Thursday, September 27, 2018

'"A Last-Minute 'One-Eighty'... Perhaps"

I was thinking about writing this thing.  

It had been suggested that we see the new Spike Lee movie, BlacKkKlansman– is that how you spell it?  Lemme go look.  Yes, it is. Why is it spelled that way?  Go ask Spike Lee.  

The film’s idiosyncratically spelled title, in part, exemplifies my reluctance to see – lemme be careful, here – BlacKklansman.

Good.  I got it.

Why I did not want to see – taking a deep breath before typing – BlacKkKlansman?

It is an accepted “given” that everyone is show business is, by definition, a “showman.”  For me, however, Spike Lee seems to be too much of a showman.  Paraphrasing what my English acting-school teacher would say, “He loves himself in the art more than the art in himself.”

But that wasn’t the main reason I had tepid interest in attending BlacKkKlansman. (Proving you can get used to anything.  I typed the title was just one mistake.  Wait, I get it!  “KkK.” Yeah, well… does somebody smell “Smartypants Country”?)

I enjoyed the first Spike Lee’s movie I saw She’s Gotta Have It a lot.  It was original, funny, interesting and lively.  And it provided a glimpse into a racial subculture, which, coming from Toronto where that racial subculture was demographically absent, I knew nothing about. 

Shortly thereafter came Do The Right Thing.  And I quietly slipped off the developing Spike Lee bandwagon.

I enjoyed Do The Right Thing until the ending.  Up till then, I was once again entertainingly learning about an unfamiliar inner city community, feeling the tension, but also enjoying the interesting and – here’s me, reluctant to say “colorful”, though I will anyway – colorful neighborhood characters.  

Do The Right Thingpopped its lid during its climax, where a startlingly unfair thing happened to one of the more likable characters in the movie.  At that point, I got my metaphorical hat and coat and left the metaphorical Spike Lee building.  Largely, forever.

Here’s the thing. Though as my “Second Thoughts” belatedly suggest, things are not as singularly clear as I was about to portray them. (Though I inevitably want them to be.)

My original conception concerning this blog post was this:
When we go to a movie, we put ourselves in the hands, primarily, of the director.  Depending on that director – pick virtually any director of your choice – either by natural proclivity, or – with a respectful “hat tip” to The Three Amigos­ – because they do not want to stray from the formula and pay the price – audiences experience a reliable “Comfort Zone” concerning the taste and consequent nature of the film they have decided, on a casual night on the town, to go out of the house and enjoy.
(I have vague thoughts of someday writing about the specialized, and, to me, underappreciated, art of giving the audience what it wants while happily surprising it at the same time.  That was precisely my mission for thirty years, and that of everyone else working under the constricting parameters of network TV.  But enough of that.  Or I shall blow an entire blog post in one paragraph.)
Based on  its directorial auspices – with exceptions, because there are always exceptions –the moviegoing audience, albeit with structurally imaginative twists and turns combined with stylistic inventiveness, inevitably gets what it expects.  This assuring reliability informs the calculus around, “What should we see?”  As with “Where should we eat?”, if they dislike the cuisine, they don’t go to that restaurant.
Spike Lee, in Do The Right Thing
Okay, compare…
One, two, three, four, five, six, eleven…
“Yo”, “Yo, “Yo”, “Yo”, “Yo”, “Molotov Cocktail.”
One of them’s not a number, or a “Yo.”
That’s all I was planning to say.  (While, of course, acknowledging the director’s right to switch genres or mix genres within the same picture, which is not the same as brutally “blindsiding” the audience.)
But then, in preparation for writing this blog post, I read the Wikipedia “Plot Summary” for the movie and I started to think, maybe, upon further consideration, Do The Right Thing’s provided ending was a conceivable “Yo.”  A loud, offensive “Yo”, but a “Yo” nonetheless.
With a cooler head now prevailing, I am now wondering if the natural payoff for Do The Right Thing was an out-of-control character, 
Doing the wrong thing.
And not, as I originally believed, a director throwing the audience an incendiary “curveball” because he wanted to, and, as the film’s writer/director, he could.
It’s hard to say.
Still – because a man has to ultimately “land” somewhere – even in Toronto, the word is out about racism.  And that white people don’t “get” it.  Allowing that the issue demands vigilant attention, in his extended oeuvre, what exactly does Spike Lee add to the conversation?
In the end, it comes down to this:  
Directors give you a thing you either appreciate, or you don’t.
Spike Lee’s selected “thing” –  
I can take it or leave it.
With the recently released BlacKkKlansman…

I would appear to be leaving it.

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