannes Film Festival and the New Generation Award from the Los Angeles Film Critics. After the success of his first film, Hollywood's interest in Lee enabled him to make bigger budget pictures, but he still operated with considerably less money than most Hollywood movies. Even with help from Hollywood, Lee remains an independent filmmaker who has had to provide his own financing for most of his films. He started his own production company, Forty Acres and a Mule, named for the unfulfilled promise of what would be given to every African American at the end of slavery. Lee also acts as his own manager and agent. He has managed to retain creative control over the final cuts of his movies because he does not rely solely on financial backing from studios.
Lee's films focus on various aspects of contemporary African-American life. She's Gotta Have It centers on the life of Nola Darling, a young woman with strong sexual desires who does not believe in restricting herself to one man to fulfill them. Nola represents a modern, independent woman who makes her own choices about her sexuality, yet in the end she discovers she loves the man who rapes her. Lee's second major film was School Daze (1988), a musical which parodies the conflict between light-skinned and dark-skinned African Americans at an all-black college in the South. Lee's Do the Right Thing (1989) follows a day in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn on the hottest day of the summer. Racial tensions rise, culminating in the murder of a young African-American man by the police and the burning of a local pizzeria. In Mo' Better Blues (1990), Lee explores the world of a jazz musician and the conflicts between his creative life and his love life. Lee's next project, Jungle Fever (1991), centers on an interracial affair between an African-American architect and his Italian-American secretary. The relationship is met with scorn and violence from the families and members of the neighborhood. "Jungle fever" describes the phenomenon of sexual attraction between the races based on sexual myths, and the film explores this aspect of interracial relationships as opposed to relationships based on love and culminating in marriage. Malcolm X (1992) was one of Lee's most ambitious projects and covers the life of African-American activist Malcolm X. Crooklyn (1994) is a semi-autobiographical movie that Lee wrote with his sister and brother. The story follows a few months in the life of a family in the 1970s. The Carmichael family lives in Brooklyn; the father is a musician, the mother a teacher. The film is told from the perspective of the 10-year-old daughter and follows her as she deals with the death of her mother and her journey to adulthood. In Clockers (1995) Lee tells the story of an African-American teenager who becomes a drug dealer. The character is able to rationalize his decision to deal crack until he sees the murder and black-on-black violence that drugs bring about. With Girl 6 (1996) Lee returned to a female protagonist. The heroine is an actress who becomes disenchanted when a director asks her to take her top off during a reading. She turns to the phone sex business to make a living and is quite successful. When a sadistic customer reveals that he knows where she lives, Girl 6 decides to leave the business, move to California, and resume her acting career. The film closes as it began, with a director asking her to take off her top, but this time she calmly finishes her monologue and leaves.
Critics who review Lee's work often digress into discussions of Lee's persona in addition to or instead of his films. Some assert that Lee is a keen commentator on contemporary society and a cinematic innovator. Others describe him as an untalented commercial sellout. Lee is typically criticized for his lack of technical virtuosity. Reviewers point to his use of a moving screen behind two still characters to make them appear to be walking as a sign of his amateurish preoccupation with cinematic gadgetry. Feminists often complain about Lee's portrayal of women. bell hooks states that "Like many females in Lee's audience, I have found his representation of women in general, and black women in particular, to be consistently stereotypical and one-dimensional." The female protagonist of She's Gotta Have It came closest to a portrait of a modern, independent woman, but critics assert that the rape scene subverted the character Lee had created. Reviewers point to Nola's rape as a punishment for her sexual independence, and the scene has caused many reviewers to accuse Lee of sexism and misogyny. Lee is sometimes compared to Woody Allen because New York City plays such a pivotal role in both directors' films and both directors act in their own movies. Lee resists the comparison, however, citing the lack of African Americans in Allen's films as an unrealistic portrayal of the racial makeup of New York. Some reviewers complain that Lee's work is superficial and that his plots lack focus. Bert Cardullo, writing in The Hudson Review, asserts that Lee "prefers to do the easier thing: cram his film with incident rather than exploration, with texture rather than subtext." Most critics mention the ambiguity in Lee's films, including the question of what the right thing is in his Do the Right Thing. Reviewers are divided on the success of the ambiguity. Some praise Lee for refusing to give his audience simple Hollywood answers, while others complain that his films are unstructured with unfocused plots. Despite the controversy surrounding the filmmaker, most critics agree that Lee's portrayal of the everyday lives of African Americans is new and refreshing, and his success will make it possible for other African-American directors to make further contributions.
Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads (film) 1983
She's Gotta Have It (film) 1986
Spike Lee's "Gotta Have It": Inside Guerilla Filmmaking (nonfiction) 1987
School Daze (film) 1988
Uplift the Race: The Construction of "School Daze" [with Lisa Jones] (nonfiction) 1988
Do the Right Thing (film) 1989
"Do the Right Thing": The New Spike Lee Joint [with Lisa Jones] (nonfiction) 1989
Mo' Better Blues (film) 1990
"Mo' Better Blues" [with Lisa Jones] (nonfiction) 1990
Jungle Fever (film) 1991
Malcolm X [with Arnold Perl and (uncredited) James Baldwin; based on the book The Autobiography of Malcolm X, written by Alex Haley] (film) 1992
By Any Means Necessary: The Trials and Tribulations of the Making of "Malcolm X" [with Ralph Wiley] (nonfiction) 1992
Crooklyn [with Joie Lee and Cinqué Lee] (film) 1994
Clockers [with Richard Price; based on Price's novel of the same title] (film) 1995
Girl 6 [written by Suzan-Lori Parks] (film) 1996
Get on the Bus [written by Reggie Rock Bythewood] (film) 1996
Best Seat in the House: A Basketball Memoir [with Ralph Wiley] (nonfiction) 1997
4 Little Girls (documentary film) 1997
∗In addition to directing the films listed here, Lee has also directed numerous television commercials and music...
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SOURCE: "Spike Lee's Gotta Have It," in The New York Times Magazine, August 9, 1987, pp. 26-9, 39, 41.
[In the following essay, Mieher discusses the making of Lee's School Daze and his emerging success as a filmmaker.]
The scene is an old fairgrounds building in Atlanta, now Madame Re-Re's Beauty Salon, a surreal creation of plywood, plaster and paint. The set has been packed with a score of dancers, a film crew and the director Spike Lee, all of them sweating under 140,000 watts of lighting to piece together a production number. Now the crew is taking a break. The dancers, overheated, head for cooler air outside.
Lee wanders out too, a short, spindly figure in black trousers, black sneakers and a Mets baseball cap. He is looking for an audience, and he finds one, a visitor. He asks, "Did you hear we got kicked off campus?" The campus in question is that of Morehouse College, Lee's alma mater and the main location for his second feature film, about student life at an all-black college. Things are not working out as planned. Lee tells of how the school's president, Hugh Morris Gloster, "thought this would be a negative portrayal of black colleges." The director pauses at a snack table to stuff a few orange slices into his mouth, then adopts a mocking, presidential tone: "He said, 'We have information that actors in the movie use an obscene word, and parents wouldn't want to send...
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SOURCE: "Insight to Riot," in Rolling Stone, No. 556/557, July 13-27, 1989, pp. 104-9, 174-5.
[In the following essay, Handelman discusses the making of Lee's Do the Right Thing and its reception at the Cannes Film Festival.]
"I don't need this shit!" says USA Today gossip columnist Jeannie Williams. It's the morning of May 19th, and Williams has just seen the breakfast press screening of Do the Right Thing at the Cannes film festival. Tonight, the film will have its black-tie, red-carpet gala première at the Palais des Festivals, on the Côte d'Azur beach, where it will be competing with films from around the world for the coveted Palm d'Or prize. This morning, the more modest Palais press-conference room is abuzz with a few hundred international journalists and photographers waiting for the arrival of the film's director, Spike Lee.
"I live in New York," Williams says, her eyes flashing. "I don't need this movie in New York this summer. I don't know what they're thinking!" The ghetto in the movie is "too clean," Williams complains to a colleague, its inhabitants are "too nice," and there's too much violence.
Williams's diatribe is interrupted by Roger Ebert, the Chicago Sun-Times critic and TV personality, the only journalist ever called on by name at these conferences. He sweeps into the room and declares, "It's a great film, a great...
