This Spike Lee film examines the life of an aspiring actress in New York. She is upset by the treatment of women in the movie industry during one of her screen tests with 'QT'. Out of work ... See full summary »
Harper's autobiographical novel is almost out, his girlfriend Robin desires commitment, and he's best man at the wedding of Lance, a pro athlete. He goes to New York early (Robin will come ... See full summary »
Murderesses Velma Kelly (a chanteuse and tease who killed her husband and sister after finding them in bed together) and Roxie Hart (who killed her boyfriend when she discovered he wasn't going to make her a star) find themselves on death row together and fight for the fame that will keep them from the gallows in 1920s Chicago.
Craig and Smokey are two guys in Los Angeles hanging out on their porch on a Friday afternoon, smoking and drinking, looking for something to do. Encounters with neighbors and other friends... See full summary »
Spike Lee had the actors stay in separate hotels during filming. The actors playing the "wannabes" had better accommodation than the ones playing the "jigaboos", which contributed to the on-camera animosity between the two camps. See more »
During the "I Don't Wanna Be Alone Tonite" number, the black gloves that the Gamma Rays wear go from above the elbow to below the elbow and back again in between shots. See more »
School Daze is billed as a musical comedy but is better described as a comedy-drama with musical numbers as commentary--the only non-diegetic number is "Good and Bad Hair," Lee's all-girl fantasy homage to West Side Story that addresses colorism between the "paper bag-light" sorority Gamma Rays and the darker activist girls. Ebert wrote that this was the first movie he'd seen in a while where the black characters relate to each other instead of a hypothetical white audience--it is this that gives the movie its engrossing authenticity. (If it matters, I'm white.)
As funny as the movie can be, it's also incredibly hard-hitting--there's a sequence in the last 20 minutes where Julian, "Big Brother Al-migh-tee," insists his girlfriend "prove" her love, that's almost unwatchable and yet brutally honest. Lee has been called sexist for his underwritten female characters--there may be some truth to that but School Daze is far more critical of the men than the women. Rachel, Dap's girlfriend, is perhaps the most levelheaded, likable character in the movie, and is strong and supportive of Dap while still maintaining her independence. Even the Gamma Rays, who come off as shallow and colorist in the beginning, are sympathetic as they stand up for and try to aid the pledges during hazing. The characters who come off the worst are the GPG brothers who are, almost to a man, brutish, sadistic and crude. Julian in particular is unredeemable--clever, manipulative and almost sociopathic in his treatment of Jane. Lee supposedly based the movie on his observations at Morehouse and the movie stands as a scathing indictment against the black fraternity system and its abuse of the women's auxiliaries (aka "Little Sisters").
The movie has structural weaknesses (the ending is problematic and seems to come out of nowhere although it fits thematically) but its biggest problem is Lee's flat performance as Half-Pint (and, frankly, he looks a little too old for it). I love Lee's movies but his early tendency to cast himself in major roles was a real weakness--he's just not a good enough actor and his performance always jerks me out of the story. The rest of the cast is fantastic, though, especially Tisha Campbell as Jane and Giancarlo Esposito as Julian. Notice must also be given to Bill Lee's wonderful score. Ultimately it's a movie whose heart and imagination overcome its flaws.
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