BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee, 2018)
With a wonderfully-written story and a poignant social critique, Spike Lee finally gets the long overdue recognition from the Academy, while remaining true to his work.
Now this is what I call a masterpiece. I saw BlacKkKlansman when it first arrived at the movie theaters in town back in November, but I wanted to see it once more before writing about it. And let me tell you, watching it for the second time has only made my love for it stronger. The latest film from mastermind Spike Lee is an exemplary work of cinema that stands out in every single Oscar category for which it holds nominations -and even in those for which it did not score one, namely Best Actor or Best Cinematography-. If there should be one proclaimed winner, to me there isn't a shadow of a doubt that it should be BlacKkKlansman. Now, we all know that won't happen because we all know what the Academy likes and how it works. After all, it wasn't so long ago that Spike Lee himself declared a war against them, creating a controversy that resulted in multiple boycotts against the Oscars, including the infamous #OscarsSoWhite campaign. Also, let's not forget the fact that this is Lee's first directing nomination, which we can all agree is absolutely outrageous and proves just how mistaken the Academy can be. But putting that aside, I think it is marvelous that BlacKkKlansman is the film that has finally made the Academy give Lee the credit he so irrefutably deserves.
Spike Lee is, without a question, one of the greatest minds of filmmaking since the 1980s, creating truly amazing films, in which he not only stands out in terms of aesthetics, but he also manages to create powerful stories about the place of African Americans within -white- American society. His films depict African American culture in such innovative, critical ways, that BlacKkKlansman can only become another notch in Lee's vast legacy for the history of cinema. In this film, he, once again, displays a mastery in directing, which I consider places him above all the other nominees -specially over current Academy's favorite, Alfonso Cuarón-. This can only be reinforced by an equally masterful form of storytelling, giving birth to a story that is told with great wit and such a sharp social commentary that it creates a not so subtle critique of the structural racism that marks the past and present of a country like the United States. And this is, ultimately, why I would choose BlacKkKlansman over The Favourite as the motion picture of the year; because, even though they both display amazingly-crafted visuals, Spike Lee is the one to achieve a poignant critique of our times, all the while creating a cinematic masterpiece. Here I would like to acknowledge another aspect of the film that deserves plenty of praise: the score. The music composed for this film is absolutely stunning and captivating, and shows the ways in which the score can not only become part of the story, but also give life to it, making it more powerful than it already is, and allowing for an emotional experience in the viewer.
As for the performances, the ensemble is quite something and John David Washington's grand debut is nothing short of his father's legacy. I see a promising career for him, one that I wish to keep on watching. However, the absolute best performance here -the best in the run for the Supporting Actor category and probably one of the best of the year- is Adam Driver's. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Driver is one of the best actors of our generation. I have known he had tremendous talent ever since I first watched him in Girls, where, throughout six seasons, he created a character that made us feel a wide range of emotions all at once, showing what acting with passion and commitment can achieve. He has continued to deliver superb performances with his roles in the big screen (i.e. Paterson or Logan Lucky) and this is all reflected, finally, in his role as Philip 'Flip' Zimmerman in BlacKkKlansman. Some of his lines -like when he talks about the difference between being jewish and feeling jewish-, as well as his chemistry with Washington, make for an amazing performance that marks the beginning of Driver as an Academy favorite. Given that Mahershala Ali has the Supporting Actor award under his belt, I think it's fair to say this isn't Adam Driver's year -at least as far as the Academy goes-, but I believe this is only the first of a lot of nominations -and awards- we can expect will come for him in the future.
It is safe to say this film touched me in a lot of ways. I did not only see it, I felt it. And that is the effect of great art. Spike Lee's latest film is a beautiful example of what cinema can achieve and express as a massive form of art. BlacKkKlansman is a powerful, gut-wrenching, wonderfully-crafted story that is definitely some of the best cinema you will be seeing in a while. And, above all, it is relevant. It's the film we needed to see back in the 1970s and the film we still need to see today. Thank you, Spike Lee, for a film with a soul.