Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Race and Deadpool

                         Heroes, Rising (in various ways) To Their Occasions

                                                       Reviews by Ken Burke

Take care, curious readers, for plot spoilers gallop rampantly throughout the Two Guys’ insightful reviews.  Therefore, be warned, beware, and read on when you’re ready to be transported to … wherever we end up.  Please protect your eyes from the dazzling brilliance.
                                                      Race (Stephen Hopkins)
Based on the life of superstar athlete Jessie Owens, we focus on just a few of his years: the astounding debut as an Ohio State U. track and field star setting new world records, followed by his appearance at the 1936 Olympics where he upset host Adolph Hitler’s plan of showcasing Aryan dominance by taking 4 gold medals—1 for each event that he competed in.
What Happens: James Cleveland Owens (Stephan James)—called J.C. as a boy but mistakenly understood by an elementary school teacher as “Jesse,” so he continued to use that name so as not to embarrass her—came from a poor African-American family but his running and jumping talents led to the opportunity to attend Ohio State University in 1933 as part of the track team where his coach, Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis)—himself a star runner at the school about a decade before—insists that Jesse hone his natural abilities into the determination to win, given that OSU’s had a string of poor-performance-years that the coach wants to transcend (the implication is that the football team could do better as well if they'd accept Black athletes but that group’s racist coach and players have no interest in such integration, reminding us that these White-supremacy-attitudes weren’t just confined to the U.S. South until Supreme Court and Congressional action finally started bringing about enforced changes to such discrimination by the mid-20th-century days of the Civil Rights movement).  Jesse responds to Coach’s requirement by putting in plenty of hours on the track but he also has classes to attend and a part-time-job at a gas station needed to earn a little extra cash to send home to his family and girlfriend, Ruth Solomon (Shanice Banton), who’s raising their out-of-wedlock-daughter, so Snyder becomes concerned that Jesse’s missing too many practices, leading to getting him a job as a page at the state legislature there in Columbus where he gets paid for doing nothing (probably a benefit for a good many college athletes of that time) so he can work harder on his speed and timing.  The work pays off at the May 25, 1935 Big Ten meet at Ann Arbor, MI when Jesse sets 3 new world’s records and ties a 4th (by Snyder’s stopwatch he beat that one as well but the officials didn’t accept it), leading to a big push to get him to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, but there are problems with that coming from many directions.

 When Jesse comes back home for a visit he meets an official from the NAACP who strongly urges him to boycott the upcoming Olympics in defiance of the racial hatred already being shown by Hitler’s Nazis as they’ve moved to full power in Germany.  Such a boycott by the entire American team is also being encouraged by our  Amateur Athletic Union, headed by Jeremiah Mahoney (William Hurt); former AAU head and later-to-be-member of the International Olympic Committee Avery Brundage (Jeremy Irons), working with the IOC in 1935, wants our team to compete in order to bring about much-needed-emotional-uplift during the dark days of the Great Depression (Coach Snyder’s of that opinion also, but it’s mostly to replay/erase his own tragedy of not being on the U.S. team in 1924 in Paris after being injured in a light-plane he was piloting which crashed upon landing).  Brundage travels to Berlin to work out a deal with Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels (Barney Metschurat) that will allow Jews and Blacks to compete for the U.S., along with no actions taken against such people during the Games—although Brundage sees Jews being taken away in a truck when he comes to negotiate; in return, the Germans will work with his construction firm to build their planned new embassy in D.C., but Jesse’s still conflicted, not from fear (he’d learned Snyder’s tactic of blocking out hostile screams from the crowds at his track meets—although that wouldn’t be necessary in Berlin because he was already a popular celebrity there) but in respect for those who felt he shouldn’t be participating in an event intended to glorify the “Aryan myth” of racial superiority, intended to be documented by famed filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl (Carice van Houten).*

