Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Category: Pop Culture Page 1 of 50

Any trends or popular fads may be described, whether it would be something like the hula hoop or the pet rock or simply new slang.

Vaccination for Covid-19 Becomes a 4-month Task

Twenty-three million Americans are now completely vaccinated against Covid-19 and 70 million have had the first (of two) shots. I am among the seventy million who just received the first shot of the Pfizer vaccine, today, at 12:30 p.m., at an HEB grocery store in Austin, Texas.

Stephen K. Austin Sonesta Hotel, 701 S. Congress Ave., Austin, Tx.

Sonesta Hotel, formerly the Intercontinental Hotel in Austin, Texas.

We have been placing ourselves on various lists (State list, HEB, CVS, Walgreen’s) for months now. I even got a local doctor, thinking that might help (it didn’t).

I finally took to tweeting to various entities and wrote an e-mail to HEB, since the state website seemed completely unworkable. That site would ask you to select a pasword, which we did. When we’d try to check back in to see if there was any vaccine available (usually not), it would not accept our passwords, even though we knew what they were. We would then be forced to say “Forgot password.” The site would say it was going to send us an e-mail (to our e-mail boxes), an e-mail which never arrived.

I pinned my hopes on HEB, which has performed brilliantly during the pandemic for well over a year. Their Favor delivery service has been phenomenal, and far better than similar services in the Midwest. Today, I spent 20 minutes sitting in a chair waiting for my name to be called outside the pharmacy inside the HEB store at 2701 E. 7th St. in Austin, Texas. Later, I wrote to HEB, “You may have literally saved my life.”

We are slated to travel to Mexico near Easter and the thought of travel at this time is scary and travel without a vaccination is terrifying. We already had Covid-19 in October, but getting the vaccination, as many of you know, has been an arduous process.

So, I kept pestering anyone I could think of to pester, with tweets, phone calls and e-mail. After writing about this to HEB, I called one of their stores and asked to be connected to the pharmacy. I held for a “live” person for a long time, but after we spoke she said there was one spot, at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 28th (today). As she was making that appointment for me, another opened up and she said she only had 8 minutes to fill it, for my husband, who was booked on Saturday, Feb. 27th. This means that our second shots will take place on or near his birthday (March 21st).

It also means that I got the Big Bright Idea of driving downtown and getting a hotel room nearby for one night. We dined at the Roaring Fork and made it to our appointments and I have included pictures of the Stephen K. Austin Sonesta Hotel, which used to be the Intercontinental Hotel at 701 Congress Avenue (until a month ago.) I had always wanted to see the rooms in this hotel, since it is Grand Central Station during the normal SXSW Film Festival.

Enjoy!

 

 

Mariachi Band Protests @ Ted Cruz Home

Rush Limbaugh Dies; Leaves Legacy of Hate & Divisiveness

In the wake of Rush Limbaugh’s recent death, “Newsone” compiled a list of some of Limbaugh’s most offensive remarks. A companion piece to these quotes would be the article in the most recent issue of “Rolling Stone.”  He did more than anybody to create the conditions for an ever-more-radical GOP that drove straight around the bend when Trump took the wheel.

Rush Limbaugh Did His Best to Ruin America

Without further ado, here are some verified Rush Limbaugh quotes:

  1. “Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?
  2. “Right. So you go into Darfur and you go into South Africa, you get rid of the white government there. You put sanctions on them. You stand behind Nelson Mandela — who was bankrolled by communists for a time, had the support of certain communist leaders. You go to Ethiopia. You do the same thing.”
  3. “Look, let me put it to you this way: the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it.”
  4. “The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies.”
  5. “They’re 12 percent of the population. Who the hell cares?”
  6. [To an African American female caller]: “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.”
  7.  “I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well.  They’re interested in black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well.  I think there’s a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit for the performance of his team that he really didn’t deserve.”
  8. Limbaugh’s many attacks on Obama.

