The 1st Presidential Debate of 2020

Medium: Politics
Period: 2020 Presidential Election
Political Party: Republican and Democratic Debates




What can one say about last night debate, that hasn’t already been seen or said about a drunken brawl that takes place at a neighbor dive bar, where most of the patrons catch on fire, and the bar has no insurance? The kick off to the 2020 Presidential Debates only lacked glass embedded boxing wraps or flaming swords wielded by Trump, because Presidential decorum was off the table from the very start. If there are any question left as to why the American people have lost over two-hundred thousand lives to COVID-19, last night’s debate should place those questions into perspective. Basically, — Trump doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about the people of the United States. He doesn’t care that the world was watching him make America look really, really, bad. Bigly bad. Hugely bad. Bad like you’ve ever seen before. Trump doesn’t respect the rules that apply to debate. He doesn’t respect the viewing audience. And most of all, he has little or no respect for himself.

Positioning himself as a debate tough guy, Trump tried his best to dominate every moment of the first 2020 Presidential Debate, by yelling, lying, and interrupting Biden at every turn, — making America and the world aware of his incompetence not only in the debate arena itself, but also in the world of politics. As for addressing the African American votes that Trump wants to secure and needs to win this 2020 election, he continued to lie about how much African American people love him, and also how he’s been the best President for African American people in the history of the United States Presidency. Black people often wonder who is talking to when he makes these erroneous blanket statements, while at the same time backing white supremacy that eliminates the voice of black people within the realm of American politics.

Trump’s double down defense of “very fine people on both sides” is a statement of what he is all about. There is no doubt he’s pandering to white people and white supremacy.

Trump supports and promotes white supremacy in America, and when people show you who they are, you should believe them.

There really isn’t much to say about this debate, because the over shadowing reality of what Trump did last night is this: Domination of the stage was Trump’s play. There was nothing that he gained from this debate from a political aspect. There was also nothing that he lost, except for a few Republican voters. Trump came to show the world that he does what he wants to do, and how he wants to do it wherever he goes. And what America is not prepared for, is what Trump is really using the 2020 Presidential Debates for. These debates are a personal megaphone to stage the “I’m not going to leave the office of the President” game which Trump has been hedging at for some time now, in which he feels that voting by mail in the Age of Pandemic is rigging the election in favor of his opponent, former Obama Vice President, Joe Biden.

Trump is very savvy at manipulating media, and controlling the news feeds. As for actually debating Biden, he had no real intention of winning or losing last night’s debate. He couldn’t win. He also couldn’t care less if he did win. That wasn’t the point of him being there in the first place. This was Trump’s display of his lame duck power. He’s not willing to accept the fact that he’s a lame duck President, and he doesn’t want America to accept that fact that he’s a lame duck either. What Trump could do though by showing up — is make it possible to take the debate off the rails and send the messages to a national audience that he personally wanted to reach. The audience of Americans who know very little about what lame duck means. The Proud Boys are only a small part of Trump’s Unlawful Militia audience that Trump reached out to during this debate. And when he loses the 2020 election, they were the entire intention of Trump showing up to last night’s debate. That debate was to sending a message to those who would back him when he loses the election, and what they will do for him when he does.

“Stand Back and Stand By” is their new battle cry. Like MAGA or KAGA, ad now SBSB will run through American society like sour milk on steel cut oatmeal. These little slogans are phrases that are intentional. The are Hitleresque Beer Hall Putsche slogans that build authoritarian regimes. Mao used “Serve the People”. Hilter used “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuhrer”. Bolsonaro uses “”Brazil above everything, God above everyone.” “Stand Back and Stand By”, in less than a day has sent waves through American society, where men and boys, are preparing to do battle against the 2020 Electoral college’s decision, wearing magazine filled load bearing vest — in the truest sense of “Ballots or Bullets” that America has ever seen. They really don’t care about the Constitution, or defending it. This is more about getting prepared to shoot anyone that disagrees with Trump. An American purge, so to speak.

A lot of people think this is all bluff and bluster, except for the people who feel they’ve been given marching orders by Trump. That was the intent of the debate for Trump. To give marching orders to Joe Biggs and Enrique Tarrio, and the rest of the national Proud Boys movement from coast to coast, –and the remaining supporters of all Alt Right groups. And Trump succeeded in doing so. There was no other purpose to that particular debate for Trump. It was also to prepare Trump supporters to harass people at designated polling stations all over America, which is a Election Day Army program led by his son, Donald Trump Jr.

What America needs to understand is none of this is normal or acceptable. So, for the next 30 days or so, things will be a little awkward. You may see an increase in violence across America. You also may see a shift on Capitol Hill in the direction of authoritarian ideologies, because America as we once knew it is no longer. No one has ever needed a gun before to vote in an American election. No one has ever considered voting by mail a fraudulent concept until Trump was elected. And no one has ever stated that voter fraud existed in such massive numbers until Trump came to office. COVID-19 has made voting for the entire United States more difficult where safety matters and social distancing is concerned. But none of that really matters to Trump. No matter how he loses, whether you go to the polls or not, he’s staging a play to remain in office.

As for the next 2020 Presidential Debate, the Commission on Presidential Debates has had to step up a police Trump, because he effectively became the debate team class clown, and reeked havoc on the centuries old practice statement and the rebuttal. That is how he lives his life, ad we should expect him to act the same way the next debate, because rules don’t apply to Trump. This is why he is loved by miscreants, rogues, thieves, butchers, assassins, oligarchs, and dictators. Even those that hate him within that circle of ne’er do wells, still love him for the chaos that he creates and brings to the American public.

The Platinum Plan Hoax

Medium: Political Platform
Period: 2020 Presidential Election
Political Party: Republican

Well, it’s 38 days till the 2020 Presidential Election, and the Trump Campaign has pulled out all stops to target the African American vote, by actually using an interesting propaganda campaign that gives fuel to Conservative white voter’s talking points, while at the same time angers Trump’s specific base that are opposed to government entitlements for specific groups of people. It’s amazing that Trump thinks that anyone would buy into the ‘better late than never’ recognition of 12% of the nation that Trump has ignored for the entire 4 years Trump has sat at the Resolute Desk. One can only imagine what it’s like to be a part time President who thinks a PowerPoint presentation sufficiently addresses that which has been ignored for the past 4 years.

The Pillars” supposedly denote what Trump has done for black people in America so far.

The Promises” are what Trump says he will do for black people in the next 4 years if black people vote for Trump.

Yes, you heard that correctly. Trump is specifically targeting the black vote in the 2020 Presidential Election with his Platinum Plan.

This two-page PowerPoint is indicative of how out of touch Trump is with the African American community as a whole, but in general is shows how out of touch Trump is with the American voter, and how they will respond to this election countdown move, — smoke and mirrors, dog and pony show –, with all the fireworks and tear gas one can swallow.

One half trillion dollars is the offer, added to an increasing deficit, that has been the largest federal deficit increase in the history of the United States. The theory here is, “over promise, and under deliver”, because the the bottom line is all of the issues and solutions placed before the voting public cannot be addressed in a two-page PowerPoint, and Trump has actually had 4 years to address every promise he’s making now to the black voter, yet he gives the black voter no credit for realizing that he’s done little of nothing for them to earn their vote.

What is more of a revelation than Trump’s offer of a $500 billion dollar boost to the African American community at large, is the recent report released by Citigroup that states $16 trillion dollard in revenue has been lost because of systemic racism in America, which is equal to $800 billion dollars a year over a 20-year period of time between 2000 and 2020. The significance of the housing boom in the late 1990’s is attached to this type of study.

the U.S. could have $5 trillion in gross domestic product over the next five years if those gaps and others were closed today“.

So in actual real time, what Trump is offering the black voter in return for 4 more years as President of the United States, is $125 billion a year for the black community, over the next 4 years if Trump re-elected, absent of visiting the Citigroup report and choosing Presidential candidates from this point forward whose main focus is ending systemic racism in America, and placing $800 billion in taxable revenue on the table in the black community, that increases earning potentials for everyone, thereby decreasing the national deficit. Fixing a broken system and creating a functional system that adds or works towards adding an additional $675 billion a year — is the Presidential candidate every one should vote for.

Trump Platinum Plan is a governor on the engine of American society’s growth in the 21st century. One that not only stops the creation of African American wealth streams, but offshoots of those wealth streams as well. Economic disparity is created by schemes like Trump’s Platinum Plan, because it doesn’t address the real problems of how macroeconomics actually work or don’t work, nor does it foster economic parity across the board.

One could sit here all day and pick apart this Platinum Plan.

As an example:

This was probably the most insulting part of Trump’s Platinum Plan, because the COVID-19 pandemic permanently shuttered the doors of over 440,000 black owned businesses, across America’s landscape. One step forward, and three steps back is what Trump is actually offering to the African American communities across the nation, because his list of talking point he wants to use to gain the black vote is not for the black voter. It’s for people who want to tell the black voter that they “should be grateful for Trump and all he’s done for the black community“, which of course is a fallacy. This is the frequency that Trump and his supporters operate on, because they live on the assumptions that those ‘other people‘ don’t know what is going on in the world, and they are ill informed based on the color of their skin. Proving we are truly a divided nation, not just racially, but from a standpoint of perception and education.


This one is insulting as well, when America accepts the fact that racial discrimination still exists when dealing with the African American community, especially when it comes to lending practices, and where banking institutions are located outside of the black community at large; and most of the financial products that banks use as securitized instruments when lending to people of color are akin to usury and loan sharking. The hoops that African Americans are made to go through to get loans from lending institutions is endemic in every major bank across America, and runs parallel to the hiring practices of those very same banks.

Implying that black people are financially illiterate is just another white supremacist racist stall by the Trump Administration, while they continue to dismantle existing Fair Lending practices in the existing banking system. It is important to remember that Trump is a person who filed 5 bankruptcies, and to this day still has to seek out foreign banks to access loans to fund his projects; so Trump should never imply that someone is more financially illiterate than himself. Especially when it’s race based financial illiteracy.

It doesn’t take that much effort to sell meat or vodka, and everyone knows that the house always wins in a casino operation.

So expect Trump to really push the, “I’m the best choice for black people” narrative for the next month, because his target is not the black vote, but this performative activism push by offering something he has no intention of putting into action. Remember, Mexico was supposed to pay for the wall, and American taxpayers are the one’s actually funding a fence that is only one tenth completed to the tune of billions and billions of wasted tax dollars being defeated by new and improved tunneling systems. Real immigration reform would have been a lot cheaper, but then you couldn’t be a part time President and full time golf hack.

As a side note, one of the pillars has already collapsed under the words of Trump, and that would be the First Step Act. It should be known, Trump has not risen up in the polls among black voters, and he still stands at 8%, just like he did in 2016. This is the reason he’s calling for a Second Step Act, because the First Step netted zero results with black voters. The main reason for this was, is that Trump should not have the Presidential authority to choose what religious practices get early release from prison, and basing someone’s continued incarceration on the faith and choice in religion is unconstitutional. It would seem this concept reaches back to the earliest days of America when converting slaves to Christianity was a promissory estoppel, which held no true weight in a court of law where chattel slavery was concern.

A slave could never be Christian enough to be considered a free person of color. Freedom was measured by access to wealth. One could buy their freedom, but conversion never led to freedom. Within this Comedy Of Errors, where the black community is concerned, Trump wants to place the black church at the head of African American advancement in American society, placing one’s personal faith above all other things as a pathway to black success.

