Friday, July 27, 2018

How many Ks, and how many of them capitalized?

I enjoy the stylization of the title of Spike Lee’s new film. I really do.

But it looks much better on the poster than when you type it out:

BlacKkKlansman.”

It sets off all kinds of red underlines on any Microsoft product with spell check built in, and just does not read as a proper word, or any proper thing to try to say. (And not just because it contains the ultimate oxymoron.)

It’s certainly consistent with a career’s worth of challenging spelling and grammar norms by Lee, as the spelling (Da Sweet Blood of Jesus), grammar (She Hate Me) and sometimes both (Mo’ Better Blues) in the titles of his films have all been designed to identify and occasionally explode the stereotypes behind the linguistic stylings of African-Americans, which some have called Ebonics and Lee himself calls “jive talk” in this latest film, set as it is in the early 1970s.

BlacKkKlansman is distinct from those in the sense that it’s not approximating something someone would say, but rather, being typographically clever on purely a visual level, getting in that third K -- or k, I guess, since the extra one is the only one that isn’t capitalized.

I might prefer it if the small k were just for the poster and not for talking about the movie in casual conversation. I might prefer Black Klansman for that. The sound of the Ks still have a good kick to them and it still looks good. 

One of the reasons the typographical strangeness of the title bothers me is that I expect to be looking at it quite a bit every time I open my Word document devoted to the year's best movies. That's right, I saw it at an advanced critics screening on Wednesday night. It's only July so it's too early to project where it will finish the year, but for now, Lee's latest has jumped straight to the top of my chart.

I won't tell you too much for now because a) I'm going to write a review and am still thinking about what I'm going to say, and b) once I write that review I'll link to it, and c) though I have not been specifically muzzled by an embargo on the film, I do think it's weird to go on at length about a film that's not getting its proper release for two weeks or more (though it already has a bunch of reviews out there from festival screenings).

Suffice it to say that Lee is back, if he ever left (my friend and I debated briefly about that), as this is an easy contender for his best film of the 20th century. Which is not a small list of films, as Lee has waned in and out of prominence but has never gone on an actual hiatus from directing, leaving him with ten proper features since the clock struck 2000. 

So however hard it is to write and however weird it looks on the page, I'm overjoyed for its existence. 

2 comments:

Wendell Ottley said...

Yes, the way Lee words this one is a odd, but expected. Nevertheless, this sentence makes me look forward to this movie even more than I already did, which was plenty..."One of the reasons the typographical strangeness of the title bothers me is that I expect to be looking at it quite a bit every time I open my Word document devoted to the year's best movies."

Derek Armstrong said...

To give a further indication of how much I liked it, it's been 48 hours since I saw it and I haven't started my review yet. I know it'll start pouring out when I actually sit down, and there's no hurry because it doesn't open for nearly three more weeks. But this is one where I want to say just the right thing, only it's difficult because there's so much TO say.