 *If you’ve got about 3½ hours to spare you can watch her acclaimed1938 documentary (with stunning images of athletes in motion in some of her montages), with English subtitles where needed (not too often).  Our current film presents her as standing up to Goebbels to insure her cinematic vision, which may or may not be that accurate, although the final footage does celebrate the German winners, with their required Nazi salutes, as much as possible (also not often).  In Part 1 of Olympia (1:55:00) we see Jesse winning the 100 meters at roughly 41:00-42:00, the long jump at 59:00-1:00:15 (in Part 2 [1:28:27] there are no subtitles so I hope your German is better than mine; my apologies if I missed Jesse in this one but I didn’t see any footage of his 2 other events).

 Finally, Owens decides to go (along with Snyder, who manages to get coaching credentials but must pay his own way otherwise), where he triumphs in the 3 events he qualified for—the 100-meter-sprint, the 200-meter-sprint , the long jump (where he got motivational help from his German competitor, Carl “Luz” Long [David Kross], whose private repudiation of Nazism and loss of the gold medal led to his combat assignment and death in WW II)—as well as being a last-minute-addition to the 400-meter-sprint-relay when his Jewish teammates were pushed off by orders from Goebbels, under fire from Hitler (Adrian Zwicker) because of the “embarrassment” of seeing this “Negro” on the winner’s stand so often (to great enthusiasm from the crowd) so he refused to congratulate any winner of any event.  (Accounts now question whether Hitler privately shook Owen’s hand; however, sadly, there’s no dispute that our own President FDR didn’t honor him in D.C. after returning from Berlin.)  Before some final historical-note-graphics we conclude this film with a scene of Owens, Snyder, and their wives (Ruth with Jesse, although earlier, when he emerged as a college track star, he abandoned her for awhile for a flashier woman) about to enter the Waldorf-Astoria for a dinner in his honor but Jesse and Ruth had to use the service entrance, even in NYC in the mid-1930s, another example of the shameful racism they were forced to endure and eventually overcome in a country that praises its entertainers, including victors on the sports field, but still all too frequently has little need for them after their winning seasons/careers if they don’t somehow reflect the prevailing notion of the “dominant paradigm” (which may well include people of color, as long as they fit comfortably with their White counterparts or are rich enough to maintain public adulation even if they do seem to be tolerantly-oppositional to “the norm”); despite its other laudable accomplishments, though, this film’s final remarks don’t even briefly note how Owens struggled financially for most of his life after 1936 until his death in 1980.

So What? While Owens’ victories in track and field are a matter of public record not at all distorted by the events of this film, it’s hard to know without a lot of research (that I didn’t do) as to how accurate the evolved friendship between student-athlete Jesse and desperate-to-mentor-a-winner Coach Snyder was or whether Brundage really was at the implied-blackmail-mercy of Goebbels in agreeing to bump the Jewish runners from the U.S. relay team because his construction deal with the Nazis (which never happened because of WW II) would have been the scandal it’s portrayed as in this film or whether the head coach of the American runners in the 1936 Games was as racist as he’s depicted here (but it provides a useful plot point in getting Snyder in as a personal coach for Owens), yet even if all of those aspects are fictionalized-additions to what is indisputably true they don’t undermine the critical value of this account of Owens’ focus to excel on the world stage for his own driven sense of personal accomplishment.  (That he finally chose to join the Olympic team may also be sincerely an aspect of his patriotic desire to diminish the Nazi hopes of seeming-racial-superiority, but it’s clear that we’re encouraged to believe that way because, as shown in Race, Jesse’s part of a sports-focused-crowd listening to the radio in 1936 when former heavyweight boxing champ “Max” Schmeling [a German] beats up-and-coming American contender “Brown Bomber” Joe Louis, giving you every reason in that scene to believe that Schmeling just won the title again although it was Louis who went on to be champ in 1937 [later knocking out Schmeling in round 1 of their 1938 rematch, as Joe continued on to retire undefeated in 1949] so even though Louis’ career far eclipsed Schmellng’s we’ve encouraged to think that Jesse headed off to Berlin partly to avenge the loss of his Black countryman to a Nazi stooge).  You may be shouting “USA” when seeing this film but in 1936 Germany they were instead shouting “Owens” in recognition of his individual triumphs in setting world records, even as such victories brought honor to his (our) home country in the face of planned propaganda about racial inequities.

