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September 1, 2018

Rob Robbins on Summer Movies' Inflection Point: A Guest Essay

John David Washington in BlacKkKlansman (2018) 
My dear friend Rob Robbins and I watched these movies together. His commentary on them is far superior to what mine would have been (and more succinct). Here are his insights:

Clearly, we are all living in a distinct moment in American history. We are at an inflection point for everything from the devolution of the “American Dream” to the undermining of our constitutional democracy. As we suffer the daily blows of such heavy headlines, it is easy to miss the fact that we are also at a distinct moment in American film.

Film serves as a vehicle for everything from accurate self-reflection to dangerous self-delusion. But this summer we went from Oscar So White to a trio of unapologetically black films so powerful, audiences cannot contain their emotions. If you haven’t seen “Sorry to Bother You,” “BlacKKKlansman,” and “Blindspotting,” consider doing so a mandatory form of civic duty.

In doing so, you will hear the n-word more times than you thought possible. It comes in three different forms. In “Sorry to Bother You,” it arrives mostly as a cultural trope used to reduce people to a one-dimensional caricature.

In “BlacKKKlansman,” it is used mostly as a cultural artifact of an era in which its use was more casual than the modern-day use of the word “fuck.” But in “Blindspotting” it takes on a complex tangle of identity, crossing even skin color.

“Sorry to Bother You” blows your mind by simply becoming something you never expected. As it takes a severe turn into “Naked Lunch” mugwump territory, it shows how eerily close we are to stripping fellow Americans of their literal humanity.

“BlacKKKlansman” is a hard look in the mirror that forces you to see the nation’s failure to adequately mature as it relates to race relations. At the end, you feel as if we are only millimeters ahead of where we were in the 1970s. The movie tugs at your heart metaphorically through your tear ducts.

“Blindspotting” doesn’t tug at your heart in any sort of metaphorical way. Rather, it tangibly forces your heart to race. By the end of the movie, you should just count on literal heart palpitations.The movie is physically hard to watch. Although the simplest in plot, the movie is by far the most complex emotionally. Despite taking years to get to screen, the events of the movie seem as if they could have happened yesterday.

“Sorry to Bother You” and “BlacKKKlansman” deal with trauma. “Blindspotting” actually creates it in the viewer. I can’t say I enjoyed the experience. But if the point is to engender empathy, forcing you to experience the emotions, even in the unreal context of a movie theater, it certainly succeeds in doing so. All three are essential viewing.





















































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