Sunday, April 27, 2014

Draft Day review

There's a reason why the Cleveland Browns stink. In the movie, Draft Day, Browns General Manager Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) trades three consecutive first round draft picks for the number one over all pick in this year's draft. Such a move will mortgage the future of the team. Okay, it's fictional but it's this kind of bonehead decision that makes the Browns such a NFL disaster.

Draft Day's plot revolves around Weaver's desperate maneuver. It's assumed he will pick the can't miss quarterback prospect, Bo Callahan. But something bothers Weaver about him. If Weaver picks him and he's a bust then he has wrecked the Browns for years to come. Okay, in the movie and in real life they are a mess but a mistake of this magnitude may cement the future of the Browns as a doormat for other NFL teams. During the momentous draft day, Weaver must deal with the passing of his late father a week earlier and the decision to fire him as coach of the Browns. He also has the weight of the demands of the owner, Anthony Molina, (Frank Langella) who wants a "splash" on draft day to excite the fans, a head coach, Vince Penn (Denis Leary) who feels left out of the process, and his girlfriend Ali Parker (Jennifer Garner) who just happens to be the Browns salary cap specialist.

There are some good things about this movie. It's exciting as Weaver must juggle all he information about Callahan and later try to wheel and deal during the day with his other picks. I like director Ivan Reitman's use of split screen to place competing general managers negotiating on the screen. The performance by Costner is top notch. He's under a lot of pressure.

But there are some real problems with this movie that will keep it from being a great movie. And I'm not talking about the discussion of Joe Montana's winning drive against the Cincinnati Bengals mentioned in the film. I'm a Bengals fan. But I digress. First, if you know nothing about the NFL draft, you may be lost. A little exposition would have been helpful. Then there are the unbelievable plot twists and melodrama. You have a plot where Weaver's father died a week before; he's he guy that fired him. Then throw in the girlfriend who happens to work in the office. Way too much melodrama. And there is the unbelievable plot twist in the last third of the movie dealing with the Jacksonville Jaguars GM. You've got to suspend disbelief that Jaguars GM would act like that. All of this is wrapped up in a Hollywood ending. I laughed out loud at one of the plot points dealing with Ali at the end of the movie. It was like a fairy tale.

Draft Day is a thrilling but flawed movie about decision made during the NFL draft day. If they had just gone for less Hollywood type of resolutions, it could have been a much better film. The grade is B.

Cliven Bundy demonstrates the stream of racism in some conservatives

There's a stream of racism in some conservatives. And let me make this clear. Not all conservatives are racists. But there has been a history of racism in some conservatives. The recent racist remarks by conservative hero Cliven Bundy demonstrates this. This is not the ranting of some liberal because here's the proof.

1. The Southern Strategy From Wikipedia: "In American politics, the Southern strategy refers to a Republican Party strategy of gaining political support for certain candidates in the Southern United States by appealing to racism against African Americans." Just so you know, the Republicans did acknowledge the strategy. "In 2005, Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman formally apologized to the NAACP for ignoring the black vote and exploiting racial conflicts." Wikipedia.

2. Orange County, California Republican Party official Marilyn Davenport sends email depicting President Obama's parents as monkeys. That occurred in 2011.

3. Conservative hero Cliven Bundy's remarks that blacks may have been better off as slaves. A couple of weeks ago, conservatives were fawning all over rancher Cliven Bundy and his dispute against the Federal government over his use of government land for cattle grazing. But in an interview with the New York Times, he demonstrated that he is a racist. This is what he said about African Americans.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.

