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  1. #1

    In Spike Lee's furious new film, Marvin Gaye's 'What's Going On' is still fighting

    From LA Times:


    In “What’s Happening Brother,” a shimmering cut from his classic 1971 album “What’s Going On,” Marvin Gaye sings from the perspective of an American soldier who’s just returned home from Vietnam. The guy wants to know if folks are “still getting down where we used to go and dance”; he wonders whether his favorite ball team has a chance at winning the pennant.

    But he’s also struck by the hurt and the desperation he’s encountering on streets he’d imagined would feel more welcoming. “Can’t find no work, can’t find no job,” he laments before laying out his bewilderment in unsparing terms made only more plaintive by how tenderly Gaye delivers them: “I just don’t understand what’s going on across this land.”

    That swirl of emotions comes through with undimmed force in a remarkable scene — one built around another type of return — in Spike Lee’s new movie, “Da 5 Bloods,” in which several Black veterans sing “What’s Happening Brother” as they hike into a Vietnamese jungle on a modern-day mission to retrieve the remains of a fallen comrade. By this point in the story, we’ve already gotten to know the men, but in hearing them sing Gaye’s words, we come to understand how deeply they were bonded by the shared experience Lee’s film seeks to illuminate.

    Read More Here:
    https://www.msn.com/en-us/music/news...er/ar-BB15l4PI

  2. #2

    Marvin was the one good thing in the movie

    I just finish watching Spikes movie, I was stunned at how poorly written, acted and directed it was, I am shocked this came from the same guy who did Do the Right Thing, The Klansman, Inside Man, 25th Hour and Malcolm X. At least Marvin was showcased. I guess you can't win them all.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by tmd View Post
    I just finish watching Spikes movie, I was stunned at how poorly written, acted and directed it was, I am shocked this came from the same guy who did Do the Right Thing, The Klansman, Inside Man, 25th Hour and Malcolm X. At least Marvin was showcased. I guess you can't win them all.
    That’s funny—-I found it to be one of Spike’s career best. And Delroy Lindo, IMHO, gives a career-defining, Oscar-worthy performance. I’d love to hear more of your specific criticisms; this is the spice of life!

    Oh, and did anyone pick up on the fact that the five leads are named after the Classic 5 Temptations?
    Last edited by sansradio; 06-17-2020 at 01:27 PM.

  4. #4

    Cardboard

    I am a big fan of Spike, but from the get go, just was shocked, I thought maybe it was because I was watching it on Netflex vs. at the movies, so I went to Rotten Tomatoes to see what type of reviews it was getting, I was amazed that the critics were wowed by this, but than I looked at the reviews from reviewers like you and me and the score was 60%, take a look at these reviews and that pretty much sums up what I saw, the only real character was Storman - Norman- I believed him completely all the others were so cardboard it was painful to watch. Seemed very amateurish.
    Current time 50 years later the guys looked their age, but when the one guy went to visit his girl from the war she looked like she might have been maybe 45- 50 years old and her daughter looked like she was in her 30's. Also when they did flashback why did they have these guys looking like they do now. Reno was really bad along with all these french actors.

