Who Mocks the Mockers?
Has Spike Lee ever really written comedy? A quick look at his writing credits reveals only Croolyn, which he only co-wrote. I haven't seen that ony yet, so can't say for sure, but I think perhaps Lee should stick to drama, which he does very well.
Bamboozled is a story of a black television writer who comes up with a new show that embraces every negro stereotype from the first half of the twentieth century. It's meant to prove a point, but makes it to the air and becomes a surprise hit. Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, he takes his recognition where he can and embraces the mockery he has created.
Lee has a point here, and be sure he is going to make it. We see image after image of negative stereotypes from the past, constrasted with the more subtle but just as real perceptions of the present. Culture has evolved and become more sophisticated, Lee seems to posit, but there's still an element of prejudice at the core, and the blame can be spread around equally.
Like Bulworth, this is satire. The two films share similarly tepid overt plots, as well as a certain sense of self-worth. Perhaps I relate more to Bulworth because it seems written more from a perspective of white guilt, but I think the jokes work better, and the political jabs are easier because the movie is not that serious most of the way through. Bamboozled, sadly, has all the subtlety of a drunk man who continually makes the same point with the same level of enthusiasm. We have a more complete film, certainly from a point of theme, than Bulworth, but most people cannot live by theme alone.
Bamboozled was shot entirely (save the footage from other movies and television shows) on digital video. Watching on cable showed a fairly good quality most of the time - seeing it projected in a theater would have been the proper test. But it does appear that Lee spent time to get most of his shots lit properly, and that seems to be the biggest factor in these digital shoots. I like Lee's choice of shots - on top of his typical good eye for shooting dialog, there are several split second character moments that work so much better because of creative framing.
I really wanted to like this one, but it comes across to me as rather heavy handed. I'd love to hear other perspectives, though.
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