A couple of days ago N.Y. Times critics Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott posted their Best Movies of 2018 lists. They both like Roma, First Reformed and Happy as Lazzaro, as I do. They’re also on the same page as far as BlacKkKlansman admiration goes, which I don’t quite get.
I called it Lee’s strongest film since Inside Man (’06) and before that The 25th Hour (’01), and easily his most impassioned, hard-hitting film about the racial state of things in the U.S. of A. since Malcom X (’92). For me the bottom line is that BlacKkKlansman is basically a police undercover caper film, but plotted in an odd, head-scratchy way. Which I tried to briefly explain in a 7.19.18 piece.
I agree with Dargis’s admiration of Burning and First Reformed, and to a lesser extent Shoplifters. And I feel strongly bonded with Scott on his praise of Marielle Heller‘s Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Nadine Labaki‘s Capernaum.
But how Scott could completely ignore Pawel Pawlikowski‘s Cold War, my choice for the best film of the year, is mystifying. Dargis includes it in her list of runner-ups.
I guess it all basically comes down to whether or not you can accommodate yourself to the rules and regulations of the Dargis-Scott Critical Universe (DSCU). I understand and respect the DSCU for what it is, but I was really quite upset by a 5.2 DSCU article called “Dear Movie Industry, We Have Thoughts”, in which Scott declared that anyone offering a historical analogy about today’s near-tyrannical climate of politically correct admonishing is up to no good.
“Please read some history,” he implored. “About the Salem witch trials, the Spanish Inquisition, the martyrdom of early Christians, Joseph McCarthy, Joseph Stalin, the Gestapo, Pol Pot and any of the other historical monsters and catastrophes you like to invoke when talking about whatever is bothering you in contemporary culture. Also please refrain from hyperbolically throwing around words like ‘silencing,’ ‘thought police’ and ‘censorship’ in reference to criticism on social media or elsewhere. People who indulge in this kind of rhetorical inflation are like rats spreading bubonic plague.”
Either you understand what’s going on with the current climate of intimidating woke-lefty fascism and how a sizable percentage of the current community of leading film critics is simply terrified of stepping out of line or saying anything that might strike the wokeys or the virtue-signallers as the wrong thing to say. Either you can say to yourself “yup, this is definitely a characteristic of our social and critical discourse right now” or you can’t. Or you won’t. But to call people who are claiming there’s a strong element of fear and intimidation…to call these people “plague-spreading rats” is quite the declaration.