Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Spike Lee, I owe you an apology

So I'm gonna be up all night: have two turkeys to prepare for deep-frying about 36 hours from now, and in-between injections of marinade (once every 4-6 hours usually) I'm putting the trailer for Forcery together in Premiere Pro. Hopefully the trailer will be online come late Thursday or Friday. And I needed some background noise...

There's only two movies on teevee right now that even remotely interest me. HBO is running Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, which if you can ignore the time years later when Pee-Wee's wee-wee got over-exposed, it's still a really good movie. It launched the career of Tim Burton and it has what might be one of THE few legitimately scary scenes in movie history: when Pee-Wee is riding in Large Marge's truck. Classic film that I've seen at least a bajillion times over the years. It's something that I can trust.

The other movie is Malcolm X on AMC.

Malcolm X came out when I was a senior in high school. There was a lot of interest in it back then, but I never saw it. In fact, I've never seen at all, period, as in anything more than a 3-second clip, until tonight. This was the unknown quantity competing for my peripheral attention.

In the end, Malcolm Little won out over Paul Reubens. It's now about two hours into this four-hour-plus monster of a biography... and I'm really, really regretting not having seen this before.

I said that I was working on Thanksgiving dinner and a promo for our film. Since my attention started gravitating toward Malcolm X those projects have still barely started. Just about everything is working in this movie: Denzel Washington's acting, the editing, the pacing... and the directing. I wish that I'd taken the time to watch this before literally almost running into Spike Lee years ago, when he came to our college to film He Got Game. I didn't know who he was at first (I knew about his movies, just not what he looked like) but after finding out, I thought that Lee was too wired, like he'd taken an overdose of No-Doz. He seemed like someone who was too frenetic for their own good. Haven't watched He Got Game yet either (though friends swear that I'm seen walking around in the background in one scene) but I've seen a few other Lee movies. And though Do The Right Thing is still pretty unique, nothing else by Spike Lee has really piqued my curiosity. In my mind he seemed like a director who could only work with variations on the theme of Black American/White American. And after awhile, that gets boring.

But so far Malcolm X is... well, perfect.

No small feat this, considering that its subject was a man possessing so intense a complex character that Malcolm X - I think anyway - became one of the most enigmatic figures of 20th century American history. I wish that I'd caught this in previous years, because so far it's completely changing my views on Spike Lee. Before tonight he seemed too much a hack filmmaker driven by agenda to me. But while yet in the middle of Malcolm X, I'm coming to realize that he's a very talented director with a rare grasp of historical narrative.

Lee should make more movies like Malcolm X and steer away from the angst-ridden projects of his earlier career. This is real art. You don't get something this good by making it come out of a sense of anger or frustration. If Lee ever does something this high-caliber again, I'll gladly pay money hand-over-fist at the box office to catch it opening day.

Gonna go watch the rest of it now whilst I be shootin' up some turkeys with garlic butter.

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