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Spike Lee

Todd McGowan

Publication Year: 2014

Since the release of Do the Right Thing in 1989, Spike Lee has established himself as a cinematic icon. Lee's mostly independent films garner popular audiences while at the same time engaging in substantial political and social commentary. He is arguably the most accomplished African American filmmaker in cinematic history, and his breakthrough paved the way for the success of many other African Americans in film. In this first single-author scholarly examination of Spike Lee's oeuvre, Todd McGowan shows how Lee's films, from She's Gotta Have It through Red Hook Summer, address crucial social issues such as racism, paranoia, and economic exploitation in a formally inventive manner. McGowan argues that Lee uses excess in his films to intervene in issues of philosophy, politics, and art. McGowan contends that it is impossible to watch a Spike Lee film in the way that one watches a typical Hollywood film. By forcing observers to recognize their unconscious enjoyment of violence, paranoia, racism, sexism, and oppression, Lee's films prod spectators to see differently and to confront their own excess. In the process, his films reveal what is at stake in desire, interpersonal relations, work, and artistic creation itself.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: Contemporary Film Directors

Title Page, Series Page, Photo, Copyright Page, Dedication

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Thanks to Justus Nieland and Jennifer Fay for asking me to write this book. Without their prompting, I would never have undertaken it. They also provided a thorough reading of the manuscript that permitted me to clarify many ambiguities. I owe a debt of gratitude to Daniel Nasset...

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Confronted with Too Much

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pp. 1-138

Spike Lee is a filmmaker of excess. Excess characterizes each of his films—through unconventional shots, extreme characters, improbable scenes, and many other ways. Lee’s films employ these types of excess to intervene in critical issues that trouble the contemporary world—the...

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Interview with Spike Lee

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pp. 139-144

A substantial portion of this interview first appeared on the Web site Hollywood. com, where the interviewer Lisa Collins worked as a senior editor and segment producer. An award-winning independent filmmaker, multimedia artist, and entertainment journalist, Collins’s path intersects...


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pp. 145-154


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pp. 155-158


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pp. 159-164

About the Author, Series Page, Publisher Notes

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E-ISBN-13: 9780252095405
E-ISBN-10: 0252095405
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252038143

Page Count: 168
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Contemporary Film Directors