Tag Archives: film and tv

In Fox’s New Police Shooting Drama, Even the Extras Cry

Mother Jones

Shots Fired—a 10-part drama series that premieres on Fox on March 22—is a gripping examination of police violence and racial injustice in America. The show stars Stephen James (Race, Selma) and Sanaa Lathan (Love and Basketball, Alien vs. Predator) as Department of Justice officials called by the governor into a fictional North Carolina town to look into the fatal shooting of a young white man by a black sheriff’s deputy. The conflict escalates when the pair learn of another killing—of a black teen whose mother was warned by sheriff’s deputies to keep quiet—that has gone all but unnoticed by the town’s white residents. As the dual investigations unfold, the show offers sharp commentary on the human toll of violence and the role of race in the criminal justice system.

The series was created, written, and directed by husband-and-wife duo Reggie Bythewood (who most recently directed the TV series Gun Hill) and Gina Prince-Bythewood (director of Love and Basketball and The Secret Life of Bees). I caught up with Reggie earlier this week to talk about who inspired the show and what will happen to police accountability under the Trump administration. Watch the trailer, and then we’ll talk.

Mother Jones: Okay, this seems obvious, but I’ll ask anyway. What made you want to do a show about police shootings?

Reggie Bythewood: We have two boys. In July 2013, as the George Zimmerman verdict was being announced on TV, I sat down with my oldest son, then 12 years old. He got emotional when the verdict came back not guilty. Instead of hugging and consoling him, I pulled up an Emmett Till documentary on YouTube and made him watch it. Then I talked to him about the criminal justice system and how in many cases it doesn’t work.

It was the first real man-to-man talk we had. It was also the first time Gina and I felt like we wanted to be a part of the conversation. Not just as parents and black people, but as artists. We had been thinking about making a movie since then. But after Ferguson, Fox approached us about doing a series. We jumped at the idea, because a movie would have been a 90-minute version of the story instead of the 10-hour series we created.

MJ: One of the two shootings investigated on the show involves a white victim and a black cop. Usually we see the opposite. Why did you flip it?

RB: I want to stress that Shots Fired is not about a black cop who kills a white kid. It’s about the shooting of an unarmed white guy and an unarmed black guy. We wanted to create a narrative where we could look at both cases. But to answer your question, there were a lot of people who never saw Trayvon Martin as a kid. He was painted as the victimizer. And Zimmerman got donations from all over the country. So in doing a show that deals with police violence, the question was how do we make those people who sent in the donations see this kid as a human being? One of the things we came up with was to just make one victim white.

MJ: In Jesse’s case—he’s the white kid who is killed—you have these themes of grief and injustice projected onto a white family that are more familiar to a black audience. Then you have a black cop whose life is thrown into disarray—a notion that might resonate more with people who empathize with the police—and that idea is projected onto a black family. That seems instructive for people on both sides of the fence.

Reggie Bythewood created, wrote, and directed Shots Fired along with and Gina Prince-Bythewood. Courtesy Fox

RB: We wanted to let people understand what a mother feels when her son is killed and is painted as the victimizer. We also wanted every character to be three-dimensional and human. Some people are coming into it seeing things from the cop’s point of view who would not ordinarily think that way, but that’s an unintended consequence of the way we approached our primary goal.

MJ: Your research process has been grueling. Tell me about it.

RB: Our writers read articles. We watched the Jordan Davis documentary and several others. We had a two-hour Skype meeting with former Attorney General Eric Holder. We spoke with Ray Kelly, the former police commissioner of New York. He’s a proponent of stop-and-frisk—I’m not. But if you really want to do a good job, you can’t just talk to people who share your point of view. We spoke with Michelle Alexander author of The New Jim Crow, and we read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. We talked to people who have been victims of police misconduct. We talked to black cops and white cops. One of our staff writers, J. David Shanks, a black guy, was a police officer in Chicago for six years. One of the people whose words really resonated with us was Wanda Johnson, the mother of Oscar Grant.

MJ: What did she say?

RB: She came to the writers’ room and talked to us about what it’s like as a mother to see your child become a symbol—of civil rights for some, and of anti-law-enforcement, of hate, for others—and watch people lose sight of the fact that this is a human being. So part of our goal was to make the victims—all the characters, really—human, and to make people empathize.

MJ: The DOJ launched investigations into two police shootings while you were filming last summer—Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Did that affect production at all?

RB: It was emotional on set when these incidents happened. There was a day when we had a prayer circle because it was hard to continue with the subject matter. It was amazing to see the extras crying on set. But those shootings reminded us that we had a cause. Yes, we’re artists. Yes, we’re doing a TV show to entertain. But this is all for real.

MJ: Now we have an attorney general—Jeff Sessions—who indicates that the Department of Justice will pull back on investigating police abuses. Yet your main characters are DOJ people doing exactly that.

RB: We assumed Hillary Clinton would be the next president and that there wouldn’t be a drastic shift at the Department of Justice. But I think the show is more relevant now in a way that we didn’t expect, because it highlights the importance of having a DOJ that listens to the people it serves, the urgency of these cases, and the need to have a responsive DOJ. I hope we expand that conversation.

See the original post: 

In Fox’s New Police Shooting Drama, Even the Extras Cry

Posted in alo, FF, GE, LAI, Landmark, LG, ONA, Radius, Sterling, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on In Fox’s New Police Shooting Drama, Even the Extras Cry

James Baldwin Was Never Your Negro

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

In the eyes of filmmaker Raoul Peck, the voice of author James Baldwin has been largely forgotten in the 30 years since his death. Yet Baldwin’s words remain uniquely relevant today.

I Am Not Your Negro, Peck’s Oscar-nominated documentary, which hits selected theaters this week, recounts Baldwin’s incisive examination of the systemic racism that underpins the black American experience. The film—based on letters, published work, and notes from Remember This House, Baldwin’s unpublished manuscript about his contemporaries Medger Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr.—also serves as a critique on how Hollywood has clouded the bitter reality that African Americans faced in their struggle for civil rights.

Peck, a Haitian-born director whose previous work includes Lumumba (a biopic of Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba) and Fatal Assistance (a film about Haiti’s efforts to rebuild after its devastating 2010 earthquake), spent a decade working on I Am Not Your Negro. He wrote Baldwin’s estate asking for permission to the intellectual’s archives. One day, during the course of his team’s research, Baldwin’s sister Gloria Karefa-Smart handed him pages of notes from Remember This House. “For a filmmaker, it was like almost a mystery book. I knew I could build on that,” Peck told me.

What unfolds in the film, over the course of 90 minutes, is a revival of Baldwin’s decades-old meditation on race in America, whose fraught history—given the rise of white nationalism in parallel with the Black Lives Matter movement—is no less poignant today. I caught up with Peck to discuss Baldwin’s legacy, the absurdity of Twitter, and how Hollywood has twisted our view of race.

Mother Jones: What drew you to this project?

Raoul Peck: I decided to go back to Baldwin because of the role he played in my whole life and because we have forgotten about him. I felt that the world, and in particular this country, were going in circles. What had happened 40 or 50 years ago was happening again, but even in a worse form—that we were sinking into a lot of ignorance and a lot of superficial change.

