‘The All Out Show’ can be heard on Shade 45 on Sirius XM Radio from 4-7 pm EST Monday-Friday.
‘The All Out Show’ can be heard on Shade 45 on Sirius XM Radio from 4-7 pm EST Monday-Friday.
This year will celebrate the 28th anniversary of the Spike Lee Joint, “Do The Right Thing.” But the question we always ask ourselves is, “What is the right thing?” Is there a “right” thing? And if there is a “right” thing, how does one make the decision on what the “right” thing is?
There’s no doubt that “Thing” was a film that happened at the right place at the right time, and while other films have tried to emulate the race divide and a sign of the times, see also Lee’s “Summer of Sam” for a look into the racial and cultural divide in 1970s New York, there still isn’t a film, for my money, that captures the anger, anxiety, and zeitgeist of a city sitting on a powder keg. Of course, art often imitates life, and in recent years with police shootings, gang violence, political discourse, and attacks on immigrants, minorities, and the LGBT community on the rise, we all live in uncertain times.
Oh, there is also the fact that we have a bullying, fear-mongering, divisive, reality-show starring megalomaniac about to take the Oath of Office as the 45th President of the United States, but don’t worry folks, go watch some foxes jumping in the snow (actually, that doesn’t sound like a bad idea).
Back to the point, in “Thing” the climax reaches a fever pitch when the character “Radio” Raheem is murdered by NYPD officers, a fire hose is turned again an angry mob and our “hero,” Mookie, played by Lee, throws a trash can through the window of local pizzeria, Sal’s Famous. A lot of anger is loaded into the final 15 minutes of the film, but it brings up the question; What is the “Right” thing?
This is an argument that I’ve gotten into with a lot of people. Personally, I’m always interested to hear what people think is the “right” thing. The biggest point of contention is always whether Mookie should have thrown the garbage can through the window of Sal’s Famous. While I understand why this might be a point to argue between people, I’m on the side of this being the “right” thing. Simply, it was rightful rage over the death of an innocent citizen by the “trusted” police force which forces another citizen to act in way that many may never understand how to act. Of course, in turn, this action also saves the lives of Sal and his sons, despite the fact that their business is destroyed by an angry mob. That’s the simple way to breakdown the climax of “Thing,” but there is much more leading to this choice.
Other aspects of the story certainly play a big part in Mookie’s decision. The New York heat, Sal not paying Mookie before the day was up, being accused of being a dead-beat father, the constant harassment by Smiley, there are several aspects of the day that sets Mookie off, but the most reasonable is always going to be seeing “Radio” Raheem murdered in front of him by police who are tasked with upholding the law and having the CPR (Courtesy Professionalism Respect) on the side of their cruiser (the irony). It’s a layered argument that can be tossed back and forth, but the reason we still reference “Thing” as the movie that still commands our attention a quarter of a century after it’s release is the climate we live in currently.
Police still systematically target minorities which often ends in horrific results, and police are overworked with less officers on the ground to do the job correctly, not to mention the fact that many officers are ill-equipped to get the job done correctly. An overburdened and broken system leads to misjudgment and tragedies that will continue to happen.
Is violence the “right” thing…no….however, when you are kicked, prodded, marginalized, and made to feel that you have no rights as a citizen, what are you going to do? Throwing a TV through a window might be a start, but how about throwing your vote in a ballot box on a local level to make the immediate change that is needed to hopefully, at some point, make a bigger change.
Much was made when “Thing” was released, including comments that viewing this film would incite riots. Lee’s response was whether critics believed that minorities, namely African-American’s, were unable to control their impulses while viewing a work of fiction. It was a perfect response for people that just don’t get it, and will never get it. Hell, if “Thing” makes you angry, IT SHOULD! While it WAS a work of fiction it was still inspired by true events, namely the beating and murder of Michael Stewart by NYPD officers, and we are still seeing the endless deaths of African-Americans around the country, sadly at the hands of law enforcement officials. We should all be upset by this, while Lee is being a politician about it, he should have said “Yes, people should get upset about this film, it’s happening, this is the world we live in!”
