The story behind Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman is so unbelievable it sounds like the setup for a joke, but it really happened. In 1978, Colorado Springs' first black police detective, Ron Stallworth, managed to infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in an undercover operation. The film nabbed Lee his first Academy Awards nominations in over a decade, since 4 Little Girls was up for Best Documentary Picture in 1998. But unfortunately, BlacKkKlansman isn't on Netflix for you to stream before the Oscars.
BlacKkKlansman's been nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Supporting Actor (Adam Driver), and Best Score (Terence Blanchard). While it's available to rent from $4.99 - $5.99 on Amazon Prime, YouTube, and other streaming sites, it's not streaming for free anywhere. The nominations also lead to BlacKkKlansman's theatrical rerelease in certain theaters, so the biggest and best way to see it is to check your local listings. The movie is also available to purchase on DVD and Blu-Ray.
This is the first time Lee's ever been nominated for Best Picture or Best Director, which seems an oversight the Academy's finally making good on. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Lee said, "I think time was on the side of Do the Right Thing. People forget: Do the Right Thing wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture. Best Picture that year was Driving Miss Daisy. Who is watching that film today?" Ironically, this is a year where BlacKkklansman is up against Green Book, 2018's version of the racial reconciliation fantasy from the white main character's POV for several awards.
The Academy Awards continue to generate controversy elsewhere. On Feb. 11, the Academy announced via an email to members that the Oscars would be given to cinematography, film editing, live-action short, and makeup and hairstyling during commercials and not on the telecast, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter. Doing so would eliminate one of BlacKkKlansman's potentially award-winning moments from reaching a national audience.
People in the film industry and films buffs alike registered their discontentment on social media and beyond, and a few days later, Deadline reported that the Academy reversed their decision and will award all categories on the telecast.
In an interview with Screen Rant, Lee acknowledged the frustrations of working within the system — a system where the Academy Awards are the ultimate honor. "Here's the thing. When you're a black director and trying to get a film made with a studio, the way it always went... Historically, they said, 'Well we can't give you that much for the budget because historically black films don't make any money overseas.' Then when Denzel [Washington], Will [Smith], and Sam [Jackson], started selling overseas they move the goal line further and said, 'Well, there are stars are in it. If you don't have any stars in the film you're not going to make any foreign.' Black Panther...there were no stars in that film. Prior to the film. Now they move the goal line further, "Well, that's a Marvel comic book.' It's shenanigans..."
BlacKkKlansman premiered at Cannes last spring, winning the Grand Prix, and going on to receive nominations for several Golden Globes, BAFTAs, SAGs, and Critics Choice Awards. It has a 96 percent aggregate rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has been heralded by fans and critics as Lee's best film in years. It remains to be seen whether that work will be rewarded with his first Best Director statue, though it seems that the director doesn't put much stock in the Academy's ability to champion films that will stand the test of time.