Shelton Jackson “Spike” Lee, born March 20, 1957, turns 57 years old today! Wow! Time sure does fly, doesn’t it?
I had to pause for a minute to think about the fact that he’ll be 60 years old in a matter of 3 years. Or maybe it just reminds me that I am aging as well – we all are – and I’d prefer to think that the years aren’t moving along as briskly.
But they are; So, as the saying goes, carpe diem, or seize the day!
Back to Spike… long time readers of this website will know just how much and how often the man’s name is been mentioned by just about all of us, both critically, as well as in adulation. You’ll find a good mix of commentary. He has been, after all, the most prominent black filmmaker in this country, since he burst onto the scene in the mid 1980s, and he’s still around, cranking out a film about once every 2 to 3 years or so, on average; you can’t really talk about black cinema today and not mention one Mr Spike Lee.
And to celebrate his 57th birthday, let’s reminisce… specifically, what are your favorite Spike Lee moments. Notice I didn’t ask for only your favorite Spike Lee films; so feel free to include those moments in which Spike roused and stirred you, whether psychologically or physically; moments, on film, and not on film, when he agitated, titillated, awakened, incensed, humored, sensitize, you; Moments in any of his films, or Spike himself in person, made you laugh, cry, angry, sad, and more.
These moments could be from scenes in his films, or they could be entire films, films he’s produced, interviews he’s done, books he’s written, speeches/talks given, commercials he’s directed or starred in, and whatever else you can remember.
In my case, I think most would probably list Do The Right Thing as their favorite Spike Lee jointe but, I’ll actually go against the tide here and choose Bamboozled instead. It was Spike’s most scathing critique, and an ambitious satire on race and the power of media, shot mostly on what was then a still burgeoning technology that certainly wasn’t as widely used and embraced as it is today – we call it digital video now.
That was 14 long years ago!
I’d say it wasn’t a coincidence that the film was released in the year 2000 – as a kind of call to action at the beginning of the new millennium. Yes, it’s a little longer than I think it should have been to be just as effective, and Spike doesn’t end it as efficiently as it begins (at least, in my not-so humble opinion); But I greatly appreciated the films overall potency. It worked for me, even though it was savaged by many film critics, including, surprisingly, Ebert and Roeper on their nationally televised film review program. It surprised me that 2 of the nation’s top movie critics were so short-sighted as to miss the broader message behind Spike’s overtly satirical film. They practically dismissed it, which was unfortunate.
I wonder if both were still alive today, would still feel that same about the film today.
But chime in with your own favorite Spike Lee moments – on film, or otherwise. I’m sure, for some of you, his recent public invective on gentrification in Brooklyn will rank highly.
Here’s a flashback for my choice: