Get on the Bus (1996) Poster

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Spike Lee's morality statement on Black America
JawsOfJosh3 November 2000
Armed with 16mm cameras, a miniscule budget financed independently by 15 different black businessmen, and a wonderful script, Spike shot "Get On The Bus" and released it to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the 1995 Million Man March. Set on a bus bound for Washington D.C., this film examines the problems and opinions of various of black men on racial issues in the 90's.

Family, misogyny, homosexuality, religion, violence, education, and economics are all addressed here as well as other issues. Spike does not only shed light on issues that pertain to black peoples involvement in White America, but the film also attacks color-consciousness among light-skinned and dark-skinned blacks (as he did in "School Daze"). Like "School Daze," this may be the only other Spike Lee film that seems to be aimed directly at Black America, and Spike shows the varying degrees of complexity with his cast of characters. There is a rage-filled actor, a homosexual couple in the midst of separating (one out-and-proud, the other closeted), a sensitive cop, a level-headed family man, a gangbanger turned Sunni Muslim, a naive filmmaker, and a tired, defeated elderly man. There is also an estranged father who sees the March as an opportunity to re-connect with his resentful, bound-for-crime teenage son. His son has been recently convicted of burglary and has been ordered to remain "chained" to his father for 48 hours, the irony of which does not escape the other members on the bus.

Given the film is almost set entirely on a bus, Spike restrains himself in dispensing out his evolving camera and editing styles, using only a brief sequence set in a desert to bleach the screen with a heavy yellow tint. Many Spike Lee regulars are in the film, like Ossie Davis and Isaiah Washington who give sound performances (Davis' "I lost everything" monologue is especially moving). The real notable acting is provided by Andre Braugher as an angry, egocentric actor whose rage is fortunately balanced for him with a healthy dose of articulated intelligence and Roger Guenever Smith as a sensitive, bi-racial cop who works in South Central Los Angeles. Those two really are the stand-outs in this film.

The dialogue is so flowing and casual in this film despite its topic matter, that you could listen to this film instead of watch it! I can't recommend this film enough for fans of Spike Lee or fans of great dialogue. As a Spike Lee worshipper, I rank this film in his top 5. Potent.
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Powerfully good
dee.reid22 November 2002
I just got done watching Spike Lee's "Get on the Bus" for the first time in about a year. The movie is done in a manner, I can't really describe it, that is very different from previous efforts by Spike Lee. The film follows a bus of about twenty men, all African-American, on a trip to Washington, D.C. to attend the Million March that was held there in 1995, about a year before this movie was made. We follow each of the men, including a father and son who have tethered together on a court order; a homophobic actor, who takes an immediate disliking to two homosexual men; a cop whose father was killed in the line of duty; a former gang member who is now a social services worker for troubled kids who he's trying to keep from living a life in gangs; an up and coming film student, who is video taping the event so he can show it to his future children; and an open-hearted elderly man who is going to the Million Man March simply because he wants to.

"Get on the Bus" is in my opinion, one of Spike Lee's best films. Each of the characters are unique in one a way or another.

A film that is not to be missed.
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This is something ALL America can relate to.
Malcolm P6 June 2001
Get On The Bus is probably one greatest movies people do NOT know about. This movie places men of all ages and different backgrounds together headed to The Million Man March. Although many may not relate to Farrakhan and his beliefs, they will, however, be educated on issues of race, unity, and respect. Regardless of skin color or ethnic background, people can easily relate to the characters on-screen. If anything, Get On The Bus will teach anyone to have a deeper love and appreciation of our fellow man.
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"STAGE" Coach - An Inspired Analysis of Black Layers
psp7773 January 2006
NO SPOILERS A real stunner from Spike Lee using his characteristic mental conundrums to mix a wide spectrum of all black male "individual" characters on the way to a march/event in Washington; a Gay couple, a truculent/homophobic guy/LAPD Cop/an Elder/a young Gang Member chained to his Father on a Judge's release understanding and many other interesting guys you would pass on the street - maybe without a second glance - until you see this film.

For me, a single white guy, I felt the film successfully served to strip away more than the fair share of stereotypical notions maintained in the collective consciousness of both black and white - "GET ON THE BUS" hits the spot over and over, and held my attention from start to finish.