It was really always about bringing back Baldwin’s words in all their rawness, in all their impact—in the way he analyzes not only this country but also the history of this country, the images that this country is fabricating through Hollywood, and what consequence that has in our imagination.

MJ: How did Baldwin influence your life?

RP: Don’t forget: In the ’70s, when I was a young man, there were not many authors as a black young man where you felt at home, where you felt he’s really speaking about my life and my story. Baldwin was a revelation for me, the kind of revelation that follows you all your life because you can go back to it. It’s not just about stories. It’s about philosophy. It’s about criticizing the world. It’s about deconstructing the world around you. Baldwin explained that you have your own history, and that you cannot be responsible, for example, for slavery. You cannot be responsible for Jim Crow. You can not be responsible for racism. This is much more a problem for the person exercising racism.

You are confronted with the reality of racism when you go in the streets, when the eyes of others come upon you. Baldwin goes back with you to all the experiences you went through and gives a name to them, and explains why it is like this. It’s not because of you—it’s because of them. This is a powerful thing for a young mind. Which brings us to today. Can you imagine in 2016 there is a discussion about #OscarsSoWhite? Is it a novelty we’ve just discovered that the whole production machine is dominated by only one type of human being, excluding women, excluding gays, excluding minorities? This is not new. So why would anything change that has not been changed since the existence of cinema? Baldwin somehow wakes you up to reality. It takes you out of the dream—or out of the nightmare.

MJ: What influence would you say Hollywood has had in shaping how we think about race?

RP: Baldwin basically shows you how! From a young age, he’s watching all those different films. He’s watching John Wayne killing off the Indians. He came to the point that the Indians were him. You had to educate yourself because the movies were not educating you. The movies were giving you a reflection of you that was not the truth. That’s the trick. The movie was also giving a reflection of what the country is. Basically, a country that wanted itself to be innocent. That’s the ambivalence of Hollywood. It thinks of itself of selling one thing but it doesn’t see that, by doing that, it is also selling something else.

Your job as a critic is to question that. Otherwise, you’re just part of the machine. Baldwin looks you in the eyes and says, “You are part of the problem. What do you choose to do?”

We are in it together whether you like it or not. It’s the same history. You can choose to not see the whole of it, or to see one particular aspect of it, but it’s your own delusion. You can’t erase the reality of this country.

MJ: What was Baldwin’s role during the civil rights movement?

RP: Baldwin was a celebrity. A TV show like Kenneth Clark could put him aside of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. He was, at least, one of the three most important spokesmen of the movement and of the black community. He was one of greatest intellectuals of his time. He was an important voice, period, not an important black voice. Over the years, he disappeared—like a lot of our leaders disappear. He was not assassinated, but somehow he went through those assassinations as if it was himself. I think that broke him as well. You could see that in the way he carried himself in the film. He doesn’t take anything lightly.

Today, I don’t even think that people like him are possible. He would not have that much room. The system gives you two minutes to phrase a whole history. Take the example of the current president. He tells you something in two or three sentences. Then you have maybe 30 seconds to respond. You already lost because every single word of what he said is either false or not correctly accurate. You would spend the next hour to deconstruct what he just said before you can even start telling your own opinion on that. It’s the rhetorical battle that you can not win.

Baldwin would have been extremely complicated today because he would not have 40 minutes like he had at the Dick Cavett Show. It says something about our current situation where we are so bombarded with items, with data, with pseudo-information that you don’t even have the time to seek through it to see what is important, what is not, what is fake, what is real. You need to react. That’s the absurdity of Twitter. You can react without thinking now. Your tweet is as important as if you would have written a Ph.D. dissertation on the subject.

MJ: What do you see as Baldwin’s significance as we transition from Barack Obama to Donald Trump?

RP: It means almost nothing. Baldwin said the real question is not when there will be the first Negro president in this country. The important question is what country he’s going to be the president of. This is his response. We just experienced that it is true. It’s not having elected Obama. It’s about what country he was the president of. We just got the response.

It’s never about one individual capable of changing everything. It’s about us, every one of us—whether white or black or Latino or women or men. It’s about how you get together and have a sufficiently wide spectrum of citizens who are ready, who have the same diagnostic, or at least who agree on the minimum of the diagnostic and decide to change it.

We have to change it on the basis of reality, not on the basis of what you think is reality—which is based on your ignorance. It’s incredible because we actually have a president who is denying the existence of science, who relies on hearsay. Anybody who has zero credibility and tells him something that he feels could be true through his own prejudice, he just decides that it’s the truth. It doesn’t count that you’ve worked 40 years of your life on the very subject, that you have measured that problem, you have statistics about that problem, you have numbers and facts. All this doesn’t mean anything. That’s the bottom of ignorance right there. That’s the world we are in. Baldwin is needed even more today because he helps you focus to the essential, to what is important.


James Baldwin Was Never Your Negro

Posted in alo, Citizen, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, Radius, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on James Baldwin Was Never Your Negro

Fox News Retracts Tweets Implying Quebec City Mass Shooter Was Muslim

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

Fox News has retracted and apologized for three tweets misidentifying the suspect in the massacre at a Quebec City mosque on Sunday night as a Moroccan.

Quebec authorities initially indicated on Monday that they had two suspects in custody, but soon clarified that the sole suspect in the killings was a white Canadian man. Although Fox News updated its story with that information on Monday, the network’s erroneous tweets remained online, pointing to a person identified by authorities as Mohamed el Khadir as the perpetrator. In fact, the sole suspect in the attack was 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette, who was reported to be a right-wing extremist and vocal supporter of Donald Trump.

A day after Mother Jones first reported on the erroneous Fox News tweets—which collectively were retweeted thousands of times before their removal—the director of communications for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent an email to Fox News calling for a retraction and rebuking the network for allowing “false and misleading language” to continue circulating:

These tweets by Fox News dishonour the memory of the six victims and their families by spreading misinformation, playing identity politics, and perpetuating fear and division within our communities.

We need to remain focused on keeping our communities safe and united instead of trying to build walls and scapegoat communities. Muslims are predominantly the greatest victims of terrorist acts around the world. To paint terrorists with a broad brush that extends to all Muslims is not just ignorant — it is irresponsible.

(See the full text of the email from Trudeau’s communications director, Kate Purchase, in her timeline.)

In a statement emailed to Mother Jones, the managing director of FoxNews.com, Refet Kaplan, said: “FoxNews.com initially corrected the misreported information with a tweet and an update to the story on Monday. The earlier tweets have now been deleted. We regret the error.”

The earliest information to emerge as a mass shooting unfolds almost always contains inaccuracies, a well-known fact in newsrooms. Two of the Fox News tweets highlighting the unconfirmed identity of the shooter as a Moroccan were posted on its primary account, which has 13 million followers, and remained online for more than a day. A third tweet, posted on anchor Bret Baier’s Twitter feed for his show “Special Report,” was removed on Wednesday morning. It had circulated widely since Monday, after being retweeted by Donald Trump Jr. (See all three tweets here.)

