Sunday, August 21, 2011

I'll Decline THE HELP, Thank You Very Much

It's been a long time since my last post, but what better way to come back than with a scathing review? I saw THE HELP this weekend and had one of my "Why the hell does everyone like this crap?" moments, like I did when I saw similarly overhyped movies like UP IN THE AIR and the unimaginative SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE.

THE HELP is an obvious, conventional, pandering movie about race relations - but one that reinforces the very stereotypes it hopes to overcome. Yes, the performances are great and the cinematography is beautiful, but I'm going to guess black viewers would be disappointed. Why? Because it only shows blacks as uneducated servants, and the hero of the film is a white woman who courageously crosses the line to help them. The black characters are your cliched "magic negroes," the white racists face comeuppance in ways meant to appeal to white guilt, and it repeats the same joke about putting poop in pie about seven times. Please, can't we for once make a mainstream film about segregation that shows blacks as heroes and individuals, and not have to have a noble white person leading the way?

Monday, November 29, 2010


Congratulations to my friend Tina Mabry, whose multiple award-winning feature film MISSISSIPPI DAMNED is now available on DVD. The film dominated the 2009 independent film circuit, winning top prize at nearly every festival it appeared in, including the Jury Award for Best Feature Film at the 2009 Chicago Film Festival, the Grand Jury Award for Best Feature Film at the 2009 American Black Film Festival, and the Grand Jury Award for Outstanding U.S. Dramatic Feature at the 2009 Outfest Film Festival.
Based on a true story, the film is about three poor black kids in rural Mississippi who reap the consequences of their family's cycle of abuse, addiction, and violence. It's available in a limited pre-sale for only a few more days at
The film excels in all areas, featuring gritty storytelling, extraordinary performances from a talented ensemble cast, and surehanded directing. But don't just take it from me, check out some of the praise it's earned:
"The film presents a brutally honest, extraordinary haunting and deeply emotional portrait of a dysfunctional family trying to come to terms with its own tortured legacy." - Ebony Jet Online

"Expertly directed and beautifully shot and scored, featuring unforgettable performances by a tremendous ensemble cast this a film of rare accomplishment."
- indieWIRE

"Raw and powerful...plaudits to filmmaker Tina Mabry for her tightly wound and powerfully explosive story." - The Hollywood Reporter
"Dark, uncompromising, and unflinching, Mississippi Damned is pure power all around." - Edge Magazine

"This riveting ensemble film is one of the most original American debuts I've seen in some time" - Phawker Blog
"Mabry has put together a stable of actors that make up easily the best ensemble I've seen this year." - Atlanta's Reel Fanatic Blog

"Mississippi Damned is a rare, exceptional film, one that covers enormous amounts of emotional territory and manages to impart sadness and hope in equal measures." - After Ellen

"It is the year's best film. Last year, I sat through all the nominees for Best Film for the Academy Awards and this independent film stands shoulder to shoulder with them. We can only hope that more people are able to view this film on a larger scale across country as it is a story which needs to be told." - The Rainbow Collective
Congratulations Tina!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Debunking the GOP's "tax cut=jobs" BS

The GOP's top priority is extending the Bush tax cut for the wealthiest 2% of Americans, because they argue that it will "create jobs." Here are a number of reasons this is horse shit.

#1 This tax cut has been in place for ten years. If it's such a job creator, why hasn't it been creating jobs all this time? Instead, we've seen thousands of jobs shipped overseas, record deficits, and a widening income gap between the rich and poor.

#2 People go into business to make a profit, not create jobs. Jobs are created when production cannot keep up with demand.

#3 The argument assumes that the wealthy will use the extra income to create jobs, when there's just as much or more reason to believe they'd invest it, spend it, or do any number of things before "Creating a job."

#4 Most job creation by the super wealthy is in underpaid workers overseas, because of #2.

