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Marc Lamont Hill’s List of Overrated Black People: Spike Lee, Part 2

October 27, 2009

Spike Lee's most successful film -- perhaps because he had the least to do with it.

See part 1 of Spike Lee’s welcome to “Marc Lamont Hill’s List of Overrated Black People” here.

Very rarely does The Wife insist that I send her my blog posts when I’m done with them. When I told her I was blogging about filmmaker Spike Lee being overrated she insisted, though. So I decided to ask her what what she thought. She gave me an earful and insisted that I report the fact that she’s biracial along with her comments:

“He’s overrated. I don’t like how he uses the fact that he’s black in all of his movies. And I don’t like how he puts himself in all of his movies. And I don’t like the ghetto black overtone that all of his movies have. And he’s horrible at directing. And chooses poor actors. Or can’t direct them well.”

“Ghetto black overtones?” I asked.

“Just he uses stereotypes. He always tries to make his movies push past stereotypes but he’s so good at showing them.”

“What kind of stereotypes?”

Like, ebonics. And sexual stereotypes.

“Does he portray black women poorly?”


“Do you think he oversexualizes his female characters?”


And so now that The Wife has had her two cents, I’ll continue with the discussion of Lee’s overrated filmography:

Malcolm X (1992)

Lee’s epic biopic about the civil rights leader is his greatest film. The 3-hour plus film traces the evolution of the child Malcolm Little to the young criminal Detroit Red to the racist Nation of Islam (NOI) leader to the disillusioned El Hajj Malik Shabazz who has come to reject the bigotry of his past. It’s one of the best films of the ’90s and an essential title in understanding the biopic genre. If you ever want to make a biopic film then you want to watch “Malcolm X.”

Crooklyn (1994)

This film is inspired by Lee’s childhood and was co-written with his siblings. It’s pretty forgettable.

Clockers (1995)

“Clockers” is about low-level drug dealers. I was unimpressed by it.

Girl 6 (1996)

“Girl 6” is a throwback to “She’s Gotta Have It” and features a woman working as a phone sex operator. And my wife hasn’t even seen this one.

Get on the Bus (1996)

“Get on the Bus” is another quicky film. It’s about a group of men on a bus going to Louis Farrakhan‘s Million Man March.

He Got Game (1998)

After four failures in a row we get a moderately bright spot in comparison. “He Got Game” was a hit for Lee. It’s the basketball-themed story of a strained father-son relationship. Washington’s performance is the only redeeming aspect.

Summer of Sam (1999)

“Summer of Sam” was notable because it was Lee’s first film that didn’t feature a black cast. Set in the late ’70s it depicts a neighborhood in terror and paranoia in reaction to the Son of Sam serial killer. In this case Lee made an underrated film. It’s really a pretty engaging, entertaining drama with great performances.

The Original Kings of Comedy (2000)

This comedy concert film featuring D.L. Hughley, Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer, and Bernie Mac is moderately amusing, though hardly essential. As far as black comedians go, though, I tend to prefer Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle.

Bamboozled (2000)

“Bamboozled” is a satire about a black TV exec who wants to get fired from his job so he can get out of his contract without being sued. His answer: create a modern day minstrel show with performers in black face. He expects to be fired. Instead his show is a big hit.

I just watched this one again the other night with The Wife in preparation for writing this article. Like “School Daze” the film is a failure as far as acting, plot, and characters are concerned. It almost have the look and feel of a film made by college students.  “Bamboozled” is only interesting as an intellectual exercise concerned with Lee’s leftist political ideas.

25th Hour (2002)

This film starring Edward Norton was one of the first post 9/11 films.

She Hate Me (2004)

“She Hate Me” is, like “School Daze” and “Bamboozled,” a muddled mess of a picture that could have never gotten made were it proposed by a director who was not as overrated as Lee. It mixes about five different plots together and only works as a mildly amusing intellectual exercise.

Inside Man (2006)

“Inside Man” is a tremendously entertaining heist thriller starring Washington and Clive Owen in a battle of wits at a Manhattan bank. It’s an absolute must-see with great characters, top-notch acting and a clever, twisting plot. (In other words, everything most Lee movies lack.) Incidentally it’s also Lee’s biggest box office success — perhaps because it barely resembles any of his previous films.

Miracle at St. Anna (2008)

“Miracle at St. Anna” was Lee’s attempt at a black World War II epic. Only a third of critics reviewed it positively.

So the conclusion: Of Lee’s 19 feature films only 3 are must-sees (“Malcolm X,” “Do the Right Thing,” and “Inside Man”) and one is a good, but non-essential drama (“Summer of Sam.”) The rest are only of interest to those with a fascination toward film history or leftist politics.

