When asked about the omission of a seemingly obvious interview choice for “The Black List: Volume One” by Steven Zeitchik at the Hollywood Reporter, Elvis Mitchell said “Spike Lee is kind of the go-to guy. And Spike Lee is very good at promoting Spike Lee. We wanted to show people you might not see as often.” Which seems more than fair enough, particularly in light of Lee’s summer newspaper spat with Clint Eastwood that so delicately illustrated the director’s ability to race-bait and drum up publicity at the same time.
Still, over at the Onion AV Club, Nathan Rabin turns in a 2,000-plus word reconsideration and defense of the film that found Lee at the height of his go-to guyness, 2000’s “Bamboozled.” It’s a great piece that outlines much of my frustration with/love of Lee’s work, and actually has me wanting to rewatch a film I found excruciatingly shrill the first time around:
Lee long ago appointed himself the indignant conscience of black America, a role that has won him countless detractors. The irony, of course, is that after Do The Right Thing, his magnum opus and a film defined as much by its ambiguity as its rage, Lee’s best films have had primarily white casts: Summer Of Sam, The 25th Hour, Inside Man. Lee has shown infinitely more mastery as a filmmaker and storyteller than as a polemicist. It’s his films that try to say something profound and sweeping about Black America–She Hate Me, He Got Game, School Daze, Girl 6–that have gotten him into trouble.
With Bamboozled, Lee channeled the ornery, muckraking spirit of Peter Finch in Network and hollered, “I’m mad as hell about television’s treatment of black America, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Finch’s legendary catchphrase is referenced repeatedly in Bamboozled, a film that joins Network in Movie Jail for crimes against subtlety. Having just suffered through the 213-minute director’s cut of Nixon, I can assure you that Oliver Stone deserves eight consecutive death penalties for his even more egregious crimes against subtlety. Bamboozled is as subtle as a jackhammer. But sometimes you have to yell just to make yourself heard.
[Photo: “Bamboozled,” New Line Cinema, 2000]
+ The joy of having Elvis (and Timothy) in the building (Hollywood Reporter)
+ My Year Of Flops, #116 Case Files And A Mule Edition: Bamboozled (Onion AV Club)