Tag Archive: spike lee


Dir. Spike Lee
(1989, R, 120 min)

Do the Right Thing ends with two contradictory quotes. The first is by Martin Luther King Jr., arguing the importance of peace and the futility of violence. The second is by Malcolm X, who insists that violence in self-defense is not violence at all, but necessary to defend your rights. Reflecting on those quotes after the film, I found that both seem equally true. That’s part of the push-pull tension of Spike Lee’s sweltering 1989 urban drama. It’s a bold, chaotic, free-form poem about racial unrest in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.

Continue reading

Dir. Dee Rees
(2011, R, 86 min)

Pariah hasn’t received as much attention as Precious did two years ago, though they have much in common, from their subjects – struggling black teens in New York’s inner city – to their tone, and even the support of prominent black entertainers: Precious was championed by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, and Pariah is executive-produced by Spike Lee. Perhaps their similarities are precisely the reason it has flown under the radar, though I like this film slightly more than I liked Precious. It’s subtler and more life-size. In place of the monstrous physical and sexual abuse of Precious is a more recognizable parent-child dynamic, an uneasy stalemate built on silence and denial.

Continue reading

Dir. Spike Lee
(2010, Not Rated, 255 min)
★ ★ ★ ★

Spike Lee’s If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise doesn’t have quite the impact of its predecessor, 2006’s When the Levees Broke, which is not only a masterpiece but an essential document of modern American history, but it’s just as important, or perhaps more so. Where Levees showed an urgent crisis in progress, God is Willing addresses more complex problems – bureaucratic, institutional, social, and economic challenges, some of them caused by Hurricane Katrina and the breach of the levees and others merely exacerbated by the catastrophe. Five years after the fact, the Gulf Coast region is still struggling, and Lee reinvests in the community with undiminished passion. He is a poet of moral outrage.

Continue reading