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Spike Lee's America 1st Edition

3.6 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0745651828
ISBN-10: 0745651828
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Though he comes to praise Lee's oeuvre, Sterrit is even-handed with both critics and director."
The Independent

"Perfectly readable, mercifully free of cliched characterisations of the director as an 'angry black man' - and informative enough to recommend as a reference tool for Spike beginners."
Sight & Sound

"Writing perceptively about class, race and recent US history (as well as the movies) Sterritt steers refreshingly far from the academic waffle that can plague this kind of book, and builds a reasoned portrait of one of America's punchiest commentators."
Total Film

"An optimal introduction to the career of one of America’s most prominent filmmakers."
25fps

"Not just an interesting read, the book is also a great educational resource for film students, and a truly excellent map for exploring one of the major genres of African-American film-making."
Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television

"My admiration for Spike Lee has always been substantial, but thanks to this book I now admire him even more. Although David Sterritt does not blink at the many dilemmas the films present, he has greatly enriched our appreciation as well as our understanding of Spike Lee's cinema."
Krin Gabbard, Stony Brook University

"Since his filmmaking debut in the mid-eighties, Spike Lee has become one of the most influential African American directors of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Through clear and cogent prose, David Sterritt also illustrates what makes Lee one of the finest American filmmakers working today."
Paula Massood, Brooklyn College
 

About the Author

David Sterritt is Chair of the National Society of Film Critics and Professor at Columbia University and the Maryland Institute College of Art.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Polity; 1 edition (January 14, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745651828
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745651828
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #320,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By mateo52 VINE VOICE on June 10, 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
While I am loath to admit it, I always benefit - eventually - when some nature of external stimuli compels me into a state of reflexiveness. This time, it was David Sterritt's book that prompted me to hazard self-examination. When I finished his submission, I was disenchanted with many of his postulations regarding Spike Lee's body of work to date; as a film critic and academician he has the credentials to analyze, dissect, and interpret the product of Lee's screenwriting and directorial vision. What was most unsettling is in a copious number of instances, it felt as though he and I had watched entirely different films, to the point I was motivated to queue up a few I have on DVD and seek out a couple of others on streaming services.

I was further reminded of a discussion I had a few years ago with an academic who was ebullient about the writing skills of a new African American author ( at this point I don't even remember who it was that lead to me cooking for myself for a few days) she had discovered as though he was first to write in a particular voice and I pointed out a few predecessors that she was not familiar with because of blind spots in her field of literary vision who may have informed the newer writers' work. She was irritated by my contradiction of her insights just as what much of what Sterritt expounds here fails to correlate with how I would like to believe I see Lee's films...even after I looked at a couple of my old reviews and discovered what was really bothering me was somebody else criticizing the family. Besides, if you get the teams Earl Monroe played for wrong, as far as I am concerned all credibility is lost anyway.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
simply a filmography with synopsis, this book is badly over written. Any author who uses the word eponymous more than once in a work is really pushing it; here we stumble across it in every section, blazing like like a look-how-great-I-am badge on a tourist, even contorting the term to "semi-eponymous" to signify that Son of Sam somehow resembles Summer of Sam.

You are really better off browsing the amazon product pages of this great American director.

Here you find only the synopsis of each film with the occasional interjections of the author's lame opinions based on box office, with the wisdom of Roger Ebert occasionally stolen.

Please peruse this sample sentence whic runs a dozen lines in the published text:

The villains in the Summer of Sam are not only the .44 Caliber Killer and the witch hunters who stomp Ritchie; they are also the sensationalistis mass media that whip up fears to boost their profits, the kings of commerce who peddle cheap sex and porn, the looters who pillage BRooklyn and Harlem during the blackout, and the entire moral climate of the age, which Lee pictures as a virtually anarchic bedlam that encourages everything from the money-fueled licentiousness of a Manhattan sex club to the belligerently sexist behavior of pretty much every male character."

SOMEBODY QUICKLY BUY THIS MAN A FULL STOP PERIOD!
or hire a copy editor.

He slows down. The sentence immediately following this one runs a mere six lines of text.

PLEASE LOOK UP EVERY SPIKE LEE FILM ON AMAZON and get it.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'm disappointed with the flow of this book. The discussions of movies was intellectual, as expected, but lacking cohesion. It's not just that it doesn't have cohesion in the classic sense. It bored me. And I don't bore easily - not at all.

The redeeming dimension of the book is the sheer amount of relevant film history that Lee loaded it with. In fact, I can't imagine how people come by some of this information as it feels like insider knowledge that nobody would dare expound upon in written form.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I can't say that I am much impressed with this as a serious, critical treatment of Spike Lee's body of work. "A vibrant and provocative engagement not only the with the work of a great filmmaker, but also with American society and politics" (from the back cover) it is not. What it is, is, a fairly competent overview of Lee's body of work, with special attention focused on his earliest, best-known work. While here Sterritt spends an acceptable amount of time and attention, quoting and responding to a fair number of other writers and critics with regard to Lee's films, much of the rest of this always fascinating filmmaker's work is treated pretty much off-hand with a synopsis and an "I kinda liked it / I kinda disliked it". This isn't fair to Lee's lesser-known work, or more importantly, the reader who is interested in learning more about Lee's lesser-known work.

One more cavil - Sterritt duly reports the box office for nearly all of the films, which I suppose may have something to say about Lee's place in America's consciousness, but other than a "this one was popular, this one was not" sort of sense, he makes no effort to attempt to tie this into Lee's place in American film or how the public sees Lee fitting into American film. This, of course, likely has nothing to do with Lee's artistry, vision and purpose, but if not, why bother bringing it up with virtually each film? If it matters, why? If it doesn't, why bother?

All-in-all, this is useful within limits. It is nice to have a considered overview of Lee's work - there is a lot of it and much of it is important in American film. As a "vibrant and provocative engagement", not so much here.
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