Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Another Bio For Spike Lee

That big box office take for the super fun Inside Man (2006) sure does seem to have rejuvenated interest or opportunities in Spike Lee's career. Buzz is strong, as we've discussed, on Miracle at St. Anna and his next project is going to be the adaptation of a memoir, i.e. a biopic. It's called Time Traveler and it's about the scientist Ronald Mallett (pictured left) who was obsessed with building a time machine. Perhaps Oscar will be forced into loving Spike even if they ignore Miracle since the lure of 'Biopic With Juicy Lead Actor Role' trumps most other Oscar biases. Not all the time I know. Spike Lee's Malcolm X (2002) for instance only landed 2 Oscar nominations in its day (what was that about? Not even technical stuff?) and it's quite handsomely made.

I hope that Lee gives the lead role to someone who could really benefit from a breakout part --perhaps Chiwetel Ejiofor? Nothing against Cheadle or Denzel (who seem like the most likely headliners) but they get plenty of leads. I'd love to see Chiwetel in larger parts. And barring that, maybe Jeffrey Wright? He was so stellar in Angels in America but that didn't seem to change his supporting only status.

[warning: political rant]
P.S.ssst, I got this news from Coming Soon and you really must click over to read the comments. One of the commenters would like to see Spike Lee direct a movie that "empowers caucasions for once". Ha! Oh dear. White people (a group to which I belong) really don't get it. It's like when you hear Christians or anyone who voted for Bush constantly bemoaning their put-upon lives or the state of things. Wake up: YOU CONTROL EVERYTHING. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and enjoy the entitlement. And for god's sake, please stop whining. It's unbecoming. Is there anything more disheartening / confusing / frustrating than majority groups (christians, conservatives, heterosexuals, men, whatever) who constantly think that any attention paid or equal rights extended to someone else is somehow an affront to them? Where does this paranoia / lack of empathy come from? It's like the gay marriage thing. How the hell does that affect Mr. and Mrs. Whomever? Shut up! Sorry. It pisses me off. But I guess I'm lucky. I have the white privilege but I'm also gay and that's been a blessing. It saved me from being clueless about hierarchies of power, privilege, discrimination and so much else. [/rant]

19 comments:

Dame James Henry said...

One time my friend's boyfriend was ranting about how he felt discriminated against by some signs around campus saying that 1 in 4 women will be raped (or something along those lines) because that statistic was overblown and it just makes women feel scared of men, yada yada. Finally, I just told him, "Yeah, I feel sorry for you. A straight white male...people are just always discriminating against you."

StinkyLulu said...

This American Life ran a radio version of the Mallett story this past January. It could be great.

Michael Parsons said...

Jeffery Wright just seems like a supporting actor to me. Like Catherine Keener. Comes in and makes womvies wonderful.

Michael Parsons said...

womvies = movies
Lordy Michael!

Anonymous said...

I love a good rant.

Personal anecdote on:

When same sex marriage became legal in Spain, there was almost a weekly huge demonstration against it in Madrid. They were highly organized with free available buses and all that stuff, including the support and physical (spiritual too, I guess) attendance of Catholic Church members.
So, in one of those occasions I came across one of the demonstrations accidentally (all by myself and walking up against their direction).

I was so freaked out to see so many people thinking you are not, you cannot be equal to them... How you dare to call that marriage? Next thing will be threesomes or marrying pets, our families are in danger (!!)... those were the kind of things you'd hear at the time.

I even came across a small group of those neo-nazi guys with all their paraphernalia, so sterotyped in fact it was almost like seeing Ken in nazi attire and all his complements! Buy it now! At that very moment, I was really so scared I could have wet my pants, lol. Trust me, I will never forget a pair of eyes staring at me, trying to smell fear.

But the most f**** scary thing about that day, back home, was realizing most of demonstrators were average people taking their kids to a sort of picnic day, just that it wasn't about to celebrate anything. Well, maybe it was, they were taking them to some celebration of hatred.

Personal anecdote off.

Sorry about that, I needed it ;)

Personally, I never get to connect with Spike Lee's movies I have seen so far. Nor with James Cameron's either for that matter.

