Spike Lee – Top 5

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I’ve been a massive fan of Spike Lee since high school. A ton of people talk about Quentin being the film nerd’s filmmaker, but I would give Spike Lee a run at that money. I think he is just as big of a nerd, but he just doesn’t wear it on his sleeve. If you ever hear him talk about any of his inspirations they are all over the board. And I think a ton of that comes through his lens. 

But, I digress. 

Today, congregation, you are going to be blessed with my picks for top 5 best Spike Lee movies. Note: These aren’t necessarily my personal favorite of his films. This is a distinction that only I care about. There are plenty of films that are personal favorites that I don’t think are among the BEST films ever made. 

For reference, EVERY SINGLE one of these is a 4/4 film. Phenomenal. The struggle I’m going to have here is that I would want to give each of these a full review. And maybe they will get a retrospective some day. For the purposes of this format though, I will keep my thoughts to a minimum. 

Lets get to it. 

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I think Spike Lee doesn’t get enough credit for his documentaries (see further on down the list). And this is a juggernaut on his list. 

What makes this movie so compelling is the way the narrative unfolds. It’s weird to describe this documentary as quiet. But, I think its the personal way this story unfolds. Family members, state officials, city officials, all kind of telling their own story of events. 

The tragedy because much more personal. Terrance Blanchard (more on him later) has a subtle score to go with this. You just kind of fall into the story. Alot of the interviews are filmed very close up, and I think thats on purpose. Spike wants you to feel their story. So that this way, when the bombing does happen, you feel the pain, the sorry, the disbelief. 

Some critics isolate films like Crooklyn and Red Hook Summer to say this is the only type of thing Spike Lee can do. They CLEARLY haven’t seen his filmography, and especially, 4 Little Girls. 

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I feel like I have talked about this before on this blog, but I can’t seem to find it. Regardless, sometimes stories just end up being right time and place. This is definitely one of them. There isn’t a better window into discussing racism in america today than the struggle of the first black police officer in a town going after the Klan by pretending to be white. 

It’s such a strong story, I am really surprised no one did it first. But, no one but Spike Lee could. 

Phenominal cast is the understatement of the year. John David Washington. Adam Driver. Topher Grace (in a completely insane performance). Just a knock out cast. 

Spike knows how to handle pacing around this type of narrative story, and it moves at a clip. 

Oh, and the ending, Jesus CHRIST. In another life, I spent a ton of time in Charlottesville…..blending the ending of this film into that….hit me right in the soul. 

I have MUCH more I could say, but I’ll leave it at that for now. 

25th Hour

A masterpiece I DEFINITELY talked about before. And if you are a Spike Lee fan, you know this was coming. 

This is a mold breaking film. I think the question of addressing how the world changed post 9/11 could be done in a thousand documentaries. And they have

But, this is the emotional heart of that change. In a way, thats this whole movie…emotion. 

A ton has been said in critical reviews of that one scene that is similar to Do the Right Thing. And while its great, the film is really about ends. Its Monty Brogan’s ending. And he knows it. He’s trying to find a way out, but he knows every door is shut in his face. 

The saturation of color here I think is perfect. Everything feels just a bit to crisp. As if to say, this is life, and everything else is secondary. 

This is also the film that made me fall in love with Terrance Blanchard. His score here is just incredible. The man can play the horn, and its this sort of deep brass that you just want to fall into. 

I will close talking about the ending here. The great fantasy ending. The first time I saw the film, I knew something was wrong,  but I didn’t fully get it. I have met a ton of people who really believe that Monty’s fantasy becomes real….this is because they dont know NYC geography. I learned this years later. They never took the GW bridge, they are on the road to Otisville. Where Monty’s time is up. 

when the levees broke

A while back, Spike Lee had a kickstarter for a film that was not that great. But, I think the way he did kickstarter is exactly how to do it. None of the rewards were tied to the actual movie he was making (we didn’t even have the title at that point). BUT, he had posters for every single one of his movies up on kickstarter…all signed. I didn’t even have a second thought. I have this exact poster, signed by Spike Lee, hanging on the wall behind me right now. 

This is an achievement in American documentaries. It’s very difficult to explain Katrina to people if you didn’t live it. The first thing I always say, find When the Levees Broke. It gives as complete a picture as possible. 

From a content perspective, this is a four hour long documentary, where, ostensibly, the storm passed and the flood waters have receded by the time the film is half done. Spike is a genius for this. The real tragedy of the storm is everything that happened after it hit. Having it unfold before you is an incredible thing. 

Terrance Blanchard wrote some new pieces, but its mostly music used and unused from Inside Man. Which that movie is good, but the music is SO MUCH better place here. And I think he knew it. It really just covers the tragedy in that New Orleans horn. 

The subjects Spike manages to find are incredible. And they have all gone on to do wonderous things, but damn their tragedy is so vibrant. This is a tough film through and through. 

I want to save some commentary for the day I do a retrospective review for this film, but I will give a quick shout out to If God Is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise. While its not as good, if you dig this movie, you should check out the next one in the series. 

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You already knew this was coming. Does this make me a basic bitch? Maybe, but I don’t care. This would be my pick for best film ever made. 

Look, TONS of people smarter than me have written about this film. So for this blog entry, lets focus on this scene. 

Spike Lee does a ton here in this scene. Ernest Dickerson’s cinematography makes you feel the heat, the stress of the block. It sets the stage. The film is microcosm of the constant conflict of the film. Covering the struggle of being an immigrant and trying to survive compared to the willingness (or ability) to take a risk and start something for your neighborhood. Its such a tough scene, and I don’t think Spike Lee gives any answers here. Just asking the question. 

Its powerful, and I have never seen race relations approached this way. 

Every single thing in here is perfect. I have so much I could say but this will definitely be a review. It is the greatest movie of all time. 

 I will leave it at that for now. Some basic bitch picks in there, but theres some obscure stuff too. 

Please watch more Spike Lee movies. He has so many fantastic ones. Watch them all. 

I will leave you with a clue on my NEXT retrospective review. 

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