This Sunday the High Mass for the world of movie will take place in the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, Los Angeles. I am of course talking about the 91st Academy Awards (a.k.a the Oscars). Last January. the nominees for this year’s awards were announced. The high grocers in nominations are “The Favorite” and Netflix’ “Roma” ( both have 10), but the today we are talking about a movie that got 6: Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman”. The movie has been on my watch list for a long time and last week I finally had the chance to watch it…
The first line of the movie is: “this joint is based on some fo’ real, fo’ real shit” and that sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Whether you believe it or not…the movie is based on the actual story of Ron Stallworth, an African American cop that infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in the early 70’s. In 2014 the book “Black Klansman” came out and it tells the story (memoirs) of this remarkable man. Jordan Peele (director and writer of “Get out”) bought the rights for the movie and offered the directing job to Spike Lee. When Lee found out that it was a true story, he agreed to do it. The only thing Peele demanded was that the story would be told with a sense of humor, but it should also reflect to the recent developments in America. For example: the use of the phrase "America first". This slogan used by Trump in his campaign, was also a slogan of a pro-Nazi movement before and during WWII. Besides this the KKK used this as a credo for their organization. What did I think of the movie? The answer to that question will follow later on in this article, but first let me tell you some more about the story (plot) of the movie.
"BlacKkKlansman" is set in Colorado Springs in the heart of the state Colorado and revolves around Ron Stallworth, portrayed by John David Washington (Denzel Washington's son). Ron is the first Afro-American man to join the Colorado Springs Police Department. Initially he gets assigned to the file room and has to take a lot of racial comments from his colleagues. When he asks his Chief for a transfer to the undercover department, he reluctantly agrees and assigns Ron to infiltrate in a Black Panther rally. At this rally, known black rights activist Kwame Ture (Corey Hawkins) is set to speak. Ron goes in with a wire will have to find out if the movement is making plans to radicalize, while detectives Zimmerman (Adam Driver) and Creek (Michael Buscemi) are in a car outside and listen in as back-up. At the rally, Ron meets Patricia Dumas (Laura Harrier) a politically engaged Afro-American girl, who is head of the Black Student Union, that organized the rally. He is immediately intrigued by the girl and her views on the racial discussion. Ron reports back to the Chief that he does not think that there is anything to worry about. When he is re-positioned to Intelligence, Ron sees an add for the local department of the Klu Klux Klan in the paper. He decides to call the phone number and he poses as a racist white Aryan man. This gets him an invitation to go to a meeting some time and that marks the beginning of one of the most daring undercover operations in American History...
"BlacKkKlansman" is nominated for 6 Oscars, including the one for "Best Picture" and that is more than deserved. Spike Lee adds another gem to his impressive list of movies, like: "She's Gotta Have It" (1986), "Do The Right Thing" (1989), "Malcolm X" (1992, starring Denzel Washington), "25th Hour" (2002) and "Oldboy" (2012). One of the most impressive parts of the movie is his parallel montage of a Black Power and a White Power gathering. The Black Power gathering stars Harry Belafonte telling the true story of an African-American man (Jesse Washington), who was accused of raping a woman in 1916 and the gruesome things that happened to him after this accusation. He was convicted for the crime and lynched by the angry mob, outside the court hall. Unfortunately the lynching of African-American men was no exception in this period and the 1915 silent movie "The Birth of a Nation" is thought to be one of the factors that catalyzed the revival of the racist hate and the Klu Klux Klan. Parallel to the Black Power meeting telling the story of Jesse Washington, we see the White Power meeting of the Klu Klux Klan that celebrates the initiation of Zimmerman (posing as Stallworth) in the organization. As part of the 'celebration' they watch "The Birth of a Nation". What makes this scene even more impressive is that the parallel montage, that is wonderfully used in this scene, was a form of montage that is attributed to D.W. Griffith. What is impressive about?, that you might think....well Griffith was the man that made "The Birth of a Nation", back in 1915. And that fact only adds to the brilliance of this scene (in my humble opinion).
Besides this, the acting in "BlacKkKlansman" is outstanding, especially Washington and Driver do a great job. Some of you might know, that I was not a big fan of Adam Driver in his role of Kylo Ren, when he first appeared in the "Star Wars" saga. As I mentioned that I thought he was a great actor, just not the guy I would choose to portray Ren. In "BlacKkKlansman", Driver once more shows his acting skills. For his outstanding performance, he was rewarded with an Oscar nomination for "Best Supporting Actor" and I sure hope he can cash this one in. John David Washington has some big shoes to fill, being the son of one of the best actors of the last decades. With his portrayal of Stallworth, he does show he inherited his father's talent. Besides Driver and Washington, the rest of the cast does an amazing job too. Add the great music and the graphic features, that make you really feel like the 70s are back....and you have one hell of a movie. This Sunday I'm rooting for: "BlacKkKlansman"!