Iggy

The Know Nothing Know It All said...

The ignorance of some people...
Spike Lee probably boasts more consistently racially diverse casts than any other director. Look at movies like "Inside Man" or "Summer of Sam" or "25th Hour."
Being gay and black, I also wonder what it is in whites/heterosexuals/any majority group that makes them so...afraid. And people who preach "tolerance" really aren't getting to the heart of the issue. The heart of the issue is "I'm not doing anything that's affecting your life in any way, so stop acting so put upon. The end." The notion that I need to be "tolerated" is downright offensive.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't there White leads in 25th hour? Um yeah, I think so.


I agree no Denzel or Cheadle. They already get enough roles.

Chiwetel, who has worked with Spike before, is a great choice.

What's even worse is when people who are discriminated against do it to others. I work with a couple of people who just can't stand the thought of Gays/Lesbians and they're Black ( I'm Black BTW). It's really frustrating.


~M~

Anonymous said...

I wish there were more good movies, and I wish actors of different ethnicities could have viable careers because there were lots of good parts for them. I've always loved the example of Sigourney Weaver taking over the male lead in "Alien". Parts don't have to be played as originally thought of: male, white, straight and stupid.

Actors I've wished I could have seen more of: Adrian Lester and Robert Townsend. I don't know if they're the right age for the movie under discussion - Townsend is 51, about the same age as Denzel Washington, and Lester is about 40, a few years older than Ejiofor. They both have such skill and such a unique presence that it's just a waste they haven't had more film roles. Lester at least gets stage work, because he's English (like Ejiofor) but for an American.. there's so little.

Kamikaze Camel said...

One of the most frustrating descrimination things lately was The Golden Compass. Christian groups got people to boycott it etc because it was "anti-christianity", yet they had The Chronicles of Narnia a year or so earlier which was clearly "pro-christianity" and we were just meant to go along with it.

I've never understood the "gay marriage will destroy humanity" thing. Why does Joe and Joe Shmoe in California effect Joe and Jane Schmoe in Utah? It makes no sense. I can't remember who said it, but there's the joke that heterosexuals don't need homosexuals to destroy marriage, they're doing that for themselves already. What with a divorce rate of over 50% and what have you.

Notluke said...

Wait, so why is it wrong for Joe Somebody to wish for Lee to make a movie with white principal cast (which he actually had, with 25th Hour, etc., but that's beside my point), but acceptable for Lee to attack Eastwood on the grounds that his Iwo Jima movies had no black actors? How did that "affect" Spike?

And are you (general you) implying that a majority cannot be discriminated against? Because that's what I seem to be reading between the lines in most of the comments, and it's obviously untrue.

Rant aside, I smell a potential for a great biopic with this one, and I love all the casting ideas here. I'd love to see both Eijofor (who ruled in Dirty Pretty Things, as did everyone in that film) and Lester to become household names already. The only fret I'd have about the latter is that he seems to be more comfortable with the lighter material. See how effortlessly charismatic he was in Branagh's Love's Labours Lost and the BBC show Hustle.

Deborah said...

I love your rant. When I hear the privilege whine, I tend to say, "I know, it's terrible. We can only dream of the day when a [Christian/white man/heterosexual] can be President of the United States."

NATHANIEL R said...

notluke ... it's not that he wanted Lee to make a movie with a white cast (which as you correctly state, he already has) but a movie that empowered caucasions. Set aside for a moment that most movies do ;) ...White people are already empowered. Why should Spike Lee try to find ways to "empower" the white race. It's ludicrous. It sounds to me like people are upset that Spike is serving the master like a good slave. I found it very offensive.

It's acceptable to attack anyone about historical inaccuracies unless they aren't trying to be historically accurate. Eastwood was clearly making those movies with an aim for historical accuracy. It's practically the whole subject matter of the first film in the series. Reality versus myth.

and yes anyone can be discriminated against theoretically. But it almost never happens to the majority and whenever the majority does claim they're being discriminated against it's usually along the lines of HOW DARE ANYONE MAKE ME SEE SOMETHING OUTSIDE MY TINY WORLDVIEW!

sorry. had to get that off my chest.

anyway, i agree this project has potential. it sounds interesting enough (as bios go)

Notluke said...

