The MOCHA Column

By Chaya and Deni 

MOVIE REVIEWS 

THE HATE YOU GIVE (review by Deni)

This film version of the Young Adult best seller by Angie Thomas with a screenplay by Audrey Wells follows the magnificent book fairly closely except for a few changes that detracted rather than added to the strength of the story. (Wells, an award-winning screenwriter, came from the SF Bay Area and DJ’d at KJAZ before her movie career. Very sadly, she died of cancer the day before this film opened.) With a powerful starring role by Amandla Stenberg and strong performances by Russell Hornsby and Regina Hall as her parents (along with a smaller role by my fave Issa Rae as the activist April), the film reflects the daily stories of young Black men getting shot and killed by the police. The film includes lots of politics: The Black Panther Party 10 Point Program, issues of code switching, cultural appropriation, a Black Lives Matter type movement, incarceration, the role of Black police, and drugs in the community. Stenberg plays a Black high school woman named Starr living in the two worlds of her working class/poor family, neighborhood, and community and that of the elite white high school she attends. The drama builds when Starr is riding in a car with

photo of Black Lives Matter march.

a very dear childhood friend Khalil (in a nuanced performance by Algee Smith). The two are stopped by a white cop and Khalil is killed. Starr must deal with the personal anguish of losing Khalil and the political repercussions – how much will she step up and step out as a witness to this murder. These are decisions that affect her family and community as well as her. There’s a lot of great politics in the film and anti-racist protest scenes that have the energy of reality. Occasionally, the script borders on speechifying, and Starr’s white boyfriend seemed weirder on screen than in the book. But it’s a strong movie and worth seeing. Definitely try and read the book.

COLETTE (review by Chaya)  

This indie biopic of one of France’s best-known writers tells Colette’s story from country girl through her marriage to her first husband and their life in Paris around the turn of the 19th century. The cinematography and acting by stars Keira Knightley and Dominic West were very good. Hubby asked her to ghostwrite a novel for him, which was a big success and turned into a series of books partly based on her own life. But he was listed as the author, and Colette was not interested in being controlled by him. His constant exploitation of her wore me down. He encouraged her to have affairs with women which she enthusiastically pursued so that he could continue his extramarital affairs. She divorced him in 1910 (hard to imagine how she managed that), supported herself as an actor, and continued to write prolifically. She liked dressing in men’s clothing and enjoyed a lifestyle that defied traditional roles but was generally described as “scandalous” (well, scandalous for a woman). Her mother encouraged her to always stand up for herself, and follow her dreams. Too bad mom didn’t get a bigger role in the film, Fiona Shaw was excellent. Colette’s novels were women-centric and dealt with themes from her life such as women’s identity and independence in a male-dominated society. 

WIDOWS (review by Deni)

I wanted to like this film more, it has some good actors (Bryan Tyree Henry, a fave from tv show Atlanta who plays former drug dealer turned aspiring politician) and a cast featuring four women including Viola Davis. But this heist film by director Steve McQueen tried to pack too much in, both in terms of the convoluted plot and the politics, and the movie is somewhat flat and episodic as a result. Some of the acting was also pretty weak which made some of the unbelievable twists and turns even more unbelievable. Important political issues were raised: feminism, a white cop killing a young Black man, domestic violence, sex work as a choice, but the hodgepodgeness of the overall film diluted the issues and the heist itself.

RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET (review by Deni)

I don’t usually see cartoon films much less a Disney one, but I laughed out loud at this and even liked some of its politics. Ralph was voiced by great character actor John C. Reilly, and his best friend Vanellope by Sarah Silverman who did a terrific job making this spunky female character compelling and hilarious, with great minor roles by Taraji P Henson and (I hate to say it) zionist Gal Gadot as the top race car driver who inspires Vanellope. Parts of the film, including commentary about the internet, range from hilarious to poignant and the scene with Vanellope bonding with the Disney princesses over the sexism in their princess roles was both a hoot and refreshing. There was even a sweet moral. Ok, yeah it was long and loud with the compulsory chase stuff but it was mostly funny and entertaining and smart.