#5 It is middle class consumer spending that has the largest impact on job creation, not the income of the wealthy few. If you really want to kick start the economy, money would best go towards the middle class, who will spend it on things they need, and create higher demand. But in contrast to their passion for giving tax cuts to the rich, the GOP has consistently fought against benefits for the middle class, like extending unemployment benefits.

#6 The tax rate for income above $250,000 used to be 90%, and this was during the prosperous 1950s and 60s. It had no stifling impact on job creation.

The GOP's "tax cut=job creation" is a bullshit reason for them to pad the pockets of the super wealthy, even at a time when more revenue is needed to pay down record deficits, and America's position as a world power is slipping to China. Their agenda is transparently about protecting the wealthiest Americans, even at the cost of country's economic health.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

No, it was YOUR idea

You have to hand it to the GOP's marketing skills. After all, the party of the wealthy few has managed to convince millions of working class people to vote for them and against their own economic interests for years.

In the wake of the GOP's election victories, Mitch McConnell stated that "When the administration agrees with the American people, we will agree with the administration. When it disagrees with the American people, we won’t." How clever. The GOP creates a hyberbolic campaign frightening people about "Obamacare," "government takeovers," and looming tax increases to sell a plan that benefits corporations and the wealthy. Uninformed voters buy into this marketing, and now he claims that whatever the GOP does is just following the will of the American people. Not only that, but he also professes to know what the American people will or won't agree with from the Obama administration.

These guys could find a way to sell garlic to a vampire.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Okay, GOP, What'll It Be?

The Republicans took back the House and most of the Senate yesterday on a message of extending tax cuts for the wealthy, deficit reduction, and cutting spending. But as they take power, it will be interesting to see how they plan on executing that message, because it doesn't add up.

To begin with, it would have been nice if the same outrage over deficit spending emerged when Bush II was waging two unfunded wars, but that's another matter. The problem here is that you can't argue for both extending tax cuts for the wealthy while complaining about the deficit. The Bush tax cuts are responsible for $200 billion of the deficit annually, far more than Obama's stimulus plan.

Similarly, the GOP argues for spending cuts as a way toward deficit reduction. But they only favor cuts in domestic spending, not defense, which accounts for over $300 billion, and not by ending the war in Afghanistan, which is one of the largest impacts on the federal deficit. In the GOP's "Plan for America," they outline $100 billion in domestic spending cuts. Merits of that aside, how would that alone be an answer to the deficit without addressing these larger expenditures?

You won the election, GOP, but now you have to tell us how you'll make sense of your agenda.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Fighter... with no Gatti?

The Fighter, the unimaginatively titled boxing film starring Mark Wahlberg as junior welterweight Micky Ward, will be released in December of this year. Ward is best known for his exciting trilogy against Arturo Gatti, but unfortunately, it will not be included in the film.

Two of Ward's three battles with Gatti were awarded "Fight of the Year" by Ring Magazine. The first was the best, though, with many calling it the "Fight of the Century," and its 9th round dubbed "Round of the Century" by commentator Ernie Shavers. The matchup was intriguing because of its contrast in styles: Ward, the tough body puncher who would march straight in, taking punishment while waiting to land a shot, and Gatti, the faster, more mobile "boxer" of the two. The two men fought at a frantic, desperate pace, both taking a beating and showing great heart. As a viewer, you come away appreciating both fighters. There are more skilled boxers out there, but none have been in fights this entertaining. During the trilogy, the two men became great friends, until Gatti's untimely death (murder?), still under investigation.

Here's a link to the first fight in its entirety:

And for you immediate gratification types, here's the 9th round:

Unbelievable. Excluding these great battles from a film about Ward would seem to diminish its potential, but I'll withhold judgment until I see it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Greatest of All Time, Sort of

I'm no boxing expert, but I do like ranking things, so I thought I'd compare three heavyweight fighters whom I consider the best of their eras to determine who reigns supreme. I should note, the nominees are just my sentimental favorites, and completely omit the contemporary era as well as the earliests.

