Saturday, January 23, 2021

Movie Reviews: American Skin

American Skin
directed by Nate Parker
I have written before of how I despise sexual assault double standards wielded against Black men. Kobe Bryant hadn't even had a funeral yet before one white actress was calling the untried retired athlete a rapist while conveniently leaving out her gushing adulation of musician David Bowie, who allegedly seduced/raped a thirteen year old groupie. 
Similarly some people have trashed this movie by referring to Parker's acquittal from rape charges two decades ago when he was a college sophomore as a reason not to watch this film or as an argument that this is a bad film. Although we are free to believe anything we like I think that we should also try to judge art on its own merits as much as possible. I try to do that whenever I can. I will certainly do that as long as there are such racial double standards.
So, just going by the actual film itself and not what I might think of the actor, was this a must see movie? No. No it wasn't. It was uneven. It was a little bit of bait and switch. Ok, make that a lot of bait and switch. 
This might be the subject of another post, but as other people have pointed out, it is difficult to find many mainstream Hollywood films where the Black man is the hero, defeats his enemies, overcomes other internal/external obstacles, gets the girl, is not comic relief, and survives at the end. 
Also, and likely not unrelated to that phenomenon, many of the African-American heroes and great men or great women we learn about in school were those who turned the other cheek, suffered indignity after indignity, and generally went along to get along.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Trump's Coup Attempt

I take a few weeks off from this site to concentrate on the Day Job and what happens? The Orange Buffoon tries to incite the overthrow of the US government. And since it didn't work he denies that he tried it.
I don't have too much to say about this that hasn't already been said more eloquently by plenty of people on Facebook and other places. Let's review a few points that are important to keep in mind.
Soon to be former President Donald "Grab em by the p****!" Trump lost the election to Joe "If you don't vote for me you ain't Black!" Biden. It wasn't even all that close. Plenty of people on both sides came out to vote but more Americans voted for Biden. More importantly, more people voted for Biden in the precise combination of states needed for victory. 
The Republican Party is uncompetitive nationally in the Northeast and coastal West. It's starting to show weakness in the Southwest. It lost ground in the Midwest. And even in its Southern stronghold, there were some growing hairline fractures, specifically in Georgia and Virginia. Biden won by 306-232 in the Electoral College with a popular vote margin of seven million votes. 
It was a solid victory for Biden. 

Movie Reviews: Gilda

Gilda
directed by Charles Vidor
This film noir really put the actress Rita Hayworth on the map in terms of exciting sex appeal though by modern sensibilities visually the movie is at worst PG-13. Still, regardless of the times, people are always going to respond to swivel hipped women in high slit sleek evening gowns singing somewhat risque songs. So there is that if you are looking for it. In many aspects this film was a Casablanca knockoff.
There's the not so femme fatale, a nightclub operator with a hidden conscience/soft side, and threats from bossy Germans. There is also some subtext which probably wouldn't have been too far out of place in many modern films. But in modern film it wouldn't have been subtext at all. I was a little surprised to see it. More on that in a minute.
Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) is a devil may care American gambler and hustler. You can take that second description any way you like. Johnny has made his way down to Buenos Aires, where after having won a lot of money cheating at craps, he is rescued from a mugging and beatdown by an older gentleman. This older fellow scares off Johnny's attackers by brandishing his (ahem) walking stick outfitted with a hidden sword. The man admires Johnny's gambling skills and tells him about the best casino in town. But the man advises Johnny not to cheat there.

Casu Martzu: Maggot Cheese

Different cultures have different ideas of what is considered permissible to eat. What is kosher in one culture could be considered disgusting in another. There are too many examples of this to mention. Sometimes even the smell or description of a food which people in one culture consider a delicacy can sicken people from another culture. Some folks get on their high horse and accuse anyone who feels this way of being racist or intolerant or xenophobic. I don't think that's quite accurate. There are individuals with contemptuous feelings towards everyone who is not the same as them who nonetheless enjoy eating at a different ethnic restaurant each week. There are those who believe in all the wonders of multiculturalism who wouldn't be caught dead trying anything too far removed from their teenage palate.

I do know this, though. Although I enjoy many of the various kinds of Italian and for that matter Mediterranean cuisine I am not, repeat NOT eating any kind of food that relies upon the digestive and reproductive processes of flies to give it what some consider a wonderful taste. If I purchased some cheese from the supermarket and upon preparing to consume it, discovered maggots writhing all about inside, I wouldn't be very happy. And the store clerks, managers, and corporate bigwigs would hear all about it. But apparently if there aren't maggots in the cheese Casu Martzu, you just aren't getting your money's worth.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Movie Reviews: The Last Shift

The Last Shift
directed by Andrew Cohn
This indie film is worthwhile watching despite some occasionally muddled themes. I appreciated that this movie didn't neatly resolve everything like an old episode of Scooby Doo or one of those ABC Afternoon Specials. Life is not like that. Sometimes the bad guys win. Sometimes we don't know or agree on who the bad guys are. I thought The Last Shift was realistic, both in casting and in the character depiction and reactions. 
The writing sagged near the end. As mentioned, if you like solid conclusions where everything makes sense and everyone gets what he or she "deserves" then this movie is not that. The Last Shift is also, purposely or not, an extended herky-jerky exposition on why the "class first" focus of people like say Bernie Sanders, doesn't often work in the American political economy. 
This film is set in Albion, Michigan. Stanley (Richard Jenkins) is the night manager of an Albion location of a regional fast food franchise, Oscar's Chicken and Fish (and apparently burgers as well). 
In what could be a nod to co-actor Ed O'Neill's role of Al Bundy, Stanley took this job more or less right out of high school and has remained there for the next forty years or so, give or take. Starting at just over $3/hr back in the day, Stanley has managed to grow his salary to the princely rate of just over $13/hr. Real ambitious hard charging dude, Stanley is. Not.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Keller Texas Cops Needlessly Arrest And Pepper Spray Father And Son

I don't begrudge anyone for having a bad day. Depending on the job I may not take it personally if a person is occasionally a jerk. I have mentioned before that a worker at my neighborhood post office is not the nicest woman in the world. She is abrasive, abrupt, and condescending. I am not the only local who has complained about her attitude. But there is a massive difference between being an unpleasant post office worker and being an unpleasant police officer. I can avoid post office workers. 

