Roger Thomas Review: ‘BlacKkKlasman’ — Could this film be the favorite for best picture?

Published 9:15 am Thursday, October 4, 2018

In the summer of 1989 I saw my first film directed by Spike Lee. None of the three of us knew what to expect.

We had just seen an ad for the film on television. I was 26 years old. I went with a couple of friends and we discussed what we had seen as we rode home.

Roger Thomas

Needless to say, Lee’s work left an impression on me and I have looked forward to all of his films that have came out over these 29 years. There have been many.

I wish I could say that every film that Lee has done is equal to that first film

I saw. However, not many films, by Lee or anyone else, are crafted as well as “Do the Right Thing.”

Among the canon of Lee’s films, besides “Do the Right Thing,” my favorites are “Malcolm X,” “Get on the Bus” and “Miracle at St. Anna.”

“BlacKkKlansman” is now added to that list.

In fact, it may be my all-time second favorite. This new film is that good.

There are many elements of this film that I like.

First, the trailer makes the film look like a comedy. There are some moments of wit and humor, but one of the things that surprised me early into the screening I attended was the fact that the film is much more serious than I ever imagined.

Considering the material and issues of the film, I think the tone is perfectly appropriate, humor occasionally, but more often poignant, dramatic and even sometimes sad.

I also found the cast very appealing. John David Washington is the lead. He is the cop who comes up with an ingenious way to spy on racist fanatics and determine whether they are committing crimes. Adam Driver also plays a cop who disguises his Jewish heritage so he can infiltrate the organization.

One other major character is played by Topher Grace; Grace portrays the lead racist, David Duke.

Most of us who live in the South have heard of David Duke. He has been spreading hate for many years. A quick Google search and one can see that Duke is still as evil as ever. And I am sure he is proud of it.

There are many elements in the film that makes it one of the best of films of 2018 thus far. As for me, the most important element is the truth that the film offers.

We are closing in on 2019, and yet there are whole groups of people who hate others without having any sensible reason.

“BlacKkKlansman” is an artistic achievement. It is a film that balances humor with tragedy. It holds grand performances. It tells a story that needs to be told.

And most of all, it sheds a bright light on a crisis that continues to harm lives and create more violence with each passing year.

The most moving part of the film is at the end before the credits. There are other moments throughout the film that are touching, but the final clips of actual events reminds any thinking person that we are not yet a united nation when it comes to the issue of race.

May we continue to move closer toward a society that is colorblind. And for those who still want hate, may their hearts be moved.

The same summer I saw “Do the Right Thing” for the first time, I went to Boston on a trip with a church group. Street venders were selling “Do the Right Thing” T-shirts that summer. Twenty-nine years later, I wish I had made that purchase.

There are choices before all the readers of this column. Will you seek out one of Spike Lee’s best films, or will you miss one of the best films of the year?

And one last thing: Will you do the right thing?

Roger W. Thomas of Albemarle reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.