Friday, 3 March 2017

School Daze

Title: School Daze
Director: Spike Lee
Released: 1988
Starring: Laurence Fishburne, Giancarlo Esposito, Tisha Campbell, Kyme, Joe Seneca, Art Evans, Ellen Holly, Ossie Davis, Samuel L. Jackson

Plot: Morehouse College a leading and historically black college serves as the battleground for several cliques as their individual causes leads them frequently in to conflict with each other.

Review: Drawing from his own college days here Spike Lee follows up the success of his debut “She’s Gotta Have It” by again working with an all black cast, something which was certainly more of a key aspect to the film back when it was released while giving us a film which juggles multiple interconnecting storylines to craft a picture of campus life.

Opening to Vaughn (Fishburne) leading one of his anti-apartheid demonstrations as he continually makes himself a pain to the school administrators with his demands that they along with his fellow students divest from South Africa. At the same time he also has an ongoing rivalry with Julian (Esposito) who heads up the Gamma Phi Gamma fraternity.

The Gamma Phi Gamma are certainly a random bunch with Julian insisting on being referred to as Dean Big Brother Almighty while enforcing a dog theme on his pledges referred to as “Wannabees” as they are lead around on dog leads while on any given moment being asked to drop to all fours or engage in one of their stomp chant sessions. Amongst the Wannabees is Vaughn’s cousin Darrell aka “Half-Pint” here played by Spike Lee who continues to show off his acting skills after memorably playing Mars in “She’s Gotta Have It” and its again the oddball that we see him playing here as the most downtrodden of the wannabees.

As to be expected anytime we have someone pledging for a frat humiliation is not to be far behind and its once again the case for Half-Pint and the other pledges as they find themselves being put through ever more random tasks to earn their place in the fraternity and it strange that with this group of characters he chooses to have them played so comically over the top when everyone else is played so straight. Still they make for a fun distraction to break away from the constant fighting and drama of the other groups, even if towards the end it seems more cruel for the pledge than you have to think it would be worth going through.

While it might have been enough for Lee to focus on the clashes between these two groups, we also have the clash between the Gamma Ray’s who match the dog theme of the frat with their own cat meows which they work into their chants especially when antagonising the non-Greek co-eds mainly over their skin colour and hair which Lee here memorably works into a homage to his love of MGM Musicals by having the two groups randomly burst into the big musical number “Straight and Nappy” whose music and lyrics were composed by Lee’s father Bill Lee. True perhaps this number is not as polished as those he is trying to homage, but its sudden appearance in the film really is one of the high points here.

Lee’s general refusal to stick within the usual framework for this kind of movie really brings something new to the film as he’s clearly shooting with his own rules, hence if he wants to have a random musical moment he’ll have one, while the big football game is not shot from the stands but rather based around the reactions of the crowd as they become more frenzied the worst the team loses.

An intresting mainstream debut for Lee who certainly doesn't hold back on his experimental side as he crafts a unique tale of college life if one infused with his own personal politics this is still an enjoyable and inventive watch. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...