Commentary Historic America

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.


Actress Gemma Chan Responds to Criticism Over Her Role in Mary Queen of Scots

Allure Magazine proclaims: “Gemma Chan Wants to End Whitewashing — In Hollywood and in History Books”

Back in January, I wrote an article criticizing director Josie Rourke’s “colorblind casting” choice in her historical film Mary Queen of Scots. Mary Queen of Scots recounts the sixteenth century struggle between Mary I of Scotland and Queen Elizabeth I over the throne of England. The film is largely historically accurate, depending on the source.

However, several black actors and one actress of Chinese decent appear in prominent roles, particularly Mary Seton (Izuka Hoyle), Lord Randolph (Adrian Lester), Bess of Hardwick (Gemma Chan), Andrew Ker of Fawdonside (Nathan East), and the English Ambassador to Scotland, George Dalgleish (Adrian Derrick-Palmer). Being either English or Scottish in the 1500s, of course, all of these people were pasty white.

Defenders of this peculiar casting choice have strained logic past the point of credulity, and once again, writers like Allure’s Jessica Chia have fallen back on that tired cliche “Internet trolls” to dismiss criticism of Gemma Chan’s role as Bess of Hardwick in Mary Queen of Scots.

“Why are actors of color, who have fewer opportunities anyway, only allowed to play their own race?” Chan asked. “In the past, the role would be given to a white actor who would tape up their eyes and do the role in yellowface. John Wayne played Genghis Khan. If John Wayne can play Genghis Khan, I can play Bess of Hardwick.”


The Day Celebrity Social Justice Jumped the Shark

Another wealthy, award winning actress wants you to “empower” her bank account.

I’m not a big fan of super hero movies, so I was only peripherally aware of the controversy surrounding Brie Larson, star of Disney’s Captain Marvel (2019). I saw the weird clip of her saying white men shouldn’t review her previous films, but it wasn’t until I watched RedLetterMedia’s recent review of Captain Marvel that I saw the full extent of her vapid social activism.

Over the past few years, audiences have started waking up to Hollywood’s self-serving and hypocritical social activism, so much so that it turned off a record number of people from their signature awards event last year. No one likes to be preached to by hypocrites who got rich riding the coattails of an alleged sex pervert and then jumped ship when it was convenient for them.

Now Brie Larson, an Academy Award-winning actress with a net worth of over $10 million starring in a blockbuster Marvel film wants to tell everyone how hard women have it in the film industry. In one interview, she answered the question “What does it mean to be a woman in film?” by saying “It means it’s really hard.” Yes, throughout history attractive blonde women have had a difficult time getting roles in Hollywood films (<—sarcasm).


Alex Jones and the Problem of Historic Speculation

While Alex Jones has faced widespread condemnation for promoting wild theories, Hollywood continues to embrace filmmakers who peddle fake history.

Texas-based conspiracy theorist Alex Jones recently appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience after the two alternative media personalities’ longtime friendship threatened to very publicly implode. Jones, whose accounts have been banned from multiple social media platforms, has found himself under attack from all sides, including a messy divorce. The Rogan podcast garnered over 7.5 million views in a few days.

Jones was incredibly forthright and honest during the interview’s first hour, admitting he had been wrong in the past, and that he had, basically, sold the rope his critics are using to hang him. His investigation into true conspiracies, like Operation Northwoods and the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, led him to believe everything is a conspiracy.

Conspiracies do happen, but conspiracy theorists take this concept to the extreme, alleging “false flag” operations and government coverups behind every major current event. Conspiracy theories are attractive because they often contain grains of truth, which when put together, the theorist uses to come to an incredible (and often incredibly false) conclusion.

For example, over the course of Rogan’s epic 280-minute long interview, Jones ranged from claims about morally dubious scientific studies, which actually took place, to allegations that “global elites” are in contact with (or at least believe they are in contact with) interdimensional beings who demand blood sacrifices in exchange for advanced technology.

That’s a pretty big leap.


Was Sony Brave When it Made its 2016 Ghostbusters Reboot?