I’m not certain where Trump got the idea that African Americans are a monolith group in America, and that all of them practice Christianity, but this concept of creating wealth streams within the African American community by funneling Federal Resources through black churches is a non-starter. Obviously, those that sit on Trump’s Black Voices for Trump Advisory Board (headed by a deader than a door nail Herman Cain, who died shortly after contracting COVID-19 after attending a Trump rally in Tulsa) have never spoken with black people outside of the Christian churches who live in metropolitan areas, and Trump’s white panels of advisors have never spoken with Blerds.

Which means they also never spoken with a Blaptist, or Blathlics, or Blews, Bluddists, Ebliscopalians, or Blemocrats, and any other assortment of black people in America. Also, one could speculate that if your black advisory board for the 2020 Presidential Campaign is a serious panel of Republican supporters that is actually interested in affecting significant social changes within the African American community, you don’t have a dead man seated as its chairman. Black Voices For Trump is more of the same minstrel show that Trump placed before America when he rolled out his good friends, Don King and Kanye West.

So, it is important to remember that when you cast your vote, that Trump has turned African Americans and the power of their vote into a minstrel showcase to cater to his base. He refused to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus within our own government. So if you refused to meet with elected black people and Hispanic people on Capitol Hill for the last 4 years, again — elected officials chosen by the public for the purpose of taxation with representation, how can you make or keep promises to people of color who are not on Capitol Hill, and those who are held accountable for the last series of lies and broken promises made by Trump?

Since taking office, Donald Trump has exaggerated his Administration’s economic gains for the African American community,” said Chairwoman Bass.

The Platinum Plan is Trump’s new and improved hoax, because white people bought into the “lowest black unemployment ever in the history of America” diatribe that Trump has consistently repeated over and over again, like some Gleichschaltung propaganda written by Stephen Miller. If the truth be told, slavery was the lowest black unemployment in the history of America. At some point, when Trump leaves office, the General Accounting Office will do a full audit of the Trump Administration’s reckless spending and every number that they’ve fudged, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment rates to dark money spending on Space Force, and money skimmed for projects outside of the American taxpayer’s purview that will stagger the minds of the American public. It will be in the high hundreds of billions, and more than likely trillions of lost taxpayer’s dollars. It’s happen before under Republicans, except Trump has no war to hide behind like Bush did.

Within that minstrel show of ‘Black Voices For Trump’, which Trump is producing as reality TV show for America’s white audience in seeking their approval on black America’s issues, the side shows of Rachel Dolezal, Jessica Krug, and Jennifer Benton exist, and one only has to ask,”is this the kind of President that America wants or needs when the crisis of racial disparity in economics, education, criminal justice and healthcare have become so blatantly acute during the Age of Pandemic?” Do we laugh, or do we cry, or do we reason? We leave such comedy to the comedians, and we leave entertainment to the real entertainers. When America expects their President to entertain them, to make them laugh just like ‘one of the guys’, then your Constitutional crisis is no longer a crisis, but a total collapse of the parchment agreement by the people that once held this nation together.

Cuties

Medium: Film
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
Rating: MA (Language, Human Sexuality, Culture)

“Mignonnes”, is French for “Cuties”. Mignon is also a top quality center cut of meat, usually a filet. It can also mean, “pretty”, “dainty”, “poppet” or “lovely”. This is the beautiful thing about the French language. One word can mean so many different things. French language and culture allows that. Expression of culture through its people, using language to mean so many different things. English on the other hand, is an comparatively extremely complex language. And that is the dilemma one is faced when look at a French film through the eyes of an American lens, while commenting of a foreign culture.

It is often stated, by Americans, that we have a multitude of different cultures, based solely of race, religion, language, food, politics, music, etc. The truth is, most of what we referred to as “different cultures” within the United States, are intrinsically American. And although they there may be a racial overtone within the difference noted by another race within America, the events that revolve around American people doing things in America, is and has always been American culture, influenced by living in America.

ANGOULEME, FRANCE – AUGUST 28: (L-R) Esther Gohourou, Medina El Aidi, Maimouna Doucoure, Myriam Hamma, Ilanah and Fathia Youssuf attend the “Mignonnes” Photocall at 13th Angouleme French-Speaking Film Festival on August 28, 2020 in Angouleme, France. (Photo by Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images)

The film “Cuties“, written and directed by Maïmouna Doucouré, attempts to show society what it’s like for young French girls to grow up in today’s modern society, influenced heavily by both pervasive mainstream media and social media, and the impact it has on tweens, who get little or no attention from their working class parents, who for the sake of living are just trying to survive. At some point, Doucouré’s view on Islamic people and family life must be addressed, because it is very apparent that a larger picture that this film wants invoke is to open the eyes of white people and shince a light on the issues addressing polygamy among its African immigrant families, and how it affects its first generation Afro-Europeén, Afropeéns or Europeén noirs children that come from traditional Islamic homes.

For the moment though, it is better to discuss what this film is about, as opposed to how many have viewed it from only the point of human sexuality, while trying their best to imply that this is Netflix’s attempt to promote and peddle soft core paedophila, while in fact, this single stage attack on this particular film is being launched by QAnon and the Alt Right, — in an attempt to take down one of the most enlightening Indie films of this decade. The fact is, even United States Republican Senators and House members have staged an attack on this film, extolling the idea that this film should be investigated by the Department of Justice, and removed from Netflix content, claiming it is akin to child pornography. Here is where the Conservative party hopes to hedge its bet on stoking the bonfires of their own vanities, because this film is truly one of the best coming of age films that speaks to the entire world about how hard it is to grow up as a girl in any first world country, and how peer pressure and other societal pressures attack the very core of womanhood.

This is actually a story about one girl’s need to fit in. Which is why Republicans should stick to focusing on repairing the 58,000 bridges in the United States that are in disrepair, and leave film critique to people who actually understand what the message of this film was all about. Because life is about building bridges, and how we connect with one another; and how we connect out past to our future. Mainstream media and social media play two major characters in the film “Cuties” as well. Without both of these character developing elements, and the in depth involvement of how media molds children into adults, there would be no film.

People who are upset with the subject matter of this film are faced with reckoning their own personal realities, much like others were left to do so in the days when “Lolita” was released in 1962, or when a remake of “Lolita” was released in 1997. There was no #SaveTheChildren crusade movement created by anyone when these two films were released in the previous decades of the 20th century. Which begs the question, “why attack this film portrayal of young girls?”

“Mignonnes” as a film, was highly rated award winning cinema the Sundance Film Festival this year, and was bought by Netflix to round out its person of color foreign film portfolio, America has taken the heavy handed sword of Conservatism to Netfilx, and wants them cancelled. People who have repeatedly stated that they hate cancel culture have decided that cancel culture is appropriate when a film is tied to people of color, especially one that addresses social problems, and in a sense has the ability to affect change. Which is quite interesting, because Conservative cancel culture had nothing to say about “Beast Of No Nation“, when that film addressed child soldiers inducted by force to fight civil war in Africa. “Cuties” in some ways is reminiscent of Albert Lamorisse’s 1956 film, “The Red Balloon“, where the power of childhood innocence is challenged in a desperately depressing world.

Fathia Youssouf, who plays the character, Amy, is the eldest of three children of Afro-Europeén parents of modest means, living in a large metropolitan area where the diversity of the children who live there adds largely to the telling of this story. Of course, Amy is part of a large growing part of society where both parents are absent most of the time, based on the need to work to support one’s family, which affects all the children in this film. Amy’s absentee father, who is never seen on film, offers the main subtextual conflict, because this film is guided by polygamy as the driving force behind this story.

Amy’s soon to be best friend, Angelica, played by Médina El-Aidi-Azouni, is a street dancer who escapes boredom through her love of hip hop dance. The “Cutie” clique Amy is enthralled with is made up of three other girls. Coumba, played by Esther Gohourou, Jess, played by Ilanah Cami-Goursolas, and Yasmine, played by Myriam Hamma. These “Cuties” have a need to be seen, in a world where attention has become an addictive drug propelled by social media. Are you trending? Because if your are not, then you aren’t important in this world. This is the message relayed to today’s youth through social media. How we as a culture deal with screen time and our children in the Age of COVID-19 is difficult to navigate. The pandemic has created societal changes in behavior when it comes to social media use. If social media use was already at addiction crisis levels long before the pandemic hit, one can only imagine what it’s like for children, who are now required to spend more time on screen as a part of what is now the world’s new normal.

Dance is movement. It makes the endorphins flow. It usually requires more than one person to perform something entertaining set to music, that moves an entire audience. The “Cuties” are all about show stopping performances. In fact, there is a small scene that opens with a flash mob scene on the firs day of school for Amy, which involves the entire school yard striking a pose, which turns a teacher into a panicky screech owl. This coming of age tale has a lot of adolescents acting out, performed by both boys and girls, but this is girls tale and focuses on the hardships they face growing up, which are often ignored or dismissed by society. “Cuties” takes a closer look at modern society’s impact on what it means to be a young woman, and the expectations society places on them to conform to a world that exploits their femininity for profit. At the same time, traditions take a back seat to an ever changing technological society, where Instagram and TikTok dominate how children formulate their own ideas about how popularity is achieved.

Amy’s mother, Miriam, played by Maïmouna Gueye, feels her marriage is crumbling, and vacillates between the modern world where her three children reside, and the traditional world of wifely duties to her absentee husband. Mbissine Thérèse Diop, plays Auntie, the family matriarch whose soul purpose is to usher young women in this family into traditional womanhood. Superstition plays a major role in traditions that holds people back. These two ideals of tradition and modernism meet at the crossroads and have a dance off. And dance becomes the perfect metaphor for coming of age. Because as adults, that is what life is. A dance.

The dance this film has to offer for the viewer is the biting social commentary on the what takes place in the life of young women, who are faced with daily challenges on how society perceives women based on the images it projects of women in media and social media. It’s not an easy film to watch, and the entire point is to make the viewer face the uncomfortable realities that have plagued society’s young women since the beginning of time. What side of the “Cuties” reality people fall on is determined on their ability view this film objectively. They will find that all races, creeds, colors, and religions are affected by what they view in this film.

A lot of the performers in this film are new to screen work, and they should be applauded for taking on so many difficult subjects their first time out, executing with grace stellar performances from each and every one of them. Hopefully we’ll see them all again, in a different setting, applying their craft to the big screen in something a little less controversial. Once you get past all the negativity that has been heaped on this film, it easily deserves three stars. Americans should watch more foreign films.

Antebellum

Medium: Film
Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes
Rating: R (Violence, Adult Language, Horror, Mystery, Thriller)

Disappointing. In a word, disappointing. The long awaited release of “Antebellum” was not scary, or mysterious, or thrilling. These annually released films that address the antebellum period of American slavery and the slave trade, can never be captured on film because of the subject truly illicit subject matter. So once again, Hollywood sells America fiction with little grains of truth to soften the two-hundred plus years of history, where human trafficking in America was corporate America at its core. Here’s the main problem with “Antebellum”; it’s the period in America history that took place before the Civil War, which make this film title impossible to grasp on every level.

If such films were actually based on facts, these films could not depict events showing the public the horrors that took place during slavery, for legal reasons. Events where human trafficking, kidnapping, murder, rape, mayhem, and a litany of other varied, now illegal acts were carried out twenty-four hours day, three-hundred and sixty-five day year, for a two-hundred and forty-six year time period. The fact that American motion picture studios continues to produce these lackluster types of film is a testimonial to the psychological damage slavery has done to this nation, by actually using slavery to build up the “Land Of The Free”.

