Spike Lee uses real-life detective Ron Stallworth’s story as a cracked mirror to examine Trump’s America in 2018.
The following is part of a monthly conversation series between The Hollywood Reporter contributors Simon Abrams and Steven Boone. This month, they tackled BlacKkKlansman, director Spike Lee’s fictionalized account of African-American undercover cop Ron Stallworth’s investigation of the Ku Klux Klan. In the film, Stallworth (John David Washington) infiltrates the Klan with the help of Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), a Caucasian Jewish-American police officer, and Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier), a student activist that Stallworth meets while attending a Stokely Carmichael/Kwame Ture lecture. There are spoilers ahead.
Simon Abrams, Getting Off the Bus: BlacKkKlansman has been praised as one of co-writer/director Spike Lee’s best films. It received the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, and has been hailed by friends and colleagues as his best in years. Our friend Odie Henderson, over at RogerEbert.com, gave the film four stars and said that it is “not only one of the year’s best films but one of Lee’s best as well.” Rembert Browne, writing for Time Magazine, echoes that sentiment by saying that BlacKkKlansman is “Lee’s most critically heralded and accessible effort in over a decade.” Search your review aggregator of choice — Twitter, for me — and you’ll soon see that some variation of this sentiments is fairly popular.
BlacKkKlansman feels like, among other things, Lee’s way of rejecting institutionally revered, but fundamentally (and apparently) racist American movies like Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind. He pointedly opens his film with footage from the latter movie, and quotes the former pic soon in two key scenes, one of which is a comically delivered but deadly serious address from Alec Baldwin as a sock puppet white supremacist named Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard. Documentary footage washes over Baldwin’s face as he speaks and erases his skin color; he is, in other words, white enough to become part of the screen. It’s a visually powerful shot across the bow, one that speaks to Lee’s skill as both a social commentator and an image-maker.
That said, I have mixed feelings about the film, as you and I discussed once our screening ended. My reservations mostly have to do with Lee and his co-writers’ fuzzy articulation of a theme that Henderson eloquently gave voice to in his review, namely how Adam Driver’s character Flip Zimmerman suggests (in one scene, through a Sam Fuller-worthy bit of declamatory dialogue) that like Ron Stallworth, he — a secular Jewish-American — must also pass among WASPy Caucasians. In that sense, my hesitations about Zimmerman have a lot to do with how I see BlacKkKlansman as the work of both Spike Lee the showman and Spike Lee the social commentator (I’d say “provocateur,” but that’s a loaded term, especially when applied to a black filmmaker). So, to start: How well does this film work as a fictional representation of history that’s a political statement, a feel-good entertainment and an effective piece of agitprop?
Beyoncé. Rihanna. Yara Shahidi. Tiffany Haddish. Tracee Ellis Ross. Lupita Nyong’o. Zendaya. Slick Woods. Issa Rae. Aja Naomi King. Laverne Cox. Naomi Campell.
In an unprecedented move, almost all of the cover stars on the coveted September issues of mainstream fashion magazines – including Vogue, Glamour and Elle – are black.
September 2018 is clearly the month of #BlackGirlMagic, with the 12 black women listed above covering the fashion industry’s biggest (both in physical size and importance) issue of the year.
Even InStyle, which featured Jennifer Aniston on its primary cover for the September issue, tried to get in on the tail end of the action by including Dutch Moroccan-Egyptian model Imaan Hammam on one of their subscriber covers.
It’s a powerful statement on beauty, blackness and recognizing cultural tastemakers. Highlighting black women who not only run the gamut in skin tone, hair texture and build, but who are also leaders in their industries, is impressive. It’s exciting and brings hope to a year that has felt like a dumpster fire more often than not.
Having Nyong’o, with her darker skin and natural short crop, on the cover of Porter magazine’s “Desire Issue” or putting trans actress and activist Laverne Cox on Variety’s cover would have been unheard of years ago. That’s power.
“Until there is a mosaic of perspectives coming from different ethnicities behind the lens, we will continue to have a narrow approach and view of what the world actually looks like,” Beyoncé said in her Vogue cover story, which was photographed by Tyler Mitchell, the first black photographer to shoot American Vogue’s cover in the publication’s nearly 126-year history.
That narrow approach seems to be changing: The new issue of British Vogue boasts both the magazine’s first black editor-in-chief, Edward Enniful (who emigrated to London from Ghana), and its first black September cover girl, Rihanna (who was born In Barbados). The Elle Canada issue that Ross covers was produced by the only black editor-in-chief in the Elle network, Vanessa Craft. Under her leadership, six of the last 11 issues have featured women on color on the cover.
But that change, while welcome, has been slow: the crop of September issues comes 53 years after Donyale Luna made history as the first black woman to appear on the front of a magazine with her Harper’s Bazaar cover in 1965. The following year, she became the first black woman to appear on the cover of British Vogue. (American Vogue wouldn’t do it until 1974 with Beverly Johnson.)
Essence magazine hinted at this slow change for their peers when they announced their own September cover, featuring Naomi Campell wearing Dapper Dan for Gucci and interviewed by Andre Leon Talley. “Giving Black women covers since May 1970,” the magazine tweeted.
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — Some of the local growers along the coast here see it as an act of medical compassion: Donating part of their crop of high-potency medical marijuana to ailing veterans, who line up by the dozens each month in the echoing auditorium of the city’s old veterans’ hall to get a ticket they can exchange for a free bag.
One Vietnam veteran in the line said he was using marijuana-infused oil to treat pancreatic cancer. Another said that smoking cannabis eased the pain from a recent hip replacement better than prescription pills did. Several said that a few puffs temper the anxiety and nightmares of post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I never touched the stuff in Vietnam,” said William Horne, 76, a retired firefighter. “It was only a few years ago I realized how useful it could be.”
The monthly giveaway bags often contain marijuana lotions, pills, candies and hemp oils, as well as potent strains of smokable flower with names like Combat Cookies and Kosher Kush. But the veterans do not get any medical guidance on which product might help with which ailment, how much to use, or how marijuana might interact with other medications.
Ciara keeps the dance floor hype going with her new release “Freak Me,” a collaboration with Nigerian star Tekno Miles.
On the track, which follows her viral smash, “Level Up,” the veteran songstress delivery intimate and spicy lyrics while taking command of the dance floor. “Wind slow on it, take control of it, take all of it,” she sings. “I’ll be the freak that you need / I won’t tell nobody / How you freak my body.”
A few days ago, R&B veteran Eric Benet posted a photo on his Instagram profile, which read: “If all you rap about is “killing black people,” “degrading black women,” “abusing drugs,” “materialization,” and “living a low life” – you are not an artist, you are a black face for white supremacy. You are being used to help destroy your own people.”
The post generated opinions from many fans, some who agree and some who don’t. Rapper Fat Joe gave his two cents after a TMZ cameraman asked him to comment on the post by Benet.
“That’s his opinion. I view music as entertainment, man. It’s just entertainment,” Joe says in the below video. “We have different rappers with different messages. It’s all entertainment. If you’re gonna go and you’re gonna live your life behind a rap song, then you’re the fool. …We make gangsta rap people go work out to. People in the Army, Navy, fighting wars, they get hype to our shit.”
Joe also added, “I don’t know what he’s talking about. It’s a shame. I love Eric Benét.”
Rapper Wale also commented on the post, insisting, “Hip-hop always had an affinity for material things,” he wrote in TSR’s comments. “It’s a part of the very fabric (no pun) but does not define the players IN said genre.”