Spike Lee's take on the "Son of Sam" murders in New York City during the summer of 1977 centering on the residents of an Italian-American Northeast Bronx neighborhood who live in fear and distrust of one another.
Dark, biting satire of the television industry, focusing on an Ivy League educated black writer at a major network. Frustrated that his ideas for a "Cosby Show"-esque take on the black family have been rejected by network brass, he devises an outlandish scheme: reviving the minstrel show. This is the hook: Instead of white actors in black face, the show stars black actors in even blacker face. The show becomes an instant smash, but with the success also come repercussions for all involved.Written by
N. Cognito <nobody@noplace>
The two award ceremony scenes are parodies of two real award recipients whom Spike Lee has publicly criticized: the first, where DelaCroix is fumbling around and yelling "Show me the money!", is a jab at Cuba Gooding Jr.'s enthusiastic victory speech for winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor; the second scene, in which DelaCroix becomes a teary-eyed brown-noser to Matthew Modine, is a shot at Ving Rhames' Golden Globe victory in which he gave teary-eyed kudos to Jack Lemmon. See more »
For the most part, Spike Lee is an angry filmmaker and I cannot blame his anger nor do I criticize it. With films such as Do the Right Thing and Jungle Fever, he shows his passion and understanding of situations such as racial feelings between all races, not just whites and blacks as well as how outsiders view interracial relationships. Here, his target is the entertainment industry, specifically television and he cuts right to the core because he knows how important and complex this issue is and wastes no time of this 135-minute film to stuff every frame and scene with a message and relating what he has seen in this country and how he feels about it.
First off, the acting is near flawless. Damon Wayans gives his best performance ever as Pierre Delacroix, a successful producer upset that he is not considered black with his fancy dress and white accent. Determined to make his case, he decides to create a minstrel show very much in the vein of those from the 1930s and 40s. However, he goes one step further and hires black actors to use blackface makeup as well as make the subject and setting the most politically incorrect setups imaginable. What he doesn't expect is the overwhelming popularity of the show complete with huge ratings and numerous critical awards.
For my money, Lee almost had a great film here. The first hour is terrific, biting satire, attacking everything and anything. Lee takes no prisoners and also gives some very interesting bits about how a TV show is brought to life. But, once the show becomes a success and the people involved develop consciences, Lee's vision narrows and soon it becomes more of the angry and socially-aware Spike Lee we've seen in much better films. Being white myself, I never liked how Lee seemed to portray whites as leering fools and the true ignorant people of America as opposed to the "more commonly accepted" view of blacks. Still, his feelings were justified in Do the Right Thing, Jungle Fever and earlier works. Bamboozled tries too hard and loses its mission towards the end. The end is in fact a rehash of many other movies seen before, even ones self-consciously referred to here such as Network and The Producers.
Spike Lee is a gifted and fearless director and I cannot say this is a boring or uninspiring film. I was held captive every step of the way. I just wish he had picked a better and more effective way to satirize his subjects, as well as maybe broaden the horizons; only then could it really take root.
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