Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Surprise ... Spike Lee sounds off at Cannes

I love Spike Lee, even when he's just horribly wrong, because the man is never, ever boring.

At Cannes to promote his upcoming World War II flick "Miracle at St. Anna," Spike couldn't help but take swipes at some big-time fellow directors, the Coen brothers and Clint Eastwood.

When it comes to the Coens, however, I had to think back through all their movies before deciding he's just dead wrong. Here's what Mr. Lee had to say about their body of work:

"I always treat life and death with respect, but most people don't. Look, I love the Coen brothers; we all studied at NYU. But they treat life like a joke. Ha ha ha. A joke. It's like, 'Look how they killed that guy! Look how blood squirts out the side of his head!' I see things different than that."

Wow. Now, the Coens have certainly, and thankfully, made their share of very funny comedies, but I don't think they've ever made death a joke. Now, they do make it a very stylish occurrence and, yes, do sometimes revel in the bloodiness of it, but if anything "No Country for Old Men" was the best meditation on violence and death I've seen in many, many years.

But, Spike being Spike, he wasn't finished yet, and saved his most savage (and accurate!) critique for Mr. Eastwood. Here goes:

"Clint Eastwood made two films about Iwo Jima that ran for more than four hours total and there was not one Negro actor on the screen. If you reporters had any balls you'd ask him why. There's no way I know why he did that -- that was his vision, not mine. But I know it was pointed out to him and that he could have changed it. It's not like he didn't know."

Amen, brother. I really had no time at all beyond the performance of Adam Beach for Clint's "Flags of Our Fathers," but I really liked "Letters from Iwo Jima" quite a bit. That said, Spike is right, and I'm happy someone has the huevos to point it out in such a significant forum.

As for "Miracle at St. Anna," Spike said it's in the final stages of post-production and will be complete by the end of July, hopefully for a very wide release on Oct. 10. The flick, for anyone who doesn't know yet, is about four African-American Buffalo soldiers of the 92nd Infantry Division - Derek Luke (huzzah!), Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso and Omar Benson Miller - who get trapped in a a small Tuscan village on the Gothic Line during the Italian Campaign of World War II. It also stars James Gandolfini, John Leguizamo, Kerry Washington and Joseph Gordon Levitt (another huzzah!), hopefully giving it enough star power to reach my little corner of the world this fall.

Steve Buscemi in 'Revolt'

With Michael Cera set to star in the adaptation of one of my favorite books, I already had my eyes squarely on any news about "Youth in Revolt," and there's a lot of the good kind about it today.

For director Miguel Arteta ("Chuck and Buck"), Cera will play the sex-obsessed hero Nick Twisp, 14 in the book but assumedly a little older when this finally hits movie theaters in December. Now, in some fantastic casting news, he's being joined by Steve Buscemi as Nick's violent and status-obsessed loser of a father, George Twisp, and Ray Liotta, who plays a rather fascist member of the Oakland PD who shacks up with Nick's mom. Jean Smart and M. Emmet Walsh have also signed on, but I'm not sure as of yet to do exactly what. Still to be cast is Sheeni Saunders, the teen temptress who wins Nick's heart.

The book by C.D. Payne is one of the silliest I've ever read, but still holds a high place in my heart, so here's hoping this all turns out as funny and crazy as it should be.

"The Happening" trailer

What exactly makes this a redband trailer I have no idea, but it does hold the promise that director M. Night Shyamalan will get back to top form when "The Happening" comes out in July. I certainly hope he delivers a winner, but now I've got to hurry and get to work. Peace out.


jeremy said...

Early word on "The Happening" is that it is baaaad.
But here's a trailer for a delightful film that you are sure to enjoy:

Olivia Thirlby comin' up big again!

Splotchy said...

I don't know about Lee's comments about Clint Eastwood, as I haven't seen either of his WW II movies.

I agree with Lee's critique of the Coen Brothers movies. I think they do treat life like a joke. It's not blatantly obvious in all their movies, but I see it often. To give just one example, look at the kidnapped wife's treatment in Fargo, and how it's portrayed. When she is kidnapped and is running around the woods with the bag over her head, it's treated like a joke.

The best movies of the Coen Bros. are where they actually show some empathy for their characters, like in Raising Arizona or The Big Lebowski. When that empathy is missing, to me their movies come across as kind of misanthropic and ugly.

Reel Fanatic said...

I guess it's all in how you look at it, Splotchy, and perhaps I'm just too desensitized to notice these things some times .. I'll have to go back and look at Fargo again, since I haven't watched that one for many years, and see if it's just something I missed

Mercurie said...

Well, I do have to say that the Coen Brothers sometimes treat death in a humorous fashion (such as the aforementioned scene from Fargo), I think that is a different matter from treating life as a joke. I think the Coens do take life and death seriously, but they are simply capable of seeing humour in situations where others might not.

Splotchy said...

but they are simply capable of seeing humour in situations where others might not.

Hey Mercurie, I take offense at that! I have the best sense of humor in the world, just ask my mom! Seriously, dark humor is very appealing to me. I just see a misanthropic (and not particularly humorous) undercurrent in a lot of their work.

(I know asserting that I like X type of things when I'm critiquing Y is a sorry excuse for an argument, my apologies)

renee said...

I'm catching up on some blog reading, so I'm kind of late on this, but I'm interested in your thoughts on Spike Lee's criticism of Eastwood's WWII movies. Flags is based on a true story about real people - was he supposed to change one of them into an African American? Or create a "token" black character? That seems more condescending to me. And I don't see any way at all that Letters could have had a black character since it was about the Japanese side of the war. Even if you think there would have been a good way to include African American characters in Flags, it's a little misleading to say Eastwood made two WWII movies and didn't include a black character when one of the movies is almost entirely Japanese characters.

And not to be too argumentative (too late, I know), but I gotta say one of the funniest death scenes I've ever seen is the woodchipper scene at the end of Fargo.

Splotchy said...

Eastwood comments on Spike Lee's criticism.

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