So, what is the “right” thing? IS there a “right” thing? The “right” thing is to take tragedy and knowledge and apply it in a way that changes the course of your life, your country, and your politics. We are living in scary times, with people in charge that seem to like to “troll” the American people. We literally have an Internet troll who is poised to take the office of The President of the United States shortly. Think about that….someone who made his career firing the like of Lil John and Dennis Rodman from a fake job interview show is going to be hiring people to look after Civil Rights cases and reading the most classified of files, will be running our country for what could be up to eight years.
The “right” thing is to follow the mantra of Public Enemy and “Fight the Power.” But fighting the power is more than just with your fists. Fight with your empathy, fight with your courage, fight with your knowledge, shit, fight for your right to party, because if anything you always have the “right to fight.”
Daredevil: Rabbit in a Snowstorm – Breather
After two exciting episodes, how can Marvel’s Daredevil keeping upping the ante; easy, have a third episode silly. While the first two episodes seemed to concentrate on stand alone arcs and character development, episode three, entitled “Rabbit in a Snowstorm” starts to shape what we are going to see the rest of this season.
Matt and Foggy are still trying to find their groove with their law practice when their first big case falls into their lap; a murder in a bowling alley involving a man named Healy who seems to be well connected with James Wesley, a man we meet in episode one who works for a mysterious benefactor.
Matt is suspicious of Wesley and the reasoning behind hiring himself and Foggy.
Elsewhere, we meet Ben Urich, an old newspaper writer who is interested in a man in black taking on the Russian Mob. Urich, once a respected reporter, has seen the decline of the printed page and the rise of blogs, and has been relegated to writing fluff pieces instead of hard-hitting news.
As Healy’s case goes to trial, Matt uses his enhanced senses to remove jurors that seem to have been tampered with, but is dismayed to learn that even with that juror gone, the case still ends with a hung jury and Healy is back on the street, but is met by Daredevil who beats a name out of him; Wilson Fisk.
This episode is treated almost like a setup and is more filler than anything else. That isn’t to say it’s a bad episode, quite the opposite, it’s just that the previous two episodes were so good that this one “pales” in comparison. What we do get however is the introduction of Ben Urich, played by Vondie Curtis-Hall, who I’m sure is going to play into the grand scheme of things in a big way, especially since we are teased that both he and Karen Page will likely be working very closely together.
The other big reveal is of course the “rabbit” himself; Wilson Fisk, or in comic book parlance, Kingpin, played by Vincent D’onofrio. While we only catch a quick glimpse and only a few lines of dialogue, we see an icy, yet thoughtful man. As far as his look, and the complaint about his size, look people, to find someone the size of Wilson Fisk would be nearly impossible and not likely, so get off that, and listen, he’s the perfect look, and another thing; it’s Vincent F’ING D’onofrio.
The only real Easter egg of sorts in this episode would be a newspaper article that we in Ben’s off with the byline of “Battle of NY” which is an obvious nod to the events in “The Avengers.” It’s still a nice little shout-out of course.
The last thing I’ll bring up in this episode is the elevation of the violence this time around. We have a broken arm with a bone poking out of the skin, a head based with a bowling ball, another broken arm with the sound effect being the payoff, a stabbing with a shard of glass, and the coupe de grace; a suicide via a shard of metal through the eye.
While “Rabbit in a Snowstorm” might not be the strongest effort so far this season, in no way is it lacking; it’s merely a formality where new story lines need to be opened up and characters developed.
Fun Fact: Wilson Fisk’s first appearance was in The Amazing Spider Man #50 in 1967.
Daredevil: Into the Ring – Redemption
So, I’ve made the commitment to myself and to you, the audience. I will not binge “Marvel’s Daredevil.” In a society that demands everything be served to them right away, especially on Netflix, it’s almost a crime that we have forgotten about the timeless tradition of waiting for something. Of course we live in a fast-paced world now, with everything to be found with the click of a mouse or the typing of a keyboard, but there is something special about it, and this is why HBO is still so important right now….they still make you wait week to week to see what happens.
