By Chaya and Deni
KICKS (review by Deni)
This directorial debut by SF/East Bay’s Justin Tipping is thought-provoking, as much for things I liked about it as for things I didn’t. As part of an all-Black cast, it stars Jahking Guillory as a young man who thinks getting a pair of Air Jordans will make him cool and change his life, then what happens when they get stolen. It’s a film about commodity fetishism, life in some Richmond/Oakland communities, and what it means to be “a man.” (Director Tipping has a lot to say about all this, but I think he said some of it better in an interview on Jezebel than in the film, see jezebel.com and search for Kicks. The movie, inspired by Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thief, is stylish and has a great performance by Mahershala Ali as Brandon’s uncle. The scenes with him are among the strongest in the film. At times Brandon inspires compassion and connection but sometimes seems too naive to be believable. Also stretching credibility are the characters of his friends, and their foray into some tough situations as part of the quest for the Air Jordans/manhood. Cinematically the filming of East Bay locales in Richmond, Oakland and BART are well shot and give the film an immediacy and sense of reality that serve it well. Brandon’s imaginary astronaut that will take him to another world floats in and out of several critical scenes. (Coincidentally, we happen to know the actor playing the astronaut, nice outfit!) This device works well at times but probably should have been used less often, as with Brandon’s numerous rap voice-overs. Oh, then there’s the film’s sexism and hetero-sexism/homophobia. There were hardly any women in the film, and mostly they were there as insultable sex objects (except for his grandmother, who was respected and cared for, but had a small part and never spoke). When explaining how he portrayed women in this film, Tipping said that he’s “a feminist” but had “to be true to what they [the young men in these situations] would do.” But there are ways to tell this story and give strong women an authentic, powerful, and respected voice. I’m glad I saw the film, wish it were better, and look forward to seeing his next.
SNOWDEN (review by Deni)
I only had time to catch a half hour of Oliver Stone’s film about ex–CIA/NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. It was well acted – Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Snowden) and the always great Melissa Leo (as Snowden documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras). The part I saw toward the beginning seemed a little cinematically conventional, though I wanted to keep watching. I’ll see the whole film and review more next issue. Stone’s films make important political statements; I think it’s good he’s bringing this story to a more mass audience.
FINDING DORY (review by Deni)
When I saw this movie over the summer in Chicago I thought that by the time the next MC came around, Finding Dory wouldn’t be playing anymore, and I’d have seen so many other movies I wouldn’t have to review it. Well, neither turned out to be true. It’s still showing in theaters, and this wasn’t a big movie-going period for your MC writers. So, very briefly on FD: since I liked Finding Nemo well enough and Finding Dory got many stellar reviews, I thought why not see it? Several reasons. The film was boring and too long. Ellen DeGeneres’ voice and character were annoyingly pretentious and cloying. The film felt phony rather than poignant. Even the bright Pixar visuals were wearying. Skip it.
LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP (review by Deni)
This most recent Jane Austen adaptation was funny and witty with lots of clever dialogue and good parts for women. The cinematography was crisp and engaging. Excellent acting by Kate Beckinsale was complimented by Chloe Sevigny, and the relationship between these two women was refreshingly wry and unsentimental. Class and gender contradictions layer the complex plot. It’s a sharp and entertaining film with fabulous costumes. See it.
