That Time Antonio Banderas Starred in a Movie Romanticizing Benito Mussolini

Spanish-born actor Antonio Banderas was hot in the mid-1990s, starring in Hollywood films like Philadelphia (1993), Interview with the Vampire (1994), Desperado (1995), Evita, (1996), and The Mask of Zorro (1998). Before his career in the United States took off, however, he starred in a little known Italian miniseries later released as a film about a young, handsome and idealistic Italian socialist who became an influential Italian leader. That Italian leader was Benito Mussolini.

Wait… what?

Written by Vincenzo Cerami, et al, and directed by Gianluigi Calderone, Benito (1993) was a 307-minute Italian made-for-TV movie starring then 32-year-old Antonio Banderas in the titular role. It was later released as a film in the U.S. by Lions Gate Entertainment. The movie charts Mussolini’s rise from young laborer to socialist revolutionary leader, ending prior to his creation of the National Fascist Party. The topic of pre-World War I Italian socialism is a little too esoteric for American audiences, so Lions Gate probably released this in the U.S. to capitalize on Antonio Banderas’ popularity.

It seems strange to think of 20th Century Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini as a left-wing political figure, but if it wasn’t for World War I, that may have been his claim to fame. Mussolini’s father, Alessandro Mussolini, was a socialist who named his son Benito Amilcare Andrea after Mexican president Benito Juárez and Italian socialists Andrea Costa and Amilcare Cipriani. As a young man, Mussolini avoided military service by hiding in Switzerland, where he studied Marxist philosophy, became active in labor unions, and wrote for the socialist newspaper L’Avvenire del Lavoratore. Back in Italy, he joined the Socialist Party and became editor of its newspaper, Avanti.

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Unfortunately, Just Mercy Was Based on a True Story

This film about one of the most egregious modern cases of racism and injustice mostly sticks to the facts.

One thing I didn’t like about Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman (2018) was that it invented events to make its antagonists more menacing than they really were. It’s a habit in Hollywood to insert or amplify racism in historical films, which is weird because there are plenty of actual historical examples of racism to make movies about.

Case in point: Just Mercy (2019), written by Destin Daniel Cretton and Andrew Lanham and directed by Cretton, based on the book Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. Just Mercy follows the case of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), who was wrongly convicted of the 1986 murder of a white woman in Monroeville, Alabama and sent to death row. Years later, attorney Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) successfully appealed McMillian’s conviction and won his freedom.

McMillian, who was having a very public affair with a white woman named Karen Kelly, was hosting a fish fry at his home with his wife, Minnie (Karan Kendrick), surrounded by about a dozen witnesses, when the murder occurred. Despite this, Sheriff Tom Tate (Michael Harding) arrested him for the crime. And despite not yet being convicted, he was sent to death row while awaiting trial.

Judge Robert E. Lee Key, Jr. (yes, that was actually his name) moved the trial to a different county where it would have a majority white jury. The judge overrode the jury’s decision of life imprisonment and imposed the death penalty. McMillian sat on Alabama’s death row from 1988 to 1993, when the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled he had been wrongfully convicted.

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Sunset Park Motel

Sunset Park Motel
The Sunset Park Motel, at 71 Demars Blvd in Tupper Lake, New York, is a classic motor inn catering to vacationing families in the Adirondacks. It is conveniently located near The Wild Center, Raquette Pond, and the Raquette River. Seven to ten million tourists flock to this picturesque region annually to enjoy hunting, camping, boating, and fishing in the summer, skiing and snowboarding in winter, and to see the beautiful autumn colors in the fall.

CNN Lawyers Admit Charges of Racism are a Smear

“CNN filed a motion to dismiss the suit in May on the grounds that accusations of racism are not actionable in defamation cases because the allegation can’t be proven true or false.”

A few days ago, CNN settled with Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann, who was suing for defamation over CNN’s coverage of the incident in January in which Sandmann and his classmates were accused of confronting and harassing a Native American man–until full video showed otherwise.

I used a quote from this National Review article as a subheading because it’s so important: Not only did CNN settle with Sandmann, tacitly admitting the news company was wrong, but its lawyers tried to argue Sandmann had no case because charges of racism are not meant to be defended against.

When someone accuses you of a real crime, it’s able to be proven true or false. Was a crime committed? Did you commit the crime or not? But what about when someone is accused of being racist or acting in a racist manner? Is that more opinion than fact? Most of the time, it’s litigated in the court of public opinion, and the accused have little recourse but to apologize for the perceived offense and hope things blow over.

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Green-Wood Cemetery in New York City

Green-Wood Cemetery, at 500 25th Street in Brooklyn, New York City, was founded in 1838 as a rural cemetery, providing a garden-like resting place in the heart of the city for over 600,000 former residents. Its Gothic revival gates, designed by Richard M. Upjohn, were designated a New York City Landmark in 1966, and the cemetery itself was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. The Battle of Brooklyn was partially fought on (what became) its 478 acres.

Lady Lola Montez

Eliza Rosanna Gilbert (1921-1861), also known as “Lola Montez”, was an Irish performer who gained worldwide fame as a “Spanish dancer”. She was once mistress of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, who made her Countess of Landsfeld, but fled to the United States in 1848 after Ludwig’s abdication. After a scandalous tour in Australia, she returned to the US, where she died of syphilis.

The Goddess Minerva

This bronze statue to the Roman goddess Minerva, designed by Frederick Wellington Ruckstuhl, stands on Battle Hill over the Altar of Liberty, her arm outstretched to salute the distant Statue of Liberty across lower New York Harbor. She was unveiled in 1920 on the 144th anniversary of the Battle of Brooklyn, a key piece of which was fought on that very hill. Charles M. Higgins (1854-1929), an Irish-American ink merchant, erected the statue outside his family’s tomb.

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Fort Henry National Historic Site in Kingston, Ontario

Built for a war with the U.S. that never came, this nineteenth century relic is a treasure of Canadian military history.

The War of 1812 left relations between the United States and Great Britain at an all-time low. Raids along the Saint Lawrence River were common during the war, and Kingston, Ontario in what was then Upper Canada was seen as potentially vulnerable. The British eyed Point Henry as an ideal place for what became known as the “Citadel of Upper Canada”.

Early in the war, British Canadians erected a blockhouse and artillery battery on Point Henry to help defend Kingston and its naval dockyards. They continued fortifying it throughout the war, calling it Fort Henry after Henry Hamilton, one-time Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Quebec and Governor of Bermuda.

After the War of 1812, the British saw a need to strengthen their defenses around Kingston and Rideau Canal, which connects the Canadian capitol to Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River. Between 1832 and 1836, they built a more permanent stone fort in place of the old wooden one.

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Lake Effect Diner in Buffalo, New York

Lake Effect Diner, at 3165 Main Street in Buffalo, New York, is a 1955 Mountain View (model #446). Tucker and Erin Curtin brought the classic stainless steel diner from Wayne, Pennsylvania to Western New York in 2002 and carefully restored it to its former glory. It was originally called the Main Line Grille and later the Wayne Diner. Guy Fieri featured the diner in Season 7 of his Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

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