Saturday, March 28, 2020

Movie Reviews: International Falls

International Falls
directed by Amber McGinnis
This is an indie film directed by first time director Amber McGinnis. It's based on a two person play but McGinnis transcends those limitations. It doesn't feel like a play at all even though the two leads dominate the screen time. 

It's by far the best movie I've seen in 2020. International Falls carries a message and tells a story with which people are probably very familiar but the director puts her own twist and interpretation on the tale. She mixes drama and absurdity in a way that is realistic and often poignant. 

In the hands of a lesser director or more intrusive studio this film would have found the time to grind various ideological axes or go for grossout humor. McGinnis, thankfully didn't make any concessions to people looking for those things. This is a unsparing and sometime comedic look at how people deal with life when things aren't going their way. The casting of the two leads is spot on. I simply can't imagine any other actors/actresses providing this performance. They are really that good.

The film is occasionally silly but it's not a comedy. This is not a farce, full of slapstick and physical humor. This is not a movie for kids, not because of the adult themes, of which there are plenty, but because this film will appeal most to people who have lived long enough to have regrets and recognize mistakes but aren't too old to change their future.

Illinois Coronaracist Police

It's depressing and ironic to me but perhaps heartening and morale boosting to others to know that at least some police won't let the COVID-19 pandemic interfere with what appears to be their prime directive of constantly harassing Black people, particularly men and boys. 

This is reality. Like the song says, it's just the way it is. Some things will never change. At grocery stores I see a good 40-50% of customers wearing some form of face covering. This is because they don't want to get sick or get others sick. People want to live. Even before this pandemic hit its stride I would often see some shoppers wearing surgical masks. I don't recall police ever singling them out for negative attention. But usually they weren't young Black men. 

A recent YouTube video showed two young African-American men with surgical masks being followed by a Wood River Police officer as they left Walmart in Wood River. Viewers were at odds whether the men were racially profiled or causing a disturbance — as well as if anyone should be asked to remove a surgical mask in light of COVID-19 concerns.

The video, which first aired March 18, has more than 30,000 views. Jermon Best, of Belleville, who made the video, said he shared it because he wanted to show the world racial profiling is happening and the situation could have been much worse.


Saturday, March 21, 2020

Movie Reviews: Thinner

Thinner
directed by Tom Holland
Although many of the films adapted from Stephen King's works have not worked out that well, until recently anyway, this film, adapted from the short story of the same name, was always something I liked.

Although it has a definite eighties movie vibe, it, like the similar film Graveyard Shift, was a nineties movie. It is a definite skill set to make a film look cheap but in a cool Saturday afternoon sort of way. 


This film stuck closely to the source material. And I think it was the better for that. As several movies inspired from King's work did, this one featured the author himself in a small cameo. I don't know why but I always forget that King is a tall man, standing about about 6'4". 


Although this is a body horror film, with many characters undergoing some unpleasant and dangerous physical changes, it's more than that. It's really a film about the wages of sin being visited upon the rich, powerful and prejudiced for their crimes against the poor and ethnic outcasts. Although the underdogs here are not really nice people they don't bother anyone who doesn't bother them first. The same can't be said of the protagonists.


Billy Halleck (Robert John Burke) is a genial, morbidly obese upper class lawyer. If there's anything remotely starchy, fatty, or sweet within 20 yards of Billy, he's going to eat it. In part because of his non-threatening demeanor and boyish name, (not William or Bill but Billy) most people who know Billy like him. 



Fox News and the Coronavirus

Fox News's first political instinct regarding the Coronavirus was to dismiss it all as overreaction and a Democratic hoax to take down the President. I work with a few devout Fox News viewers. It was both amusing and irritating to hear them repeat nonsense each morning that they had heard on Fox the night before.

