Home viewing: Spike Lee

Da 5 Bloods

Spike Lee’s latest film, Da 5 Bloods, will be available to all with a Netflix login on June 12. Delroy Lindo, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Clarke Peters and Norm Lewis are four aging Vietnam vets who head back to the jungle to reclaim the remains of their squad leader (played in the flashbacks by Chadwick Boseman) and the crate full of gold they found and buried for safekeeping.

Despite the music featured in the trailer, nothing about Da 5 Bloods appears to be a cut-and-dried story of ’Nam. Lee isn’t that kind of director. He’s challenging, inventive, brash and electric — a true titan of the American independent scene decked in tortoiseshell glasses and Knickerbocker-coded blue and orange threads.

A cinema without Lee is no cinema indeed; here are four more to celebrate the iconoclast from Brooklyn.

Chi-Raq How do you get men to stop fighting, killing and blowing each other up? How about withholding sex until peace is achieved? Adapting Aristophanes’ comedic play, Lysistrata, Chi-Raq is a cinematic smorgasbord: Colorful, playful, kaleidoscopic, zany and moving. The movie is most entertaining when Samuel L. Jackson holds the stage, but Lee makes sure to ground entertainment in reality and loss. These deaths aren’t just another gangbanger gunned down in the street, or just one more coffin in the ground: It’s another empty chair at Christmas time, one more incomplete family photo at Mom’s birthday. Streaming on Amazon Prime.

BlackKklansman Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) is Colorado Springs’ first black police officer, and he’s a card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan. How Stallworth came to be a KKK member is a laugh — most of BlackKklansman is — but the laughter isn’t without teeth. Stallworth is in real danger, and not because he’s an undercover cop, but because he’s black. The rest of the world is drunk on images of white superiority, and Lee knows it. One of the greatest tricks Lee pulls off in BlackKklansman is how he weaves the images of old Hollywood through contemporary conflict. Second verse same as the first. Streaming on DirecTV and HBO Max.

Malcolm X If Denzel Washington only acted in one movie, and that movie was Malcolm X, then Washington would still be one of the greatest actors of his generation. Washington fills every inch of the frame with explosive fury and words that cut like daggers. His “We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us” is one of the rare times where the movie improves upon reality. Lee’s massive bio-pic runs nearly three and a half hours, and it flies. Streaming on Netflix.

Do The Right Thing It’s a brief exchange, but it’s a big one: Da Mayor: “Always do the right thing.” Mookie: “That’s it?” Da Mayor: “That’s it.” Mookie: “I got it; I’m gone.” Ninety minutes later, Radio Raheem is dead on the ground, choked to death by a racist cop, and Mookie throws a trashcan through Sal’s Pizzeria. Pandemonium breaks loose, and long-festering hate boils to the surface in Bed-Stuy. If Lee made the movie today, it would be too on the nose, too ripped from the headlines. But at 30 years old, the film feels more like a prophecy. It’s not. The violence, hatred and intolerance in Do the Right Thing is a tale as old as time, one that will never go out of style. For rent on all major platforms.

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