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St Malcolm Martyr

Michael Wood, 25 March 1993

Malcolm X 
directed by Spike Lee.
May 1993
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By Any Means Necessary: The Trials and Tribulations of the Making of ‘Malcolm X’ 
by Spike Lee and Ralph Wiley.
Vintage, 314 pp., £7.99, February 1993, 0 09 928531 2
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Malcolm X: The Great Photographs 
compiled by Thulani Davis and Howard Chapnick.
Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 168 pp., £14.99, March 1993, 1 55670 317 1
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... collected in the Davis/Chapnick volume. ‘Authenticity is very important in any film,’ Lee says. ‘If you see a pack of cigarettes, we had to find old Chesterfields, or old whatever you might see in the shot.’ Denzel Washington manages not only uncannily to resemble Malcolm X but to project all kinds of edges and facets of his ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Inside Man’, ‘V for Vendetta’ , 11 May 2006

Inside Man 
directed by Spike Lee.
March 2006
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V for Vendetta 
directed by James McTeigue.
March 2006
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... there’s blood on the streets, buy property.’ This sturdy piece of advice becomes a refrain in Spike Lee’s new movie, Inside Man, where it is ludicrously literalised by the attempt of a bin Laden nephew to purchase an apartment in Manhattan, and grimly moralised in the story of an American banker who made a fortune by trading with the Nazis, and ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘BlacKkKlansman’, 27 September 2018

... Spike Lee​ , as befits a film school graduate, is a master of montage. His cuts and juxtapositions often say more than his dialogue does, perhaps more than any dialogue could. This is especially marked in BlacKkKlansman, which has been widely hailed as Lee’s return to form after a spell in the movie wilderness ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Fading Gigolo’, 19 June 2014

Fading Gigolo 
directed by John Turturro.
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... quieter than even the quietest moments in the works of the Coen Brothers. Critics have mentioned Spike Lee too, and one can see the resemblances: the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan, the jazz in the soundtrack, the criss-crossing ethnic territories. But Lee’s films are fast and busy and Fading Gigolo, however ...


Adam Lively, 10 March 1994

The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness 
by Paul Gilroy.
Verso, 261 pp., £11.95, November 1993, 0 86091 675 8
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Small Acts: Thoughts on the Politics of Black Culture 
by Paul Gilroy.
Serpent’s Tail, 257 pp., £12.99, October 1993, 9781852422981
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... within the collection. But there are also valuable pieces on popular culture – Frank Bruno, Spike Lee, the iconography of album covers; and an emphasis on the relationship between race and nation, the possibility of Black Britishness, that ties it closer to his earlier There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack (1987). Gilroy’s insistence that it ...


Jeremy Harding: On the Tyson Saga, 31 August 1989

... a tenement in Bedford-Stuyvesant, the area of Brooklyn portrayed by the black American director, Spike Lee, in Do the Right Thing. When the family broke up, Mike’s mother Lorna was forced a little further down the ladder, her three children clinging on her back, until she reached Brownsville, Brooklyn’s bottom rung. For little Mike, however, it was ...

The Dignity of Merchants

Landeg White, 10 August 2000

In Search of Africa 
by Manthia Diawara.
Harvard, 288 pp., £17.50, December 1998, 0 674 44611 9
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... The fourth ‘situation’ is a celebration of America’s black Hip-Hop culture and the films of Spike Lee. All this may seem like a thinly disguised celebration of Diawara’s own successful career in France and the United States, but the long, disturbing quest for Sidimé Laye tells a different story. One of the book’s most original sections is ...

On Nicholas Moore

Peter Howarth: Nicholas Moore, 24 September 2015

... young prince reappear in Moore as Elvis, Charlie Chaplin, Dylan Thomas, Louis Armstrong, Brenda Lee or Spike Milligan. It’s now the Ku Klux Klan, the Nazis, Biafra, Mosley and the fashionable dramas of ‘Kitchen-Sink Sade-Marats’ whose atrocious crimes fail to turn the green waters of Lethe lying stagnantly in the ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Da 5 Bloods’, 2 July 2020

... Spike Lee’s​ Da 5 Bloods (on Netflix) is an extraordinary mixture: a swashbuckling pirate movie about buried gold and a shoot ’em up Western mysteriously transplanted to the East. But then where do the landmines come from? Oh yes, from the war film. Even with the lively incursions of other avatars, this is supposed to be one, or at least a film in which warriors visit an old battleground ...

Short Cuts

Tom Crewe: The State of Statuary, 21 September 2017

... is our respect.’ Putting aside, for a moment, the vexed presences of Cecil Rhodes and Robert E. Lee, it is worth considering how many statues – the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association counts 925 in the UK – should continue to enjoy the protection of our respect. Should Charles James Fox? I have often wondered what I would say were I brave enough ...

Do Anything, Say Anything

James Meek: On the New TV, 4 January 2024

Pandora’s Box: The Greed, Lust and Lies that Broke Television 
by Peter Biskind.
Allen Lane, 383 pp., £25, November, 978 0 241 44390 3
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... director, eventually got the show going – has never been seen outside the screening room; the Spike Lee-directed pilot for a rejected boxing series, Da Brick, has vanished into the vault, as have Noah Baumbach’s unfinished pilot for a TV version of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, starring Ewan McGregor, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Greta Gerwig, a ...

Bad White Men

Christopher Tayler: James Ellroy, 19 July 2001

The Cold Six Thousand 
by James Ellroy.
Century, 672 pp., £16.99, April 2001, 0 7126 4817 8
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... but the initial impetus came – as Ellroy frequently acknowledges – from Libra, Don DeLillo’s Lee Harvey Oswald novel. American Tabloid, the first of the new sequence, runs from 1958 to the Kennedy assassination in 1963. Like Libra, it tries to ‘follow the bullet trajectories backwards to the lives that occupy the shadows’. The tenebrous lives ...


Alan Bennett: Notes on 1997, 1 January 1998

... in which the pupils are half-hidden under the eyelids; as if the eyes had stopped between floors. Spike Lee has similar eyes, which I find attractive, maybe because they give a sense of inhabiting worlds other than this; they are, of course, irritating for exactly the same reason.A call from Barry Cryer, who claims to have heard a woman outside ...

Mon Pays

Michael Rogin: Josephine Baker, 22 February 2001

The Josephine Baker Story 
by Ean Wood.
Sanctuary, 327 pp., £16.99, September 2000, 1 86074 286 6
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Negrophilia: Avant-Garde Paris and Black Culture in the 1920s 
by Petrine Archer-Straw.
Thames and Hudson, 200 pp., £14.95, September 2000, 0 500 28135 1
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... contentious subject which has recently been in the news again. The reason on this occasion is Spike Lee’s brilliantly corrosive satire, Bamboozled. Pressed to improve the ratings of the network at which he is the only black staff writer, Pierre Delacroix (Damon Wayans) comes up with the idea of reviving blackface minstrelsy. Although he imagines ...


Jenny Turner: ‘T2 Trainspotting’, 16 February 2017

... of the Edinburgh Addiction Cohort, 228 of the 794 Muirhouse heroin-users had died by 2007, with a spike in HIV deaths, just as Trainspotting was being published, in the mid-1990s. No formal follow-up has been published since 2010, but Robertson says that ‘a lot of the latest updates are increasing numbers of deaths, from all causes, but ten or fifteen years ...

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