Wednesday, December 19, 2018

BlacKkKlansman: My review

You’ll notice this is a short review. There is a reason for that which I will explain later.

...So I had heard good things about Spike Lee’s new movie, BLACKKKLANSMAN. It got fantastic reviews. Spike Lee is hit-or-miss with me. Some of his movies I’ve loved, quite a few I haven’t.

But this one was getting near universal raves. And the plot was very intriguing. Based on true events, a black cop and Jewish cop go undercover and infiltrated the KKK. John David Washington and Adam Driver starred – can’t do much better than that.

So I was excited to see this film. Not excited enough to pay when it came out this summer. I figured that Spike Lee was an awards whore and we’d surely get screeners. Yep. One of the first received.

The reason this review is short is because I lasted an hour before just turning it off. Jesus. It was so heavy-handed, so on-the-nose, so relentless in pounding its messages across that halfway through I said, “Got it. Done.” Even though I AGREE with the messages I just couldn’t take the constant haranguing any longer.

Now the critics didn’t feel that way, and you may not feel that way. If you love BLACKKKLANSMAN just know you’re not alone. I however, am not obligated to stay till the end of a movie I'm reviewing  so I switched over to the way-more-enjoyable GOLDEN GIRLS rerun.

33 comments :

slgc said...

The film definitely hits people differently. I loved the movie when I saw it over the summer, but my husband was just left cold by it.

David said...

That's how I felt about Crash back in 2004 (and it won Best Picture).

Peter said...

I haven't seen it yet but it's on my list, as I love the actors and Lee has made some great films.

Your point about it being heavy handed reminds me of a dreadful filmmaker here in the UK called Ken Loach. I'm not comparing him to Lee, because Lee is talented and has made films on a variety of themes and subjects.

Loach is lauded by the far left and is regarded by some as almost being above reproach. The problem is that he's basically made the same film over and over again for over four decades. They can all be distilled down to: working class socialist hero struggles against the odds against evil capitalist monsters.

I'm not saying that's not a legitimate theme for a film, but it's all he ever makes. He doesn't tell stories. His films are all uncinematic point and shoot lectures that are eagerly swallowed up by virtue signalling middle class socialists who feel they've somehow achieved a moral good just from having watched one of his films before they head for dinner at a £60 a head restaurant where they discuss how brave and brilliant Loach is.

Loach himself and his acolytes paint him as a heroic spokesman for the downtrodden and the working class. Except that he doesn't have the first clue about their lives. His world is composed entirely of production meetings, shoots, award ceremonies, film festivals and Labour Party events. His favourite hobby horse is condemning every single film that has ever been produced in Hollywood, gloriously oblivious to the fact that if he actually ever spent time around ordinary working class people he'd learn that they like to go to cinema to watch the escapist entertainment he loves to dismiss.

But perhaps my favourite thing about this fraud is that it emerged last year he has exempted himself from the BDS movement against Israel that he's been a vocal advocate of. He has called on artists and fellow filmmakers to join the boycott and he condemned Radiohead for doing a concert there. It was then reported last year that for the past decade his films have been shown in Israeli art house cinemas. His producer tried to explain it away by saying the person they sent to Cannes to sell the distribution rights accidentally sold them to Israel!! Accidentally for years and years.

Finally, after four decades, Loach has branched out into comedy.

Pizzagod said...

*snort*

How do you get that half hour of your life back?

Jeff said...

I too am baffled by the praise for this movie. It was never boring, I'll give it that. But it was heavy handed in its messaging, the lead actor has little charisma, there was no discernible character arcs, etc etc. Also, I like Adam Driver but any award nomination he gets for this is ridiculous. He really doesn't do anything.

Jeff said...

I too am baffled by the praise for this movie. It was never boring, I'll give it that. But it was heavy handed in its messaging, the lead actor has little charisma, there was no discernible character arcs, etc etc. Also, I like Adam Driver but any award nomination he gets for this is ridiculous. He really doesn't do anything.

Roger Owen Green said...

I think the first problem is that you didn't see it in a movie theater. It was one of my favoriote movies of the year. But as Sly said, "different strokes for different folks."

E. Yarber said...

I've often been in the same position when dealing with projects at the screenplay stage. Though it was simple enough to skewer blatant rhetoric from projects pushing arguments I disagreed with, I would find myself being even harder on scripts expressing my own beliefs because a complacent argument was hurting the cause more than one taking an opposing stance. Such an approach leaves skeptics with the impression that the only view of the position is built around knee-jerk emotion, which can be discounted as the author's prejudice rather than an articulate presentation of the issue. While it's always tempting to go for easy points to score with the already converted, the bar has to be higher to counter the attacks you'd rather ignore.

slgc said...

