Eighth Grade is a raw and authentic look at middle school warped in the digital age. Funny, heartbreaking and, above all, real. It’s one of the very best films of 2018 and it receives a five-star review from me.
Eighth Grade is a tour de force for Bo Burnham and his directorial debut, plus a breakout performance by actor Elsie Fisher. You’ll fall in love with this movie and everything about it. Eighth Grade is a bona fide look into the daily lives of middle schoolers, nowadays. So much has changed in the means of technology since I was a kid. It's great how Burnham used that as a technique for his filmmaking, showing how teenagers (growing up in 2018) are plugged into the digital world. This little indie film is heartbreaking, yet funny as hell. The relationship between the father-daughter storyline was brilliantly executed. I wish the film could have kept going as the credits rolled by in front of me. Our story follows thirteen-year-old Kayla (breakout star Elsie Fisher), who endures her final week of middle school, capping off a disastrous eighth-grade year.
While Kayla makes her way through life as a contemporary suburban adolescence, we stick by her side every step of the way. Fingers crossed Eighth Grade doesn't get overshadowed this awards season. It stands tall as one of the best films of 2018 and aces the test. It’s an honest portrayal of what it’s like to be a middle schooler post-2016 election. With the expansion of technology increasing year-by-year, we see these teenager’s lives wrapped around their tiny operating machines. At times, Burnham blends the screen with the visual appeal of Kayla thumbing through her phone. Whether that’s YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat, all of them show her reliance on social media. This brings us into Kayla’s world of acceptance, anxiety, and bliss. "I wanted to talk about anxiety and what it feels like to be alive right now, and what it is to be unsure and nervous. That felt more like middle school than high school to me. I think the country and the culture is going through an eighth-grade moment right now,” Burnham said on writing the story.
As we see, the film's themes include heavy use of social media, along with mental health in Generation Z, sexuality and consent. Burnham even watched YouTubers to learn how Gen Z talks. "I was just trying to capture the staccato way they spoke," he says. "You’re watching someone try to articulate themselves and think out loud while their brains are still growing." In addition to the perfect acting, writing and directing, there’s the score. Burnham fueled the score with electronica music and pizzazz, giving us some hilarious results. Like whenever Kayla saw her crush walk by and we were blasted with loud, booming electronica music. I died of laughter every single time. Actor Josh Hamilton’s on screen presence was also a total delight to watch. Hamilton portrayed Kayla’s dad and incarnated what it’s like being a single father while raising a middle schooler in America.
It’s a difficult, but rich role and Hamilton knocked it out of the park. At times, he’s a goofy father trying to be hip and in other scenes, we see him pouring out deep love for his daughter. The bonfire scene will break your heart, as we witness the father-daughter bond finally connect. Mark (Hamilton) puts aside his ‘dad-jokes’ and finally opens up to Kayla. After Mark is done, we see Kayla take it all in and accept her father’s compassion. While Mark and Kayla hug around the bonfire, a raw open wound inside your heart pours out onto the seats in front of you and towards the screen. Burnham master crafts his little indie film into one of the biggest phenomenon’s put-on film this year. This will be an instant classic for my kid’s generation years down the road. In the end, Burnham and Fisher really capture the realism of middle school warts and all.
Eighth Grade is rated R (Restricted). For language and some sexual material.
In the eyes of the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), middle schooler's portraying middle schoolers on screen is 'too adult' for real-life middle schoolers to see. Seriously? Oh MPAA, you'll never learn. Ignore their petty rating.
This is a film you don’t want to miss. It needs to be seen. BlacKkKlansman is a phenomenal movie, striking a parallel between our country’s past and current problems with racism. It’s one of the best movies of the year and it receives a five-star review from me.
