Thursday, August 23, 2018

I Like Spike

On the latest episode of the Do Some Damage podcast I'm talking about Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman. Have you seen it? You should, I think it's a minor miracle for several reasons. First, it's fueled by and focused on the stuff of Spike's best works: race, politics, love and justice. Second, it's not only righteously angry throughout, it's riotously funny at points. And third, it effectively subverts the intent of KKK National Director David Duke's mission to make White Nationalism mainstream by having the first real mainstream movie moment of characters inviting the audience to cheer along to chants of 'Black Power!'

And gawl dang if you don't want to. It doesn't feel subversive, or edgy or dangerous it feels fucking mainstream and like something we should all be happy to chant along with. All due respect to Get Out and Black Panther, but BlacKkKlansman clarifies the moment and makes it explicit and bold and an audience-pleaser all at once.

Of course after the rousing and satisfying climax of the movie's plot, Spike sends us out on a note of recognition that Ron Stallworth and the forces of good may have won a minor battle, but that the war is most definitely still churning on and though the film feels absolutely mainstream the country is in the grips of some ugly shit on every level. It's an effective call to arms without being an absolute bummer. Lemme say it again - it's a fun movie.

It's a movie of its time and it's not the first time Spike's made a popular entertainment that addressed a national moment head on. David Benioff's first novel was released on September 11, 2001 and was instantly eclipsed by the real events of the day. It was already in development as a film though and Spike delivered the first and probably best mainstream film to deal directly with the day's tragedy.

You can catch The 25th Hour to rent or buy on most streaming services now and if you've never seen it, I'd highly recommend doing so. The one signature aspect of Spike Lee's film making identity not on display in BlacKkKlansman is his identity as a New Yorker. With The 25th Hour he took the new century's New York-est moment and turned in the appropriately New Yorkiest movie about it. I'm not a NYC guy, but damn, I can get behind this flick.

Spike's on a roll. After the pleasingly odd Da Sweet Blood of Jesus I was especially excited by Chiraq (a kitchen sink blast funded by bounced checks written for fucks) and BlacKkKlansman proves he can deliver power and pleasure and not sacrifice popular.

If you've got a subscription to Filmstruck you can check out their Best of Blaxsploitation collection to play along with the conversation John David Washington and Laura Harrier have in BlacKkKlansman about films of the day - they specifically argue the Shaft vs. Super Fly dichotomy. Both of those films are included in the collection as well as The Mack, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, Black Belt Jones, Cleopatra Jones and a Rudy Ray Moore double feature: Petey Wheatstraw and Dolemite.

Speaking of Rudy Ray Moore, I just heard that the Eddie Murphy as RRM flick, Dolemite is My Name is a Craig Brewer joint. That there is three very distinct layers of interest to put into one movie. Never mind the rest of that cast: Wesley Snipes, Craig Robinson, Keegan-Michael Key, Tituss Burgess, T.I., Mike Epps... Consider my ticket bought.

And shit, I meant to catch the SuperFly remake that was out this summer. I've heard good things. Did you see it?

While we're talking about pimps, the documentary Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp is free on Prime right now and it features one of my favorite talking heads, Gary Phillips. Get on that.

Finally, in the wake of Spike Lee's recent remakes, Park Chan-wook's Oldboy, Bill Gunn's Ganja & Hess (as Da Sweet Blood of Jesus) and his own She's Gotta Have It now being a Netflix original TV series, you'd be forgiven for any confusion as to BlacKkKlansman's origins. It's based on the memoir Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth and is not a remake of Ted V. Mikels' The Black Klansman (aka I Crossed the Color Line) from 1966 which is currently available on Prime.

Also, I assume you're all tuning into the podcast for Steve Weddle, Chris Holm and Holly West. You should be, anyhow.

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