Spike Lee dedicates this angry, fitfully provocative mess (2000) to Budd Schulberg, apparently thinking of A Face in the Crowd
, and includes a clumsy hommage
, another hysterical picture about television. This one focuses on a black Ivy League TV writer (Damon Wayans) who produces a minstrel show called Mantan
with black performers in blackface. Unfortunately, what purports to be a satire about bad television is bad television itself, complete with cruddy sound and image and broad, out-of-control acting. One would like to think that Lee is reflecting on his own occasional duplicity with the mass audience (his insulting use of Muzak—worse than ever here—to tell viewers how to feel, or the gross simplifications of Malcolm X
). But this is basically sloppy, all-over-the-map filmmaking with few hints of self-criticism and few genuine laughs. R, 135 min.
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Darkest America parses the queasy appeal of minstrelsy