Limbaugh has called Obama a ‘halfrican American’ has said that Obama was not Black but Arab because Kenya is an Arab region, even though Arabs are less than one percent of Kenya. Since mainstream America has become more accepting of African-Americans, Limbaugh has decided to play against its new racial fears, Arabs and Muslims.

Despite the fact Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law school, Limbaugh called him an ‘affirmative action candidate.’ Limbaugh even has repeatedly played a song on his radio show ‘Barack the Magic Negro’ using an antiquated Jim Crow era term for Black a man who many Americans are supporting for president.

Rush Limbaugh made racist attacks on four of the most admired and respected people of African descent in the past one hundred years, in Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Colin Powell and Barack Obama. He  claimed that Joe the Plumber, who isn’t even a plumber is more important in this election than Colin Powell, a decorated military veteran who served honorably in three administrations.

  1. “We need segregated buses… This is Obama’s America.”
  2. “Obama’s entire economic program is reparations.”

THE TWO CONTESTED QUOTES

We ran these two quotes as part of our original list of ten. However, in the fall of 2009, this post surfaced in the debate that followed Limbaugh’s dismissal from an investment group attempting to purchase the St. Louis Rams. NewsOne has, as yet, not been able to determine the veracity of these quotes. We note the following for the record:

  • These two quotes were both sourced from a book by Jack Huberman called “101 People Who Are Really Screwing America,” published by Nation Books in 2006. The author of this book, in turn, claims that he procured these quotes from a source which he has refused to reveal “on advice of counsel.”
  • Rush Limbaugh has vigorously denied that he said these things.

In sum, NewsOne can no longer vouch for the accuracy of these quotes. Nor can we trust Limbaugh, who never denied saying the other eight racist quotes on our original list. We keep them in our post for their news value as a controversial, and perhaps dubious attribution. Segregated, of course. Which should make some  very happy.

  1. “I mean, let’s face it, we didn’t have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: slavery built the South. I’m not saying we should bring it back; I’m just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark.”
  2. “You know who deserves a posthumous Medal of Honor? James Earl Ray [the confessed assassin of Martin Luther King]. We miss you, James. Godspeed.”

 

A Touching Tribute to Rush Limbaugh from DJT—-Sort Of

“Weekly Wilson” Podcast of Feb. 18th: Ryan Bliss, Writer/Director of “Alice Fades Away”

Some of you may have noticed the movement from politics to film on the blog, of late.

It has always been my goal to go among three topics: books, film and politics.

In addition, I sometimes convey information about my travels, whether that means Texas or Mexico or Alaska.

While it is tempting to bring up for discussion the feud that is currently playing out between Mitch McConnell and Donald J. Trump, I shall bypass this low-hanging political fruit, for the moment. Or the death today of Rush Limbaugh might send me off on another political thread, but I’m sticking to movies for the rest of February, and then I’ll be taking a break from the Weekly Wilson podcast.

If you are curious about which of the 45 or so podcasts I’ve done are interesting, I’ll be happy to list them for you, but I’m not sure if they remain “up” after my show goes into a hiatus, which may be permanent.

While I’m proud of the shows I’ve managed to put “in the can,” I’m also more than ready to return to writing—possibly a fourth book in The Color of Evil series.

But, this week, I’ll be interviewing the first-time director of “Alice Fades Away,” a film I reviewed here previously, and the week of February 25th I will speak with the Chicago director of “100 Days to Live,” Ravin Gandhi.

So, remember to tune in to listen to the conversation with Ryan Bliss, director of “Alice Fades Away,” on Thursday, February 18th.

James Corden, on January 19th, Salutes the Inauguration with “One More Day” from Les Mis

“Alice Fades Away” Is A Cinematic Vision

Writer/Director Ryan Bliss launches his first full-length feature film “Alice Fades Away” on February 16th, available on iTunes, Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, Microsoft, Vuda, Fandago NOW and other On Demand  DVD platforms.  The trailer is truly creepy and that feeling of dread, complete with appropriate images, lighting and music, comes through in the film, set in 1953. The action takes place in one week, from Sunday to Sunday; the body count is high. (When we hit 6 deaths, I wondered if we would run out of characters before we ran out of plot.)

