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*** This review may contain 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.
Spike Lee's Get on the Bus is a brash, powerful movie, with an attitude
and a creatively charming enigma, due to its vivid characters and
wonderfully entertaining dialog. But the dialog isn't just "wonderfully
entertaining" as much as it is very prophetic and offers a distinct,
surly commentary on race in America. It's easily one of the biggest
personal growths Lee has produced on film.
The story chronicles a large group of about fifteen black men who board a coach bus to the Million Man March in Washington D.C. in October 1995. Among the men are those from different generations, different upbringings, different philosophies, but most importantly, different approaches to walks of life not their own and dissenting opinions. The bus driver is George, played by Charles S. Dutton, a fun-loving character, with a distinct jolliness to his presence. The black history expert Jeremiah (nicknamed "Pop" and played by Ossie Davis) offers a powerful, wholesome amount of wisdom many young bloods find difficult to grasp. An openly gay man (Harry J. Lennix) who boards with his gay Republican lover (Isaiah Washington), as they are within arms reach of breaking up with each other. Gary (Roger Guenveur Smith), a biracial police officer who is victim to abuse from a narcissistic, misogynist actor named Flip (Andre Braugher), along with a conspiracy theorist (Steve White) and a gangbanger turned Muslim (Gabriel Casseus).
At first, the gang is giddy to be a part of history as they eagerly partake in the six day bus ride from Los Angeles to D.C. But as the sun beats down, the miles rack up, and the talks become serious, we see disdain building and we see people's true sides come out. Writer Reggie Rock Bythewood concocts this film not as a potboiler, but more like a drama set on the stove above a low boil with the faint mindset of having things erupt.
The beautifully melodic feature that is here in Lee's film and present in Bythewood's writing is that there doesn't seem to be any idea or any element of good vs. bad or heroes and villains. The same element existed in Do the Right Thing, where characters were painted in an unbiased light, so those regardless of skin color or prejudices could look and appreciate them as smart human beings. There are no dumb characters in this film; all of them have their reasons, regardless whether or not I agree with them, and all of them have their own way or reacting under stress and opposition. Like us all.
NOTE: I purposely chose to write a concise review of Get on the Bus, fore I feel too much examination, especially with this film, may offer an opinion dictatorship. In other words, you won't be able to let your own view come forth because of all that I have said. The film is terrific entertainment, but also smart entertainment, that isn't something I could label frothy, whimsical, or trite.
Starring: Charles S. Dutton, Ossie Davis, Richard Belzer, De'aundre Bonds, Andre Braugher, Thomas Jefferson Byrd, Gabriel Casseus, Albert Hall, Hill Harper, Harry J. Lennix, Bernie Mac, Wendell Pierce, Roger Guenveur Smith, Isaiah Washington, and Steve White. Directed by: Spike Lee.
Im from Australia,brisbane queensland to be exact,I first laid eyes on this movie in approx 1997 on cable TV it was a late night showing as is with ALL spike lee movies in this country we do get em,they just don't get much coverage,exception of INSIDE MAN.I watched this movie in 1997 and i was 16 back then,the movie didn't really impact me at all,but then i saw it again on cable-3years later when i was 19..i was blown away by the simplicity of its execution,it raises questions within yourself within others its soundtrack and music is absolutely heaven to listen to!The movie is shot in a condensed fashion with lots of grain and the emotional elements of the film play out nicely,this movie is a hidden gem,in a perfect world this movie should have received better recognition.I will always treasure this film and iv seen it about 50million times too.Hail spike lee your a winner!so keep on pushin!! 10 all the way.
The more Spike Lee movies I see, the more I realize what a purely
distinct style he has. Like him, love him or hate him, he's among the
ranks of Tim Burton, John Woo, Martin Scorecesse, Oliver Stone, the
Coen brothers. Quality aside, each director has an indelibly specific
With Get on the Bus, Spike brings life to what could've been a monotonous journey. It's complete with vivid characters, near perfect acting, and a terrific pace. It's only downfall is occasional peachiness. Sometimes the dialog doesn't ring true and ends up sounding more like a lecture than the spoken word. (But I believe Spike even admitted to that) Not to mention a certain supporting character (the Republican) seemed too over the top to be convincing. But those are fairly minor quibbles.
All in all, a very engaging, unique film. Special mention to Blanchard's effective score and Roger Smith's stellar performance. Recommended. 7/10
Get On The Bus is probably one of the 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.
Do The Right Thing is by far, one of my favourite movies of all time. I
hugely influenced when I saw it, as a quasi-gangsta white Canadian
My uncle had the book on it, which I read with fascination. However, in
books, DTRT was Spike's best film, and Get on the Bus is
First of all; the music. Awful. Now, there's no accounting for taste, and clearly Spike is all about promoting 'black', american music etc., but the music is just plain bad. Bland R&B, forgettable hip hop, Soul etc. The music really ruined it for me.
The acting was great. I thought the story also had a sufficient amount of drama etc. but at the same time, it was overly sentimental. I was impressed by Spike's characters' analysis of homophobia and racism within black culture. He dissects the intrinsically convoluted and complex nature of cultural identity (specifically black identity). I also thought the writing was quite good, as in the dialogue. There were some interesting, thought provoking points of view.
However, I was put off by the heavy, heavy Christianity within the film. It was way too over the top, and, granted, I am still recovering from 14 years of Christian indoctrination, which ended over fourteen years ago. Especially Ossie's character. I mean, it was too much. Spike seemed to be shoving his religious views down our throats. I was put off by that. There wasn't a single atheist on the bus (or agnostic, for that matter).
It was an interesting effort, but if you want a strong, dramatic, totally satisfying effort from Spike, try Do the Right Thing.
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.
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.
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.
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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