On his show Monday night, Baier appeared to remain focused on the shooting suspect as a Moroccan—even after his own correspondent reported otherwise on the air.

“Bret, in the aftermath of this attack there was a great deal of confusion and contradictory reports,” said Fox correspondent David Lee Miller, reporting from Quebec City. “Initially it was said that there were two shooters. Now authorities are saying there was only one, and just a short time ago the suspect was brought into court. He is identified as Alexandre Bissonnette.” Miller described Bissonnette’s age and the murder charges brought against him. Then he added: “We are told he had been a student at a local university here, and that he had what are described as extreme right-wing views.”

Miller also went on to say that the mosque had previously faced anti-Muslim harassment, including reports of it being vandalized with swastikas and the delivery of a pig’s head to the building last summer.

After Miller’s reporting of all these details, Baier responded:

“And just to be clear, David Lee, one of them is Moroccan? Do we know anything more about the background?”

Miller again emphasized that el Khadir had by then been identified as a witness to the shooting, not a suspect: “The man described as the Moroccan was someone who was worshiping inside the mosque when the gunfire erupted.”

“OK, that’s a good point to make,” said Baier.

Watch the full segment here:

Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com

Continued here – 

Fox News Retracts Tweets Implying Quebec City Mass Shooter Was Muslim

Posted in Anchor, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, PUR, Radius, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Fox News Retracts Tweets Implying Quebec City Mass Shooter Was Muslim

20 Female US Presidents, as Imagined by Hollywood

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

If the odds-makers have it right, Hillary Clinton will soon be America’s first female president. But Hollywood, for better or worse, has been imagining women in the Oval Office for more than half a century. Here’s a taste of some scenarios the men of Tinseltown have come up with:

Kisses for My President (1964 movie): Leslie McCloud (Polly Bergen) is elected the first female commander in chief, leaving hubby Thad stuck in traditional first-lady roles—like attending garden parties. (‘Cuz it’s all about the guy.) All is made right again when President McCloud learns she’s pregnant and resigns.

Warner Brothers

Whoops, Apocalypse (1986 movie): Veep Barbara Jacqueline Adams (Loretta Swit) is elevated to the Oval Office after her boss, a former clown trying to prove his mettle, challenges a journalist to hit him in the stomach (fatally, it turns out) with a crowbar.


Mars Attacks! (1996 movie): First daughter Taffy Dale (Natalie Portman) succeeds her dad (Jack Nicholson) as president after cartoonish aliens gleefully kill everyone else in the government.

Chain of Command (2000 movie): Vice President Gloria Valdez’s (María Conchita Alonso) boss is shot and killed in a struggle over the “football.” As his successor, Valdez must face down China in a nuclear exchange.

Commander in Chief (2005-06 TV series): Mackenzie Allen (Geena Davis), a Republican congresswoman turned vice president, ignores the dying request of President Teddy Roosevelt Bridges that she step aside to make way for a successor who sees “the same America” as he does.

Contact (1997 movie): In Carl Sagan’s 1985 novel, a female “President Lasker” presides over radio contact with extraterrestrials, but she doesn’t survive Hollywood’s knife: In the 1997 movie version, Lasker is replaced by cleverly edited footage of Bill Clinton.

XIII: The Conspiracy (2008 TV miniseries): President Sally Sheridan is assassinated during a Veterans Day speech—her own brother is behind it. The ill-fated series was canceled after only two episodes.

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016 movie): Elizabeth Lanford (Sela Ward) and most of her cabinet are obliterated by nasty alien invaders. (Film critics are forever traumatized.)

20th Century Fox

Hitler’s Daughter (1990 TV movie): So, it turns out the mother of President Leona Crawford Gordon was impregnated by the Fuhrer, brought to the States by U-boat, and then killed by the Nazis shortly after giving birth to America’s future commander in chief. Got that?

USA Network

Prison Break (TV series, 2004-2009): As vice president, Caroline Reynolds (Patricia Wettig) collaborates with “the Company” to fake her brother’s death. When the shadowy group turns on her, she arranges for the president’s assassination so she can assume control.

20th Century Fox Television

Divergent (2011-13 novel series, 2014 film)
In a society sorted by personality type, President Jeanine Matthews—actress Kate Winslet likens her character to a “female Hitler”—aims to kill factionless Divergents, whom she sees as a threat to her dominion.

Scandal (TV series, 2012-present): Ultraconservative VP Sally Langston (Kate Burton) kills her husband and hides the evidence. Then, after a would-be assassin leaves President Fitzgerald Grant in critical condition, she takes over the White House.

Hail to the Chief (1985 TV series): President Julia Mansfield (Patty Duke) struggles to run the country while keeping tabs on her philandering husband and wild teenagers. The series was canceled after seven episodes. Go figure.

Mafia! (1998 movie): Diane Steen (Christina Applegate) almost achieves world disarmament—but peace is put on the back burner when her mobster ex-boyfriend comes around looking to win her back.

The Simpsons (2000 “Bart to the Future” episode): Lisa Simpson, the “first straight female president,” is elected in 2030—following in the footsteps of Donald Trump and Chastity Bono.

Iron Sky (2012 movie): An unnamed Sarah Palin spoof (Stephanie Paul) sends a black model to the moon as a publicity stunt to get herself reelected—and later leads an attack on a Nazi moon base.

Veep (TV series, 2012-present): Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) starts this HBO comedy series as a perpetually dysfunctional vice president. She moves up during season three, after her boss resigns to care for his mentally ill wife.

Special Report: Journey to Mars (1996 TV movie)
President Elizabeth Richardson’s (Elizabeth Wilson) support of a Mars mission gets her reelected, but the mission is sabotaged. Crisis ensues.

24 (TV series, 2001-10):
Republican President Allison Taylor “has nothing to do with Hillary,” insists actress (and Hillary Clinton doppelganger) Cherry Jones. Nope. America’s first female president in this thriller series is “a combination of Eleanor Roosevelt, Golda Meier, and John Wayne.”

State of Affairs (TV series, 2014-2015): Before Sen. Constance Payton (Alfre Woodard) becomes America’s first black female president in this widely panned series, her son is killed by terrorists in Kabul.


Homeland (TV series, 2011-present): Sen. Elizabeth Keane (Elizabeth Marvel of House of Cards) is elected president in the upcoming season of Showtime’s terrorism drama. Co-creator Alex Gansa says she’s basically a composite of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Bernie Sanders. Keane “challenges the norms,” Homeland star Claire Danes noted in a live appearance, and “is a little scary for that reason.” You’ll catch some glimpses of her in the trailer.

