BLACKkKLANSMAN: It’s my belief that America is in the midst of another civil rights era galvanized by the Black Lives Matter movement as well as the mainstreaming of overt racism. But co-writer/director Spike Lee (DO THE RIGHT THING) sets his newest “joint” in the early ‘70s when Black Power was the outcry against racially motivated injustice and oppression. The true story of a black police officer (John David Washington) in lily-white Colorado Springs who infiltrates the local Ku Klux Klan chapter with the help of a more seasoned white co-worker (Adam Driver) embraces a predominant theme that we haven’t made much of any progress in ridding American culture of racism. When we hear the satirical bigoted discourse in the opening scene from Alec Baldwin’s (MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE-FALLOUT) fictitious “academic”, we’re uncomfortably reminded of Laura Ingraham’s latently prejudicial lament at the changing demographic of America (Translation: Where have all the white people gone?). The narrative does include some whimsically comical moments that includes newcomer Washington (a.k.a. Denzel’s son) using a “white voice” a la the telemarketer in SORRY TO BOTHER YOU to talk his way up to the top of the hate group ladder with none other than Imperial Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace) who wants to make over the Klan’s image. Like a lot of Lee’s previous works, some characters come off as little more than political mouthpieces with a liberal amount of speechifying. This is especially present in a sequence where Harry Belafonte (THE PLAYER) relays the story of a 1916 lynching in Waco of a black teenager overlapping with a current Klan gathering where members applaud the KKK’s retribution and vengeance against blacks in THE BIRTH OF A NATION (1915). But just when you think you’re about to be beaten over the head with heavy-handed discourse, the screenplay ambushes you with clever amounts of “Blaxploitation films” parody, a fairly suspenseful undercover thriller plus dead-on commentary paralleling a present day America where pandering to some people’s basest and most racist convictions can propel a con man all the way to the White House. CRITIC’S GRADE: B

CLOSING CREDITS: Here are some excellent movies starring or directed by Robert Redford who recently announced his retirement from acting – BAREFOOT IN THE PARK (1967), BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969), DOWNHILL RACER (1969), TELL THEM WILLIE BOY IS HERE (1969), THE HOT ROCK (1972), THE CANDIDATE (1972), JEREMIAH JOHNSON (1972), THE STING (1973)*, THE WAY WE WERE (1973), THE GREAT WALDO PEPPER (1975), THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR (1975), ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (1976), ORDINARY PEOPLE (1980)**, OUT OF AFRICA (1985), THE MILAGRO BEANFIELD WAR (1988), A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT (1992), QUIZ SHOW (1994)***, UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL (1996), THE HORSE WHISPERER (1998), THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE (2000), AN UNFINISHED LIFE (2005), ALL IS LOST (2013), CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014)

*Academy Award Nomination for Best Actor

**Academy Award Winner for Best Director

***Academy Award Nomination for Best Director and Best Picture