UnderkKkover Brother (BlacKkKlansman, 2018)

blackkklansman_posterAccording to Jordan Peele, it took a bit of work to convince Spike Lee to take on the role of director for this film. Well, not to much… He sent Lee a copy of the memoir of Ron Stallworth, the Black Klansman.

It really is one of those stories that seems so insanely weird it almost cannot be true.  But Ron Stallworth is a real guy, the first black police officer in the Colorado Springs Police department. And in the 70’s, itching to advance his career and take down bad guys, he struck up a relationship with the local chapter of the KKK., eventually, this crawled up the ladder to include ongoing conversations with David Duke over the phone.

Of course, there was the little snag that Stallworth is a black man…and that might have stood out a little.  And so the dDepartment decides there is a worthwhile investigation here. So, a white officer, Flip Zimmerman, is recruited to play White Ron.

Lee sees how absurd and humorous this appears on the surface.  And he plays that up a lot. But Lee also saw something deeper at play…a notion that today, we are seeing some of the same evils bubbling to the surface in the present. And the film is not subtle about it.

John David Washington is terrific.  He is both real and performers.  What I mean is that his performance can be very personable and real, yet turn on a faithless charm when Ron is playing the Klan for fools. Adam Driver is more muted…there is no real over the top behavior called for here. Washington and Driver have a good chemistry as men who begin as simple co-workers, but develop a strong bond due to needing to…in a manner…share a life.

The supporting cast is excellent.  From Laura Harrier to Topher Grace, we get a certain tongue in cheek, but not mere cartoon characters.

Lee uses some real visual flair in the film, adding a bit of a larger than life feel in some scenes.  But never at the expense of storytelling.

The film certainly takes some liberties (for example, David Duke did not find out that Ron Stallworth was black until around 2013) and yet, it did not detract from the story overall. Flipp is not a Jewish man in real life, but it added a certain effective story point within the film and gave a bigger story arc for Zimmerman.

Admittedly, the film does seem play it safe.  There is only one racist cop, the rest are, at worst, race agnostic. So, the racism functions outside the institution. This has a side effect of making the black activists represented by Harrier’s Patrice Dumas as being to unfair in their perceptions of the law. It is one bad cop, not the whole department.

However, BlacKkKlansman is a very entertaining and thoughtful film, and its shortcomings do not prevent the film from having a real impact.

My Favoritest Flicks of 2018

The movies I dug in 2018.

  1. Annihilation: A phenomenal feast for the eyes and mind…this quiet and slow burn body horror film drew me in from the first frame. Truly great and imaginative Sci-Fi.annihilation
  2. Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse: Great characters, great story and some of the most inventive looking animation I have had the joy of soaking in, this film lives up to the hype. People are telling you it is that good because it is that good. I have seen it twice in the theaters. This is usually something I reserve for films I felt strongly (positive or negatively) about, but seem to be out of line with the majority. This time? It was all to just enjoy it all over again.  Sony has raised the bar with animation and super-hero movies in a single movie.spider-verse
  3. Sorry to Bother You: Boots Riley’s darkly hilarious satire of race and class starts out seemingly setting a high bar with its creative visual approach, only to take a totally bizarre out of left field twist. Brilliant and unexpected.
  4. Hereditary: Another slow burn film, this time in horror. Unflinching at times, much of the film explores grief and loss in the face of ongoing tragedy and questions the very nature of evil. at times, it seems to be maybe a film where we are watching a family collapse and lose it’s grip on reality…until maybe it is not.
  5. BLACKkKLANSMAN: While not a perfect film, it is one that manages to look at a moment of history and see it reflected in today.  The film is pretty blatant in this, sometimes to the point of seeming a little to on the nose.  But it is a funny, dramatic and engaging film with great performances.blackkklansman
  6. Black Panther: Ryan Coogler gave us one of Marvel’s strongest films to date. It carried through some of T’Challa’s lessons learned in Civil War and gave him an interesting challenge. The film effectively blended the super-hero and super-spy genres, with a great cast of characters I look forward to revisiting.
  7. Crazy Rich Asians: Like Black Panther, this was a film in part hyped up due to it being rare. The first Hollywood film with a pre-dominantly Asian cast in about 25 years. And so there was a real push to prove the masses would see the movie, as well as Asian Americans. Luckily, the film brought more than a need to succeed to the table. Sure, it is a pretty generic plot…but the jokes land more than they fail. The cast is terrific and engaging (and this being a Hollywood film, largely very attractive) and the film is entertaining.  Crazy_Rich_Asians
  8. Mission Impossible: Fallout: It is not often that a Franchise gets better with age, but Mission Impossible has managed to become more interesting as they go…starting around the third film. The core group of characters all have chemistry and the new additions are solid.Mission_Impossible_fallout_bathroom
  9. Avengers: Infinity War: This one was kind of a tough call. It is clearly a film that ended in the middle of the story.  And there are some good arguments against the film…but I still liked this one. The film balanced its various storylines quite effectively, the character interactions were, at times, golden. It had a villain with a terrible but identifiable plan. We will see if Endgame alters my feelings at all.
  10. Won’t You Be My Neighbor: Mister Rogers was a formative and unique part of the PBS landscape for generations. A challenge to colder views on masculinity that told children that they matter simply for who they were, Fred Rogers spoke to kids as people. He knew they had questions and needed answers, and that shielding them from some of the darker parts of our world was insufficient.  I miss Fred Rogers. I wish we had more men like him.
  11. Bumblebee: How the hell did a Transformers movie crack my top ten? The movie had a heart, some great human characters and well executed special effects.  A smaller cast of Transformers allowed for Bumblebee to shine.Bumblebee Trailer screen grab Credit: Paramount Pictures

 

My runners up? Ocean’s 8 was a terrific entry in the heist franchise. Aquaman was a fun film, but was edged out by Bumblebee. Teen Titans Go was fun, but it was largely cotton candy…and just cannot compete with Spider-Man. I enjoyed Ralph Breaks the Internet…it was cute. Ant-Man and the Wasp was a nice pallet cleanser after Infinity War.  For the most part, I enjoyed Solo and Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom. And I enjoyed the Incredibles 2, which was a decent follow up to the original.

well, Onward to 2019!!!

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