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Cameron H.

Musical Mondays Week 48 School Daze

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This movie was significantly less musical than I remember it being from the first time I watched this. And it's kind of hurt by spending so much time on the musical numbers instead of building up relationships or a narrative. For a movie that has a lot to say about colorism, it spends a lot of time kind of just spinning its wheels.

I listened to the commentary on this and the are a couple things that were interesting.

1. Spike Lee didn't have much to say. There were several long stretches where he didn't say anything at all which is kind of telling.

2. Spike Lee's brother died during hazing at a fraternity. So, that explains, in part, why the fraternity is functionally evil.

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I agree with you, Grud, in that I felt like the Musical numbers were out of place. It kind of took me out of the story rather than enhance it.

Not to steal from Ghost’s Letterboxd review, but I felt like the movie had a lot of important stuff to say, but the narrative was kind of a mess. It was trying to do too much at once. I admire the ambition, but the pieces just don’t seem to fit quite right. Like, the “Wake Up” scene would have maybe been more effective in another movie.

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9 minutes ago, CameronH said:

I agree with you, Grud, in that I felt like the Musical numbers were out of place. It kind of took me out of the story rather than enhance it.

Not to steal from Ghost’s Letterboxd review, but I felt like the movie had a lot of important stuff to say, but the narrative was kind of a mess. It was trying to do too much at once. I admire the ambition, but the pieces just don’t seem to fit quite right. Like, the “Wake Up” scene would have maybe been more effective in another movie.

The weird thing is that I normally really like movies without much story that cover a short time period. And I do actually like this movie but when you break the narrative the have a song about hair, I think it takes away from that even if discussing colorism is vitally important. I guess I'd personally get more out of it as conversation instead of a song/dance even if the sequence is well done.

I think the Wake Up scene works but maybe not as much as it could. But I think it's a message not directed at me since i'm not a black college student.

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1 minute ago, grudlian. said:

The weird thing is that I normally really like movies without much story that cover a short time period. And I do actually like this movie but when you break the narrative the have a song about hair, I think it takes away from that even if discussing colorism is vitally important. I guess I'd personally get more out of it as conversation instead of a song/dance even if the sequence is well done.

I think the Wake Up scene works but maybe not as much as it could. But I think it's a message not directed at me since i'm not a black college student.

I agree. It's kind of like the whole sub-plot regarding fraternities. I can't stand them, I never could. So I am already biased against movies about them. So I really had to look beyond that to understand what School Daze was saying about what fraternities as they might mean to people of color in the mid-Eighties. That, yes, there was the same toxicity  about them that has always existed, but they also provided a place where people felt like they could belong.

I liked the "Wake up" scene because it was saying all these things just provide a false sense of belonging (i.e. fraternities, sororities, colorism, etc) and they only serve to further weaken and divide.  

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53 minutes ago, CameronH said:

Not to steal from Ghost’s Letterboxd review, but I felt like the movie had a lot of important stuff to say, but the narrative was kind of a mess.

Yea, I just found the whole thing clumsy. Which is so weird, because Spike's first movie is great ("She's Gotta Have It") and his third is legendary ("Do The Right Thing"), and "School Daze" was made right between them somehow.  I feel like there's gotta be a greater story about how this happened. 

Anyway if you look closely at the musical productions, they were so lo-fi, the choreography wasn't sharp, it all felt amateur.  I did like a couple of the songs though.

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15 minutes ago, grudlian. said:

The weird thing is that I normally really like movies without much story that cover a short time period. And I do actually like this movie but when you break the narrative the have a song about hair, I think it takes away from that even if discussing colorism is vitally important. I guess I'd personally get more out of it as conversation instead of a song/dance even if the sequence is well done.

I think the Wake Up scene works but maybe not as much as it could. But I think it's a message not directed at me since i'm not a black college student.

I was the other way.  I liked the musical numbers and wished there were more of them.  I turned it off at the start of the football game and came back to it later.  It picked up then but still was all too slow for my liking.  I didn't get that it all took place over one weekend.  The Homecoming section, sure.  It felt like everything up to that was far earlier.  Also they never resolved the South Africa stuff and that would have given more weight to the Wake Up scene.  I mean, that was his big idea?  And now he and Julian were best buds?

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Just now, Cinco DeNio said:

 And now he and Julian were best buds?

I don't think that it's so much that they are "best buds" so much as they have a better understanding of one another. I think that that whole last scene is just meant to be metaphorical. That is, "We need to stop fighting each other and figure this shit out."

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9 minutes ago, CameronH said:

I don't think that it's so much that they are "best buds" so much as they have a better understanding of one another. I think that that whole last scene is just meant to be metaphorical. That is, "We need to stop fighting each other and figure this shit out."

That makes sense.  I figured since Dap was able to approach Julian from time to time on Half-Pint's behalf that said they weren't really the mortal enemies they are portrayed as.  I just didn't see how Dap yelling "Wake Up" brought everyone together.