“Antebellum” takes Civil War reenactments to the extreme, which includes a faux cotton plantation, and a small brick crematorium/”burn shed” for body disposal, that looks and functions more like a plantation smoke house. The Big House exterior is exactly what one would expect from a film of this nature. Contrived opulence, where ‘Butternuts‘ run around dressed in CSA uniforms, pulling from fictional concepts of why and how the main residence called the planter’s Big House was constructed in the first place, appears to be a distant concept of this film. For no real activity ever takes place inside the Big House. It truly looks like something out of a Southern plantation wedding catalogue, which is part of the facade of the social construct of almost every misguided attempt at a Hollywood slavery narrative.

Big vs. beautiful, where beautiful always wins out; where the main residence is featured, furthers the fallacy of how plantation living is to be perceived in the modern world. Even the row house slave quarters are overtly good looking. The grounds are surround by larger than normal live Oak trees filled with Spanish Moss, adding to the background for this poorly woven tale of ‘what ifs’ and ‘could be’s’, where an abnormal obsession between slave and master is played out between unsavory white people, and obviously ill-equipped African American people, who are all caught up in a mental time warp that really serves no purpose for telling a story with continuity .

Written by Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz, here are no lessons here to learn from history, and that is the set up that supposedly makes this a horror film. The series of strange events, set in tandem motion by Veronica Henley PhD. whose slave name is Eden, played by Janelle Monáe, can’t sell this story that has problems from the very beginning of her dream sequence. Premonition is a poor vehicle to open up a story’s through line. In this case, the premonition should have been heeded. This is just one more reason this film makes no sense. History that is manipulated to create phrases like, “reform plantation”, suggest to the viewer that Confederate soldiers were better suited to run such imaginary plantations, then fight a war in their spare time in favor of The Lost Cause. The twist to all of this is based simply in everyday amusements, which suggest to the viewer that certain amusements are a continuation of a very real sordid history, that should be recognized as a prelude to predictable dangerous events in the very near or close future.

Imaginative yes,… but feasible? Even horror movies have a formulaic structure.

But with “Antebellum”, not at all. One must suspend their belief in America’s worst tragedy that ever took place. One that left an indelible stain on the Constitution and Declaration of Independence to this very day, proving a built in and turnkey hypocrisy in words and actions. To resort to green lighting such a film, where a poorly written script would even begin to suggest that African Americans would be willing partners, and go along with a modern day reinstitution of chattel slavery and subjugation, is not just a horror film on the big screen, as much as it is a real life horror story in the American conscience.

“Antebellum” is a failed propagandist tool created by the powers that be, sending a subtle yet strong message to the African American community about the unspoken thoughts of the majority of America’s population; white people. And the constant need by Hollywood to make the slave, maid, butler, and buffoon films, which have been taking place since D.W. Griffith’s “Birth Of A Nation”, feed the beast of white supremacy. Because test markets don’t lie, and depending on what people you ask, these are the types of films they want to see.

Jena Malone plays Elizabeth, and Eric Lange plays Him/Senator Denton. Both are sufficiently evil characters without rhyme or reason, other than pure hatred for people they consider their inferiors by birth. Which only complicates the plot further when you dumb down your villains so much they become Southernist sycophants; thereby giving them almost no purpose for being a villain. What this film lacks in character depth and their backgrounds, it proposes conversely an attack on black intellectualism as the fulcrum, using white supremacist brute strength as the lever, which sends an odd message as a horror film. Jack Huston, plays Captain Jasper, who is the executor of said brutality, and Eden and Eli/Professor Tarasai, played by Tongayi Chirisa, represent the intellect to be squashed.

“Antebellum” sends far too many mixed messages, in which most of them are poor attempts at comparing the 19th century antebellum goals of the pre-war Confederates States of America with the devout purveyors of the current 21st century goals dictated by modern white supremacy. Those two different sets of goals should never be confused. In doing so, these mixed messages try their best to correlate, compare, and connect black intelligentsia as the pathway of fear that white America walks down, where smart black people are the largest threat and enemy of white supremacy, and the main reason why white America should fear black intelligentsia. By contrast, it also implies that intelligence and education makes black people weak, submissive, and susceptible to white supremacy, and targets for kidnappers and life in chattel bondage.

Veronica‘s opening sociologist salvo about “ending systemic racism” vs. Bernard Hocke‘ s Timothy Hall/Talking Head character, stating that black people “are conflating race with basic common sense” is the premise this film was set on; yet this film’s cinematic structure does nothing to addresses either issue and throughout the rest of film other than these two vague comments. What “Antebellum” does best is fuel conspiracy theory concepts that would rival QAnon, that an unseen cabal of white supremacists is much too big of an institution to take on, even when the brightest and most intelligent black people put forth their best effort rise above the society’s endemic racism. Whereas Eden’s mantra is “We must choose our moment wisely. But until then, keep our heads down and our mouths shut. Do you understand me?”, she tells Julia, played by Kiersey Clemons.

Bush and Renz’s “Antebellum” oversimplifies the racism and white supremacist viewpoint, performed by hate filled white characters that live in some R-rated soft porn, race play, technicolor filled extravaganza, who denigrate and degrade African American intellectualism at its core. It also proposes that keeping black people quiet is the only way a smart black person can remain alive or survive in a society filled with seen and unseen racism, and it does it by objectifying African American women in a manner that reduces them to nothing more than sexual playthings that are easily discarded and disposed of, because there are plenty more just like them where they came from. Minimizing the principal character, Veronica Henley PhD, and making her forced alter-ego slave personality named, Eden, the primary reality of a world gone completely wrong says how little thought was put into how a character/personality transitions into accepting a subservient role is something Veronica could never become.

Very few movies deserve a half of a star. This one deserves exactly that.



Critical Thinking

Medium: Film
Running time: 1 hour, 58 minutes
Rating: NR (Drama, Cultural)

Any film soundtrack that opens with 1987’s “The Bridge Is Over” by Boogie Down Productions, which uses a variation on the beat of the hip hop classic sound of “The Funky Drummer” created by Clyde Stubblefield, is bound to get the attention of everyone. Because that driving beat has been played live or sampled in over 1,000 hit songs. It can be slowed down, or sped up, and it can have a twist on its quality; but it can’t be unrecognized because it is a sound that has been embedded in America culture since July of 1967 in James Brown’s song “Cold Sweat“. How does this capture the attention of the audience? It does so by immersing the viewer in a comfortable place. A relatable place. A place in our minds of where cognitive sonance resides. More than one song using that beat drives this movie’s story.

In his debut film “Critical Thinking“, director John Leguizamo, who also plays the lead character, Mario Martinez, teaches young adults the ins and outs of the strategy of chess. Rarely do you see a film that right off the bat addresses the vibrant Afrolatinidad culture of Miami in such a positive manner, that you begin to wonder ‘why aren’t there more films about this reality of America’s rich history of its connection to the Caribbean Basin?’. Yes, what is considered today as continental America, has had this Afrolatinidad connection with the Caribbean Basin since 1526, when San Miguel de Gualdape was founded, in what it now known as South Carolina. These early adventures help found early areas in the Americas call “Miskito Kingdoms“, where ‘maroons‘ or slaves that had escaped from slave ships, early Spanish township settlements, and low country plantations, — intermingled with the indigenous people of the Americas, creating tri-racial isolate groups that reached back almost a century before the founding of Jamestown. Large Maroon polity existed in the Americas, as a part of British America indigenous allies, but the largest ones in North America were called Suwanee and Angola, which are now located in what is now know as Florida.

Corwin C. Tuggles, plays Sedrick Roundtree, a teen who lives in a contentious single parent relationship, with his father Mr. Roundtree, played by Michael Kenneth Williams, who is the only parent present, because Sedrick’s mother died early in his life by accident. Sedrick is the leader of group of highly intelligent young men, from mixed racial and ethnic backgrounds, who avidly avoid the harshness of street life though playing chess. The Game Of Kings becomes the Game Of Life, and the struggle is understanding and applying chess strategy to the world that surrounds them, no matter what game is being played in that world. If it’s not the world that you grew up in, thinking five to six moves ahead is how the game of life is played. Chess mixed with social studies that are relevant to their lives is the best way to teach that. Mr. Roundtree is a hard working father, who struggles with raising a son by himself, has nightly bouts with binge driven alcoholism, and post traumatic stress disorder, brought on by alcohol fueled depression. It seem his character never got past stage four of the grieving process over his wife’s death, and his son is the target of his on going depression.

Jorge Lendeborg Jr who plays Ito, Angel Bismark Curiel who plays Rodelay, Will Hochman who plays Gil, and Jeffry Batista who plays Marcel, together round out this cast of chess playing adolescents, who all have their own struggles within the main plot, and their subplots work within the “Critical Thinking” script. Ito needs to work by any means necessary to stay alive; Roddy needs to hustle cheddar because it is in his nature to do so; Gil needs to fit in with people who don’t look like him because he’s a White Hispanic in an ethnically diverse school; and Marcel, who is fresh off the boat from Cuba needs to find acceptance in a America, in a foreign culture that he has recently been introduced to. It’s nice to see how hip hop culture plays a huge part in the Afrolatinidad culture, and this is finally being recognized in the world of stage and cinema.

As Martinez relates to his class of misfits students, “But this is the whole thing I keep telling you guys about history. That thing in history, man…“. That the truth about history is that it is written by winners, or people with the means to control the narrative. When Roddy poses the question to “Mr. T”, as they call him; “How come they always paint us out? And rewrite us?” The silence the classroom becomes deafening. Because for all the answers that Mr. Martinez has for his class, this is a question that he has no answer for. Apparently the answer is, ‘they have the means’. Martinez relays the only obvious response to this question, because he is teaching children in a dysfunctional educational system that seems to be more prevalent in high density communities with larger populations that have people of color. Even white kids suffer in these communities, and it’s not because they are white. It’s because of maldistribution of educational funding with a lack of priorities focused on academics. The problems is created by design and is systemic at its core.

The school to prison pipeline is addressed in this film in such a manner, that if every child in America had a squabble with another child at school, then substations of police departments should be placed on every elementary, middle school, secondary education facility in America. Isn’t that what America is becoming for children of color? I’m not even sure that the issue of a child having the right to not be questioned by law enforcement without their parents being present is something that should continued to be overlooked by America. This type of belligerent child abuse by authorities happens all the time in high density communities of children of color.

This film is very effective in showing how America takes children of color out of the classroom, informs them that if the don’t cooperate as a confidential informants within the community they live in and also must survive in, — then sooner or later –, for lack of cooperation, they’ll be looking at a future of time behind bars as well, instead of the person that law enforcement is really pursuing. It’s a numbers game to the system. Fight or flight always turns into fight when you grow up without access to alternatives or means to remove yourself from danger, especially when you are young and a person of color. Snitches get more than stitches in some instances, but the continued practice of law enforcement placing at-risk children at a higher than normal, factors into kids of color ending up dead or in jail. This is actually addressed in this film as well.