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SOURCE: "A World without Whole Notes: The Intellectual Subtext of Spike Lee's Blues," in Boundary 2, Vol. 18, No. 2, Summer, 1991, pp. 238-51.
[In the following essay, Merod analyzes Lee's portrayal of jazz in his Mo' Better Blues, and includes a discussion with other scholars about the importance of jazz in the film.]
The depiction of jazz musicians and of jazz-related subjects in the history of North American film has suffered from the chronic neglect and misunderstanding that still marks this culture's pathological abuse of creative energy. The inventory of that abuse is poised to expand with another dramatic adventure in applied techno-sadism as computer-operated tanks and planes prepare to fertilize the Saudi desert with human blood. In the history of North American cinema, war, murder, violence, and destruction of every imaginable kind have archetypal predominance above the ordinary uses of human capacities. When we turn to a film that explores the risks and joys of artistic development, we hope for an enlargement of our understanding about the ways that creativity thrives or lingers against harassment. Spike Lee's recent film, Mo' Better Blues, promises to reward such hope. If it defers the task of giving the jazz musician a place and a voice appropriate to the magnificent accomplishments carved from endless (and seemingly unending) struggles—accomplishments and struggles...
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SOURCE: "He's Gotta Have It: An Interview with Spike Lee," in Cineaste, Vol. 18, No. 4, 1991, pp. 12-15.
[In the following interview, Lee discusses his film Jungle Fever and his approach to filmmaking.]
Spike Lee is a filmmaker with a vision and an agenda. He makes no bones about it: his purpose is to hold his cinematic mirror up to reflect African-American reality as experienced by his generation. These are the young blacks who grew up after the civil rights movement and the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. They have seen the dream of a Great Society and Affirmative Action crumble into crackhouses and quota-babble.
Not yet thirty-five, Lee has directed five feature films since 1986—She's Gotta Have It, School Daze, Do the Right Thing, Mo' Better Blues, and Jungle Fever—which have earned him a controversial reputation for interpreting contemporary black America to itself and to society at large. He's a man with a commitment and credentials, working in the right medium for the times.
Born in Atlanta into an educated, culturally stimulating family environment—his father is an accomplished jazz musician—Lee moved as a child with his family to New York City, where he lived in middle class Brooklyn neighborhoods. He returned to Atlanta to become a third generation graduate of Morehouse College. After a...
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SOURCE: A review of Jungle Fever, in Film Quarterly, Vol. 45, No. 2, Winter, 1991–92, pp. 37-41.
[In the following review, Saltman discusses Lee's Jungle Fever, asserting that 'Amid his pop sociology and artistic excesses, Lee demonstrates a thoroughly contemporary consciousness and the ability to put it on film."]
Spike Lee developed his skills in independent movie making and music videos, working his way up to become an American auteur—perhaps not quite ready to be an artistic successor to Woody Allen, but ready to enter the social and political space left by Costa-Gavras and Godard, and in racial issues to locate himself somewhere between Eddie Murphy and Malcolm X. In other words, Lee is hard to pin down. Perhaps of all his work so far Jungle Fever is the hardest to locate. Lee's filmic style is a kind of slowed-down MTV, an assemblage of fragments which present his social concerns broadly and unanalytically. As an entertainer he mastered the attack language of pop music and night-club comedy and adapted it with persistence and ambition to interracial and intraracial issues. Some serious reviewers have rejected Jungle Fever, first for Lee's apparent scorn for integration, second for his misreading of black-white relationships, and third for his creation of bad art. They find the love relationship in the film to be superficial: the interracial affair between a...
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SOURCE: "Law of the Jungle," in The Hudson Review, Vol. XLIV, No. 4, Winter, 1992, pp. 642-7.
[In the following excerpt, Cardullo discusses Lee's Jungle Fever and suggests that Lee watch African films to "discover something not only about artistic economy, about the virtue (and resonance) of a simple tale straightforwardly told, but also about the culture of his Mother Africa."]
