29 March 2007

she's gotta have it, steel city, the last waltz, smokey and the bandit, more.

she's gotta have it
i read the companion book, so i was inspired to see the movie. it's interesting to see spike's early work, and how he had, from the get-go, that sense of black pride and the desire to show his world and his people to a larger audience. this in and of itself might be the reason he has done as well as he has: he's trying to communicate an existence that otherwise might go unnoticed, and he'll do anything to make that happen; he'll use "any means necessary", and the book shows how he did this.

but that's more about spike than about the movie. the movie itself is experimental, using long takes, talking to the camera, black and white with a color sequence, dance, jazz, art. you can see why folks were calling him "the black woody allen": there's a preciousness here that i haven't seen since. i'm glad spike got this one out of the way so he could focus more on narrative and theme afterwards.

in other spike lee viewing news, i recently also watched all of "when the levees broke". there's not much to say about it save two things: 1) go see it yourself and DO NOT be dissuaded by the runtime. 2) why wasn't it nominated for a best documentary oscar?

steel city
this is a small movie made in central illinois, a place where factories that are dying supply the workforce with weak wages, where cheap beer exists to cause and solve all problems, where people struggle to get up, to get by, to get through the day. this is a movie that hit close to home because so much of my extended family lives in rural illinois in circumstances similar to the ones depicted here, and the film is notable because it allows all the characters dignity. it is creaky, certainly, in that it relies too much on characters yelling at each other, there are too much montages set to solo acoustic guitar, the main character is too much of a sad sack (we eventually understand why, but it is still sort of off-putting).

the director, brian jun, will next tackle a biopic of jeff buckley. excellent! but who will play buckley, and who could do him justice?

the last waltz
i am biased about this, because i fucking love him so much, but i think the best performance in this movie is by van morrison, who KILLS his version of "caravan". the way he attacks it from the very beginning, the way he says "radio" the gaelic way, the way he's wearing a shiny burgundy outfit! this motherfucker could sing so unbelievably well, and not just the tone of his voice, but in those small intangible ways: where he chooses to sustain, what he chooses to repeat, the way he jumps the gun one of the times he yells "turn it up!" just before the guitar solo. this performance is an absolute treasure, and i've lately been watching it over and over and over.

but that's just my own obsession. the movie as a whole is fantastic, and how couldn't it be, considering it starts with this disclaimer: THIS FILM SHOULD BE PLAYED LOUD! i have a weak spot for the staple singers assisted version of "the weight", both in the beauty of the rendition and the amazing camera movement scorsese employed. i also have a weak spot for the coke in neil young's coke nose during his performance.

smokey and the bandit
this is not a good movie. i know that. but sometimes you don't want to watch a good movie, a movie that will teach you about other cultures or allow you to empathize with inner-city crackhead high school teachers or the queen of england. sometimes you want to watch a movie that reminds you of your childhood, and this is one of those movies for me. everyone has them -- movies you watched when you were young that for whatever reason lodged themselves inside your brain and forever are part of your personal nostalgia. others for me include "the goonies", "the buddy holly story", and "robin hood" (the disney version).

but, like in van morrison's performance in "the last waltz", the joys in "smokey and the bandit" are for me small details: the way burt reynolds looks right at the camera and smiles after evading a cop, the turns of phrase by jackie gleason (such as "sumbit!" instead of "son of a bitch!"), the funny gait and elocution of jerry reed. this movie defines a time and a place both in america, but also in my life -- we've all got movies like "smokey and the bandit" in our lives.

in other news, fingerman is now on imdb.com and will have its world premiere at the 1st annual oxford international film festival on april 6th.

and i've been busy prepping a new film, entitled "eastern college", to shoot this summer. it is an exciting time for sure.


Blogger ayatollah assahola said...

When the Levees broke debuted on TV, that's why no oscar nomination.

2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

his performance of "caravan" on IT'S TOO LATE TO STOP NOW is one of my favorite tracks, ever.

i had no freaking clue he was in THE LAST WALTZ...in fact i knew nothing about the movie.

i'm gonna pick it up right now!

11:28 AM  

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