There is an ironic twist that is used by the writer of this screenplay, Dito Montiel, when we encounter our heroes mounting their first Regional Tournament for Miami Jackson Senior High School, — that explains the hard, cold facts of life to the audience about ‘real gangsta shit‘, by invoking the name of Dustin Diamond, when it comes to one’s chess opponent in the Game Of Life. Especially since Screech is known for his real life, up-close-and-personal work with switchblade. Was this an inside joke? There is a lesson about life here that proves stereotypes are part of America’s core value system when it comes to children of color. You never know who you are sitting across the table from in the Game Of Life, and appearances can be quite deceptive. Which is the point of this film. And this Regional Tournament scene drives that point home for the people who are paying close attention.

Sedrick and Mr. Martinez share a real poignant moment, embracing their individual pain that makes you human. Swapping their personal stories about the loss of life. It’s always unexpected. Always traumatic. Always deeply damaging. It’s very human. But each of them move through the Game Of Life, poised to win, because losing just lacks the finesse of a Champion of Life. A draw is acceptable. A draw is sometimes required. A draw is is life’s little equalizer. Because in real life, and life on the chessboard as well, is always about win, lose, or draw. And losing just isn’t an option. Sedrick’s father sees all things in life as a loss. Even a small win is compared to a big loss, if it doesn’t please Sedrick’s father. For Mr. Roundtree, there is no middle ground, when life has taken you down do far you can’t even acknowledge a win. “Ma dyin’ didn’t just crush you.“, Sedrick aptly reminds his father during a chess game where Sedrick sacrifices his chess army while “finding his rhythm” for a real conversation with his Dad. He uses this chess stratagem to put his father literally in emotional check, by sacrificing his Queen. The allegory that runs throughout this film is subtle, yet very impactful.

This film shows us that high density communities with the largest populations of people of color are filled with predators. The school system is a predator. The majority of teachers are predators. The Administration is a predator. The School Board is a predator. Law Enforcement is a predator. Sometimes peers become predators. Those are referenced as the good choices that a child has access to. Society introduces predatory lifestyles and behaviors into a child’s life long before they are introduced to life’s bad predators. When a nation fails to admit that we’ve created a society of predators in the most unimaginable ways, we’ve become unaware that what and how we teach our young is how to become predators as well, thereby forcing our society into decline, only it watch it collapse before it crumbles before our very eyes. And the first true gangsters that our children are introduced to involves the school system, the teachers, the administrators, the school boards, law enforcement, their peers and disconnected parents. Because where we fail to nurture our children’s growth to grasp the concept of their interdependent relationship needs within society, the gang mentality model that we’ve set in motion takes a foothold, and the Game of Life Darwinism becomes the devil’s playground.

Ramses Jimenez, plays Andre Lamar, the story’s entrepreneurial head hunter who capitalizes on a failing school system. He knows the earning potential and resume of every novice street soldier that the system sees fit to sacrifice to the streets. Like any captain of industry, Lamar maneuvers hostile takeovers in this world, which are actually hostile. And why shouldn’t they be? The 411 on anyone is how you work your way to the top of street industry, so you keep your ear to the ground for potential buyouts, mergers, and hostile takeovers. The more you know about a person’s weaknesses, the more power you have over them. Being a gangster is like in any other industry, except the pink slip is a bullet to the dome.

The Catch-22 of all of this is, money doesn’t grow on trees, and the Game of Life is money oriented. The chess team funds its tournament travel cost from selling everything they can, like narcotic laced edibles, which was highly illegal in the late 20th century, to hustling chess games with “fish” – which was also very illegal, to car washes, which the the only legal way for a youth group to raise the funds required to support their collective goals. And they do this because the environment they learn in doesn’t support the concept that fosters critical thinking through game play theory, unless that game play theory is attached to football or some other money making revenue stream. And this forces Sedrick and his companions to use their critically thinking skills at the risk of committing crimes, which endangers their lives, their freedom, and any future opportunity they might have if they become incarcerated. A cognizant viewer realizes that children placed in this position from birth, always walk the fine line between participating in illicit acts and doing good for themsleves, which are part and parcel in the design of their everyday environment. That creates a situation of reaching into the world that straddles illegitimacy and legitimacy, for those who are born in the cycle of abject poverty, where playing it safe is almost impossible.

This is supposed to be feel good movie, because these kids rise above the obstacles placed before them. But is that really the message that this film is relaying to the audience? At a glance, it is the message, — on the surface. But the reality is that this movie presents to the viewers, a breakdown of the character makeup of exceptional children, who possess the ability to set good examples for other children, if we help them. If we foster them. If we nurture them. If we embrace them. And isn’t that the point of social interaction? So, we have to ask ourselves, if a school has children who want to excel intellectually, why can’t a system that expects the best from its children, support the idea of success in those children that set the good examples for all the children in that social environment? Every child of color won’t become a sports phenomenon. That’s not even a worthy discussion, setting up false expectations ad dashed dreams. Why can’t a neighborhood, an Administration, a school board, law enforcement, etc. see the struggle that they force on exceptional children who are locked up in this type of environment, before prison ever find them?

The ending of this film is predictable and unexciting. The underdogs win, or course, but that’s why a film with this series of events was made in the first place. Or was it? The strained relationship between father and son is something to savor, because out of bad comes good, but both wear their pain on the surface, and parents are the main teachers of the children they produce. Overcoming constant obstacles is what bright kids do in situations like this, so the through line of this story is no great surprise. One would hope that National chess championships would bring more recognition and transparency to the underfunding of schools all over America, yet philanthropy is a lost art form, where the rich use their power and wealth to keep the underprivileged at bay, because control from the top down created the wealth gap in America, and that gap must be maintained at all cost.

Scrubs vs. Preps is not a new story.

This film deserves two stars tops. It’s a good starting place though, delivering a different look at Latinx culture that is realistic, beyond the constant drug and violent movie portrayals of young brown and black people, who are all to often represented on film as the enemies of America. Poverty is the enemy. It has the ability to break even the most critical thinker.

Black Boys

Medium: Film
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Rating: Not Rated (Documentary, Cultural, African Americans)

In this long overdue documentary exploring African American lives, there is not enough time given to the discussion about “Black Boys” who grow up in America to become Black Men, if they are lucky enough to make to adulthood. Trying to jump start a much needed discussion, “Black Boys” attempts to open up a long overdue introspective look at how black male children view themselves in the 21st century as they grow up, live day-to-day, experiencing the harsh realities of systemic racism, only to survive in a world that neglects their inner most thoughts. It’s about how they feel about themselves and the world around them. Let’s say its a start, because it would truly take a streaming series to deeply cover the issues addressed in this film.

Although this is a timely documentary directed by Sonia Lowman, she desperately tries to cover multiple issues that surround what it means to be black, male, and grow up in an environment that has trained itself to have problems with their existence. And the culmination of issues that are so vast and wide, that Lowman attempts to show America’s dystopian view of black male existence, only glances off the surface of a traumatized group of people, who share their polylithic visions of what the daily life entails in the now, and what a better life means to them in the future; and how they forge ahead moment by moment to make that happen. Viewing it is like skipping rocks on Lake Baikal, where no matter how big the rocks are, they are still irretrievable, and not just because the water is deep and cold. And that is what is frightening and enlightening about listening to their stories.

The time one waste consistently defending their existence cannot be recovered. Yet, that’s what black boys do early in life, because life in America has always asked them, “why are you here?” None of these centuries old systemic problems can be truly addressed in an hour and thirty-two minutes. It literally took centuries to create these ongoing issues, and this film represents more or less a pamphlet black male life, rather than a novel it deserves. With an outline on subjects that we’ve heard a million times before, Lowman has been accused of undertaking this project and using her own white gaze to affect the outcome of how viewers should receive this film.

Body, Mind, Voice and Heart.

BODY:

The film opens with former NFL defensive end, Greg Scruggs, with his infant son Koven, reading the children’s book, “The Little Engine That Could“, by Watty Piper. As an overview, he spent exactly four years in the NFL, until injuries took him out of playing in the top professional football league in the nation. How Scruggs is viewed in this film is basically how Scruggs is viewed in his University of Cincinnati coaching profile page. “He earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Louisville in 2011. Scruggs has a son, Koven.” It’s at the very bottom of a list of achievements, after his athletic accomplishment have been laid out to explain his expertise in his current position. His degree in sociology is perceived as irrelevant to the man that he is now, but he uses his degree to encourage his player not to squander their education so they’ll have a career to fall back on if they don’t make the pros. He is much more than his life as a former NFL player, yet his life as a high school, college, and NFL football player dominates his entire existence in this film. Football is how he is perceived, and in many ways, how he perceives himself. Point-of-view, cut to a young African American male reading a copy of “Black Boy” by Richard Wright. Why this literary vehicle is used for telling certain parts of this story is ambiguous, and it shows, as this is the 75th anniversary of “Black Boy” being published.

Retired wide receiver Quan Cosby talks about the NFL Scouting Combine as if it’s comparable to early American slave market auctions, while Lowman intersplices a still shot of former NABF Heavyweight Champion of the World, Ken Norton , from the film, “Mandingo” released in 1975, who is displayed on the auction block as a breeder slave. Why Lowman chose this still, which hypersexualizes Cosby in the course of his interview is uncertain, but it comes across as relevant, — at least to her, — for the the story she wants to tell and how she personally sees black men. It’s almost as distasteful as the scene where she has a half naked African American male performing modern dance in a field of cotton. This use of imagery and art also makes no sense.

It must be Lowman’s artistic take on the commodification African American male bodies displayed on the auction blocks and the type of fields they’ve been on. And even though her imagery is out of touch with the reality of what slave auctions were actually about, by comparing them to the NFL Scouting Combine in a manner that does not address the reality of either the auction block subject or the field subject, the use of a football field substituted for a cotton field, where eventually for some of those who are lucky enough to go professional, by receiving an opportunity to negotiate a NFLPA player’s contract and conversely realizing the ownership of those contracts, soon become part of a remarkable monetary fiat. Tradable, extendable, voidable. The mortgaging of black bodies. Or a further look at how the the black male body is destroyed for profit by the owner of those contractual papers. The expendable black body, similar to rice or cotton slave, whose life expectancy in the field was seven years to nine years. “Black Boys” uses these tiny grains of truth from both subjects to drive home its point, and thereby misses the entire target, and the barn as well.

Mart High School, in Mart, Texas is used as an example of how African American male children dreams are recycled over and over again to create the ‘high school to college – college to professional athlete’ ideal of getting out of a place with no job opportunities, and getting ahead. It is fostered from a very young age, based on limited options within Mart, and a faulty designed, well placed, failing educational system, — where funding is extended to its football players prowess on the field and not their academic success in the classroom. It’s a small school that has amassed under its belt, a record of winning eight state football titles to go along with four state football finalist titles; compiling over 700 wins, it is ranked in the top 20 schools in the nation for its football program. All this, while the student body has a 26% reading proficiency level, a 11% math proficiency level, a 51% English proficiency level, and a 9% writing proficiency level. Playing football is the only way out.

Placed under the microscope, one can dissect the mechanism of the school to college football design, that creates athletes who are ill prepared to take on the rigors of college academics, which will allow them to make a better life for themselves, and everyone around them as well. When you take into consideration that there are 24,000 high schools in America, and the top high school in America, which is Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology, places focus on academia as a career path, Mart’s ‘football is the only way out’ concept sinks in the Gulf of Mexico. Here are some interesting facts: Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology has about 1,800 students, with a 17 to 1 student to teacher ratio, and Mart High School has 225 students, with a an 11 to 1 student to teacher ratio. Overcrowding shouldn’t be an issue at Mart. Although if you look closely at the film, Mart High School has a football field that would make most high schools envious based on the expenditures of design, maintenance, and stadium upkeep.

