Cinema Dispatch: Da 5 Bloods

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Da 5 Bloods and all the images you see in this review are owned by Netflix

Directed by Spike Lee

It’s not often that a film gets released at the EXACT moment it should be, but leave it to Spike Lee to make a movie worth talking about at a time when its message couldn’t be more relevant.  I’ve certainly liked more of Spike Lee’s movie’s than I haven’t with Chi-Raq being a downright masterpiece and it’s like movie studios are giving us anything else worth watching at this period of time (including Disney who thought putting Artemis Fowl on Disney+ was a better idea than just chucking it in a garbage can), so consider me pumped to see something important instead of just spending another evening watching reruns and staring at the ceiling!  Is Spike Lee’s timely examination of Black people’s relationship to the Vietnam War and by extension the systems created it which are still in place to this day, or is Lee like the rest of us and finds himself missing a step in these unusual times?  Let’s find out!!

Nearly fifty years after their tour in Vietnam, the remaining members of The Bloods return to Vietnam to reconnect, remember the good times, and find their fallen comrade Stormin’ Norman (Chadwick Boseman) who died during the war and whose body is still out there.  Our surviving members are Paul, Otis, Eddie, and Melvin (Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, and Isiah Whitlock Jr) as well as an unexpected fifth member David (Jonathan Majors) who’s the son of Paul and wants to keep an eye on him during this trip.  Now that’s all MOSTLY true, but there are some details missing such as the fact that The Bloods buried a whole bunch of gold back then and are out here to find it along with Stormin’ Norman to secure their retirements, though saying that to the US government who’s gold it is they’re digging up (it was supposed to be delivered to the Vietnamese government that was declared a loss after the plane crashed), so they omitted that part when they appealed to both countries’ governments to explore the area.  And so the journey begins, with our heroes telling stories of their time in the war, confronting the demons of their past, and hopefully leaving the country far richer than they entered it.  Will The Bloods find what they are looking for in this country they left long ago, and will it be what they came to find in the first place?  What hardships will they face along the way, and will their struggles ultimately be in vain?  How the heck is it that the ONE dude to die in the war was Black Panther!?  Isn’t he bulletproof!?

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“Did you find any vibranium yet?”     “That joke wasn’t funny the first time you made it, and it sure as heck isn’t funny the FIFTIETH time you made!!”

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Cinema Dispatch: BlacKkKlansman

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BlacKkKlansman and all the images you see in this review are owned by Focus Features

Directed by Spike Lee

There’s a lot going on right now and as much as I’d honestly like to take a step back from the heavier subject matter to focus on terrible horror films and laughable thrillers, well… there’s a bigger story that needs to be told and at the very least I can try to stay engaged with the films that are being made because of it.  Fortunately the films this year that faced issues of racism, white supremacy, privilege, and state sponsored oppression have been pretty great so far with The First Purge being a worth addition to one of the best film series we have today, Sorry to Bother You feeling like the kind of gonzo shot in the arm film making that will inspire others to think outside the standard feature film model, and Blindspotting being a supremely empathetic examination that’s palatable and poignant for any audience member.  However, it’s time for the king to return to his throne as Spike Lee has spent his entire career (barring Oldboy) speaking on these very issues that the rest of Hollywood is just catching up to and is now throwing their weight behind these artists.  Did Spike Lee make the definitive film of our turbulent times, or has his style gotten tiresome in the face of newer voices in his political circle?  Let’s find out!!

The movie follows the strange yet true story of Detective Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) who joined the Colorado Springs police force in the seventies and not long after joining the force started a sting operation against the KKK in the area.  With the help of a fellow cop Detective Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) he managed to impersonate a white supremacists over the phone while Flip would pretend to be him in person; a plan that was so successful that they even managed to dupe KKK Grand Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace) who had several conversations with Ron never realizing he was in fact black.  As the investigation goes along though, things start to get complicated as certain members of the Colorado chapter of the KKK start to suspect their newest recruit, and Ron start to find it hard to live not only a double life as a fake white man, but also the dichotomy of being a black man and a police officer in that period of time; especially when he starts falling for the President of the Black Student Union Patrice (Laura Harrier) who is just as militant against white systems of power as Ron is determined to use his position in said system to take the KKK down a peg.  Will Ron and Flip manage to stop the KKK from whatever it is they’re planning without getting caught in the crossfire themselves?  How far will the KKK members go to assert themselves as a threat to be taken seriously, and who do they plan to hurt in the process?  Just how many white people jokes can Ron get away with before David Duke becomes suspicious!?

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“Let me ask you this, my pure white brethren!  How many KKK members does it take to screw in a light bulb?”     “I don’t think we covered that in the manual…”

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