Saturday, June 07, 2008

Clint Slaps Down Spike - Courtney Hazlett Channels Her Inner Bigot

The Blogosphere is rife with commentary on the ongoing media tiff between actor/director Clint Eastwood and director Spike Lee.

Lee has made headlines before for his outspoken and at times left-field criticism of various entertainment figures on issues related to his perception of African-Americans in film and television and Hollywood's treatment of blacks in the industry.

Spike is promoting his new film about a WWII African-American Army unit in Italy, during the interview at the Cannes film festival he openly criticized Clint for not casting any black actors in either of his twin WWII films saga, 'Flags of Our Fathers' and 'Letters From Iwo Jima'.

Despite the fact the both films deal with very specific stories during WWII involving episodes that historically did not involve African-American soldiers, Spike suggested that the media had somehow ignored supposedly racist casting decisions by Clint.

In response to Spike's comments Clint suggested Spike should "shut his face" in an interview with The Guardian's Jeff Dawson.

In response to THAT, MSNBC talking head Courtney Hazlett demonstrated monumental ignorance and insensitivity by suggesting that Lee had been "uppity" in his comments to Eastwood.

How this lightweight pseudo-journalist could not be aware of the racial context of the term uppity (once frequently used by southerners to describe and denigrate African-Americans they felt were acting beyond their station) is mind boggling. As was the MSNBC producer who showed a clip of Clint from one his movies menacing an African-American character with a shotgun as Courtney unloaded here ditzy 2nd rate analysis.

She ignited a media firestorm and quickly issued an apology in an effort to cover her stupidity.

In interview Spike fired back at Clint "First of all, the man is not my father and we're not on a plantation either," That's vintage Spike; use outspoken, vague and baseless accusations based on his own perceptions to simultaneously bring issues or race and film into the mainstream media discussion and promote his film.

I admire Spike as a director and filmmaker and he's altered the landscape of contemporary cinema, but it's totally inappropriate for him to make accusations about Clint being biased in his casting decisions. Clint's films have featured a range of intelligently portrayed characters of various races including African-Americans over the years - Clint was the filmmaker who made and directed 'Bird' a 1988 film about the life of black jazz legend Charlie Parker.

Just keep it in context and remember Spike has some odd ways of promoting himself and his films - this is the guy who called Eddie Murphy and Bill Cosby "Sellouts".

Frankly Spike had some balls calling out Eddie, (the highest grossing film star in history his movies have grossed over $3.4 billion...) for not giving more opportunities for actors of color despite the fact that Murphy gave roles to a number of up and coming black performers in his movies -Halle Berry in 'Boomerang'; Damon Wayans in 'Beverly Hills Cop'; Martin Lawrence in 'Boomerang'; Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Samuel Jackson in 'Coming to America' as well Chris Rock in 'Beverly Hills Cop II'

So Spike often talks with flare and good intent, but much less actual fact. I wrote a letter to Clint to show my support for him and his record as a filmmaker and to assure him that Spike's left-field accusations are just that, accusations.

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