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Ernest Dickerson (#110 of 4)

Summer of ’91 Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever

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Summer of ’91: Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever

Universal Pictures

Summer of ’91: Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever

The interracial love story that anchors Jungle Fever is the least interesting element of Spike Lee’s 1991 joint. It’s the dull circle from which more compelling plot tangents offshoot. While the director is game for a surface-level exploration of the trials and tribulations of forbidden love, his once-controversial subject matter is merely a selling point designed to get asses into theater seats. Once Lee hooks his audience with the promise of sin, he pivots his social commentary to a tragic secondary character, just as Douglas Sirk did in Imitation of Life. This is appropriate, because Jungle Fever is the equivalent of a 1950s message picture. Expertly wielding his influences, Lee throws a dash of Delbert Mann and a soupcon of Stanley Kramer into the proceedings. Though the outcome is at times woefully dated, it’s also the origin of several ideas Lee would return to in subsequent films.

The Walking Dead Recap Season 4, Episode 13, "Alone"

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The Walking Dead Recap: Season 4, Episode 13, “Alone”

AMC

The Walking Dead Recap: Season 4, Episode 13, “Alone”

The Walking Dead is often at its most compelling whenever it stresses the relative silence that’s taken over the world now that the buzz of modern society has been silenced following the zombie apocalypse. One such moment, fleeting but powerful in its implications, dignifies “Alone”: In the midst of an otherwise quiet night, the retching sounds of a nearby walker keep Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) awake at their campsite in the woods. Echoing through the trees, the noise is as constant as the humming of crickets.

The Walking Dead Recap Season 3, Episode 1, "Seed"

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The Walking Dead Recap: Season 3, Episode 1, “Seed”

AMC

The Walking Dead Recap: Season 3, Episode 1, “Seed”

The Walking Dead’s season-three premiere suggests that the program’s showrunner, Glen Mazzara, and writing team have listened to everyone’s gripes about season two’s frequent and labored pontificating. Bearing almost none of the heated bickering and discussions of morality that personified the previous season, “Seed” is about persistence and strategy. It picks up several months after Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the group’s escape from Hershel’s (Scott Wilson) farm, which was overrun with walkers. Despite any unrest among them, the group exhibits a renewed sense of unity as it trudges on in an increasingly dangerous world. In the pre-credit sequence, Rick, his wife, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), Hershel, Daryl (Norman Reedus), and the rest of the gang raid a home in the middle of the woods and share a brief meal consisting of canned food. If for no other reason, the sequence is striking for its silence. Without a word of dialogue, the opening ostensibly sets the series forth in a new direction, thematically and otherwise.

5 for the Day: Summer

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5 for the Day: Summer
5 for the Day: Summer

Summer’s here, and the time is right for a summary of all things cinematically summery. The living is easy, and our 5 for the day talks movies with central events occurring during the hottest, most nostalgic season of the year. So go out and find a beautiful someone, dance all night (come on, come on) and when you’re done, chime in with your own choices.

1. Meatballs (1979). Summer camp is a rite of passage for some of us, even if mine was just a day camp where I won a prize singing a song about reefer. Ivan Reitman’s Genie-winning (that’s the Canadian Oscar) comedy presented unspoiled pangs of nostalgia mere months before Mrs. Voorhees hacked her way through Camp Crystal Lake. Before his quotable comic brilliance got Lost in Translation, Bill Murray could be counted on to bring a caustic wit and a merry prankster’s glee whenever he appeared onscreen. Though Caddyshack and Ghostbusters linger in more memories, Murray’s debut as Tripper Harrison carries more weight with me because his shtick had the luxury of being fresh. Who knew back then that practically every line Murray spouts from the camp loudspeaker (shades of Altman’s M*A*S*H) would be quotable?

Murray’s performance seemed bused in from another movie, but it keeps Meatballs from becoming too saccharine. His friendship with camper Chris Makepeace is sweet without being gooey, and I can’t help think of this movie whenever someone says “It just doesn’t matter.” In addition to giving Val Kilmer a model to craft his brilliant turn in Real Genius, Meatballs also gave Dr. Pepper jingle singer (and American Werewolf in London star) David Naughton a hideous hit disco song called “Makin’ It.” (Naughton’s “I’m a Pepper” jingle, coincidentally, was the musical basis for my aforementioned award-winning Mary Jane song. “I smoke marijuana dontcha know,” sang 12-year old me, who had no idea what he was singing about. “Wouldn’t you like to be a pothead too?” Snoop Dogg owes me his career.)