BITS AND PIECES
COLIN KAEPERNICK: “I can’t see another Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Eric Garner. At what point do we take a stand and, as a people, say this isn’t right?” Anyone who’s read The Mocha Column for a while probably knows we hate team sports, with their connection to patriarchy, capitalism and nationalism–all that proto-fascist yahooing. Especially football. But lately we find ourselves reading the sports pages of the newspaper (yikes did we just reveal we actually get a hard copy of the SF Chronicle?) since SF 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick stayed seated during the national anthem in late August. He said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” It sure is interesting to see how this story is unfolding–how the media and sports writers are covering it, and how the players, fans, team owners and the league have responded. In case you missed some of the more interesting stories, here are a few highlights: The Santa Clara Police Officers’ Association (the 49ers now play in Santa Clara, not SF) sent a letter to the 49ers asking them to take action against Kaepernick and threatened a boycott, and the Santa Clara police chief was “saddened and angered” by Kap’s “distasteful” statements (the chief forgot to mention they were true). The 49ers chose not to cut Kap from the team, probably to avoid some backlash and make themselves look tolerant. Head coach Chip Kelly said, “We recognize and respect Kap’s decision, and his constitutional rights to do what he’s doing. Anytime there’s conversation about injustices in this country, it’s a positive.” (Did we miss something? Has Chip been actively supporting the Black Lives Matter movement for the last few years?) And shortly after Kap pledged to donate the first $1 million of his 2016 salary and all the money he gets from jersey sales to communities in need, the 49ers CEO Jed York said he would donate $1 million to local foundations to address social inequalities. Just to keep things in perspective, York’s personal net worth is estimated at $100 million.
After Kap changed his protest from sitting to “taking a knee” he was joined at one of the preseason games by teammate Eric Reid. Another early supporter was Brandon Marshall of the Denver Broncos, Kap’s college teammate, who continues to take a knee and has lost 2 endorsement contracts because of it. Out lesbian soccer player Megan Rapinoe took a knee in support, but was thwarted at her next game by the opposing team (the Washington Spirit), which had the anthem played while the players were still in the locker room! Seattle Seahawk Jeremy Lane sat during the anthem during a preseason game. And this week, as the fall season officially began, protests spread to players in at least 4 other teams—4 Miami Dolphin players took a knee on the sideline during the anthem, and a number of players raised their fists during the anthem (2 from the New England Patriots, 1 from the Kansas City Chiefs, and several from the Tennessee Titans). Extremely popular 2-time MVP Golden State Warrior guard Steph Curry voiced support for Kap and his message. (Did you notice a lack of women’s names in this list? We did! Is that male-biased media coverage or does it reflect the male professional sports world?)
The raised fists recall the black power salute given in 1968 by gold and bronze sprinter medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the Mexico City Olympics medal ceremony when the US national anthem was played. Smith and Carlos were suspended from the US team and expelled from the Olympics. Their actions were inspired by sociologist and professor Harry Edwards, the founder of the Olympic Project for Human Rights, who urged black athletes to boycott the games. Recently, Edwards wrote an op ed in the SF Chronicle supporting Kap’s protest.
In the last few years, pro basketball players have organized several protests. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade organized a photo shoot of the Heat basketball players wearing hoodies to comment on the shooting of Trayvon Martin, and basketball and football players wore “I can’t breathe” tshirts, Eric Garner’s last words while being choked to death by NY police. In July, at the ESPY awards, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James made a call to action to professional athletes to go back and work with their communities. In their powerful statement, they said “The system is broken . . . and the racial divide definitely is not new, but the urgency for change is definitely at an all-time high.”
Since Kaepernick started his protest, support continues to grow. At a game last weekend, the entire SF Mission High School football team decided to take a knee to bring attention to racial injustice in the US. As professor of sports law Jeremi Duru said, “Throughout the nation, athletes on different levels are finding their voice and recognizing that they have a platform. We haven’t seen this level of athlete activism in nearly half a century. This is a movement.”