I'm unconcerned about a post office worker jumping over the counter and assaulting me because I didn't follow an unlawful order quickly enough or looked her in her eyes without fear. Given that police officers have the legal authority to use violence, up to and including lethal force, society can't tolerate officers, who because they are in a bad mood, take it out on their fellow citizens. Police officers must follow the law and treat everyone the same, not make up laws and assault people for not obeying them. 

A North Texas man is suing two officers in the Keller Police Department following his arrest in August. Keller PD demoted Sergeant Blake Shimanek for his role in the incident. The arrest occurred Aug. 15 when 22-year-old Dillon Puente was pulled over for making a wide right turn. Puente was on his way to his grandmother’s house when he was stopped in the Riverdance neighborhood.   

Bodycam video shows Shimanek ask Dillon to get out of the car before he places him in handcuffs. In a police report obtained by WFAA, Shimanek said he detained Dillon because he was worried about his safety. “He was ticketed and taken to jail for a wide right turn,” said Dillon’s dad Marco Puente in an interview with WFAA. Marco Puente was following Dillon to his grandma’s house, and he pulled up his vehicle after he saw his son was pulled over by police.  (Watch Video Below)

Television Reviews: Britannia Season One

Brittania
produced by Pippa Harris and Sam Mendes

Season One previously aired on British television and Amazon prime almost three years ago but just started running on American cable channels this past year. Some people made an immediate positive comparison to HBO's Game of Thrones. I don't think that was an accurate comparison. Britannia's writing is not as high quality as that of the first few seasons of Game of Thrones. Britannia does not convince the viewer to see one group as the protagonists or good guys. It's more of a descriptive show.
The show's sets weren't that extravagant though it makes up for that drawback by spending as much time possible outside-to be fair the narrative often requires it. I liked the lush outdoor camerawork. If you are an outdoors nature loving person you will enjoy this aspect of Britannia. The show was shot on location in the UK and the Czech Republic. 
Britannia concerns the Roman invasion of the titular island in or about AD 43. It's a historical drama with few battles though there is violence. This could be because of budget or just because of where the writers and producers wanted to direct the viewer's attention. This is NOT an action packed drama full of swordfights. Those happen rarely.
Britannia is coy about magic. The show smartly flips back and forth between depicting magic as superstition and fear, something that only seems real because of copious psilocybin mushroom consumption, con man/con woman tricks, or (later in the season and definitely in second season) as something very real and dangerous.

Movie Reviews: Murder, My Sweet

Murder, My Sweet
directed by Edward Dmytryk
This was the first film adaptation of one of novelist's Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe's detective stories. Leading man Dick Powell, previously known as a baby faced song and dance light comedian type played against type as the hardboiled detective Marlowe. This film mostly worked I thought. Powell's version of Marlowe is different than the Marlowe I knew as interpreted by Humphrey Bogart.
Although both actors convincingly bring across Marlowe's cynicism, distrust and quick witted snarky one liners, in my opinion Powell doesn't quite show Marlowe's occasional ruthlessness or menace the way that Bogart did. But YMMV. 
One good thing about this film is that despite sharing a lot of themes and even plots with the Chandler inspired movie, The Big Sleep, it is INFINITELY easier to understand.
Watching movies like this can make one wonder at just how influential writers like Chandler and a few others were at establishing the basic outline of modern American based detective thrillers. So this film may not have too many surprises for the modern viewer other than how familiar and up to date it seems.

Old Time Snowball Fight

When's the last time you were involved in a good old fashioned snowball fight? Sometimes there's nothing better as this recently colorized video from 1897 Lyon, France shows. This short film was shot by the Lumiere Brothers, who despite being among the very first filmmakers in the world, thought that the film business was a novelty game that would never go anywhere. So they got out of it about a decade after they shot this footage. Although they couldn't predict the future, as indeed none of us can, this film they left behind is another demonstration of the fact that regardless of differences in time, culture, and nation, humans are more alike than different. I liked how dude on the bicycle almost made it through the gauntlet. 

Austrian Village Changes Name

You may recall a previous blog post about how a Vietnamese-American student with the unfortunate name of Phuc Bui got very upset and charged bias when her college professor suggested that she might choose a different nickname in class. I had some sympathy for her if only because I think it can be a sign of massive disrespect for someone not to call you by your given(correctly pronounced) name. However, that said there are simply some syllable combinations in English (or any other language) that are either funny or profane to native speakers. Phuc Bui is one such example. And this doesn't necessarily have anything to do with race, ethnicity, or culture. 
For example the good townspeople of F*****, Austria, finally got tired of various English speaking people flocking to their town with the sole intention of making jokes and posing next to or stealing road signs. It is what it is.
So if you ever wanted to visit F****** Austria sorry but you missed your f****** chance!!!!
The F****** people aren't taking your f****** jokes any more!!!