It's been almost 20 years since Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing was snubbed at the 1989 Oscars, losing its Best Screenplay nomination to Dead Poets Society, and not even being nominated for Best Picture in a year when Driving Miss Daisy took home the gold. I mention this not because Do the Right Thing is, obviously, a couple billion times better than either Dead Poets Society or Driving Miss Daisy, but because throughout Miracle at St. Anna, I couldn't stop thinking that if Lee had gotten a statuette in '89, maybe we'd have been spared this truly shameless bit of Oscar bait.
Admittedly, it's been a long time since the controversies and thrills of Do the Right Thing and Jungle Fever, but at least in 2006, Lee kicked some ass with the thriller Inside Man, a pretty killer piece of genre filmmaking. St. Anna is a genre flick too—but now the genre is "tear-jerking war epic," and Lee's execution is terrible. St. Anna's disjointed, cloying plot follows a group of African American WW II soldiers; throughout the film's bloated runtime, they come across a loveable orphan (awww!), a priceless relic (oooh!), and some loveable Italian villagers (awww!). There are also barking Nazis, a cheesy orchestral score, clumsy racial polemics, leftover severed limbs from Saving Private Ryan, plot developments that a magical realist would call "Bullshit!" on, and end credits that play over a choral version of "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."