What is not covered in this film are the basics of how and where the money is spent in Secondary Education, when it comes to African Americans males; and asking the obvious question, “Why is tax revenue and game revenue spent on something other than academia, when it comes to black boys?”, seems to get in the way of the story that Lowman is trying to covey. Which it is well known to the people who have discussed these issues at every black Barbershop in America. It’s how young black males view themselves through the mirror of life, and how the world that doesn’t look like them, views them through the window of life. Black boys are on the outside, left only to look in.

Negative images projected on screens large and small, are the things they are told about themselves almost from day one, and what they see can makes them noticeable or recognizable, and can either be equated with good or extremely bad things in American society. Rarely is a good image of a young black male projected outside of world of sports. Sports fame equals “good’ recognition. Academic prowess is resented and ignored when you are a young black male. It ranks at the bottom of the list of what people perceive is achievable for a young black males. Assertion in academia is often mistaken for aggression, whereas assertion in the field of sports is still called acceptable aggression, and readily accepted by white society.

Carmelo Anthony explains the self worth young black males gain by being a professional athletes. He addresses that hope and faith in the young black males leads them to become succesful, and belief in them is the most viable asset a young black male can receive in a world that has been programmed to look at them in a negative light. And when that faith, hope, and belief is solely limited to becoming a sport figure or entertainer, then the young black male will normally exclude all other avenues that life has to offer, because he soon realizes that those avenues are usually non-accessible in terms of fitting in at home as well as outside the home. Jemele Hill, like Colin Kaepernick have their fingers on the pulse of America, and both of them are owed apologies for their positions being taken away, as a ESPN journalist and an NFL quarterback — respectively. Terminated for telling ugly truths about America that certain elements of white America refused to accept, Hill and Kaepernick had to reinvent who they were without changing who they were.

The end result of what both of them said came to fruition later in Black Lives Matter protest during the spring of 2020, that took place in every major city across the world. What predictive models did Hill and Kaepernick use, and why was it the world of sports where the rumbling began on these issues of young black lives being devalued in the extreme? Why was it so important to the African American athletes across the nation, who took a knee to address the issues of police brutality and systemic racism at the cost of their careers in professional sports? It’s simple. Those devalued lives that were expendable at the hands of police brutality, were also the lives of those athletes before the multi-million dollar contract was signed. And one must also realize and accept the fact that very few athletes are signed to multi-million dollar contracts. Most professional athlete survive off of their base pay, and hope endorsement will flesh out the base income. Football doesn’t allow an athlete to work for 20 to 30 years till retirement. So, they have to make money while their health allows them to do so. The average athlete that reaches professional football will play a total of 11 years, which includes high school, college, and the NFL.

So, these discussions about “Just shut up and play”, which targeted African American NFL players during the #takeaknee protest that began in 2016, is a non sequitur, because the majority of NFL players, which 70% of the rosters are African American men, make far less than $1,000,000 dollars a year. And that guaranteed almost ‘one million’, comes after playing slightly under a decade of time in the league.

The minimum annual salary for a rookie active roster player with a one-year contract is $480,000, according to the collective bargaining agreement the NFL signed in 2011 with the NFL Players Association, which will be in effect until 2020.That minimum increases for each year a player spends in the NFL. A player with three years’ experience would command a salary equal to at least $705,000, while players with seven to nine years on the field must be paid at least $915,000.

That’s great news for those lucky enough to last that long in the NFL, but many won’t ring in a seventh year on the job. The average career length is less than three years, meaning most players never advance beyond the lower rungs of that payment ladder.Of course, $480,000 is by no means a poor wage — it just isn’t quite the seven-digit figure many football fans might expect.” – CNBC Make It

MIND:

This section of the film circles back around to education. What is striking about this section of the film, is that Lowan now takes her white gaze lens into the “urban” education centers, where sports programs like football, are almost non existent in the frame she’s trying to create. Football may or may not be played in the metropolitan environments by African Americans, but the way this next section is filmed, sports now takes a back seat to the discussion about a failing educational system when it comes to blighted city environments. In the BODY section of the film, the failing educational system wasn’t even addressed by Lowman. Now, she focuses her lens on the post traumatic stress disorder that is more prevalent in metropolitan areas based on residential density. Color has very little to do with the violence in big cities. Living on top of one another and abject poverty are the main triggers for early death of anyone at the hands of another person, when density pushes hard on the sides of a person’s personal space. These are the real Hunger Games, and they aren’t played out in rural America.

Lowman allows the participants of this documentary to discuss their fears of white people on film. Yet, we’re still not aware of who this film is being made for. Which leads us again to ask a question, “Who is Lowman targeting with this film?” Is she targeting white America as her audience? So they can view black lives at a safe distance, where the inner workings of what she perceives to be a monolith, is culturally different from those who this film was made for? First and foremost, one must realize that black America is America. It always has been. It is not disconnected or different. It is on the face, ‘parallel, adjacent, side by side‘ with white America. And black America has literally been parallel to white America for centuries.

Looking at this through the lens of both experience and mathematics, the average white American will have zero contact with an African American person for their entire life. That is because 12% of the population of the United States would have a difficult time introducing themselves to 70% of the population of United States. This is why stereotypes become cemented in American culture. Which makes this film reminiscent of other forms of media, like early books that were written about African American culture by white people during slavery and Jim Crow. Context is imperative. A lot of what has been edited and shown for public consumption, can be taken out of context for people who can’t relate to parallel cultural differences, based on their lack of exposure to African Americans after complete immersion in a culture absent of contact with African American people.

VOICE:

This is another section where African American male fears are addressed. And it still without context. It’s become a one-sided conversation, which in and of itself makes a lot of scenes redundant. Having black men admit on film that they are afraid of the police is a non-starter. This is not new information where one can say, “This film is a revelation. It bears so much truth in it construction.” Intersplicing images of the Jim Crow era lynchings and 1960’s police dogs attacking black people, while there is a voice over of Vic Mensa speaking on the subject of black male “vulnerability”, was a poor choice of imagery, — akin to the hypersexualization of Quan Cosby. The fact is, what Mensa is trying to relate in his commentary is this; “weakness” in black youth “is to be be feared”, in relation to letting one’s guard down. Words actually matter, but when you superimpose violent imagery perpetrated on black bodies over what is being said, and that image doesn’t convey what is being said, what objectives are you trying to accomplish?

The Voice section returns once again to sports imagery, using stills of NFL football players protesting the shootings of unarmed citizens. And, those unarmed citizens just happen to be African American males for the most part. But where are the other voices that should have been featured in this section? The voices that address cultural displacement or heritage modifications; the voices the speak on the seizing rural ancestral lands through taxation for residential and recreational developments; voices commenting on gentrification of traditionally African American occupied metropolitan areas that have extreme historical relevance; voice preaching on disenfranchisement in the business opportunities sector; voices calling for an end redlining, voices calling for an end to gerrymandering; and voices delivering the truth about how economic parity in African American communities is the only solution that will effect real change. Where are there black men who speak out about finding the balance between taking from the African American communities and then creating a system that replenishes what it taken?

Where are the black men who speak about America respecting African Americans that serve this nation at 17% of the active duty Armed Forces, who only represent 12% of this nation’s population? These voices are absent from this section film. Without a balance of those voices that speaks to the contributions and solutions, answers, or engagement in American life from an African American perspective, the voices that rage against being impoverished becomes so loud, they drown out all the answers to the problems. We know what the problems are. We’ve always known what the problems are.We don’t need to educate people repeatedly, over and over again to what the problems are. “Are you listening America?”, is the question that Lowman needs to ask the viewing audience with this film.

HEART:

Spoken word is a beautiful art form. It’s has its place in this documentary. But it is not the driving force of change where the issues of “Black Boys” whose lives are at risk, who live in the gun sites of Law Enforcement, because they also live in the gun sites of abject poverty. Embracing poetic anger as a vehicle to affect change, changes very little. To ask a group of young black men if they’ve ever cried while watching a movie simply implies that the young black men in “Black Boys” are incapable of any other emotion other than anger and rage. This sends the wrong message to the viewer. Asking young black males if they are growing up in a single parent homes, — as if that has some social significance in the United States — where the divorce rate is over 50%, and couples ask each other for a divorce every 13 seconds; where the average marriage last as little as 8 years. We live in a society where white people have more children born out of wedlock and raise their children in single parents homes, and seems a bit contrived, to ask young black males if they are growing up in a single parent home. Itis an irrelevant topic to pose to a young black male.

“Black Boys” slides comfortably into this type of conversation, exposing overt racial tropes often seen on social media sites, addressing the operational efficiency of black family dynamic. Which are actually the family dynamics of all Americans in cases where single parent homes are involved, — and asking these types of questions to unsuspecting black boys, shows the viewer that Lowman has an agenda; which is to discover if white supremacy diatribes impact the black male based on truth or fiction. She needs to diagram the fatherless black family for her white viewers, which deflects from the real issue of economic inequality that is endemic when it is attached to black motherhood . Rarely is the single white mother with children singled out for interrogation as an unfit parent for being single, or a white child asked about where their father is when they are absent from the family dynamic.

As for addressing the issue of mixed children, or bi-racial children, and the fear that white women have about black boys and black men, there is a moment in this film that takes a traumatized soul, and tortures it for effect. Who gets the blame for how this young man perceives the difference between his white mother and the white women who fear him, because they don’t know him, or have been taught by their parents to fear him as a black man? Whose responsibility is it to tell the world, that since the time of Solomon and Sheba, that interracial relationships have existed, and long before them as well. Because race itself is a social construct developed during the Age of Discovery.

‘If, then, therefore’ denotes that if race is a social construct, then racism also must be a social construct as well. Lowman questioning of a young biracial man, to tap into his pain in hopes that plays on the audience’s conscience, is unquestionably horrible. The only thing this scene does is verify that white people don’t see a white mother in a biracial child. This section get bogged down with trying to explore the feminine side of black maleness. Which exist, but it has little to do with heart; which is repeatedly shown throughout the film by focusing the young black men playing with black children; the black father reading and making while funny elephant noises for his child; black young men mentoring teen black men in critical thinking exercises and then testing their social mettle; and black teachers setting good examples and influencing good ideas in today’s black youth. Of course black boys also cry, feel angst, feel love and tenderness. To evoke temporal pain for the sake of art is cruel and highly unethical.

In order to convey these ideas, Body, Mind, Voice, and Heart in “Black Boys”, a viewer must first ask them self, “how would they would respond to a series of non-sequential, predetermined, but also sometimes random questions from a documentarian, that have little to do with how to fix long standing issues that have plagued African Americans since the first Africans landed at Point Comfort in 1619?” The main problem is Lowman’s perceptions. How black boys should be perceived as individuals, and not as a group, is not present in the film “Black Boys”.

“Black Boys” cinematic perception of black boys in America in general, is that they are similar to the monolith that created the the idea and debate about Ebonics vs. Regional Dialects. Where the idea of “African American Vernacular English” wins out, because its backed by academia. This hollow linguistics victory plays to the lazy mind, because it takes the one-size-fits-all simplistic approach, that expresses a viewpoint that academia has absolutely no real vested interest in the subject of African America language diversity, — or how it works. Therefore, academia extends no real effort on performing a curated investigations that looks into African America regional speech patterns and dialects from state to state. But it will look into the Acadian/Cajun dialect, the Hoi Toider/Outer Banks dialect, the Bostonian dialect, the Appalachian dialect, the New England dialect, the Upper Peninsula dialect, ect.