In other words, Lee is one of Hollywood’s most overrated filmmakers.

  1. LanceThruster permalink
    October 27, 2009 1:07 pm

    Will this site also be critiquing various individuals based on other group/race characteristics/associations?

    Just wondering because I would love to see it.

    For instance –

    overrated white guys
    overrated women
    overrated Jews (with subcategories for religious and ethnic)
    overrated Conservatives
    overrated Democrats
    overrated Republicans
    overrated Progressives
    overrated Libertarians
    overrated Liberals
    overrated Atheists
    overrated Muslims
    overrated Christians
    overrated Evangelicals
    overrated Fundamentalists
    overrated seniors
    overrated middle age adults
    overrated young adults
    overrated kids
    overrated artists, authors, producers, directers, musicians, poets, athletes…

    Once you’ve fleshed out some of those lists, you might want to tackle underrated enemies.

    underrated Communists
    underrated Socialists
    underrated Fascists
    underrated Democrats

    • October 27, 2009 1:08 pm

      You don’t understand the point of the series. Read Horowitz’s original entry:

  2. LanceThruster permalink
    October 27, 2009 2:22 pm

    Looked at the original. My desire to see the other groupings put under the same microscope stands. As far as Nobels go (which is often derided here as a meaningless award), Elie Wiesel and Mother Teresa were also awarded them if I’m not mistaken and much ado is made about that.

    Statement from the other piece:

    ” There are no affirmative action athletes and consequently no black superstar’s credentials are questioned.

    Not true actually. We are about to have a “World” Series where the rest of the world is not in competition unlike World Cup soccer. How’s that for stacking the deck? We also have superstar athletes largely given a pass on performance enhancing susbstances thereby providing them an edge that those that play by the rules do not get. This was the controversy of Harold Abrahams’ 1924 Paris Olympics victory dramatized in the movie “Chariots of Fire” in that he trained with a professional coach when it was considered not in the spirit of the games. You might say the entertainment industry operates on a merit system but that ignores the long running nepotism that favors being “connected” over talent alone.

    We also had white affirmative action in sports for the longest time where the Harlem Globetrotters beat the Lakers and Negro League baseball players did not get a chance to compete on a level playing field with non-minority players. The world of early stock car racing had a black champion driver that was penalized and harassed by those uncomfortable with a non-white excelling in “their” sport. It was only through the actions of other drivers concerned more with fairness than race did this driver continue to compete in motorsports.

    • October 27, 2009 2:36 pm

      Dialoguing with you is a waste of time. It’s in plain English in Horowitz’s post why we’re doing this series.

      • LanceThruster permalink
        October 27, 2009 2:56 pm

        Then stop dialoguing. I won’t mind.

        Though this was written as satire, it does highlight that there is a process of distillation whereby what gets made is based on factors more important than merit. I think the attitude of “choseness” often extends to their self-perception of their “art”.


        Perhaps embarrassed by the number of Holocaust movies out at once, Humorist Joel Stein wrote a satirical column in December for the LA Times a short while back that parodies the common myth that The Jews run Hollywood:

        As a proud Jew, I want America to know about our accomplishment. Yes, we control Hollywood. Without us, you’d be flipping between “The 700 Club” and “Davey and Goliath” on TV all day.

        So I’ve taken it upon myself to re-convince America that Jews run Hollywood by launching a public relations campaign, because that’s what we do best. I’m weighing several slogans, including: “Hollywood: More Jewish than ever!”; “Hollywood: From the people who brought you the Bible”; and “Hollywood: If you enjoy TV and movies, then you probably like Jews after all.”

        One interesting note (to me at least) was that “Davey and Goliath” was done by Art Clokey (of “Gumby” fame) and I would have loved to seen more Art Clokey in primetime.

        • October 27, 2009 3:20 pm

          “Then stop dialoguing. I won’t mind.”

          The purpose of the forums is to dialogue, not to host your monologues and your excerpts from other articles.

          So if you’re confessing that you have no interest in dialogue and are just here to troll and screw with people…

          • politicalmoxie permalink
            October 27, 2009 4:31 pm

            @ David Swindle

            Out on a limb here David but………..I think we should introduce Lance Thruster to Head Heretic. Wasn’t sure they’d make a connection, but I’m now sure they have much in common.

          • "gunner" permalink
            October 28, 2009 1:04 pm

            you’ve nailed him david, i haven’t been posting here all that long but i’ve quickly learned to skip over his diatribes as being irrelevant.

          • LanceThruster permalink
            October 28, 2009 1:28 pm

            Look David S., almost every time an opposition view is raised with the resident howler monkeys, they feel, by definition, that they are being “screwed with.”

            I rarely fail to address a serious response.

