RACISM RECOUNTED

BlacKkKlansman recalls 40-year-old events and serves as a relevant message for confronting racism today

 

By Leonard Heldreth

The films this month include two movies that are oriented toward minority groups and a biopic of an alcoholic, disabled cartoonist.

BlacKkKlansman

Spike Lee returns to the top of his form as director with BlacKkKlansman. Angry, messy, using film history and current events to drive home points, sometimes in a ham-fisted fashion, he forces people to confront the racism that still thrives in today’s world.

Based on a memoir of the same title by Ron Stallworth, the first black policeman appointed to the Colorado Springs police department, the film tells how Stallworth and another undercover policeman infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the early 1970s and intercepted some violence that the Klan had planned.

Responding by phone to an ad in the local newspaper, Stallworth (John David Washington, Denzil’s son) fakes a “white” dialect and is invited to attend a Klan meeting. Obviously, he can’t go without revealing his skin color, but he persuades another cop, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), to attend the meeting…

 

Crazy Rich Asians

Director Jon M. Chu’s adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s 2013 best-selling novel, Crazy Rich Asians, falls within the genre of romantic comedy and is the first American studio film since Wayne Wang’s Joy Luck Club (1993) to feature an exclusively Asian cast. With this huge talented cast and stunning Singapore sets, the film hopes to be a breakthrough for Asian and Asian-American actors, much as recent films like Black Panther provided new opportunities for actors of other minority groups.

The plot of Crazy Rich Asians is comparatively simple. Nick Young (Henry Golding) lives in Manhattan but plans to return to Singapore for the wedding of his best friend Colin (Chris Pang) and his fiancée, Araminta (Sonoya Mizuno). Nick invites the girl he has been dating for the last year, Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), an economics professor at NYU and originally from Queens, to accompany him and meet his family. At this point a second wedding seems almost inevitable, but a well-made comedy requires obstacles to be overcome before the two can marry…

 

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

The title for Gus Van Sant’s biopic about quadriplegic, alcoholic cartoonist John Callahan comes from one of Callahan’s own cartoons: a posse of men surround an overturned wheelchair in the desert, and one of the men says, “Don’t worry, he won’t get far.” This humor, often at the expense of the handicapped, is one of the ways Van Sant lifts this conventional tale of a crippled recovering alcoholic to something that approaches uplifting without getting sentimental or maudlin or even very sympathetic. While many people may not recognize Callahan’s name, many will recognize his unique felt-tipped pen cartoons, which were published by the Portland State University press and then in Willamette Week, The New Yorker, Penthouse and National Lampoon.

Callahan had been an alcoholic since age thirteen, and the film emphasizes how frustrating such a person can be. In 1972, thoroughly drunk with equally drunk buddy Dexter (Jack Black), he leaves one drinking party looking for another drinking party across town with supposedly better looking women. Dexter, driving a blue Volkswagen, wraps the car around a lamppost and flips it. Callahan’s spine is injured, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down; Dexter emerges from the accident with only a few scratches. The rest of the film follows Callahan’s attempts to deal with his injuries and his addiction until his death in 2010; the film is based on his 1990 memoir…

 

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