The 'journey' travels along with the interaction of the characters, split into scenes by a great and meaningful soundtrack - the road is but a short journey but a longer way through the soul to give understanding.

Whilst the conclusion/end of the film was probably one of the most powerful messages, I did feel a little disappointment - but as I write, instead of me whining for a better ending, my mind has traversed across millions of attitudes and set free many images that had been lodged in my simple mind.

This may not sound like a riveting review - but you'll need to watch it - you'll be nourished.
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Spike Lee's best work
s00815731 October 1999
Let me begin by letting you know I am neither black or white. I say this so you don't think I speak from a particular bias. I firmly believe that Spike Lee captured the central epic struggle within the black community and its overall effect on the American landscape as a whole. I was happy to see that ALL aspects of the society were equally represented in this film without reinforcing dated stereotypes. This is clearly Lee's greatest work.

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Buy your ticket and enjoy the ride!!
CharltonBoy2 January 2000
Get on the bus is a superb film in every way. The acting , the story ,the photography and the sound track are a joy to behold. Spike Lee should be praised for his unbiased view on the struggle for black rights in America. You may not always agree with some of the sentements of the film but you cant help be captivated. Dont miss it! 8 out of 10
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Spike's paean to the black man in America, 1996
tnrcooper15 February 2008
I'm not a black man in America, but I've loved all of Spike's films and quite frankly, I wish people (not, by and large, the commenters on this film, refreshingly) would attempt to make films "black" or "white" or "Latino" or any other social or political or religious demeaner. This is a wonderful film and all people should be able to appreciate it. I would like to respond to those who think this is a "white-berating" movie or something. One word: please.

The vast majority of the dialogue in this film is African-American focused and there is very little criticism of The White Man. Those of you who claim otherwise, well, to quote Shakespeare, "I think thou doth protest too much."

Lee has given the black man, as they like to say in liberal arts grad school programs, agency. He has presented the wide range of black circumstances. These are not victims of drive-by shootings, gang-bangers, or basketball players. I did find the characters a bit stock in their very attempts to convey such distinctly different elements of the black experience. It was as though Spike ticked off boxes saying, OK, we have a conservative black man, we have a struggling middle-class black man, we have an egomaniacal black man..but having said that, it is only possible for that to be a criticism because as viewers, we are so unused to seeing black men depicted in complex ways.

As a white guy who's worked in largely minority schools for a decade and was The White Guy who'd attend all the functions of the minority student association events in college-that is to say, I enjoyed learning about all manner of racial diversity, I don't think, that as a white person, it's appropriate to judge the fitness of folks of another ethnicity to use words which might seem a little coarse. If people want to use those words, when they do not refer to me, what is it to me? If white folks hadn't been using those words back in the day, the use of those words would not even be an issue now. Anyway, I'm rambling, but it seems that this film was made, essentially, as one of those rare vehicles which allows people (not that many people saw this film, of course.....) to see black men as humans.

We see an egomaniacal, sexually-insecure man named Smooth (the fantastic Andre Braugher). We see a light-skinned African American (the very talented Roger Guenver Smith) who must answer barbed criticisms from Smooth about his claim to a legitimate place in the African-American community, Charles Dutton, criminally underemployed in modern movies as the organizer of the bus journey to the Million Man March and the glue who holds (as best he can) the trip together. We see two gay men (Isaiah Washington (ya really think the man is homophobic?)) and Henry Lennix as Randall (also excellent) whose relationship is challenged by Randall's insecurity about it. Ossie Davis is brilliant as an older man who largely keeps his counsel but when needed to keep the train from coming off the tracks, seems to know just how to calm the storm. A hard-working middle-class man named Evan (the reliable Thomas Byrd Jr., a regular in Lee's movies) is struggling with how best to raise his son. His heart is in the right place but the job is not easy. His son, Jamal (Gabriel Casseus giving a nuanced performance communicating all range of depth and yet at the same time, the simplicity which only a young person can convey). The black man who turns out to be self-hating, and who joins the bus (for a short time, in Memphis), Wendell, is amusingly and with a great deal of satisfaction, I would imagine, to all positive and forward-thinking blacks (and folks of other colors) dealt with quite appropriately. His behavior is quite disgraceful and as I watched him I hoped that he would get the harsh comeuppance which he did indeed receive.

