Thursday, January 10, 2019

Catching-Up Watch: BlackkKlansman (2018)

Watched:  01/08/2018
Format:  Airplane screen
Viewing  First
Decade:  2010's

I'm actually glad this movie wasn't released in December to get lost amid the rest of the Oscar contenders.

That early release got BlackkKlansman (2018) some extra press, and it's not like people have forgotten the movie in the intervening months.  But no matter when this movie came out, I just don't think the older, whiter Academy is going to vote for this over something that isn't going to leave them a bit shaken when the credits roll - despite the fact it is a period movie with a hot young actor of the moment in Adam Driver (maybe if they allowed Hollywood to save the day as part of the police sting?), which seems like catnip for the Academy.

BlackkKlansman is a deeply fictionalized account of some real-life events that took place in Colorado in 1979 - here moved to 1972.   A Black police officer went "undercover" in Colorado Springs - basically talking to the KKK on the phone - which allowed his fellow white officer to swap placed with him for face-to-face meetings.  Meanwhile, the Black officer managed to even start a phone relationship with David Duke.

There's been plenty already said about this movie - and I can't add much to what you already know or could read elsewhere.  There are scenes in the film that remind you of the strength of Lee as a visual storyteller - someone who can write a script and bring it when it comes to narrative via images, bring you into the mind of even extras in a film through lighting and angles.

One thing I appreciated deeply about the movie is that racism is so often treated as a particularly hurtful line or hurtful act, usually delivered by someone from central casting who just looks like a terrible person - and there's more than a fair share of that in the movie (it is about the Klan, after all).  But it also has bits here and there, small bits of dialog expressing ideas and thoughts that seem near-benign or dismissable, but sound all too familiar and in the context of a Klansman, reverberate in context and are a reminder of how ingrained this stuff is in polite society.

The movie has enough edges knocked off it that its friendly to Academy voters - and maybe is a reflection of a Lee with 30 years of being Spike Lee.  In the same year as Boots Riley's Sorry to Bother You, Lee may have taken on the voice of the old guard, if not (and I dismiss this even as I say it) the establishment.  But just because the movie isn't taking swings at everyone in all directions doesn't mean it doesn't have something to say back to an audience.  Especially with the epilogue that left me positively...  well, anyway, watch to the end.

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