Friday, September 14, 2018

Why you actin' like you ain't got skin in the game?

I didn't vote for Donald Trump.

Since I have eyes and ears (not to mention a brain and a heart), I never even considered it. But being that there was (supposedly) no way in Hell the obnoxious prick from The Apprentice could possibly be voted in to our nation's highest office, what I did consider, with a sort of morbid fascination at the time, was what the future would be like if he somehow pulled it off.

But I couldn't come up with anything that made sense, you know? Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos, jokingly echoed through my head (about that brain I mentioned earlier? Scratch that.) when I imagined this exceedingly far-fetched scenario. 

How was this guy going to change things so drastically? President Obama was the most radically different person I'd ever seen in office, and everything still felt...normal, right? How could Trump really change our future?

Turns out, by making it a lot like our past. 

As it's been just under a month since I've seen Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman, safe to say I've had some time to sit and think about. And while most films tend to dissipate in the noise of life (and it's been especially noisy as of late), remarkably, I still haven't been able to shake this one off. Which shouldn't be surprising, considering it's so f--king heavy.

At times?

See, the (mostly true?) story of Ron Stallworth (a fantastically droll John David Washington) starts innocently enough, with the young man joining the Colorado Springs Police Department back in the early seventies. Initially banished to the records department, Ron desperately wants to do more, and is reassigned to work undercover. His first gig? To check out a meeting the local black student union is hosting. There, Ron meets a lovely young lady, the politically-charged president, Patrice. Sparks don't necessarily fly, and Ron's going to have to work the long game.

Good thing his career is on the fast track, however, as Ron is not only reassigned again (to the intelligence division) in record time, but somehow manages to infiltrate the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in the blink of an eye. While it didn't take more than a phone call to get the invite, Ron can't exactly reach out an touch a white supremacist someone. Instead, he recruits an impossibly reluctant co-worker named Flip Zimmerman, played by the perpetually unimpressed (though thoroughly impressive) Adam Driver. Together, they'll play the character of Ron Stallworth: Proud American/Racist F--kface.

Stretches of BlacKkKlansman go by where it feels like a pretty formulaic ode to seventies cop shows. Not that it's not enjoyable mind you, it just seems content to tell this unbelievable little story in an easily-digestible way. But while you're sitting there, digging along with Ron, these flashes of unbelievable racism and hatred occur, and everybody just kind of keeps on keepin' on, you know? We get the sense that Ron's heard it all before, because, presumably, being a black man, he has.

And while that's enough of a quiet knife in the heart, you also get the feeling that these white supremacist a-holes are more than comfortable doing their thing, right? Like, this is all okay. Let's put an ad in the f--king newspaper. Hell, even Flip's kind of casual about the whole thing. What the f--k, this isn't okay? But here's the kicker.

Clearly, it is. 

There's not a part of this look I don't envy.
As Lee has never been one for subtlety, the fact that we've learned nothing from our shitty racist past f--king LEAPS OFF THE SCREEN. All this horrible racist bullshit that seems so casual and ideally so dated explicitly echoes the current climate of our country. Though it should have made me want to fight like Ron did, it instead made me want to give up. Because, clearly, we will never learn.

And that's feeling washed over me before the ending. And that, dear reader, that left me in utter, f--king shambles. The other two dudes in the theater left. Me? I just sat there shaking my head and trying to keep it together.

Speaking of something that was supposed to entertain but ultimately crushed my will to live, here are the Yays and Boos. Half of these are fully-interchangeable, so, uh, just do your best.

