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Worth A Look: 22.22%
Average: 18.52%
Pretty Bad: 16.67%
Total Crap: 18.52%

3 reviews, 36 user ratings

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by Politicsman

"One Of Spike's Best"
4 stars

You've been hoodwinked. You've been had. You've been took. You've been led astray, led amok. You've been bamboozled. ~Malcolm X

In 1989, a writer named Tom Schulman beat out Spike Lee, Woody Allen, and Steven Soderbergh to win the Academy Award for best original screenplay. The screenplay Schulman wrote was Dead Poets Society. Now, this film was good. I mean, not many out there are going the criticize this effective melodrama about an inspiring teacher and his good looking boarding school students with cruel and mean parents. But it should never have won best original screenplay, not with Crimes and Misdemeanors, sex, lies and videotape, and Do The Right Thing in the competition. Allen's film was his last great critically acclaimed success. Soderbergh's film helped spearhead an indie explosion. But Do The Right Thing. Do The Right Thing was THE movie of the year. It was groundbreaking. It was legendary. It was phenomenal. It was important. It was brilliantly conceived. Brilliantly directed. Brilliantly acted. Brilliantly delivered. A great, tragic, all too real story. No, it wasn't John Singleton or the Hughes Brothers. It wasn't Boyz N Da Hood or Menace II Society but it wasn't trying to be. This was Spike Lee's moment. This was the best American film about its own domestic struggles since In The Heat Of The Night. And not only did Spike NOT win best original screenplay but the best picture of the year and the best director of the year weren't even nominated. And to add insult to injustice, Driving Miss Daisy won best picture, a film about race relations that was so dumbed down and sugar-coated that it merely suggested there were racial tensions in America. It was unfair. It was mean-spirited. It was wrong. And there was nothing Spike could do about it. In fact, his outrage probably cost him when the Academy failed again to nominate him for Malcolm X and robbed Denzel of an Oscar.

Spike's other films have never achieved the phenomenal response that was so richly generated in 1989. Mo' Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Crooklyn, Clockers, Girl 6, Get On The Bus, and He Got Game explored African-American culture, politics, injustice, and touched on every aspect of society. They also allowed some great actors and actresses to shine. Wesley Snipes, Samuel L. Jackson, Delroy Lindo, Alfre Woodard, Mekhi Phifer, and Ossie Davis, just to name a few, all boosted their careers with outstanding performances. But why did these films not carry the same weight as Do The Right Thing? They did well in theatres but critical recognition was less encouraging. Spike was mining the same territory and asking serious and important questions in the process. He was raising issues that had been shunned before or Hollywoodized. But yet award recognition was nowhere to be found. Spike's three other best films have been very different from that original vision of Do The Right Thing. Malcolm X was a great movie. As good as Do The Right Thing. It was a powerful biopic about an important and controversial man. This wasn't Gandhi or Amadeus. Malcolm was explosive and the film was Denzel's best role ever. Like The Hurricane, it was tossed aside come award time despite an incredible response from moviegoers. What is it about Spike's films that make them good enough for his targeted audience but not good enough for those who hand out awards? His last two movies, Summer Of Sam and Bamboozled, are a little different, a little more audacious in terms of stepping outside the genre of film Spike had created. S.O.S. was a brilliant and overlooked gem about the media frenzy surrounding the Son Of Sam murders. It is claustrophobic and insane and is a fabulous New York movie which ranks alongside Woody Allen's best in terms of filming the city. Again, virtually ignored. Which brings us to Bamboozled after the successful documentary The Original Kings Of Comedy.

Bamboozled is a satire and one of the best ever. But the problem is that Spike's film requires research to truly appreciate its countless nuances and suggestions. Yes, it is an attack on white hegemony in media circles. Yes, it is poking fun at the way television programs are made. Yes, it is a little autobiographical considering Spike's difficulties with those media types. But it is more than that. It is a celebration and a condemnation of American popular culture. And that is what is at the heart of this movie. From the commercial for malt liquor to the Emmy-winning acceptance/decline speech (Ving Rhames after his Emmy win) to the depiction of a hip-hop group as a radical terrorist type group to the use of racially influenced slang (coon, crackers, niggers, niggas, "blak", porch monkey, etc.) to the actual black face, it rips apart the entertainment industry and not-too-subtly instills in us that it was not that long ago when black entertainers were ridiculed. It also suggests the question: Has anything really changed? The stereotypes are still there albeit after a transformation. But they still exist, brought into our households in three minute videos on MTV and BET.

The story is simple: an African-American executive named Pierre Delacroix (Marlon Wayans with very effective faux Carribean accent) at a struggling cable station (like HBO) comes up with an idea to get himself fired because his superiors in the corporation do not and will not give him a chance. He presents his "white-chocolate" boss (Michael Rapaport) with a completely non-politically correct, downright offensive idea. It is called Mantan: The New Millennium Minstrel Show and is a black face satire about two plantation workers (self-described "Alabama porch monkeys") named Mantan (Savion Glover) and Sleep-N-Eat (Tommy Davidson). What should have been an offensive and impossible idea to market becomes a massive hit. It is so controversial that the ratings skyrocket and the two actors (struggling street performers who were living in a condemned apartment building) are suddenly superstars. Delacroix cannot believe that his boss and the upper brass of the station like the idea and when they start marketing it, he and his assistant (Jada Pinkett-Smith) are skeptical that they may have created a monster. They both compromise, in fact Delacroix completely sells out and gets much recognition as the awards pile up. But as the show begins to offend African-Americans and minorities in general, the public and the media are not sure if this is just satire or part of the long history of black humiliation in the American media. Black face, although a very unfunny subject, is the perfect vehicle for Spike's vision. Ebert disagreed vehemently and found the film offensive and difficult to penetrate. I think it is much more complex than most films but it is straightforward. The conclusion seems more at home in the seventies than today. But the idea that the power of the media can be very destructive is hammered home.

