June 10, 2008

Spike Lee: Angry yet again

Here's what you do when you haven't produced anything worthwhile in some time: Take potshots at those who have.

Case in point: Nutjob conspiracy theorist and director Spike Lee is peeved that Clint Eastwood's two popular movies about World War II did not feature any African-Americans...

Clint Eastwood folds his gangly frame behind a clifftop table at the Hotel Du Cap, a few miles up the coast from Cannes, sighs deeply, and squints out over the Mediterranean. "Has he ever studied the history?" he asks, in that familiar near-whisper.

The "he" is Spike Lee, and the reason Eastwood is asking is because of something Lee had said about Eastwood's Iwo Jima movie Flags of Our Fathers, while promoting his own war movie, Miracle at St Anna, about a black US unit in the second world war. Lee had noted the lack of African-Americans in Eastwood's movie and told reporters: "That was his version. The negro version did not exist."

Eastwood has no time for Lee's gripes. "He was complaining when I did Bird [the 1988 biopic of Charlie Parker]. Why would a white guy be doing that? I was the only guy who made it, that's why. He could have gone ahead and made it. Instead he was making something else." As for Flags of Our Fathers, he says, yes, there was a small detachment of black troops on Iwo Jima as a part of a munitions company, "but they didn't raise the flag. The story is Flags of Our Fathers, the famous flag-raising picture, and they didn't do that. If I go ahead and put an African-American actor in there, people'd go, 'This guy's lost his mind.' I mean, it's not accurate."

If you haven't seen either of Eastwood's excellent movies, "Flags of Our Fathers" details what happened to the soldiers who raised the American flag at Iwo Jima (one of which, by the way, was a Native American ... that doesn't satisfy Spike, of course), and "Letters from Iwo Jima" was told from the Japanese perspective (and had minimal American soldier appearances).

The ever-race controversy conscious MSM quickly picked up on the story, too. Today, CNN reported on the "spat," and interviewed a few people about it. What might you think the opinion would be of a guy whose title is "Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Politics at UCLA?" You guessed it:

Mark Sawyer, Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Politics at UCLA asserts Lee's take on Eastwood's films has merit.

MARK SAWYER, DIRECTOR, UCLA: It's a fair criticism in general about films about World War II and American wars in general. Clint Eastwood's films was sort of bearing the burden of hundreds of films about World War II that have ignored the presence of African-American troops.

So, because other films in the past were historically inaccurate and/or ignored the [rightful] role of African-Americans, Eastwood's historically accurate films must "bear that burden?"

Only to "Directors of Centers for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Politics" and others who bow down to what culturally politically correct.

Posted by Hube at June 10, 2008 12:05 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

In theater there isn't this requirement that an actor's race match the "historically-accurate" race of the character. I like movies, but they largely seem to be made for an audience with little imagination.

Posted by: Nels Nelson at June 10, 2008 01:39 PM

Um, in historically-based movies, Nels, it sorta helps, dont'cha think? And then to be called out for it?

Posted by: Hube at June 10, 2008 01:41 PM

But there are historically-based plays in which the race of the actor doesn't necessarily match the race of the character.

Eastwood says that he can't cast blacks in his upcoming Depression-era movie as there were almost none in Los Angeles at the time. Yet it's common to see Shakespearean plays set in 16th century Europe that include actors of all races. Nobody is confused or enraged by this.

Posted by: Nels Nelson at June 10, 2008 02:09 PM

I think most people recognize there's a difference between stage-production plays and big budget historically-based films, Nels. Hell, why didn't Eastwood just use European-Americans when casting "Letters from Iwo Jima," eh? And also make the invading "American" soldiers all Asian? Hell, it's just a story!

And talk to Lee about confused or enraged.

Posted by: Hube at June 10, 2008 02:17 PM

Nels -- which annoys the crap out of those of us who actually teach history for a living, because we then have to overcome the inaccuracies that our students have internalized because "it must be true -- it was in the movie."

Eastwood was attempting to create a historically correct work -- Lee wanted him to make a politically correct one.

Posted by: Rhymes With Right at June 10, 2008 05:13 PM

My quote was cut. I was expressing that I was uncomfortable with any particular film being blamed for what has been a historical blindness. My use of the term "burden" was to imply it was unfair. Yes, I am the Director of a Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Politics. That does not mean I am not thoughtful.

I would appreciate it, if you actually read the quote. The interview in context was providing a background for the debate including healthy criticism of both of them for not having a thoughtful discussion about the issues.

Yours Truly,

Mark Q. Sawyer
DIRECTOR, UCLA Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Politics.

Posted by: Mark Sawyer at June 24, 2008 01:49 PM

Mark: You need to take it up with the noted network for your gripes, not me. First, for the "cut" of your quote (I copied it exactly as it appeared in the transcript), and 2) it was they who set up your words as a defense of Spike Lee. From the transcript:

"Mark Sawyer, Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Politics at UCLA asserts Lee's take on Eastwood's films has merit."

If you know of an "in-context" or complete transcript, please let me know and I'll be happy to add on to this post.

As for your title, I don't mean that you cannot be thoughtful. If what you state is true about your "in-context" interview, I am relieved. However, unfortunately, I have encountered too many people with similar titles who are just what I claimed in the post: they [merely] bow down to what is culturally and politically correct.

Posted by: Hube at June 24, 2008 02:36 PM