Selma Will Lose Because It’s Too Damn Uppity To Win

“Psst! Hey, David! You’d better get on your knees and show Hollywood some respect!”

If you’re the type of person who watches The Academy Awards because you think it means something, don’t be surprised when Selma loses out for Best Picture of the Year.  It would be a much bigger surprise if it did.   Hollywood thought it had proved last year it was full of good liberals with 12 Years A Slave.  The attitude this time around is We gave you Solomon Northrup last year and you’re back again for Martin Luther King?

 Selma isn’t going to lose because it wasn’t one of the best movies of 2014.   Selma isn’t going to lose because Ava DuVernay can’t direct and David Oyelowo can’t act.    Selma is going to lose because it was too damn uppity.

That’s not what I think because what I and you think about the movie doesn’t matter to the typical Oscar voter.  They don’t care one bit about what the peons think.   It only matters what they think as The Hollywood Reporter learned from one “brutally honest Oscar ballot” the first film to depict the civil rights struggle from a Black woman’s perspective has “no art to it” and “when a movie about Black people is good, members vote for it.   But it the movie isn’t that good, am I supposed to vote for it because it has Black people in it?”

The Hollywood Reporter didn’t specify the race of the anonymous Oscar female voter who works in public relations (and presumably does that job better than these remarks would show) but the way she wears her White privilege like a perfume removes any doubt.   What  does matter is here we have an open window into how Academy member thinks about Selma and the director and actors “stirring up shit.”

Hands Up. Don’t Stir Up Shit.

First, let me say that I’m tired of all of this talk about “snubs” — I thought for every one of [the snubs] there was a justifiable reason. What no one wants to say out loud is that Selma is a well-crafted movie, but there’s no art to it. If the movie had been directed by a 60-year-old white male, I don’t think that people would have been carrying on about it to the level that they were. And as far as the accusations about the Academy being racist? Yes, most members are white males, but they are not the cast of Deliverance — they had to get into the Academy to begin with, so they’re not cretinous, snaggletoothed hillbillies. When a movie about black people is good, members vote for it. But if the movie isn’t that good, am I supposed to vote for it just because it has black people in it? I’ve got to tell you, having the cast show up in T-shirts saying “I can’t breathe” [at their New York premiere] — I thought that stuff was offensive. Did they want to be known for making the best movie of the year or for stirring up shit?

The p.r. flack isn’t completely wrong.  The Academy isn’t made up by cretinous, snaggletoothed hillbillies.   It’s worse than that.  The Academy is made up with intelligent, educated professionals who think about Black people exactly the same way as cretinous, snaggletoothed hillbillies.

This is liberal Hollywood talking here, raw and unfiltered telling you what they really think when they’re talking among themselves, sending emails and text messages back and forth and lying in bed with someone else’s spouse.  They clearly don’t think much about Black people who don’t stay in their lane and don’t act sufficiently grateful for being allowed to work in Hollywood.

Welcome to Post-Racial America. East of Narnia, South of Atlantis, North of Oz and Smack in the Middle of Nowhere.

It’s not only the actors who know how to recite lines when the cameras are on.  You know what I find offensive?  Brutally honest White people who are brutally racist when they tell Black people how they should act.   That offends the shit out of me.

The Gentle Art of Middle Age Ass-kicking

Smile? I AM smiling.

Of the four seasons there are only two that matter for Hollywood. The summer where the blockbuster behemoths rule the box office and the winter when the bulk of the Oscar bait is released. Between them is spring and fall where everything else that isn’t certain to break the box office or charm the critics gets dumped.

Even among the rubble of these dead zones a quality gem can emerge from the pack. John Wick and The Equalizer are not gems. They are totally serviceable completely forgettable popcorn flicks where aging actors strut their stuff showing they can still kick ass and take no names.

The acting styles of Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves couldn’t be more different. Washington has won two Academy Awards while Reeves pretty much gives the same performance over and over. Washington has played crooked cops, boxers, detectives, Black icons, soldiers, and nearly always with charm, intelligence and style. Reeves is pretty good at playing slackers and hackers. It isn’t that Reeves can’t act, but never seems to want being caught doing it.

Despite their day-to-night differences in their approach to acting Washington and Reeves have appeared in a movie together in Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing which I’ve never seen because Shakespeare sucks. I have seen The Equalizer and John Wick and I can say without fear of correction or contradiction these are two movies telling the same story.