… Spike Lee's Jungle Fever is about villagers of a different kind: those of New York City, which, with the possible exception of upper Manhattan, is America's most parochial city. (My mother, who spent the first forty years of her life in Brooklyn, rarely felt the need to venture outside Flatbush, let alone the borough itself.) Lee's "villagers" are all played by professionals, and it shows in the unevenness of their work, in the absence from all but a few scenes of an ensemble feeling. For every subtly inflected performance, like that of John Turturro or Annabella Sciorra, there is a forced or wooden one, like that of Wesley Snipes or Lee himself. For every powerfully affecting piece of acting, like Samuel L. Jackson's, there is a slackly maudlin one, like Anthony Quinn's. Even the cinematography of Jungle Fever—by Ernest Dickerson, who has shot all of Lee's features—is uneven, in that it combines realistic or on-location interiors—in a Bensonhurst candy store, an uptown architectural firm, a Harlem...
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SOURCE: "Our Film Is Only a Starting Point: An Interview with Spike Lee," in Cineaste, Vol. 19, No. 4, 1993, pp. 20-4.
[In the following interview, which took place in December, 1992, Lee discusses the making of the film Malcolm X, and explains his reasons for excluding certain material.]
In addition to our Critical Symposium on Malcolm X, Cineaste felt it was important to talk to Spike Lee and incorporate his comments in our overall perspective on the film. In the following interview, Lee explains his primary desire to introduce Malcolm X to young viewers and his awareness that the time limits of even a nearly three and a half hour movie prevented him from producing anything more than a "primer" on one of America's most charismatic black leaders. His additional comments about the difficulties of attempting to produce an epic political film within the budgetary constraints imposed by Warner Bros. and in light of the many other pragmatic and political considerations involved are important aspects in arriving at a fully informed appraisal of the artistic achievement and political significance of Malcolm X. Spike Lee spoke to Cineaste Editors Gary Crowdus and Dan Georgakas in mid-December 1992, just three weeks after the film's nationwide premiere.
[Cineaste:] What sort of research did you do for the film? And what was the role of your Historical...
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SOURCE: "Male Heroes and Female Sex Objects: Sexism in Spike Lee's Malcolm X," in Cineaste, Vol. 19, No. 4, 1993, pp. 13-5.
[In the following essay, hooks discusses Lee's treatment of women in his films, and asserts that by leaving out the title character's half sister from Malcolm X, "Lee continues Hollywood's devaluation of black womanhood."]
In all Spike Lee's films, he is at his creative best in scenes highlighting black males. Portraying black masculinity through a spectrum of complex and diverse portraits, he does not allow audiences to hold a stereotypical image. For that reason alone, I imagined Malcolm X would be a major work, one of his best films. At last, I thought, Spike's finally going to just do it—make a film that will allow him to focus almost exclusively on black men, since women were always at the periphery of Malcolm's life. Thinking that the film would not focus centrally on females, I was relieved. Like many females in Lee's audience, I have found his representation of women in general, and black women in particular, to be consistently stereotypical and one-dimensional.
Ironically, Nola Darling in She's Gotta Have It remains one of Lee's most compelling representations of black woman-hood. Though a failed portrait of a liberated woman, Darling is infinitely more complex than any of the women who follow her in Lee's work. She's Gotta...
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SOURCE: "A 'Whiteout': Malcolm X in South Africa," in The Journal of American History, Vol. 80, No. 3, December, 1993, pp. 1199-1201.
[In the following essay, Nasson discusses the reception of Lee's Malcolm X in South Africa.]
In Spike Lee's modest contribution to method writing, By Any Means Necessary, a high-octane account of the making of Malcolm X, we learn that on the Johannesburg shoot to capture Nelson Mandela as a Soweto teacher for the film's final clip, "there was a whiteout of our activities, like we were never there, according to the news organizations of South Africa." There is a nice whiff of radical audacity to this, but it is quite preposterous. With the shooting of Malcolm X no particular danger to the already crumbling fabric of South African society, white English-language papers took rather positive notice of filmmaker and subject. In fact, the only unsporting notes appeared in the country's leading liberal weekly, Johannesburg Weekly Mail, and in the black Johannesburg Sowetan. These reported grumbling amongst local black crew over working conditions under the visiting director, adoringly identified by his production assistant as "a brother who had come home to visit."
What have we here? What we have is not just a filmmaking chronicle that is somewhat economical with the truth, but a film with an equally rough-and-ready...