It's a insanely racist comment similar to what conservative celebrity Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty said. It's a yearning by white conservatives for African Americans to be again made slaves because these white conservatives believe blacks to be lesser human beings. Conservative is one thing. Racist conservative is another. And since this stream of racism runs among certain conservatives, people should stop voting Republican or else some of this racist thought will enter into public policy.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Colbert destroys Bill O' Reilly's defense of inequality

Hold on. Did Fox News' Bill O' Reilly defend inequality? Bill O' made some ridiculous comparisons about the differences between individual people to support inequality. Thank you Stephen Colbert for taking down O' Reilly. Here's his very funny piece.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier 3D review

In Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), it was easy to see who the bad guys were. The Nazis. In the sequel, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it's not that clear.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier takes place after The Avengers. (2012) Captain America aka Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is still trying to catch up with the twenty first century after being frozen for over sixty years. His current occupation is to undertake missions from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), a director of S.H.I.E.L.D. On a mission to rescue hostages aboard a S.H.I.E.L.D. tanker, he's accompanied by the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) aka Natasha Romanoff. She has a secret mission which is to recover data from the tanker's computers. She downloads the information onto a flash drive. Rogers confronts Fury about the secrecy of Romanoff's mission and he shows him what S.H.I.E.L.D. has been working on. Deep underground, S.H.I.E.D. has been building three helicarriers, similar to the one seen in The Avengers. They're designed to make preemptive strikes. After Fury cannot retrieve the data, he becomes the target of an assassination attempt. Wounded, he travels to Rogers apartment and gives Rogers he flash drive.

There's serious fish to fry in this popcorn movie. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely's screenplay asks some contemporary questions. How much freedom do you sacrifice to obtain more security? By the way, that theme should sound familiar to anyone who's seen Star Trek Into Darkness. (2013) The screenplay's story and plot points are more interesting than the action scenes. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo handle those action scenes well for the most part. But it's their use of fast cutting and hand-camera shots that detract. They're not needed and confuse the action. However, it's the mystery of the flash drive that drives this movie. And I was captivated by what was on that flash drive and the question of who was trying to kill Fury.

The cast is solid. Chris Evans is noble, idealistic and shows a lot of heart as Steve Rogers. Scarlett Johansson shows a lot of guts as the super spy Black Widow. There's also a spark between her and Rogers. Samuel L. Jackson again portrays Fury as the single minded director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nothing gets in the way to what he perceives as needed to maintain security. And look quickly for a Pulp Fiction Jules reference. Robert Redford makes a surprise appearance as a senior director of S.H.I.E.L.D. I would never have seen Redford in a big budget superhero movie. Let me just say this without giving anything away. He plays his character against type, more cerebral than emotional.

As for the 3D version of the film, avoid it. First, it's a conversion from 2D. There's no pop, just depth. Nothing in the movie in 3D made it special. Second, as stated before there's an overuse of hand-held camera shots. That's bad for 3D. Those shots don't look good in 3D because they're hard to capture the subjects. Additionally, they make moviegoers nauseous. I got mildly sick after watching some of the action scenes. It's similar to motion sickness.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a fine action packed and thought provoking film. I found the questions raised more compelling than all the explosions. The grade is A.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Best Film of the Year 2013

Yep. I know it's late for the announcement of The Best Film. Hey, I had reasons. But you know what they say. Better late than never. And unlike some memebers of he Academy, I have seen this year's nominees which are 12 Years A Slave, American Hustle, and Gravity. And the winner of the Basement Blog Film of the Year is:

American Hustle.

American Hustle is a story of survival in the early eighties. And unlike the Academy, I do think a movie with comic elements can be the best film of the year. Anyway, you won't get a better ensemble cast performance than American Hustle.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

12 Years a Slave review

There's a scene in director Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave which depicts the surreal horror of American slavery of the early nineteenth century. In it, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a slave, is lynched but not raised off the ground. He struggles to breathe. Against this act of inhumanity, is a pastoral scene of the plantation and the slaves who work around Northup as if he doesn't exist. It's one of many scenes in a magnificent piece of filmmaking.