On the topic of being baffled about praise, have you seen Roma yet? We just caught it on Netflix (the big advantage of seeing it on Netflix is that we didn't have to pay for it). It's indulgent, slow and simply boring - I don't understand why the critics are so in love with it.

Neil Miller said...

Given the industry in which you have worked/work, you're a brave man. Your review is spot on.

Frank Beans said...

Spike Lee, heavy-handed? That's the understatement of the century. And hit-or-miss? Yep, that too. He has always been both of these things, going back to over 30 years.

With that said, he is capable of talking about race, sex, and family (to give his three most commonly addressed subjects) with nuance and even-handedness. MALCOLM X remains a classic biographical movie. DO THE RIGHT THING, while you can't exactly call it subtle, is also a classic and a must-see for anyone who wants to understand urban racial dynamics circa the 80s-90s in America. A lot of it holds up today, though some is dated. But that's expected in any work. Even GET ON THE BUS and SCHOOL DAZE (now we're talking REALLY dated) have their moments. But I digress.

Yes, I'm with Ken--if a movie or TV series makes me want to shout "got it already" h under half an hour, I stop watching it too. There's enough great works of all media to absorb that could take up an entire lifetime. I also really have a low tolerance for obvious didacticism and Hollywood cliches.

There's enough dismal reality in America, I hardly need to have explained to me. Not that I want escapism, but really, anyone with open eyes can see things today for what they are. We're soaking in it.

Unknown said...

I agree, it was very heavy handed and painted with very broad strokes. The characters were generally cardboard cutouts of stereotypes. (spoiler alert) For me, the payoff really came at the end (which was equally heavy handed) when the cartoonish storytelling was juxtaposed with footage from Charlottesville. I stayed with it and the film, with all its generalizing, won me over.

Dewayne Stickney said...

I happen to think that Heavy Handed is something that movies can do well. It either makes your nose light up or it doesn't.

Frank Beans said...

I hate to keep carping on this, but the title alone --BLACKKKLANSMAN, and the corny, cliche, caricature still image at the top of this post, is a signal to just stay far away from this piece of claptrap.

But then we're a country that lives with abominable stupidity and shallowness every day. I feel like I'm the crazy one.

Brian said...

"I figured that Spike Lee was an awards whore and we’d surely get screeners. Yep. One of the first received."

Man!!! that was brutal 😂😂😂

But I wish he wins rather than the smug over-rated Bradley Cooper.

Dhruv said...

Thanks for the review Ken.

I have started relying on YT videos where they compile the list of movies that went unnoticed. Those videos and the comments by people from around the world is now my guidance to seeing good movies. I had commented previously too that, that is how I came across "Sicario" and "Wind River".

This year some videos are listing "BlacKkKlansman" and "Widows" as the movies to watch. Here these smaller movies don't get wide release, so I was thinking about how to see them until your review solved my quandary :)


Jeff,

I don't know much about Adam Driver. But he seems to have a lot of fans, who keep praising him. The only movie of his that I have seen is "Logan Lucky" and I didn't find him special.

Glen said...

Getting screeners?

So you are an Academy member.

Here's a question I wanted to ask any Academy member, if I had a chance.....

Did you vote for Crash or Brokeback Mountain in 2006?

Jahn Ghalt said...

"we’d surely get screeners"

Like Glen I wonder:

Who's "We"??

Eric said...

I respectfully disagree with this review. It's true that Spike Lee isn't the most subtle of filmmakers, and the movie's message can be a bit heavy-handed at times, but I found it funny and entertaining enough that it didn't really bother me. If you didn't like it, though, that's fine. After all, you liked "Silver Linings Playbook", a movie that I despise with the intensity of a thousand suns, so to each his own.

Zach said...

It's no "Sorry to Bother You"

Mike said...

Ken liked "Silver Linings Playbook"!!!???

Then I am definitely seeing this "Masterpiece".

Linda said...

As things stand I won't be surprised if Harvey returns to Hollywood next year and sends you screeners for his movie for consideration.

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/harvey-weinstein-criminal-case-may-be-crumbling-experts-say-1170260

Jit said...

Not sure if this qualifies as a Friday question, but what's your take on the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel?

SwiftPope said...

I thought the movie had its moments, but the main problem was the klansman were just poor, ignorant, rednecks. Who would have thought? Watching the meetings with these two dimensional types got real tiresome real quick.

Peter said...

I hope you'll be reviewing Assassination Nation or Three Identical Strangers. Two of my favourite films of the year.