Bottom Line Final Comments: While most of what I’ve seen at the movies so far in 2016 has been catch-up-screenings of 2015 releases as they make their way into general circulation following their mandatory 1-week-minimum-run in Los Angeles County in order to qualify for Oscar consideration I've also seen a few offerings of the (rapidly aging) new year; of those, Race is clearly the best so far, with my anticipation that I’ll still look favorably on it when I’m considering my 2016 triumphs (Mick LaSalle, film critic for the San Francisco Chronicle notes that had this been released in December 2015 it would likely have scored some nominations that could have provided a little less reason for the #OscarsSoWhite protests that I know are still giving host Chris Rock ample ammunition for what promises to be a not-so-benign-broadcast on ABC next Sunday, February 28, 2016).  However, that’s not the general consensus of the collective-film-criticism-establishment as Race has garnered only 61% positive reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, with a score of 57% at Metacritic (more details in the links far below), so I don’t really know what my critical (in all senses of the word) brethren are thinking in their reactions, although some remarks I’ve read indicate that there’s a belief that this approach to Jesse Owen’s life and sports career is too worshipful of its protagonist who always seems to do the right thing (so to speak; I’m curious to know what Spike Lee thinks of Race), except when he has that passionate fling with the vivacious woman he encounters at an LA nightclub while there for a track meet at USC but otherwise is a diligent soldier for his demanding coach, an honor-bound-provider (despite very limited means) for the folks back home in Cleveland, and a credit to his race (as well as the whole human race) for his passion to win at the Olympics as he shows his best side despite the glaring spotlight of the world’s rapt attention (which does finally produce some lack of focus as he almost fouls out of the broad jump event before redeeming himself with a new world’s record).  

 Given the horrors of racial antagonism in the U.S. felt by Owens and most other Black Americans, along with the emerging-genocide-program of mid-1930s Nazis, this film could have shown more callous examples of bone-deep-racism than mere arrogant football players or a few Jews forced into a truck, but how much detail do we really need to verify how close to the brink of total human failure that we were all headed toward during the years of the Great Depression and its aftermath?

 Race (a simple title with extensive connotations about sport, social relations, and policies of extermination—although that level of Hitler’s “final solution” wasn’t known yet to the world at large, otherwise I can’t believe that anyone except German contenders along with Spaniards and Italians herded into service in support of the Fascist Franco and Mussolini regimes would have even considered legitimizing these Games with their supposed intentions of non-political, international good will) is clear that evil is alive and well in 1933-’36, both at home and abroad, but the focus is more on rising up against that kind of wicked intolerance, confounding the demented supremacists with concrete evidence that the so-called “inferiors” are not that at all but instead can display culture-changing-courage as well as achieve triumphs denied them in the petty minds of their bigoted detractors.  I think Race succeeds well in those intentions, although—as I noted above—to not even acknowledge in those final graphics of the film the financial difficulties that Owens faced after his brief glory years (because, in need of income, he accepted some commercial endorsements, thereby nullifying his amateur status which left him with little way to provide for his family [including 2 more daughters], as there were few career opportunities for professional swift runners in the 1940s [an NFL career might have helped but still was extremely hard to come by then, just as football hadn’t been available at all for Jesse back at Ohio State]) undercuts the larger picture of how individual victories in those long-ago-decades didn’t lead to anything big enough, fast enough to lower the high tide of U.S. institutional racism (a legal fact, not just my usual leftist-opinion) so I just hope that the strong positive feelings that this well-constructed, well-delivered film provides don’t confuse historically-naïve-contemporary-viewers into thinking that any one act or life of courage (as depicted about Jackie Robinson in 42 [Brian Helgeland, 2013; review in our April 18, 2013 posting], Martin Luther King in Selma [Ava DuVernay, 2014; review in our January 15, 2015 posting], Cesar Chavez in Cesar Chavez [Diego Luna, 2014; review in our April 30, 2014 posting], for example) is enough in itself to cure centuries of engrained-social-dysfunctions-and-hatreds, but the personal victories of someone like Jesse Owens still need to celebrated—as they are appropriately in Race—for their contributions toward a better, more inclusive society for us all as we go forward.