According to Writer/Director Ryan Bliss, the film is “about patriarchy, legacy and death, but more importantly, it’s about perseverance and strength in the face of fear and power by someone who’s not allowed to have her own identity.” Aside from the reference to death, that theme made me think of Meryl Streep’s character in “Kramer vs. Kramer,” a woman who has never had the opportunity to become her own person, having gone directly from her childhood home to school to marriage. As Alice—who shared some of Streep’s character’s angst, articulated in that film says in “Alice Fades Away”—“I never had the opportunity to choose.”

Alice’s father-in-law, James Sullivan (William Sadler), sends his son Holden (Timothy Sekk) after Alice  (Ashley Shelton)  to bring his grandson Logan (Paxton Singleton) back to him. As explained by the commanding patriarch, “She  took my grandson and  ran off like a coward.”  Sullivan is a powerful man who is used to having things his own way. He and his late wife Margaret disapproved of their son’s choice of a wife. (“What did he see in her? I never figured that out for the life of me.”)

When Carroll (Tommy Beardmore), Alice’s husband, dies violently, Alice flees and the old man unleashes Alice’s brother-in-law, Holden—[a psychopathic ex-prisoner of war, still suffering from PTSD]—to fetch his young grandson back to him because, he says, his grandson Logan is all he has left.  (This seemed inaccurate, since he was speaking to a surviving son.)

CINEMATOGRAPHY

The lighting and images shot by cinematographer David Bouley are truly beautiful. Whether the scene is simply Alice and her young son lying in a field or—-as in Bliss’ previous shorts, “Rot” and “Clover”— framed scenes of a tree in the snow, the images are gorgeous. The most ordinary scenes are beautifully lit and shot with a painter’s eye. The cinematography and the Bliss Farms sets with period radios, guns, cars, and clothing, are really wonderful for a first full-length film effort. The plot shows care and thought have gone into the themes to be explored (although perhaps a few too many major themes are included for a film running just an hour and 16 minutes).

ACTING

The lead character of Alice Sullivan is played by Ashley Shelton. Her father-in-law has described her as having “empty eyes, like she is missing a soul.” When Alice runs away to her Uncle Bishop’s farm (Jay Potter), Alice says, describing herself, “I’m not certain if I’m sane any more. I don’t know how anyone can know that.”

She has taken shelter at Uncle Bishop’s remote rural farmhouse, along with four other fellow sufferers. One is a young boy. The explanation is that he was just left there by his parents, who disappeared. This struck me as odd and unlikely.

Uncle Bishop reminds Alice of a time as a young girl when she callously watched another youngster nearly drown, but seemed to display no emotion (Alice claims not to remember this). After sharing that anecdote, Uncle Bishop demands that the others in the farmhouse—all of whom have endured tragedy of one sort or another– vote on whether to grant Alice asylum at the farmhouse. Ultimately, all but Bishop vote yes. One of the other women in the house, Roxie, is played by Blanche Baker, who is the daughter of Carroll Baker (“Baby Doll”).

When Alice describes the fear that she is being hunted, Roxie (Blanche Baker) says, “We’re not safe, are we?”

Alice admits to the others that they may not be safe.  Uncle Bishop’s prophecy that “Something’s comin’” turns out to be too tragically true.

VERDICT

I loved the cinematography in this first feature film. The sets are also great, with a wonderful ruin on the grounds that has a stairway to nowhere and lovely fields meant to portray New England. The trailer gives you a good feeling for the creepy mood that Writer/Director Ryan Bliss, (with able assistance from cinematographer David Bouley and music from Christopher French), has managed to achieve. The lighting in several scenes, in the old period farmhouse, gives the film a patina that shows skill behind the camera (Bliss also helped edit, in addition to writing and directing).

