For Elijah

I haven’t been able to get the information released yesterday about the murder of Elijah MacClain out of my head. If you aren’t aware, Elijah was a 23-year-old Black autistic man who lived in Aurora, Colorado. On August 30th, 2019, Elijah was confronted by three cops responding to a call about an unarmed person wearing a ski mask that looked ‘sketchy.’ Elijah wasn’t wearing a ski mask, so it was not him. That didn’t stop these cops, though. The three claim their body cameras were knocked off during the struggle with this 5’6″, 140 lbs neurodivergent man. You can read his last words as reproduced from the body cam audio:

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Movie Review – The Cotton Club

The Cotton Club (1984)
Written by William Kennedy, Francis Ford Coppola, and Mario Puzo
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

It feels like it cannot be emphasized enough, but for Francis Ford Coppola, the entirety of the 1980s and some of the 1990s was shaped by the failure of One From the Heart. Many of his decisions of which projects to take were driven directly by the massive debt he accrued by spending his money on that critical & box office disaster. His old producer Robert Evans (The Godfather films), brought him to The Cotton Club. 

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Movie Review – Rumble Fish

Rumble Fish (1983)
Written by S.E. Hinton & Francis Ford Coppola
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

In March 1983, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders. By October 1983, he already had another film coming out, a thematic continuation of what was going on in that first film. Rumble Fish, also based on a novel by S.E. Hinton, drew Coppola’s attention more strongly than any of her other books. He identified with the idol worship of an older brother, something he experienced with his older brother August. The director decided he would direct Rumble Fish next about halfway through production on The Outsiders and managed to keep everything in Tulsa with the same crew and many of the same cast members. However, Warner Brothers did not like an early cut of The Outsiders and passed on his next movie. Rumble Fish would become acclaimed in the film festival circuit, with a more minor release, only 296 theaters nationwide.

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TV Review – Better Call Saul Season 1

Better Call Saul Season 1 (AMC)
Written by Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Thomas Schnauz, Gennifer Hutchison, Bradley Paul, and Gordon Smith
Directed by Vince Gilligan, Michelle MacLaren, Terry McDonough, Colin Bucksey, Nicole Kassell, Adam Bernstein, and Larysa Kondracki

Justice is a joke in the United States. I was born & raised in the U.S., and it’s evident that our system of law & order is a complete joke, a hollow icon trotted out by the worst corrupt figures responsible for doing near incalculable harm to the most vulnerable people. But we give them badges, call them “Judge,” and put everything on fancy official letterhead, which legitimizes the evil. There are always pressure release valves built into any social system like this, and the establishment understands most people will not go along with the idea that the justice system is hallowed & pure. So they allow us to mock one part of it, and it works out to their advantage that way; they mock defense attorneys. I grew up seeing commercials for people like Bart Durham, downright shady ads that promised people big paydays if they went with him. These are always working-class lawyers, the big city, expensive slick ones get a bit more grandeur in their media portrayals. On the surface, Saul Goodman appeared to be one of those ambulance chasers when he appeared on Breaking Bad. With his own series spin-off, a prequel of sorts, audiences got the chance to see if there was more beneath the colorful suits & flowery language.

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Movie Review – The Outsiders

The Outsiders (1983)
Written by Kathleen Rowell
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

The 1980s did not start well for Francis Ford Coppola. Despite some strong entries into his filmography, it didn’t end up too great at the end, either. This decade was a period of change & tragedy for the director, a clear sign that whatever magic had manifested itself in the 1970s would be tempered. One From the Heart was his first entry into the decade, and it was a box office disaster, only making $600,000+ against a $26 million budget. 1983 found Coppola selling his 23-acre Zoetrope Studios to begin paying off the debts One From the Heart left him with. He would spend the entire decade working to pay that debt off, contributing to some of the more unexpected jobs he took. Coppola was still a great filmmaker; they weren’t all hits this time. The Outsiders, though, isn’t a miss and is one of the highlights of the 1980s.

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Comic Book Review – Green Lantern: Wanted-Hal Jordan and The Sinestro Corps War

Green Lantern: Wanted – Hal Jordan (2007)
Reprints Green Lantern #14-20
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert, and Daniel Acuna

The Sinestro Corps War (2007)
Reprints Green Lantern #21-25, Green Lantern Corps #14-19, Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps Special
Written by Geoff Johns, Dave Gibbons, and Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Ethan van Sciver, Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason, Angel Unzueta, Pascal Alixe, Dustin Nguyen, and Jamal Igle

In the wake of Infinite Crisis, all DC mainline titles leaped forward by one year. That gap year was covered in the year-long weekly series 52, which you can read my reviews for. While Johns was one of the chief architects of the whole affair, it’s clear from reading Wanted – Hal Jordan he didn’t necessarily want this for the Green Lantern. In some ways (the Sinestro Corps), it gave time for threats to reasonably build in intensity, but Johns also tells a similar story to Revenge of the Green Lanterns. While that story was about Jordan dealing with the fallout from his actions as Parallax on the Corps, Wanted keeps him on Earth against the Global Guardians and Rocket Red Brigade as he deals with the consequences of violating foreign airspace. 

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Movie Review – Downsizing

Downsizing (2017)
Written by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor
Directed by Alexander Payne

In 2017, Alexander Payne had his first official box office bomb. Four years prior, he’d received fairly rave reviews from critics for Nebraska, and before that, The Descendants had also been similarly received. In a decision that can be read as an attempt to expand his creative sphere by making a satirical science fiction film. Payne and co-writer Jim Taylor hammered out the details during the director’s hiatus from filmmaking between 2004 and 2011. The film was released on December 22 and proceeded to gross $55 million against a $76 million budget. I only bring up those numbers as that’s mostly how you see Downsizing spoken about. It did not make money therefore it is a failure. Because the film was so poorly thought out, it was a failure. It was the third of Paramount’s bombs that year alongside Mother! and Suburbicon, all high-concept films that feature lousy writing.

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Movie Review – Nebraska

Make sure to vote in our poll: What is Alexander Payne’s best film?

Nebraska (2013)
Written by Bob Nelson
Directed by Alexander Payne

For the first time in his filmmaking career, Alexander Payne directed a script he did not write. The result was a film that got a lot of praise from critics. It wasn’t a box office smash, but it did better than expected due to awards season word of mouth. After the diversions of Sideways and The Descendants, Payne had returned to his Midwestern roots, exploring the humor and daily dramas of life in Nebraska. A pair of producers contacted Payne while working on About Schmidt with the Nebraska script. Payne already knew Sideways was in the pipeline and wisely realized he would be seen as “the guy who makes road trip movies” but thought the Nebraska script was great. It got put on the back-burner, and after The Descendants, Payne saw this as the time to make Nebraska.

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Movie Review – The Descendants

Make sure to vote in the poll What Is Alexander Payne’s Best Film?

The Descendants (2011)
Written by Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash
Directed by Alexander Payne

It would take six years after Sideways before Alexander Payne released another film. His longest gap to date between movies. During that time, Payne would get divorced from his wife Sandra Oh; they were together for around six years, married for three. I am no psychoanalyst, and everything I say is complete speculation, but…it sure does seem like the divorce did not sit well with Payne. I say that because from this point on, women, who appeared to have a special place in his previous work, suddenly take on a much darker tone. This film and the next two all feature female characters that are “nags” and absurdly vulgar for no apparent reason other than to add levity to the movie?

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