While this writer hasn't seen it yet and therefore perhaps shouldn't speak out of turn, it still seems that one of the most depressing things about the most recent 2012 Sundance Film Festival is that after all the sales and several dozen films purchased by myriad distributors, no one has stepped up to buy Spike Lee's "Red Hook Summer."
Our review from the festival said, "Ultimately, Lee’s clarity of vision hasn’t been this sharp or unique since before 'Crooklyn,' and it’s thrilling with 'Red Hook Summer' to witness a return to the technique – and most of all, emotional wallop – that even today continues to give his films an enduring life as both entertainment, and enlightenment."
As Deadline's Mike Fleming put it so perfectly recently, Spike hasn't really received the respect he deserves. "It’s a shame that Lee hasn’t gotten his due as a great American filmmaker and that he has been shut out by studios," he wrote. "I think his momentum was harmed when he took a hard stance against Warner Bros in not cutting his near-masterpiece 'Malcolm X,' and his brilliance as a director continues to be overshadowed by the misperception that he is the 'angry African American.' "
We couldn't agree more. Regardless, maybe Lee has a plan we aren't privy to just yet. The director recently gave a lecture at Chicago State University and during his conversation said he expected the film open in August. Now, Lee's been saying "Red Hook Summer" would open in summer 2012 for some time now, but without a distributor that could just seem like loose talk.
It seems clear from the buys at Sundance that no major studios are going to be making the purchase (and by majors we're meaning folks like Fox Searchlight, Sony Pictures Classics, etc.), but for all we know some conversations are happening behind closed doors. Surely someone is going to make the buy, but perhaps a Magnolia or a smaller distributor then the filmmaker had envisioned. Hard to say.
Meanwhile, during a recent interview with The Playlist at Sundance, Lee himself seemed to suggest that his trio of biopics centered on famous African-American historical figures — Joe Louis, James Brown and Jackie Robinson — were likely dead, "Those were three films that never came to fruition,” he stated. However, during his lecture Lee evidently said he'd still like to make them all one day. Fingers crossed? Maybe we should hope "Old Boy" happens, and becomes an "Inside Man"-sized hit so he can get that kind of studio juice again. Either that or befriend Megan Ellison or Brad Pitt's Plan B.
Also, it wouldn't be Spike if he didn't spit some fire at some target of ire. This time? The Academy Awards and "The Help." “Something crazy happened the other day," he said at the lecture. "Your guy, Barack Obama, gave his third State of the Union address, and ironically, the next day, the Academy put out their Oscar nominations. In 1940, our first great actress is a slave maid. In 2012, we have two maids. The difference? They’re not slaves. Progress?” [Chicago Sun Times/ Shadow & Act]