BlacKkKlansman

I am by no means a Spike Lee expert. I haven’t seen the majority of his work, let alone the stuff that made him famous. I was only a child then.

The last movie of his I saw before he made BlacKkKlansman was Chi-Raq, which ended up being a film that I really loved. It made my top of the year list. I knew I had to give him more of a chance, since the only other films I had seen were Inside Man and He Got Game.

And then, I didn’t I was still too busy. Apparently he has had a few smaller films come out since Chi-Raq and this one, and I hadn’t even noticed. They were small, little advertising, maybe didn’t even make it to the big screen. Regardless, he clearly has a big work ethic, churning out films on topics he cares about, and has been doing it for decades to help raise awareness.

ID
And with a fun name like this one, it is sure to be a hoot.

Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) is just a brother who wants to make a difference in the world. He finds himself in Colorado, and they seem to want black cops, so he applies, and he gets to be a detective! Hooray, diversity!

Now strangely enough this isn’t in the 1950’s or 60’s, but 1979, and Colorado Springs was apparently still lacking on having black applicants and police officers. Either way, he gets the job, is put undercover quickly to infiltrate a potential black power rally. You know, he has to find out information if they are going to do anything illegal or go to war with the cops.

While doing that assignment, he gets the undercover itch, and decides to try and find out about the local klans group in town. He talks to the owner on the phone, and gets an invite. But of course, he isn’t white. So he has to enlist a partner, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), who happens to also be Jewish (not good for the klan either), to pretend to be him in person and infiltrate their group, while Flip is him in person.

Things can easily go wrong of course when dealing with white extremists. And they often do. But hopefully this undercover assignment can lead to them getting news about potential cross burnings or worse before they happen, in order to make the world a better place.

Also starring Ashlie Atkinson, Jasper Pääkkönen, Laura Harrier, Paul Walter Hauser, Ryan Eggold, and Topher Grace as David Duke.

Power
With so much black power on one screen, I was ready to raise my fists as well.

BlacKkKlansman, unlike my review of this film, is incredibly timely and relevant to our modern world. It had its wide release the same weekend as the one year anniversary of the marches in Charlottesville, Virginia, which of course had Nazi and Klansmen rhetoric going on with them. It wasn’t subtle about its connections either, with this film ending with footage from these few days of events and from the politicians who spoke out or famously did not speak out against it.

It is well acted by Washington, who has not had many roles, and is definitely the son of Denzel. It had great shots, a good story, and a nail biting finale that lasted a good while and kept the tensions really high.

It also made sure to try and keep things realistic, as it was based on a true story. Some liberties were taken of course, but all of the characters felt real and never turned into a cartoon. It didn’t try to do anything silly, like sympathize with any of the klansmen, because fuck them.

Overall, it is a powerful film, a relevant story, and a message about how far people can get with a little bit of can do attitude despite working against systematic racism.

3 out of 4.

I, Tonya

Tonya Harding is currently living in infamy, as the most famous figure skater ever. More people know her name than Nancy Kerrigan. More people know her name than the other figure skaters since then and before.

Tonya Harding was one of first people to be sensationalized around the world thanks to the emergence of the 24 hour news cycle. Yes, she was involved in a terrible scandal. A scandal we have never really seen before or after, or if we did, it was a lot more subtle and professionally done.

I, Tonya is a film more about the once incident that will forever define her life, unfortunately. It is about her youth, her skating career, her relationships, and sure, some time after as well.

Happy
And about her happiest moment, in which she was clearly, very goddamn happy.

Tonya Merigold Bethany Harding (Margot Robbie) (I made up those middle names) grew up poor and unloved, which is really how she was most of her life as well.

Her mother (Allison Janney) was the one who spent most of her time raising her, with a lot of failed marriages, men who could no longer stand her. She was beaten, but her mom still put most of her money into skating lessons, because Tonya showed skills at the young age of three. Tonya was crass, a red neck, vulgar, and everything that her mother taught her to be.

This led to some contention in the ice skating community, who demanded their skaters be princesses. She was often not treated right by the judges, even if she landed the hardest of tricks perfectly.

A hard life led Tonya to a hard man, Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), a couple of people who married their first love when neither had a strong education. More beatings, more of a shit home life, and yet still, Tonya succeed on the ice.

All of this led up to the 1994 Winter Olympics, and I am sure you heard a lot about that one.

Also starring Anthony Reynolds, Bobby Cannavale, Bojana Novakovic, Caitlin Carver, Julianne Nicholson, Paul Walter Hauser, Ricky Russert, and Mckenna Grace as little Tonya.

Family
The real torture is probably how long it took to do her hair.

I didn’t really know what to expect going into I, Tonya. Again, I really only understood the woman behind the incident through parodies and Weird Al. I knew it was classified as some sort of Dark Comedy, and usually Dark Comedies aren’t based on real events, even if they say they are. I also know that this whole thing is from Tonya and companies point of view, Nancy Kerrigan had nothing to do with this film, so there was a chance of bias.

And so I tried to look at it objectively, just as a film, telling a story, not worrying about how it matched up with real events. Like how I did for The Greatest Showman. And yet it was hard to do that as characters constantly broke the fourth wall to tell if these things really did or didn’t happen, and I don’t just mean the documentary feel of the film for some parts.

But at this point I am stalling. I, Tonya was masterful cinema in my eyes. It took a tragic and strange event and gave it human qualities. As far as I am concerned, Tanya Harding was a tragic figure growing up and very misunderstood. She had to struggle a lot through poverty, physical abuse and mental abuse from those who loved her, and yet she still became a success. And fuck it, I believe she wasn’t involved with the incident at this point. Movie has set my mind to a certain point, and I just feel so incredibly sad about it all.

I, Tonya made me laugh a ton, made me cry, but more importantly, it made me think. That sounds like a canned response, but it made me think about what it means to be a celebrity, what it means to have your lives completely under camera all the time, and how you aren’t allowed to ever be weak unless you want to be trampled.

Except when it comes to Trump. The mockery is justified.

4 out of 4.