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SOURCE: "Sorrowful Black Death Is Not a Hot Ticket," in Sight and Sound, Vol. 4, No. 8, August, 1994, pp. 10-14.
[In the following essay, hooks asserts that Lee's Crooklyn presents an "anti-woman, anti-feminist vision of black family life."]
Hollywood is not into plain old sorrowful death. The death that captures the public imagination in movies, the death that sells, is passionate, sexualised, glamorised and violent. Films like One False Move, True Romance, Reservoir Dogs, Menace II Society, A Perfect World bring us the sensational heat of relentless dying. It's fierce—intense—and there is no time to mourn. Dying that makes audiences contemplative, sad, mindful of the transitory nature of human life has little appeal. When portrayed in the contemporary Hollywood film, such deaths are swift, romanticised by soft lighting and elegiac soundtracks. The sights and sounds of death do not linger long enough to disturb the senses, to remind us in any way that sorrow for the dying may be sustained and unrelenting. When Hollywood films depict sorrowful death, audiences come prepared to cry. Films like Philadelphia advertise the pathos so that even before tickets are bought and seats are taken, everyone knows that tears are in order, but that the crying time will not last long.
The racial politics of Hollywood is such that there can be no serious representations of death...
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SOURCE: A review of Crooklyn, in Sight and Sound, December, 1994, pp. 44-5.
[In the following review, Dargis praises Lee's Crooklyn citing the camera work, the music, and the fact that the film is presented through the eyes of a nine-year-old African-American girl.]
For a number of years now, Spike Lee has made more of a name for himself as an ideologue and entrepreneur than as a film-maker. Although he's one of the busiest of directors—six features, in addition to TV commercials, music videos, a production company, a record business, retail stores—his off-screen words and deeds have often commanded as much if not more attention than his work in film. Whatever the personal gain, Lee's extra-curricular activities have cost him dearly. Acclaimed by the black community (at least publicly), patronised, condemned and fetishised by the white media, the artist has been swamped by his own creation, a phenomenon otherwise known as Spike Lee.
Crooklyn is Lee's most personal work since his startling debut eight years ago with She's Gotta Have It, and decidedly his best to date. The semi-autobiographical film, which Lee co-wrote with his sister Joie and younger brother Cinqué, traces the emotional arc of the fictional Carmichael family over a few crucial months dúring the early 70s, a sentimental interlude that closes in tragedy. Amy Taubin has called the film...
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SOURCE: A review of Clockers, in Sight and Sound, October, 1995, p. 45.
[In the following review, Taubin asserts that "In terms of form and content [Clockers is] easily Lee's riskiest and most accomplished film to date," but argues that the film does have flaws.]
In a drug-ridden Brooklyn housing project, Strike is a 16-year-old-clocker (lowest level drug dealer). Troubled by ulcers so severe they cause him to spit blood, he is nevertheless the favourite of Rodney Little, the local crack kingpin. Rodney asks Strike to prove his loyalty by killing Darryl, a young pusher that Rodney claims has been cheating him.
Strike heads for Ahab's, a fast food joint where Darryl does his dealing. Trying to work up his nerve, he goes to the bar next door where he meets his older brother Victor, a model African-American citizen. Strike babbles some story about how Darryl deserves to die because he beat up a 14-year-old girl. When Victor says that he might know someone who could kill Darryl, Strike realises that his brother is drunk and splits. A short while later, someone pumps four bullets into Darryl.
The next day, Victor turns himself in, claiming he killed Darryl in self-defence. Veteran homicide detective Rocco Klein thinks Victor is protecting Strike. Rocco begins pursuing Strike with a vengeance. For Strike, Rocco is one too many among the people—narcotics cops,...
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SOURCE: A review of Girl 6, in Sight and Sound, June, 1996, pp. 43-4.
[In the following review, Felperin analyzes Lee's Girl 6 as a response to criticism of Lee's treatment of female characters and in terms of its relationship to his earlier film She's Gotta Have It.]
New York City. The present. A young actress goes for an audition with a famous director, but when he insists she take her top off, she walks out, upset and humiliated. Her agent is furious with her, but her upstairs neighbour, Jimmy, offers sympathy. Fed up with low-paying jobs, she speaks to a woman who runs a 'phone-sex' business, but because she hasn't got her own line she has to look elsewhere for work. Eventually, she lands a job doing phone sex at an office-based company, where she is trained by supervisor Lil, introduced to her co-workers and renamed Girl 6.
