Tuesday, April 25, 2006

We All Like Spike

I haven't seen either, so I can't vouch for their quality, but I plucked these two back-to-back Tribeca Film Festival reviews from The Village Voice simply because both mention the man of the hour: Spike Lee. More than that, Lee is teamed with Martin Scorsese in the first, with Charles Dickens (!) in the second. The significance? After a few years of bad press and bad reviews, the tide appears to be turning. Inside Man is a hit and Lee is more of an influence than ever before. Also, while I agree with Manohla Dargis that "race matters" (see her review of Inside Man for the details), I like the way Lee is compared to great talents like Scorsese and Dickens--with no mention of race.


Punching at the Sun

A South Asian teen grapples with the loss of his brother on the mean streets of Elmhurst, Queens. Tanuj Chopra's first feature doesn't deviate much from the coming-of-age template, but it has a tenderness and intimacy that recall recent small-scale NYC triumphs like Our Song and Raising Victor Vargas, not to mention a dazed summer-in-the-city energy proudly lifted from early Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese. Dennis Lim

Shoot the Messenger

An acerbic identity-politics analysis served up in a contemporary picaresque, Ngozi Onwurah's sprightly satire combines wry, dark humor with TV-movie style melodrama. "I hate black people," soliloquizes protag Joe. "I hate being black. Being black feels like a curse." Cursed he may be: Joe's fortunes propel him from hardnosed schoolteacher to homeless beggar, mental patient, Christian charity case, job placement officer, and cocktail partygoer. The film travels through these numerous pockets of black British culture with an eye for social detail that's equal parts Spike Lee and Charles Dickens. Ed Halter


Note: For my tribute to Lee, click here. Punching the Sun image from Film Freak (which panned the film), Shoot the Messenger image from the Tribeca Film Festival website.

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