Monday, February 14, 2005

Things To Do For Black History Month Day 14

Things To Do For Black History Month Day 14: Watch A Good Spike Lee Film

Spike Lee is one of the most important black filmmakers of the last 20 years. Although he might be better known as a diehard New York Knicks fan now, he has directed some great films and helped launch the careers of such people as Denzel Washington, Wesley Snipes, Samuel L. Jackson, Halle Berry, Martin Lawrence, and Mekhi Phifer. Although Spike Lee has made some awful films (Girl 6 comes to mind), when he is at his best, his films are controversial, incendiary, and thought-provoking. Here is a list of his best films:

Do The Right Thing: This is arguably the best film of his career. Few films deal with race as well as this one does. The cast of this film is superb: Danny Aiello, John Tuturro, Bill Nunn, Rosie Perez, Ruby Dee, the late Ossie Davis and Robin Harris, Giancarlo Esposito, and Lee himself. This is a great film, black or otherwise. I will never forget what happened when I took a film class. The professor was about to show a clip from this film and asked the class to raise their hands if they had seen it. Only four people raised their hand, myself included, in the predominantly white class.

Malcolm X: Spike Lee's second great film, a three-hour-long epic telling of the story of the controversial civil rights icon. Denzel Washington got an Oscar nomination for his performance of Malcolm. This film shows Malcolm from his early days as a hoodlum to his final days as a man who no longer bore any hatred for any particular race. The film has recently been re-released in a two-disc special edition DVD, so there is no better time to see it than now.

Jungle Fever: This movie is known for two things: its groundbreaking portrayal of an interracial romance, and the performances of Samuel L. Jackson and Halle Berry. If you have any doubt in Halle's acting ability, check out her gritty, unglamourous early performance as a crackhead alongside Samuel L. Jackson, in his breakthrough performance. However, don't count out the (at the time) brave performances by Wesley Snipes and Annabella Sciorra. The soundtrack, written by Stevie Wonder, is very good.

Crooklyn: This underrated gem is a wonderful film about a family growing up in Brooklyn in the 1970's. Featuring strong performances by Delroy Lindo and Alfre Woodard, this movie is probably Spike Lee's nicest movie.

School Daze: This comedy/musical shows the rarely seen life of historically black colleges and universities. It features a cast that includes Laurence Fishburne and Tisha Campbell and pokes fun at the black fraternity/sorority scene.

4 Little Girls: Lee's first documentary feature is a powerful one about the bombing of an African-American church during the Civil Rights Movement that had four young black girls among the dead.

Bamboozled: I personally don't think that this is one of Spike Lee's best films, but it has to be seen to be believed. This is a vicious satire about a black TV writer who wants to be fired and decides to write a modern-day version of a minstrel show. However, the show actually becomes a hit. This film features a great cast including Damon Wayans, Jada Pinkett Smith, Michael Rappaport, Tommy Davidson, Savion Glover, and Mos Def. While it may not be the best film, it will leave you with a lot to think about and a lot to discuss about the nature of black entertainment.

25th Hour: The last film on this list is one that I feel is very underrated. It is also might be the only Spike Lee film without a single prominent black character. This film, based on the novel, is about how a drug dealer who is going to prison spends his last day as a free man. Edward Norton plays the main character and the film features good performances by Rosario Dawson, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Barry Pepper, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. This film was one of the first to take place in a post-9/11 New York and it shows. The "F-You" montage is the highlight of the film.

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