Friday, December 31, 2021

Movie Reviews: Across 110th Street

Across 110th Street
directed by Barry Shear
Because of the time and the cast this 1972 film is often lumped in with the "blaxploitation" films of the time. It does have that element but it's just as much a classic heist film and even a noir and action film. 
Across 110th Street has a fair amount of explicit and implicit social commentary in its dialogue and cinematography. 

I remembered a song performed by Albert King titled "Little Brother (Make A Way)" in which the singer details the negative impacts of racism on his life. As King sings, he had to do things against his will because if he hadn't "little brother" wouldn't have lived. But King is both hopeful and insistent that the "little brother" to whom he is speaking (his son, grandson, or the entire younger generation of Black men) will take advantage of the struggles and sacrifices of the older generation and put things right. 

I was reminded of that song watching this movie because the film doesn't pull its punches in examining the fierce institutional and individual racism of whites in authority positions. Usually the Black characters are not in a position to do much about this. Not yet anyway... 
So Blacks and Whites on both sides of the law must work together against their adversaries even though they thoroughly despise each other.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Movie Reviews: The Racket

The Racket
directed by John Cromwell

This 1951 movie is often described as a noir film. The Racket certainly looks like a noir film but I don't think it quite meets all of the criteria. The Racket is really just more of a crime movie. 
Neither of the film's two primary male protagonists are particularly sympathetic nor do they suffer from any moral uncertainties or psychological battles. The film's female lead provides the only character growth. 
Cromwell also directed Dead Reckoning, reviewed here. The Racket is a remake of a 1928 silent film of the same name. It is interesting and occasionally enlightening to see how attitudes around sex and violence and righteousness have changed for good or bad since 1951. 
The Racket hints at things that are obvious to any adult and would be explicitly and tediously spelled out in any of today's films that used the same source material. Although this was marketed at being hard hitting at the time I didn't see it as such. 
As is usual in many of these older films the hooker with the heart of gold archetype is recast as some other "questionable" female worker. 
However whatever job title she holds her role is usually to tempt the hero or his friends and then die or perhaps help the good guys, be reformed and become a decent woman.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Senator Manchin Says No

West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin recently announced what he had been hinting for a long time: that he would not and in his words "could not" support the proposed Democratic "Build Back Better" bill (BBB) that would have among other things given more work permits for illegal immigrants, expanded child tax credits, provided universal pre-k, expanded health care coverage, addressed climate change, increased green cards for immigrants, and a whole host of other items which tend to be quite popular with some liberals. 

At Manchin's request, the BBB was cut down quite a bit from the initial bill, so many people were very upset when Manchin went on Fox News and said he still wouldn't support the bill.

And you know, my concerns I had, and I still have these concerns and where I’m at right now, the inflation that I was concerned about, it’s not transitory, it’s real, it’s harming every West Virginian. It’s making it almost difficult for them to continue, to go to their jobs, the cost of gasoline, the cost of groceries, the cost of utility bills — all of these things are hitting in every aspect of their life.
And you start looking at — then you have the debt that we’re carrying, $29 trillion, you have also the geopolitical unrest that we have. 
So when you have these things coming at you the way they are right now, I’ve always said this, Bret, if I can’t go home and explain it to the people of West Virginia, I can’t vote for it. And I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can’t. I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there.

VP Harris Is Frustrated

Back in the day a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away when magic filled the air yours truly had a female manager that was truth be told probably a little too nice for her job. 
My manager once complained to her boss that she (my manager) had just arrived in her position and thus shouldn't be really held responsible for various projects sliding into "red" status or other critical team issues. 
Her boss, also a woman, was less than sympathetic, stating that my boss' trial period ended when she took the job and that at this point and at her salary all anyone cared about was results. And the higher ranking boss made it clear that she didn't want to hear any more self-serving complaints from my boss. Period. Was that expectation fair? Perhaps not. The team was in a bad way before my direct boss arrived. Was that expectation typical and accurate as to what stakeholders expect from those they have put into power? Absolutely
I was reminded of that reading the latest NYT story with quotes, sourced and otherwise, from the supporters of VP Kamala Harris that generally claim that Harris is doing a great job and that she is the victim of a double standard because of her race and gender.
An early front-runner whose presidential ambitions fizzled amid a dysfunctional 2020 campaign, Ms. Harris was pulled onto the Biden ticket for her policy priorities that largely mirrored his, and her ability as a Black woman to bolster support with coalitions of voters he needed to win the presidency.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Black Man Insulted And Detained For Trying To Cash His Paycheck

