Joanne’s Picks

This page is just for fun and ever-changing (with the exception of the late Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin who has been archived here). I’m Antiguan and Barbudan writer Joanne C. Hillhouse. I like books (and you might like mine), I like music, I like movies, I like TV. So, I’m just sharing some of what I like. Keep checking back as I’m always keeping things fresh.

This list of Spike Lee favourites is limited to his big screen offerings, otherwise we’d be here all day. I’ve never watched (though some I’ve seen in part) Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads, She’s Gotta Have It, Mo Betta Blues, Clockers, Bamboozled, 25th Hour, She Hate Me, Miracle at St. Anna, Red Hook Summer, Old Boy, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, Chi-Raq, 4 Little Girls…and the other documentaries. Everything else is in play and my favourites are:

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The Original Kings of Comedy – the Bernie Mac set alone would’ve done it but toss in D. L. and Cedric, and you have a bona fide classic stand up comedy concert.

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Malcolm X – Delroy Lindo who is a lead in Da 5 Bloods was West Indian Archie in this one…oh and Denzel Washington was robbed of his Best Actor Oscar.

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Do the Right Thing – It should have been nominated for Best Picture – it is more relevant today than ever – it is still potent. RIP Radio Raheim.

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BlacKkKlansman – all the critics agreed that Spike was back in good form with this one and it was the breakout performance of Denzel’s son John Washington David. It was a solid film and, you’ll hear this a lot with Spike’s best work, timely, coming as it did on the heels of the uptick in overt racism in the US following the election of the MAGAite, and Lee’s bold decision to use footage from the murder of a young activist who was run over by a white supremacist at a rally to remind America of that. Novel concept too, Black man infiltrating the KKK. That much wilder for being based on real life.

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Da 5 Bloods – I could actually flip these two films (this and BlacKkKlansman) easily. But I’ve only seen this one once at this point and it’s still percolating. My review here.

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School Daze – this might have been my first Spike Lee Joint, it’s a musical (notably the song about texturism – “Good and Bad Hair” was ahead of its time in terms of discussion of this issue in this or most mediums), it deals with issues like colourism and other in family issues, it’s fun, it’s A Different World before A Different World, and it has Da Butt.

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Jungle Fever – I was in university when this came out. I remember it was such a conversation piece as a work of art. Highlights, for me, were Ruby Dee and Joe Turturro, and Halle Berry breaking through like a mutha, playing against type.

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Get on the Bus – This is underrated in my view; a road trip movie where the destination is the Million Man March, featuring men from all walks of life, including one of the first Black male gay couples in a film by a mainstream director …I think.

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Inside Man – good for what it was, a straight up bank heist film that isn’t really about the heist. I initially watched it for Jodie Foster who is on one of my favourite actresses and Denzel (a frequent Spike collaborator) and I didn’t even realize it was a Spike Lee film probably until some time after I saw it – it felt in some ways like work for hire, but well done work for hire.
Okay, so it’s more of a top 9 than a top 10. There are things I liked about other films – like the family drama Crooklyn starring one of my faves Alfre Woodard, and, if I’m remembering correctly, Lindo again; and I remember really wanting to like Mo Betta Blues a lot more than I did but it was very atmospheric and I remember wanting to see more of his sister Joie Lee after this, and Denzel and Wesley were at peak Wesley and Denzel, and that argument about playing what the people want, subsequently referenced on The Roots’ Things Fall Apart album  – but none of them are all time faves. So that’s it, my top 9 with a shout out to Crooklyn and Mo Betta Blues.