The cinematography of the bus travelling through the American west is bleached out in order to convey the starkness of the landscape and in order that the focus remains on these rich, wonderfully human characters. Lee does a fantastic job directing. I'm not willing to say this is his best film when the man has directed "Do The Right Thing", and "When the Levees Break" which is all you need to know about Hurricane Katrina. But saying this film is worse than those two is not saying anything bad about this film. It is excellent and it is a tribute to black men which more people should see so that in America more people understand that black men are as diverse as there are grains of sand on the ocean.
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This is the journey of a bus that is worth getting on.
mifunesamurai17 February 2003
We join the bus ride with a group of Black Americans as they journey to the Million Man March. During this journey, the camera enters the soul and beliefs of each character that represents a whole spectrum of the Black community. Their conversations range from the politics to the religions and beyond their inner-self . Each one finding new meaning to their life and destiny. Reggie's preachy but fascinating script is handled masterfully by the genius Spike Lee.
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Excellent, Highly Underrated Film
bryanac6253 July 2004
I always intended to watch this movie for a long time but I kept putting it off. I was really surprised at how excellent and well-written this movie actually was. If you enjoy films where a group of diverse people are put into a situation and then left to deal with each other (eg "Twelve Angry Men"), then you must see this movie.

This film was also very intelligent. I think too many people believe that if you get a group of black men together for anything, they'll soon be calling each other "nigga" and violence will erupt, not necessarily in that order. About halfway through the movie, I told my wife that the n-word had not been used at all, and no punches had been thrown.

But I was wrong.

What made it even more interesting was the way the men responded to the person who called everyone "nigga," and there was a fight, which occurred between a homosexual and an arrogant, big-mouthed guy who kept calling him "faggot." I don't condone violence, but the gay guy knocked him down a peg or two, and he certainly had it coming.

This film also solidifies Andre Braugher as an incredible actor. He has taken on such diverse roles and here, he was outstanding. So many of these actors were. Almost every scenario and discussion is covered in two hours well spent.
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I'm almost willing to say it's Spike Lee's best film.
mrgray8316 April 2005
I can't forget about the extraordinary Do The Right Thing though.

Get On The Bus follows the bus trip of a group of brothers on their way to the Million Man March. The acting is top of the line. The actor playing Evan Junior is a perfect match for his character. He turns in one of the greatest performances. The script is perfect and it only proves to be stronger when you remember that the film was shot in sequence. Which leads me to another point. Anyone with even a small amount of film-making understanding knows that it would have been hell to shoot this film in 35mm, so Spike Lee recorded in a smaller print and had it blown up. The result is a film that's almost documentary style but works perfectly.

Throughout the course of the film, Spike Lee introduces us to various personifications of the black man. Notice I used the word personifications, not stereotypes. We have a self hating brother, who is picked up halfway through the trip, who puts down on black schools and colleges. We have a highly homophobic brother who's loud and arrogant at the same time. We have a Muslim brother who has no lines but is integral even without lines. There are black republicans along on the trip. Two black homosexuals. And to top it off it's filmed entirely on a bus trip except for a few scenes which Spike Lee stated were on a sound stage.

Great film. 9/10
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Interesting study of a group of men on one bus to Washington, D.C. for the "million man march" in 1995.
TxMike24 February 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Except for brief scenes in a restaurant or roadside park, the whole film is set inside the bus as a random group of black men from the L.A. area travel together to D.C. for the million man march. As they arrive old Jeremiah (Ossie Davis) has a heart attack, they hospitalize him, he does not survive, and all the men on that bus miss the march as they wait for Jeremiah. TV broadcast scenes of the "march" are shown, however. So, the film is not really about the march, but the relationship that develops among these men as they travel.

Two of them are gay lovers about to split up. Another two are father and son, handcuffed together by court order because the son had stolen money from a store. One was a very light skinned man, a cop, whose mother is white, and whose black father had been a cop and was killed by black gang members. One man was a former gang member who now counsels "kids at risk". At one point the cop told the former gang member that he would see that he got his due for admitting to have killed a number of innocent people, but the film did not provide any resolution of that point.

I could go on and describe the other characters, but the point is, they had all quite different stories, sometimes difficultly opposing points of views about sensitive issues, but they all needed to get along, learn to accept each other. The overall "message" of their conversations is, the black man must quit seeking blame for past problems and focus on being a better person and work hard to accomplish things.