The first is Mike Tyson. In his prime, Tyson was a vicious, highly skilled and well-trained fighter, the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history, who demolished most of his opponents in an average of 3.5 rounds. Tyson was unique because he possessed devastating power, but also lightning fast hand speed. Combined with his punching accuracy, he was an overpowering fighter with animal-like aggression. Here he is, at his peak, taking on undefeated champion Michael Spinks. It must have been a real letdown for people expecting this internationally-hyped heavyweight championship fight to go the distance.

Michael Spinks vs. a Wild Animal:

When Don King took over Tyson's career and fired his original trainer, he stopped bobbing and weaving and using his jab and combinations, instead looking for one punch knockouts. As a result, he started losing, first to Buster Douglas in what's considered the biggest upset of all time. He never got up from a knockdown, and when his fights went into later rounds as they did against Holyfield and Lewis, he became far less dangerous. But Tyson in his prime would have a good chance at beating anyone from any era.

Muhammad Ali was a true "boxer" - meaning he relied on technique and ring strategy rather than going toe to toe with opponents - with incredible speed and agility. A man of great conviction, he proved he could take punishment when he fought Foreman and Frazier, but more importantly, knew how to avoid it. After a long career, the guy's face shows no damage.

A bad, bad man:

Beause he wasn't a power puncher, he relied on flurries of shots to wear down his opponents. His habit of backing up while throwing jabs was a good defensive technique, but also weakened his power. Ali was a gutsy, talented, and intelligent fighter. He was an Olympic champion and won the title three times.

Rocky Marciano was a hard-hitting brawler with incredible stamina. He's the only undefeated champion in heavyweight history, and suffered only two knockdowns during his professional career. Marciano would be a light heavyweight in the modern era, but he had knockout power on par with some of the strongest punchers in history. His stamina meant that he would continously attack opponents, bombarding them from every angle without letting up. Marciano was a relentless warrior who beat everyone he fought to a pulp.

Marciano hurting people:

Marciano could also fight through massive punishment, winning one fight with his nose literally split in half. In an era when fights were allowed to become much more dangerous than they are today, he proved to be a fighter of remarkable toughness. Nearly every fight in the above video would have been stopped much earlier by today's standards.

Marciano's weaknesses included being a wild puncher, not caring what he hit. He also lacked speed, and was a slow starter, with most of his fights going several rounds.

So who's the best? For the sake of this discussion, I'm going to assume we're talking about these fighters in their primes. In Tyson's case especially, after his peak, he wasn't nearly the same fighter. Also, as a disclaimer, I'm not even considering the earlier eras of boxing which would feature Jack Dempsey or Joe Louis.

Tyson vs. Marciano: The key would be the early rounds. If Marciano could survive Tyson's initial onslaught, he would have the advantage in later rounds because of his superior mental toughness. Tyson proved to be weak mentally when really challenged. Tyson is kind of like a scared animal who lashes out violently at first, but whose weak psyche wilts if faced with strong resistance. Marciano is a somewhat sentimental choice, though, and my head tells my that Tyson's movement, power, and accuracy would end the fight early.

Ali vs. Marciano: there was a cool computer simlation done in the 60s that determined Marciano would win. Ali and a then retired Marciano were filmed doing a simulated fight. Afterwards, Ali said that his arms were left bruised from Marciano's punches. It would be a long fight. I'm going to agree with the simulation and go with Marciano for his stamina and guts, wearing down Ali over a long fight.

Ali v Tyson: Ali defeated two of the hardest punchers in history in Foreman and Frazier. I imagine against Tyson, he'd be able to dance and stay away from him in the early rounds. Again, I'd bet against Tyson in a 12-15 round bout.

Tyson was once asked about how he'd do against various opponents from other eras. He replied that without actually having to face them in a fight, one could never really know, a wise answer I think.