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Amusing, isn't it?
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Bamboozled "

It is Spike Lee tries again.

A lot of what's-the-point here, some content, could have been great...
Lee got some of the dominos set up, but he never really tried to knock them down.
Five possible. ]

Spike Lee tries to sink some racist images and self-perceptions in this poorly photographed and dreary-looking overly long shrine to man's implacable need to look down on others.

"If I didn't feel superior to you I wouldn't feel anything at all."

That should have been a line in the movie, but it wasn't.

In a nutshell, a whining self actualized pretentious TV writer wants out of his contract with a poorly-run mini-network, and develops a show sure to get him fired. Predictably, the show is a big back-firing hit, and you know the rest.

Unfortunately, the rest is rather predictable, and though Spike does hit some racial stereotypes on the nose, his humor is lame at times, and there is an uneasy mix of drama with the comedy. (For example, TV's In Living Color was an order of magnitude funnier and more critical of stereotypes, as is the Friday - Next Friday series of films. The Nutty Professor's family life excesses, and Woody Allen's lampoons of Jewish families are also better models for attacking stereotypes.)

Spike is heavy handed in his satirical approach, and about the only thing he manages to do is provide every kind of stereotype among his cast members - every character is one of some sort- but knowing Spike's work, I think that it was not intentional. In short, the characters feel phony, and at the same time are not far enough removed from experience to be lampoons.

What Lees gives us though is a fabulously entertaining dancer by the name of Savion Glover (Sesame Street), and lesser entertaining comics and folks.

Lee is searching for some realization among his characters for a glimmer of enlightenment that they need not be slaves to their past or the iconic imagery of others. Embroglio'd in some sort of introspective whitefacewash of racism, Lee dances around his subject, and fritters away valuable time on less interesting people while berating the system for abusing black people.

Damon Wayan's character effects a ridiculously strained articulation in his accent (ostensibly to show he is an educated neh-grow, I guess) but it ceases to serve a purpose after a time. When Lee could have broken down the essence of the man, stripping away all pretensions when faced with his imminent (and tardy) death, he fails to capitalize on it.

As usual, when Lee is out of ideas, he resorts to a tech-nine denouement. He manages to kill just about everybody in the film - as pointless as the violence in Do the Right Thing and Summer of Sam - but he does not make satiric use of it. Instead, we get a lame voice over about what Wayans is thinking as he dies - still in that ridiculous (but not satiric) accent.

I also think Lee may be confusing satire and irony.

So what could this have been? Why not take us into a heaven populated with angels in Blackface, and a big black God in whiteface? Why not question the whole race issue on a spiritual level? Or have everybody pull off "Scooby-style" masks, and reveal white people underneath? Or red, or something alien? I think if you really want to do in the racism issue, it would help to really abstract it, explore the imagination, compare it with other injustices, and put it into perspective.

The sad part about this whole experience was the realization that for once, Lee was onto something big, but pushed himself away from the table too soon.

The death knell for racism, sexism, ageism, smarty-pants-ism and God knows what else remains to be sounded.

Either wait for that or just take it to heart that sticks and stones...

No defense of racism -
A personal reflection...
There were plenty of other "racist" images in the press and cinema during the last century - to wit, the pictorialization of Japanese during wwII. (Don't construe that remark to indicate any sympathy for the rising sun of the 30's and 40's. One need only look at the butchering jobs they did in China to get that perspective back.) It might have been interesting to reference them, but that would perhaps dilute the victimization of blacks...

I suppose I am as lily white as you can get. Anglo-European on all sides.

I have however - and not through some sense of guilt to atone for my youth - dated blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Caucasians, and I must admit fantasize about Indians (American and Bombay), etc. I still manage to see the person, at least last if not first, but I know it is not that way for some people. I do believe these days most people see other people for who they are -especially among the younger set.

But what was this white boy's perception of "racist" images of forty years ago?

I grew up in the fifties and sixties, in a 99.99% white town in Illinois. I ran across an occasional person that had a problem with blacks, but by and large it was a non-issue. Blacks had no reason to move to my central Illinois town forty years ago - and no reason not to. I was told that the few black families there were protective of their community though and ran some troublemakers out. I have no idea what it is like there today.

I was exposed to the black face characterizations profiled by Lee in Bamboozled, but I did not attach any pejorative meaning to them. When we would travel to Chicago or St. Louis, which had large black populations, I did not associate the images I had seen on TV with any particular race or physical trait.