 If you’re aware of my review style at this Two Guys in the Dark blogsite you already know how I’ll conclude my remarks on Race; if not, you’ll now find that it’ll be with a Musical Metaphor that addresses in some manner what the film’s about, what I may have encountered with its intentions, or maybe (not here, but occasionally) something silly (see the next review below) just to match the mood of a funky presentation.  In this intentionally serious case of Race, I’m going with The Beatles “Blackbird” (from the 1968 album The Beatles [unofficially known as the “White Album” because of its almost-blank-cover]) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JiL5JpUtjqY, an intimate performance at London's Abbey Road recording studio by Paul McCartney (date unknown) in which this video gives you virtually the same experience as the recording except on the CD track you can hear a percussive beat (McCartney’s foot) as well as the added sounds of a blackbird singing.  Not only does this song have a direct explanation of being about what this songwriter saw as emerging-improvements in U.S. race relations in the late 1960s (as Paul himself has said about it), with these cinematic-Race-related-encouragements to “Take these broken wings and learn to fly” (not that Owens’ winged-legs were ever broken but his spirit was certainly assaulted by the prejudice of those who hated him for his very existence) as his on-field-accomplishments were clearly his “moment to be free” (until he tried to go through a swanky hotel’s front door on the way to his own victory dinner), but it also connects a bit with the controversy over whether Hitler ever personally congratulated Jesse on his victories (Owens says he did, but those who claim seeing a photo of this private moment don’t have any evidence to verify it) and varying explanations of McCartney’s song that some (including him at times) said is really a love poem to a generic (or specific?) Black girl (given that Brits often refer to younger women as “birds”), so I’ll leave any interpretations of all these possibilities with you while you sing (or whistle like a bird if you wish) along with the Metaphor, in preparation for something not nearly so uplifting in my next review.
                                                    Deadpool (Tim Miller)
An admittedly-unheroic-character is put through a painful mutation experiment that cures his terminal cancer but leaves him hideously scarred yet incapable of physical harm because of his newly-emerged-quick-healing-abilities.  He has no interest in being a superhero, instead using his anger and physical skills in search of the “surgeon” who altered his life.

What Happens: Much of the 1st hour of Deadpool’s 108-minute-running-time is presented as jumps between the present day of the ongoing action and lengthy flashbacks of this self-conscious-origin-story (the main character often acknowledges us watching this movie, so he’s helpful in giving us the necessary details of how he came to be who he is); thus, I’ll streamline it all here by staying with a straight chronological rendering.  A few years ago, a former Special Forces operative (with 41 kills in Middle East engagements, very athletic as we see in the present-set-scenes), Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), had fallen into being an underworld enforcer, justifying himself as taking actions against even worse scum than himself; one night he met Vanessa Carlysle (Morena Baccarin), an equally-raunchy-outsider, who shared his hot sexual attraction (they spend a year in various manifestations of orgasm in a montage set to Neil Sedaka’s 1961 hit, “Calendar Girl” 
[on the Neil Sedaka Sings Little Devil and Other Hits album of that year]; it’s too early for a Musical Metaphor but this is too catchy a tune to ignore so here it is for your enjoyment—or possibly disgust when you see these seemingly-mindless-female-attractions parading around for Neil’s pleasure in this pre-Feminist-era, even as the period tried to herald JFK’s vision of a New Frontier; however, as the notes with this early version of a music video clarify, he did “march” one of them [Miss March, in fact] “down the aisle,” Leba Strassberg in 1962, with their marriage still intact), then became engaged only to suddenly find that Wade has multiple terminal cancers.  Seeking a miracle cure, he finds himself strapped to a table by vicious Ajax (Ed Skrein) and his muscular assistant, Angel Dust (Gina Cararo), only to learn that he’s to be subjected to various tortures until either his mutant genes manifest a power that can be sold out to a devious owner or he’ll die in the process.  

