Spike Lee

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Oldboy

Few people would ever accuse Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy of being subtle cinema, but Spike Lee’s remake of the 2003 feature smashes any lingering vestiges of the restrained right into the ground with a bloody, looming hammer. Strangely enough, the opening credits of Oldboy provide some insight into the feature itself – this is “a Spike Lee film,” not “a Spike Lee joint,” and it’s “based on the Korean film,” not “based on Park Chan-wook’s film” or “based on Garon Tsuchiya’s manga.” This is not a unique feature and even its own director isn’t interested in putting his signature touch on it. As with Chan-wook’s film, Oldboy centers on a seemingly regular man who is abducted, thrown into a prison-like hotel room for two decades, and framed for the heinous murder of his ex-wife. Josh Brolin is effective enough in the role, and he’s got the fiery anger and unswerving drive element of his character down pat. Emotions not fueled by rage and revenge aren’t quite his forte, at least here, but those don’t really come into play into further down the line. For the first act of the film, he’s just about perfect. Brolin’s Joe Doucett is a flabby, drunk loser who thinks that a smooth-talking attitude will help him succeed at work (it won’t) and just yelling about things to his beleaguered ex-wife will get her to shut up (it also won’t). He’s unsympathetic, but he certainly doesn’t deserve his punishment (or, well, does he?).

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news oldboy1

For many years now a potential remake of Park Chan-wook‘s Oldboy has been striking fear into the hearts of fans. No matter the level of talent involved, scoffs were heard loud and clear around the Internet. Why remake such a recent classic? Probably because, outside of cinephiles, it’s not exactly well known. But that’s beside the point. Even when Steven Spielberg flirted with the project, fan interest remained low, which is a shame because when Spielberg really likes to get cruel as a filmmaker, it’s pretty spectacular. Like Justin Lin and others, Spielberg eventually moved on, as did one-time potential star Will Smith. However, someone who stayed with the project through the years is screenwriter/co-producer Mark Protosevich. Protosevich, who scripted The Cell and chunks of I Am Legend, has always been a serious cheerleader for this remake. I say remake, because, despite what Spike Lee and others tell you, Oldboy is definitely a remake, not a reinterpretation. There’s nothing wrong with that, and Protosevich, he doesn’t treat “remake” as a dirty word either.

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spike-lee

To watch Spike Lee’s feature narrative films is to only understand a fraction of his career as director. If you count his documentaries, Spike Lee has, when next week’s Oldboy remake hits screens, helmed 32 features in the 27 years since She’s Gotta Have It. And that doesn’t even include the numerous shorts, music videos, commercials, and TV pilots he’s directed. Of all the things that are misunderstood about Spike Lee, his largely under-recognized and uniquely prolific output of work might be chief among them. As both public figure and producer of culture, Lee has meant many things to many audiences: co-pioneer of the 1980s American independent film renaissance, restless observer of popular culture, connoisseur of African-American popular music, firebrand provocateur, native new Yorker, and brand name. He has also helped define and expand the possibilities for contemporary African-American filmmakers inside and outside Hollywood. It’s difficult to imagine what American cinema of the past quarter century would look like without Spike. So here’s some free advice (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the man behind every Spike Lee joint.

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remakes

Seeing as we’re pretty deep into the golden age of remakes at this point, it should probably come as no surprise that we’ve got a handful of big movies that have already been big movies readying themselves for release in the near future. That Hollywood currently loves remakes is clear, but what’s also becoming clear is that the way we respond to them is a little bit complicated and a little bit hypocritical. Announce that a movie a lot of people love is getting remade and the response is almost always an outcry of outrage and disgust. Actually release the same movie in theaters and enough of those outraged, disgusted people still go to see it anyway, which keeps the remake train rolling. A couple of trailers for high profile remakes that got released today shine a light on the fact that our response to all of these remakes has been a little bit more nuanced and a little bit more complicated than an initial abhorrence and then an eventual acceptance though. A new trailer for director José Padilha’s RoboCop has been released, which shows it to be a legit attempt to update the material from Paul Verhoeven’s original, yet it has been met online with almost universal contempt. On the other side of the coin, a new trailer for Spike Lee’s Oldboy has also been released, and even though it seems to be a pretty straight and unnecessary retelling of Park Chan-wook’s 2003 film, movie fans have welcomed it […]

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news michael williams joins spike lee

