FEATURE: Brooklyn Go Hard (A Spike Lee Joint) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Spike Lee is definitely in a class all by himself – after they made him, HE broke his OWN mould.

Ever since 1989’s Do the Right Thing unleashed his striking cinematic idiolect on mainstream audiences, the diminutive auteur has not only remained a very visible pop culture mainstay, but also one of the most prolific chroniclers of the African-American experience.

Possessed of a clear-eyed focus and unflinching gaze, Lee has captured some of the most lucidly rendered and searingly satirical dissections of American race relations ever committed to film (Bamboozled, Clockers and Jungle Fever, to name but a few).

A passionate social activist, he’s crafted gripping documentaries for HBO about life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina (When the Levees Broke), and the deadly 1963 bombing of a Black church in Alabama that definitively impacted the Civil Rights Movement (4 Little Girls).

As if that wasn’t already impressive enough, the 61-year-old Brooklynite has also conceived some of the most instantly iconic Black characters in film history (shouts to the homies Mookie, Mars Blackmon, Nola Darling and Strike Dunham) – no mean feat in itself, mind.

When you find out he’s also the brain behind such iconic Hip Hop videos as Grandmaster Melle Mel’s White Lines (Don’t Do It), Naughty by Nature’s Hip Hop Hooray and Public Enemy’s Fight the Power, the boundary-blurring cultural impact of his storied career really starts to sink in.

But then again, what else would you expect from the man who not only gave Denzel Washington his first romantic lead role (in Mo’ Better Blues), but also effectively launched the movie careers of both Laurence Fishburne and Martin Lawrence (in School Daze and Do the Right Thing, respectively)?

And yet, despite this rich mélange of legacy-defining achievements, it feels oddly limiting to simply call Lee one of the most influential filmmakers ever.

Why? I hear you ask – well, because he’s so much more than that.

An unlikely style icon and cross-cultural trendsetter, Lee was, arguably, just as critical to the early success of the Jordan sneaker brand as Michael Jordan himself – go ahead and check out his seminal “It’s Gotta Be the Shoes” ad spot for Nike if you doubt me.

A passionate music fan, he throws annual block parties in his native Brooklyn to celebrate the memories of both Prince and Michael Jackson.

He’s also an ornery polemicist, who, most recently, has delighted in hurling barefaced insults at Donald Trump on every opportunity – the snicker-inducing “Agent Orange” and venomously-barbed “that motherf****r” being two of my personal favourites.

Given these acrimonious contentions and the current political climate across the pond, his latest joint, BlacKkKlansman – which, without giving too much away, is a humorously scathing excoriation of White supremacy in the guise of a buddy cop movie – really couldn’t be any timelier.

Starring John David Washington and Adam Driver, it’s based on the remarkable – not to mention seemingly improbable – true story of an African-American police officer who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan.

Produced by fellow auteur Jordan Peele, it’s already one of the most talked about films of 2018, and has all the hallmarks of Lee’s filmmaking at its ballsy best.

Hailed as a triumphant return to form – especially after Old Boy’s disappointing box-office returns, and the head-scratching clunker that is Chi-Raq – it not only earned him a six-minute standing ovation at Cannes, but also scooped the festival’s prestigious Grand Prix prize.

Now I don’t know about you, but I find it comforting to know that, even after three decades in the game, Spike Lee remains as bold and brash as he ever was.

As the saying goes, Black don’t crack – Ya-Dig? Sho-Nuff.

BlacKkKlansman opens @ Tyneside Cinema on Friday 24th August, and their expertly curated selection of Lee’s best films runs until Thursday 11th October.

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