Link to article: 

20 Female US Presidents, as Imagined by Hollywood

Posted in alo, Everyone, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, Radius, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on 20 Female US Presidents, as Imagined by Hollywood

“Moonlight” Is a Rare and Beautiful New Film About Growing Up Black and Gay

Mother Jones

The forthcoming film Moonlight, out October 21, is at once particular in its perspective and universally relatable. Set in Miami in the late 1980s and ’90s, the film chronicles the coming-of-age of a gay black boy—Chiron (“shy-rone”)—as he struggles with his sexuality, peer pressure, and a drug-addicted single mother. Over the course of the film, he is taken under the wing of a sympathetic local drug kingpin (Mahershala Ali), and he finds, loses, and finally reconnects with his first love, Kevin. The action unfolds in three acts—each one a different stage in the life of Chiron, whose conflicted teenage persona is captured beautifully by Ashton Sanders. Overall, the film is a moving reflection on black masculinity and human vulnerability.

Moonlight—directed by the rising filmmaker Barry Jenkins—was a breakout hit at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and is already the subject of Oscar talk. But that should come as no surprise. It is based on In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney, a former international resident at London’s Royal Shakespeare Company, a 2013 recipient of a MacArthur “genius grant” Fellowship, and winner of numerous other accolades for plays highlighting the diversity of the African American experience. I caught up with McCraney to talk about his own coming of age and why it’s so important to tell stories about queer black identity. Watch the trailer, and then we’ll talk.

Mother Jones: Let’s start by talking about your own childhood and how that informed the play and the movie. Do you relate to Chiron?

Tarell McCraney: Yes. The movie is set in the neighborhood where I grew up. My family still lives there. A lot of what we depicted in the movie is what I saw on a daily basis. The process of growing into your own person is a pretty universal thread. I don’t know if one can write characters you don’t relate to.

MJ: I came out as bisexual in February. Even though I knew I liked boys in middle school, I didn’t apply that term to myself until my junior year in college, two years ago. In part, that had to do with the fact that people would call me gay or feminine, and it was always a word they used to hit me with. I think it was because I had to reject that label growing up that it took me so long to see myself in that space, and begin to identify with the community. So I could also relate to Chiron.

TM: That’s pressing. The film is that story of whether or not you were even allowed space to figure out for yourself.

MJ: How old were you when you knew you were gay, and were you allowed that space at home?

TM: I always knew. And there was no need for me to come out—I was out! Whenever I was bullied, it was understood why. I never hid—it more so made me feel like there was something in me that was not wanted, which is different from hiding. I can’t hide it because everybody can see it. But no is the answer—which is why this work is necessary.

Tarell McCraney

MJ: Would you say it’s harder to come out in the hood than in other places?

TM: It varies by person, the journey of coming out. It’s important for us to note that on all levels, in all parts of society, some people are able to be their full selves regardless. There were gay people in Liberty City when I was a kid. People we knew were gay, whom our parents talked to and talked about. There were people who cross-dressed. There were people who were transgender—I’m talking about the ’80s. That has always been a part of our community. Maybe people didn’t want to tell everybody that was a part of our community. But to say it’s harder to come out in the hood is not true. There’s bias everywhere.

MJ: Let’s talk about the movie. You’ve acted in and written a lot of plays. What was it like to see your work on the big screen?

TM: It was really exciting to see. It’s such a beautiful film. Those performances are earth-shatteringly good. I didn’t know you could find a young actor with that kind of power. The script was actually written in 2004, right before I went to grad school. I’ve always tried to have conversations about the difficulty in becoming one’s full self, and choosing one’s path, and what that means.

MJ: Are there any major plot points where the movie deviates from the play?

TM: There are no huge plot turns. But there are some, because it’s Barry’s movie just as much as it is mine.

MJ: In the first chapter, Chiron is looked out for by this drug dealer. In the hood, the hypermasculine gangster archetype seems like the antithesis of gayness. Rap music will tell you that. Why did this dealer feel compelled to take in this gay kid and make him feel comfortable with himself?

TM: What did you think?

MJ: I assumed he saw a vulnerability in Chiron that he recognized in himself—perhaps from a younger age.

TM: Yup. And he could see that past a perceived homosexuality, a trait they probably didn’t share. He could think back to when he was seven or eight and see himself. It’s important for all people to be able to recognize humanity.

MJ: In another scene, some boys make Kevin (Chiron’s love interest) beat him up in the schoolyard. Afterward, he cries when an administrator tells him that if he were a man he wouldn’t let the other kids pick on him. Why was that so triggering for him?

TM: Because the person he was closest to just punched him in the face and left him there.

MJ: My editor gave me the same answer and said it was obvious, but I didn’t read it that way. When Chiron keeps getting up even though Kevin is telling him to stay down, to me, Chiron is trying to show the boys he can take it like a man, but he’s also sticking it to Kevin—who cared for Chiron but opted to hit him anyway—by making Kevin do it even as Kevin tried to lessen the pain for both of them. He broke down because he felt like he’d failed at both tasks.

TM: So why did that trigger this in you?

MJ: Because my own femininity was ridiculed, and accepting my queerness meant embracing that I didn’t have to act in a conventionally masculine way.

TM: That’s one of the things in society that we don’t do well. We create a binary and try to fit everybody into it. And that’s a kind of insanity for both sides. But look at that moment in the film and see how many variations on the theme there are. You’ve got the personal: The person Chiron most trusts is hurting him the most. You’ve got the political: If I’m a man, I stand up to these people. And there’s the larger unknowable: What actually constitutes me in this moment? All those avenues pour into this section. Which is why it’s important to not just make it into one thing. Chiron cried because it was complicated.

MJ: The last time we see Kevin and Chiron together is the morning after they’ve reconnected for the first time in years. The film leaves a lot hanging. Where would you like audience members to go with this?

TM: I can only guess at what Barry wanted us to do. And I enjoyed that that leaves open possibilities about what happens next. As a storyteller, I enjoy when I’m brought to a place where I can imagine the infinite. It allows me to keep these people with me. I’m always going to be trying to figure out what’s next for them.

MJ: There’s been very little representation of queer black kids on screen. We’ve had Pariah and Tangerine most recently, but not much else. What would you want those kids to take away from the movie?

TC: The more colors we can add to the conversation the better. But kids in general are going through this. This representation is solidly for queer black kids to be able to see themselves. But I think it’s important for people to see how they’re intertwined in all of our lives. I was describing the community I came up in. It would be harmful for me to pretend that there were no gay people around. They were there. And their lives are important to be told. The transgender sex worker two doors down—her life is important. And not having it in the collective memory is dangerous. Because if we don’t remember that that’s a part of who we are, then there’s going to be somebody thinking that there’s nobody else out there like them.

Visit site:  

“Moonlight” Is a Rare and Beautiful New Film About Growing Up Black and Gay

Posted in FF, GE, LG, ONA, Radius, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on “Moonlight” Is a Rare and Beautiful New Film About Growing Up Black and Gay

Shonda Rhimes, Norman Lear, and Common Take Aim at Inequality in This New Documentary Series

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

In “America Divided,” a new five-part documentary series premiering tonight on Epix, the nation’s growing inequality—in matters economic, racial, and otherwise—takes center stage.

Headed by executive producers Shonda Rhimes, Norman Lear, and Common, the project looks into the ways inequality underlies so many modern crises, profoundly affecting our schools, our housing landscape, and our political discourse. The correspondents are all household names: Actress Rosario Dawson, for instance, takes us to Flint, Michigan, to meet families affected by lead poisoning. Actor Jesse Williams returns to the classroom to understand the school-to-prison pipeline. Comedian Amy Poehler grills well-to-do families about their relationships with struggling domestic workers.