Director Jason Reitman found himself in some hot water recently (with who, I wonder?) when he said on a podcast his new Ghostbusters sequel will “hand the movie back to the fans.” I, for one, read this and thought, yes, thank you! As a huge fan of the original 1984 Ghostbusters, I’m excited to see the son of its original director continuing the franchise.

But after facing criticism for his comments (again, from who?), Reitman backtracked in the most cringe-inducing way by groveling on Twitter and making this ridiculous statement:

“Wo, that came out wrong! I have nothing but admiration for Paul and Leslie and Kate and Melissa and Kristen and the bravery with which they made Ghostbusters 2016. They expanded the universe and made an amazing movie!”

Jason Reitman, @JasonReitman, Feb 20, 2019

Um, what? Whether or not the 2016 Sony Ghostbusters film was amazing or not is a subjective opinion, but was it brave to make that film. Brave? How was it brave to take elements from an ’80s franchise and repackage them to make a quick buck? I don’t think Sony, Director Paul Feig, or its cast were anticipating the massive fan backlash. That happened after they already started making the movie.

When their gimmicky reboot came under fire for ignoring the original films and being generally terrible and unfunny, its apologists blamed “misogyny” and “toxic fandom.” And here, in this article on TheWeek’s website, the writer repeats this slander of the fans by saying Reitman “made it sound like the 2016 all-female reboot had taken the series away from devotees, or that the misogynistic trolls who were so violently opposed to it were the true fans.”

Yes, the only reason anyone could possibly have for thinking Ghostbusters 2016 was a piece of hot garbage was “misogyny”. Not because it was unfunny, gross, over-saturated, didn’t respect the previous two films, or maybe even that the viewer didn’t like its style of improvised comedy. The only reason you didn’t like their film is because you’re a terrible human being. How dare you.

I wonder why Jason Reitman felt the need to grovel and pay lip service to these charming defenders of the 2016 film. He wants to make a movie that will pay homage to the originals, that fans of the original films will love (hopefully). There’s nothing wrong with that, and he certainly has nothing to apologize for.

Historic America Reviews

The Disaster Artist: An Interesting Character Study

James Franco directs and stars in this character study of filmmaker Tommy Wiseau, based on the book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made (2014) by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell. There’s a tendency for biopics like this to pack all the entertaining content into the first half and then they drag on and on, struggling to tell the rest of the story. The Disaster Artist mostly avoids this pitfall.

The Disaster Artist (2017) traces the rise of mysterious and eccentric actor and filmmaker Tommy Wiseau and his tumultuous friendship with the much younger Greg Sestero. Wiseau and Greg meet in an acting class, where Greg is drawn to Wiseau’s fearlessness and determination.

The two decide to move to Los Angeles and pursue acting careers. While Greg is able to land a few bit roles, people are turned off by Wiseau’s strange behavior, accent, and overconfidence. Frustrated by lack of forward momentum, Wiseau decides to write, produce, and direct his own film starring Greg and himself.

The project begins with promise, but things quickly go south as it becomes apparent Wiseau has more confidence than skill or experience. He continually references Hollywood to justify his bizarre behavior (“we’re making real Hollywood movie!”) and refers back to other directors’ outrageous behavior to excuse his own. Ironically, what he produces is so bad it goes down in history as one of the worst films ever made.

I never watched The Room (2003), and I don’t understand people’s fascination with bad movies or why they become cult classics. I guess it’s a way to live vicariously or somehow feel attached to something unique, similar to why reality TV is so popular.


Worst Academy Awards in History

To no one’s surprise, most Americans decided not to watch a bunch of pampered, virtue-signaling millionaires pat themselves on the back at this year’s Academy Awards. With an average of 26.5 million viewers, it was the least-watched Oscars in history, down 19 percent from last year.

The raw numbers don’t even tell the whole story. 26.5 million viewers today are a lot smaller percentage of the population than forty years ago. In 1970, 43.4 percent of U.S. households tuned in. Forty-three percent!

What do you expect when literally hundreds of people in Hollywood knew about Harvey Weinstein’s outrageous behavior for decades, did nothing about it, or worse, helped to cover it up. Then they have the audacity to get up on stage for four grueling hours and lecture all of us about how we need to be more virtuous? Give me a break!