BOOK REVIEW

THE LAST BALLAD by Wiley Cash (guest review by Cole)

In the unlikely event that any UV reader needs to be reminded of the odious nature of capitalism, rest assured that this novel will provide a poignant reminder. The engagingly written book is set within the context of the Communist Party’s tragically unsuccessful efforts to organize Southern textile workers during the 1920’s. The author creates a sympathetic protagonist – Ella May – who becomes convinced that unionization offers the only means to lift her out of grinding poverty. Ella brings her gifts of singing and songwriting to her determined organizing efforts and joins ranks with Sophia and Velma, two Northern activists. She and her comrades cross swords with arrogant men in the Party and union leadership but refuse to back down. The portrayal of women as the backbone of the movement is the novel’s strong point. I found the inclusion of a benevolent upper class woman to be annoying and unlikely, but maybe I just have a bad attitude about the bourgeoisie.

The narrative unflinchingly confronts the fact that people’s struggles may fail. No radical fairy tale, hardly anyone lives happily ever after. Early on, the author provides the spoiler that Ella May dies at an early age; one later learns that she was murdered as a consequence of her activism. The books details the Party’s failure to comprehend and effectively combat white workers’ racism — or, alternatively, the propensity of certain Party leaders to let that problem slide. Union leaders are hounded by the police; strikers find themselves evicted from company-owned housing. Red baiting is rampart and ultimately the union is broken. Didactic as this may sound, the author creates characters with whom the reader identifies – or, alternatively, can’t stomach.

Leftist scholars have argued that the Party’s attempt to support textile workers was motivated by a genuine desire to improve the lives of a workforce subjected to an intolerable life. It is unfortunate but perhaps forgivable that the Party underestimated the barriers to be overcome. The novel, in large part based on actual historical figures, provides an important memorial to a chapter of labor history that has frequently gone unrecognized.

BITS AND PIECES  

THE MOCHA COLUMN’S SPORTS ROUNDUP

Hey there radical queer sports/nonsports fans! In today’s roundup we’d like to mention 2 recent things of note. First, in November, an unidentified cheerleader for the SF 49ers became the first NFL cheerleader to take a knee during the national anthem, despite the fact that cheerleaders are extremely exploited on their jobs and forbidden to speak out publicly on any political or social issues. Yay her! Ok, this is a digression but must sports teams still have cheerleaders? Doesn’t 2018 seem late enough to stop parading women around as mascots for men? How about funding and promoting women’s sports and stopping the centuries-old exploitation of women? Capitalism + patriarchy = bad bad deal for women. Now back to our bit…which brings good news from Amy Schumer. Amy recently said she stands with Colin Kaepernick and his protest against racism and police brutality, so she is declining to participate in any Stupid Bowl commercials this February. Yay Amy! She challenged white NFL players to participate in kneeling in protest, saying “otherwise how are you not complicit?” And she also commented, “I personally told my reps I wouldn’t do a Super Bowl commercial this year. I know it must sound like a privilege-ass sacrifice but it’s all I got.” 

MINI-MEDIA ROUND-UP SCORE:  zionist propaganda 3, justice for Palestine 0 

#1 In November, host of The Daily Show Trevor Noah headlined an event for the ADL (Anti-Defamation League). The ADL self describes as a civil rights organization fighting anti-semitism but actually makes it a priority to label critics of Israel as anti-semitic using this to squelch support for Palestine, fights the BDS movement, and works to bring US police to Israel for “training.” Back in April when Starbucks had to do its PR diversity training day after having two Black men arrested in one of its Philadelphia stores, the ADL was initially selected as one of the leaders of the anti-bias training. But a popular outcry against ADL policies made Starbucks remove them from this role. So why just 6 months later, did Trevor Noah host this ADL “Show of Unity” fundraising event??? People reached out to Noah, urging him not to host it, but he did. Bad choice, Noah!