12 Years a Slave is the true story of Solomon Northup, an African American living in Saratoga Springs, New York. He's a free black man and a talented violin player. He's given an opportunity to play in a circus but it's a ruse by two white men who drug him and sell him to slavery. The film covers Northup's twelve years of life as a slave. Based on Northup's book of the same name, John Ridley composed a screenplay that often tells the story in flashbacks. At first, it's disjointed but as the film goes on, the narrative makes sense and works well. You see the movie depicts Northup when he's a slave but shows us his other life, one that he had before he was kidnapped. It's a a depiction of Northup's humanity. He had a wife and two children in New York.

McQueen and Ridley don't sugarcoat the despicable nature of slavery. There's beatings, lynching and rape. McQueen juxtaposes the peaceful agrarian countryside with scenes of great inhumanity. His camera angles, editing and framing of shots display not just a competent director but a brilliant artist who understands the artistic nature of film. McQueen doesn't rely on fast cutting to maintain your interest. It's his eye for visual that will captivate you. He's a painter with film. Yet, he doesn't let anything detract from the narrative.

12 Years a Slave is the American horror story. It's one that tells of slavery, inhumanity and prejudice. It is one of the best movies of 2013. The grade is A.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Riotous: "Exclusive Alternate Scene" from "Gravity" featuring Christopher Reeve as Superman

Okay, some smart aleck decided to make this fake deleted scene from Gravity which features Christoper Reeves as Superman. The result? Hilarious.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Chinese American's view of #CancelColbert

There's been a movement to cancel Stephen Colbert for a piece he did making fun of Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder and his charitable organization "Washington Redskins for Original Americans." You see Colbert announced his own organization called "The Ching Chong Ding Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever." The point of the piece was to show how clueless Snyder was by continuing using a racist term for his team and then naming a charitable organization with the same racist term, "Redskin."

Look, I'm a racially Chinese man. I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, United States. I've endured racist epithets all my life. One of the most common is what I call "Chinese speak." That's when a person uses nonsensical Chinese sounds to make fun of me. So I understand Colbert's use of those rhyming words to describe a character he uses on his show.

But was Colbert's piece racist? Stephen Colbert plays a fake conservative. Think Archie Bunker. He often accurately portrays their positions. And he's usually clueless. He's lampooning Fox News' Bill O' Reilly. And frankly, when I hear or get a racist comment, most of the time, it almost always comes from a conservative. So, Colbert's racist character Ching Chong Ding Dong is character invented by a fake conservative to make fun of some conservatives. You can see why conservatives hate Colbert. Regardless, it's brilliant. Hey, he's won Peabodys and Emmys. But take it from this Chinese American. It was not racist. You've got to take it in context. Colbert was making fun of racism. Dan Snyder uses a racist term for Native Americans to name a charity to help them. Colbert uses a racist Chinese term to name a foundation to help Asians. Get the insanity? He's not trying to put down Asians.

Below is Stephen Colbert's very funny response to the controversy. It features "traitor" Asian actors.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Stephen Colbert takes down ABC's Good Morning America's new set to appeal to Millennials

ABC's Good Morning America introduced a new set to appeal to millennials. It's ludicrous as it features gigantic smartphone computer screens where young people can interact. And did I forget? It has a fooseball table. Great comic fodder for Stephen Colbert. Here's his riotous video.

Stephen Colbert rips Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder

Stephen Colbert destroyed Washington Redskins owner for having a charitable organization called "Washington Redskins for Original Americans" that is designed to help native Americans. One problem here, Danny Boy. The term Redskins is offensive to Native Americans since they consider it racist. Good stuff for comic fodder and sarcasm. Here's Stephen Colbert with his Sports Report.

Reds Opener: The shape of things to come?

Yesterday, the Cincinnati Reds lost their opening day game to the hated St. Louis Cardinals, 1-0. The Reds had runners on first and third with no outs in the eighth inning. They could not score. This was an issue last year. The Reds had offensive problems. They could not hit with runners in scoring position. And Reds rookie centerfielder Billy Hamilton struck out four times. Can't steal bases without getting on base. Let's not hope this is a metaphor for the season.

Tomorrow is another game. Time to start a winning streak. One hundred and sixty one games to go.