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Happy 57th Birthday Spike Lee! Reminisce With Us - Our & Your Favorite "Spike Moments"

by Tambay A. Obenson
March 20, 2014 4:28 PM
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Spike Lee On Set

Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee, born March 20, 1957, turns 57 years old today! Wow! Time sure does fly, doesn't it?

I had to pause for a minute to think about the fact that he'll be 60 years old in a matter of 3 years. Or maybe it just reminds me that I am aging as well - we all are - and I'd prefer to think that the years aren't moving along as briskly.

But they are; So, as the saying goes, carpe diem, or seize the day! 

Back to Spike... long time readers of this website will know just how much and how often the man's name is been mentioned by just about all of us, both critically, as well as in adulation. You'll find a good mix of commentary. He has been, after all, the most prominent black filmmaker in this country, since he burst onto the scene in the mid 1980s, and he's still around, cranking out a film about once every 2 to 3 years or so, on average; you can't really talk about black cinema today and not mention one Mr Spike Lee.

And to celebrate his 57th birthday, let's reminisce... specifically, what are your favorite Spike Lee moments. Notice I didn't ask for only your favorite Spike Lee films; so feel free to include those moments in which Spike roused and stirred you, whether psychologically or physically; moments, on film, and not on film, when he agitated, titillated, awakened, incensed, humored, sensitize,  you; Moments in any of his films, or Spike himself in person, made you laugh, cry, angry, sad, and more.

These moments could be from scenes in his films, or they could be entire films, films he's produced, interviews he's done, books he's written, speeches/talks given, commercials he's directed or starred in, and whatever else you can remember.

In my case, I think most would probably list Do The Right Thing as their favorite Spike Lee jointe but, I'll actually go against the tide here and choose Bamboozled instead. It was Spike's most scathing critique, and an ambitious satire on race and the power of media, shot mostly on what was then a still burgeoning technology that certainly wasn't as widely used and embraced as it is today - we call it digital video now. 

That was 14 long years ago!

I'd say it wasn't a coincidence that the film was released in the year 2000 - as a kind of call to action at the beginning of the new millennium. Yes, it's a little longer than I think it should have been to be just as effective, and Spike doesn't end it as efficiently as it begins (at least, in my not-so humble opinion); But I greatly appreciated the films overall potency. It worked for me, even though it was savaged by many film critics, including, surprisingly, Ebert and Roeper on their nationally televised film review program. It surprised me that 2 of the nation's top movie critics were so short-sighted as to miss the broader message behind Spike's overtly satirical film. They practically dismissed it, which was unfortunate. 

I wonder if both were still alive today, would still feel that same about the film today.

But chime in with your own favorite Spike Lee moments - on film, or otherwise. I'm sure, for some of you, his recent public invective on gentrification in Brooklyn will rank highly.

Here's a flashback for my choice:


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  • . | March 27, 2014 5:13 PMReply


  • tolly devlin | March 22, 2014 7:06 PMReply

    My favorite Spike Lee moment was catching the Chicago premiere of She's Gotta Have It at the Fine Arts movie theater during the last day of that years Black Light Film Fest. The general release of the film was still a few months away but I remember feeling that this was a fulfillment of the promise he had shown with Joe's Bed-Stuy... & also a fresh voice in Black independent cinema. Spike was also present for that screening & came across , at that time , as a rather shy & reticent young man. Most of his recent stuff , with the exception of his two Katrina doc's, have not impressed me.

  • Miles Ellison | March 20, 2014 11:50 PMReply

    Spike Lee has made some great films in his career. Bamboozled was a high point because it was not only historically instructive, it was prophetic.

  • CC | March 21, 2014 2:36 AM

    My friend Mr. Troll Hunter, while your comments are as useful as a torn prophylactic, I find them quite amusing. So do you and have a peaceful sleep.

  • Troll Hunter | March 21, 2014 1:12 AM

    Carey shut the hell up and take your meds. No one likes you except your made up monikers. You are such a loser I would like to slap your momma.

  • CareyCarey | March 21, 2014 12:05 AM

    High point, Miles? So are you saying Bamboozled was his "best' film. And, in line with the post, what scene or scenes (from any of his films) stands out in your memory. Well, first, I share mine.

    For some reason that I can't explain, when I think of Spikes movies, I see Denzel and Spike walking in Harlem in those Zoot suits... and the dance scene that followed. And, in that same movie, I was always impressed by the scene when Denzel (as Malcolm X) got the attention of everyone by simply raising his hand. Also, the dance scene in School Daze. But man, I have a ton of scenes/memories from Spike's films and I also enjoy Bamboozled.