            And none of what you or David H. have written precludes adding other “overrated” catagories. Simple as that.

            That being said, you indeed have the final say as moderator and I defer to your judgement.

            • October 28, 2009 2:11 pm

              This is what you needed to read:

              Barack Obama is a man of several obvious talents but a track record worthy of a Nobel Prize is not one of them (and being president probably isn’t either). Of course there are plenty of over-rated whites — Al Gore, an empty-headed, truth-challenged blowhard whose politically correct prejudices got him a Nobel, an Oscar, and an opera at La Scala is obviously one. But it is blacks who have suffered the most from affirmative action prizes and unearned promotions. We are launching this list as a service both to the African American community and the country at large, since this ongoing hypocrisy and the double-standards it supports hurt us all.

              We do this series to highlight a problem that the Left has inflicted on the black community. There’s no great point in doing a series of “overrated liberals” or “overrated conservatives.” It serves no higher purpose.

              • October 28, 2009 2:58 pm

                A greater service to the Afro-Amer community than writing about overrated blacks would be some remarks about underrated blacks. You can start with public intellectuals like Thomas Sowell and Walt Williams. But, of course, there are many more that are underrated and unsung. These people are underrated as Americans, independent of color.

                • LanceThruster permalink
                  October 29, 2009 1:00 pm

                  I used to enjoy and appreciate Sowell’s writing but got to the point where I felt he was just carrying water for the Republicans. He’d put forth some poorly crafted reasoning based strictly on maintaining the party line.

            • October 28, 2009 2:13 pm

              “I rarely fail to address a serious response.”

              That’s a joke. You mainly come and post other articles. You don’t take our arguments seriously. You just come to sabotage.

              • LanceThruster permalink
                October 28, 2009 3:06 pm

                Sorry you feel that way. I have often written in detail to which others at times complain about their length. Article excerpts are sometimes the fastest way to rebut a particular bit of sophistry (such as the commenter who deemed “right wing dictatorship” an “oxymoron” for no discernable reason).

                I have see few in here (certainly of the comment base) venture outside of their small pond to post in the larger pond world (those with their own blogsites notwithstanding). Like I said, it is clear that some require the “safe harbor” of not having to deal with contrary views, hence the aggravation at being exposed to independent thought.

                • politicalmoxie permalink
                  October 28, 2009 4:30 pm

                  @Lance Thruster

                  Take a pill, take a nap, call a friend…why all the anger? Has NewsReal insulted you in some way? You keep returning here over and over as if you’re on a vendetta.
                  For some reason, your vision of yourself doesn’t match our vision of you. I actually try to read your comments and stop, saying to myself, “Life’s too short and there are too many things I want to move on to.” The point of a good debate or great comment is to make a point in as few words as possible…i.e. Mr. Swindle. A hot flash for you…he’s really good at this game.
                  Have you met your alter ego here at NewsReal, Head Heretic?

                  • LanceThruster permalink
                    October 29, 2009 12:57 pm

                    Occasional frustration is not the same thing as anger. I return when I have something to say (particularly when some false meme needs to be challenged). I contend that it’s the Newsreal base largely that gets their blood pressure up.

                    Many of the posters’ comments boil down to, “commies!”, “commie rag!”, or “commie sympathizers!”. For those taking this tack, this is easier than thinking and being forced to often illicits their anger. Their ego protection requires the unyielding adherence to their worldview, whether reality based or not. They speak in absolutes that on their face are ludicrous and even more so upon inspection.

                    I’ll pop in to comment or reply as I feel the need; until that time that David S. determines that I’m making the rest of the Newsrealites cry too much. I don’t think I could handle that caterwauling myself either.

                • Jack Hampton permalink
                  October 29, 2009 1:42 am

                  Independant thought? ROTFLMAO

  3. Jack Hampton permalink
    October 27, 2009 2:38 pm

    I have to say my reaction to these movies were the same as yours. I bought Inside Man and watch over. I walked out on Miracle at St. Anna i found it just boring.

    • October 27, 2009 3:22 pm

      I own “Inside Man” too. Just love that film.

  4. jon permalink
    October 27, 2009 9:35 pm

    lee is a racist bigot. He is a despicable guy and hia movies for the most part just suck.

  5. politicalmoxie permalink
    October 30, 2009 9:55 am

    @ Lance Thruster

    I don’t think David S. will block you…he knows so many of us are entertained by your view of your intelligence level and the size of your EGO!

    • LanceThruster permalink
      October 30, 2009 11:14 am

      And I’m amused by those Newsrealites who urge others not to feed the trolls; though they cannot seem to resist ignoring their own advice. It’s not like they are really adding anything, although I do them the courtesy of reading their tantrum just in case.

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