Such a hotly debated disagreement is solely based on the popularity of a pseudo-linguistics science, but in reality — Ebonics still cannot explain how a Sea Island Gullah dialect sounds nothing like Prince Rodgers Nelson’s Minnesotan regional African American dialect. That is because the isolated Gullah dialect draws words from the Gola, Wolof, Igbo, and Fulani peoples of West Africa, yet is is truly a American original dialect that reaches back before America became the United States, during colonial times. The documentary “Black Boys” doesn’t even begin to explain the polylithic reality of black boys all over America. It only touches on the surface of black young men in America, while it bundles them into a theoretical grouping that says ‘they all mostly act alike, sound alike, feel alike, think alike, and therefore — those are the reasons they all suffer alike in America‘.


What redeems this film is its ending; which is the dynamic that should have run throughout the entire film. Because the ending is the pronouncement of hope and desire for an awakening and radical change through an acceptance of self, that did not connect to anyone in the beginning of this film. In fact, more time should have been spent on what was witnessed in the last eight minutes of this film for white America to have a better understanding of “Black Boys” in their entirety.

One and a half stars, because the ending should have led the entire concept of this film.



The Social Dilemma

Medium: Film
Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes
Rating: PG-13 (Social Media, Technology, Documentary-Drama)

This little discussed film is an interesting look into the cause and effects of social media from the perspective of white people. One of the first lines that opens the discussion is: “When I was there, I always felt like fundamentally it was a force for good.”. The documentary, “The Social Dilemma”, Directed by Jeff Orlowski, explorers the application developers and heads of operations at Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, TikTok, Instagram, and other social media sites, which run rampant through our society like a plague. And how the development of social media platforms that are created predominately by white males dominate the entire discussion of how we choose to live, or should choose to live our lives in a society — for all intents and purposes — built on the concept of “freedom of expression” as free thinking individuals. This is the vision that is laid before us. We accept it without really thinking about the impact on people of color. And this vision is possibly the most truthful account of how white privilege and white supremacy works in the modern age, when most white people deny its existence.

The reality of this film is extremely significant. Comparatively speaking, when we look at this film and compare it to the Age of Exploration, also known as the Age of Discovery, its like reading tomes of old, where people of color and women are absent from the discussion but they are a huge part of the discussion. This current Age of Technology is is quite similar to conquest of the 15th century, where books disseminated information to the learned, and the rest of the society remained at the mercy of men of knowledge and wealth. And once we realize that like the Age of
Exploration, the internet and social media, which is likened to new trade routes is this New Age conquest, that those who are left be conquered and vanquished, are ourselves by our own hands.

Like many continents that were taken under the guise of discovery, when people were already living there, the spoils of conquest in the 21st century are you and everyone connected to you, and everyone connected to them as well. This New Age conquest of the internet is not only about establishing a foothold and dominance over every aspect that controls the current social connections of every single person on the planet, but it is also about exclusion of people of color, by creating a system that everyone in the future will be required to use and access if they want to be a included and accepted by society at large. This process can be referred to as electronic amalgamation.

What does social media have in common with the Age of Exploration?

1) Learning more about people and bringing that knowledge back to those in charge so it can be used against the people that supply unnecessary and intrusive information about themselves, which allows the inquisitor to gain access to a society being built for them them, and not for everyone.

2) The creation of massive wealth. That same wealth created a new age, and a place called the Silicon Valley.

3) The navigation and mapping of human life on this planet.

4) An exchange of ideas, very much like the Columbian Exchange, that used ideas from all over the world to build the New World and decimate indigenous cultures in the Americas.

5) The decimation of the unwanted or undesirable people, that don’t fit in with the concept of this New Age technology and social engineering of a Utopian society.

6) The creation of an unlimited under-educated workforce that becomes slaves to technology, and creating advanced technology has no intention of benefiting those considered unwanted and undesirable. Relying solely on those people with limited to self-education, garnered from platforms like youtube and PragerU, and living a totally misinformed life, each under-educated person will pass misinformation it from one generation to the next.

7) A full colonization of the mind, while others will continue to struggle by trying to decolonize the current colonized social strata. These ongoing conflicts are created by misinformation, because where there is conflict and confusion, great wealth can be accessed.

In its current configuration, social media seems to be more about social engineering of society, or the social programming of the individual, — than it is about making a real connection with society in ways we’ve never dreamed possible before. “The Social Dilemma” explores this phenomenon. Whether you are rich, poor, famous, or infamous, current social media was designed to connect one and all, without respect to social strata or socioeconomic classes. Yet within its operating function, it divides people into subsets of class, while at the same time it creates new class organizations of people who never thought of themselves as belonging to one class structure or another. America, as a nation, once sat on the precipice of delivering to the world the Information Age. Instead it created and settled for the Age of Disinformation. And disinformation plays a bigger role in American society than anywhere else in the entire world. Disinformation is the hallmark of authoritarian dictatorships, and social media helped grow and influence the current trend of disinformation that plagues today social media platforms.

The big problem is control. “The Social Dilemma” docudrama ask this question of Tristan Harris, and internet pioneer and father of virtual reality, Jaron Lanier, and a few others, with none of them having even the slightest idea about the creation of the social media Frankensteins they’ve helped bring to life. Almost zero regulation of social media which connects all human entities is a problem, but not as significant as the idea that what was once developed by mankind to control the the environment around him, — to help humans succeed in ways foreign to the design of how humans normally learned to appreciate or dislike, to revere or to reject, — has been overtaken by a single graphical user interface. Your life in social media is all about GUI. Likes, Loves, Cares, Hahas, Wows, Sads, and Angries now determine the fate of your social status in society. Internet hieroglyphics have replaced actual discussions that once took place between relatively intelligent human beings. Fake popularity conflated with a modicum of truth, both defines and defies who you really are when it comes to your social media accounts. How many people you follow or follow you gives credence to your relevance or irrelevance in this virtual world. You are judged by the number of people you accept as a “friend”, and you are scorned for having too little or too few “friends” or followers, in a world where enough is never enough, — or never too much.

Who made these rules of how society sees you?

It basically just said, never before in history have 50 designers, twenty to thirty-five year-old white guys, in California, made decisions that would have an impact on two-billion people. Two billion people will have thoughts, that they didn’t intend to have because a designer at Google said, “This is how notifications works on the screen that you wake up to in the morning.” And we have a moral obligation for solving this problem.” – Tristan Harris

If you’re not paying for the product, then your are the product.” – Jaron Lanier

“It’s the gradual, slight, imperceptible change in your own behavior…, and perception that is the product.” – Jaron Lanier

It’s the frog boiling in the water syndrome. The change in your own behavior is unnoticeable to you, but not to everyone else, and your behavior is on display twenty-four seven, three-hundred and sixty-five, without a pause. The explorers of the New World during the Age of Exploration were in search of gold, jewels, ivory, furs, silk, spices, and slaves. Today’s New Age explorers are in search of data and access to mind manipulation, which is far more valuable ad dangerous than one can imagine, when it comes with two billion or more people attached to it, twenty-four seven, three-hundred and sixty-five — who have become the slaves of social media. From mercantilism, to capitalism, to monetized dataism, the creation of a constant revenue stream is vital to sustaining dominance. Consumers of the product are now the product. People sell one another on a daily basis, valuing and devaluing one another like any commodity sold on any exchange.

Here’s where the theory of having ‘the most information in the history of mankind on people’ that supposedly makes them predictable, based on pseudo-psychological modeling and data driven profiling, by people who link data to behavior goes sideways. The truth is, artificial intelligence has never created a predictive model on people who just up and leave social media platforms, because using social media as a social engineering tool is unpredictable. Artificial intelligence is capable of correlating data, but it is not capable of predicting a collapse in the human psyche.

Engagement, Growth, and Advertising goals of hive mind slaves are predictive to a certain extent, but these goals are flawed concepts based on the reality that the only thing constant in life is change. And change cannot be predicted. The concept of reward and punishment cannot manipulate the user of a social media platform, if the user cares about neither reward or punishment, and carries on with their regular behavior, or ceases their behavior completely and finds an alternate platform to engage in their regular behavior anew. These New Age magic men have not returned to the concept GIGO, which artificial intelligence has never been able to sort through. A social media platform has zero power over oral tradition, which will out live the current power grid. Artificial intelligence cannot rewrite history. It cannot effectively make a person succumb to the hypnotic spell of a social media updates, unless the user chooses to be updated. The user has to be a addict, and social media has to be the drug.

These men see the social media movement as the next Great Binge. A historical period in history where the average person used heroin, cocaine and opium as over-the-counter medication turned amusements, along with absinthe, also called wormwood. And their entire existence is producing programs that track smart phones, tablets, and computer activity, and apps and programs that target addictive personalities, because they’ve come to believe that humans are intrinsically weak by nature, and that they are not capable of free will, because a person’s will can be redefined, manipulated, maneuvered, and controlled by the push of a button. Social media is considered a drug, and the users are like any other people who fiend for a fix. The endorphin filled rush is the attention received by the people you are connected to though your social media, and the bad trips come in many forms; from cyber bulling to negative emojicons, to straight up unfriending you, and finally ghosting the unsuspecting social media addict.

The language of creating apps itself speaks to a colonization of the mind. An address for a website is called a “Domain“. “Conversion” is what people do when you want them to do it, based on what you’ve laid out before them. “Fields” are where they farm data or information from the user, which is then harvested and used to create profits from the user. “Navigation” is the ‘how to’ of following a mapped out entry and exit of a social media site or webpages. These words are no different that words used by Cristoforo Colombo, Peter Martyr d’Anghiera, Sir John Hawkins, Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón, or Richard Hakluyt, centuries ago. It stands to reason that the next island to colonize was your psyche. So in order to see our future we must look to our past. Our current reality is virtual, and land seized is the virtual bubble we all live in day-to-day called social media, that professes to sell the user a defined ‘certainty’. They base this certainty on what the user clicks, and the goal is it induce the addicted user to click more and more, to their own detriment. Users are then sold to the highest bidder for an impression, because social media creates an effect similar to Stockholm Syndrome, — when it uses Community Standards to control the social media users with rules that don’t actually exist outside of the realms of social media.

Roth v. United States 1957 and Facebook have nothing in common, other than they both use the term, “Community Standards”. How one defines obscenity with a discretionary eye, — where social media platforms are concerned,– is based on a users popularity in the public eye. Those that make the Terms Of Service rules for these privately held, publicly traded companies — also create the rules of what is obscene and what is not, — which leaves substantial room for error. Because Community Standards rules are equation based algorithms used to solve a class problems, and policed by artificial intelligence. And the main job of artificial intelligence is not policing the conversation, but to keep the conversation active and the user engaged. Based on this concept, artificial intelligence chooses a side, because it is actually not intelligent. It just wants to win, because it is programmed to win, and not to moralize language or how its being used. Algorithms are basically the devil in the machinery, because human have been ostensibly trained by technology to devalue the concept of being mindful. In the 21st century, mindfulness is lost on humans, but they have readily chosen to accept being consistently microdosed with either fake approval or invalid rejection — by the devil in the machinery, — which has a real impact on how they view themselves.