Even Ron and Flip can't believe MoviePass was a thing....
  • Jesus, Alec Baldwin nails that opening bit. You'd think he'd been practicing playing a racist prick for years or something?
  • Big fan of Ron's kung-fu moves down in the Records room. Looked like a regular Bruce Lee. Roy.
  • Speaking of Ron, I left the theater thinking this random dude, John David Washington, was probably gonna blow up after this. You know, make a name for himself. Then I find out who is dad is. Damn, dude. How you not gonna tell me something like that? 
  • I'm not sure what was more dope, Kwame's speech, or the way they illuminated the faces of those enthralled by it. 
  • Damn, not only is calling the KKK the slickest move ever, but the shit that Ron lays on them is pure. F--king. Gold. God Bless white America. Goodness, it still makes me laugh. Pretty much anytime Ron picks up a phone, yeah, you should probably lean forward and get as close to the screen as possible.
  • Let us not forget the the way Ron says white. F--k it, pretty much everything Ron says cracked me up.
  • Who is this f--king Jimmy guy? Is this Steve Buscemi's uncle? (shit, just checked's his brother????) *dies*
  • You guys, is there anyone better than Adam Driver? Seriously. I had never even heard of him before Kylo Ren. And I kind of chuckled when he took his mask off. But now? Who the f--k is Kylo Ren? That's Adam f--king Driver up there. You know, the dude from Logan Lucky [review].
  • Okay, now you're just being offensive.
  • Sarge really isn't happy about any of this, but that's too bad, because that might have been the funniest scene in the damn movie. (well, till the 'splosion bit later on, that is)
  • The juxtaposition of the Jesse Washington story with the Klan watching Birth of a Nation was masterful. And f--king terrible.
  • Holy shit, the dudes who are working at the KKK luncheon, or whatever the f--k that was. ain't this a bitch. 
  • That didn't happen, right? The photograph with David Duke? No f--king way...that Ron would have had the balls to pull that off. Well, apparently, he did. And that's so f--king amazing I think I have to sit down for a minute.
  • And finally, even though, ultimately, the events of this film provide us very little, what justice we're afforded is nothing short of fantastic. F--k you, awful lady and your awful husband. You deserve to get tackled in the street like a rabid dog. F--k you, car full of human waste. If only you clowns didn't die instantly. Oh, and an even f--kier f--k you to that racist prick on the police force, Landers. Hopefully, he gets handled on the inside, the same way he handled people on the outside. Without consent.
Cheers, asshole.
  • I'm not envious of much in this film, but goddamn, it seemed pretty easy to get a job in this flick. I mean, it's not like I hate every hour of every weekday or anything.
  • I've already mentioned Landers in the Yays, but he most certainly belongs down here in the Boos. Why does there always have to be This Guy on the police force?
  • As an ex-master prank caller, I gotta say, Ron, what in the actual f--k? Rule #1/all of them, when it comes to starting shit on the phone? Don't use your real name. You use the name of the classmate you hate the most, uh duh.
  • Goodness, Ron. Maybe we're following a little close, yeah? Perhaps it would be easier to just park your truck on top of theirs?
  • Wait, you have to fill out forms to be in the Klan? That suggests an amount of organizational literacy, I'm not prepared to accept.
  • Man, Felix. You're a real piece of shit, you know that? And your wife might even be worse, if that's possible. And the sight of them conspiring in bed together is something I wish I could unsee.
  • America would never elect someone like David Duke. *immediately leaves country*
  • I didn't think I was gonna survive that basement polygraph, let alone Flip.
  • I actually really liked Topher Grace in this film (as in the performance, you dick), but there will forever be a part of me that refuses to let go of the fact Eric Forman hasn't really aged. Ever.
  • The targets they use for shooting practice are beyond reprehensible. But go ahead and check out the Trivia section of iMDB. Actually, don't. It'll just make it worse.
  • You're kidding me, right? Duke was raised by a black woman? Of course he was.
  • Dog. Where I have heard that word, in that context before? Oh, right. In a tweet. From the President.
  • Oh, so two dudes deep in the KKK work for NORAD? Cool. Those guys should totally have missiles. Definitely. *begins digging fallout shelter in backyard*
  • In what world would it make sense to have Ron be assigned to assure the safety of one David Duke? I'm making this up, right? Because...there's no f--king way this makes any sense. For anyone.
  • I actually like Nick Turturro (Detective James Martinez was the man), but holy cannoli, he's a rotten prick here. I couldn't look at this dude without wanting to punch him directly in the face.
  • Were they watching Birth of a Nation or Rogue Nation? I didn't think racist propaganda was so...crowd pleasing.
  • Really, guys? We're gonna rough up Ron at the house? You other cops really don't know who he is?
  • And finally, while I'm afraid I'm not going to articulate this well enough, I'm going to give it a shot anyway. I'm talking about the ending. Both of them. The end of the film, or at least Ron's part of it, sucks. It's kind of like, hey, thanks for playing the game, but, we've decided to not keep score. In fact, let's just pretend the whole thing never happened. So, I sat there...thinking to myself...what's the point? Why even bother? (and I realize I'm not qualified to ask that question). Then...then Spike Lee drops the ultimate f--king hammer. But I'm honestly not sure where it lands. On the one hand, yeah, it's pretty clear, this is why we fight. Because we have to. But then you look at the faces on the screen. You look at what's happening on the street, you know? And you realize, we haven't changed. And maybe we never will. Maybe it was supposed to feel invigorating, but I sat there hopeless. Maybe I can be better, sure, but collectively? We're f--ked.
Today is my 39th birthday.