THE WIZARD HELPED THE TIN MAN, BUT NO WAY FOR WIENER There are so many reasons to abhor Scott Wiener, the SF Supervisor who’s currently running for California State Senate against SF Supervisor Jane Kim. In the spirit of democratic voting, the MC has decided to do a twitter poll. (Ok, in all honesty, we don’t tweet so this is a virtual twitter poll but aren’t they all?). Twitter question: Do you hate Scott Wiener most for: 1) his support of gentrification, evidenced by his opposition in 2015 to a temporary moratorium on luxury housing construction in the SF Mission District; 2) his January 2016 pressure on SF city departments to crack down on homeless people living on the sidewalks in tents, pressuring the city to remove the tents and force people out onto unsheltered streets; 3) using the anniversary of the murder of Mario Woods by the SFPD to say “I think there is good momentum toward reform…we are in the middle of a very challenging period in terms of police community relations and I am confident we will get through this difficult period and come out of it stronger.” All gag together now. 4) his longtime support and board membership of the most mainstream, reactionary parts of the LGBTQ community such as HRC; 5) his staunch zionist support of Israel and his role as a high-profile pinkwasher (including his June 2016 op ed in A Wider Bridge, which bills itself as “Building LGBTQ Connections With Israel;” 6) his most recent despicable actions when his cell phone was stolen; he felt compelled to use all his race, class and male privilege to “legally” go after the person who allegedly took his phone, LaSonya Wells, an African American longtime SF resident who’s dealt with homelessness, domestic violence, addiction and incarceration. According to the Chron report, “Wiener, who stands 6 feet, 7 inches, has made clear he chose not to escape after his phone was swiped, instead deciding to walk the thieves to the ATM so their faces could be captured on video there.” Real nice, Scott. The district attorney’s office charged Wells with kidnapping for ransom, an allegation that could have sent her to prison for life (of course, they deny this had anything to do with Wiener’s politician status). Her attorney got the kidnapping charge dropped, but Wells still faces two felonies and two misdemeanors, including robbery, extortion and grand theft, and the prospect of many years in prison. Must be a really special cell phone, Scott…
The trial was supposed to start in late August and Wiener was expected to testify. He said, “They committed a crime against me, they were apprehended, and they’re being prosecuted. I’m sure there will be a fair and just resolution,” (thus exhibiting his terrific grasp of the way the (in)justice system works in this country…). Perhaps this incident is what inspired Weiner to put a measure on the SF ballot that would mandate that the SFPD create a new force of at least 60 cops to deal with car break-ins, vandalism, and homeless encampments.
After Wiener’s anti-homeless push for tent removals, longtime progressive CA politician John Burton sent Wiener a letter suggesting he “stop by the nearest butcher shop and buy yourself a heart.” That was months ago, Scott, but you clearly haven’t taken this great advice.
Ok, now’s it’s time to jump on the first MC twitter poll, hashtag #scottstinks (yes, we know, traditionally twitter polls can only have four choices, but what the hell). Btw, if you vote in more traditional elections, vote against Wiener in November. Don’t send Scott anywhere he can do even more damage.
ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE We know it seems just like yesterday, but 2016 is the 50th year since the founding of the Black Panther Party. In recognition of this, the Oakland Museum will present All Power to the People, a Black Panther retrospective that promises rare historical artifacts, first person accounts, and new contemporary art relating to the political struggles the Panthers fought for. The show will run from October 8 – February 12. In conjunction with this, the Black Panther Party 50th Anniversary Commemoration & Conference will be held October 20–23.
The public is invited to join former members of the Black Panther Party this October for a conference and celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the Party’s founding. It takes place at OMCA and Laney College, in Oakland, California, the home base of the Party. Review the Black Panther Party legacy and celebrate its historical significance in the black community and consider the question Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. raised so long ago: “Where do we go from here?” Information at bpp50th.com.
In the spirit of keeping alive the Panther memory and our connections to Panther work and demos from the 60s/70s, the Mocha Column is offering a free subscription to UltraViolet to the first person to fill in the missing words of the following chants/songs: 1. Free the Panther 2___, Off the _______. 2. The revolution has _______, (Off the ____), It’s time to pick up the _____ (Off the ____). 3. No more _____ in our _______! 4. One! Panther walking by, Two! We don’t take no ____, Three! Hold your _____ up high, Four! _________. 5. ______ Huey, ______ Huey, _______, you better ______ Huey!
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