Not a cold breeze in sight, and thoughtful films about American identity appear anyway. Yesterday’s cinema trip was for Spike’s latest and to finally see “Crazy Rich Asians” in an actual theater, offline. Spike, like this writer, is older, and “BlacKkKlansman” reflects not only his age, but his restraint. The former “Black nationalist with a camera,” teamed with “Get Out”‘s Jordan Peele in cooperation with white filmmakers, tells a story of late-1970s desegregation as Black-Jewish buddy-cop flick. He tries to keep his now-graying African-medallion audience by using a watered-down version of his normal racial tensions and contrasts, and finally, pun intended, has found a great use of his now-famous dolly. Tone-wise, Spike is now grown-folks-smooth-jazz; he’s learned to hold back. It’s fascinating, though, that his American desegregation triumph, billed as a based-on, isn’t accurate. So its value has to be hotly debated.
“Asians” is a novel, so it can stretch fantasy to fit its truths. Its victory is variety; finally, some context to the nerdy young male and hiphop-styled young woman (although there are questions about the latter). A story of intra-racial (at least, from Western eyes) class divisions disguised as a love story. The movie asks internally and externally: how alike, or not alike, are one group of people, or similar individuals, and what barriers are legitimate?
What a “Nicky Drayden sci-fi novel” is is, for now, solidified with this fine second inning. Set in a land that might be South Africa if you want it to be, this tale of twins, dark magic, African god possession and the horrors of boarding school really takes command after a too-long set-up. Secrets pile and spill, characters switch identities and loyalties and–in what is now Drayden’s style–monsters are shown, from the inside out, as all too human. What is important about Drayden as a novelist is two-fold: first, she seeks to destroy public (gender) identity’s use as a lazy marker of someone’s totality, and second, in this novel particularly, she shows that true balance is achieved by serving every side of imbalance. Definitions built, then crushed. Religion and science at odds, or working in harmony? Waaayy too simple. And Drayden delights in her humorous genre- and character-mashups. Like her first novel, “The Prey of Gods,” this is not your father’s fantasy Africa or Africans, and nor is it meant to be; it is another fully realized narrative from an author who refuses to see and satisfy any pre-supposed expectations or limitations.