  • CareyCarey | March 20, 2014 7:03 PMReply

    "let's reminisce... specifically, what are your favorite Spike Lee moments. Moments in any of his films, or Spike himself in person, made you laugh, cry, angry, sad, and more." Tambay

    I got one and it's all in the family. Well... actually, this story involves S&A's Sergio, CareyCarey and Spike Lee.

    I've been riding with Spike Lee since his 1986 breakout movie She's Gotta Have It. Back then, aside from a few movies starring Bill Cosby, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte and Richard Pryor, I can't remember if a movie featured a black cast or if the directors were black. Well, there were movies like Super Fly, Shaft, Cotton Comes To Harlem, and those black exploitation movie, but Spike's narrative and direction was a new day.

    Before Spike Lee's arrival, many black faces in cinema were reduced to caricatures displaying people of color in a negative light. We took it all with a kind of astringent good humor, refusing at times, even to consider defending those false images, because, for the most part, we didn't have enough avenues to do that.

    But now, as the world turns, we now have a black president, and I, a black man, was given the opportunity; in this racist society, to express my opinions in a local newspaper, that in which I intend to share parts of this post.

    Much has been written about race and racism; I personally feel that it will demand a far less guilty and constricted people than the present-day American to be able to assess it all; it’s importance to the survival of our society, however, I can safely assume that others, albeit begrudgingly, need to hear the narratives/voices from my people of color. Continue....

  • CareyCarey | March 20, 2014 7:04 PM

    ....Anyway, before I get too far off the core of this post, in short, I believe Spike Lee was a fresh new voice of black consciousness. And, I've been following him every since he hit the block.

    So, a few weeks ago I was tickle pink (dark brown) when an acquaintance at Shadow and Act (a film blog) Sergio Mims, a writer for Ebony magazine informed the blogsphere that Spike Lee was going to be in Chicago, promoting his new book Do The Right Thing. The book is celebrating just more than 20 years since the seminal debut of the movie by the same name. Okay, now it was my time to met Spike and get an autographed book to boot. However, two days before the scheduled day of the event, I had reservation on a flight to Atlanta. I caught my flight but all goodbyes were not gone. I have a cousin that lives in Chicago on South Lake Shore Drive that let me convince her to stand - tall and proud - in my place. I got my autograph "to Carey, my greatest fan in Iowa", but I didn't get a chance to meet Spike.

    But wait, remember my friend Sergio Mims, he again informed the blogsphere, through this here Shadow and Act that spike had booked a return engagement in Naperville, a suburb outside Chicago. Oh boy, here we go again.

    I have another cousin - a niece - that lives right in Naperville. So, upon hearing that great news, I scurried to the phone to apply for my hookup tickets. I also contacted Sergio, who lives in Chicago, to see if he'd like to join me. At first he said it was too far for him to drive waaaaay out to Naperville, but if I came to pick him up, he'd be glad to ride along. Now I'm thinking, I would have to drive 200 miles to attend this event and he lives a stones throw away.... but I said okay. He's an old goat and I don't mind helping the handicapped and he's a good conversationalist. And, you know, a journey shared with another, is more deeply moving an experience than a journey taken alone. But we had to cope a few tickets.

    Well, you know how it is when a friend or family member says they have you covered, and then - THEY DON'T?! Yep, my niece carries all the genes of a young black woman, and so, things got a little shaky. I had faith that she could acquire ticket because she copped six when Cornel West spoke at the same function - just last year.

    After I informed Sergio of our quandary, he went to work. He told me that he might be able to get a couple of press passes. I forgot Sergio was the man, who probably was on the A-list of writers in Chicago, so I was thrilled when I heard that great news.

    Now we were set to go, but wait, Sergio hit me with another e-mail...

    "Well [Carey]I've got good news and bad news. I just got a call from them. They gave me a ticket for the Lee event. That's it's ONE ticket. I couldn't get another one"

    No he didn't! But like a true trooper "the show must go on" he hit me with another message saying...

    "O.K. Carey, but we're still going together, right?".

    I started to call his azz back and tell him "hell no, there's no way I was going to let him in my car, wearing a tuxedo, smiling as he waved his front row pass in my face. But again, I took the soft and kind road and said, yes, we're still going together. So it was on, the two of us were off to see Spike Lee. I finally managed to get a ticket in the nose bleed section.