Spike Lee‘s Kickstarter for The Newest Hottest Spike Lee Joint (here’s hoping he announces a real title soon and I can stop typing out all that word salad) ended just a few hours ago, more than $150,00 over its $1.25m goal. But even before the Kickstarter ended, Lee was hard at work assembling a cast for his crowd-funded feature. First came Stephen Tyrone Williams, a stage actor with a handful of film credits to his name (Children of God, Restless City), but a few hours later came a far more famous Williams. Michael K. Williams of The Wire and Boardwalk Empire has joined the film too. This casting alone guarantees that hordes of obsessive Wire fans will turn up to see Lee’s latest joint, which will be a love story about “human beings who are addicted to blood.” Williams (Michael K., that is) will not be playing the lead- that role will go to the other Williams (Stephen Tyrone), with Zaraah Abrahams as the female lead. But lead role or not, any mention of The Wire‘s Williams is enough to put plenty of butts (mine included) in seats.

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news oldboy1

It’s been a mere two days since we last received new Oldboy pics, but images from Spike Lee‘s latest joint just keep pouring in. Collider‘s gotten their hands on four new ones, including a tease of one of the original film’s gooiest, grossest moments. A lot of this we’ve either seen before, like the hallway hammer fight (which was glimpsed in the trailer) or Josh Brolin‘s character holding a Chinese take-out carton (which presumably will take the place of the original’s dumplings). Brolin staring longingly into an octopus, however, is brand new stuff. Chan-wook Park’s original Oldboy infamously saw its lead actor consume a live octopus in a sushi bar. The octopus was both real and really alive (before being crammed unceremoniously down Min-sik Choi’s throat), and four octopi had to sacrifice their lives to nail the right take. There’s no word yet whether Brolin will committing his own act of mollusk genocide or if Lee has some plan to reinvent the now-notorious sequence. Perhaps this image is all we’ll get on the subject; with the Korean delicacy being offered but Brolin’s character tongue-in-cheekily turning it down. Keep reading to see three more pics.

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Oldboy

Spike Lee‘s remake of Oldboy, Chan-wook Park‘s 2003 story of a man imprisoned in a hotel room for 20 years for no rhyme or reason and then suddenly released for just the same, is shaping up to be one of the most anticipated films of the year. While the red-band trailer gave us all of the gore and revenge fantasy imagery our greasy little hearts could desire, these new stills released from the film, courtesy of Huffington Post, are offering us something a bit more subtle to work with, albeit still powerful. The first shot of Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) emerging from his classy steamer trunk to fresh air and freedom for the first time in 20 years is incredibly powerful. He looks tiny, like a doll inside of a suitcase forgotten in that field. This image of Brolin bursting from the casket used on the poster, but it’s his more revenge-happy, confident persona leaping out, rather than crawling that they decided to depict. Two other images show Brolin’s character while he’s still being held captive in Hotel Hell, sporting some Castaway-level facial hair. The fourth still introuduces our heroine Elizabeth Olsen, who plays the young therapist who attempts to help Doucett cope with his situation post-captivity. She deserves that cigarette mightily. Check them out after the break.

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spikelee_oldboy

From the start of his career to the height of it, Spike Lee has never had an easy time getting projects off the ground. In some cases it’s because he was ahead of the curve — like when he had hopes to make a Jackie Robinson biopic, but the financing never came together because studios didn’t feel there was an audience  for a black baseball film. This year, 42 would beg to disagree. Of course even though it appears like an order form for free money, the Kickstarter funding route isn’t easy either. For established filmmakers it takes a combination of thick skin for backlash and vulnerability to ask fans for money that studios and financiers won’t give. Within a few months time, Lee will have taken the trust fall of asking the public to fund a movie for which he’s given very few details and then debuted a high-profile (yet non-mainstream) reinterpretation about proper hammer usage. Facing the contradictions head-on, we spoke to the filmmaker about this new, same-as-the-old chapter in his career:

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recap072713

The Reject Recap is back following a week off for the takeover of Comic-Con coverage. Of course, now that Comic-Con coverage is the main focus of the latest review of Hollywood’s biggest news and FSR’s greatest original content. Fortunately and unfortunately, some other notable announcements came out in the past seven days that had nothing to do with San Diego’s fanboy event. For instance, we lost actor Dennis Farina. Also, we pretty much lost all possibility of a Freddie Mercury/Queen movie. Meanwhile, we considered new directions (for better or worse) of such iconic characters as Wolverine, Rocky Balboa and Spike Lee. And we’ve been having panic attacks just from watching a few clips from one of the most anticipated films out later this year. As always, we’ve rounded up the most significant bits of what everyone’s been talking about — or should have been talking about — over the past week. There was the announcement of the latest Toronto International Film Festival slate (with its Oscar-coveting titles), the release of a new Woody Allen movie and, yes, the excitement over possibly seeing Batman and Superman kick the crap out of each other. Here’s your chance to get caught up so you’re not clueless at all of tonight’s parties. Because you know there’s likely to be some discussion of The Act of Killing and its representation of violence. Or there should be, and now you’ll be able to bring it up and be the life of the occasion. Start your weekend […]