  5. #5
    And yes I did pick up on the Temps as soon as the french girl mentioned Motown, that was a nice shout out.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by tmd View Post
    I am a big fan of Spike, but from the get go, just was shocked, I thought maybe it was because I was watching it on Netflex vs. at the movies, so I went to Rotten Tomatoes to see what type of reviews it was getting, I was amazed that the critics were wowed by this, but than I looked at the reviews from reviewers like you and me and the score was 60%, take a look at these reviews and that pretty much sums up what I saw, the only real character was Storman - Norman- I believed him completely all the others were so cardboard it was painful to watch. Seemed very amateurish.
    Current time 50 years later the guys looked their age, but when the one guy went to visit his girl from the war she looked like she might have been maybe 45- 50 years old and her daughter looked like she was in her 30's. Also when they did flashback why did they have these guys looking like they do now. Reno was really bad along with all these french actors.
    My theory on the actors looking their present-day ages in flashback was that it was a conscious choice on Spike's part to convey a sense that they had never really left 'Nam psychologically; I think it was a device to show them looking back with maturity on all that had befallen them there (since he did de-age them all in that one still image near the end, it was definitely a directorial decision and not an oversight or budgetary constraint, IMHO). Your point about the cardboard quality of Da Bloods [other than Norman] --- I see why you'd say that, although my takeaway was totally different. For me, it was Norman who seemed a one-dimensional, idealized noble Black revolutionary stock character (and who else are you gonna cast but Black Panther himself? ), while the others were living, breathing, flawed humans that rang true. Reno's character was definitely a Central-Casting colonial baddie trope; I wonder if another actor could have breathed more life into the role.
    Otherwise, I was riveted throughout it. I especially enjoyed Spike's knowing nods to Apocalypse Now and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre; he's always delivered homage to his influences with style and good humor. The cinematography was stunning. And I definitely see an Oscar coming Lindo's way; the man figuratively gave a pint of blood in every scene.
    Thanks for your response! I relish these kinds of discussions!
    Last edited by sansradio; 06-17-2020 at 07:34 PM.

  7. #7

    Glad you enjoyed it

    Well I really wish I saw the same film you saw, just did not do it for me. To each his own. I was a big fan of Cooley High and the great Motown soundtrack that they had throughout ,and that film struggled, it was a black American Graffiti which was amazing and I think it suffered in comparison.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by tmd View Post
    Well I really wish I saw the same film you saw, just did not do it for me. To each his own. I was a big fan of Cooley High and the great Motown soundtrack that they had throughout ,and that film struggled, it was a black American Graffiti which was amazing and I think it suffered in comparison.
    No debating that Cooley High is an incredible ride. It's one of the great films in the African-American canon.

    But damn, Delroy didn't even move you? LOL!

  9. #9

    Too Much Praise

    Very often Marvin Gaye gets more credit than he merits. I'm not in the 'Marvin was an all-round genius' camp. I like some of his output, but drugs and laziness played too big a part in his life for me to idolize him. For example, he is lauded for his 'masterpiece', the Trouble Man soundtrack. But what did those tracks sound like before the arrangers did their work? And he didn't originate 'What's Going On'. Renaldo Benson and Al Cleveland brought it to him. And while the LA Times writer heaps praise onto Marvin Gaye for 'What's Happening Brother', what about the guy who wrote the words, James Nyx? I suspect that Marvin Gaye contributed very little to the lyrics of 'What's Happening Brother', as they come across as being much more in the distinctive style of the very observant Mr. Nyx. Ditto for 'Inner City Blues'.

    For once, let's hear it for the unsung elevator wordsmith. James Nyx!
    Last edited by TomBairdFan; 06-18-2020 at 12:07 PM.

  10. #10

    Good points

    I also am a big fan of Save the Children another Obie song, that to me should be the song that is playing now, even more so than Whats Going On- that is a song with so much love for the future of all our children- we need hope and not despair, save the babies .
    I recently changed my mind on the greatness of Marvin, not necessarily on his solo career, but the musical impact that he has had with all of his duos, at least 10 great songs, that is what gives him that little extra that makes him perhaps the most important voice with Motown.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by sansradio View Post
    Oh, and did anyone pick up on the fact that the five leads are named after the Classic 5 Temptations?
    Yes; I picked up on that as well as the fact that they had a character named Norman (in honor of Norman Whitfield who co-wrote & produced The Temptations recordings during the late '60s & early '70s).

  12. #12
    FWIW, those of us who worked with Marvin never saw him personally using drugs. He liked to have a party around him and at times, some of his visitors would be doing drugs.

