The recent release of Spike Lee’s Red Hook Summer has put me in the mind of his 1989 masterpiece (yes, I just used the M word) Do the Right Thing and the percussive assault of Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” this week’s Watercooler Musical Interlude.

Reductivist bloggers looking for easy headline clicks pegged Red Hook Summer as a sequel to Do the Right Thing, but it’s not. It’s set in Brooklyn and Mookie makes a cameo but it’s an entirely different film with its own concerns. At the same time, the Brooklyn setting seems to have energized Mr. Lee in the same way it did his other Brooklyn-based pictures. Also, like Do the Right Thing, Red Hook Summer begins innocently enough before building to an unexpected (and in this case sudden) turn of events near the end.

What Red Hook doesn’t have is the same dangerous sense of bubbling, pent up rage of that Do the Right Thing had, a rage announced and magnified by the sheer force of “Fight the Power.”

That’s all from my end for now. I’m about to head out and try to catch up on a couple of movies I’ve missed, so it’s your turn. Has anyone seen anything worth talking about in the last week? Lay it on me.


10 Responses to “Do the Watercooler Thing”

  1. I’ve been laying low the past couple of weeks (recovering from surgery) so my viewing has been limited to the tube. This has given me the opportunity to see a film that somehow has eluded me over the years: The Razor’s Edge (Tyrone Power version). Although one can respect its existential themes and appreciate the art direction, cinematography and performances, my breath was not taken away. More than anything, I question the decision to give Anne Baxter an Oscar for her overwrought performance. I was more entertained by the shenanigans of Gene Tierney and Clifton Webb (the latter of whom had a great death-bed scene and last line). Getting back to Baxter, I was surprised to learn that other actresses were first considered for the role, including Judy Garland and Betty Grable; I wish Garland had gotten a crack at it.

  2. The choice of the gloriously bombastic “Fight the Power” is perfectly timed for me, as I just recently took in what is surely Spike Lee’s masterpiece at the Universal ‘100th Anniversary’ Festival. It’s use in this film is re-defining, and I agree that RED HOOK isn’t in a league with DO THE RIGHT THING. The close-ups on the various characters around the city (the policeman, deli owner, pizza worker, oriental shop owner) is quite the statement and it never fails to have me in stiches.

    On the movie front this past week we saw:

    Shakedown *** 1/2 (Monday evening) Music Box Theatre – Chicago, Illinois

    Une Partie de Campagne ***** (Thursday evening) Film Forum

    Toni **** (Thursday evening) Film Forum

    Le Plaisir **** (Saturday night) Film Forum

    La Ronde **** 1/2 (Saturday night) Film Forum

    I’ll have more to say about the films I saw on a later thread, but this past week was really all about our road trip to Chicago, Cleveland and Gary, Inidiana (Jacko’s birthplace) The kids loved the rock n roll Hall of Fame, and we all got to sped some cherished time with blogger friends. Obviously, Renoir’s UNE PARTIE DE CAMPAGNE was the one irrefutable masterpiece in the lot and it’s practically a textbook definition of the cinematic tone poems, and a film to sit with GRAND ILLUSION, RULES OF THE GAME and LA CHIENNE among the finest works of the genius Jean Renoir, one of the greatest of all directors. Lucille and the kids also attended PARANORMAN over the weekend (I did not myself) and everyone seems to have liked it.

    Pierre: I must say I am also very middling on THE RAZOR’S EDGE, and like you would have loved to see Garland in that role!

  3. Caught two great films on blu-ray and DVD – Shame and Oslo August 31st.

    I loved how the opening subway scene of Shame immediately created a tension between the main character’s behavior (the sexual adventurism) and the complex and troubled inner life underpinning it (expressed through the use of a melancholic score). McQueen’s direction was flawless, the sense of place and its fit with the central character was wonderfully captured, and Fassbender’s performance was truly powerful and courageously vulnerable. I thought the film perfectly unpacked the psychology of how habitually casual and impersonal sexually-focused behavior as a quick fix means of enhancing mood was self-destructive. It also nicely illuminated how the avoidance of the vulnerability of emotional intimacy was the driver of such behavior.

    I thought Trier’s Oslo August 31st in many ways displayed similar strengths. The director was in total command of the material, the central performance powerfully balanced a cool facade with vulnerability (though Anders Danielsen Lie is an even quieter performer), the use of an urban setting to create a sense of place served the subject matter well, and the perspective was nonjudgmental and neither romanticized its protagonist or shirked from representing the human costs of his former pathological behavior.

    Most film writers, performers, and directors strike me as psychologically illiterate when depicting pathological behavior. It was very gratifying to watch films that I could appreciate as works of art and that had something more truthful to say about their psychological subject matter.

  4. Pierre, I’ve never seen Razor’s Edge, but I can well imagine how Gene Tierney and Clifton Webb could overshadow everyone else, just based on Laura. Especially Webb. Were he and George Sanders ever in a movie together, that’d be something to see.

    Don’t get me wrong Sam, I really liked Red Hook, but yes, Do the Right Thing is really something else. It literally wowed me watching it again after years. You know how you can be conscious of something being a masterpiece and accepting of it, but then you actually have it in front of you again and you think that maybe it’s even better than all the hype around it.

    What was interesting to me is that I remember it being more one-sided than it is, but Lee really let’s Sal have his say and Aiello knocks it out of the park. You really feel for this basically decent man who has built something from nothing and sees it threatened just becuase the neighborhood has changed. And he clearly loves the neighborhood even if the people aren’t the same color as he is anymore and for the most part the neighborhood loves him too.

    Also what comes through is Lee’s pure affection for a certain place that is disappearing.

    I can’t wait until all these old French films you’re currently enjoying come to LA next month.

    Sartre, I had a feeling you’d go for Shame and I’m glad you did. It’s the kind of incisive psychological portrait of a troubled man I thought would be right up your alley. As a handsome cocksman, Fassbender’s character is a million miles away from me – I’m jealous of his ability to practically bring a woman on a subway to orgasm just through eye contact – but his sheer loneliness and utter inability to really connect with other human beings really struck a chord with me.

    I haven’t seen Oslo yet, but I keep hearing wonderful things about it.

  5. Were he and George Sanders ever in a movie together, that’d be something to see.

    That’s for sure! In the case of Webb in Razor’s Edge, he was well cast (and earned an Oscar nomination for his trouble). Also, one of my favorite movie personalities of that era, Herbert Marshall, was a strong presence as the Maugham character. Marshall had one of the most melodious, velourish, yet authoritative voices ever to grace the cinema.

  6. Marshall’s great, but not a dude you hear about all the time anymore. Foreign Correspondent, The Little Foxes, Duel in the Sun…

  7. Marshall’s career was limited by his lack of mobility — he couldn’t walk, or had trouble walking, so directors had to film around that.

  8. As to sartre’s response to OSLO, AUGUST 31st, I would like to second the motion.

    It’s a flat-out five-star masterpiece and for me ranks among the best USA 2012 releases along with:

    The Turin Horse (Tarr)
    War Witch (Nguyen)
    The Kid with the Bike (Dardennes)
    The Deep Blue Sea (Davies)
    This is NOT a Film (Panahi)

  9. Sam , glad to read you loved the film. From your list, I’m particularly looking forward to checking out The Turin Horse and The Kid with the Bike. You’ve raised my interest in seeing the other listed films, which I was aware of but was less inclined to seek out.

  10. Thrilled to hear that my friend!

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