Both feature two men of action with shadowy pasts shaking off the rust to do what a man gotta do namely killing a lot of  bad guys who need to be dead while shrugging off wounds that would kill a platoon while still being  the one guy who can kill 25 guys without busting a sweat.

Different actors making the same movie.

Different actors making the same movie.

Washington can give bad performances in bad movies like Virtuosity, 2 Guns and John Q but in The Equalizer he gives a lazy one. Mumbling, speaking in a monotone,  barely changing expression as he switches back and forth between two modes: smiling sincerely as a clerk in a Home Depot stand-in into a dead-eyed, thug-torturing sadist. Denzel couldn’t make it clearer he’s picking up a paycheck here, but despite reuniting with Antoine Fuqua from Training Day, Washington just looks bored and after 132 minutes of this trifling, instantly forgettable flick, I totally understand why.     Disposable trash has its place, but it has to know its place.   The Equalizer  would like you to think its a better movie than it is.   It’s not.

Washington turns 60 next week and he’s slowed his roll to one film a year as he makes fewer movies he takes less risks.    The proof is clear in the films that have followed since American Gangster tried for epic scale in 2007, but came up a bit short.   Out of  The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3The Book of Eli, Unstoppable, Safe House, Flight, 2 Guns,  and The Equalizer, there’s some good Denzel, some bad Denzel, some okay and some awful Denzel.   Flight is not a great movie, but was the last time America’s most charismatic actor broke a sweat.  Next up aher remake and this time it’s a Western, The Magnificent Seven.   Can’t you feel the electricity?

It’s funny, but as Washington grows older his acting style moves closer to Reeves.   Wooden and deadpan with stares and glares replacing emotional range or depth.   There’s nothing complex about the characters of Robert McCall and John Wick.  They lock on their mission with single-minded intent and then the killing starts until they run out of faceless thugs to kill.

Washington is one of the rare actors in Hollywood who’s never made a sequel, but that could change as both The Equalizer and 2 Guns set up the possibility for future installments.  That will be good for Denzel’s $20 million paycheck, but can’t we get a follow-up to Devil In A Blue Dress or Inside Man too?

No, we are not musicians. We are actors. At least one of us is.


Reeves has no worries about slumming as a middle age action hero roles (he’s 50) or falling off from his heights as an actor.   Reeves isn’t an actor as much as he’s a reactor.  Whether its Speed or The Matrix, something always happens to his characters and Reeves has to respond to whatever it is.   That’s okay by me because even if he isn’t a very good actor, he makes a perfectly acceptable ass-kicker and he kicks major ass as an unstoppable force who isn’t stingy with his bullets.    “Double Tap” should be the name of the next John Wick flick.

Both films have reached the end of their first-run life and are may be lingering in the second run theaters.   For the right price and the popcorn has enough butter, I’d go see either both of them again before last installment of The Hobbit.   Not a lot for a brother to get hyped about unless you’re into swords and a lot of actors in wigs.

Slumming With Denzel

“I have a very special set of skills…oops, wrong movie.”


My way of looking at Denzel Washington as he cruises to the cusp of 60 years young is he now makes two types of films.   The ones like Flight, American Gangster and Inside Man I want to see and all the other stuff like Safe House, Unstoppable and 2 Guns I’ll get around to seeing.

The Equalizer is strictly a get around to seeing.   I know I’ll see it eventually, but if it’s an afternoon matinée or in a month at a second-run theater, that’s cool   This is the latest entry of Denzel in kick-ass mode flicks and it’s a certainty his ass isn’t the one gong to get kicked.   I’ve seen Denzel play a variation of this role many times in  the past and it would seem to be a role he’s happy to return to repeatedly.

The wife and I didn’t get around to seeing The Equalizer the Movie starring Denzel Washington, but it still pulled down a healthy $35 million at the box office. The Equalizer the TV Show was okay, but hardly special featuring a British actor playing a retired agent on an unspecified organization who stepped in to equal out the odds for ordinary folks who couldn’t count on the authorities to help because they’re never any help in these sort of stories.