Why should Spike Lee try to find ways to "empower" the white race. It's ludicrous.

It is.

It's acceptable to attack anyone about historical inaccuracies unless they aren't trying to be historically accurate.

Have you verified the accuracy of Lee's accusations, then? From my (admittedly superficial) research, it looks as though black soldiers made up about 1% of American forces in Iwo Jima. If this is true, does it seem like a statistically significant fraction to make any issue (let alone one of racism rather than of a simple oversight) out of this?

and yes anyone can be discriminated against theoretically. But it almost never happens to the majority

I can't agree. Women are a majority in most developed countries, however slight. ;) More seriously, so were the Shi'ites in Saddam's Iraq, the Christians in most Eastern European countries under the Communism, the Blacks in South Africa under apartheid... (I'd hazard a guess that the further in the past we get the rarer situations where the actual majority is the one in power are, but I feel you were making a claim about fairly recent times only, so let's not.)

And that's only counting "wholesale" discrimination of the entire groups by the governing bodies. You won't tell me that men/whites/heterosexuals are "almost never" discriminated on the local level. The anecdote from the first comment is a good example - I know I wouldn't be glad to be implicitly labelled as a rapist just because I am of the same gender as one.

and whenever the majority does claim they're being discriminated against it's usually along the lines of HOW DARE ANYONE MAKE ME SEE SOMETHING OUTSIDE MY TINY WORLDVIEW!

This part is sadly true.

sorry. had to get that off my chest.

Don't be sorry. I, for one, was not offended. :) Just curious to understand your point of view a little better. I love your blog and the people around here (Duh. That's why I keep visiting it.), but am often surprised how little does it take to make some of you guys call something a discrimination.

Sorry for the long post.

Anonymous said...

I hope Lee casts whom the hell he wants to cast. If that's Denzel or Cheadle, then great. If it's Ejiofor, that's also great (my personal preference is Denzel. Lee and Washington are building one of the great director/actor partnerships, and something like this would continue the streak. Those guys are 4 for 4, and I'd be happy for another helping of Spike/Denzel).

There are plenty of talented black actors who need a breakthrough film role, but Ejiofor isn't really one of them. I can't think of any black actors who are playing lead roles in David Mamet and Woody Allen movies (Redbelt, Melinda & Melinda), which Ejiofor is. Ejiofor is getting very good work, and he's on the fast track to getting bigger roles with great directors, in prestigious projects. He ain't struggling, and he's not that far behind Cheadle in the "black actor casting pecking order" either.

I agree with Michael Parsons about Wright.Jeffrey Wright is a character actor/supporting actor. He may play the occassional lead like Forrest Whitaker, but I don't believe he's destined to be a leading man, anymore than Chris Cooper or David Straitharn will be.

Wood Harris, Jamie Hector, Idris Elba (hell, any of the brilliant alumni from THE WIRE), J. August Richards, Hill Harper....these are all gifted actors, with the looks, appeal and talent to cut it as leading men. They need a showcase for their talent on film more than Ejiofor, whose already something of an "it boy" in Hollywood casting circles these days.

Casting Ejiofor is no more of a "breakthrough" for "struggling" black actors than casting Denzel or Cheadle. Ejiofor may never be a huge star (especially with that unpronouncable name), but he's pretty much made it already in H-Town. Idris Elba is an actor with Denzel-like potential, but he's never really had a notable lead role in a movie (though he's been brilliant in TV shows like THE WIRE and ULTRAVIOLET).

If Lee doesn't go the Denzel route, I'd rather he cast a gifted leading man who truly needs the break, like Elba. I wouldn't mind Ejiofor either, but he's getting good films roles anyway, so I don't buy the rationale that he needs a breakthrough. Elba is stuck in Tyler Perry movies and Prom Night.

Danny

NATHANIEL R said...

good points Danny and NotLuke, good points.

Anonymous said...

Notluke

I'm getting tired of people saying that well it was less than 1% My grandfather was a part of it and it should NOT matter if there were only 5. You're talking about an historical event and the contributions of every group should be recognized no matter how small that group is.