I rate the film "7" of 10. Even though I am not a black man I found the whole film captivating. There were a few real rough spots, I thought, but overall a worthwhile film.
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One of Spike Lee's better films, if not his best
Agent1020 May 2002
This was really one of those films which turned out to be a gem. I didn't care about the fact it was black-funded and had a virtually all black cast. The way I look at it, regardless of the racial signifying, it was a very strong film filled with symbols and depictions of black men that haven't been seen in other films. To me, Spike Lee should focus on the aspects of black life instead of showing the lines that separate.

Instead of making everything about racism, he should focus on the relationships which can exist and develop between people and diversity of the said individuals. The men all had different backgrounds; gay republicans, used car salesman, a UCLA film student, an older gentleman who actually experienced deep racism, an young Islamic man with a past, a father and son in the middle of a personal conflict and even the arrogant actor. Full of great performances, especially Ossie Davis, this film should have been the type of film Spike Lee would strive to make.
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An over-rated non story
George Parker17 April 2001
"Get on the Bus" takes a bus ride with a handful of black actors playing stereotypical African-Americans who spend their time discussing a variety of mostly race related issues on their way to the Million Man March in WDC. "GOB" shows us nothing new, is a rehash of the same old and tired black/white American issues, is mostly dialogue with little of visual interest, and wanders plotlessly with no apparent purpose other than sending preachy, simple minded messages to the audience. "GOB" only moves towards excellence to that extent that it occasionally deviates from traditional stereotypes. Good music though.
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Get on the Bus needs to critique itself
wellesly016 March 2002
This movie is a modest effort by Spike Lee. He is capable of much more than this movie.Get on the Bus while apparenly anti racist, does nothing but berate whites and degrade the black status quo. The plot of this movie is about a group of black men who travel on a bus to Louis Farrakhan's million man march. The bus has every type of person you could imagine:gay, Muslim, gangbanger and the Uncle Tom(He is thrown off the bus though). There was one only white person on the bus. He was accused of being a racist the minute he got on the bus to drive. Despite him being a jew and the fact that he explained is situation he ended up being a racist and leaving the bus.I hate to say it but films like this need to realize their own hipocracy and rienforcation of steryotypes. This should not be seen as a triumph but a sad disappointment. You may think I am a racist for writing this but I mean well. Better luck next time Spike.
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rwirtz14 August 2003
Being a white European male I liked this movie very much. As I've read in some of the other comments there are people who think that this movie is berating whites and degrading the black status quo. While this may be true this movie revolves, just like Barbershop, around accountability and self-empowerment. Of course this movie has all the stereotypes, but you have to ask yourself how the stereotype became a stereotype!

I think that Spike Lee masterfully adapted this wonderful screenplay into a very good movie, leaving loose ends on purpose: everyone needs to find out for himself/herself what their next step is.

The acting was superb, especially Ossie Davis, and the soundtrack was spot on. I give it 4 out 5.
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Black bonding
JudyBlue17 March 1999
Like most of Spike Lee's films, "Get on the bus" is first and foremost a refreshing alternative to the wave of black-on-black violence cinema started by "Boyz n the hood". While racial issues are present and highlighted, the focus is still human interaction and man's flocking nature. Spike Lee knows how to add depth to his characters, and as the film evolves, the lives and pasts of the central characters unravel piece by piece. Yet, as the many differences are revealed, so are the similarities, and ultimately, the need for companionship in the fight against racism is stronger than any prejudice. Other issues, like reverse racism and homophobia are added as extra spice, preventing the film from ever becoming boring. "Get on the bus" is a warm feel-good movie from the man who convinced me that Harlem would be a nice place to live.
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Better the second time around
DunnDeeDaGreat4 November 2001
The first time I saw this movie , I wasn't impressed with it. It seemed boring and pointless. Then I watched again with friends and got the message behind it. Spike Lee has made a great male bonding film that everyone should see no matter what color you are.
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Learn the Minorities Mindset and Cry with empathy
dan g23 April 2001
Hearing about the film when it first came out, I failed to find a Big Screen showing. Recently, I bought the pre-recorded video and it proved to be well worth the wait.