 What finally emerges is Wade's fantastic cellular-reconstructive-ability preventing bodily injury but leaving him hideously-scarred so after mistakenly being left for dead by Ajax he stays away from Vanessa because he can’t “face” her with such a hideous appearance, then works with his oddball-bartender-friend, Weasel (T.J. Miller), to develop his red uniform (covers his body, hiding the scars; distracts from the blood stains left by bullets or knives as his rapid-healing-powers are at work).

 However, instead of even caring about using his new-found-mutation for the greater good (as encouraged by X-Man Colossus [a huge metallic bruiser voiced by Stefan Kapičić] and his sullen accomplice-in-training, Negasonic Teenage Warhead [Brianna Hildebrand]), all Wade wants to do is find Ajax to take revenge on him, with Wilson now going by the name of Deadpool (as Weasel’s bar has an ongoing “deadpool” gambling contest as to who might die next, so the name became ironic when Wade became near-immortal).  As the hunt for Ajax goes on, with Wade focused on using the anger brought on by his loss of identity, a life with Vanessa, and any future purpose in being alive to destroy his nemesis, the mayhem mounts as Ajax’s assistants are killed in well-choreographed-scenes of chaotic slaughter, Ajax responds by capturing Vanessa, then all this culminates in a massive battle among the major players finally resulting in the death of Ajax (shot by Deadpool, as we find that his adversary’s powers of not feeling pain—or emotion—don’t keep him from being physically terminated [even though he somehow survives an earlier bullet to the head and sword-thrust from Deadpool]), with muscular Angel Dust finally stymied by the firestorm that Ms. Warhead can muster, so that all can end well with the revived-romance between Wade and Vanessa, warmly accompanied by the odd-choice of Wham!’s “Careless Whispers,” although we get a bit more story after the end-credits as Deadpool first tells us to go home but then reveals that we’ll someday get a sequel featuring the Deadpool comics' character, Cable, to be played by a yet-unchosen-actor.

So What? To truly appreciate Deadpool (even if you know nothing yet about this X-Men-related Marvel Comics guy, therefore just flowing with what’s on screen here for its own merits) you have to be willing to accept R-rated language (that would likely make the rest of the screen-superheroes you’ve previously watched blush a lot, except for Batman and Ironman who’ve nobly-restrained themselves quite a bit in their studios’ quest for the more-financially-lucrative-PG-rating-designation), constant body mutilation that looks awful but doesn’t slow down our combatants (Deadpool has to cut off his own hand at one point to escape being handcuffed to a moving vehicle but he just grows another one later; Ajax [real name Francis Freeman, but he gets very upset when being reminded of that] has mutated so that he doesn’t feel pain but why that seems to keep him from physical harm—at least until Deadpool puts a bullet through his brain at close range—isn’t that clear to me), a meta-awareness-structure that has Deadpool frequently talking directly to us as well as making caustic comments about his own narrative as well as the whole superhero-movie-concept, along with a protagonist who’s not out to do anything (in this initial tale of his exploits, at least) for the good of anyone else but just kill whoever gets in his way in the extended-quest to once again locate Ajax so as to make him suffer for the ruination that Wade feels has come to his life (although when he finally makes a move to apologize to Vanessa for just disappearing on her for so long she comes to realize that she can accept his scarred appearance, despite hardly anyone else being able to look at him without the mask and costume that covers his body completely).  