But there's only so many times that even Fox News can tell the most credulous viewer that the brown smelly goop on her plate is miso paste and not instead exactly what it smells like, dog excrement. Perhaps concerned that even their most devoted cult members might realize that there was something to this coronavirus stuff (and being older could be more vulnerable), Fox News turned on a dime from laughing at the coronavirus to admitting that this could be a big problem.

America and the Covid-19 Coronavirus

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes not. People act like they can't simultaneously hold two true ideas in their head. 

This latest coronavirus apparently began in China thanks in part to the Chinese habit of housing, slaughtering and consuming exotic wildlife in unsafe and unhygienic conditions. 

The virus spread quickly across the world because that's what happens on a planet with mass travel and far flung supply chains. What impacts one group soon impacts everyone.

It's not "racist" to say that the virus began in China. It is racist to make the logical jump that therefore Chinese are "less than". 

China needs to (literally) clean up its act. Some Chinese state officials, citizens, or US citizens with that ancestry really don't like hearing that. I understand. But everybody plays the fool sometimes. 

If West Africans and Central Africans could be questioned about the links between Ebola and consumption of bush meat, if New Guineans could be criticized over the links between Kuru and cannibalism, if Europeans and European-Americans can be mocked over the links between dog kissing/licks and Sepsis, then certainly Chinese can take some much deserved critique over some of their food consumption and food safety habits. If no one got upset about diseases such as West Nile, Zika, or Ebola being named after the regions where they started why should anyone be boo-hooing over Covid-19 being associated with China?

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Sanders and Biden Debate


"Last of all Bernie stood alone. Then he cast aside his shield, and wielded an axe two-handed; and it is sung that the axe smoked in the black blood of the troll-guard of Clinton until it withered, and each time that he slew Bernie yelled: ‘Medicare for All!! Power to the People!!!’ Seventy times he uttered that cry, but they took him at last alive, by the command of Biden, for the Democrats grappled him with their hands, which clung to him still though he hewed off their arms; and ever their numbers were renewed, until at last he fell buried beneath them. Then Clinton bound him and dragged him to MSNBC headquarters with mockery."
-Apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien



Senator Bernie Sanders was defeated convincingly in most states that had contests, including my own, this past Tuesday, March 10. Although Sanders is down, he's not yet mathematically eliminated. Sanders still has a most unlikely path to victory. Sanders must win the remaining races with about 60% of the vote. Sanders is making some reconciliation sounds to Biden voters while still planning to debate Biden Sunday night. 

Compared to four or certainly eight years ago, Biden is having more challenges getting the right words to come out of his mouth. He's forgetting more. Is it dementia? It may happen to us all if we live long enough. Sanders is apparently hoping that when he gets Biden one-on-one he can press Biden on issues, evoke some gaffes, and put a verbal beatdown on Biden so that Biden "ain't pretty no more". Evidently aware of some of Biden's issues and unwilling to provide any more ammunition to the Trump campaign, some of Biden's supporters have called upon the Democratic Party to cancel the remaining debates and/or for Sanders to concede.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Movie Reviews: Only

Only
directed by Takashi Doscher
This film works the same side of the street as works like Stephen and Owen King's book Sleeping Beauties, Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, or the films Children of Men, and A Quiet Place. It is more focused on the individuals and not the larger story. 

For an apocalyptic movie this film has almost no special effects. The story is woven tightly around two young lovers and how they deal with doomsday. Unfortunately there are some people of both genders who express disdain and vitriol for the other gender and claim to look forward to a world where the other gender is either suppressed or completely eliminated. 

I think those are anti-life opinions held by people who often have some unexamined familial strife and sexual/psychological issues. A dystopia where one gender disappears can show us what we truly value in each other and ourselves. 

In the modern day, Will (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Eva (Freda Pinto) are a loving couple who live together. A comet passes over the world. For a period of time (the film jumps in time back and forth between the duo's present predicament and 400 days prior when the comet first appeared), the comet produces ash that falls across the planet. Although it looks like snow, it's not snow. 