This of course brings me to “Daredevil” Marvel’s latest foray into TV, only this time without the limits of network rules. For the sake of explanation in these entries, I’ll review each episode individually, one a week, for 13 weeks. It’s going to take some willpower, but after just one episode I know this isn’t a show I’ll want to binge; this is a show I’m going to want to savor.
Episode One, entitled “Into the Ring” begins with our origin of a young Matt Murdock involved in a chemical accident, rendering him blind. Boom, origin established. As our episode unfolds we meet an older Matt, now a lawyer, and his partner-in-law, Foggy Nelson, looking for office space in New York’s Hell Kitchen. Elsewhere, a young woman named Karen Page is found in her apartment crying over a dead body. The police arrive and instantly she is the suspect of the murder.
Nelson and Murdock take up the case and as things unfold we find out that Page might be a part of something much bigger involving the corrupt construction company, United Allied, and something about pension payments. By the end of the episode most of the loose ends are tied up, but we catch a glimpse of things to come, and frankly, the excitement overwhelms me a little bit.
While there isn’t much bad with this first episode, I’ll concentrate on all that is good. The film adaptation of “Daredevil” is fuzzy in my mind, and to be honest, I’m not going to revisit it, there isn’t much to compare at this time. From top to bottom, “Daredevil” is a very meticulous attempt by Marvel to create a realistic alternative to it’s film universe and it’s TV brethren “Agents of SHIELD” and “Agent Carter.” While DC’s TV creations “Arrow” and “The Flash” have ruled many fanboys’ TV for the past three years, Marvel’s ‘Man Without Fear,’ will likely leave these two in the dust (full disclosure, I’m still a big fan of “The Flash” melodrama and all).
The casting is A+ with Charlie Cox, who you should remember as Owen Slater from “Boardwalk Empire, as Murdock, sporting a spot on American accent and the martial arts moves to match. Deborah Ann Woll, who played Jessica in “True Blood,” plays the woman-in-peril Page with conviction and emotion, and Elden Henson, who you of course remember as Fulton Reed in “The Mighty Ducks” franchise, plays Foggy Nelson with a certain slimy charm.
Full disclosure, I’m not an avid Daredevil reader, but I know the basics, and this season is shaping up to be the perfect balance of back story, fan service, world building, and allusions to future Marvel-ness, namely “The Defenders.” In short, you’d be blind to miss “Daredevil.”
Fun Fact: The first appearance of Daredevil is in “Daredevil #1” from April 1964.
Birdman – Experience
Let’s not get it confused; “Birdman” is not a superhero film in the traditional sense. Strike that, in barely any sense. If anything it’s a study in our so-called worship of superheroes and superhero films. Of course, I’m getting ahead of myself. “Birdman” is a film experience that will either excite or confound, will awe or confuse; in short, it’s not a film for the masses, but it just might be one of the most technical and well acted films in all of 2014.
“Birdman” stars Michael Keaton as Riggan Thompson, the former star of the superhero series “The Birdman.” After having fallen on hard times after declining to star in a fourth installment of the franchise, Thompson hopes to reinvent himself on Broadway by directing and starring in a revival of “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” After an accident with one of his stars during rehearsal, Riggan is forced to hire method actor, Mike, played by Edward Norton, to fill in, which leads to Mike and Riggan clashing. If that wasn’t enough, Riggan is also dealing with his new girlfriend possibly being pregnant, a daughter fresh out of rehab, and a Broadway critic looking to destroy his show with a bad review. And the cherry on top; Riggan is haunted by a voice tempting him into fate; the voice of his Birdman past.