The actors are invested, and in some cases confrontational. And while it’s a little strange to see them so out of context (especially comedians such as Poehler and Zach Galifianakis) there’s something refreshing about their earnestness. Take Dawson, who displays her humanity when she reaches out to hold the hand of a tearful woman who has been describing the toll Flint’s contaminated water has had on her family. The issues the series explores won’t be anything new to Mother Jones readers, but they are as timely as ever. So if A-list celebs and high production quality will convince you to think more about America’s more entrenched problems, and maybe even to step up and do something, then this series is for you.

See the original article here: 

Shonda Rhimes, Norman Lear, and Common Take Aim at Inequality in This New Documentary Series

Posted in FF, G & F, GE, LG, ONA, Radius, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Shonda Rhimes, Norman Lear, and Common Take Aim at Inequality in This New Documentary Series

An Accidental Nuclear Detonation "Will Happen"

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

It would be impossible to fully replicate the depth of dread and disbelief that Command and Control—Eric Schlosser’s 2013 book chronicling the Air Force’s history of nuclear weapons mishaps—bestows on its readers. This is not to say that the haunting new documentary of the same name, co-written by Schlosser and director Robert Kenner (Food, Inc.), doesn’t pack a punch. While the film’s producers were forced to simplify and trim from the book’s deeper content, any viewer who has not read the original or who, like most Americans, pays little heed to our modern nuclear arsenal, is due for a fine scare.

The contextual backdrop of Schosser’s book incudes plenty of the kind of Cold War insanity that many Americans have relegated to the attics of our memories: the rush-rush nuclear buildup stewarded by the hawkish Strategic Air Command boss Gen. Curtis LeMay, the existential nuclear standoffs between JFK and the Soviet Union’s Nikita Khrushchev, the WarGames-esque computer glitches that falsely signaled Soviet nukes flying our way, and the shock of General William E. Odom, a national security adviser under President Jimmy Carter, upon receiving a briefing on the SIOP, the nation’s top-secret plan in case of a nuclear conflict: “It was just a huge mechanical war plan aimed at creating maximum damage without regard to the political context,” Odom said. “The president would be left with two or three meaningless choices that he might have to make within 10 minutes after he was awakened after a deep sleep some night.”

But Schlosser’s coup de grâce was a list he obtained (via freedom of information requests) detailing a litany of nuclear fuckups by the Air Force. Although the brass typically blamed human error, the record in its totality suggested that America’s systems for safeguarding its nuclear weapons were profoundly broken, were they ever working in the first place. Some incidents were fairly minor and others reflected organizational ineptitude—an accidental shipment of missile nose-cone fuses to Taiwan, nukes sitting around in barely guarded storage igloos on foreign tarmacs, things like that. But the scariest part by far was the tale after tale of actual near-misses: nuke-laden B-52s fragmenting in midair, crashing and scattering radiation; immensely powerful warheads exposed to fire and intense heat and hurled or dropped into American fields and swamps. Yet somehow, by the grace of God, there was never an accidental nuclear detonation on American soil.

The film—which opens on a scene in September 1980, as young maintenance guys suit up to work on a Titan 2 missile in Damascus, Arkansas—features great archival footage and reenactments shot in a decommissioned silo complex. Command and Control dutifully follows the book’s basic outline. The central narrative thread involves a technician’s mistake at a Titan 2 silo that ended with the explosion of a missile whose warhead was more powerful than all the bombs America dropped in WWII combined, the nukes included. (The warhead didn’t detonate, obviously, but at the time nobody knew that it wouldn’t.)

Air Force maintenance men in a reenactment of the Damascus Incident. American Experience Films/PBS

This part of the story is related onscreen by the same former airmen, commanders, journalists, and politicos who appear in the book—largely men who were there or otherwise involved. Among them is then-Senior Airman David Powell, who was a teenager on an Air Force maintenance team when he dropped a nine-pound socket head down the silo shaft, puncturing the missile’s fuel tank. (To get a taste, read the scene as it appears in Schlosser’s book.) What comes after serves as a potent illustration of the breakdown of the military’s command-and-control structure, designed to prevent such accidents and deal with them effectively should they happen. Spoiler alert: Bad decisions are made by know-nothings up the chain of command, and bad things result.

A film, of course, delivers something a book cannot. We get to see real footage from nuclear detonations, from the actual Damascus Incident, and from some of the past nuclear mishaps, the worst one involved the accidental release of two H-bombs over Goldsboro, North Carolina, in 1961—such an insanely close call that I still shudder to contemplate it. Better yet, we get to meet and hear directly from the Damascus men, including former Senior Airman Powell, an otherwise cheerful guy who tears up as he recounts how, after more than three decades, not a day goes by that he doesn’t think about that socket slipping from his hand—and the chain of events it set off.

As in the book, the tense Damascus narrative plays out against the backdrop of a nation bumbling its way along the nuclear learning curve. As Schlosser notes in the film, we’ve built some 70,000 nuclear weapons over the years, and the fact that none has detonated by accident is a testament to the smarts of the weapons designers at the Sandia Lab—guys like Bob Peurifoy, a regular presence in the film, who worked their asses off convincing the brass to install failsafe devices on the bombs. But there’s yet another key factor at play, Schlosser says: “pure luck.” And that, my friends, is unbelievably scary. Because, to quote Schlosser, nuclear weapons are simply machines, albeit “the most dangerous machines ever invented. And like every machine, sometimes they go wrong.”

Watching the quaint archival footage, a viewer would be tempted to view this problem as history, but to do so would be to bury one’s head in the sand. We still have plenty of nukes sitting around, and portions of our aging arsenal are essentially babysat, as our reporter Josh Harkinson discovered, by a bunch of disgruntled kids. The military screws things up routinely, of course, even if the public seldom hears about it. “Nuclear accidents continue to the present day,” Harold Brown, who was defense secretary under Jimmy Carter at the time of the Damascus Incident, says in the film. “The degree of oversight and attention has if anything gotten worse, because people don’t worry about nuclear war as much.”

It’s not just the US arsenal we need to worry about, however. North Korea just tested its most powerful nuke to date. And bitter enemies India and Pakistan are still young nuclear powers. Suppose a Pakistani nuke were to detonate accidentally. The first face-saving instinct might be to blame India. Not good. Peurifoy spent his entire career designing nuclear safety devices, and he believes an accidental detonation is inevitable, sometime, somewhere. “It will happen,” he says in the film. “It may be tomorrow or it may be a million years from now, but it will happen.”

Command and Control rolls out in selected theaters starting on September 14 in New York City. Click here for dates, cities, and venues.

Continued here: 

An Accidental Nuclear Detonation "Will Happen"

Posted in alo, Badger, Bunn, FF, GE, LG, ONA, PUR, Radius, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on An Accidental Nuclear Detonation "Will Happen"

My Book Is Better Than the Tarzan Movie

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

This story, which contains spoilers, first appeared on the TomDispatch website.