The message is universal. Spike Lee loses none of his sharpness of observation on the minutiae of human relationships shown in Girl 6. The tender relationship between "Smooth" and his father despite the shackles, leading to the reconciliation after the tense search for "Smoth" is a classic.

Above all Ossie Davis as Jeremiah is a force showing some of the most "real" acting I have ever seen. You are drawn into the warmth of his personality by the brilliant scripting of Reggie Bythewood. If you're in any way human, you cannot fail to become attached to Jeremiah as a truly special person. When he is taken to the hospital you want to be with the travellers as they fret in the relatives room.

If you didn't find the final epitath spech by Ossie davis read by George brilliantly played by Charles Dutton, just let the beauty of the script wash over you. I wept buckets at this point, the setting, the way you warm to Jeremiah, and the pathos should bring you to regard this as one of the cinema's great scenes.

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Wonderful character study
ukharold6 March 2000
With the million man march as a motivational backdrop, a bus full of black men and a European-Jewish driver head off to DC from LA. Spike plays round and round with stereotypes, archetypes, and everything in between in this sharp character study.
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One of my favorites...
Mthomas-529 June 1999
I hate to admit it, but this is probably the only Spike Lee film I like and I more than like it - I love it. Reggie Bythewood does a remarkable job of giving each character a distinctly different voice, background, socioeconomic standing, etc. This movie wasn't even about Black men, per se. Sure, there are moments that only those of our community can truly appreciate, but I think this is a film that transcends race.
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Get on the Bus, by Reggie Blythewood, taped by Spike Lee
MisterWhiplash30 July 2008
Get on the Bus is one of those rare cases for Spike Lee where the screenplay for the film, and most of the performances, supersedes the vision leading it. Lee shot the film quickly, on a combination of 16mm (the kind that makes it look kinda HBO series of the period, not a bad thing) and camcorder video, and he works through what is kind of like a play on a bus: small space, not much room to go like the usual flamboyant touches of style Lee is great at. Instead it's some grainy yellow-brown tinting- the kind that was also done in the likes of Tony Scott's Domino- and an opening sequence meant to emphasize the chains of the teen 'Smooth' put to a less than agreeable Michael Jackson song. For the most part, his function here is to get the cast together and only get so much in the way as to not have them stumble.

So it's sad to say that despite Spike Lee, despite his flawed choices in style (or, at best, a relatively typical low-budget hand-held feel in the bus), despite the mostly wretched R&B songs used that don't fit in with scenes and play over moments that are without reason, Get on the Bus is a good movie. Again, this is a credit to the screenwriter, Blythewood, who takes a big event in modern African-American history and uses it to make a portrait of several types (i.e. a cop, actor, thug-turned-Muslim, old man, gay couple, torn father and son Smooth, among a couple others). What's most commendable is how the material goes past the possible pitfalls of didacticism and heavy-handedness, with the exception possibly of the final couple of speeches. The dialog is honest and tough and even very funny; a scene where they pick up a black republican is as good as anything in a classic Lee film.

And, as well, the actors are a big help. Which may be to say that Lee did do a good job on that front, one that is crucial for a screenplay so dependent on it being so tight knit and, dare I say it, intimate. Charles S. Dutton, Ossie Davis, Andre Braugher, Isaiah Washington, Hill Harper, Richard Belzer in a bit part, they're all spot-on choices, and they help elevate material that needs some 'umph' here and there, something to help out through one or two scenes that feel slightly stuck in the 90s (the kid doing the documentary-for-his-class thing wears off its welcome quick, and this was one of the only visual gimmicks that wasn't too bad). It's a very interesting movie hampered only by a director with nowhere to take the material past where it simply is, and its at its best when we get sucked into a conversation, or a moment, that is either riveting as theater or strikes a chord at the black experience.
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No matter what race you are, you will enjoy this movie
Balto-22 January 1999
This movie is moving and powerful. The acting isn't the only thing that adds to this movie, but the script and setting. The movie is full of men and woman with all kinds of lifestyles, from rich to homosexual, who must interact with each other on a long bus trip. I think most people will enjoy this very dramatic film.
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WOW. This film resonates. It's way underrated.
simacuz-642-31174210 October 2016
I'm speechless. I never heard anything about this Spike Lee joint until I accidentally came across it on Amazon. Sadly, the reviews on there were so-so and made me believe I wouldn't enjoy the film.