This is the sort of cliched junk Nicolas Cage and Sam Jackson do regularly.   Both of them of them could play McCall in their sleep, but audiences have come to expect those two to waste their time on instantly disposable rubbish.   Cage and Jackson have never been choosy about what they’ll do as long as they check clears.  Is Denzel really so hard up?

Even when he’s doing nothing Denzel does nothing better than anybody else.

Why does a two-time Oscar winner do material any aging actor in reasonable shape could do?   As far as cold, implacable killing machines there’s real difference between Alonzo Harris, John Creasy, Tobin Frost and Robert McCall.   It seems for every  Good Denzel in Flight, American Gangster or Inside Man we must endure a lot of Just Okay Denzel picking’ up a paycheck in flicks where no heavy lifting is required like Unstoppable,The Book of Eli, Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, Safe House, 2 Guns and now The Equalizer.    Of those movies the only one I never want to be bothered with ever again is Pelham 123 where all did was lie around and eat a lot.

Denzel is our last movie star and while his productivity is slowing down he hasn’t lost any luster as a leading man. Among his contemporaries DeNiro and Pacino have been mailing it in for years. Nicholson is old, fat and semi-retired. Cruise keeps making the same movie with different titles. Connery, Eastwood and Hackman are old, retired or both. Washington has mastered the rare talent of remaining watchable even if the movies are predictable.

Denzel is gifted with the ability to stay afloat even when weighed down by trivial obvious material. I will see The Equalizer even though I know before I sit down, Denzel will win, nothing too terrible will happen him and whatever challenges him won’t beat him. Who needs The Force when you have The Cool?

The Equalizer

The Equalizer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But is it enough?   Slate writer Aisha Harris doesn’t think so,  “Denzel was that very rare contemporary Hollywood star, the kind who simultaneously graced Sexiest Man Alive lists (with lyrical shoutouts from admiring ladies) and Oscar ballots, even winning a couple in the process. Rarer still, he did it all while being black, carrying the baton handed to him by Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte, running with it gracefully. And now, in The Equalizer, he’s playing a half-baked variation of the “retired gunfighter” trope in a junky action movie. Denzel deserves better.”

I agree Denzel deserves better. So do the audiences buying the tickets, but we’re both stuck with a talented actor having to take what he can get.

At a fee of $20 million, Denzel doesn’t come cheap and doesn’t overexposure himself. There’s nothing upcoming on his IMDB page and I won’t believe he’s starring in a remake of The Magnificent Seven directed by Antoine Fuqua until I see they’ve started shooting. What nobody knows are what are the scripts coming Denzel’s way? Is he being offered serious roles that give him a chance to show off his serious skills as an actor? Or does he have to take scripts where there’s no heavy lifting involved, just turn on the charm and cash the checks?

I fully expect The Equalizer to be crap, but since this is Denzel and not Nicholas Cage it will be magnificent crap.

“Girl, go home and put on some clothes. This ain’t a remake of ‘Black Snake Moan.’ “

It’s Lupita’s World (Now Can She Make It In It?)

Lupita Nyong’o has a little naked gold man to carry around after winning Best Supporting Actress for her amazing performance as the long-suffering Patsey in 12 Years A Slave.  The reason I ended my decade-long moratorium of watching The Academy Awards was my rooting interest in 12 Years and my hope Lupita would walk away with yet another acting award.

The same weekend of the Oscars, Nyong’o show up in the week’s Number One movie, Non-Stop, the new Liam Neeson film, a role that requires no heavy lifting and only a few lines as Nyong’o plays a stewardess in a generic nothing part.

ABC News dubbed the Mexican-born Kenyan “Hollywood’s New ‘IT’ Girl” comparing her favorably to Jennifer Lawrence, Sandra Bullock, Hillary Swank and Julia Roberts.   That’s heavy company for Nyong’o to run with after just two films.

The expectation would be after racking up a series of accolades and awards, Nyong’o would have her pick of future films roles, yet she has no upcoming projects on her IMDB page.  Maybe she is taking her time before choosing what she does next.  The fear is she’s the latest Black actress to win Best Supporting Actress only to find Hollywood doesn’t know what to do with them as Jennifer Hudson, Octavia Spencer and Mo’nique have previously learned.

Nyong’o has the looks and the talent to have a long and successful career, but will she be given roles that offer her opportunities to build on 12 Years A Slave or will she end up in Zoe Saldana territory as the Black girlfriend of the starring White actor?  Ending up as ethnic eye-candy would be a terrible waste of Nyong’o’s potential.

