At a Cannes press conference for his WWII drama The Miracle at St. Anna, controversy hog Spike Lee took some swipes at Hollywood darlings Clint Eastwood and the Coen Brothers. Talking about the way he treated death in his first war film, Lee said: "I always treat life and death with respect, but most people don't... Look, I love the Coen brothers; we all studied at NYU. But they treat life like a joke. Ha ha ha. A joke. It's like, 'Look how they killed that guy! Look how blood squirts out the side of his head!' I see things different than that." And he targeted Eastwood for failing to put any black soldiers on screen in Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima: "If you reporters had any balls you'd ask him why. There's no way I know why he did that -- that was his vision, not mine. But I know it was pointed out to him and that he could have changed it. It's not like he didn't know."

I can't really speak intelligently about the racial make-up of WWII militaries, so I'll leave the Eastwood comment alone (except to point out that, uh, Letters from Iwo Jima was told from the point of view of the Japanese, and I'm pretty sure that they, at least, didn't have a lot of black soldiers). As for the Coens: I don't see how anyone who's seen The Man Who Wasn't There could honestly say that the Brothers treat life (or death) as a joke. They're masters of tone, and they can be cavalier when called for (e.g. the Fargo woodchipper, most of Barton Fink), but they can get serious with the best of them. The sheer unrelenting intensity of No Country for Old Men -- which, I presume, is the film Lee was primarily referring to -- refutes the claim that anything in that movie is "a joke." The Coens approach life and death in ways that are interesting. Lee's comment shows a surprising inability (or unwillingness) to register nuance.