Archive for October, 2011

Mum’s The Word

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Like most writers, there’s thirty years of “I Should Really Get Around To This” piled around my house. Things that didn’t get done. Things that still might get done. Things I’ m actually doing. The problem with this page is that it’s a lot easier to discuss completed projects than works in progress or pitches of things I’d like to do. Every writer has a drawer full of unfinished stuff and ideas. Posting those ideas puts the ideas at risk. And sometimes it takes years for this stuff to move from my desk into a book or a film, so the Projects page can get old pretty fast, with the same dozen half-eaten sandwiches listed up there. So I’ve really been twisting trying to decide what, if anything, to publicly display.

Full Essay Is Here

We’d Have Rather Had Matt Damon

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Saw Captain America, finally. Or, at least, I *tried* to see it. At least two different families, for some insane reason, chose to bring their toddlers along to the film. The little ones were wholly unconcerned with Captain America or the nearly-full house who’d come out on a Monday evening to see him. They did not use their indoor voices. Although the parents did try and keep them quiet, two-year olds are going to be two-year olds. I absolutely despise going to the movies, and I was distracted and angry—just like a two-year old— all through Captain America.

Look, I know times are tight and sitters cost, but staying home with the wee little ones is the price you pay for your thoughtless and likely drunken impulsive screwing. People who don’t want to be parents should find some discipline to protect themselves, and parents should come to grips with the fact that children literally take over the entirety of your life. Nobody stood up and screamed at these people, but, even in the dark, I could clearly see how tense the audience was at the utter selfishness of these people.

I was actually going to walk out after the first act but I fell asleep instead. All the action stuff just bored me to tears. I thought the reimagining of certain details of Cap’s origin worked quite nicely for the most part, but every time I looked at the actor playing Steve Rogers—though quite capable and awash with earnestness—I kept seeing Matt Damon and a much better performance.

Tommy Lee Jones was wasted, the whole Bucky Barnes B-story was a waste. It wasn’t the worst super- hero movie I’d seen, but we would have rather had Matt Damon, whose raw acting skill would have added much-needed depth to the main character. Like most other super-hero flicks I’ve seen, the central character was nowhere near as fascinating to watch as Downey’s Tony Stark. It’s as if the creators of these subsequent films hadn’t seen Iron Man.

Chris Evans is a fine actor and he did a credible job, but he lacked the gravity well of Downey’s self-absorption. In Iron Man, every cutaway from Downey was a chore. I couldn’t wait to get back to Downey to see what whacky thing Stark would do next. The same was true in The Dark Knight, only that sentiment applied not to the hero but the ensorcelled performance of Heath Ledger as the villain. Thus far only Downey has made the hero of these hero films insatiably compelling. Somebody should sit with the writers and help them to understand that concept: the hero must be not only worth watching, but so compelling you can’t take your eyes off him.

Of this summer’s crop of films, I’ve not cared one whit whether or not Thor got his powers back or if Hal Jordan lived or died. I didn’t care, at all, about any of the New Mutants in X-Men: First Class, and, past the amazing Skinny Guy special effect of the first act, I didn’t care what happened to Captain America. These are fatal flaws of these films. They are formulaic and extremely predictable. In every case, once the hero puts the costume on, the film runs out of interesting places to take us. The notable exception is, again, the first Iron Man, where the costume itself was a character, and the more he wore it, the more that armor changed the character inside it.

Early on, real soldiers laugh at Captain America’s costume. There should have been a point where, once he’d grown and changed internally, once he’d proven himself to these men, that the costume itself ceased being a joke to the men and instead became an inspiration to them. Maybe I slept through that shot, but I didn’t see it. Evans’s was not a bad performance by any stretch, I just didn’t care whether the Red Skull iced him or not—a consistent complaint of this rush of films and even the very good Bat films.

Make me care about the hero. Stop allowing him to be upstaged by the villains. You’d think this would be elementary, screen writing 101. I am terrified that, in the rush to make production dates and in the euphoria of this digital effects age, that already DC and Marvel are forgetting what made these heroes heroes in the first place.

My Beef With BET

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

CBS News anchor Scott Pelley recently interviewed Black Entertainment Television founder Robert L. Johnson about what government could or should be doing to help improve the failing economy. Mr. Johnson, 65, offered reasonable and solid advice, the same reasonable and solid advice most any well-heeled CEO might offer up, while neither he nor Mr. Williams explored the questionable morality surrounding how Mr. Johnson earned the billion-plus dollars he profited after selling BET to Rupert Murdoch’s Viacom in 2003. I hope he is enjoying his millions. It is blood money. Whatever apologist nonsense enables Mr. Johnson to sleep at night will never balance out the reality of twelve year-olds being jumped intothe Crips of the Folk every day of the week. Of young black girls dressing like hookers and young black boys eager to get into drug dealing so they can live like the evil caricatures Mr. Johnson broadcasted for twenty-three years. And, while I can’t stop Mr. Pelley from interviewing this guy, I and the rest of America don’ t have to act like Idi Amin is Benjamin Franklin.

The saddest part is, as Mr. Pelley did, most of Black America likely considers Mr. Johnson an American success story. I am struggling not call him Adolph Hitler, who transformed Germany by means of a culturally homogenous quasi-religion. Calling anybody, even Mr. Johnson, Hitler would be unfair. Hitler, after all, didn’t teach Germans to hate themselves.

Mr. Johnson is certainly no Hitler, though he might have been the guy passing out the Nazi arm bands. Black America has been wearing its own version of Nazi arm bands—Ebonics, the idiotic sagging pants, a distinct cultural lexicon regardless of what region of the nation you visit— for more than a generation, now. Mr. Johnson is not the architect of this phenomena, but he was for many years its chief enabler.

Complete Essay Is Here

If Obama Were White

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

I, and I suppose, many African Americans have been asking myself, lately, is our support and, increasingly, defense of President Barack Obama would be the same if the president were white. I mean, white-skinned. We are, after all, specifically if not exclusively referring to the quality of pigmentation in the man’s epidermis. This insanity, of how tan a person is, has been the basis for centuries of violence, hatred, social unrest and oppression. Taking race out of the equation, I see a man with lofty, perhaps naïve goals, and a gang of irrational, extremist nuts out to kill him. I see his friends caving in and turning against him out of cowardice and opportunism. I see people obstructing important and vital legislation, and causing severe further damage to the nation’s economy over the idiotic debt limit fight. I see a man trying to save America and I see people willing to go to any lengths to stop him, up to and including making things worse, provably and demonstratively as a direct result of their single-minded agenda to unseat the president.

I see good and I see evil. I support the president, not because he’s black but because any man who can inspire this level of sheer hatred, focused on one man and to the exclusion of serving their nation during a time of national crisis, must be onto something good. He must be a simply amazing individual. Abandoning him for one of the GOP Muppets would be utterly ridiculous.

 Complete Essay Is Here