Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Jungle Fever

Year 2, Day 55 - 2/24/10 - Movie #420

BEFORE: Hmm...Movie #420 - too bad I don't have "Half-Baked" or "Homegrown" on my list... This is about where Spike Lee movies and I had something of a falling-out. I watched "Do the Right Thing" and while at NYU I was shown his earlier films.

THE PLOT: Friends and family of a married black architect react in different ways to his affair with an Italian secretary.

AFTER: This was a very polarizing film back in the early 90's, and now I realize why. It could be seen as a suggestion that black men can have a "free pass" and satisfy their curiosity by sleeping with a white chick, then go back to their wife and daughter. My other problems with this movie are as follows:

The issue of race dominates everything - most of the characters in this film are either black people who dislike white people, or Italians who dislike black people. It's a gross over-simplification, and a convenient one as well. If someone besides the main characters could tolerate each other's presence, there wouldn't be any tension, and therefore no movie. But while highlighting the race issue, the film manages to ignore any progress in race relations made in the 1970's or 80's, and instead shows a situation more closely resembling outdated 1950's sensibilities. And at this point in his career, Spike Lee wasn't able to depict racism in anything but a racist way - remember that when you point a finger at someone, you've got three fingers pointing back at yourself...

There are just too many characters and sub-plots that don't connect with each other in any intelligent way. Samuel L. Jackson as a crackhead, begging for money from his brother, and robbing his parents' apartment for cash - that's a movie in itself. John Turturro as an Italian trying to date a black woman and fighting with his father (Anthony Quinn) - that's a movie, too. So two subplots, in addition to the romance between Flipper (Wesley Snipes) and Angie (Annabella Sciorra)

The biggest problem, though, is the very loud "background" music that dominates nearly every scene. Often the music doesn't even fit the mood of the scene, so what's it doing there? It's extremely distracting. In some cases I almost couldn't hear people repeating the same information over and over in their lines...

Also starring Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Frank Vincent, Michael Imperioli (heck, 1/2 the future cast of "The Sopranos" is in this film...), Nicholas Turturro, Michael Badalucco, Debi Mazar, Tim Robbins, Brad Dourif, Halle Berry and Queen Latifah.

RATING: 3 out of 10 chocolate egg creams

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