In my experience, the blacks in the 3 Stooges shorts were way smarter than the white guys on the screen. Inky and the Mynah Bird was only a cartoon, which I liked for the music and the way the bird hopped along. And the determined spirit of the little boy.
The crows in Dumbo were just birds.
Steppin' Fetchit's name meant nothing to me, other than a name.

Butterfly McQueen was comic relief, and Rochester on the Jack Benny Show was the one sane person there. I loved them both.

As an adult, I can see how the images take on cruel, demeaning and oppressive dimensions, but the reaction I had to those images as a child was much different.

In my innocence, I did not see them as servants or burdens or undesirables. They were just more people on the road of life, with their own unique and interesting personalities and attitudes. They took life as it came, and had their own dignity. (Check out "Tobacco Road" to see undignified poor white trash...)

None of them were archetypes to me.

None of them were less worthy in my opinion.

Watching Sidney Poitier in "The Heat Of The Night" did little viscerally to me other than register as a good murder mystery. There were no racism issues in me confronted by that film. I saw its restoration at the 1997 Hampton's International Film Festival, and felt the same way, though I had a better appreciation for the filmmaking.

As a freshman in college, (1971)I bought a poster of Bill Cosby and displayed it prominently on my dorm room wall. (It was from I Spy, I think.) I was dumbfounded when I was labeled a "nigger lover". Totally perplexed, I did not even associate that with the poster on my wall. That was Bill Freakin' Cosby, one of the funniest people alive. They liked the poster of Michelangelo's naked Adam touching God's finger even less...

I was forward in how I handled the black employees at the campus radio station I ran. I set aside ten total percent of the airtime (based on the percentage of black students at the school) to do whatever they wished.I was an honorary member of their "Black Backers Club" which although it seemed had vaguely sexual overtones, I was blissfully unaware of the very direct sexual meaning - which they thought was funny...

Recently I had the opportunity to work with a black man as sales manager for the film company where I am CEO. We worked well together, but I was at first very concerned about how the industrial people would treat him in the Deep South. To my relief, I saw no overt racism, and he was later one of the top contenders for a spot in a regional marketing position for industry. After he left us, people regularly told me what a great guy he was (unsolicited). Progress, I guess.

I have a close working relationship with Henry Turner Jr. and Flavor, a reggae group here in Baton Rouge, and regularly work with all races as a part of my creative life.

I was never the victim of reverse racial discrimination until I came to Louisiana, and found myself getting short shrift at the hands of sullen chicken shack employees. Of all the reasons to dislike me, race is probably not the best one. And how does making things crummy for me make anyone else's life better? I don't get jollies from screwing people over, I get them from lifting people up and making things better for whoever I meet.

But the majority of blacks I meet are not racists.

I met an elderly black woman in Albertson's one day and I asked her if she thought this was a racist country. She said, "Yes I do. But I tell you there is just as much racism in the black community as there is in the white! It's bad on both sides."    Remarkably candid.

But who cares.

Injustice is everywhere.

But it is not everything.

Just a damn digital moment!!!

From a technical perspective, Lee seems hell-bent on trying to drive a nail in the coffin of digital filmmaking. The movie was 'filmed' on tape, edited, and then transferred to film for distribution. However, the colors were mismanaged, and very lifeless. Given the lack of focus and clarity, and the rather careless style evident here, it seems as though Lee considers digital filmmaking sort of a red-headed stepson to "real" film art.

As a dyed-in-the-wool digital filmmaker, I can tell you it is possible to get quality on a budget - we did it for our production of "Gutter Punks" , and we had no budget at all, let alone the 10 million Lee put into this.

And a film Lee criticized for its phantom racism without even seeing it, Star Wars I (which is not racist a-toll!), included several scenes shot with digital tape technology. No film was used to capture them and it is impossible to tell which live action scenes in SWI were acquired digitally. Lucas is not telling. FYI, SW2 and 3 are being shot completely on tape!

No, the aversion to digital and inability to imagine quality coming from it is a prejudicial aversion to acceptance of the inevitability of the new way of doing things. It says you can't get video to look as good as film, whether it does or not, so don't try. Coming from Lee, that is ironic.

Hollywood in general is afraid that its legions of film experts will join the buggy whip manufacturers. Well they might, unless they pick up a digital camera and get going!

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