#2 On November 29, CNN fired commentator Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, a prominent professor at Temple University and an advocate for justice in Palestine, because of a speech he gave at the UN that argued that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He said “we cannot endorse a narrow politics of respectability that shames Palestinians for resisting.” He was slammed by zionist backlash for this and for saying “…a free Palestine, from the river to the sea.” Supposedly it was those last 6 words that got him fired. Of course, it’s just fine for Israel’s deputy foreign minister to say in 2015 “This entire land is ours.” Fortunately, Temple University did not bow to zionist pressure and has stood by Hill, with much encouragement from the human rights and academic community. Of CNN’s decision to fire him, Hill has said “I disagree with the decision. And I think history will vindicate the claims that I made.”

#3 The last mention in this category takes us back to movies. The 2017 documentary film “1948: Creation and Catastrophe” made by co-producers and co-directors Andy Trimlett and Ahlam Muhtaseb (Director of the Center for Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Cal State San Bernardino), was scheduled to show as part of the WeHo (West Hollywood) Human Rights Speakers Series. The film has screened at eleven international film festivals, and in more than 9 countries, including the US. The film contains “riveting and moving personal recollections of both Palestinians and Israelis and reveals the shocking events of the most pivotal year…the establishment of Israel as seen through the eyes of the people who lived it.” In a crowning glory of irony (it’s a Human Rights Series after all), the City of WeHo blocked the screening of the film due to demands from pro-Israel groups who claim the film and filmmakers are  – wait for it now – anti-semitic. The film’s critics used lies and propaganda from the infamous 2015 Canary Mission website, which was designed to damage the lives of pro-Palestinian activists. The film’s showing was first delayed but now has been indefinitely postponed. Attorney Liz Jackson from Palestine Legal commented, “West Hollywood has censored Palestinians and Israelis trying to tell their first-hand stories from 1948, based on false accusations from a blacklisting website. The echoes of McCarthyism in Hollywood are alarming.” Contact the WeHo City Council at 323-848-6460 or ccouncil@weho.org and urge them to reverse their decision.

GET YOUR COPY NOW OF AIRBNB’s MANUAL “How to Exploit Your Way to Corporate Success”  Airbnb, everyone’s favorite anti-worker gentrifier, gave in to a 2-year campaign designed to pressure it to end its listings of properties in illegal, Jewish-only Israeli settlements. And just to show the world even more what a good corporate exploiter oops we mean player Airbnb is, it recently pledged $5 million to fight homelessness in San Francisco. Aww, that’s so nice we won’t even mention that Airbnb is a major contributor to creating homelessness in the first place.     

GOOD NEWS DEPT  “US Police Depts Nix Participation in Joint Program With Israel After BDS Pressure” And hey, that’s a headline right out of the Israeli paper Haaretz! In late November, US police departments in Vermont and Northampton, MA canceled their participation in a program that involves sending police to Israel to “visit” and meet Israeli police. This victory against the “Resiliency and Counterterrorism” program, managed by the Anti-Defamation League (remember the ADL from Trevor Noah item?!!) was won by pressure from a coalition of progressive organizations including many affiliated with BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions). Jewish Voice for Peace director Stefanie Fox said the decision reflects “…the growing consensus that the Israeli military does not offer a good model, not for the people of Israel/Palestine and not for our communities here at home.” Onward to deconstructing this fascistic program everywhere. And of course we know that as Vermont and Northampton go, so goes the nation! 

WOOF WOOF WOOF  WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF

Author: lagai

LAGAI-Queer Insurrection is one of the oldest radical queer liberation groups in the U.S. We publish UltraViolet, a more or less bimonthly newspaper, which is mailed free of charge to over 1500 people, including over 800 prisoners. Our website is www.lagai.org.

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