Some time ago, I wrote a book about one of the great crimes of the last 150 years: the conquest and exploitation of the Congo by King Leopold II of Belgium. When King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa was published, I thought I had found all the major characters in that brutal patch of history. But a few weeks ago I realized that I had left one out: Tarzan.

Let me explain. Although a documentary based on my book did appear, I often imagined what Hollywood might do with such a story. It would, of course, have featured the avaricious King Leopold, who imposed a slave labor system on his colony to extract its vast wealth in ivory and wild rubber, with millions dying in the process. And it would surely have included the remarkable array of heroic figures who resisted or exposed his misdeeds.

Among them were African rebel leaders like Chief Mulume Niama, who fought to the death trying to preserve the independence of his Sanga people; an Irishman, Roger Casement, whose exposure to the Congo made him realize that his own country was an exploited colony and who was later hanged by the British; two black Americans who courageously managed to get information to the outside world; and the Nigerian-born Hezekiah Andrew Shanu, a small businessman who secretly leaked documents to a British journalist and was hounded to death for doing so. Into the middle of this horror show, traveling up the Congo River as a steamboat officer in training, came a young seaman profoundly shocked by what he saw. When he finally got his impressions onto the page, he would produce the most widely read short novel in English, Heart of Darkness.

How could all of this not make a great film?

I found myself thinking about how to structure it and which actors might play what roles. Perhaps the filmmakers would offer me a bit part. At the very least, they would seek my advice. And so I pictured myself on location with the cast, a voice for good politics and historical accuracy, correcting a detail here, adding another there, making sure the film didn’t stint in evoking the full brutality of that era. The movie, I was certain, would make viewers in multiplexes across the world realize at last that colonialism in Africa deserved to be ranked with Nazism and Soviet communism as one of the great totalitarian systems of modern times.

In case you hadn’t noticed, that film has yet to be made. And so imagine my surprise, when, a few weeks ago, in a theater in a giant mall, I encountered two characters I had written about in King Leopold’s Ghost. And who was onscreen with them? A veteran of nearly a century of movies—silent and talking, in black and white as well as color, animated as well as live action (not to speak of TV shows and video games): Tarzan.

The Legend of Tarzan, an attempt to jumpstart that ancient, creaking franchise for the 21st century, has made the most modest of bows to changing times by inserting a little more politics and history than dozens of the ape man’s previous adventures (see trailers) found necessary. It starts by informing us that, at the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, the European powers began dividing up the colonial spoils of Africa, and that King Leopold II now holds the Congo as his privately owned colony.

Tarzan, however, is no longer in the jungle where he was born and where, after his parents’ early deaths, he was raised by apes. Instead, married to Jane, he has taken over his ancestral title, Lord Greystoke, and has occupied his palatial manor in England. (Somewhere along the line he evidently took a crash course that brought him from “Me Tarzan, you Jane” to the manners and speech of a proper earl.)

But you won’t be surprised to learn that Africa needs him badly. There’s a diamond scandal, a slave labor system, and other skullduggery afoot in Leopold’s Congo. A bold, sassy black American, George Washington Williams, persuades him to head back to the continent to investigate, and comes along as his sidekick. The villain of the story, Leopold’s top dog in the Congo, scheming to steal those African diamonds, is Belgian Captain Léon Rom, who promptly kidnaps Tarzan and Jane. And from there the plot only thickens, even if it never deepens. Gorillas and crocodiles, cliff-leaping, heroic rescues, battles with man and beast abound, and in the movie’s grand finale, Tarzan uses his friends, the lions, to mobilize thousands of wildebeest to storm out of the jungle and wreak havoc on the colony’s capital, Boma.

With Jane watching admiringly, Tarzan and Williams then sink the steamboat on which the evil Rom is trying to spirit the diamonds away, while thousands of Africans lining the hills wave their spears and cheer their white savior. Tarzan and Jane soon have a baby, and seem destined to live happily ever after—at least until The Legend of Tarzan II comes along.

Both Williams and Rom were, in fact, perfectly real people and, although I wasn’t the first to notice them, it’s clear enough where Hollywood’s scriptwriters found them. There’s even a photo of Alexander Skarsgård, the muscular Swede who plays Tarzan, with a copy of King Leopold’s Ghost in hand. Samuel L. Jackson, who plays Williams with considerable brio, has told the press that director David Yates sent him the book in preparation for his role.

A version of Batman in Africa was not quite the film I previewed so many times in my fantasies. Yet I have to admit that, despite the context, it was strangely satisfying to see those two historical figures brought more or less to life onscreen, even if to prop up the vine swinger created by novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs and played most famously by Johnny Weissmuller.

Williams, in particular, was a remarkable man. An American Civil War veteran, lawyer, journalist, historian, Baptist minister, and the first black member of the Ohio state legislature, he went to Africa expecting to find, in the benevolent colony that King Leopold II advertised to the world, a place where his fellow black Americans could get the skilled jobs denied them at home. Instead he discovered what he called “the Siberia of the African Continent”—a hellhole of racism, land theft, and a spreading slave labor system enforced by the whip, gun, and chains.

From the Congo, he wrote an extraordinary “open letter” to Leopold, published in European and American newspapers and quoted briefly at the end of the movie. It was the first comprehensive exposé of a colony that would soon become the subject of a worldwide human rights campaign. Sadly, he died of tuberculosis on his way home from Africa before he could write the Congo book for which he had gathered so much material. As New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis observed, “Williams deserves a grand cinematic adventure of his own.”

By contrast, in real life as in the film (where he is played with panache by Christoph Waltz), Léon Rom was a consummate villain. An officer in the private army Leopold used to control the territory, Rom is elevated onscreen to a position vastly more important than any he ever held. Nonetheless, he was an appropriate choice to represent that ruthless regime. A British explorer once observed the severed heads of 21 Africans placed as a border around the garden of Rom’s house. He also kept a gallows permanently erected in front of the nearby headquarters from which he directed the post of Stanley Falls. Rom appears to have crossed paths briefly with Joseph Conrad and to have been one of the models for Mr. Kurtz, the head-collecting central figure of Heart of Darkness.

The Legend of Tarzan is essentially a superhero movie, Spiderman in Africa—even if you know that the footage of African landscapes was blended by computer with actors on a sound stage in England. Skarsgård (or his double or his electronic avatar) swoops through the jungle on hanging vines in classic Tarzan style. Also classic, alas, is the making of yet another movie about Africa whose hero and heroine are white. No Africans speak more than a few lines and, when they do, it’s usually to voice praise or friendship for Tarzan or Jane. From The African Queen to Out of Africa, that’s nothing new for Hollywood.

Nonetheless, there are, at odd moments, a few authentic touches of the real Congo: the railway cars of elephant tusks bound for the coast and shipment to Europe (the first great natural resource to be plundered); Leopold’s private army, the much-hated Force Publique; and African slave laborers in chains—Tarzan frees them, of course.