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news spike lee kickstarter

Riding high off the publicity for his Oldboy remake, Spike Lee is now the latest celebrity to hit Kickstarter with an impassioned plea for why you should give him lots of money. On his official Kickstarter page, Lee speaks about the current climate for independent film; what could pass as a budget when he was first breaking into the business is now just a drop in a very, very large bucket. He offers up his entire filmography as a body of work as proof that this Kickstarter is a legitimate filmmaking venture, and offers a handful of details about the film’s plot. Lee’s hypothetical latest film will chronicle people who are addicted to blood the way others are addicted to drugs or sex (although he promises the film will still have plenty of sex). The $1.25m goal may seem drastically steep, but keep in mind that stranger things have happened. This spring saw the Veronica Mars movie bank over $5m, while Zach Braff’s Garden State follow-up pulled in just over $3m. And a scant few hours into the Kickstarter has already netted Lee close to $12,000 – presumably that number will rise dramatically as the news starts to spread.

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Did you hear that this weekend is Comic-Con? It’s true! It’s weird that no one told you. Fortunately, this week’s show features a visit to San Diego where our sentinels Robert Fure and Jack Giroux will tell us all the crazy stuff that’s happening on the ground there in geek paradise (which happens to be a hotel room that’s missing a bathroom door). Plus, Geoff and I disagree wildly in our reviews of the new season of The Newsroom, and we prepare for the possibility of Spike Lee’s retirement by discussing his legacy and forcing him to autograph old football paraphernalia. You can follow Robert Fure (@robertfure), interviewer Jack Giroux (@jackgi), the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) for more fun stuff on a daily basis. And, as always, we welcome your feedback. Download Episode #25 Directly Or subscribe Through iTunes

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Oldboy 2013

Ever since it went into development , the question of, “Why remake Oldboy?” has floated around like dumbfounded wildfire. Even when Steven Spielberg became involved, fans remained unconvinced in the need or desire for a new take on Chan-wook Park‘s revenge film. Spike Lee‘s name won over some fans, and why wouldn’t it? Lee is a director whose work is inherently American. If anyone can bend that material enough to breathe in some seedy American streets, it’s going to be the filmmaker behind 25th Hour and Do the Right Thing. Whether the film will feature some sort of commentary is up in the air, but one thing is for sure based on the first red band trailer for the film, this looks like Lee’s most focused film in years:

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Oldboy Poster 2013

  Brimming with impenetrability, the first poster for Spike Lee‘s take on Oldboy features Josh Brolin dressed as Neo, making his escape from a steamer trunk in the middle of a field while Elizabeth Olsen (or Sharlto Copley with shaved legs) stands poignantly facing the other way. Its premiere is a preamble to a trailer release which will most likely happen this week (*cough*Wednesday*cough*) — so we’ll finally get to see how Lee  and screenwriter Mark Protosevich plan to tell the story (and how much hammer-wielding takes place). While you wait, stare at this until the yellow umbrella dissolves into symbolism or you go cross-eyed.

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poster oldboy spike lee

Director Spike Lee‘s upcoming Oldboy is viewed as a remake of Park Chan-wook’s brilliant 2003 film, but in reality it’s a new adaptation of the original source material, a graphic novel by Nobuaki Minegishi. The story remains the same, though. A man (Josh Brolin) is kidnapped and imprisoned for twenty years with no clue as to his captor’s motive or identity. He’s inexplicably released one day and given a limited amount of time to discover the answers to all of his questions, but he may not like what he finds. In fact, he most definitely won’t like what he finds. Oldboy co-stars Sharlto Copley and Elizabeth Olsen and hits theaters on October 11th. [Press Release]

