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My Top Six Spike Lee Joints

Spike Lee is a film making genius and one of my personal heroes. While some critics have labeled him as too militant or critiqued him for hammering in his message, I believe the man is one of the greatest film makers ever. His movies are just downright entertaining. Every time I watch a Spike Lee joint I feel a wave of cool emanating from the screen. It doesn’t matter if the film had a high or low budget; the man is an alchemist who can turn anything into pure gold.

Here are my top six favorite Spike Lee joints because I honestly could not force myself to cut one off to make a top five. I had to change this list numerous times because I would always think of one more movie that I loved and I would have to change the list again.

6. Get on the Bus (1996): This film revolves around a group of African-American men traveling from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. for the Million Man March in 1995. What makes this film so special is that it allows these black male characters differentiate themselves. There’s a narcissistic actor, an intellectual, a Muslim, a juvenile delinquent and his father, a gay soldier and his ex-lover, the young idealistic film student, a wise old timer, and the grouchy bus driver. Even though all of these men are different they realize that they must come together as black men in order to stop the oppression of the black community.  The cast is full of familiar faces, but Wendell Pierce absolutely steals the show as a slimy car salesman out to profit from the march. His speech alone is worth the price of the DVD.

5. He Got Game (1998): I’m a big fan of sports movies already. So if you tell me there is a Spike Lee directed sports movie out there then I will camp outside the theatre to see it. In this movie, Denzel Washington plays the incarcerated father of a basketball prodigy played by real life NBA star Ray Allen. Washington is released temporarily on the grounds that he gets his son to commit to the warden’s alma mater. This movie not only makes a serious statement about the black market business of big time college sports recruiting, but it is also a heartfelt portrait of a strained father/son relationship. A powerful performance from Washington and a great script by Lee more than make up for Allen’s bad acting. (Sorry Mr. Allen but it’s true)

4. School Daze (1988): This is one of Lee’s earlier works but you can still see his brilliance on the screen. Set in a struggling HBCU, Daze follows two groups of black students over homecoming weekend. There’s the black militant group led by Lawrence Fishburne and the evil fraternity led by Giancarlo Esposito. This movie is still the only film I have seen that talks about the color issues within the black community. There are several instances where the light skin (frat) and dark skin (militant) groups attack each other only to find out in the end that those petty differences were not important to begin with.

3.  Malcolm X (1992): I’m not usually a fan of bio-pics, but I could literally watch Malcolm X from any point in the film and still be thoroughly engrossed and entertained. Washington and Lee once again team up to create an unforgettable movie experience. The writing, acting, and directing are all incredible and you really get a sense that you are watching a man discover his purpose rather than a historical figure-superhero movie. Also, Ossie Davis’ eulogy at the end of the film is one of the most powerful and moving scenes in cinematic history.

2. Drop Squad (1994): While this film may not have been directed or written by Spike Lee, the DVD cover does say “Spike Lee presents” so I’m counting it. The budget was miniscule, but the message was colossal. Eriq La Salle plays a black ad executive trying to make it up the corporate ladder. On his way to the top he is forced to make difficult moral choices. Does he create the ad his boss’s want that stereotypes black people? Does he get his poor, uneducated cousin a job at his company; this risking the image of black professionalism he tried so hard to cultivate? Salle’s character is eventually kidnapped by black radicals who attempt to reprogram him of his “Uncle Tom” ways.  This movie is a gem and I strongly recommend it. There are a lot of laughs and a lot of important statements being made that will keep you thinking long after the final credits roll. “Sometimes when you get over the wall, you got to throw a rope back”

1. Bamboozled (2000): This movie takes a lot of the themes from Drop Squad but pushes it even further and puts the focus on the entertainment industry. I know that a lot of people love Do the Right Thing and I do to, but I think Bamboozled is an absolute masterpiece. Damon Wayans is surprisingly capable of portraying a stiff African-American intellectual trying to make a TV show for the mass consumer. In the film, his white boss wants him to make an urban show. In protest, Wayans’ character creates a Minstrel show. In a Producers style twist, the show becomes a hit and Wayans gets so lost in fame that he forgets that the show was originally supposed to be a protest statement. I know I’m repeating myself, but it must be said again; this movie has great acting, directing, writing, sound mixing, cinematography, everything. It also takes a clever and not so subtle jab at prominent black figures in the entertainment industry.

Hollywood's new favorite Negro. Move over,

  Danny, Morgan, Samuel L.!

Out of my way,

  Eddie and Wesley!

Make room for me, Will Smith!

Here comes Delacroix!

 Show me the money!

And there are plenty of other lines that will have you in stitches. One of my favorites is when Wayans’ character says “I don't want to have anything to do, with anything black, for at least a week.” I can’t even tell you how many times I have thought this while growing up in Baltimore. A black man's frustration with the ignorance of other black people is something that I can relate to.



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I love movies, but i think have only seen one spike lee film: do the right was pretty good, i guess....i'll watch bamboozled, on your recommendation. in return, i would recommend you watch some stanley kubrick stuff: a clockwork orange, dr strangelove, lolita ...

michael delgozzo

I did see a Clockwork Orange and while I can appreciate the artistic qualities of that film I think it was a bit too dark and bleak for my personal tastes. I'll have to check out the other ones though.

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