music friday: jazz at the fillmore, 1967
creature feature: the man who could cheat death (terence fisher, 1959)

by request: blindspotting (carlos lópez estrada, 2018)

I'm sorry I missed this when it came out. It was a time when it felt like Oakland was the center of the movie universe. Oakland's own Ryan Coogler had given us Fruitvale Station and Black Panther ... Bay Area legend Boots Riley directed his first film, Sorry to Bother You ... and there was Blindspotting, perhaps the most Oakland of them all, from Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal. Blindspotting doesn't just have the feel of Oakland, it's shot in Oakland and these people know Oakland.

Which doesn't limit the film, or make it important only for Oaklanders. But Diggs and Casal, who wrote it and star in it, offer their story as both specific and universal. Its examination of identity and race and gentrification connects beyond Oakland, and the two leads inhabit their characters so perfectly that it feels like a "based on a true story" recreation as much as it does a fictional movie.

Of course, while there is a true realism to many of the scenes, Carlos López Estrada isn't afraid to stretch that reality. But Diggs and Casal, who spent nine years writing the screenplay, are not afraid to being things back to basics, leading to intense scenes that expand our knowledge of the characters while getting in the audience's face just as much as the characters are in each other's faces.

It may not be clear from the above, but Blindspotting is also very funny at times, and the mixture of comedy and drama doesn't feel forced. The entire movie is tight. There is a convenient coincidence at the end of the movie that too clearly exists as a plot setup, but I had barely finished rolling my eyes when the most powerful scene in the whole movie emerged. That scene makes excellent use of Diggs' rapping skills ... the writers have made reference to "heightened language", which adds a Shakespearean element to the dialogue while existing within the frame work of rap. Rap sneaks up on you during the film ... the characters break into it on occasion, and again, it feels real, but it also serves as a setup for the climactic scene, which is powerful both for what is being said and for how it is being said.

Here is that scene ... serious spoiler alert, if you haven't seen Blindspotting, don't click on the video. Just go watch the movie.

There were some excellent movies in 2018, including Black Panther, Roma, and Shoplifters. Blindspotting is as good as any of them.

(Letterboxd list of the top movies of 2018)

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