While some small details are reasonably accurate, from the design of a steamboat to the fact that white Congo officials like Rom indeed did favor white suits, you won’t be shocked to learn that the film takes liberties with history. Of course, all novels and films do that, but The Legend of Tarzan does so in a curious way: It brings Leopold’s rapacious regime to a spectacular halt in 1890, the year in which it’s set—thank you, Tarzan! That, however, was the moment when the worst of the horror the king had unleashed was just getting underway.

It was in 1890 that workers started constructing a railroad around the long stretch of rapids near the Congo River’s mouth; Joseph Conrad sailed to Africa on the ship that carried the first batch of rails and ties. Eight years later, that vast construction project, now finished, would accelerate the transport of soldiers, arms, disassembled steamboats, and other supplies that would turn much of the inland territory’s population into slave laborers. Leopold was by then hungry for another natural resource: rubber. Millions of Congolese would die to satisfy his lust for wealth.

Here’s the good news: I think I’m finally getting the hang of Hollywood-style filmmaking. Tarzan’s remarkable foresight in vanquishing the Belgian evildoers before the worst of Leopold’s reign of terror opens the door for his future films, which I’ve started to plan—and this time, on the film set, I expect one of those canvas-backed chairs with my name on it. Naturally, our hero wouldn’t stop historical catastrophes before they begin—there’s no drama in that—but always in their early stages.

For example, I just published a book about the Spanish Civil War, another perfect place and time for Tarzan to work his wonders. In the fall of 1936, he could swing his way through the plane and acacia trees of Madrid’s grand boulevards to mobilize the animals in that city’s zoo and deal a stunning defeat to Generalissimo Francisco Franco’s attacking Nationalist troops. Sent fleeing at that early moment, Franco’s soldiers would, of course, lose the war, leaving the Spanish Republic triumphant and the Generalissimo’s long, grim dictatorship excised from history.

In World War II, soon after Hitler and Stalin had divided Eastern Europe between them, Tarzan could have a twofer if he stormed down from the Carpathian mountains in late 1939, leading a vast pack of that region’s legendary wolves. He could deal smashing blows to both armies, and then, just as he freed slaves in the Congo, throw open the gates of concentration camps in both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. And why stop there? If, after all this, the Japanese still had the temerity to attack Pearl Harbor, Tarzan could surely mobilize the dolphins, sharks, and whales of the Pacific Ocean to cripple the Japanese fleet as easily as he sunk Léon Rom’s steamboat in a Congo harbor.

In Vietnam—if Tarzan made it there before the defoliant Agent Orange denuded its jungles—there would be vines aplenty to swing from and water buffalo he could enlist to help rout the foreign armies, first French, then American, before they got a foothold in the country.

Some more recent wartime interventions might, however, be problematic. In whose favor, for example, should he intervene in Iraq in 2003? Saddam Hussein or the invading troops of George W. Bush? Far better to unleash him on targets closer to home: Wall Street bankers, hedge-fund managers, select Supreme Court justices, a certain New York real-estate mogul. And how about global warming? Around the world, coal-fired power plants, fracking rigs, and tar sands mining pits await destruction by Tarzan and his thundering herd of elephants.

If The Legend of Tarzan turns out to have the usual set of sequels, take note, David Yates: Since you obviously took some characters and events from my book for the first installment, I’m expecting you to come to me for more ideas. All I ask in return is that Tarzan teach me to swing from the nearest vines in any studio of your choice, and let me pick the next battle to win.

This article is from – 

My Book Is Better Than the Tarzan Movie

Posted in alo, Anker, Dolphin, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, Prepara, Radius, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on My Book Is Better Than the Tarzan Movie

The Director of HBO’s "All the Way" Talks LBJ, MLK, and What They Can Teach Today’s Pols

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

It’s an age-old question: how to balance principle and compromise. In All the Way, the new HBO film based on the play by Robert Schenkkan and directed by Jay Roach (Game Change, Recount, Trumbo, Austin Powers), the star attraction is Bryan Cranston’s masterful portrayal of President Lyndon Baines Johnson in the year after JFK’s assassination, as LBJ lied, wheedled, and bullied his way to passing the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964 and then won the presidential election of that year. Cranston’s transformation into a man brimming with brio and confidence and also profoundly burdened with anxiety, insecurity, and paranoia is one of the best cinematic depictions ever of an American president. (Move over, Daniel Day-Lewis). But the true beauty and power of the film is its engaging exploration of the inelegant (if not often ugly) nexus of politics and policy. In All the Way, Johnson is a pathological prevaricator who personally betrays his closest political allies (who happen to be southern Democrats and racists)—but it’s all for the greater good of ending segregation. And it works. But there’s a high political price: in the film’s telling, Johnson has doomed his party in the South. (Indeed, Richard Nixon would capture the White House four years later, partly due to his “Southern strategy” of exploiting white resentment and racism.) And, of course, on the other side of the ledger, Johnson’s conniving conduct sunk the nation deeper into the bloody tragedy of Vietnam—and the film notes how that mighty mistake overshadowed his significant accomplishments. Yet All the Way ultimately chronicles a moment when good was achieved—but by a greatly flawed man using dishonest means. That’s what makes the whole damn thing so fascinating.

I talked to Roach about how he turned Schenkkan’s much-acclaimed Broadway play into this gripping political morality tale, which premieres on the cable network on May 21.

Mother Jones: You’ve directed films about modern politics, as well as the Austin Powers movies. But more recently, you’ve gone back in time. You directed Trumbo and now All The Way. What drew you to the LBJ project?

Jay Roach: I saw Robert Schenkkan’s great play on Broadway, while Bryan and I were prepping for Trumbo. Steven Spielberg and HBO reached out to me to see if I wanted to direct the adaptation. I said yes immediately, then realized I was committing to back-to-back projects with Bryan without knowing if Trumbo was going to work out. Could have been awkward. Thank goodness, it wasn’t.

It’s always about story for me. I was drawn in by the incredible predicament LBJ finds himself in in November 1963. He’d wanted to be president his whole life, but after JFK’s assassination, LBJ becomes the “accidental president.” He knows he is perceived as the usurper. However, rather than just consolidate power to win the 1964 election, he chooses to pick up Kennedy’s agenda and immediately joins up with Dr. Martin Luther King and takes on one of the most controversial pieces of legislation he could have prioritized, the Civil Rights Act. In doing so, he lost the support of the South, which he thought he needed to get reelected. I think this proves how sincere he was about civil rights.

MJ: The film looks at politics at a time when segregation was legal and Southern Democrats on Capitol Hill were the obstructionists trying to block civil rights. What about this is relevant today?

JR: Because of the horrible history of Vietnam, most people forget how much was accomplished during LBJ’s term. He worked closely with Dr. King and the other civil rights leaders, and also with representatives and senators from both parties, to push through the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That helped protect the rights of minorities and women, and it is still being used today to protect the rights of gay and transgender people. And then LBJ passed the Voting Rights act of 1965, re-enfranchising millions of Americans who had been frozen out of the democratic process. He also passed other crucial legislation that improved the quality of life for millions of Americans for generations: Medicare, Medicaid, and 60 separate pieces of legislation funding public education, including Head Start. He pushed through major funding bills for transportation, immigration reform, the environment, and the arts (which led to funding for PBS, NPR, and the American Film Institute).