As with many films, the audience has to fill in a lot of missing parts of the plot. Sometimes, the director gave the audience too much credit for being able figure out plot points out on its own. I would have liked slightly more information about Logan’s and Everett’s (Benjamin Russell’s) ultimate fate. Even Holden’s demise is left hanging and what about Uncle Bishop?  But the mood and pace and general use of wonderful images to tell this story more than made up for a few continuity lapses and some story threads dropped without much closure.

We quit counting fatalities at 6. For a film with only a few main characters, it’s not one where nothing at all happens, which, to me, was admirable.

 

If You Are A Hammer, Everything Looks Like Meat

In the ongoing effort to provide some “lighter side” thoughts, here are a few, courtesy of the Borowitz Report:

  1.  Queen Elizabeth offers to re-annex the United States.
  2. Ivanka Trump applies to become Joe Biden’s daughter.
  3. Obama proposes canceling cable at the White House to get Trump to leave.
  4. Dr. Fauci says alcohol may be an aid during coronavirus briefings.
  5. Scientists say that Earth is endangered by a new strain of fact-resistant humans.
  6. Putin warns that the United States could wind up controlled by Americans.
  7. Kim Kardashian wonders if big-bottomed girls (with 4 kids and 3 marriages) will be in demand in 2022.
  8. Lou Dobbs applies for job at Four Seasons Landscaping.
  9. Canada declares Proud Boys to be domestic terrorists, just as Trump was preparing to give Medal of Freedom to former General Michael Flynn for his service to the group.
  10. Army Hammer announces he and latest girlfriend have become vegans.

Some Humor for these Troubled Times

And now, for some much-needed humor….

“Looks like someone started listening to the reasonable voices in her head,” Trevor Noah said after Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene said she regretted endorsing QAnon conspiracy theories.Credit…Comedy Central

From Trish Bendix

Greene House Effect

House Democrats voted on Thursday to strip Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments, while House Republicans chose to stick by her after she expressed remorse for past comments about 9/11 and school shootings. She blamed her past support for QAnon on misinformation that she found on the internet.

“Wow, I’ve never seen someone try to delete their browser history in real life,” Trevor Noah remarked.

“Yes, people: Marjorie Taylor Greene has been kicked off her committees. But if you think about it, this is a pretty sweet deal for Greene. Basically, her punishment for acting insane was to do less work for the same amount of money.” — TREVOR NOAH

“But if she’s not in charge of education, who’s going to tell all those students that there never really was a shooting?” — STEPHEN COLBERT

“And, honestly, I think kicking her off these committees could actually backfire. The last thing you want to do with a crazy person is give them time to be crazy. That’s why they should put her on all the committees — then you’ll never hear from her again.” — TREVOR NOAH

“Online, Greene also has endorsed the idea of executing Democratic leaders. Kind of a bad look when you’re OK with your new co-workers getting murdered: ‘Hey guys, I cannot wait to join the team. Tell you what, I’m going to cut your hamstring and give you a 30-minute head start before I hunt you with a crossbow.’” — STEPHEN COLBERT

The worst part of this, she has still not been reprimanded in any official way by fellow Republicans in the House. In fact, they gave her a standing ovation yesterday. Some of them, not all of them. Some of them didn’t want to stand up for fear they could be targeted by Jewish space lasers.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“Now, look, man, Marjorie Taylor Greene isn’t the first person to believe things that she read on the internet. But her defense isn’t really reassuring because, basically, what she’s saying is, ‘Yes, up until now, I believed that school shootings were fake, 9/11 didn’t happen and that Jewish space lasers blew up California. But that’s only because I am incapable of separating fantasy from reality. So let’s do the right thing and let me go back to making laws.” — TREVOR NOAH

“That’s right, the woman who started impeachment proceedings against Joe Biden the day he took office is calling for unity now. The congresswoman who wants to execute Nancy Pelosi is right. We need to come together, and the media is just as guilty as QAnon! That’s like saying Jell-O is just as guilty as Bill Cosby.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“Looks like someone started listening to the reasonable voices in her head. Although, this woman is so crazy that her saying that 9/11 happened makes me go, ‘Wait, did it?’” — TREVOR NOAH

