Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Jason watches "Miracle at St. Anna"

First, let me say "Shana Tova (Happy New Year)" to all my Jewish readers.

So immediately after watching Spike Lee's 160 minute epic of religion, miracles, attrocities, and black soldiers in WWII I thought this might be his most ambitious movie yet--moving beyond his uniquely New York perspective to a more global view.  So I was puzzled why I felt somewhat let down.  It was uneven, particularly in some puzzling transitions, like it came from a fragmented and damaged mind (which might be intentional, given the POV of the narrator), but I still should've felt better about it.  Then driving home, I realized this isn't Spike Lee's most ambitious movie, in a way it's his least ambitious.  He used to make movies to shake up the system (and still can, check out his 4-part Katrina doc "When the Levees Broke").  More recently he seemed comfortable as an accomplished and acknowledged filmmaker making commercial successes like "Inside Man".  Now, for possibly the first time in his career, I caught him Oscar-baiting at the audience, and it's a little sad.  Yeah, there's a lot of good, inspirational stuff in here, but it's so sappy, so maudlin, so melodramatic it was just way too much.  Much has been made of the fact that Spike Lee has never won an Oscar, and often the arguments hint at--if not outright declare--racism.  This year he's already speculated he won't win because of his spat with Clint Eastwood.  I have a better theory--this movie just isn't that good.  Or rather, this movie is too desperate for awards.

Look, I like Spike Lee, I find him funny, intelligent, and still capable of exciting, fresh filmmaking.  I want him to win an Oscar eventually, but I just don't think this one will do it.

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