It’s incredibly encouraging to remember that when we elect presidents and representatives who believe that government can work to improve the lives of citizens, we can actually accomplish much for Americans. In those early years, Johnson did put the country first—above party and above personal advancement—and he solved problems.

MJ: In the movie, Johnson is depicted as a man who could be full of confidence and simultaneously riddled with deep insecurity, paranoia, self-loathing, and anxiety. How did that affect his ability to be a leader? Did that make him a difficult character for Cranston to play?

JR: Johnson was an incredibly capable leader, but he was also deeply flawed. After JFK, he knew how he would be perceived—as the usurper from Texas, doomed to perpetual comparison to President Kennedy. And he was to some extent innately anxious, restless, insecure, even self-pitying. You can hear all that in the many phone calls recorded when he was in office. That was part of the attraction for Bryan in taking on this part. Complex characters are what every actor prefers. Directors, too. For both of us, this was an opportunity to tell a story that goes behind the history—to the psychology of the man, possibly even to the heart and soul of the man.

MJ: Johnson did whatever it took to get the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. He lied. He cut deals. He compromised. Are there any lessons here for President Barack Obama or other modern-day politicians?

JR: I can only hope the film becomes part of the conversation about what is needed for great leadership, what is required to solve problems for citizens and to raise us up as Americans. For LBJ and for Dr. King—and for the legislators from both sides that they worked with—compromise was not a dirty word. Those who remained inflexible— the segregationists—lost their battles. They were too dogmatic to keep up with history. I hope that for those people who continue to resist the full application of civil rights for every person in our country, this is a cautionary tale.

MJ: My teenage daughter saw the movie with me. Afterward, she asked, “Why does everyone today say John Kennedy was a great president and no one knows much about Johnson?” As you made this film, did you think that Johnson has been shortchanged in popular culture and public history? Might that because of Vietnam and because he essentially left the presidency under a cloud by withdrawing from the 1968 race?

JR: When we look back in time, it’s hard to see through the horrors of Vietnam, which were to some extent rightly pinned on LBJ, It’s tough to recognize and remember all of LBJ’s incredible accomplishments, all the hundreds of important pieces of legislation he was able to pass by working with both sides, throughout his administration. It didn’t help him, either, to be sandwiched between JFK and Nixon in the national timeline.

MJ: In All the Way, Cranston is physically transformed into LBJ. Was that necessary for the movie to succeed? You did not do the same with Anthony Mackie, who played Martin Luther King Jr. and who played him in what might be regarded as an understated fashion?

JR: I work to give every actor what he or she needs to fully interpret a historical character, to feel like the character when he or she walks out on the set. Bryan’s transformation worked for him, and it works beautifully for the story. But Anthony and I talked at great length, and we decided not to try to impersonate Dr. King. Instead, we wanted to channel the essence of the man, especially as he might have come across when he was hammering out political strategy in rooms with the other civil rights leaders. Dr. King is so iconic. We all know what a great speaker he was. And we present some of that, but we also learned, as we watched tapes of his interviews, that he was incredibly strong and calm and quietly powerful in rooms when he was out of the public eye and collaborating with others.

MJ: Bobby Kennedy is a looming presence in this movie, yet he does not appear as a character. What led you to keep him off-stage?

JR: In the play, Robert Schenkkan made the choice to keep Robert Kennedy off-stage to serve as a sort of exaggerated figure of fear for LBJ—a combination of real and imagined threat. (LBJ worried constantly that RFK would step in and run for president, eliminating Johnson’s ability to rise above being the “accidental president.” ) It was an expressionistic choice, but not a big reach. RFK remained attorney general after JFK’s assassination, but he was not that active in the civil rights fights. He was running for Senate, and LBJ helped him campaign, but that story wasn’t so relevant regarding the fight for civil rights.

MJ: You’ve now worked with Bryan Cranston on two projects. What can you tell us about him that fans of Breaking Bad and his films may not know?

JR: I’ve worked with Bryan in two very serious roles, but it turns out he’s an extremely funny man. Between takes while we were shooting All the Way, he would sometimes stay in character as LBJ. This was not for any “method acting” reasons, but so he could harass us all in hilariously aggressive ways, using LBJ’s larger than life “Texas Twists,” his Texas accent, and his pre-sexual-harassment-law political incorrectness. Throw in Bradley Whitford who plays the role of Sen. Hubert Humphrey doing a fantastic and fully inappropriate imitation of Bill Clinton, and Frank Langella who plays Sen. Richard Russell doing his Nixon, and you had a pretty funny Oval Office experience between takes. The Three Amigos of the presidency. They were walking around the set, talking about the pluses and minuses of secretly recording calls and conversations in the Oval Office.


The Director of HBO’s "All the Way" Talks LBJ, MLK, and What They Can Teach Today’s Pols

Posted in Accent, ATTRA, Broadway, Citizen, Everyone, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, Radius, Ultima, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Director of HBO’s "All the Way" Talks LBJ, MLK, and What They Can Teach Today’s Pols

This Short Film Explains Why Businesses Should Maximize Value Over Profit

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

Aspiring documentary filmmaker Taylor Erickson has a theory: If businesses put the interests of their customers over short-term profits, they’ll be more successful in the long run, and society will be better off for it.

“When I was thinking about the economy, that was the first thing that came to my head,” says Erickson, 20. It’s the message at the center of his latest short film, titled “The Greatest Economics Lesson.” It recently won the grand prize in a video contest run by Econ4, a group of professors and consultants in search of a more equitable approach to economics.

In the film, Erickson recalls a time when his friend, a property investor, stopped trying to maximize profits from his properties and began to treat his tenants as partners, taking extra care to improve their houses. The result? His friend’s tenants were more satisfied with their situation, and they stayed longer and took better care of the homes—and he still made money.

“The thing that gets in the way is greed,” Erickson says in the video. “Businesses get so wrapped up in minimizing expenses and maximizing profits that they can neglect the human side of economics…Prioritize value, and you can absolutely still make money. On top of that, you’ll be making your world better by adding value to it.”

Erickson, who works at HOPE Worldwide, a faith-based community service nonprofit in Cleveland, says the lesson extends beyond the macroeconomy. The decisions parents make in spending their money, for instance, affect the wants and needs of the entire family.

And Erickson isn’t done offering lessons. For the last two months, he has channeled his interest in how society works into an attempt to make sense of how political candidates approach the prevailing issues of the election season. In a way, he says, he’s trying to spread “societal literacy,” to take a concept that’s unfamiliar and make it easy to understand. He’s working on a short film on food insecurity and hunger in Northeast Ohio.

Original link: 

This Short Film Explains Why Businesses Should Maximize Value Over Profit

Posted in alternative energy, Anchor, Casio, Everyone, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, Radius, solar, Uncategorized, Venta | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on This Short Film Explains Why Businesses Should Maximize Value Over Profit