    But see, Sergio doesn't know this (unless he reads this post) but I was planning on getting a big azz camera and pretend I was his camera man or personal assistant. Yes sir, it was my plan to buy a fake but great looking press pass, and strut to the front - like I was somebody. And then, when the evening progresses to the Q&A portion of the program, I was going to drop that camera, jump to my feet, frantically wave my hands in the air and say "Right over here Mr. Spike Lee, I have a question for you" . Hopefully he will say "Yes, Mr. CareyCarey, what can I do for you?". Then I'll say, "Nothing, I don't really have a question, I just wanted to tell everyone who will listen, especially my fellow visitors at Shadow and Act, that I met you".

    The End... of my moments with Spike Lee

  • Mark V | March 20, 2014 6:48 PMReply

    Not a lot people lining up for the "S&A Spike Lee Booty Kiss" here. Well, the day is young, yet.

  • CC | March 20, 2014 11:40 PM

    ...and Mark, what does that have to do with the tea in China? If you read the post (which I assume you did?) Tambay asked for folks to share their moments/memories of Spike Lee and his films. So my good friend, backatcha "no offense, dude, but I have no idea WTF YOU'RE talking about". Oh, that's right, you're still wet behind the ears, leaving you empty of any fond memories of the good ol days. But dude, ask somebody before showing all your ignorance... baby baby please, baby baby please :-)

  • Mark V | March 20, 2014 11:13 PM

    CC, no offense, dude, but I have no idea WTF you're talking about.

    No more searing an indictment of Spike's popularity do you need than looking at the box office numbers of his last three narrative theatrical features.

  • CareyCarey | March 20, 2014 9:52 PM

    Mark V, don't blame it on Spike Lee, Shadow and Act did it. I mean, if you've been reading along you surely know many of S&A's old-school readers has given their pens a rest. No longer do we see the passionate comments from the readers Jug, Akimbo, Nadine, Charles Judson, Bondgirl, Blutopaz, Manwon, Justssyin', Laura, Nadell, JMac, Adam S. Thompson, Urbanautuer, Nadel, Gigi Young, Melissa, Tamara and Cynthia (off the top of my head) they have all given their pens an extended vacation. And that reminds me of an old school song "If you lose me"

    If you should loo-oose me,
    Oh yeah, you'll lose a good thing.
    If you should loo-oose me,
    Oh yeah, you'll lose a good thing.

    You know I love you,
    Do anything for you.
    Just don't mistreat me,
    An I'll be good to you.
    'Cause if you should loo-oose me,
    Oh yeah, you'll lose a good thing.

    I'm givin' you one more chance,
    For you to do right.
    If you'll only straighen up,
    We'll have a good life.
    'Cause if you should loo-oose me,
    Oh yeah, you'll lose a good thing.

    Yep Mark, when S&A lost those reader, they lost a good thang. Now they may still read the blog, but lurkers don't inspire conversation.

    So what happened? Well, you'll have to ask them but I blame it on this new generation of Twitter Nerds. See, they lose consciousness after 140 characters, so Shadow and Act's comment section is their kryptonite and/or Achilles heel. They get weak in the knees after writing more than 2 sentences. And hell, although Sergio is the King Of Comments, he can only carry the blog for so long. Now don't get me wrong, the other writers are great at what they do but their type of "informational posts", for the most part, do not inspire "controversy" which in-turn inspires conversation/comments. That reminds me, it's not wise to put all your money on Tyler Perry posts and those that say "HIT ME, I AM A RACE BAIT POST". Nope, they will only carry you so far... and people grow tired of that nonsense - day in and day out.

    But I'll tell you what, if S&A ever let me in the door, I'd bring Spike Lee, Tyler Perry and Oprah, right to the door. That's right, I believe I can get an interview with all of them... and many more popular black folks in the business - if I had "Shadow and Act" on my letter head or they had my back. Yep, I am suggesting that if I had Shadow and Act's support I'd have the joint jumping with something special. The comment section would regain it's lost significance. But Tambay... but Tambay would never crack that door?

    Anyway, maybe we should blame the low turn-out on the NCAA Basketball Championships. I mean, although this is a female dominated house, maybe many of S&A's male and female readers are snuggled up watching the games?

  • Kevin | March 20, 2014 6:16 PMReply

    Do you mean Siskel and Ebert? Richard Roeper is still alive and well.

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