While Nyong’o’s career in front of the camera remains a work-in-progress, she has quickly become a much-admired role model for overcoming her own doubts and embracing her beauty as a dark-skinned African woman.  At the 7th annual Black Women in Hollywood luncheon, Nyong’o spoke from the heart.

Lupita Nyong'o

Lupita Nyong’o (Photo credit: gdcgraphics)

I want to take this opportunity to talk about beauty. Black beauty. Dark beauty. I received a letter from a girl and I’d like to share just a small part of it with you: “Dear Lupita,” it reads, “I think you’re really lucky to be this Black but yet this successful in Hollywood overnight. I was just about to buy Dencia’s Whitenicious cream to lighten my skin when you appeared on the world map and saved me.”

My heart bled a little when I read those words. I could never have guessed that my first job out of school would be so powerful in and of itself and that it would propel me to be such an image of hope in the same way that the women of The Color Purple were to me.

I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful. I put on the TV and only saw pale skin, I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned. The morning would come and I would be so excited about seeing my new skin that I would refuse to look down at myself until I was in front of a mirror because I wanted to see my fair face first. And every day I experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as I had been the day before. I tried to negotiate with God: I told him I would stop stealing sugar cubes at night if he gave me what I wanted; I would listen to my mother’s every word and never lose my school sweater again if he just made me a little lighter. But I guess God was unimpressed with my bargaining chips because He never listened.

And when I was a teenager my self-hate grew worse, as you can imagine happens with adolescence. My mother reminded me often that she thought that I was beautiful but that was no consolation: She’s my mother, of course she’s supposed to think I am beautiful. And then Alek Wek came on the international scene. A celebrated model, she was dark as night, she was on all of the runways and in every magazine and everyone was talking about how beautiful she was. Even Oprah called her beautiful and that made it a fact. I couldn’t believe that people were embracing a woman who looked so much like me as beautiful. My complexion had always been an obstacle to overcome and all of a sudden, Oprah was telling me it wasn’t. It was perplexing and I wanted to reject it because I had begun to enjoy the seduction of inadequacy. But a flower couldn’t help but bloom inside of me. When I saw Alek I inadvertently saw a reflection of myself that I could not deny. Now, I had a spring in my step because I felt more seen, more appreciated by the far away gatekeepers of beauty, but around me the preference for light skin prevailed. To the beholders that I thought mattered, I was still unbeautiful. And my mother again would say to me, “You can’t eat beauty. It doesn’t feed you.” And these words plagued and bothered me; I didn’t really understand them until finally I realized that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume, it was something that I just had to be.

And what my mother meant when she said you can’t eat beauty was that you can’t rely on how you look to sustain you. What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul. It is what got Patsey in so much trouble with her master, but it is also what has kept her story alive to this day. We remember the beauty of her spirit even after the beauty of her body has faded away.

And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. There is no shade to that beauty.

Nyongo's Facebook page featured this pic the morning after the Oscars.

Nyongo’s Facebook page featured this pic the morning after the Oscars.

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May You Be In Heaven a Half Hour Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Philip.

Philip Seymour Hoffman 1967 – 2014 (photo by Mark Abrahams)

Super Bowl 48  was a hot mess.  Let’s discuss something else.

Today there is shock Phillip Seymour Hoffman is dead from an apparent drug overdose. Tomorrow, the judgments will come fast and furious on why he is dead.

If you don’t want to be judged, it’s probably not a good idea to be found in a room with a spike full of heroin in your arm. Hoffman was tremendously talented. You don’t win Best Actor Academy Awards for being a schlub. But talent is not enough. It’s never enough. The cemetery is full of talented people who make terrible decisions. The man was an Academy Award winning Best Actor for heavens sake and a husband and a father and a son and none of that matters now.

That could have been avoided if Hoffman could have outrun his demons. But they ran a little faster.

A small movie like Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, the last film directed by the great Sidney Lumet, makes for electrifying viewing due to Hoffman’s nuanced performance. Even big-time, splashy action fare like Mission: Impossible 3 provide Hoffman a chance to show off his acting chops as a memorable villain rather than just phone it in and pick up a big check.