Something that is ongoing in American culture is that people from just about every walk of life think and behave as if Black people, specifically Black men, are less intelligent lower forms of life that deserve absolutely no respect and are almost certainly guilty of something.
I don't think it's possible to find a honest Black man who hasn't run across this attitude in one form or another. 
This never ending hate and contempt is something that almost certainly leads to greater hypertension, stress, and all of the health concerns that go along with that. This racism could be something like a judge mistaking a Black lawyer for a criminal defendant, Bill O'Reilly "joking" that the professor Marc Lamont Hill looks like a cocaine dealer, or co-workers constantly mistaking one Black man for the only other Black man in the department when the two look nothing alike and are far apart in age. 
It is what it is. This started long before I got here and will continue after I'm gone. But one really egregious example of this recently came to light in Minnesota.
Joe Morrow, a Minnesota man, was the victim of what many call “banking while Black” after being put in handcuffs after attempting to cash his paycheck inside a U.S. Bank branch in suburban Minneapolis last October.
Morrow told KSTP-TV reporters that despite having an account with the bank, employees at a branch in Columbia Heights, Minnesota, “were all looking at me and just staring at me and then looking at the check and then staring at me again. And I’m already knowing what they’re thinking — that the check fake.” 
Morrow, who moved to Minnesota from Mississippi last year and worked as an “order picker,” said the incident began well before the police had arrived at the bank where he attempted to cash a check for roughly $900. 
The man said he was informed by the bank’s manager, John Askwith, that the check was fraudulent and that “you people always coming in here with fake checks.” I work there, bro. And I’m going to report you too, bro, this is racial,” Morrow was heard saying calmly, without expletives, to the manager before he was cautioned about his allegations of racial profiling. When Sgt. Justin Pletcher arrived, police body camera footage showed Morrow already in Askwith’s office, leaning back in a chair, hands folded. The 23-year-old maintained that the check was indeed real.

Movie Reviews: A Quiet Place Part II

A Quiet Place Part II
directed by John Krasinski
This 2021 film was the sequel to the earlier movie of the same name, reviewed here. Sequels are often funny business. Sometimes sequels can let you know what happens next. 
Given the paternal sacrifice at the end of the first film, Part II has a lot to work with on that level. 
Sequels can also go back in time to show how things got started in the first place, which Part II does as well. However although this film was enjoyable in parts, I thought that it dragged too much. The child actors irritated me--or rather their characters did. 
This is likely a reaction based on how I was raised but certainly as a youngster if my parents said to do A and not do B, then that is what they meant. 
And they would communicate that intention in clear precise language that left absolutely no room for debate, interpretation, or misunderstanding. 
And if my siblings or I didn't follow those orders, well then we would have some problems. Obviously once someone reaches his or her teen years then there's going to be some more rebellion and disagreement. That's just human nature. Parents need to be aware of that and accept that change within certain limits. 

Movie Reviews: Pompeii (2014)

directed by Paul W.S. Anderson

This 2014 film was a throwback to classic disaster movies in many ways, some good, others bad. 
Unfortunately it took a wrong turn almost immediately by trying to graft on a romantic storyline (a la Titanic) to a set of events that didn't really need that standard Hollywood trope added. 
The film also irritated me a little because it saw fit to bring back another trope that should be discredited by now, of having Black characters sacrifice themselves to save UNRELATED white characters. 
I understand and appreciate how a character might decide to give up his/her own life to ensure that a spouse, child, or relative survives. I also understand that in tragedies sometimes people sacrifice for each other in the moment.
But doing it just because you're impressed by the backstory of someone you just met and may not even like?  And to always have the sacrifice go one way and not the other? To me that's just bad writing and reeks of racial solipsism. 
Good writing should reflect reality, in which everyone is the hero or heroine of his or her own life and and is not going to be in a rush to throw away or lose their life just because.
But then again this is a disaster movie. The story's true impact is in the special effects, which don't disappoint, even though in certain scenes they are too obvious in the CGI look. 

Friday, December 10, 2021

Movie Reviews: Sheba Baby

Sheba Baby
directed by William Girdler
When I was growing up there were only two reasons to watch a Pam Grier film. And these reasons usually weren't the well written fast paced dialogue or the state of the art special effects. 
Sheba Baby moved away from the sleaze a bit. Perhaps Grier felt some kind of way about the until then filmic overemphasis on her physical attributes. 
In any event this older Grier vehicle significantly toned down any camera leering at Grier in favor of extended action sequences. This movie was rated PG and not R, though it's still probably not something I'd want to watch with female relatives. 
It's worth pointing out that there weren't too many actresses doing this kind of work at the time. Grier's characters during her successful seventies run were almost always confident direct women who didn't take too much stuff from anyone, male or female, Black or White, and were quite capable of getting their own revenge when needed. Sheba Baby is no different in that regard. 
This is a movie which because of the relatively low budget and occasionally meandering 70s feel is perhaps ripe for a remake, though given the cultural expressions of feminism and misandry likely a remake would go places I wouldn't be interested in going.
Anyhow, for its times this was a decent, not great, movie.