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Movie Reviews: 21 Bridges

21 Bridges
directed by Brian Kirk
This is a action/thriller that makes a few nods towards neo-noir. Ultimately it's a little hampered by not having a true femme fatale.

But the lead actor's slow burn intensity and leonine authority carries the movie over most of the rough spots. This wasn't a must see by any stretch of the imagination. It was quick moving and didn't overstay its ninety-nine minute run time. 

Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) is a NYPD homicide detective who is a little too good at his job. He has fired his gun quite a bit in the line of duty, killing about seven or eight armed criminals, some of whom had killed police officers. 

The NYPD Internal Affairs unit and psychiatrists think that Davis is bad for community relations and is over-compensating for the murder of his father, a uniformed NYPD officer who was gunned down when Davis had just entered his teen years. 

Davis doesn't think he's seeking revenge. He thinks he's doing things by the book. If someone commits murder, Davis is going to find them and bring them in for the court system to handle. 

If they attempt to commit violence against him, other cops, or civilians, Davis will put them in the ground, go home and sleep like a baby. No exceptions. Davis is a driven and moralistic man, something that makes other cops both admire him and be wary around him.

Detroit Elementary School Wins Chess State Championship

A downtown Detroit elementary school has recently won a chess state championship. 

Again. I think that this must be surprising to those who believe that all Detroit public schools are blasted wastelands where intellectual capacity is non-existent.

The chess team at Walter Chrysler Elementary School in Detroit took home the state championship.

A large banner signalling the championship is hanging in front of the elementary school for the second year in a row. The chess team won the state championship for the K-5 division.

“I can’t even explain how happy I am for them,” chess coach Dereke Wilder said. “It’s phenomenal to see what these kids have accomplished these last two years.”

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Super Tuesday Is Underway!

Today is Super Tuesday , in which about one-third of the total Democratic delegates will be awarded. After Super Tuesday is completed, about 40% of the total delegates will have been awarded. 

There will be 1300 delegates awarded today. A candidate needs 1991 to win. Specifically in order to stop the seeming ascension of Bernie Sanders, former candidates Klobuchar and Buttigieg dropped out. 

Steyer also dropped out. Klobuchar and Buttigieg endorsed Biden, as did fellow former candidate Beto O'Rourke, though he did so without any attacks on Sanders. 

O'Rourke went out of his way to point out that whoever wound up winning the Democratic nomination would have to get the support of Democrats who didn't vote for him. The best method to do that probably doesn't involve insulting the intelligence, maturity and preferences of other Democratic voters.

Biden stomped Sanders in South Carolina and injected new life into his campaign, to the point where  I was surprised to see that the fivethirtyeight site gives Biden a better chance than Sanders of winning a majority and/or a plurality of votes today.

Overall, the model has “no majority” happening 61 percent of the time, a Biden majority 31 percent of the time and a Sanders majority 8 percent of the time. Anyone else winning a majority would require a minor miracle.

Chris Matthews: Sexual Harassment??

Sexual harassment often involves unwanted sexual comments or touching. There are other definitions and other things involved but those are two of the more obvious and common components. 

At one extreme, say that represented by Harvey Weinstein, most reasonable people, men or women, would agree that there is untoward behavior occurring, which needs to be halted immediately. 

However at the other extreme, absent certain context, there is not a whole lot of difference between comments that could be sexual harassment and acceptable or invited expressions of romantic or sexual interest. It all depends on who is saying something and how it's received. MSNBC host Chris Matthews, 74, was accused by columnist Laura Bassett of bad comments that occurred about four years ago. 

Longtime MSNBC host Chris Matthews was absent from the network's live coverage of the South Carolina primary on Saturday, one day after being accused of sexual harassment by GQ columnist Laura Bassett.

Among other allegations, Bassett in a GQ opinion piece published Friday claimed Matthews told a network makeup artist to "keep putting makeup on her" and asked, "Why haven't I fallen in love with you yet?"