 There are lots of references here to an enormous range of pop-culture-connections (including the snide generic "characters" of the opening credits and notations about the failure of Reynolds' previous superhero movie, Green Lantern [Martin Campbell, 2011; I'm one of the few who liked it, but I’ve always had a fondness for that character and his complex-circumstances]), there’s a sense of liberation in seeing a superbeing with no desire to work for society but yet isn’t a villain who disrupts our lives (just those preventing him from finding Ajax), and there’s plenty of quickly-edited, impactful action especially in the early freeway and final battle scenes, but you’ve got to have a certain sensibility about all of this to fully embrace it which I admit that I don’t.  It was more amusing than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Burr Steers; review in our February 11, 2016 posting), but not by much, especially when it gets deadly-serious during the torture-transformation scenes.

Bottom Line Final Comments: Initially, I wasn’t too interested at all in seeing Deadpool because: (a) I don’t know a bit about him in his previous Marvel Comics incarnation (I was more of a DC fanboy in my long-lost-younger-days but have stopped trying to be current with how both of these entities try to keep their characters freshly-relevant with all of their various plot twists and complicated-recreations of the universe [or the Multiverse in DC’s case {you can explore it until you’re totally exhausted here}]I couldn’t begin to tell you how all of these revisions relate to what I knew growing up about Earth-Two [where the DC characters of the 1940s-‘50s lived], Earth-One [where the DC superheroes in print since roughly the 1960s resided—that is until everything changed more times than I’m clear on], and Earth-Prime [the planet we’re on where stories of these superbeings are simply available for our entertainment], with how it’s all evolved from there beyond my comprehension, so you can imagine my total lack of comicland-understanding about the Marvel Universe, especially where those endless X-Men are concerned), and (2) my local critical guru, Mick LaSalle (although other members of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle [which recently verified me for the 4th time as not being admitted to their ranks; yes, I’ll get over it at some point] might disagree), published a scathing review of Deadpool that gave me reason to avoid it completely.  (“But at the heart of the film and overarching everything is a creepy assumption, all the more creepy in that it might be true: Audiences will root for the most repellent of characters, so long as that character is identified as the protagonist. […] This is bad, borderline garbage, but disturbing, too, in that it’s just the kind of fake-clever awfulness that might be cinema’s future.”)  Still, when something makes a monetary-impact like Deadpool has ($235.4 million domestically [some use the synonym "North America" but this box-office-term properly includes only U.S. and Canada income, not Mexico through Panama], $256.5 million elsewhere throughout the world in a mere 2-weeks-release; biggest R-rated opening of all time; biggest February opening of all time; plus many other "biggest" designations [at this link scroll all the way down to the "Reception, Box office" area]), I feel some obligation to see what’s going on so that's what I did.

