Spike Lee’s Feuds

August 3, 2013

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Spike Lee’s Feuds by Zack Mandell

Ever since the mid-80s, Spike Lee has been one of the most important directors in American cinema. Films such as “Jungle Fever,” “Do the Right Thing,” and “Malcolm X” have offered tragic, astute and incendiary musings about the minority experience in the United States. Lee is quite possibly the first black filmmaker to have gained celebrity status in American cinematic history. That celebrity has not been attained solely by the strength of his films however. More than just about any filmmaker, Lee finds himself in media feuds with other Hollywood luminaries. Not surprisingly, the filmmaker of “Do the Right Thing” is an opinionated guy, and those opinions, however well thought out they may be, have often landed him in hot water. Even though Spike Lee has earned a lot of admiration from filmmakers and actors, there are some in the film community that have little but disdain for him. Here are just some of the people that Spike Lee has engaged in feuds with.

Clint Eastwood

“Miracle at St. Anna,” Spike Lee’s film about an all black unit fighting on the American side during World War II, is one of the lesser films on Spike Lee’s impressive resume. It’s actually pretty well forgotten. At the time of its release though, it was a film of huge consequence for the director. During the promotion, Spike Lee took to criticizing cinema legend Clint Eastwood. Two years prior, Eastwood released two WWII films, “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters From Iwo Jima.” Nary a black soldier was spotted in either. Lee took the septuagenarian director to task over that. Eastwood did not take to the criticism lightly, and told Lee to “Shut his face” via the press. The two engaged in a media war for several months after that.

Spike Lee’s Feuds

Tyler Perry

Despite the absurdly high total amount of money Tyler Perry’s “Madea” films have grossed over the past decade, Perry has received little love from the critics, and even less from fellow filmmakers. Spike Lee is on the forefront of those who regularly criticize Perry’s films. Lee has accused Perry’s films of reinforcing negative racial stereotypes, and turning complex racial issues into little more than easily digestible popcorn fare, and he has said so using far more inflammatory language. In response, Perry has repeatedly told Lee to go “Straight to hell.” This feud has gone on for years, and it’s rare that both men can go through an entire interview without being asked about the other.

Quentin Tarantino

Like Tyler Perry, Quentin Tarantino has been victim to Spike Lee’s rants for years. In Tarantino’s case, he’s been experiencing it for nearly two decades, ever since the release of his film “Jackie Brown.” Shortly after that film, Lee excoriated Tarantino for his abundant use of racial slurs in his screenplays. Lee has gone as far as to say that Tarantino is a wannabe black person. Recently, Tarantino took it on the chin from Lee yet again, thanks to the premiere of his new film “Django Unchained,” an homage to spaghetti westerns set during the days of American slavery. Lee has gone on the record, stating that he feels the subject matter of Tarantino’s film is largely insensitive. The Hollywood community has taken the side of Tarantino once again, and actors in the film have countered Lee’s accusations, whereas Tarantino himself has been mostly silent.

Zack Mandell is a freelance writer for www.movieroomreviews.com.

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