Before long, Girl 6 is drawing in regular customers and proving to be highly proficient at her new career. One night she sees a news report about a little girl, named Angela King, who has been injured falling down a lift shaft and the news story of her recovery is tracked closely by her. At work, Girl 6 starts to get disturbing phone calls from Mr Snuff, a client who likes to talk about his sadistic fantasies. Girl 6 agrees to meet a client she likes but is stood up by him. She meets with her ex-husband and demonstrates how she talks on the phone...
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SOURCE: "Spike Lee and the American Tradition," in Literature/Film Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 1, 1996, pp. 26-31.
[In the following review, Lindroth discusses Lee's Do the Right Thing as an American narrative in the tradition of Huckleberry Finn.]
From the moment it opened, Spike Lee's movie Do the Right Thing has raised questions and aroused controversy among critics and ordinary moviegoers alike. From its initial success at the Cannes Film Festival to its almost complete exclusion from the Academy Award nominations, the film has provoked heated response from both defenders and attackers, and publications as disparate as Vogue, The New Yorker, American Film, and Mother Jones reviewed, interviewed, and often second-guessed Lee. The film was praised for its "unclichéd, antiheroic vision of … contemporary racial tension," and for "asking questions about the country's racial chasm that few artists, or even political leaders, are willing to broach." So much of the focus has been on the political message of the film, however, that much of its real artistry, and nearly all of its relevance to the tradition of American literature as a whole, has been overlooked. Even a review that considered it necessary viewing, for example, praising its "easy, colloquial vivacity" and "sensational look," also dismissed most of its characters as being "there to represent something or to move the...
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SOURCE: "The Invisible Man: Spike Lee," in Film Comment, Vol. 33, No. 1, January/February, 1997, pp. 42-7.
[In the following essay, Jones discusses Lee's body of work.]
The proof of Spike Lee's insight is the clamor of opposing rash positions around his films—how difficult is it to imagine a scene from a Lee movie in which a gaggle of film critics scream their opinions about the relative worth of a young African-American filmmaker's oeuvre in each other's faces, shot in contrasting off-angles and perfectly sculpted light? His less sophisticated admirers, in other words those who are unwilling to apply the same sort of hardworking analysis to his work that he applies to American society, have never done him any favors by pushing him as an "innovator." (Some innovator: his actor-on-the-dolly move, cribbed from Mean Streets and monotonously reprised in every film from Mo' Better Blues through Girl 6, is numbingly off-key and gives the impression to the unsuspecting viewer that certain sidewalks in the New York area are equipped with conveyor belts.) Then there are those who claim that he is basically reheating old-fashioned social consciousness in a rock video microwave. But the classic social consciousness of, say, To Kill a Mockingbird begins with an abstraction—Racism, and How It Can Be Overcome—and structures its narrative accordingly: a racist malefactor and a good and...
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Baker, Houston A., Jr. "Spike Lee and the Commerce of Culture." Black American Cinema, edited by Manthia Diawara, New York: Routledge, 1993, 154-76.
Discusses the cinematic critique Lee has developed throughout his career, and laments the absence of a Black feminist critique in the director's work.
Burgess, Dana L. "Vergilian Modes in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing." Classical and Modern Literature: A Quarterly 11, No. 4 (Summer 1991): 313-16.
Asserts that Lee employs Vergilian modes in his Do the Right Thing and discusses the ambiguity of the film's ending.
Christensen, Jerome. "Spike Lee's Corporatist Art." The Delegated Intellect: Emersonian Essays on Literature, Science, and Art in Honor of Don Gifford, edited by Donald E. Morse, New York: Peter Lang, 1995, 89-106.
Asserts that Lee is a corporate populist who takes no responsibility for the effect his products have.
Horvath, Brooke and Melissa Prunty Kemp. "All Things to All People: Opposing Agendas and Ambiguous Purpose in the Films of Spike Lee." The Hollins Critic XXXI, No. 4 (October 1994): 1-17.
Analyzes the progression in the political and artistic agenda of Lee's films...
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