Movie Review: BlacKkKlansman (2018)


Title: BlacKkKlansman
Release Date: August 10, 2018
Director: Spike Lee
Production Company: Blumhouse Productions | Monkeypaw Productions | QC Entertainment | 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks | Legendary Entertainment |
Perfect World Pictures
Summary/Review:

Inspired by actual historic events, or as the opening titles state “some fo’ real, fo’ real shit,” BlacKkKlansman is the story of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), the first Black police officer in Colorado Springs.  Assigned to the intelligence division, Stallworth spots an ad for a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan and calls for more information, using a white voice just like in Sorry to Bother You. Stallworth also accidentally uses his real name so a fellow detective, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), ends up meeting with the Klan members using Stallworth’s name. Flip is a composite character and in the film he’s made an unobservant Jewish man to raise the stakes of his interactions with the bigots.

Meanwhile, Stallworth continues his investigation by phone, eventually beginning a series of conversations with the KKK’s national director, David Duke (Topher Grace).  Concurrently with the investigation, Stallworth begins a relationship with Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier), a Black liberation activist from Colorado College (Patrice is also invented for the film).  He meets her at at a rally where Kwame Ture (brought to life in an excellent short appearance by Corey Hawkins) is the speaker. Michael Buscemi, Harry Belafonte, and Alec Baldwin also appear in small but memorable parts.

The movie is based on absurd events and some of the wildest details are true to life.  The characters seem to be aware of the absurdity, especially late in the film when the essentially dunk on David Duke. Some of the changes are odd, like moving the events to the early 70s when they took place in the late 70s.  But as is typical for Spike Lee films, there is great attention to period details especially the fashions and music.

The movie talks about complex issues in interesting, if not subtle ways.  For example, Ron’s earnest but perhaps naive hopes of being able to change things from the inside are contrasted to Patrice’s more revolutionary approach. Lee also uses excerpts from Gone With the Wind and The Birth of a Nation to critique how popular entertainment reinforces white supremacist mythology.  Finally, the film also incorporates footage from the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia as a chilling epilogue to a mostly comical look at the past.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: The Shining by Stephen King


Author: Stephen King
TitleThe Shining
Narrator: Campbell Scott
Publication Info: Random House Audio (2012) [originally published in 1977]
Other books read by the same author:

  • The Bachman Books
  • “The Body”
  • The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger
  • Pet Sematary
  • The Eyes of the Dragon
  • Skeleton Crew
  • The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three
  • Misery
  • The Dark Half
  • Four Past Midnight
  • The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands
  • The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
  • Faithful
  • “Guns”

Summary/Review:

Having finally gotten around to watching the movie, The Shining, last fall, and finding it didn’t live up to the reputation, I really wanted to read the book it’s based on.  After all, Stephen King dislikes Stanley Kubric’s adaptation of his book, so perhaps I’d like the book better.  I’ll have to say that as an adaptation, the movie doesn’t stray too far from the source material.  There are obviously a lot of details that the movie leaves out, as is vital in filmmaking, and Kubric did the same thing he did with 2001, where he makes ambiguous some things that are explicit in the book.

What movies cannot do well is to express the interiority of the characters, and this is an aspect of the book I liked the best.  King is especially good at getting into the minds of Danny and Jack, but doesn’t do it as much with Halloran and Wendy.

Jack is more of a normal person at the beginning of the book – an alcoholic with anger issues, yes – but not the half-crazed character that Jack Nicholson plays.  Wendy is less of a dishrag and much more resourceful, and she even uses Danny’s shining abilities to help plan their escape.  Danny is the best part of the book as King does a great job of portraying a child dealing with things that someone much older would struggle to handle.  The book works well as straight-up horror but also symbolic of the destructive power of toxic masculinity.

Rating: ***

Scary Movie Review: The Shining (1980)


For Halloween week, I’m watching and reviewing highly-regarded horror films that I’ve never seen before.

TitleThe Shining
Release Date: May 23, 1980
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Production Company: The Producer Circle Company | Peregrine Productions |  Hawk Films
Summary/Review:

More than Night of the Living Dead, The Shining is a movie harmed by my waiting too long to watch it for the first time after basically absorbing all the movie’s basic plot points and iconic moments over the years from the cultural milieu.  Friends, I have to confess that I found the movie incredibly slow, with long waits for those iconic moments – or anything – to actually happen.  As a story about an ordinary family coming to pieces due to cabin fever and/or malevolent spirits I have to question the casting of Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall who seem eccentric and unsettled from the start.  Danny Lloyd is a terrific child actor though, and carries much of the film, despite playing a character as weird as his parents.

This being a Kubrick film, the cinematography is excellent as well as the set design, and I can understand why film study classes would want to dissect this movie.  The long tracking shots with the steadycam are particularly impressive.  And with so many mirrors on the set, I tip my cap to the camera operators who had to work so hard to not appear in the reflection.

Kubrick is ambiguous about whether this film depicts a mental breakdown or if supernatural forces are involved.  Most of the film would indicate the former, but at the end when Duvall’s Wendy is trying to escape she’s sees a number of ghostly visions as well.  I think the movie works well as a metaphor for toxic masculinity, as Jack and his ghostly advisers repeatedly see a wife and child as something to be controlled and corrected.

I understand that Stephen King dislikes this adaptation and now I really want to read the novel in order to compare and contrast.  In the meantime, enjoy this reenactment by bunnies that passes over all the slow parts.

Or, enjoy Shining, where the movie is reimagined as a heartwarming family comedy.

Rating: ***

Beer Review: Avery Ellie’s Brown Ale


Beer: Ellie’s Brown Ale
Brewer:  Avery Brewing Company
Source: Draft
Rating:  **** (8.1 of 10)
Comments: Enjoyed a pint of this Colorado craft brew at Bella Luna on Father’s Day.  No surprise given the name, but this is a chestnut-brown ale with a buff head.  It offers a sweet caramel aroma and creamy malts are prominent in the flavor, with a roasted coffee finish.  Lots of lacing on the glass.  This is yummy good stuff.

 

 

Beer Review: Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout


Beer: Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout
BrewerGreat Divide Brewing Company
Source: 650 ml. bottle
Rating: ****  (8.4 of 10)
Comments:

Cryptozoology is a big thing in my household, so I hoped it would pair well with beer.  No worries as the big Yeti bottle pours out a midnight black with a thick and foamy head.  The oak is in the nose as well as chocolate.  The taste is also a dark chocolate with a bitter aftertaste.  Lots of lace on the glass and the head sustains.  Excellent beer, and proven to exist!

 

 

Left Hand Polestar Pilsner


Beer: Polestar Pilsner
Brewer: Left Hand Brewing Company
Source: Draft
Rating: ** (6.5 of 10)
Comments: Served in a frost mug, drinking this beer made me feel like I’d gone back a few generations when no-nonsense men drank simple pilseners in dank bars, like in a Spenser novel.  The beer was straw-colored with little carbonation and surprisingly thin head.  The aroma is mild with some grassyness and citrus notes.  The flavor is also grassy with a biscuit taste and creamy malt undertones.  It leaves behind lots of whispy lacing.  Not bad.