2018 Awards Profile: Spike Lee’s ‘Black Klansman’ from Focus Features

Welcome to the 2018 Awards Profile series, where we talk about films coming to a theater near you at some point this year (at least at this time of writing). We will analyze the potential for these films to be players for the Academy Awards, and while many of these have the potential to be recognized, many will not, either by quality or being pushed back to the following year. For the next few weeks, we will bring you a film every Monday through Friday to talk about their awards hopes and analyze the film’s chances for success. If you have a suggestion, please include it in the comments below. If you missed a film, click on the tag or category Awards Profile.

FILM: “Black Klansman”
PRODUCERS: Jason Blum, Spike Lee, Raymond Mansfield, Sean McKittrick, Jordan Peele, Shaun Redick
DISTRIBUTOR: Focus Features

DIRECTOR: Spike Lee
WRITER: Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel, Kevin Willmott

CAST: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Topher Grace, Jasper Pääkkönen, Corey Hawkins

SYNOPSIS (via iMDB): Ron Stallworth, an African-American police officer from Colorado, successfully managed to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan and became the head of the local chapter.

WHY IT MIGHT SUCCEED:

It’s been nearly 30 years since Spike Lee’s seminal “Do the Right Thing” hit theaters and gave him the first taste of Oscar success. Since then, Lee has produced a steady output of films, becoming arguably the most respected black filmmaker in the business. But despite Oscar nominations for Best Screenplay and Best Documentary Feature, recognition in the top categories of Best Picture and Best Director have remained elusive.

This may be about to change, however, with the release of Lee’s latest film “Black Klansman”. Based on a memoir by the same name, it tells the incredible true story of an African-American detective who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan and becomes the head of its local chapter. Starring in the lead role of Detective Ron Stallworth is John David Washington, who will hope to continue the legacy of his father Denzel, Lee’s most famous collaborator. With 3 other notable roles in the pipeline, this is shaping up to be a big year for the 33-year old, which should only add fuel to a potential Best Actor campaign here.

For Lee himself, this may finally be his time for overdue recognition from the Academy. When looking back on the meager list of black Best Director nominees, his name is a glaring omission. However, 4 of those nominations have come within the last 10 years, suggesting that Academy tastes have changed enough to embrace his unapologetically black perspective. Furthermore, the film comes from the same producing team behind last year’s “Get Out”, which will surely put this drama at the top of many watch lists.

WHY IT MIGHT NOT SUCCEED:

As is often the case with such prolific filmmakers, Spike Lee can be hit or miss. For every “Do the Right Thing” there’s a “She Hate Me” that bombs with both audiences and critics. Without any available footage or stills (the film is still in production), it’s hard to tell if this will be one of his better efforts. There’s also the question of whether it will even be released this year, with no release date being identified yet. A lot may hinge on its reception at the fall festivals, which can be an unforgiving launching pad, especially for socially relevant films. And even with a positive initial reception, the film could still falter under the weight of high expectations. Just ask Martin McDonagh about that.

POTENTIAL OSCAR CATEGORIES IN PLAY:

  • Motion Picture (Jason Blum, Spike Lee, Raymond Mansfield, Sean McKittrick, Jordan Peele, Shaun Redick)
  • Director (Spike Lee)
  • Actor in a Leading Role – John David Washington
  • Actor in a Supporting Role – Adam Driver, Topher Grace
  • Adapted Screenplay (Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel, Kevin Willmott)
  • Production Design (Curt Beech, Cathy T. Marshall)
  • Costume Design (Marci Rodgers)
  • Film Editing (Barry Alexander Brown)

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS IN THE COMMENTS!

CHECK OUT THE FIRST OFFICIAL SET OF
YEAR-IN-ADVANCE OSCAR PREDICTIONS
AND SEE WHERE “BLACK KLANSMAN” RANKS!