This new Spike Lee joint (Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X) could go down as one of his greatest achievements ever put on film. It’s a blunt force that will knock you off your feet. Fueled with realism, poetry and anger; Lee’s newest masterpiece is telling America to wake up! In his own way, Lee is trying to ‘Make America Great’ but not by grotesque rhetoric or verbal narcissism that the current administration has chosen to do. Instead, Lee – a film poet in disguise – is using the medium to remind our country that prejudice hasn’t gone away. Fueled by valid anger and historical context, Lee parallels our country’s past and current racial tensions to prove that nothing has really changed. So, let’s dial it back to the early 1970s, and Ron Stallworth (an incredible John David Washington) is the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department.
Determined to make a name for himself, Stallworth bravely sets out on a dangerous mission: infiltrate and expose the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Stallworth then decides to recruit a more seasoned colleague, Flip Zimmerman (a top-notched Adam Driver), to help with the undercover investigation. The pair become a winning team as they tackle the investigation of a lifetime. Together, they team up to take down the extremist hate group as the organization aims to ramp up its violent rhetoric to appeal to the mainstream Colorado lands. One of their slogans is ‘America First,' sound familiar? This is a movie that, at times, will have you laughing and then suddenly crying in despair. It’s a movie that zeros in its message to the mainstream movie audience. BlacKkKlansman did not disappoint. Lee’s dialogue was blunt and crisp throughout the film. He did not hold back and I applaud him for that. This is a bold film and is one that should spark conversation well after the credits roll.
Washington did a fantastic job in his incarnation as Ron Stallworth. I am looking forward to seeing him in future films to come. Also, this was probably Driver's best performance to-date. He was strong, confident and on-point with his character. And how about Topher Grace? His incarnation as the despicable David Duke was a surprise show-stealer. It was incredibly brave of Grace to take on a role like this and he knocked it out of the park with wit and ignorance. Everything throughout the film had an exact purpose, even the tilted camera angles. To me, these camera angles were very jarring and they kept me on edge. Personally, I would love to see Lee be nominated and even win the Oscar for Best Director. He deserves it. Something that also struck a chord with me, was how Lee incorporated the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation into the movie. Clips of that movie were used towards the end to show how the KKK rallied around this particular movie, due to its racist roots. Yes, cinematically, that movie was groundbreaking back in the early 1900s. But, it was also highly controversial because of its racist undertones. In the end, D. W. Griffith’s movie helped revive the KKK back into existence. For film buffs, we need to talk about this and the repercussions. Sadly, there are many who want to brush off those horrid parts of Griffith’s movie. To me, that's not enough.
After seeing the film, I was reading an interview that Time Magazine did with Lee. During the interview, Lee said this regarding The Birth of a Nation: "He recalls being shown 1915’s The Birth of a Nation as a student at New York University’s film school. 'They lectured about D.W. Griffith and his film,' Lee says. 'But the social and political implications of the film were never discussed.' During that period, the KKK was largely inactive. 'The film brought about the rebirth of the Klan,' Lee says. 'And therefore, it was directly responsible for black people being murdered and lynched. Never discussed.'" Now, Lee is using his voice for the good of our country and to remind everyone that we need to wake up for the sake of our current democratic crisis. He’s also saying to the people who think they can just sit back and let the system take its course, you're part of the problem.
By standing up for what you know is right, making your voice heard and calling out bigotry, we can come stronger together as a nation. Under our Lady Liberty, we are a country that represents freedom no matter what your gender, race, ethnicity, religion and or sexual orientation is. But in 2018, all of this seems to be shaken. The film ends with the events of last August’s Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA. Lee rings in the parallels of the past with today. BlacKkKlansman even opened in the United States on August 10, 2018, which was chosen to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the Charlottesville rally. Lee was doing this for a reason. Those lasting frames of anger and tears will stick with you long into the night. While Trump's tweets continue to viciously drive a wedge more into our country; Lee decided to instead speak from the heart through the power of film. In hope, we can come together united as a nation. Years from now, Trump’s botched speeches, stormy lies and grotesque tweets won’t last, but Lee’s timely masterpiece will. Trust me.
BlacKkKlansman is rated R (Restricted). For language throughout, including racial epithets, and for disturbing/violent material and some sexual references.
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