James Van Hise said...

It is based on a true story. Other than making a character Jewish who in reality was not, it is supposedly accurate. Yes, the members of the KKK are ignorant rednecks but have you ever seen interviews with Klan members? It's like watching a cartoon. A scary cartoon, especially when the Klansmen have their young children with them. Years ago Phil Donahue had a group of Klansmen on who were very Christian, but when someone pointed out to them that Jesus was a Jew, they went ballistic, screaming that this wasn't true. David Duke in the film was clearly the face of what he wanted the Klan to become so that they would be more accepted by the mainstream. The end of the film was quite interesting in that even though they stopped a terrorist attack (although a bombing did take place), those higher up in the police department clearly got orders from somewhere and the police were told to stop investigating the Klan, which was especially scary. I saw plenty of things on the news in the 1970s and 1980s and what I saw in the film was neither heavy handed nor unrealistic. Just disturbing.

mdv59 said...

For my own watching I give much greater weight to the audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes than critics. It doesn't always work, but I find it more relevant to my tastes. I'd guess most critics these days would be terrified to write a review like yours fearing they'd be harassed on social media, or worse, lose their job.

By the way, the most original film I saw this year was "Sorry To Bother You". It's impossible to describe and if you think you're going to watch a standard comedy you'll be disappointed, but you have never seen a movie like it.

Pete Grossman said...

Ken - don't often disagree with you, but I and the 3 other baby boomers I watched the movie with liked it. Despite the heavy handedness, we were pulled in emotionally.

What struck me was a quite moment in the film where the "Jewish" cop is speaking. He says that he's hardly Jewish, didn't go to religious school, never observed the holidays, didn't have a bar mitzvah, never attended bar mitzvahs. Pretty much only Jewish by name - if that much, then says (due to the investigation and I'm paraphrasing) 'I never thought about it [being Jewish], now I think about it every day.' To me, that speaks volumes about the entire story.

mickey said...

Saw this in the theater with some anticipation right when it came out, and was disappointed. Based on the amount of praise it had received, and knowing it was going to align with and reinforce my sensibilities, I was hoping for a lot. There were no compelling characters—Washington and Driver acted their parts well, and the "can you believe this" aspects of the story were enticing, but their characters were undeveloped and served merely to advance plot points. Washington's character's relationship with Laura Harrier's Patrice was underdeveloped to the point that it seemed an afterthought, as if someone realized that there had to be a female character, but the realization never went beyond that.
And the characters on the KKK side were so cartoonish that after the initial reaction of "I can laugh at their hatefulness because they are so stupid," there was nowhere to go with them, and whenever they were back on the screen, it was boring.
And I like and admire Harry Belafonte as much as anybody (still listen to his double-LP live at Carnegie album).I was happy to see him in the film and appreciated the tribute that Lee was giving to Belafonte and others of that generation, but those scenes stuck out as disconnected and distractions from the rest of the movie

Coram_Loci said...

A Friday Question(s) based on some of the responses in this thread.

“Have you ever purposefully gone easy on a critique because of the race, sex, or orientation of the actor, or because of its political viewpoint?”

From a different perspective: Have you ever written something heavy handed that didn't get stronger criticism because it aligned with the majoritarian viewpoint? Or, are there are any notable instances where a writer/producer/actor resisted your heavy hand?

More broadly speaking, what's the process of laying the heavy hand?

I imagine Spike Lee has enough clout to do what he wants and that the people who work for and with him expect and want his heavy hand. But what if your writing a sitcom and insert a bit of dialogue (or even much more) about, say, the virtue of chastity, or gun control, or the good, nay, necessity of aborting fetuses of poor mothers, or euthanizing “useless eaters” or how children don’t need fathers just wuv?

Is the process as simple as “Everyone here agrees, so let's do it”? “I’m in charge, so let's do it”? “Sounds great but let's get Mary from marketing's opinion before we do it”?

Dubliner said...

I haven't seen the film, but I felt the same way about his TV series of "She's Gotta Have It". I really liked the film when I saw it years ago but the first episode of the TV series was a lecture. I did think that it might be better if the episodes were only half an hour instead of an hour - only to realise that the episodes *were* only half an hour, it just felt like an hour.

Donald from Chicago said...

The film almost lost me in the first five minutes with the gratuitous Alec Baldwin "blooper" cameo that added nothing to the otherwise compelling true story.

Johnny Walker said...

What an utterly bizarre and unprovoked attack on the brilliant filmmaker Ken Loach. I guess some people will use any excuse to spout right wing propaganda... even a Spike Lee movie review.