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With the stepping "competition" at Homecoming, were the same dances done year after year or did they change each time?

Also, Wikipedia says the fight was unstaged and real.  Spike kept the actors apart (a la Animal House) during filming so their animosity was somewhat genuine.

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I loved that they treated Half-Pint's losing his virginity as genuine pain on Tina's part.  I really wished he had done the honorable thing and just had them pretend to be having sex.  (See The Cooler for a hilarious take on pretend sex.)  I wasn't happy for him when he came out of the room looking like he did going in and then said he'd done it.  I knew Julian was going to dump Tina that night but to then be such a dick and deny what he had said earlier just to get rid of her.  Not smart!  She's in the sister sorority.  You think she's not going to go back and tell all the Gamma Rays about what Julian did?

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37 minutes ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Yea, I just found the whole thing clumsy. Which is so weird, because Spike's first movie is great ("She's Gotta Have It") and his third is legendary ("Do The Right Thing"), and "School Daze" was made right between them somehow.  I feel like there's gotta be a greater story about how this happened. 

Anyway if you look closely at the musical productions, they were so lo-fi, the choreography wasn't sharp, it all felt amateur.  I did like a couple of the songs though.

I think one of the reasons this doesn't work as well as Do The Right Thing is these characters feel le character types. Spike wants this to be representative of a larger conversation and each character has to represent everyone in that mold. Do The Right Thing is more about being able to happen anywhere and it just happens to be these individuals it happens to.

It's been a very long time since I saw She's Gotta Have It but I definitely don't remember it as fondly as School Daze.

18 minutes ago, Cinco DeNio said:

 

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I loved that they treated Half-Pint's losing his virginity as genuine pain on Tina's part.  I really wished he had done the honorable thing and just had them pretend to be having sex.  (See The Cooler for a hilarious take on pretend sex.)  I wasn't happy for him when he came out of the room looking like he did going in and then said he'd done it.  I knew Julian was going to dump Tina that night but to then be such a dick and deny what he had said earlier just to get rid of her.  Not smart!  She's in the sister sorority.  You think she's not going to go back and tell all the Gamma Rays about what Julian did?

 

 

Well, Spike Lee said on the commentary about women refusing to acknowledge some guys until they were part of a fraternity then suddenly being into them. While I know the are women and men who simply want a partner who are particular group or status, this felt really gross for him to talk about. I had thought the movie came across as anti-fraternity but the commentary made me think "No, it's also anti-woman".

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11 minutes ago, grudlian. said:

It's been a very long time since I saw She's Gotta Have It but I definitely don't remember it as fondly as School Daze.

I saw She's Gotta Have It not too long ago and I really liked it.  It's progressive, modern, and sexy, a good look at adult relationships.    

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29 minutes ago, grudlian. said:

“No, it's also anti-woman".

Yeah, it seems to be trying to make a point about how horribly this or that group treats women, and I’m just like, “Well, it’s not like our ‘good guys’ are paragons of enlightenment.” 

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1 hour ago, Cinco DeNio said:

I was the other way.  I liked the musical numbers and wished there were more of them.  I turned it off at the start of the football game and came back to it later.  It picked up then but still was all too slow for my liking.  I didn't get that it all took place over one weekend.  The Homecoming section, sure.  It felt like everything up to that was far earlier.  Also they never resolved the South Africa stuff and that would have given more weight to the Wake Up scene.  I mean, that was his big idea?  And now he and Julian were best buds?

I liked the song in the beauty shop about hair. I thought it was a re-interpretation of Grease's "Beauty School Dropout." I also chuckled at the Ice Ice Baby bit. As a whole, I agree that the movie was jumbled. I wish they had gotten more into the alumni donations and divestment arguments. I found that more interesting than the frat pledging, but that may be because I have always been anti-Greek. I expected the divestment argument to come to the fore, but as Cinco says, it never got resolved. That was disappointing.

Also, as June might say, the scene with Julian asking Jane to "prove" she loved him, and everything that followed after that, was upsetting. I would say Spike Lee's movies at this time have a tendency toward being anti-woman and this was definitely part of it. That was such a horribly disgusting way for Julian to treat Jane, and for Half-Pint. Just bad, bad, awful, horrible, bad. 

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2 hours ago, grudlian. said:

 

2. Spike Lee's brother died during hazing at a fraternity. So, that explains, in part, why the fraternity is functionally evil.

This is interesting especially seeing Lee, himself, playing the part of a pledge. 

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4 minutes ago, CameronH said:

Yeah, it seems to be trying to make a point about how horribly this or that group treats women, and I’m just like, “Well, it’s not like our ‘good guys’ are paragons of enlightenment.” 

Yeah. I think Lee tries to make Dap seem more enlightened but he still has faults. I'd be fine with that since I think everyone is a character type rather than a character but I feel like this is just a failing of Lee himself on his treatment of women in film. If I thought his point was about society being misogynist, I'd accept that but I don't think they was the intention. I think he just treated the women as objects to advance the men's stories in this.

