Saturday, August 18, 2018

BlacKkKlansman 2018

I’ve never been a big fan of Spike Lee’s films and I have to say that I have mixed feelings about his latest joint which I saw the other day. Its getting good reviews and it seems to be a mild box office success gearing itself up to maybe finally win Lee that Oscar that has alluded him for all these years.
Based on the memoirs of Ron Stallworth who was the first African American to join the Colorado Springs police force in the mid 70’s and is played well by John David Washington, and yes he’s Denzel’s son. No sooner than he’s gotten his new position that he hatches an outrageous plan to infiltrate the local KKK chapter with the help of his fellow officer played by Adam Driver.
Much is made of the fact that Driver is a Jew, (made up for the movie) so we have a perfect duo of maligned minorities geared up to take on the evil forces of the Klan. Driver will play Stallworth in action with the klan while the black Stallworth will be behind the curtain and on the phone pulling the strings and punking the members of the klan including the leader of the pack David Duke who falls for the ploy hook line and stinker.
The film is full of stereotypes on both sides of the fence, there are the good cops and bad cops and the small chapter of the klan bake are made up of simpleton’s and morons. This is not surprising and all of this plays into our notion of this noxious vile group. Especially nasty is the character of the overweight dumb wife of one of the leaders of the group, an easy target for us to hate and revile.
Lee plays with our emotions and much of the film is very upsetting to watch. He has Stallworth forming a love interest (made up) with Patrice Dumas the president of the local black power student group, and this allows for lots of afro hair styles and more simplistic and obvious scenes of group meetings, police harassment and a good dance number at a black nightclub.
There is also a lovely montage of good looking students (black is beautiful is underlined in this scene) listening to Stokeley Carmichael now known as Kwame Ture giving a fiery speech to them. Lee who knows his movie history opens the film with a clip of the brilliant overhead shot of Vivien Leigh as Scarlet O’ Hara wandering among the dead and wounded confederates in the railroad depot as the camera sways to a tattered confederate flag, and then clips from “Birth Of A Nation” which repeats itself later on in the movie at a showing of the film in which members of the klan eat popcorn and holler and hoot it up as the blacks (white actors in blackface) are tormented by the early klan on horseback.
The “Gone With The Wind” shot is later recalled later in the film as Stallworth secretly visits a klan shooting range where he comes upon a target which we see is a metal cutout full of bullet holes of a black man in silhouette running away, a mockery of a Kara Walker work perhaps and as the camera pulls away we see many of these targets as the music swells and we are left with a feeling of repulsion and sadness. Lee himself over the years has been accused of being both anti-Semitic and homophobic in some of his films including “School Daze” and “Mo Better Blues” but I would have to withhold any judgments until I see these films again.
In the meantime we have his KKK movie and there is no doubt about where he stands, ending the film with actual footage from the Charlottesville disaster, (even more frightening on the large screen) and the traitorous corrupt criminal fake president spewing out his stupidity on the event, which is frightening on any size screen.
The movie and Lee are being praised by most of the white critical club, but various black voices are angry and upset over the film including the controversial gay black film critic Armond White who gave a scathing review of the film in the conservative National Review and the African American filmmaker Boots Riley who wrote a 4pg attack on the truth and non-truth of the film and of Ron Stallworth himself which is getting a lot of attention on the internet. Both of these pieces should be read. Lee can be easy and obvious as in the terrible forced scene where the one bad cop (or so it seems) is taken down in an unbelievable way, that brought cheers from the audience. Lee doesn’t know when to stop. Still the film should be seen.


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