At the surface, “Birdman” can be summed up very easily. It’s the story of a man searching for something more, something that people don’t see on the surface. Searching for a purpose beyond what has been expected of him for so many years, in essence, it’s pretty much the true story of Michael Keaton. Look at Keaton’s career post-Batman, outside of maybe “Jackie Brown” there really isn’t much to write home about. “Batman” made his career, and after that ride was over, there wasn’t much left. The fact that Keaton recognizes that “Birdman” is almost autobiographical.
The other thing that most people will notice about this film, are the extremely long takes that have become a staple for director Alejandro González Iñárritu. From “Amores Perros” to “Bitful” Iñárritu, much his his fellow Mexican filmmaker, Alfonso Cuarón, has made a living on the long take. While it’s a risky decision, especially with the subject of “Birdman” which is essentially a play, the editing is perfect and gives the illusion that you are actually watching a one-take film. If you are a smart observer, you’ll see the cuts and where the edits are made, but they are done extremely well and “Birdman” will definitely be in Oscar contention on it’s technical merits alone.
Aside from being a technical film, “Birdman” is also able to be a film that is thought provoking, but also a little confusing for a lament. One of the biggest mistakes that someone might make going into this film is believing that it’s a superhero film…..its not, in the traditional sense. What I do find the most interesting is that there are a lot of hints that Riggan Thompson might actually be a superhero, and it’s all in how you interpret what you see. Without giving out spoilers, there are tons of ways to interpret “Birdman,” and that could be a turn off to some people who were expecting something a little different.
All in all, “Birdman” is a film worthy of your attention. It has fantastic acting, wonderful directing, and it’s just quirky and weird enough to demand more than one viewing. It’s likely that both Keaton and Norton will be nominated for Oscars in addition to several technical nominations, notably direction, editing, and cinematography. “Birdman” certainly does fly, but it will make your brain work.
Fun Fact: Alfred Hithcock’s 1948 “Rope” is an early example of the perceived “unbroken shot” technique.
American Hustle – Silky
The name David O. Russell can evoke a lot of emotions, especially if you talk to either George Clooney or Lily Tomlin. The man has the special talent to bring both the best, and worst, out in people. While there is no doubt Russell can be called a total prick, there is also no doubt that the guy has been putting out quality films since “Spanking the Monkey” all the way back in 1994. Almost 20 years later, Russell has released his most refined, and silky, film to date in “American Hustle,” starring the likes of Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Russell’s newest muse, Jennifer Lawrence.
“Hustle” is the tale of two con artists (Bale and Adams) who are forced to join forces with an FBI Agent (Bradley Cooper) who has entirely too much to prove. The unlikely trio set out to uncover corruption that involves a fake sheik, members of Congress, the Mafia, and a local mayor of Camden, New Jersey, played by Jeremy Renner. Throw in a nagging wife, played wonderfully by Lawrence, and those are the basics of “Hustle.”
While I might have just simplified the plot for spoiler’s-sake above, the film is much more than your standard grifters-on-the-run-from-the-law story. I’d liken “Hustle” very much to “Goodfellas” in it’s storytelling and use of the 1970s as the backdrop. I also mention “Goodfellas” in it’s use of a very interesting cameo that I won’t mention, again, for spoiler’s-sake.
While I will commend Russell for his direction and vision, the acting really shines in “Hustle.” I have no doubt in my mind that all four main actors, Adams, Bale, Cooper, and Lawrence, will be up for Oscars come February. I’ll even go as far as saying that this will be Adams’ Oscar year. Her turn as Sydney Prosser is magical, and proves that Adams is one of the best actresses in the business that still seems to be overlooked. Lawrence steals the show in the scenes she’s in, and the same goes for Cooper. Bale is the rock of the film however, and provides a calming cool to the insanity that seems to swirl around him. Renner is fine in his role as Mayor Carmine Polito, but one of the best unsung performances will go to Louis C.K, who plays the brow-beaten boss of Cooper’s unhinged FBI Agent.