    Thank you for mentioning Mr. Nyx. He was the night receptionist and switchboard operator at Hitsville. We all adored him.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Motown Eddie View Post
    Yes; I picked up on that as well as the fact that they had a character named Norman (in honor of Norman Whitfield who co-wrote & produced The Temptations recordings during the late '60s & early '70s).
    Good snag! That totally escaped me.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by sansradio View Post
    Good snag! That totally escaped me.
    And here's the proof that Spike Lee paid tribute to The Tempts in his latest movie.
    https://www.udiscovermusic.com/news/...e-da-5-bloods/

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by bob_olhsson View Post
    FWIW, those of us who worked with Marvin never saw him personally using drugs. He liked to have a party around him and at times, some of his visitors would be doing drugs.

    Thank you for mentioning Mr. Nyx. He was the night receptionist and switchboard operator at Hitsville. We all adored him.
    Thank you Bob for your great input. Thanks!

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by TomBairdFan View Post
    Very often Marvin Gaye gets more credit than he merits. I'm not in the 'Marvin was an all-round genius' camp. I like some of his output, but drugs and laziness played too big a part in his life for me to idolize him. For example, he is lauded for his 'masterpiece', the Trouble Man soundtrack. But what did those tracks sound like before the arrangers did their work? And he didn't originate 'What's Going On'. Renaldo Benson and Al Cleveland brought it to him. And while the LA Times writer heaps praise onto Marvin Gaye for 'What's Happening Brother', what about the guy who wrote the words, James Nyx? I suspect that Marvin Gaye contributed very little to the lyrics of 'What's Happening Brother', as they come across as being much more in the distinctive style of the very observant Mr. Nyx. Ditto for 'Inner City Blues'.

    For once, let's hear it for the unsung elevator wordsmith. James Nyx!
    I always appreciate a different perspective when it is based on facts. Thank you TomBairdFan.

  17. #17
    "Marvin had a good tune, sort of blues-like, but didn't have any words for it. We started putting some stuff in there about how rough things were around town. We laughed about putting lyrics in about high taxes, 'cause both of us owed a lot. And we talked about how the government would send guys to the moon, but not help folks in the ghetto. But we still didn't have a name, or really a good idea of the song. Then, I was home reading the paper one morning, and saw a headline that said something about the 'inner city' of Detroit. And I said, 'Damn, that's it. 'Inner City Blues.' " - James Nyx Jr.

  18. #18
    To be fair, Marvin always gave credit and saw himself more as a collaborator than a genius. I contended a while back that he hired some good writers to help him. Marvin's genius was as a composer and vocalist though he could write lyrics as well when he was inspired.

  19. #19
    Marvin Gaye was not perfect and never claimed to be. He often admitted he could be lazy at times and needed to be pushed to keep working on his material. He too was the cat
    that liked to give credit where it was due and who got Motown to list supporting musicians
    on album releases. All of the flaws of his that have been mentioned here he openly addressed in several of his songs. Nobody else dared do that. Despite assists and lyrical
    contributions from James Nyx Jr, and the others, Marvin, bringing his talents as a pianist
    who also had been a drummer along with the passion of his distinct voices created complete packages that nobody else could have pulled off alone. I don't wear blinders
    when it comes to MPG and I know his weaknesses ultimately led to his downfall but I'll
    always celebrate the music and life of Marvin Gaye. To paraphrase Amiri Baraka (formerly
    LeRoi Jones) I'll take the sweet meat and live the bullshit parts behind....

  20. #20
    Amen, splanky. I didn't wanna address people saying he was overrated or that his legend was bigger than his actual talent because I don't want drama but to say that James Nyx was not recognized for his input on Inner City Blues is like saying that a child makes it through school without a teacher. Motown didn't know what to do with James. Marvin did. He was the ONLY one who sought him out. He was the one who decided only a chunk of the actual Funk Brothers attribute to the album while he brought in jazz musicians like Chet Forest and Wild Bill Moore, who Berry thought was old and amounted to nothing after the '50s and Marvin brought him back one more time and let him shine. People can say all they want about Marvin but they were right when they called him a genius for a good reason.

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