It’s honestly shocking to me that Hoffman is dead.

It’s shocking because 46 is too damn young to die. It’s shocking because Philip Seymour Hoffman’s talent emerged and overcame his less-than-leading-man looks. It’s shocking because the guy checked himself into rehab last year after 20 some years of being clean. It’s shocking because while addicts and junkies die every day, nobody notices until it’s a name brand that kicks off.

It’s shocking because its sad, it’s unnecessary and the stigma that comes with treating drug addiction as a crime rather than a sickness is something we need to get serious about getting over.

The song remains the same. Only the lyrics are changed slightly.

Heroin is a helluva drug. R.I.P. Philip Seymour Hoffman. Gone far too soon.

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Blacked Out in White Hollywood


There can only be one Black movie at a time and its not your time.

2013 was trumpeted as “the year of the Black film” but nobody told the Academy Awards that.  12 Years A Slave received nine nominations including Best Picture, Director and Actor, but The Butler, Mandela, 42 and most glaringly, Fruitvale Station, were overlooked.   This is not a surprise, but it is a disgrace.

In horror flicks, it is an accepted cliche where if there’s two Black characters one of them is guaranteed to bite it before the end. This apparently holds true for Academy Awards  and explains the snub of Fruitvale Station. Just how many Black movies do you expect these good little liberals are supposed to honor anyway?  You got your one in 12 Years so shut up and be happy.

I don’t really sweat the Academy Awards.  When Denzel Washington and Halle Berry won in 2001 that was the last time I watched more than a minute of  this three-hour self-congratulatory circle jerk.   Let’s be blunt:  The Academy Awards are a reflection of they White men who make up the majority of members and they can and will choose whomever they like.   They play by their own rules for their own game.

It is a given Frutivale Station deserves to be considered for Best Picture of the Year. Why not? There were nine films nominated this year and in the past there have been as many as ten.  But if they didn’t want to add one, I’d drop the crusty old folks flicks  Philomena or Nebraska.  No, I didn’t see them but then most audiences didn’t see Fruitvale Station and 12 Years A Slave, so we’re even.   I absolutely would have given Michael B. Jordan a Best Actor nod for his portrayal of Oscar Grant and the last night of his life.

I try not to let the Academy Awards get in my head. I already know Frutivale Station is one of the best movies of the year and Michael B. Jordan gave a sterling performance. I don’t need the imprimatur of the overwhelming old, White and affluent Academy voters to confirm for me what I already know.  The omission of the 2013 best picture winner of the Sundance Film Festival merely confirms my belief that hoping the Oscars will validate your own good taste is a pointless waste of time.

There is a straight line that can be drawn from Solomon Northrup to Oscar Grant. Both were Black men doomed to cruel fates for no crime other than the color of their skin. But I’m not surprised the Academy can only focus on one and not the other. According to a Los Angeles Times story, the profile of the average Academy voter is White, male and over 62 years old.


The cast and director of Fruitvale Station won’t have to walk the red carpet on Oscar night.

This is not the target demographic for a Fruitvale Station, but it provides a clue as to why Jonah Hill and Bad Grandpa are Oscar nominees and a film about a young Black man shot in the back by a White transit cop isn’t even a blip on their radar.

“I don’t see any reason why the academy should represent the entire American population. That’s what the People’s Choice Awards are for,” said Frank Pierson, a former academy president still  on the board of governors. “We represent the professional filmmakers, and if that doesn’t reflect the general population, so be it.”

Pierson’s blase “let them watch The People Choice Awards” attitude is countered by two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington radical suggestion to open up the academy to people of color in representative numbers.  “If the country is 12% black, make the academy 12% black,” Washington said. “If the nation is 15% Hispanic, make the academy 15% Hispanic. Why not?”

The stories behind Fruitvale and 12 Years are human stories of people suffering horrible acts of racism and injustice.   That is a stinging reminder that as much progress that has been made since the lynchings, whippings, and tortures endured by millions of Black men, women and children just like Solomon Northrup we haven’t progressed enough that a Black man minding his own business can’t find his world turned upside down on the whim of an overseer or an officer.   None of this bodes well for 12 Years winning Best Picture over Gravity or American Hustle.

There’s a place for serious movies that prompt serious thinking.   But don’t go looking for it this year on Oscar night.  I don’t think you’ll find it there.