“You know what? This may come as a surprise to you, but those of us who watched those buildings burn with our bare eyes here in the New York City area are not that impressed with your willingness to admit that it happened. I believe we as a nation promised to ‘always remember’ it happened. What’s her bumper sticker say, ‘9/11 — oops, I forgot’”?— STEPHEN COLBERT

“All right, well, at least now we know 9/11 happened. Can you imagine having to go in front of the House of Representatives to say 9/11 happened? Yeah, we know. We know it happened. You’re the crazy one, not us.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“Oh, my God, thank you, it is so big of you to admit that. What else would you like to clarify? ‘[Imitating Greene] I would also like to make clear that “Inception” is just a movie, “RoboCop” is not real, and the giant glowing orb in the sky is, in fact, the moon and not a secret sky bank where Bill Gates keeps all his gold bars.’” — SETH MEYERS

“But, hey, I’m glad that she’s come around to the standard Republican belief that school shootings are real and that nothing should be done to stop them.” — TREVOR NOAH

“But, yes, you see, it’s all Facebook’s fault for ‘allowing’ her to believe in those things. So don’t blame her — blame Mark Zuckerberg, with his social media lies and his space lasers.” — TREVOR NOAH

“That’s right, the woman who started impeachment proceedings against Joe Biden the day he took office is calling for unity now. The congresswoman who wants to execute Nancy Pelosi is right. We need to come together, and the media is just as guilty as QAnon! That’s like saying Jell-O is just as guilty as Bill Cosby.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“The worst part of this, she has still not been reprimanded in any official way by fellow Republicans in the House. In fact, they gave her a standing ovation yesterday. Some of them, not all of them. Some of them didn’t want to stand up for fear they could be targeted by Jewish space lasers.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“Now, look, man, Marjorie Taylor Greene isn’t the first person to believe things that she read on the internet. But her defense isn’t really reassuring because, basically, what she’s saying is, ‘Yes, up until now, I believed that school shootings were fake, 9/11 didn’t happen and that Jewish space lasers blew up California. But that’s only because I am incapable of separating fantasy from reality. So let’s do the right thing and let me go back to making laws.” — TREVOR NOAH

The Punchiest Punchlines (You Can’t Fire Me, I Quit Edition)

“After the Screen Actors Guild criticized Trump last month, today he sent a letter saying that he’s quitting the union. Trump’s out of work and just quit his union — even worse, now if he wants medical coverage, he’s got to sign up for Obamacare.” — JIMMY FALLON

“He sent them a scathingly stupid letter that begins, ‘I write to you regarding the so-called disciplinary committee hearing aimed at revoking my union membership. Who cares?’ Oh, I know! The guy who took the time to write a letter, who also has skin so thin it makes phyllo dough like Kevlar?” — STEPHEN COLBERT

“So he’s now out of the actors’ union. That’s too bad — I was positive he was going to be the next James Bond.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“Meanwhile, Melania heard and was like, ‘Um, Donald, while we’re on the subject of leaving unions.’” — JIMMY FALLON

“One day you’re the most powerful man on earth, the next you’re bragging about your one line in ‘Home Alone 2.’” — JIMMY FALLON

 

“Judas and the Black Messiah” is Hit at Sundance Film Festival

“Judas and the Black Messiah,” the bio-pic about Fred Hampton, head of the Black Panthers in Illinois in the sixties, comes to us from a dynamic team. Director Shaka King (“Newlyweeds”) had met Ryan Coogler (“Black Panther”) in 2013 at Sundance.  Coogler (“Black Panther”) approached Warner Brothers with 50% of the film’s financing in hand to back the picture, directed by Shaka King (“Newlyweeds”) from a story by the Lucas Brothers. They already had the cast in mind and Shaka King had connected with screenwriter Will Berson, who had been researching Hampton for some time. After some major difficulty getting to Jesse Plemons (whose agent did not return calls)—the package came together. Judas and the Black Messiah premiered at Sundance on Monday, February 1st. It will stream on HBO Max beginning February 12th.