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2 minutes ago, WatchOutForSnakes said:

This is interesting especially seeing Lee, himself, playing the part of a pledge. 

Oh yeah. He said it pretty much up top in the commentary and it really made me reevaluate that section of the story and the character.

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30 minutes ago, grudlian. said:

 I think he just treated the women as objects to advance the men's stories in this.

Isn't that the whole purpose of including women in film? 😉

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2 hours ago, grudlian. said:

The weird thing is that I normally really like movies without much story that cover a short time period. And I do actually like this movie but when you break the narrative the have a song about hair, I think it takes away from that even if discussing colorism is vitally important. I guess I'd personally get more out of it as conversation instead of a song/dance even if the sequence is well done.

I think the Wake Up scene works but maybe not as much as it could. But I think it's a message not directed at me since i'm not a black college student.

Yes, I’m stepping out of my lane, but hair can be a HUGE identity/cultural issue for black women. In the salon scene, you saw the natural hair vs straightened hair fighting out like the Jets and the Sharks and personally I thought it was a fun cheeky homage to West Side Story.  

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20 minutes ago, tomspanks said:

Yes, I’m stepping out of my lane, but hair can be a HUGE identity/cultural issue for black women. In the salon scene, you saw the natural hair vs straightened hair fighting out like the Jets and the Sharks and personally I thought it was a fun cheeky homage to West Side Story.  

For sure. The first time I saw this, I don't think I understood how big a deal or personal identifier that was even though I'd had a black woman try to educate me when I was younger on natural hair and how it's perceived by society. My main memory of this movie was there was a sequence set in a beauty shop and, on this viewing, I was like "oh, this makes a lot more sense."

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4 hours ago, tomspanks said:

Yes, I’m stepping out of my lane, but hair can be a HUGE identity/cultural issue for black women. In the salon scene, you saw the natural hair vs straightened hair fighting out like the Jets and the Sharks and personally I thought it was a fun cheeky homage to West Side Story.  

Yes, West Side Story way more than Grease. 

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8 hours ago, tomspanks said:

Yes, I’m stepping out of my lane, but hair can be a HUGE identity/cultural issue for black women. In the salon scene, you saw the natural hair vs straightened hair fighting out like the Jets and the Sharks and personally I thought it was a fun cheeky homage to West Side Story.  

I think I would have appreciated it more if more of the movie was like that, but it just comes so late in the game. I think it was like 30mins into the movie or something. By that point, I had completely given up on there being any kind of big Musical numbers and then this scene comes out of nowhere like PLoW! And then, there's really nothing like it for the rest of the movie. I just don't feel like it worked overall - especially because the whole natural vs. straightened hair dynamic had just played out in dialogue. It was like, "You know that thing we clearly just talked about for two minutes? Well, now we're going to sing about it for another four - shifting the tone and style of the movie inexplicably - and bring no new insights."

As I've said above: I appreciate what it is he's doing (or trying to do), but I just don't think it works.

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2 hours ago, CameronH said:

I think I would have appreciated it more if more of the movie was like that, but it just comes so late in the game. I think it was like 30mins into the movie or something. By that point, I had completely given up on there being any kind of big Musical numbers and then this scene comes out of nowhere like PLoW! And then, there's really nothing like it for the rest of the movie. I just don't feel like it worked overall - especially because the whole natural vs. straightened hair dynamic had just played out in dialogue. It was like, "You know that thing we clearly just talked about for two minutes? Well, now we're going to sing about it for another four - shifting the tone and style of the movie inexplicably - and bring no new insights."

As I've said above: I appreciate what it is he's doing (or trying to do), but I just don't think it works.

My problem (or saving grace) was that I have been watching this movie in ~20 minute increments for 3 days now. So when the Jets/Sharks dance fight of hair came on, it didn’t feel like I had been waiting for 30 minutes. And yes, it did delight me that this dance fight was between the 2 female groups about hair rather than the fraternity vs Dap groups about their politics, which I was expecting them to do tbh.  

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12 hours ago, CameronH said:

I think I would have appreciated it more if more of the movie was like that, but it just comes so late in the game. I think it was like 30mins into the movie or something. By that point, I had completely given up on there being any kind of big Musical numbers and then this scene comes out of nowhere like PLoW! And then, there's really nothing like it for the rest of the movie. I just don't feel like it worked overall - especially because the whole natural vs. straightened hair dynamic had just played out in dialogue. It was like, "You know that thing we clearly just talked about for two minutes? Well, now we're going to sing about it for another four - shifting the tone and style of the movie inexplicably - and bring no new insights."

As I've said above: I appreciate what it is he's doing (or trying to do), but I just don't think it works.

This is what hurts the movie most. He's trying to make three different movies: a musical, a metaphor for society encapsulated in a college, and just a weekend in the life of a college. Each of these would be great movies but not all together.

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