Review: Red Hook Summer
Red Hook Summer tells the story of Flik Royale, a sullen young boy from middle-class Atlanta who has come to spend the summer with his deeply religious grandfather, Bishop Enoch Rouse, in the housing projects of Red Hook. Having never met before, things quickly get off on the wrong foot as Bishop Enoch relentlessly attempts to convert Flik into a follower of Jesus Christ. Between his grandfather’s constant preaching and the culture shock of inner-city life, Flik’s summer appears to be a total disaster - until he meets Chazz Morningstar, a pretty girl his age, who shows Flik the brighter side of Brooklyn. Through her love and the love of his grandfather, Flik begins to realize that the world is a lot bigger, and perhaps a lot better, than he’d ever imagined.
There are good parts and bad parts about this film. When Lee preaches in Red Hook Summer, the movie bumps along, even though it’s reasonably entertaining. But when he decides to teach us about the human heart, it becomes an experience. Spike Lee, for me, has maybe lost his touch in terms of storytelling. His films aren’t as special as previous efforts such as Malcolm X, She’s Gotta Have It and his timeless masterpiece, Do The Right Thing. But that’s not to say Lee isn’t an important filmmaker anymore. Even if his storytelling skills have slightly left him behind, his ability to unveil the truth in modern day societies is still there and possibly stronger than most directors around. You only have to look at his documentaries, the Oscar nominated 4 Little Girls and When The Levees Broke, to see Spike Lee is a important filmmaker still, even if his skills are now best suited to documentary filmmaking. Red Hook Summer is an enjoyable watch and clear to see a lot of love and appreciation has gone into this film. It comes across as love letter from Lee to his home, from a time when he himself moved from Atlanta to New York as a young adult, although under different circumstances. It may not have the same social impact that some of Lee’s previous Brooklyn films have, but it’s definitely worth a view.
* * *
Review: School Daze
A not so popular young man wants to pledge to a popular fraternity at his historically black college. Although the film leaves a lot of loose ends, there was never a moment when it didn’t absorb me. Some of the issues the film tries to deal with get lost in the mix, but with strong performances by Spike Lee and Lawrence Fishburne make this a watchable and thought-provoking film.
* * *
Review: Malcolm X
The biopic of the controversial and influential Black Nationalist leader, Malcolm X. Visually and dramatically, Spike Lee pulls out all the stops, but it’s Washington’s performance that really energises the film, and he’s an exhilarating presence throughout. Malcolm X is an ambitious, tough, seriously considered biographical film, and Spike Lee delivers a smart way of portraying a tough subject. Malcolm X is up at the top of Spike Lee’s work, it’s fits nicely next to Lee’s masterpiece, Do The Right Thing, both deal with racial tensions at different ends of the spectrum.
* * * *
Review: Jungle Fever
Directed by Spike Lee, Jungle Fever explores interracial relationships against the urban backdrop of 90’s New York City, and how the families react to the social unrest of interracial relationships. A strong, powerful, and thought provoking film from Spike Lee. Has the qualities of a typical Lee film, heavy blues soundtrack and his infamous dolly tracking walk sequence. Jungle Fever is a notable film as it is Samuel L Jackson’s first real big performance, he steals the film with his portrayal of a drug addict.
* * *
Crooklyn was released in 1994 and was written and directed by Spike Lee. The film is set in Brooklyn, New York in the neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant during the summer of 1973. The film focuses around the Carmicheal family, primarily on the young daughter Troy. Troy learns life lessons through her four brothers, strict mother and naive father. Lee uses a visual effect in the film when Troy goes to Virginia to spent her summer vacation with another part of her family. The scenes are filmed in a “squeezed format” that viewers may think the editor has maybe made a mistake but actually Lee is using this effect to get across that this side of her family is totally different to her Brooklyn upbringing. Metaphorically, Troy thinks they are from another planet. A great potrait of Brooklyn family life in 1970’s and if you like Spike Lee’s masterpiece, Do The Right Thing, you’ll love Crooklyn.
* * * 1/2