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The Irresistable Pull of “Gravity”

Don’t let go, but do go see “Gravity.”

Every day, rain, shine or snow, there’s an old man who passes my house walking his dog.   He’s one of those conscientious types as he carries a little plastic to put the dog poo in.  Sometimes he speaks. Most times he doesn’t.  I don’t know his name, don’t know where he lives, don’t know where he’s coming from or where he’s going to, but every day he’s walking that mangy, flea-bitten little dog.

Today he walked by the house.  All by himself.  No dog.

What happened?  Did the dog die?  It was too old to run away.   I don’t know and I didn’t ask, but I imagine that old man is lonely if his four-legged friend is gone from the world.

Why am I thinking about old men and their canine companions?  Perhaps because I’m still coming down from Gravity

Loneliness is a big part of Gravity.   Outer space is a cold, inhospitable place, and it’s a lonely place.  Alfonso Cuaron’s  first film since 2006’s Children of Men drives home that  loneliness and beautiful isolation as well struggles and dangers that face human beings when they  explore the boundaries of space.

I had never seen a film in IMAX with Real 3D. Never wanted to wear those stupid glasses over my own glasses and never wanted to pay the extra dollars for the experience, but I lost my IMAX virginity to Gravity. When critics and publications whose opinions I respect say, “You Have Never Seen a Movie Like Gravity” I know its partially hype, but I still pay attention.

There are only a handful of movies that put you in the movie the way Gravity does.   The Matrix, Saving Private Ryan and Inception are examples of this phenomenon where you are pulled into a world previously unseen.

Gravity is 91 minutes long and if your friends are telling you not to go see it, I have one suggestion: make new friends.

My wife did not want to see the movie. She consented only to keep peace in the family (which probably means I have to go with her to something I’d rather give a miss to). Neither of us had ever seen an IMAX Real 3D flick before.  We Sat through the opening trailers with our glasses in our hands until The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug came on and I nudged my wife and said, “Put the glasses on.”

Then Gravity started and I forgot all about hobbits and dragons.

The movie is beautiful, visually gorgeous, tense and suspenseful. It’s a story of survival 250 miles up, but I was never bored, totally engaged and while I won’t call Gravity the best movie of the year, it’s a sucker bet of dollars to space debris it makes the short list of nominees for Best Picture.

As for my wife, she ducked into the powder room as the credits rolled. She came out grinning from the conversations she had with other women in the restroom.

In space nobody can see you in your undies.

In space nobody can see you in your undies.

Did you see Gravity? I can’t believe how good it was. I want to see it again!

Every now and then I make the right call and surprise my wife when she thinks she can’t be surprised anymore.   Some critics have dubbed Gravity  Cuaron’s true masterpiece and it is good, but is it Children of Men good?    Well, it’s certainly more entertaining of the two and a $55 million opening week backs me up on that point.

This much I know:  while Robert Downey Jr. in the role of the savvy older astronaut George Clooney nails would have been perfectly acceptable, Angelina Jolie instead of Bullock would have been a disaster.  Because she is called to be in nearly every shot, this is definitely Bullock’s movie and she has to make us feel for and identify with her plight.   Jolie is equally capable as an actress and I could see her playing the part of Dr. Ryan Stone who is dealing with a personal tragedy.   Jolie’s  chilly and aloof personality makes her hard to cheer for.   Bullock comes off as far more approachable and  her messy divorce from a cheating hubby made her more sympathetic figure  than ever. At 50, Bullock is aging gracefully and  floating through space in a shirt and panties she’s looking damn hot doing it.

Gravity is one of those rare birds where critics and audiences agree it  restores your faith that a film guided by the steady hand of visionary director, actors really going for it, and a studio willing to offer something other than super heroes, sequels, cars crashing, slob comedies, and bloated blockbusters can all reap the rewards.

Here is some advice and if you take nothing else away from this post, please take this to heart:  Do not wait for Gravity to come out on Blu-ray    It’s gonna suck on a TV screen unless you’re one of the few with a 3-D television.   I don’t care how large your screen or how booming your speakers are.  This is one of the few films you should see in a theater and to fully appreciate the slow dazzle of Gravity it  is best appreciated on a IMAX screen.

I was a skeptic (and my wife certainly was) over how much of a difference IMAX makes, but for Gravity it’s the only way to fly.