This movie owes a lot to a number of older sritically-acclaimed films, especially Elia Kazan's A Face In The Crowd, Sidney Lumet's Network, James L. Brooks' Broadcast News, and even Robert Altman's Nashville and The Player. It is kind of a celebration of the "media" movies. Certainly, it also owes something to Robert Downey's Putney Swope, Peter Weir's The Truman Show, Tim Robbins' Bob Roberts, Warren Beatty's Bulworth, Gus Van Sant's To Die For, and a long list of other films that expose the media, be it television, the film industry, radio, or newspapers (Natural Born Killers, Talk Radio, Private Parts, Quiz Show, The Insider, The China Syndrome, The Producers, Wag The Dog, Sunset Blvd., etc.) Incidentally, the movie is dedicated to Budd Schulberg who wrote A Face In The Crowd.

I urge you to see this movie but also to do some research either before or after seeing it. Spike Lee loves making movies but he often makes them partly for himself. If you can get inside his mind, I think you can appreciate his vision a lot more. Bamboozled is one of his best and while it isn't perfect, it does have a lot going for it. It was also nice to have Bruce Hornsby on the soundtrack and his song "Shadowlands" ran during the credits. Bruce is one of Spike's favourite recording artists.

The great music throughout the film is another treat, as well as the choreography, cinematography (grainy like Three Kings)I could go on for awhile. See this movie!

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originally posted: 11/06/00 18:46:27
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User Comments

8/16/11 chris Bad Melodrama, yes Spike we get it Blackface and sterotypes are not cool M'KAY. 2 stars
1/05/11 Nathaniel co-writer paul mooney,bamboozler-stand up comedy's answer to louis farrakhan 1 stars
3/30/10 Phineas Yes,Black folk,you've been bamboozled - by Left Black racists like Spite Lee & his "movies" 1 stars
8/15/09 Jeff Wilder Starts out well. But runs out of steam towards the end. 3 stars
8/28/08 bugland people who think this couldn't happen obviously haven't experienced racism in America 5 stars
7/17/08 jholloway615 this movie made me want to cry. To history repeat itself is to hard to bare. SL puts in fil 5 stars
5/19/08 jointz It's a hard film to watch, but then again nobody said the truth was pretty. 4 stars
2/03/08 Jethro Wayans "Little Man" speaks louder. 1 stars
1/19/08 Sam Poor attempt at satire, that loses any cohesiveness in the end. 1 stars
11/18/07 battlescar all those who dont learn from it are stupid! great film 5 stars
3/30/07 fools♫gold truly comedic, truly dramatic, truly depressing, truly euphoric, truly prophetic 5 stars
3/05/07 john horrible a bridge and get over it and i am african amer 1 stars
12/08/05 Max Townsend This movie is an excellent example of life. How most blacks would sell themselves short. 4 stars
10/07/05 Wisamane was intresting, but it kept me very bored with all that so called "artistic" shit... 3 stars
7/07/05 Isaac Baranoff Another great movie! 5 stars
6/08/05 Agent Sands Not typical Spike Lee atmosphere, but it's infinitely intriguing nonetheless. 5 stars
3/10/05 Gray badly done crap 1 stars
9/23/04 Toya I thoought it was a very interesting film 4 stars
3/27/04 Jake Memo To Spike Lee: If You want an oscar nomination you should try making a good movie 1 stars
6/15/03 Jack Sommersby Overlong, badly shapen and ultimately pointless. 1 stars
5/23/03 Mr. Hat (I'm Back, Mo'Fos!) Engrossing, enthralling, great directing, Wayans impressed, great script. Powerful. 5 stars
5/23/03 All ya'll haters 4given, 4 U know not what U do. But yo' (_._) gon' get play'd, cuz ya'll ain't got a clue. 5 stars
5/12/03 Jack Bourbon It's SATIRE! But sorry, it's also CRAP. Utter crap. 1 stars
1/30/03 Ingo Entertaining. And then kicks you right in the guts... 5 stars
4/08/02 hum works 4 stars
3/27/02 Joe Arcane Surprised it was shot on video. Jada Pinkett is good. Pretty funny stuff. 4 stars
2/11/02 Andrew Carden Excellent Spike Lee Feature. Wonderful. 5 stars
10/16/01 malcolm not sure what to say,i need to wait a few days and watch again,definitely thought-provoking 3 stars
9/01/01 Butterbean Nice begining....I was tuned in in the middle...I gave the movie "the finger" at the end 2 stars
5/27/01 A.K. Hit and miss 3 stars
3/19/01 Peter Fernandez Great, what we have come to expect from Spike Lee. 4 stars
11/08/00 Jualito D. Spencer I loved this movie a whole lot. But the end threw me off as a contradiction of the message. 5 stars
11/07/00 frankko WAYANS is terrible. the ending is lame. but points for "big black africa" 2 stars
10/27/00 Peterson Toscano Tremendous. Incredible directing, hauntingly striking. Well done and moving. 5 stars
10/26/00 bart Brilliant! Should be mandatory viewing in public schools. 5 stars
10/17/00 Jack Laller Save your money for something worthwhile 1 stars
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  20-Oct-2000 (R)



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