Joseph Kahn is a provocateur, a bomb thrower, a shit-stirrer. On Twitter he almost consistently trolls pitbull owners, retweeting and sharing stories of the breed mauling babies and other innocents. But it’s clear that Kahn isn’t just fucking around, he also believes what he’s saying (even if I fundamentally disagree with him on this topic)… although he’s also fucking around. Both of these things are true at once.
If you know that about Kahn, you’ll get Bodied, a movie that is about the battle rap scene but that is also about race and free speech and the consequences of your words. Kahn is capable of coming at a subject from multiple angles at once, and while Bodied may begin like a juvenile exercise in profound verbal offensiveness, it eventually becomes something weightier, more meaningful and more interesting.
What’s more, while the film seems to be on the side of gleeful irreverence and begins almost like a pro-triggering manifesto, by the end it gets way more nuanced. Bodied isn’t telling us anything, it’s asking us things, and in today’s binary woke vs ‘free speech’ online culture that’s absolutely revolutionary. Bodied isn’t walking up to you and making statements of fact, it’s presenting you a lot of different arguments and sometimes pulling the rug out from under you in terms of whose argument it finds most convincing. But in the end the movie gives you the space to come up with your own ideas and beliefs, rather than finish up like an After School Special with a tidy moral lesson.
Kahn is throwing bombs here, but he’s throwing them with tactical accuracy, trying to blow up the barriers behind which we’re all crouched. He’s trying to get a conversation started.
Continue reading “BODIED Is The Movie 2018 Needed”
The first image in Spike Lee’s Blackkklansman is a scene from Gone With the Wind. The last is a memorial to Heather Heyer, murdered one year ago while protesting racism in Charlottesville. In between is a movie that, as much as it is telling a true story, is also meditating on the ways that the images we consume of ourselves and of others impacts us. Blackkklansman is not just a great piece of filmmaking from one of America’s finest filmmakers, it’s a great piece of film criticism from the man who might be America’s best film critic.
Continue reading “BLACKkKLANSMAN Is The Year’s Most Important Work Of Film Criticism”
How to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of Martin Luther King Jr? There are many options, plenty of them ways of making white people feel better about themselves. Ways that allow white people like myself to look at the most egregious examples of racism – Bull Connor, the KKK, our sitting president – and compare ourselves to those perfidies and feel better. By defining racism only as extreme examples of acting out on racial bias, we get to let ourselves off the hook, and tell ourselves that we are part of the solution just by our very existence as woke, enlightened people.
I won’t be commemorating this day by patting myself on the back for thinking the descendants of slaves deserve reparations, or that cops should stop shooting unarmed black men in the streets. I’m going to be using my mindfulness practice to interrogate my own conditioning and biases, and I’m going to spend it grappling with my own racist tendencies. Because like all white people in the United States of America in the year 2018, I’m at least a little bit racist.
Continue reading “Grappling With My Own Racism”