OVERVIEW

The film is bound to earn its two leads Oscar nominations; the film itself will be a strong contender in these Black Lives Matter-influenced times for a Best Picture nomination. As the log-line for the film says, “The story of Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, and his fateful betrayal by FBI informant William O’Neal.”

Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”) plays Fred Hampton, (the Black Messiah of the title), and Lakeith Stanfield (“Selma,” “Straight Outta’ Compton”) is William O’Neal, the Judas figure who infiltrated the Chicago Black Panthers at the request of FBI agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons).

We follow the action through William O’Neal’s eyes, a small-time petty criminal caught impersonating an FBI officer in order to steal a car. William O’Neal was 17 when he stole the car and drove it across state lines into Michigan. Since car theft carries an 18 month sentence and impersonating a federal officer would earn him a 5 year sentence, the Judas figure in the film’s title is offered the opportunity to infiltrate the Black Panthers rather than go to jail. O’Neal doesn’t forsee that he will be asked to drug Fred Hampton (secobarbital) so that state-sponsored murder can take place in a hit executed by 14 Chicago police at 2337 West Monroe Street at 4:45 a.m. on December 4, 1969.

Martin Sheen plays an almost unrecognizable J. Edgar Hoover.  A secret group within the FBI called Cointelpro is responsible for the hit on Fred Hampton’s residence that is authorized by Hoover. Hampton, his 9-months pregnant girlfriend (well played by Dominque Fishback) and several other Black Panthers were there, sleeping overnight. Two were killed in cold blood: Mark Kelly, who was the security guard for the night, and Hampton, who survived the initial assault only to be executed with 2 shots to the head. The Panthers fired only one shot, into the ceiling, when Mark Kelly’s shotgun discharged as he was shot through the door. The police shot 99 times.

A lawsuit lodged in 1970 dragged on for 18 months, but finally delivered a judgment of $1.85 million in 1982. When the foursome behind the film (the Lucas brothers, Ryan Coogler and Shaka King) pitched the film, they compared it to “The Departed” within Cointel.

ACTING

Daniel Kaluuya, Ashton Sanders, Algee Smith, Dominique Thorne and Lakeith Stanfield appear in Judas and the Black Messiah by Shaka King, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Glen Wilson.

The acting by both leads should earn Kahluua and Stanfield Oscar nods. If you watch this at home, you might want to turn on captioning, in order to know what, exactly, Daniel Kahluua is saying. YouTube videos support Hampton’s cadence, rough articulation and fast pace as authentic to the man, himself, but it’s still hard to understand. Stanfield’s William O’Neal is better able to be understood. Both actors are somewhat older than the ages they are asked to portray, with Kahluua, at 31, playing the 21-year-old Hampton. (Stanfield is 29).

Accolades are deserved for both of the film’s leads. For me, the William O’Neal character is the more interesting, portrayed by Lakeith Stanfield as a bundle of contradictions. He seems conflicted about his role from the very beginning. As the plot thickens and he is asked to do even more for the FBI, he seems to have been drawn into a no-win situation that tortured him to the point that, after his one and only television interview about the events of that night, on January 15, 1990, he committed suicide. O’Neal’s words from the “Eyes on the Prize 2” documentary footage were, “I was part of the struggle. At least I had a point of view.  I’ll let history speak for me.”

The film portrays O’Neal’s descent into even greater betrayal(s) extremely well, even through the costuming. When O’Neal meets Jesse Plemons for dinner at a fancy steakhouse late in the film (away from the Black Panthers) he is attired in a very fly white suit. Agent Mitchell shoves an envelope with cash in it towards O’Neal, possibly the $300 in extra pay that O’Neal received for special service to the FBI. But when O’Neal depicts a Black Panther early in the film, with leather jacket and beret, he really seems to empathize with the Black struggle, despite Mitchell’s attempts to convince him that the KKK and the Black Panthers are flip sides of the same coin.