Generation Z has never known a world where a ‘device’, an ‘app’, or a ‘connection’ through the internet did not exist. They are supposedly a risk averse generation, where googling something is far more acceptable than experiencing it first hand. Living vicariously though webpages is all the experience that is needed, because real life overwhelms those who grew up in a technological bubble, and the ‘certainty’ factor of social media plays a major role in their existence. Or so one could assume, based on the answers given by the developers of social media. It is certain that more than a few problems exist with social media, but racism and a new technological Jim Crow era is not even discussed by the creators of social media, which is a fascinating reality, since social media covers the Black Lives Matter movement, but still could not create a predictive model that showed society would engage in major BLM protest across the world in 2020, both pro and con. And that is because the devil in the machinery, started the fight in the first place by doing the job it was created to do.

Get more hits. Instigate. Assess a response. Engage others. Instigate. Create traffic.

The exponential advancement of what problems are occurring out there with social media is blamed on “processing power” by one certain developer. Seriously? The problems with social media and the collapse of society, in the minds of the people whom make choices about how we view ourselves, would like to lay blame on our worldly issues on a computer’s speed or operating system and access to memory; which now measured in exabyte and beyond. This rhetoric implies that if we all owned ancient hardware, we’d be less prone to the bad stuff that happens on the internet. And there is a point where one can agree that man has not evolved at the same rate that his technology has, but these developers offer zero solutions for the problems they’ve created in the world of social media. The fact is, they’ve always been in search of the simplest minds to work their magic on; and those who are genetically predisposed to addictions of all types, which is the majority of American society — it would very much stand to reason that the internet is the easiest place to find them.

Social media misinformation policies, which are internally created from the top down, is currently suffering from outside influences of an authoritarian system it is helped create. It is the ultimate in peer pressure, and one has to ask themselves, what does any social media platform have to gain by openly supporting white supremacy? Because their are no secret in the technology industry when it comes to race, racism, sexism, inclusion and diversity, or a lack there of. It’s all open source. Cui bono? Who benefits? Who stands to gain from keeping people of color at a greater than an arms length distance? The simple answer is this; people of color are excluded, because they not part of social media giants platforms to include people of color, or how they feel, or what they think, or how they respond in engagement. They don’t consider them viable enough to be a target market. For lack of a better explanation, people of color are not part of the business model. When these developers or engineers talk about the devil in the machinery, – ‘algorithms’ – causing polarization in society, they are not talking about racial polarization at all.

What can be fully understood by watching “The Social Dilemma” is that all social media companies are not in the business of selling the consumer an avenue to connect with people that you know, or reconnect with people you once went to high school with, or family and friends, or tell the person using their social media platform about current events that happen around the globe in real time. None of these concepts are their Intention. Their main objective is to sell engagement, growth, and repeat. Their is no inherent social media manifesto by these companies that their overall goal is to inform the user. And once the consumer realizes that they are just another product in the never ending commodity stream that is for sale to the highest bidder, and that the social media user really has little control over what they see on social media, — because what they view daily is part of their personal addictions driven by the devil in the machinery that social media has tapped into and plays on nonstop, — then, and only then — will their personal free will and need for freedom comes into focus. Technology cannot solve the problems it created, because it never has solved the problems it has created.

This docudrama rates two star for a valiant effort that explains that we live in a world that sits between dystopian and utopian, because social media has propelled us to the edge of either a new beginning or a total collapse of society as we know it.

Mulan

Medium: Film
Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Rating: PG-13 (Action Adventure, Kid, Family)

There were two Mulan films released in 2020.

The one discussed here is the American Disney version of the legend of Mulan, in a short comparison with the Chinese version of the legend of Mulan.

The Chinese version of Mulan; “Mulan” [木兰之巾帼英豪] [Mulan Heroine] (China 2020) with English Subtitles, starring Yongxi Liu, in this Chinese action adventure movie is a must see, because these two films tell a completely different version of the legend known as Hua Mulan. Written and directed by, Chen Chang, “Mulan Heroine” or “Unparalleled Mulan” is filled with the legend of Hua Mulan, Chinese history, and war on the Wei region runs 1 hour, 32 minutes.

In the Disney live action version of Mulan, — Mulan is played by Yifei Liu, and directed by Niki Caro. The screenplay is written by the husband and wife team of Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. One would think that heir leap into this classical story based on a Chinese ballad would seem simple enough. What we find though, is telling this story to children would be a difficult task without heavy manipulation of all it involves. One would think that this task shouldn’t be all that difficult to do if your screen credits included making great apes talk and create war against all of mankind.

These two Mulan films tell completely different stories of a young Chinese woman’s quest to save her homeland and the Emperor from an invading army of brigands. One is an Eastern version of a tale passed down through the ages, and the other is a popular Westernized version of a tale of a young Chinese woman quest to save her homeland and the Emperor from an invading army of brigands. Their similarities end at the opening credits and the start of both movies.

This Disney film is exactly what it purports to be; part of the Disney Princess franchise. That is their target market. The young, impressionable, girl market. The real Legend of Hua Mulan in Chinese history reaches back to 400 A.D., where Hua Mulan is not a princess, but a commoner and folk hero of the people. So, how did we arrive here, and how do we end Westernization of these ethnic stories that are centuries old? If you’re questioning whether or not Disney minimizes the Legend of Hua Mulan, making a 1600 year old concept palatable for Western society, then the answer is ‘yes’. Surely representations of Mulan live action figures, Mulan coloring books, and Mulan lunch boxes will be soon be included in the Disney Princess marketing plan as well. Why is manipulating this single story of a Chinese legend is problematic? Because the problems it will create won’t be recognized for decades to come. It’s an argument in the making, and people tend to worry more about what entertainment their kids have access to in the here and now in 2020, rather than what type of adults they will grow up to be twenty years from now, when force fed a false, Westernized ideas and representations about a legendary warrior of the Chinese people.

Hua Mulan, in the traditional Chinese legend, has a younger brother and older sister. In the Disney version of Hua Mulan, she only has a younger sister. The Disney story changes the ancient heritage dynamic of conscripted military service in times of invasion, passed down from Father to Son. Especially in times of war. To minimize a long held tradition of this type of service to China, regardless of whose side one fought on, the Disney’s version gives their Mulan story no real reason to go off to fight the invaders. Other than the fact that her father Zhou, played by Tzi Ma, wears a leg brace and walks with a cane from being involved in the last territorial conflict. The younger brother, regardless of age, played a significant role in the original legend. Mulan joins the Emperor’s Army, even though her younger brother is quite capable of conscripted service. What the Disney live action version does is pull from many retold Mulan stories as opposed to just using the origin story, The Ballad Of Mulan, — which works for this understated Disney version of Mulan as a live action film.

The origin story of Mulan is that she fought for the Emperor in her father’s stead, and was assigned by the Emperor to help defeat the Khan of Rouran, based on her martial skills. Having an older sister and a younger brother, Mulan was the middle child and suffered from the middle child syndrome. It is also a story filled with the dichotomies of a young woman coming of age, addressing her feelings about her assigned female gender, her predestined arranged marriage, filial duties to one’s family, and making a decision about choosing to fight as a man for the people she loves, instead of marrying a man that she does not love. Mulan’s decision to go to war is not a simple one. It is a decision made on pain of death.

“There is only one man I think about
There is only one man I long for…”


In “The Ballad of Mulan”, the “man” Mulan longs for is the man she is to become. The fearless warrior in a man’s world. Of course, this real version of Hua Mulan’s story is not a Disneyesque type story that would sell a lot of DVD’s, because although Disney is a progressive company, it is truly not all that progressive. The telling of a 1,600 year old story when it comes to sexuality and gender bending legacy is not how Disney made its family friendly fortune. However, this Disney version of Mulan downplays her love of all things considered male in 400 A.D. Disney goes to great lengths and prides itself on making its Mulan submissive and demure in many ways. Mulan in Chinese folklore likes a good street brawl. She is also extremely proficient in Tai Chi Ch’üan or “Supreme Ultimate Fist”, and Jian or “Straight Sword” fighting. Culturally, even The Ballad Of Mulan addresses Feng Shui and many other cultural things that are significant when telling her story.

Most people tell the gender of a rabbit by its movement:
The male runs quickly, while the female often keeps her eyes shut.

But when the two rabbits run side by side,
Can you really discern whether I am a he or a she?”


The question here is: did Disney minstrelize this version of Mulan for the sake of making a buck? As a matter of fact, they certainly did. In the 21st century, Disney’s reasons for doing this is convoluted and layered, and worthy of a discussion. A discussion that will make many people feel uncomfortable. Disney’s live action version of Mulan was used to update their 1998 animated musical movie version also called Mulan. We also have to take into account those who ranks such films as being good, bad, or indifferent, when it comes to addressing their impact on society as a whole and the movie going industry. As much as the Westernized version of Mulan is loved in America, the East doesn’t accept the repeated minstrelized concepts rolled out by Disney film makers, whether they are animated or live action. To continue to take such stories and re-frame them into a 1950’s family friendly motif, to make a select audience feel at ease — is a dangerous practice in the modern world where access to the truth can be found.

This stellar cast of actors: Donnie Yen, Li Gong, Jet Li, Jason Scott Lee, Rosalind Chao, Ron Yuan, Tzi Ma, deserve a much better script coming from offices of Hollywood studio development. A script that is based in realism in the modern world. This shouldn’t be so hard to do. The fact is, it’s not hard to do at all. Of course the end result will be an ensemble effort by talented actors, showing the viewing public that Asian people significantly contribute to the Western landscape in the world of drama beyond the cliché martial arts genre. Disney’s Mulan is like the Asian version of the annual obligatory slave or maid/butler movie that requires African American actors for what Hollywood claims will yield a box office success. This scenario is also true of Pocahontas, Jasmine, Tiana and Moana animated characters, who could soon become live action Disney Princesses as well. American culture needs to ask itself, who are these films made for, and why do people think that they address diversity, inclusion and cultural sensitivity? When in actuality, these type of films are limiting, and extremely non-progressive.

There is also a great deal of controversy around the filming of Disney’s live action Mulan, which is very disconcerting. This review is not about ‘political correctness’ or the absence of ‘political correctness’, but this Disney live action Mulan film concept, which was a decade in the making, was doomed from day one based on the 1998 Mulan animated film expectations and failures in the Chinese market place. Doubling down, after losing the Asian market in the last go around should have presented a huge red flag to the pre-production staff of this live action Mulan remake by Disney. Disney’s expectations on opening Mulan live action in China will inevitably be a repeat of its last failed venture into the telling of this ancient tale.

The ongoing trade wars between China and the United States, and current strained economic relations between China and the West, exacerbated by SARS CoV-2 and COVID-19 won’t help ease tensions with the release of Disney’s live action Mulan in China, or the United States either. The failure of Disney to address certain human rights issues during its location filming was the final straw for most Disney fans all over the world.

The film isn’t altogether boring by a long shot, but it also isn’t overly exciting watch. It does lack originality in the sense that it subtextual strength is flawed. There are no lessons to learn with this film, as it is void of many opportunities for cathartic moments. The stereotypical characters and characterizations fall solely on the writing of Jaffa and Silver, and the direction by Caro. Even if this story was filmed as a fable, it fails. I think focusing on the magic of this story could have saved this poorly written script.

This film rates one star. Disney could have done so much better for a film that was ten years in the making. Relying on racial tropes for a box office success serves no one, as far as any film is concerned. The cast has nothing to be ashamed of because they did their best with what little was offered for them to sink their teeth into. The writing and direction just wasn’t on target. The world keeps waiting for Hollywood to get it right when it comes to films about people of color without having to tell them what right actually looks like. The Ballad Of Mulan is not a children’s story.