~M~

Anonymous said...

Whoa... so it is wrong to ask why the experience of a contributing group is missing from a film? I think it is a valid concern to mention, even if Lee (as quoted) seems off a bit. Eastwood's adaptation concerns specific historic events that did not include African-Americans. Fine. I do not necessarily think this fact makes it unacceptable for Lee to comment. Hell, that an African-American unit likely would not have been asked to pose for the photo central to the story of Flags is reason enough to raise a question about the stories we tell and the history we write collectively.

But I think the larger question that Spike Lee is asking concerns the depictions of the African-American soldier during World War II found (or not found) in the medium in which he works. It extends to other reexaminations of American history. That is a very fair gripe .

Also, more annoying to me than someone bringing up an issue of race is someone complaining about a minority playing the race card. Majorities have played the race card for centuries in American culture, quite often to the detriment of minorities.
1. __________________

The initial comments that Spike made over a year and a half ago were that Black Soldiers from WWII complained about the lack of Black soldiers in Clint’s films. They also complained that there was a lack of representation of Black Soldiers ( in WWII) in Hollywood in general. Now I would like someone to explain to those Black soldiers that their contributions were overlooked because their group was less than 1% ( IF that is true). I’m sorry, I don’t buy that, F the percentage , we all know there were Black soldiers that served in WWII. So what is the problem? Not trying to attack you Notluke. Apparently some people didn’t understand what Spike was saying as a whole nor did they understand that he was using Clint’s movie as an example. Instead it was reduced to Spike is calling Clint a racist or Spike is playing the race card ( I mean why shouldn’t he question the depictions ( or absence) of Black People in movies, I mean he’s a director, he works in the field, DUH people). The real issue was and still is, the lack of Black soldiers in WWII films. I don’t necessarily think it is a case of discrimination or racism it’s just that they are overlooked just like many other minority groups in Hollywood.

I just find it sad that instead of even talking about the REAL issue people on both sides are attacking either Spike or Clint( even those stupid entertainment “news” shows).

Majority ( in this case) can also mean the group in power, not necessarily the number of that group ( according to my Professor). Just in case you didn’t know :-)

You don’t need to apologize for your gripe, Nat, we all have them. You just have to look over simple-minded people sometimes. One response about the Election, “ Obama is not even African American, he is from Kenya” WTF, Kenya is a country in Africa IDIOT.

The movie sounds cool, but I wouldn’t get too excited about it, he was supposed to be doing two other biopics, but they never came to fruition.

Keyshia

Anonymous said...

Now this is a comment from another blog, unforutantely there was no name for the poster, I think it would be appropriate to share.


Whoa... so it is wrong to ask why the experience of a contributing group is missing from a film? I think it is a valid concern to mention, even if Lee (as quoted) seems off a bit. Eastwood's adaptation concerns specific historic events that did not include African-Americans. Fine. I do not necessarily think this fact makes it unacceptable for Lee to comment. Hell, that an African-American unit likely would not have been asked to pose for the photo central to the story of Flags is reason enough to raise a question about the stories we tell and the history we write collectively.

But I think the larger question that Spike Lee is asking concerns the depictions of the African-American soldier during World War II found (or not found) in the medium in which he works. It extends to other reexaminations of American history. That is a very fair gripe .

Also, more annoying to me than someone bringing up an issue of race is someone complaining about a minority playing the race card. Majorities have played the race card for centuries in American culture, quite often to the detriment of minorities.
By Anonymous Poster from another forum.


~Keyshia

Notluke said...

~M~, Keyshia:

Slogans aside - how in practice can you accurately recognize an input of every minority, no matter how small, in a film where a cast of 100 represents an army of 100,000?

Also, more annoying to me than someone bringing up an issue of race is someone complaining about a minority playing the race card. Majorities have played the race card for centuries in American culture, quite often to the detriment of minorities.

This is a mindset that saddens me greatly. As long as there is enough people thinking like that eg. in the Middle East, the Jews and Palestinians will never get along (they always believe they are repaying each other for past guilts, real or imagined). Two wrongs don't make it right.