Spike Lee: That's My Story and I'm Sticking to It

Overview

The extraordinary life story—filled with fresh, firsthand accounts—of one of America's most provocative filmmakers.

This new biography tells the cinematic story of the preeminent director whose pioneering films-—from Do the Right Thing and Jungle Fever to Malcolm X—helped transform the face of late twentieth-century America. Since bursting onto the scene in 1986 with the sexually provocative She's Gotta Have It, Lee has been one of America's ...
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Overview

The extraordinary life story—filled with fresh, firsthand accounts—of one of America's most provocative filmmakers.

This new biography tells the cinematic story of the preeminent director whose pioneering films-—from Do the Right Thing and Jungle Fever to Malcolm X—helped transform the face of late twentieth-century America. Since bursting onto the scene in 1986 with the sexually provocative She's Gotta Have It, Lee has been one of America's most visionary and controversial cinematic figures. Film critic Kaleem Aftab chronicles Lee's explosive rise to stardom, exploring such important issues as Black Nationalism, Hollywood stereotyping, and the rise of a powerful black middle class. With Lee family interviews and the candid revelations of stars like Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Laurence Fishburne, Ed Norton, John Turturro, Rosie Perez, and Wesley Snipes, this book is the story of a visionary life in the cinema, telling us as much about Lee as it does about the past two decades of American social history. 40 photographs.
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Editorial Reviews

Abby McGanny Nolan
Lee has documented his trials and triumphs through numerous books already, including a sports-fan's memoir and production histories of five of his first six films. Aftab's retelling -- his remake, if you will -- is fresh, judicious and will likely spur readers to view movies they've missed in Lee's filmography (with the probable exception of "Girl 6"). At the end of this book, Lee thanks his wife for her "laser-hot honesty," but Lee and Aftab should be commended for theirs as well.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
The work of one of America's more important filmmakers is ill-served by this reverential biography. Aftab arranges the narrative around Lee's films, from breakout hit She's Gotta Have It (1986), through such cinematic touchstones as Do the Right Thing (1989) and Malcolm X (1992), ending with the flop She Hate Me (2004). The resulting string-of-boxcars structure is a little disjointed, but it keeps the focus on Lee's often controversial and politically engaged films and delivers a flow of moviemaking anecdotes that give a sense of the director's domineering, manipulative, charismatic personality. Unfortunately, this very authorized biography staggers under the weight of the many lengthy tributes to Lee's genius and his statesmanship as the standard-bearer of African-American cinema. Complaints are sometimes aired about the director and his movies (he does cop to allowing "unreconstructed male chauvinism" to mar his films), but criticisms are quickly shouted down by rebuttals from Lee and a chorus of admiring actors and colleagues. Aftab's poorly organized text often feels like a collection of barely edited interview transcripts, with Lee and his friends' rambling on for paragraphs on end. The outcome is a sluggish, defensive biography of a man who deserves a more incisive treatment. Photos. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Lee leaps from the big screen into the pages of this book with the help of Aftab, who directs the TV and film production house lafamiglia. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An objective take on the life and works of a groundbreaking, controversial filmmaker. Despite the misleading author credit, this is not an autobiography. Rather, the work is a biography by Pakistani-British filmmaker and critic Aftab, writing here with the permission of his subject, who comments at length on virtually every issue the book covers. Aftab occasionally verges on fan-magazine style ("[Lee's] wedding signaled a new Spike Lee"), but mostly he offers an even-handed portrait in which Lee comes across as talented and innovative, yet also arrogant and hyper-sensitive to criticism. Aftab's most significant thread is that Lee's creation of a production company, Forty Acres and a Mule Filmworks, opened up opportunities for black filmmakers and, in its films, presented realistic, trenchant accounts of black characters and the issues they face. Aftab's accounts of Lee at work, directing Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, She's Gotta Have It, etc., offer a wealth of details about the man's methods. Quotes from actors, photographers, writers and producers flesh out the accounts, forming a valuable record of Lee's achievements. Most importantly, Aftab doesn't shy from exploring the prickly issues Lee and his films raise: Is Lee himself racist when he insists, as he did when making Malcolm X, that "white directors can't get it right" when they depict the lives of black characters? Are the depictions of gays and lesbians in Lee's films homophobic and the images of women sexist? Are Lee's films inspired, but technically crude, as some critics suggest? Aftab quotes primary sources who come down on all sides of these issues. The clashing views leave the reader somewhat adrift-Aftab shies fromdrawing more general conclusions about Lee and his films. Solid reporting on a significant body of work. (40 photos)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393061536
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/19/2005
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.56 (w) x 9.48 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Meet the Author

Spike Lee's films have won honors worldwide. Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X, and 4 Little Girls have received Academy Award nominations. He lives in New York City. Kaleem Aftab is the director of the TV and film production house lafamiglia and writes for the Independent, BBC Collective, and V magazine. He resides in London.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2005

    Thank you is underrated

    Maybe it's just me being picky, but I was raised to believe that 'Thank You' are two very strong words and manners are important. I had a job interview on the Saturday that this book came out and I was really worried that I would not be able to meet Spike Lee and get this book autographed. Luckily, I made it to the bookstore he was at. When I got to the front of the line, I grinned said 'Hello' he saw my name prepared on a post-it said 'How do you say this?' I told him he looked at me like I was stupid I said 'Don't look at me like that' he signed the book and said 'Here you go' without even a glance. No 'Thanks for the support', no 'Thanks for buying the book', no nothing. When people support your product, manners come in handy. That rude behavior spoiled the book for me. I got through about three pages and gave up. I'm not even interested in what the book is about anymore because he was so obnoxious. A month later, I reopened the book because I figured if I went through the trouble to buy the doggone book, I might as well read it. I read the book and I realized it's not just me he's obnoxious to, but plenty of people. He got mad at Samuel L. Jackson for wanting more money after doing 4 movies in a row with him. He told Rosario Dawson not to do her other movie because she could 'do that anytime.' He put the dark-skinned people and the light-skinned people in different kinds of hotels (one set nice hotels and the other mice-infested) to show more tension onset, as if the actors weren't good enough to do it without the extra instigation. For this to be an autobiography, Lee comes off terrible. I'm surprised he allowed so many parts from other actors to be in this book. He was worried about his father being interviewed, but judging from the people he's worked with, it doesn't seem to matter. He'd ask any and everyone for money but says he hates to be asked for money. I could write a list of reasons why he's unlikeable and my top 2 would be that he thanks his daughter for inspiration in the back of this book, but left out his son and he wasn't around to see either of his kids being born because he wanted to go to the Knicks games. What?! I'm so annoyed that I went through all that rushing to buy a book from such an ungrateful man. I still appreciate him for making 'Malcolm X' and 'School Daze', but I don't respect him as a person in the least bit.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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