BlacKkKlansman

BlacKkKlansman ★★★★½

This is the most welcomely unsubtle film I have ever seen.  For years, filmmakers have tried to be subtle and polite in telling their stories about the evil in this country and darkness rising up unabated.  For years, people turned their noses up and felt their skin get itchy when politics came up in conversation or when the state of the world entered into the room.  And for years, we all let that slide.  Let people be okay being uncomfortable talking about racism and bigotry and anti-semitism and homophobia and every other shitty thing.  We let people just sit quietly with pursed lips when we spoke openly of how unacceptable these things were.  And often we let ourselves be embarrassed for bringing it up in polite society.  And Spike Lee is the man who has never accepted this.  Who never minces his words or softens his touch.  And here, his words are ferocious.  His touch is a sledgehammer.  And never has the man’s lack of subtlety been more needed.

BlackkKlansman is something else.  It’s a thrilling piece of entertainment.  Washington is so interesting to watch in every frame, coming about scenes and moments in ways I’ve not seen before.  Driver adds another portrait of nuance of quietly reckoned pain to his extensive collection.  And Grace does something exceptional and terrifying.  He finds a way to dim that brightness in his eyes, to let us see a coldness he has never quite shown before.  So as a piece of film, as a thing to watch.  It’s fun, thrilling, haunting, and difficult.

But more importantly, it’s a statement.  And it’s a hell of a one.  I saw this with a friend and throughout most of it I was doing that thing I do where I unconsciously catalogue my thoughts, gathering adjectives, assessing shots and ideas and how I felt about them, all on the back burner while I’m focused in on what’s actually happening on screen.  And usually, when a film ends, those notes get exchanged with whoever I’m watching with as we piece together our specific journeys with the film.  When those last two or three minutes hit, my blood ran cold, and everything leached away.  Any concentrated thought was replaced by pure feeling as Spike Lee hammers and hammers and hammers it home.  The subtext is text.  Or supertext really.  As he takes us from a historical event to a current event, refusing to allow you to put the sort of distance between the two that your white mind usually wants to when you see something like this.  The voice that tries to say this isn’t as bad as THAT.  It’s not quite THERE again.  This film silences whoever in 2018 still has that voice in their head and shows you the definitive comparison.  It’s shocking.  It’s visceral.  It’s a hell of a thing.

BlackkKlansman may not be the most precise or calibrated piece of film ever made but it is UNDOUBTEDLY the film of 2018.  THE film of 2018.  Enough patting ourselves on the back for seeing Black Panther and telling ourselves the world will get better and good will prevail.  Enough.  That’s not true.  This is who America is right now.  Black Panther shows an aspiration.  BlackkKlansman shows a reality.

Let’s finally fucking do better and stop making excuses.

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