All posts tagged: Spike Lee

DVD Review: Spike Lee Films “Passing Strange”

Some stage plays and musicals are adapted into films. Others are simply filmed. That would seem to be the easier gig—but if you’ve suffered through one where the camera never moved, or never seemed to be in the right place, and the whole static bore made you wonder why anyone thought it was worthwhile to see it live in the first place you know there’s nothing simple about it. The chance to see the original cast performing the piece as it was originally seen in the theater is hardly compensation if you pass out comatose after ten excruciating minutes. Spike Lee, happily, got the essence of Passing Strange, an exuberant reproduction of the avant-garde rock concert/book musical hybrid that shook up Broadway in 2008, earning seven Tony nominations and winning the Drama Desk’s Outstanding Musical award. As a New York-based writer on theater I’ve been a Drama Desk member for about a decade, and was an awards nominator in the 2007-2008 season. That meant seeing, and evaluating, about a billion shows that opened, or a …

Sugar Water: Black and/or White

Writer-director Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing opened in theaters on June 30, 1989. “White people still ask me why Mookie threw the [trash] can through the window” at the film’s climax, he recently told the Associated Press. “Twenty years later, they’re still asking me that. No black person ever, in 20 years, no person of color has ever asked me why.” Perhaps the white people who’ve asked Lee that question also wondered why blacks across the nation celebrated the 1995 acquittal of O.J. Simpson, a famous black football player accused of murdering his white wife. As Todd Boyd, a professor of popular culture at the University of Southern California, noted in the HBO documentary O.J.: A Study in Black and White (2002), the gut reaction boiled down to psychological payback. In other words, for every black man in this country who’s been beaten, lynched, shot, or thrown behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit, you didn’t get this one. It didn’t have to be O.J., of course, who wasn’t exactly a shining beacon …

DVD Review: “Miracle at St. Anna”

Miracle at St. Anna opens with a crime:  A black postal worker pulls out a German Lugar pistol and kills an Italian man waiting in line to buy stamps.  Why did he do it?  That’s what reporter Tim Boyle (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) wants to find out as he accompanies detectives to the killer’s apartment.  There, they find the head of an Italian statue that is worth millions.  The mystery deepens and Boyle worms his way into getting an interview with the worker, whose name is Hector Negron.  Negron (played by actor Laz Alonso in old age makeup) begins to tell the story of his tour of duty in World War II as a part of the 92nd Infantry Division, a.k.a the Buffalo Soldiers Division, a segregated platoon of all black soldiers. From there the film flashes back to Italy, World War II, and proceeds to get worse by the minute.  We are thrust into a brutally bloody battle sequence reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan, except not nearly as effective.  Four soldiers are separated from the platoon …

Sugar Water: White Men Can’t Believe I’m Talking About Wesley Snipes Again

Last Thursday actor Wesley Snipes (U.S. Marshals, Undisputed) was sentenced to three years in prison after being found guilty in February of three misdemeanor counts for willfully failing to file his tax returns from 1999 to 2001. Snipes and his lawyers had hoped he could avoid prison time, even if he ends up doing that time at a minimum-security “Club Fed”-style prison camp, and went so far as to present three checks totaling $5 million to Judge William Terrell Hodges at the sentencing hearing. Judge Hodges said he didn’t have the authority to accept the money, and the prosecution wouldn’t accept it either. Was anyone in the courtroom bold enough to cash Blade’s checks? Just in the nick of time, a kindly IRS employee stepped up and said he’d give them a good home at the Treasury Department. Crisis averted. Snipes’s legal team also presented the court with letters from his family and friends, including former costars Woody Harrelson (White Men Can’t Jump) and Denzel Washington (Mo’ Better Blues), in the hopes that their defense …

Sugar Water: Super Cyborg Sunday

I’ll get to the cyborgs in a second, but before I do, I need to mention one last thing in regard to Wesley Snipes — in my three February posts you may have noticed that I said my lawyer/friend Dave-o and I were in Florida during his birthday week, which coincided with the first week of Snipes’s trial, January 14-18. Then last week I said we were there when the jury gave its verdict on Friday, February 1. Allow me to explain. See, what happened was … hey, is that Wesley at the Oscars with Spike Lee? Way to go, Wes! You used your negative trial publicity to get yourself invited to the Oscars last Sunday and remind everyone of the top-notch filmmakers you used to work with. Smart move. Now start getting into character for that James Brown biopic that Spike’s supposedly developing for you. Or go to prison. It’s your choice. Scratch that — it isn’t your choice. But you’re famous, so you probably won’t go to prison. Then again, James Brown spent …

Sugar Water: White Men Can’t Write About Al Jarreau Yet

Last Sunday I said I would find time to write about Al Jarreau in the coming week, but a few days ago Jeff Giles told me to put my ode to the seven-time Grammy winner on hold for now. That’s because he has something special in the works that will involve several of Popdose’s writers. Unfortunately for Jeff, I have a problem with authority, so I now present my exclusive interview with Al Jarreau in its entirety: Me: So were you, like, a huge Moonlighting fan back in the ’80s? I know I was! Al: I’m embarrassed to say this, but I think I only saw it once. I kept forgetting when it was on. Was it Thursdays? Me: This interview is over. Full disclosure: the preceding interview took place in my imagination. But did you see how I totally stormed out of the imaginary hotel suite where I was interviewing Mr. Jarreau? He never knew what hit him.