In Review: BlacKkKlansman

Some might be quick to call BlacKkKlansman a return to form for American auteur Spike Lee, but the film arrives with the conviction of a storyteller who never left in the first place. Which he truly is. Over twenty narrative features (in addition to documentaries and television) and he’s never taken a break from studying the micro and macro of race in America in works alternating between esoteric and accessible. But maybe the distinction is being made because after this extensive career, Lee delivers something to nearly match his most beloved works for their urgency.

Its true story is at once too wild to be believed and just crazy enough to be conceivable: John David Washington stars as Ron Stallworth, the sole black detective in the 1970s Colorado Springs police force who infiltrated the local Ku Klux Klan. What begins on a spontaneous action, Stallworth heads a task force that ultimately has Jewish fellow detective Flip Zimmerman assume his identity and makes contact with grand wizard David Duke. Adapted from Stallworth’s book by Lee and a screenwriting team of Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott, if BlacKkKlansman were any more real, it would be fictional.

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filmmixtape’s Best Director of 2015

One of the reasons that helped 2015 be such a strong year for film is the strength of vision from a large number of directors. This was truly a director’s year and that was reflected both inside and outside of the studio system, with big gambles in approach being taken from The Revenant to Room, from Mad Max: Fury Road to Tangerine. Here are my choices for the directors crafting the strongest point of view:

Best Director

Lenny Abrahamson – Room

  • Crafted without sensationalism and with a distanced respect to moments of privacy, Abrahamson approaches Room with stunning emotional and visual intuition. The film’s two halves are distinct and different in style, yet the whole film remains cohesive. He makes the unbearable subject palatable without sacrificing honesty.

Todd Haynes – Carol

  • The film is fascinated with the unspoken and Haynes loads every frame with subtext that informs both character and circumstance. Crafting the film to a gradual swell of emotion, he turns Carol into an invigorating and cathartic experience not unlike falling in love. No one makes period look as natural as he does.

Spike Lee – Chi-Raq

  • A swift reminder that the filmmaker is one of the shrewdest at blending tones and finding hilarious humanity within larger social conflicts. The whole thing shouldn’t work but it does glouriously, as much a transplant of ancient Greek theatre as a music video. Welcome back, Spike.

George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road

  • Not since Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge has such a distinct directorial vision been given such a large scale to run amok. Miller throws so much on the screen visually and thematically, but has a refined sense of when to draw us in and when to hold back. That the film isn’t a complete mess is due to his complete control of his art.

Denis Villeneuve – Sicario

  • He corals every element behind and in front of the camera to serve his point of view and finds ambiguous depth in an already strong procedural script. His control of what’s happening on screen and to the audience borders on the fascistic. He’s becoming one of the best at challenging audiences in genre packages.

See the winner after the jump!

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Long Overdue, Massively Earned

spikeSpike Lee got his Honorary Oscar last night at the Academy’s Governor Awards, deeply deserved after the still-stinging and broadly dismissive showing Do the Right Thing got in its Oscar year. Steadily working within micro and macro interests, social commentary and broad appeal, his career is as (perhaps is even more) varied and expansive as any of his contemporaries.

Trailer for his upcoming Amazon partnership Chi-raq after the jump!

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