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boiling-point

If there’s one thing Spike Lee is known for, it’s complaining about racism. Turns out he’s also a sometimes movie director, which I hadn’t realized, what with him being mostly in the news for being an asshole or calling Clint Eastwood a racist. This time he has his sights set on Quentin Tarantino and the upcoming Django Unchained.  Lee blew up Twitter (or at least my Twitter), criticizing the film and his perception that it makes light of slavery and uses it for laughs and entertainment rather than being Amistad 2. Lee said the film was “disrespectful to his ancestors” and called slavery a holocaust via Twitter. His exact words: “American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It Was A Holocaust. My Ancestors Are Slaves. Stolen From Africa. I Will Honor Them.” Wow, seeing Django Unchained must have really gotten under Lee’s skin – or I guess it would have, if he had actually seen it. Yeah, Spike’s diatribe against the film comes from his perception of it, not him having, you know, actually seen it.

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Criterion Files

Of the 600+ films in The Criterion Collection, almost 200 are listed as from the United States. While not all of these films are explicitly thematically based  around life in the US, the American selections for the Collection do make up a mosaic of diverse perspectives on life in this country, proving that there is no sustainable solitary understanding of what it means to be an “American,” but there exists instead an array of possibilities for interpreting American identity. What the American films do have in common, though, is provide proof that excellent films have been made in the US for quite some time. So, after exhausting yourself with Independence Day Parades, firecracker-lighting, and Budweiser, settle down with a great American movie. Here are a dozen great titles from the Criterion Collection about “America” and “freedom” in the many senses of those terms.

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Spike Lee made his bones in the indie film world by making movies about life in Brooklyn. Films like She’s Gotta Have It and Do the Right Thing set the tone for what eventually became known as his Chronicles of Brooklyn anthology. The director hasn’t explored this particular corner of his film universe since 1998’s He Got Game, however, so it was starting to look like subject matter he had fully explored and put away. That is, until the promotion for Red Hook Summer started. Not only has this film been heralded as being a new inclusion into the Chronicles of Brooklyn, some have been calling it a direct sequel to Do the Right Thing, largely because Lee is appearing in the film as his old character, Mookie. But now that we’ve seen the first trailer, that seems to be overstating things. While Do the Right Thing was a snapshot of youth culture in Brooklyn at a certain moment in time, Red Hook Summer seems to be a much more personal, coming-of-age movie about the journey one character takes. That character is Flik Royale (Jules Brown), a young man from a nice neighborhood in Atlanta who is sent to live with his Bishop grandfather (Clarke Peters) in one of the shadier parts of Brooklyn for the summer.

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Criterion Files

The Criterion Collection’s motto makes explicit its devotion to “important classic and contemporary films,” but it’s also clear that the Collection has dedicated itself to the careers of a select group of important classic and contemporary directors. Several prestigious directors have a prominent portion of their careers represented by the collection. Between the Criterion spine numbers and Eclipse box sets, 21 Ingmar Bergman films are represented (and multiple versions of two of these films), ranging from his 1940s work to Fanny and Alexander (and 3 documentaries about him). 26 Akira Kurosawa films have been given the Criterion/Eclipse treatment, and Yashujiro Ozu has 17 films in the collection. Though many factors go into forming the collection, including the ever-shifting issue of rights and ownership over certain titles, it’s hard to argue against the criticism (or, perhaps more accurately, obvious observation) that the films in the Collection represent certain preferences of taste which makes its omissions suspect and its occasionally-puzzling choices fodder for investigation or too predictable to be interesting (two Kurosawa Eclipse sets?). And while the Collection has recently upped its game on the “contemporary” portion of its claim by highlighting modern-day masterpieces like Olivier Assayas’s Carlos and Andrew Haigh’s Weekend, for the most part attempts at forming a complete directorial filmography via within the Collection has typically been reserved for directors whose filmographies have completed. Except, of course, for the case of Wes Anderson.

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In his review of Mean Streets, Roger Ebert claimed that Martin Scorsese had the potential to become the American Fellini in ten years. It probably didn’t really take that long. Scorsese is a living library of film, but he isn’t a dusty repository of knowledge. He’s a vibrant, imaginative creator who might know more about movies than anyone else on the planet, and that makes him uniquely qualified to be both prolific and proficient. Over the course of his career, he’s created indelible works bursting with anger, violence, fragility, care, and wonder. Never content to stick with one story mode, he’s run the gamut of styles and substance. So here’s a free bit of film school (for filmmakers and fans alike) from our American Fellini.

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published: 04.19.2014
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published: 04.18.2014
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published: 04.18.2014
C
published: 04.18.2014
B+

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