Space exploration is not anything I’ve paid much attention to and I never was a boy who dreamed of being an astronaut, but now I finally understand why so many other people do.

Great White Father Figure: Lincoln versus “Lincoln”

"Fred Douglass? Don't know the man."

“Fred Douglass? Don’t know the man.”

I have not seen Lincoln.   I got to cop to that from the jump.   I don’t know when I will see it, but I know why I haven’t and that reluctance is based upon my fear that it’s going to be just another well-acted, well-shot, well-directed whitewash.    I’m all for entertainment,  and  I understand  Lincoln isn’t a documentary, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to rewrite history in the name of artistic license.    Even without buying a ticket I have no doubt Lincoln plays it fast and loose with the facts.

I’ve got nothing but love for Steven Spielberg.   Daniel Day-Lewis isn’t one of my favorite actors but I don’t see anyone standing between him and a third Best Actor Oscar. and maybe he deserves it,  However,  even though I haven’t seen Lincoln doesn’t mean I don’t know Lincoln and I know you can’t tell a credible story about President Lincoln and how his position on slavery evolved without including Frederick Douglass.

Lincoln was not some beacon of enlightenment and equality.  He was a man of his time, but not necessarily a man wholly of his own invention.   His hatred of slavery was not balanced by a love of Negroes.   Lincoln was very much a product of his time and his decision to rid the nation of slavery was a stance  he evolved to and  Douglass pushed Lincoln to be bold and brave enough to stand up  against the evils of “the peculiar institution.”

Douglass goes missing in “Lincoln”

The contradiction of Lincoln’s words to his deeds are the proof of how conflicted he was.    I wonder if Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner are aware of some of Lincoln’s more intemperate remarks?

  • I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races – that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.
  • My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause.
  • I cannot make it better known than it already is that I strongly favor colonization.

I think we know better.   The reality of who Lincoln was might get in the way of the romanticized whitewashing of Honest Abe.   Lincoln, which was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, had an earlier script by John Logan that focused on the president’s relationship with Douglass, but Spielberg abandoned that story for  Kushner’s that pushes Lincoln and his allies and enemies to the forefront and Douglass out of the picture entirely.

The omission of Douglass and the part he played in leading Lincoln out of the darkness and into enlightenment has not gone unnoticed by historians whom have generally praised the film.    Michael Shank,  adjunct professor at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution writing in The Huffington Post wondered how such a key character could be sidelined,   “It is ironic, in fact, that Lincoln opens with a close-up of black soldiers in conversation with the president. It was Frederick Douglass who not only recruited black soldiers for the Union army, but he also ardently advocated to ensure these very black soldiers had equal pay, were treated equally, especially if captured, and received the same promotions as white soldiers.”

When Abe met Danny

“Frederick Douglass made this film scene feasible. He found it absolutely inexcusable that black soldiers who served in the Army during the Civil War — totaling nearly 200,000 by the end — were being treated as second-class citizens, despite dedicating and ultimately sacrificing their lives for the country. Director Steven Spielberg or screenwriter Tony Kushner could have placed Douglass in that encampment encouraging black soldiers. The idea that the role of Frederick Douglass wasn’t afforded an historical fit in the film, as some have intimated, is utterly fallacious. ”

“What a missed opportunity to educate American audiences about the myriad black leaders that inspired, instigated and were involved in Lincoln’s leadership on the issue of civil rights.

After Lincoln’s death, Douglass said, “Abraham Lincoln was not, in the fullest sense of the word, either our man or our model. In his interests, in his associations, in his habits of thought, and in his prejudices, he was a white man.”

Douglass’ observation about Lincoln was a statement of fact, not a criticism.    But that isn’t the Spielberg/Kushner/Day-Lewis version Hollywood is celebrating.   This is the American President as the Great White Father who through wit, cunning,  guile and pure force of will drags a reluctant, war-weary country out of the darkness of slavery into the light of freedom.

It’s a good story.   It gets even better when you skip the messy details by excluding Douglass and the part he played in Lincoln’s enlightenment.    It wouldn’t be the first time a White guy reaped the rewards of what a Black guy taught him and it won’t be the last.

America loves its Great White Father Figures who aids the poor darkies.  It makes ’em feel good.