SFIFF 50: “Look at Mr. Lee” (ii)

It had been a minute since I'd been on any parts of Muni, let alone something as nice as the F Market. I leaned back in my back-row seat and lolled like a pasha, taking pictures of passing bicyclists, the Orpheum Theatre all Conan'd up, intersections teeming with people and cars and litter and neon not yet ready for nighttime. Taking those pictures was a pleasant reminder of riding down International Boulevard in Oakland to the San Leandro line and back last year. I need to take my road bike to Missing Link and get wider tires, or maybe even think about going mountain instead.

I got off the trolley at about 6:35 p.m. and walked over to a long line of folks waiting to get into the Castro. The line stretched around the corner to Nice Cuts. The whole time I kept saying to myself "I've had my fun if I don't get inside, I've had my fun if they don't recognize my credentials, I've had my fun if I can't find a seat." And then I was in and getting my large popcorn, soda, frozen Junior Mints and planting my happy behind about midway up the left side, two seats in from the left-center aisle.

After half an hour or so, the festival present came out and talked up the evening and showed off a clip show of most of Spike Lee's movies. Then out came Wesley Morris, probably the only reason I used to check out the old San Francisco Examiner. Spike followed a few moments later. It was not an even match. Spike was prickly, speaking slowly and deliberately, not trying to be light or witty, but clearly feeling his way through his feelings.

Wesley, I thought, wanted to draw Spike out, to have him Explain things. What made his reviews and occasional essays such fun was probably not just his voice, but time. Live and on stage is no place to try to draw someone out who won't be Drawn. I don't make a point of watching late-night talk shows these days, but I don't think Spike does the rounds on them. Nor, I suspect, does he play nice when he does. I think a little nice would've gotten everybody through the hour and change a little better than we got, which only lightened up toward the end.

Still, cranky as he came off in that setting, unwilling as he was to give Wesley more than an inch, he took his audience very seriously. He accepted thanks graciously and considered questions about almost all issues with equanimity, with the exception of a woman who asked about a bill wending its way through Congress.

And then parts two and three of "When the Levees Broke" played on the screen. I know there's a good reason that horror movies have made a comeback in recent years, but this was something else. What happened in — to — New Orleans and the Gulf Coast — was an abomination. The other word that came to mind about midway through the third part was "affront." Add it to the list of solid Bush-administration indictments: "Fahrenheit 911," "Control Room" and so on.

One thought on “SFIFF 50: “Look at Mr. Lee” (ii)

  1. dang! this posting is making me so homesick for the bay. . .i used to ride the bus all the way from berkeley to east oakland. . .good times. . .and yes spike. . .i don’t know if he just doesn’t give a shit or he’s an asshole. . .probably just doesn’t give a shit. . .

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