Oscar Watch: BlacKkKlansman

It’s been almost 30 years since the Academy suffered a bit of backlash when Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing missed the cut of Best Picture nominees. Since then, the writer/director has had critical hits and misses and none of his joints have managed to score a nod for the top prize (including 1992’s acclaimed Malcolm X).

That could finally change as his latest, BlacKkKlansman, was unleashed today at the Cannes Film Festival. It tells the true and amazing story of an African-American cop in the 1970s who infiltrated a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. John David Washington (son of Lee’s frequent star Denzel) plays the role with a supporting cast that includes Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Corey Hawkins, Paul Walter Hauser, Harry Belafonte, and Topher Grace as David Duke. Blumhouse Productions (the studio behind last year’s Get Out) distributes with its director Jordan Peele as a producer. The film opens stateside this August.

Early buzz from the French Riviera indicates this is Lee’s strongest, most mainstream, and entertaining and timely movie in some time. It seems destined to receive plenty of attention later this summer.

Could that translate to a Best Picture nomination and one for Lee’s direction? The Cannes attention raises that prospect considerably. As for performances, Washington is getting very positive writeups. The same applies to Driver (playing Washington’s partner) and Grace as the former KKK head. Either one of them could see strong campaigns mounted in Supporting Actor. If I had to guess right now, Blumhouse might focus more on Driver.

Bottom line: BlacKkKlansman was one of the festival’s most eagerly awaited pictures and its unveiling today could lead to months long Oscar chatter.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

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