Wednesday, August 25, 2010
A Movie a Day, Day 100: If God is Willing and da Creek Don't Rise
Whew. When I started doing this Movie a Day thing, one of my sisters said it was like I'd given myself my ideal job, only without pay. She's right, but doing anything every day for 100 days can to be a grind sometimes, even if it's something you love. I'll tell you more about that in a minute, but first for that 100th movie.
If God Is Willing and da Creek Don't Rise, a two-part documentary that premiered yesterday and the day before on HBO, is Spike Lee's follow-up to When the Levees Broke, his excellent two-part documentary on the causes and effects of Hurricane Katrina. In If God is Willing, he goes back to New Orleans—with side trips to Houston and Mississippi—to see how the people who fled or got trapped by the flood are doing four or five years later. Spike and crew initially had a pretty upbeat movie in the can, capped off by joyful footage of the city's miraculous Super Bowl win this year. Then the BP well started gushing crude and they went back to shoot more, revamping the movie to create another jeremiad about corporate and governmental greed and duplicity crossed with a tribute to the resilience and smarts of the people of New Orleans.
Spike's determination to convey a message can gum up his movies, which are sometimes too stilted (She's Gotta Have It), too doctrinaire (Miracle at St. Anna, School Daze), or both (Bamboozled). But when he's good, he's very, very good. Documentaries seem to bring out the best in him, letting him say something important about who we are and how we live while honoring the sometimes contradictory complexity of his subjects (as he did in Do the Right Thing). In this one as in his other documentaries, he rounds up a broad range of knowledgeable and opinionated talking, singing and rapping heads, often returning to people he talked to in the first film to see how they're faring now.
Spike's subjects aren't just the usual suspects. Read the rest on The House Next Door, Slant Magazine's blog.