 What I found was funny enough, a nice parody of the whole concept of the constantly-overwhelming-summer-spectacular that the superhero genre has been offering us for quite some time now, but just extreme enough in its meta-ness, cynicism, and obscure-“insider-trading”
references (see the 5th link to this movie in the extensive Related Links … section just below) to keep reminding me that I’m not even vaguely intended as the target audience for all of this hipster-snarkiness so any of you reading this might feel that Mr. LaSalle and I are hopelessly lost in the fog of yesteryear (although he’s about 12 years younger than me, putting him only in his almost-late-50s) if Deadpool resonates more with you than with us.  (At Rotten Tomatoes 224 reviews resulted in an 83% positive response whereas at Metacrtiic the average score is only 65% based on 49 critics—not at all unusual for the latter group in terms of using a smaller sample nor coming in with a lower score—but I have to wonder if age within these groups has any impact on the results; I certainly think it does when I find myself totally off in another direction from stories that have no interest for me but they often score and/or perform well with younger segments of the population who’re more aware of crossover connections to comic book storylines, popular TV actors now in movies, shoutouts to cultural elements I rarely care much about—zombie stories, “nostalgia” for 1980s-‘90s music and media references, binge-watching streamed episodes of something, etc.—all of which are likely aspects that make any form of arts criticism much more subjective and audience-segment-relevant than most critics ever care to admit.)  When I put all of the considerations above into perspective, I’m pleased enough with Deadpool for a diversionary exploration of something that I’m neither that familiar nor engaged with, but as with the earlier Marvel-based Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn, 2014)—another anti-hero-parody-intentionally-masquerading-as-legitimate-fantasy/reality, also hugely popular beyond my interest level (review in our August 7, 2014 posting)—I doubt I’ll need to bother with the inevitable Deadpool sequels (one already guaranteed, probably will lead to more beyond that, giving Reynolds a much better retirement plan than he’d ever hope to get with any further attempts at Green Lantern).

 To wrap this up, my offering for an actual Musical Metaphor to accompany the concept and themes of Deadpool is an easy choice as I just take the same “what-the-f***”-attitude of snide protagonist Wade Wilson and direct you to listen to George Michael singing “Careless Whisper” (from the 1984 Wham! Make It Big album) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izGwD srQ1eQ, not because I think that this overly-melodramatic-confession of the cheater-singer of the song about how his dalliance will never allow a reconnection with his one true love really has anything to do with the content or attitudes of this movie but if Deadpool and Vanessa are going to get so much (phony?) emotion from it as an indication of the depth of their passion (all of which may just be another snarky comment in a narrative built upon and celebrated for such snark), then it’s got to be deemed as vitally-relevant, so I invite you to sing along with Gorgeous George as he suffers the lovesick blues (besides, the song reminds me of how Oakland Athletics right-fielder Josh Reddick also used it as walkup-music last season as a joke on how such at-bat-sound-bites are usually more macho in tone).  I also invite you to stay tuned for the rare event of 2 of my postings in a single week as I’ll be back with my annual Oscar predictions and preferences in a couple of days as preparation for the big ceremony on the night of Feb. 28 (coincidentally marking 29 years since I met my award-winning-wife, Nina Kindblad—well, she gets my award as best lifetime companion ever, even if I don’t have a gold statue for her) so I’ll see you again real soon.
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
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AND … at least until the Oscars for 2015’s releases have been awarded on Sunday, February 28, 2016 we’re also going to include reminders in each posting of very informative links where you can get updated tallies of which 2015 films made various individual critic’s Top 10 lists and which ones have been nominated for and/or received various awards.  You may find the diversity among the various critics and the various awards competitions hard to reconcile at times—not to mention the often-significant-gap between critics’ choices and competition-award-winners (which usually pales in comparison to the even-more-noticeable-gap between box-office-success that you might want to monitor here, and the actual award-winners)—but as that less-than-enthusiastic-patron-of-the-arts, Plato, noted in The Symposium (385-380 BC)—roughly translated, depending on how accurate you wish the actual quote to be—“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder,” so your choices are as valid as any of these others, especially if you can offer some rationale for your decisions (unlike many of the awards voters who simply fill out ballots, sometimes for films they’ve never seen).

To save you a little scrolling through the “various awards” list above, here are the Golden Globe winners for films and TV from 2015 and the Oscar nominees for 2015 film releases.  And, in last-minute-consideration for your Oscar-pool-picks I’ll remind you that I’ve previously noted in this section of my postings the award winners from the Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild of America, and the Writers Guild of America, as their choices might have impact on the Oscar winners given the overlap of memberships among these various cinema-industry-organizations.

