Spike, 61 years old at the time of release, gives us his strongest effort since 2002’s The 25th Hour
Adore the shot reverse double-dolly close-up (very near the end after John David Washington and Laura Harrier decide to break up and look out of their window to see who is knocking). Spike has a ton of wonderful reoccurring visual and stylistic trademark and flourishes (we’ll get to the “wake up” and dutch angles below) but this one is certainly his signature shot.
It’s a fabulously engaging narrative- the 135 minutes fly by
Spike has never been subtle- and I love it- he’s a bold filmmaker and auteur (and his visual style matches his content delivery)
I struggled with the Corey Hawkins preaching scene the first time- too often in Spike’s films we catch him filming speeches (think of the endless soliloquy, literally sermonizing by John Cusack’s character in Chi-raq) but the gorgeous shots of adoring onlookers in the crowd–cropped out faces and floating heads at the 17 minute mark—Spike bounces the speech off variations of this shot at least 5X- strong sequence- won me over
It’s largely a cop movie- or even a buddy cop movie—one playing on the contrast of the background and differences in the two cops like Lethal Weapon or even better, 48 hours. But this genre has roots even back to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid–
There’s some Django here with the comedy in a socio-historical setting—Spike has chosen not only to make the two leads funny (Washington and Driver are great–affable) but the KKK members (aside from one- the horrifyingly unfunny Felix character) are largely funny, too. Topher Grace is a talented comedian as is Paul Walter Hauser from I, Tonya
Nods to pioneering and influential Blaxploitation films
Trump isn’t outright referenced until the end but there are nuanced nods along the way—Nixon and Reagan are a part of the film- Nixon posters/pictures especially in the mise-en-scene
Speaking of Nixon- several shots can’t help but recall All The President’s Men (and now Soderbergh and even Fincher using lighting as mise-en-scene)
Like the Rodney King footage to kick off Malcom X Spike here reframes the film at the end with real life doc footage (Charlottesville here). He starts the film with three openings: the Gone With the Wind , Baldwin’s fake documentary sequence, and then introduces Washington
Parallel editing sequence between Belafonte’s story and the KKK meeting- brilliantly editorializing through contrast
During the phone conversations between Topher Grace and John David Washington Spike often shoots them in canted frames. He’s such a genius, it’s like he knows so much of this film is an uncinematic set-up—two men talking on the phone– he uses film style to show the discord and peculiarities of wild situation/conversation
A strong score from frequent Spike collaborator Terence Blanchard
A standout shot late with the three men in front of the stain glass window at a low-angle
You have the “wake up” dialogue trademark in nearly all of Spike’s films
I love the romantic dance sequence set up by enjoyable stylistic filmmaking- the “too late to turn back now” by Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose—clearly Spike feels warmly towards the song, the 1970’s period and it comes through in the enthusiasm and detail
Like this film a lot. Not certain I agree that it’s better than Inside Man though. I’d have to revisit both films to be sure.
Hey hope you are doing great Drake, would you please tell me what film would you show to someone who absolutely loved this one? Its more for a watch with family night than for the study of auteur cinema
Paul Thomas Anderson or Quentin Tarantino would be right up your alley! And when it comes to PTA, I mostly mean his first 3 MPs: Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and Punch-Drunk Love.
What about Do the right thing? Would it be a choice for a night with my folks? I’m not sure about Boogie Nights might get awkward with the sisters and mom around haha but thank you I really appreciate Zane
@Alejandro- I’m not sure about your family or folks—- I’d never recommend a Spike or PTA movie for my folks so it’s hard to say- sorry I can’t be of more help
If anyone can tell me I’d appreciate thanks!
@Alejandro – I think it’s hard to go wrong with Do the Right Thing (1989) it moves at a steady pace, has great performances, memorable characters, humor, and a great story. It does get heavy with the social dialogue but given that this is the Blackkklansman page and we are talking about Spike Lee I assume you are aware of that. Obviously I don’t know your family but I do think this movie makes for some great discussions but isn’t necessarily overly preachy and does have a good mix of entertainment and humor along with some of the heavy societal commentary.
@Alejandro- this is tough because 1. I don’t know your family and I don’t want that to be awkward. And 2- this is a pretty unique film, a social message, entertaining narrative, some humor— I’m not sure any other Spike film’s have that sort of tone…. I found this- some of these are off- but I think that speaks to how the unique the film is https://thecinemaholic.com/movies-like-blackkklansman/ maybe LA confidential one to add to this?
Thank you James, thank you Drake for taking the time I’m sorry i understand you and the work you do is mainly focused in the auteur work not in random recommendations but thank you for taking the time. I think while BlacKkKlansman may not reach the MP status it is special and an unique film and a well balanced movie i liked it a lot since it filled my needs of looking for something more than just a story something between an auteur job and a story to appeal more people which is not bad
Viewing # 3
– it only now occurred to me the connection of Spike Lee directing Denzel’s son after directing
Denzel nearly 30 years ago, must be interesting
– what did you think of John David Washington’s performance? I really enjoyed it, the only
other film I’ve seen of his was Tenet (2020) which really did not work for me although that
was more to do with Nolan (who I normally love) than Washington’s performance
– very funny throughout, especially any of the scenes with Topher Grace whose David Duke
might be the funniest fictionalized real life bad guy since Tarantino’s version of Hitler in
– It’s such a high energy film with basically no down time, never lags