Tenet

Medium: Film
Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Rating: PG-13 (Action Adventure, Science Fiction, Violence)

The entire concept of a “tenet’ is a principle or belief, which is something that is used in building an organization. Whether that organization is a religious organization or a covert operations organization extended carte blanche by government. To believe in a tenet is to hold or possess its popular ideal that runs from the top down throughout an organization. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, this film is heavy on action, and light on character building. This is an anti-blackness film with an African American protagonist. The leading character in this film is without a name. He is actually called, “The Protagonist”. All of the other characters in this film have names, but the main character, the one that the entire story revolves around — is nameless, — which makes him theoretically expendable.

“The Protagonist”, played by John David Washington, is literally surrounded by a world of whiteness from start to finish. This is what amalgamation would look like if racial amalgamation existed. From the opening scene till the end of the movie, there is no other relatable ideal that says exactly who “The Protagonsist” is or where he came from, or how he was developed as a character. He’s more of a loyalist drone than a human. He is absent of many unique human qualities that should affect his character. His emotions are extreme and two-dimensional. They come forth without cause or reason. His life is lived entirely in the moment. This is true of the bulk of the characters in Tenet.

And here’s the rub; this film is not about telling the story of “The Protagonist” and his personal quest to save the world. This film is about telling the story of others, by using a black person as a vehicle to tell the stories of white people within the script. How they live. How they prosper. How they create wealth. How they access power. And how they misuse both power and wealth. “The Protagonist” is relegated to a mere pawn within a story that has little to do with him at all. “Welcome to the afterlife”, where suicide is a test, duty transcends national interest, and it becomes about survival. Where principals will open some of the right doors, and some of the wrong doors as well.

“Even the dead need allies.”, is a line spoken by “The Protagonist”, because his counter-intelligence cover is so deep, we have no idea what agency he really works for, or whose side he’s actually on, — or what cause he’s actually fighting for. When Robert Pattinson character introduces himself to “The Protagonist” as operative called Neil, there is no reciprocation in kind. There always remains an uncomfortable sense of lack of identity about this human weapon released on the world. Even Jason Bourne had an identity. And here is where Nolan fails with “The Protagonist” as a character. Sanjay Singh, played by Denzil Smith, has an identity. Priya Singh, played by Dimple Kapadia, has an identity. Andrei Sator, played by Kenneth Branagh, has an identity. Katherine “Kat Barton” Sator, played by Elizabeth Debicki, has an identity. These identities create the formula for the story. The leading role is nothing more than a mechanism for their stories and identities.

“I’m Mr. Crosby’s lunch.”, says “The Protagonist”. “I presume you mean Sir Michael Crosby‘s lunch.” is the reply from the maître d’. Sir Michael Crosby is played by Sir Michael Caine CBE, who also has an identity. The man who has be tasked with saving the world has no identity at this point, and Nolan uses this also to play on the ideology that everything “The Protagonist” is involved with is much more important than who “The Protagonist” might actually be; because even “The Protagonist” has a keen sense of who the person he’s been engaged to pursue in the world of international arms trade, buried somewhere between that fine line of legal and illegal arms moguls and Merchants of Death, is not just any old Russian. Andrei Sator is an Anglo-Russian, thereby increasing the threat level based on what “The Protagonist” looks like when it comes to his appearance in the world he’s now playing in. A Brooks Brothers suit is the least of his problems. Big money has big problems, and “The Protagonist” stands out. How his color goes unnoticed by the other characters that surround “The Protagonist”, from scene to scene, is pure invention by Nolan. It’s an illusion that Nolan tries his best to create in a believable day-to-day world, not filled with the reality of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Jacob Blake which is taking place in real time, and Nolan is hard pressed when trying to sell the audience his invalidated, color-blind, imaginative world that has really never existed.

At some point we have to state that this Nolanesque ‘color-blind world’ reality doesn’t work.

Mumbai, London, Oslo are cities where “The Protagonist” doesn’t stand out. And he should. Because standing out would normalize this tale, and give added, realistic conflict to this story. Whereas pretending to the the world at large that “The Protagonist” doesn’t stand out at all is a tough sell. That doesn’t make the action any less inviting, but it does make the story less developed. In a return visit to Mumbai, “The Protagonist” is asked by Priya, “What did you find?”. “The Protagonist” responds, “Two antagonist”. Here is the set up for the time travel query. This film then becomes a series of diagrammed time chases executed by time thieves, where a single time travel machine component that makes time travel possible becomes more important than saving the world from a predicted nuclear holocaust. These two antagonist are now exposed, which explains our opening scene ala the coat room at the Kiev concert hall. Dead bodies, or a high ratio of action is used to assume the future will hold an array of future dead bodies, based on fluctuating time travel, is the formula that actively holds together the idea that “Tenet” is a viable script. In the overall analysis, the action is gratuitous, very expensive, and not well grounded.


This is not a mind twisting, time bending action adventure film. It is cleverly edited film, with forward motion and reverse motion action appearing simultaneously on the screen in front of you, which is still absent of a real story, and is filled with esoteric ideas about the complexity of time travel, replete with time travel dialogue discussed between characters. In some cases, it reads more like an outline of a script in progress and not yet the Final Draft. “You’ll need your own air” is something you don’t hear everyday. In a random twist, Nolan uses self contained air and air from the past or future in the space time continuum as a vehicle for why time traveling people are always masked up, just in case they run into themselves. Of course, Nolan could not eliminate the number space and time rule, which is: “Number one rule; don’t come in contact with your former self.”, which is a film script standard in any time traveling movie; so the fact that a character needs to explain this quintessential time travel rule to “The Protagonist”, thereby explaining it to the audience as well, that “If your particles come into contact; annihilation” shows and incomplete thought process. At this point you only have to put up with another hour of the film, while trying to understand why Nolan tried to fill the void in his story with the same empty space he began with, instead of actually having a well crafted story for the audience to embrace.

What’s really missing in this script is the viewer’s ability to create a meaningful connection with its main character. This script makes that impossible. Would it matter if Nolan cast a white person in the role as “The Protagonist”? More than likely it would have, because he/she would be saving a world that visually represents who he/she is trying to save, and all of the possibilities of how that world should function if certain corrections to past events are made to secure a safe future for all mankind. Subscribing to the ideology that casting “The Protagonist” as an African American male will somehow create diversity or inclusion within a story is a false premise, and in the case of this movie should be avoided at all cost.

Especially when this character has little or no background or life history, and he’s risking his own life to save a world that doesn’t look like him or represent him in any part of the American social strata. Which begs the viewer to ask, what’s in this for him, or people who look like him? Do they even exist? In this movie it becomes grossly apparent that black people do not exist, except for one lone ranger. Traveling all over the world, to and fro, there is no one in this film that remotely looks like “The Protagonist”, making his role that much more hollow. A mere shell of what it should have been. Action is the glue that holds this film together, but the pottery itself is irreparably damaged.

A high budget film with a ‘Magical Negro’ action hero — is still a Magical Negro movie. Whether Nolan decided that he could write an African American character void of a life that had a background, who enters a time loop from the opening scene, that has zero contact with any one who closely resembles him, is a cinematic anomaly. Or possibly Nolan did not consult with writers of color when writing this time travel spectacle featuring and African American. Or maybe it was an attempt by Hollywood suits to target a underrepresented African American market in action adventure films during the pandemic — to assure a return on their investment at the box office.

This movie earns only one star for its budget alone. Imagine what Nolan could have done with twice the budget and an actual script where the main character has a name and a life.

The Old Guard

Medium: Film
Running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes
Rating: R (Action Adventure, Graphic Violence, Mature Language)

“No, Booker, we don’t do repeats. You know that. It’s too risky”, is one of the opening lines by Andromache of Scythia AKA Andy, played by Charlize Theron, in the film “The Old Guard“, based on the graphic novel and screenplay written by, Greg Rucka. and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood. The graphic novel itself is deemed a “blood an bullets fairy tale”. Even though there isn’t yet a second Old Guard graphic novel in the making, immortality is about repeats, and this is what Netflix is hedging its bet on.

Calling this action adventure film that deals with immortality a “superhero” film is a misnomer. Immortality is anything but a super power. It does not make you faster than a speeding bullet. In fact, for the immortal, time stands still. It cannot make you leap tall buildings in a single bound. And evidently you cannot disguise your identity. You are only left with taking on a new persona after every regular human adventure. Immortality is a burden of living beyond your allotted time on Earth. Longing to die becomes the goal that immortals seeks out.

What this film does is use immortality as the allegorical crux as a through line, when addressing every day modern issues through the lens of the distance past. From race as a social construct to a multicultural world from day one, to LBGTQ as a reality from time immemorial. It’s important to remember that gratuitous violence has never been a super power, but it has created nations that consider themselves super powers over other nations. It also addresses the power structure of Big Pharma’s connection to government and governmental agencies gone rogue. Science is the antagonist in this film, and immortality is the protagonist. And here’s the catch: what lengths would government go to obtain the fountain of youth? What lengths did Ponce De Leon go to for the Spring of Eternal Hope?

These weapon wielding warriors, who are experienced with killing machines of the ages, both old and new, work as a team of individuals who are connected spiritually by their dreams. They feel each other die. And when the see, feel, and dream each other’s deaths — it connects them in ways that are beyond comprehension; hence the fairy tale part of their existence. Celtic battle axe to broadswords, machine guns to C-4 explosives, nothing is off the table. ‘Old Guard’, Andy, recruits ‘New Guard’, Nile, played by, KiKi Layne, by killing her to prove that she can’t die. The rest of the team, Booker, Joe, and Nicky, played Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, and Luca Marinelli, give adequate performances as a self proclaimed do-good soldiers of fortune. Once again, let’s not mistake them for super heroes or anything of the like. They are vigilantes and mercenaries, who live to take out bad people just slightly worse or much worse than they are. For good guys don’t go AWOL, or are on the run from the law. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Copley, a middle of the road bad guy who is not immortal, which has an interesting effect on the overall story.

Now that we’ve settled who and what they are by definition, this is what grants us the right to want a series of sequels based on the immortality theme. America has always had a love/hate relationship with its bad guys, who sometimes do good things. That’s what makes this group of immortals so interesting. Their ability to ride the paradigm of time and space, cheating the quantum physics of aging and not just the laws of science, but the laws of mankind as well. This is the stuff that good stories are made of. Conflict. Constant conflict. Unending conflict, without resolution or finality. The true water of life is blood, and this film is full of life, death, and blood. The only three dimensional character is Andy, — and her possible replacement, Nile, tries hard at three dimensions, — but only succeeds at two; and the only reason Andy is three dimensional is because she’d rather die than live another day.

What is good about this film is women in lead roles. They are not soft or frilly. They are equal in every way, powerful, graceful, intelligent, resilient. They possess the qualities of what films should show when women are correctly portrayed as leading roles in action films. There are no frills; make up is downplayed, and everyday reality of emotion exist as well — but not coddled. This film seeks to equalize the power of women in a male dominated society on the big screen and it succeeds at doing so. This film received many mixed reviews, but that should not stop anyone from viewing it with age appropriate children and a bucket of homemade popcorn. Hopefully young women will view this film in the light it was intended to produce. Change has to begin somewhere. That’s what makes “The Old Guard” a very promising series in the future. At two and a half stars, it can only grow from here.

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