Like I mentioned before, this is Russell’s “Goodfellas.” Loosely based on actual events, Russell weaves a story that has you guessing until the very end, and much like Martin Scorsese does in most of his films, music plays a major part. Russell picks some of the best music from 70’s, and makes Duke Ellington, and his music, one of the points of attraction between Bale and Adams’ characters, and it makes sense in the scheme, no pun intended, of things. Jazz artists like Ellington had to improve all the time, it’s the heartbeat of jazz, improvisation, and you can say the same thing for people running cons; constant improvisation. The allegory is fantastic, if you catch it, but it’s not entirely relevant to the overall plot, just a cute little thing that Russell throws into his film.
At it’s core, “Hustle” is a caper film in the spirit of “Jackie Brown” and “Catch Me If You Can.” It has spunk, heart, and like I said before, is silky smooth, with plenty of style to spare. Best film of the year? Let’s not quite go there yet, but if “Hustle” is any inclination of the films to come the rest of 2013, we should be in store for plenty of treats the rest of the month of December. Christmas comes early with “American Hustle.”
Fun Fact: The story of “American Hustle” is loosely based on the events of ABSCAM, in the late 1970s and 1980s.
Girls, Season One – Polarizing
*The following is a wrap-up, of sorts, of Season One of “Girls” as well as an op-ed, or sorts. Sorry if this offends anyone, but don’t take it personal, I’m sure you’re all lovely people. There also might be a few spoilers, so tread carefully*
Hooray! The Hipsters won! They finally won! Oh wait, they really don’t care, they were too busy drinking PBR, waiting for their parent’s monthly check, and hitting up the vintage clothing store looking for a blazer with padded shoulders. Yes, I’m talking about “Girls” which I might call the most polarizing show I’ve ever started watching.
Let me start from the beginning; I ended up watching the premier episode when it first aired on HBO last April. I figured, give it a chance and see what comes of it. I knew from what I read about the show it was going to be “Hipsters in the City…..and Sex.” Of course, that was the show in a nutshell. Did I really want to watch the type of people I normally don’t like on TV? No, that’s why I gave up after the one episode. Turn the clock almost a year and we have “Girls” winning Golden Globe awards, a show that glamorizes being privileged, lazy, submissive, and sad. Of course I only had one episode to go off of so I decided to take the plunge and really give the “Girls” an opportunity to redeem themselves in my eyes. Watching the entire first season over the course of a day and a half did prove one thing; I still don’t like these characters, any of them, and I blame a growing group of viewers that think this is how you are supposed to act if you are a struggling 20-something living in the big city. Maybe I sound like a really old f*uck (I’m only 29 by the way) but I feel like I’m a generation removed from Hanna, Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshana, all privileged white girls who want to think their life is so bad, but really do nothing to improve it.
Climbing off the soapbox now, and getting into the brass tacks of the first season of “Girls.” Throughout the season we follow our “heroine” Hanna as she navigates Brooklyn after her parents cut her off financially. This is the one idea of the show that I thought was great. Yes, finally, something that does happen in real life. After a certain point you have to go into the big bad world on your own and the fact that you chose one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, how long do your parents have to support you? Good start, but then we meet Hanna’s friends; Marnie works in an art gallery and acts the part of the prude who knows what she wants, yet doesn’t know what she wants. Jessa is the free spirit and least responsible member of the group. But I ask, since when did being irresponsible and not caring become so cool? Oh another thing, and this is a very important lesson for you Hipsters in training out there, everything will be all right in the long run, because as long as you act like an arrogant shit you’ll find YOUR “Mr. Big” and you won’t have to worry about looking for a menial job while living in your cousin’s paid-for apartment, because acting like a shit will get you everything you’ve ever wanted in life. This is Jessa’s lesson to you.
The Hipster mentality is both a fad and a state of mind. I know people that fashion themselves as hipsters, or call themselves hipsters (whether that is ironic or not you’ll never know because Hipsterism is founded on irony….ironic, don’t you think?) The conflict in “Girls” is that the girls really aren’t Hipsters, sure they dress in vintage clothing and constantly complain about their situation even though they are probably better off than most of us who are really struggling in this world, but it’s pretty much a Hipster in Carrie Bradshaw’s clothing. To be fair here is another article that is a little nicer to the Movement.
