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

Podcasts of the Week Ending April 17


Best of the Left :: Our Democracy is Filibusted, Time to Kill the Filibuster

The filibuster is a tool of white supremacy and it must be eliminated to allow the United States to pursue freedom and equality for all.

99% Invisible ::  Welcome to Jurassic Art Redux

The best way most people have to understand how extinct animals like the dinosaurs lived is through art.  Over the years, paleoart has transitioned from maintaining outdated ideas, to illustrating new understandings of dinosaurs, to entirely speculative art of different possibilities of how dinosaurs looked and acted.

Throughline :: The Real Black Panthers

If your understanding of the Black Panther Party is informed by depictions like Forrest Gump of a group of radical Blacks who hate white people, it’s worth listening to this podcast to learn what they actually understood.  In reality, the Black Panthers were seen as a threat by the FBI, and others, due to their radical vision of cross-racial activism.

The Story Collider :: Stories of COVID-19: Teachers

Teachers have dealt with a lot during the pandemic, from the brunt of redesigning education for remote learning on a moment’s notice to being the target of anger from parents and politicians.  Here are some of their stories.

Unf*cking the Republic :: AOC & the Lying Men Hydra

New York congressional representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the target of rage from Republicans, establishment Democrats, and Leftists alike.  This podcast explains what they have in common.

Running Tally of Podcast of the Week Awards for 2021

Podcasts of the Week Ending April 10


99% Invisible :: The Real Book

How a book of pirated sheet music became a must have for students in jazz music programs.

Throughline :: Policing in America

A history of police in America and how it has served the purposes of white supremacy.

Unf*cking the Republic :: Mass Incarceration: The War on Drugs

A  profanity-laden summary of the work Michelle Alexander and others have done to detail how increased policing and imprisonment is being used to infringe the rights of Black Americans.

Running Tally of Podcast of the Week Awards for 2021

Podcasts of the Week Ending December 5


Two podcasts this week, dealing with the best and worst of white Americans.

This Day in Esoteric Political History :: John Brown’s Body

The death of the legendary and influential abolitionist.

Throughline :: A Pack of Wolves

The greatest terrorist threat in the United States comes from white supremacist groups and individuals. This podcast traces the history of the modern white supremacist movement that arose in the wake of the war in Vietnam.

RUNNING TALLY OF PODCAST OF THE WEEK APPEARANCES

Podcasts of the Week Ending September 7


More or Less :: Amazon Forest Fires

Statistics cited regarding the Amazon forest fires are not accurate, but the true story is more alarming.

Hit Parade :: We Are Stardust, We Are Gold-Certified

Counting down the artists and bands that got a boost (and those that didn’t) after their performances at the Woodstock festival.

BackStory :: Labor Day Special: A History of Work and Labor Relations in the U.S.

Overlooked history of women, children, and Mexican-Americans in the American labor pool.

Radiolab / Memory Palace :: Memory Palace

I’ve been listening to podcasts for close to 15 years now, and Memory Palace and Radiolab have been longtime favorites.  This special episode of Radiolab features highlights from classic Memory Palace episodes and a new story about scrub bulls.

Hub History :: Mayor Curley’s Plan to Ban the Klan 

Back in the 1920s, white supremacists hoped to expand their operations into Boston, but faced fierce opposition from Boston mayor James Michael Curley.  If only Boston’s mayor in 2019 was not a coward who appeases white supremacists.

Throughline :: The Litter Myth

The history of the successful campaign in the 1960s and 1970s to shift responsibility for environmental destruction from big corporations to individuals, with the help of a fake Native American.


Running tally of 2019 Podcast of the Week appearances:

Podcasts of the Week Ending January 19th


The New Yorker Radio Hour :: How “The Apprentice” Made Donald Trump, and a Boondoggle in Wisconsin

“Liberal” Hollywood, and now the “liberal” media, help shape the image of the current occupant of the White House.  This is something that’s pretty obvious to many of us, but it’s interesting to hear how it was done.

What’s Next :: The Gymnast Who Went Megaviral

You may have seen video of UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi’s floor routine the past week.  Beyond just being a great routine, Ohashi’s performance is notable for her clear expression of joy and her teammates cheering and dancing on the sideline.  Rebecca Schuman explains why the attitude of collegiate gymnastics is so different from elite gymnasts in the Olympics.

The War on Cars :: Cars Versus Guns

People were shocked to see in a recent report that gun violence is the second largest killer of children in the United States.  What was overlooked is that the #1 killer of children in the United States is – and has been for a long time – car crashes.  The War on Cars panelists discuss American gun culture and car culture, their many similarities, and how they both allow so many preventable deaths to occur.

Planet Money :: The First Shutdown

The United States federal government is shutdown again.  Planet Money looks back in history to find the first government shutdown in 1879 as Congress fought with President Rutherford B. Hayes.  The reason is shocking.  Not only were former Confederates allowed to return to serving in the federal government, but enough of them were elected that they were able to take control of Congress (they were Democrats back then).  And to prevent the Hayes administration from enforcing African American voting rights, they shut down the government.  Just in case you ever wondered who really won the Civil War.


Running tally of Podcast of the Week appearances:

Podcasts of the Week Ending August 3rd


Re:Sound :: Tsunami Song

The true and complicated story of the Confederate anthem, “Dixie.”  Also, tsunamis & migraines, and Romeo and Juliet texting in the afterlife.

Fresh Air :: Documenting Hate in America

Journalist A.C. Thompson’s investigative work into the white supremacist organizations of America.

The Truth :: Bonus: Everything is Alive

This is actually a preview of a new podcast where inanimate objects get interviewed, in this case a can of generic cola.  This sounded like a one-note joke, but the story went into some very odd places.

Hub History :: Boston’s Pickwick Disaster and the Dance of Death

A building collapse at a popular Boston nightclub in 1925 causes the death of 44 people and leads moral crusaders to campaign against the dangers of dancing the Charleston.

 

Resistance Mixtape – Anti-Fascist Anthems


I’ve been meaning to make this a regular feature, and this is a good time to collect some songs written in opposition to fascists, white supremacists, and right-wing extremists of all stripes.  It seems that folk and punk are the favored genres of anti-fascism, but if you know a good ripping tune from some other genre to add to the fight, let me know in the comments.

Woody Guthrie – “All You Fascists Bound to Lose”

Peggy Seeger – “Song of Choice”

Fishbone – “Subliminal Fascism”

Anti Flag – “This Machine Kills Fascists”

MDC – “Born to Die”

Aus-Rotten – “Fuck Nazi Sympathy”

Sonic Youth – “Youth Against Fascism”

Rage Against the Machine – “Killing in the Name”