Originally, when Spike Lee spoke up against the lack of black soldiers in World War II movies, igniting a feud with heavyweights the Coens and Clint Eastwood in doing so, you could almost pass it off as Lee doing what he does best — trying to get some free publicity for his own upcoming WWII movie “Miracle at St. Anna”. With the film, about four black soldiers caught behind enemy lines during the war, set for a September 28 release, Lee is once again making noise, this time bemoaning his lot in life, and how The Man is still trying to keep him down. His argument? His “Miracle at St. Anna” is so brilliant (in fact, it might just be the greatest movie ever made, apparently), that the Academy Awards will still find a way to NOT nominate it for an Oscar. Or so says Spike.
He tells King Magazine (named after Spike, the King of Moviemaking, I am told):
“My wife Tonya told me I may have hurt my chances with the Clint Eastwood stuff… They (Oscar voters and Academy bosses) take everything into account with me. They take into account that I like the Knicks or that I’m in New York.” Lee is adamant the fact he’s a Big Apple guy has cost him an Oscar Best Director nomination in the past: “If you did a survey, the bulk of the people who vote in the Academy are in Los Angeles. There’s definite bias, considering that my films are typically New York-based.” He’s still upset that his Do The Right Thing movie wasn’t even considered for an Oscar the year Driving Miss Daisy claimed Best Film.
He adds, “Nobody is watching motherf**king Driving Miss Daisy today. Do The Right Thing is being taught in classes at major universities and high schools all over the world. That’s how you’re supposed to test art. Does the work stand up?”
Spike Lee is right. “Do the Right Thing” is such a great movie that one of my teachers made us watch it and write a whole essay on it back in High School. Which was kind of odd, since it was gym class. But I guess that just goes to show you how great “Do the Right Thing” is, right?
Lee’s “The Miracle at St. Anna”, by the way, is getting terrible reviews.
The Hollywood Reporter practically slices it in half:
Ultimately, the film is an unsavory blend of the sentimental and melodramatic. The subplot of the psychologically injured Italian boy and his “chocolate giant” is never persuasive. In fact, the whole episode is downright embarrassing. The Italian woman, her fascist dad and indeed all the villagers are like bad memories summoned from vintage World War II movies. And having the woman parade topless before an American soldier is pure male fantasy.
None of the characters comes to any kind of life in the writing. Each has but a single dimension with little to distinguish one from another. The story meanders, almost absurdly so, once the quartet get stranded in the medieval village. Certainly if Lee wanted to cut the film a bit before its release, he has ample places to begin.
And those were the good parts!
Spike Lee’s intent to pay tribute to the role of black soldiers in WWII is honorable, but the film is poorly conceived and executed, unfolding as a sprawling, overlong, dull saga that’s shapeless both narratively and visually.
Another guy name Cole Smithey, aka “The Smartest Film Critic in the World” wasn’t feeling it, either:
This is a war movie that’s all over the place. Its performances range from disappointing to mediocre in an overlong film that’s more likely to give you a headache than any sense of thematic resolve.
Hey, who am I to argue with the smartest film critic in the world? I’ll leave that up to Katey Rich of Cinemablend, the lone positive reviewer as of this writing. She seems to like it. Maybe. Well, she seems to hedge her bets an awful lot.
Miracle at St. Anna could have been better written and better edited, and someone should have raised a red flag on its weird, supernatural conclusion. But it’s fascinating in its messiness, its willingness to follow tangents and rhetoric in order to tell a broader story, about a lot of people trapped in one place at one time near the end of an awful war. St. Anna is probably too strange and unwieldy to become the classic that Lee wants it to be, but it’s a worthy stretch for the director, and a noble attempt to revisit forgotten history.
160 minutes of Spike Lee’s version of World War II comes to you September 28. Everyone needs to go out and buy their tickets now. Unless, of course, you’re a racist. You’re not a racist, are you?
Below: “I’m telling you guys, I’ve had it up to HERE with The Man trying to hold me down.”