 It is a tribute to Stanfield’s acting chops and the wise decision to let the most conflicted character carry the weight of the film that elevates the movie.  After the deaths of the Black Panthers in the dawn raid, O’Neal was relocated to California under the Federal Witness Protection Program and used the name William Hart until returning to Chicago in 1984. His involvement in the death of Fred Hampton, including drugging Hampton before the planned raid, was not revealed until 1973.

Daniel Kahluua emerged as a star after his role in “Get Out.” He is now 31 and a much more substantial figure than when he played the boyfriend in that earlier film. Fred Hampton was 21 when he was assassinated. Hampton’s background prior to his death was that of a community organizer of exceptional skill, who saw the benefits in uniting all the disparate ethnic peoples of Chicago, the nation and the world. He formed the Rainbow Coalition and brokered deals where his fiery oratory moved the crowds that assembled and alarmed the FBI. The no-knock raid at Hampton’s house in the middle of the night reminds of Breanna Taylor’s recent death. The recent Black Lives Matter protests also serve as a timely backdrop for this socially conscious film.

Deborah Johnson (now known as Akua Njeri) is portrayed by actress Dominique Fishback. The fiancé of Fred Hampton, she gave birth 25 days after Fred Hampton’s death. (Fred Hampton, Jr. is now 52 years old.) Dominique has appeared in “The Deuce” and “The Hate U Give.” Dominique gives a nuanced performance as the poet who applies to the Black Panther headquarters in Chicago to help Hampton improve his speeches. Their low-key courtship adds a behind-the-scenes look at the man whom we see orating like MLK in other scenes. (One question: how would the very white Jesse Plemons character— even while wearing a stocking cap— not stick out like a sore thumb inside the meeting place when Hampton is speaking with ringing phrases like, “You can murder a revolutionary, but you can’t murder a revolution,” or “I’m gonna’ die for the people because I live for the people?”)

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Darrel Britt-Gibson, Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield appear in Judas and the Black Messiah by Shaka King, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Glen Wilson.

Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt (from San Antonio), who worked on “Twelve Years A Slave” and “Hunger,” does a great job of turning late 60s Chicago into a sepia-toned retro landscape. The bar used in the initial scenes and later in the film, Leon’s Bar, reeks of that era. The scenes that involve gun battles (3) are dark and the shooting of a cop near a factory has very interesting angles framing the action.

MUSIC

Mark Isham and Craig Harris handled the music; they do a fine job setting the sixties tone.

BACKGROUND

The principals behind the film shared in an interview that they worked very hard to make sure the film was accurate. This meant contacting the families of those who were involved the night of the climactic shooting. In particular, Fred Stanfield, Jr., who is now 52 and works on prisoner’s rights, was consulted.  The team said, “It changed all of our lives and we’ll be far better off because of it.”

QUOTES

“A badge is scarier than a gun.”

“Political power flows from the barrel of a gun. You need tools, brother.”

“Words are beautiful, but actions are supreme.”

“Every ghetto across the nation should be considered occupied territory.”

“The most dangerous weapon is the people.”

“Our job, as the Black Panther Party, is to heighten our traditions so the people can decide if they want to overthrow the government. Or not.”

“We want land, bread, housing, education, democracy and peace.”

“You can’t shoot your way to equality.”

PRODUCTION TEAM’s THOUGHTS

The team responsible for the movie, including Ryan Coogler and Director Shaka King shared their experiences making the film in a Warner Brothers interview. Coogler said, “There would be nights when I couldn’t sleep.”

On the general public’s lack of knowledge about Fred Hampton until now, King said, “There could be 100 movies on this subject and it still wouldn’t be enough.”

The director and Coogler mused about how, so often bio-pics reach the screen, and the families then protest that the film is totally inaccurate, saying the movie did not reflect the truth about their loved ones. The makers of Judas and the Black Messiah did not want that to happen with their film, so they actually traveled to Chicago and sat at the very table where, 52 years ago, Fred Hampton worked.

Said one of the producing partners: “Coming out of this, I don’t think I’ll ever look at (bio-pic) movies the same way again.”

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