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Laramie Movie Scope: Blindspotting

A comedy-drama at the heart of black lives matter

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 7, 2019 – After reviewing most of the best films of last year, I decided to head down to a local Red Box yesterday and pick up this one to see before I write my annual top 10 list. It is a good thing I did. This will be on my top 10 list for 2018.

This is one of four 2018 top 10 films dealing passionately and effectively on issues of racial relations in America, specifically issues related to the often deadly interactions between police and African Americans. The others are Green Book, BlacKkKlansman and The Hate U Give. I hope the Academy does a better job recognizing these films than the Golden Globe awards did last night.

Both Blindspotting and BlacKkKlansman, as well as “Green Book” and “Sorry to Bother You”) use humor as well as drama to illuminate these issues. In Blindspotting, Collin (played by Daveed Diggs of “Wonder”) is serving his last days of parole for his part in beating up a bar patron in a dispute. His best friend, Miles (played by Rafael Casal, who is also a producer and co-writer of the Blindspotting screenplay, with Daveed Diggs) also was in the same fight, but was not charged with a crime. Possibly because Miles is white and Collin is black.

Miles is a hustler who is good at selling things, but he also has a short temper and he engages in risky behavior. Both Miles and Collin work together as movers, moving people in and out of houses. Miles is married to a black woman, Ashley (Jasmine Cephas Jones of “Mistress America”) and they have a young son, Sean (Ziggy Baitinger). Collin, who is single, likes to hang out at Miles' home. He's like a member of the family.

Collin's girlfriend, Val (Janina Vanankar of “The Vanishing of Sidney Hall”) left him when he was arrested, but he wants to repair their relationship. Miles tells Collin he should move on because Val did not visit him when he was in jail, while Miles did visit him. Val tells Collin the only reason Miles visited him in jail is because Miles felt guilty about his role in getting Collin into trouble.

One night, while driving back to his halfway house in Oakland, Collin witnesses a white policeman shooting a fleeing black man. He feels he cannot come forward as a witness because it happened a few minutes after his parole curfew. The shooting, which resulted in the death of the fleeing man, traumatizes Collin. He has nightmares about it.

In one powerful scene Collin is haunted at a graveyard by the ghosts of all the black men killed by white cops, including the ghost of the man whose death he witnessed. The ghosts all stare silently at him as if to shame him for doing nothing to advance justice for all the murdered black men.

In a tremendously suspenseful scene, police target Collin for a crime committed by Miles at a party (he gets away with beating up a black man). In another suspenseful scene, Collin, Miles and Ashley all watch in horror as young Sean plays with a loaded gun that Miles brought home. Miles later is angry with Collin for not taking the blame for the gun. This gun would later play a central role in yet another intense scene in the movie.

The trouble brewing between Miles and Collin boils over in one confrontation which erupts over the use of the the word “nigger.” This has to do with Miles living in a black neighborhood, being on good terms with blacks, including Collin, but still having that handy “get out of jail free card” that benefits him, just because of the color of his skin. A similar confrontation between a white man and a black man happens in another Top 10 movie this year, “Green Book.”

This is a powerful, well-acted film with memorable characters. It has a fair amount of humor in it, as well as some poetry, in the form of rap, spoken mainly by Collin. Director Carlos López Estrada (“Identity Theft”) makes good use of imagery (cinematographer is Robby Baumgartner of “Blair Witch”) poetry, drama and humor to illustrate what it is like to live as a troubled black man in a racially divided city. This film rates an A.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2019 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]