This is now my favorite Spike Lee joint. I'm sorry to have waited so long. All of the performances were outstanding and the actors worked well together and with the themes discussed. I was glad that nothing was predictable.

This movie is as fleshed out as they come, very multi-layered. The resolution was very satisfying. I will be buying this film for others as well. A++++++++++ 10 stars, Spike did it again.
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Scattered flow
SnoopyStyle15 July 2014
A group of disparate black men go on a cross country bus trip from LA to the Million Man March in DC. George (Charles S. Dutton) is a Muslim and the trip organizer. Jeremiah Washington (Ossie Davis) is the old timer with regrets. Evan Thomas Sr (Thomas Jefferson Byrd) & Jr (De'aundre Bonds) are court ordered to be shackled together for 72 hours. Kyle (Isaiah Washington) & Randall (Harry Lennix) are a fighting gay couple. Flip (Andre Braugher) is a loud-mouthed actor. Gary (Roger Guenveur Smith) is a light-skinned black LAPD officer. Xavier (Hill Harper) is an UCLA Film School student doing a doc about the trip. Jamal (Gabriel Casseus) is a former gangster turned Muslim. Jay (Bernie Mac) is a bubble gum company owner. Mike (Steve White) is a conspiracy nut who thinks the march is the perfect place for a massacre. Craig (Albert Hall) is the bus driver with a pregnant teenager. When the bus breaks down, the group gets picked up by a white bus driver Rick (Richard Belzer). They pick up car lot owner Wendell (Wendell Pierce) who turns out to be self-serving Republican.

One cannot escape from the feeling that Spike Lee just made up one black guy of every kind, grab a bunch of actors (some good ones), a camera, and start shooting. It feels random. It would be much better to concentrate on one man and let him interact with the group. The disjointed randomness takes away all the flow or any pace. It feels scattered. There are the usual racial issues being discussed. Some of them are very compelling. Lots of which are old discords. It's more than just black and white. A lot of times, it's about black and black. It would just be more compelling if this is more personal with a narrative.
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Attica State
tieman6419 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Spike Lee's "Get On the Bus" sees a group of African-American men boarding a bus to Washington, DC. Once there they hope to attend the Million Man March. The brainchild of Louis Farrakhan, the event was staged in an attempt to draw attention to the various social and economic ills plaguing the African-American community.

Much "African American art" between the period of 1985-1995 took aim at what was perceived to have been a failure in black manhood (the March itself excluded women). Black problems were seen to be exclusively a "black problem", and one which could be fixed if only black males "became better role models", "stopped blaming whites", "stopped engaging in crime" and "picked themselves up by their bootstraps". Blacks, in other words, should improve their conditions, a stance which radical African American activist Carl Dix would mock: "Black youth pulling up their pants doesn't stop factories moving half way around the world. Don't treat results as if they're causes!"

Lee's "Get On The Bus" is another tract which ignores systems and mistakes results and causes. His film's bus is filled with various characters, all of whom are stereotypes. And so we meet the wise black man, the religious black man, the gay black man, the hard working black man, the young artist, the middle-aged actor, the Jewish bus driver, the homophobe, the civil worker, the mixed race black man, the tough guy, the bad father, the petty criminal, the sensitive guy etc. After he sets up various preconceptions and clichés, Lee then reverses them by employing various countercliches. By its end, "Bus" posits black progress as being dependent upon the negotiation of conflicting attitudes, and the weathering of both generational shifts and divisions within black communities. The film's opening sequence, which conveys all the film's themes in a concise manner, exemplifies this. Here we see shots of an African in chains, whilst the lyrics to Michael Jackson's "On The Line" unfold: "No sense pretending it's over, hard times just don't go away, you must take that chip off your shoulder, open up and have some faith. Nothing good ever comes easy, all good things come in due time, have something to believe in, open your mind."

"Get On The Bus" sports fine performances by Charles S. Dutton and Wendell Pierce, the latter playing a Republican businessman who is comically thrown off Lee's bus (another Republican stays on). The rest of Lee's cast are unconvincing, largely due to a heavy handed, overly didactic screenplay. The film was shot on a tiny budget over the course of 18 days.

6/10 – Worth one viewing.
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