Here’s more information about Race:

clips from Race: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDKEjMn6bGM (Jesse meets his new coach), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3nQpOsqY-0 (Jesse impresses his coaches with his speed), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r61Gcb4GnWw (Jesse learns to block out insults from the crowd in order to concentrate on his running), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUF2HfpV uC8 (Jeremy Irons and William Hurt in their roles from this film argue over whether the U.S. should boycott the 1936 Olympic Games), and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPG5o5pRY38 (intercut footage from the film and newsreel images of the actual Jesse Owens)

Here’s more information about Deadpool:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCvLUxICxEI (this is one of those Red Band trailers that retains the R-rated language and bloody imagery of the movie; if you’d prefer something a bit more sanitized here’s one at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuH3zDs2y3s [or if it’s having loading problems like it did for awhile for me, go back to the beginning link of this section at http://www. foxmovies.com/movies/deadpool and click the WATCH THE TRAILER link at top of the page])

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_T8-kb5s-M (5:20 explanation about the post-credits scene in the movie, how it relates to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off [John Hughes, 1986], along with information about a major character in the soon-to-come Deadpool sequel, which also flows into https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntpikESr34Y&ebc=ANyPxKrWggiX0kU1oiJRoomjTPy3HBfmVHlNdNwSr3XUueKiGU4pYRqeDAI3lwM5SLb47f3N38QFuACj350Exl7rur_2yMc0Nwa 19:53 exploration of the many, many references sprinkled throughout this movie, several from Deadpool comics)

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If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my new email at kenburke409@gmail.com.  Thanks.

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile.    Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.


  1. I liked Deadpool significantly more than most recent superhero movies, many of which have grown stale and overly dependent on special effects at the expense of storytelling.

    Deadpool has Ryan Reynolds, which is kind of like putting Brad Pitt in an R rated movie. Is guarantees female interest and audiences which other scifi and superhero movies do not attract. Second, it has the R rating which means it's not a kid's movie, which in itself is a relief. Third, it hits the anti-establishment Trump/Sanders cord which is clearly popular right now. I see Deadpool as a Michael Keaton Batman exception to the rule, that will undoubtedly be copied tiresomely for years to come.

    By the way, it's interesting that Trump is starting to channel Michael Moore's 2004 Fahrenheit 911 theories about W and people are still supporting him for President.

    Wiki Fahrenheit 911 link here

  2. Hi rj, You make a lot of good points about Deadpool, successfully bringing in aspects of its appeal that I was vaguely aware of but didn't articulate as well as you did. Thanks as always for your insights and contributions, including the fascinating info about Trump and Fahrenheit 9/11. Ken

  3. Click zmovie watch Deadpool 2 free online now. The original had its faults, but at least it was made with an understanding of basic storytelling. Halfway through Deadpool 2, I thought, 'What exactly is the plot, here?'. Not even the eponymous hero knows, just some cryptic message from his deceased love, telling him 'Find your heart'. There is no antagonist either, until halfway when it's meant to be Josh Brolin's character that's the big bad, except he's not, then it's the troubled kid, except he's not, then it's Juggernaut.

    I'd forgive the film its faults if it were at least fun, but we get a preachy, politically correct Deadpool who talks about gender equality, accuses people of cultural appropriation and racism, and describes old white men as rapists. I thought Deadpool was supposed to go against the grain? Not beat people over the head with the same rubbish that bores and patronises people every day in more mainstream fare. And hey, I know the movie makers made fun of it, but that doesn't excuse them from killing off his wife. They want to talk about gender inequality, yet get rid of her because they can't be bothered to write her into the plot, as it's much too much of an effort to have that complication in a superhero's life.

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    1. Hi Amy J, Sorry I’ve been so long in getting your comment published and replying to it, but there was some kind of glitch so I wasn’t even notified you’d sent it in. In the future, I’ll go into my Blogspot mailbox once a week to make sure I’m aware of any submitted comments. As for your comments on Deadpool 2 I can't fully reply to them because I was so uninterested in seeing this movie I didn't even bother, but thanks for your extensive response. Ken Burke