What’s so polarizing about the show is that while you might get a few chuckles here and there because these “real” life experiences by show creator, writer, and star, Lena Dunham, are so out of left field you have to laugh; all the characters are as unlikable as unlikable gets. I return to the character of Jessa, and I didn’t even mention Shoshanna yet, but I’ll get to her shortly. I keep going back to being a responsible adult in the big city. Yes, for the record, when I was 24 I didn’t have an idea what I really wanted in life, but I did have a job that supported me while going to school and actively seeking better employment. A prime example of what vexes me about Jessa is her high and mighty attitude while remaining willfully irresponsible and blaming her irresponsibility on children, please see Episode Four for an example. I know this is supposed to be for comic relief, but in reality, is this the type of behavior that people enjoy and tolerate? I could talk about a character like Adam, Hanna’s on-again-off-again boyfriend, but he’s the only reason to watch the show and not want to throw your lace-less Converses at the TV.
Shoshanna is an interesting character because she lives a pretty good life, she’s in school, and wants to live the “Sex in the City” lifestyle while still living in Williamsburg. She is a walking, talking, contradiction. It’s assumed that she is wealthy, doesn’t work, and only goes to school, so why does she decide to slum it? Well, because it’s cool, and settling is way better than trying hard. Out of all the female leads Shoshanna seems the happiest with who she is, despite being the only virgin in the group. Her quirky attitude is welcome respite from Hanna’s self-destructive behavior, Marnie’s constant indecision, and Jessa, well, being Jessa. If I was to liken her to another character on TV, I might say Ralph Wiggum from “The Simpsons.”
People also have a problem with the nearly-All White Cast. I personally don’t care about this gripe, but the fact that the Brooklyn-area is supposed to be a melting pot, hell, all of New York City for that matter, is a little troubling. The show becomes an exercise in “White People Problems.” Even though the strife that the cast deals with is pretty much universal (pregnancy, unemployment, rent, relationships) the fact that it’s coming from an all white-leading cast neglects the fact other races have the same problem. Personally, the people that complain about this aspect of the show need to pull their heads out of their asses and realize that just because a white cast is depicting struggle doesn’t mean they don’t understand that other social and racial groups are experiencing the same thing. I don’t remember a lot of people complaining about “Seinfeld” and their all-white cast, or “Mad About You.” Don’t worry though, Donald Glover showed up in Season Two, which started last week. While I love Glover, it’s still a feeble attempt by the show-runners to introduce a black member to the cast. Glover is about as urban and black as Urkel from “Family Matters.” Sorry Donald, I love you, but it’s the truth.
The last person I’ll blame for the polarizing affect of “Girls” is Judd Apatow, the Executive Producer. Once again, I usually love Judd, and he’s been a driving force in some of the funniest comedies in the past 10 years. But the one thing that you’ll notice about most of his later work, starting with “Knocked Up” is that he really likes to make women look like bitches. I never gave credence to what Katherine Heigl said after “Knocked Up” came out, and that it made women look like shrews, but looking at “Girls” now, he likes to do two things now; make girls look like bitches, and supports the Hipster agenda. I appreciate the fact that he supports young artists and comedians, but as time has gone on his subject matter has gotten dark and again, bitchier. Some people might say it’s maturation in his art; I call it giving a dog a treat after it poops on the carpet.
So “Girls” are you a fad, or are you the real thing? I’ll tell you one thing, you sure have a lot of people talking, and in recent memory I really can’t remember a show that had this many people polarized. I was reluctant to watch the show after a long hiatus of watching, but I did finish the whole season within two days. Did it captivate me? No. Is it exasperating an already obnoxious and silly subculture? Yes. Will I keep watching? Probably.
Fun Fact: Fun Fact? No Fun Fact! Go get me a PBR and my Member’s Only jacket.