Yep, I was born in 1979, the same year the events of this film actually took place. It's kind of funny to think that Ron was doing all this undercover madness when I was just a little thing waiting to be born, you know?  

But the fact that my whole lifetime has passed and not a damn thing has really changed?

Yeah, nothing funny about that. 


  1. Happy Birthday! Amazing review of this. That ending made me just want to sit and cry. I'm glad he had the balls to be so blatant about it. Ron's ending though, that sucked, but I'm also not surprised that's how it went down. This film was excellent.

    And I'm always here for more Adam Driver love. he's amazing.

    1. Thank you so much, Brittani. You are in your late twenties, right? Early thirties? Either way, I'm jealous.

      Yeah, I've been lamenting both endings since I left the theater. Rarely do I like a film that has such a shitty ending, you know? Or at least not this much.

      If I ever had the time, I would love to watch a ton of his movies. I love that dude.

  2. Happy late birthday!! I can't wait to be 40. Or even 39.

    This review is so good. Have you ever considered teaching? You know, if you don't like your job. What?

    Honestly I just nodded along to each point - I'm so eager to see it again now. Because 'We get the sense that Ron's heard it all before, because, presumably, being a black man, he has' - I didn't even think about this!! There's so much to unwrap here. I was so shaken by the end, and the closest I get is studying American history - I can't imagine what it must feel like to experience Trump up close.

    Oh, and thanks for not voting for him. That's always good.

    1. Shut up, you. What are, like 20? Or even 19? I don't even remember being so young. I'm pretty sure it was amazing. I think.

      Ha. Ha. Ha. I have considered teaching. For 13 years. Still haven't actually taught anyone anything, ever. So...there's that.

      I'm pretty sure you know more about American history than I do, which is kind of impressive. I wish I could be looking in at the states, instead of wishing I could move out. It's a real shitshow....politically?

      Ugh. If he makes it to a second term, I wouldn't be surprised if he won again. *shudder*

  3. Happy (very) belated birthday!

    Ron on the phone is gold. No question about that. BTW, I knew who JD Washington was, but Buscemi's brother? I had no clue. I mean, damn, dude. How you not gonna tell me something like that?

    The first yay had me in stitches. So perfect.

    And a gigantic yay for Adam Driver. Perpetually unimpressed though thoroughly impressive is exactly how his performance should be described. Wish I thought of that.

    And both endings. Ugh!!!!!!

    1. Hahaha...thanks, Dell. I'm an old man now. Well, older.

      Ron everywhere is gold, but goodness, his phone shtick was electric. I had zero idea he was Denzel's kid (I'm way out of the loop), and I almost died when I found out. Clearly, not a bloodline you want to f--k with. Same for the Buscemi's apparently.

      HA! Yes. Frickin' Baldwin. So good.

      Driver is so reliable, I almost can't handle it. I'm sure he's been around, but for me, it's like he came out of nowhere and I f--king love seeing this dude on screen. Maybe that one Scorsese movie would change my mind, perhaps? (doesn't everyone hate that flick?)

      F--k both of those endings.

  4. Happy birthday my friend!

    Your last bullet is spot on (and articulated very well). I do think that was Lee's point. It's as if he's saying, "What's changed? Nothing. We ARE fucked. So what now?"

    1. Thanks, dude. Twas a solid night at the cinema...but more on that later.

      I'm very curious about that ending, you know? Was that added late in the game? And what did the studio think about it? I'm not sure I've ever seen a film close on such a f--king down note, man. Ron's story had the piss taken out of it, sure, but then that f--king rally? And the street? F--ked, indeed.

  5. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! (I know I'm super late but adulting has been hard, and it's a miracle that I made it here at all! :D ) BUT THAT'S NOT IMPORTANT, HAPPY BIRTHDAY AGAIN!!! :D