THIS HAPPENED A LONG TIME AGO, but I had a relative who was caught in the middle of a riot. He was a hands-on business owner, working at his store nearly seven days a week. I cannot remember the details if he knew there was going to be some type of trouble in the neighborhood or he simply got caught in the middle of the protesters, but he was working at the time the riots broke out. The protesters were throwing debris at storefront windows, overturning vehicles and setting fire to trash piles. He was afraid his store was going to get looted or worse, destroyed because he stocked alcoholic products. The store meant everything to him since it was his livelihood and the only thing he knew how to do. He made up his mind he would lock and barricade the doors, staying in the place until things calmed down. His family was distraught with the news when he called them; pleading with him to get out, but he refused. As far as he could see there was no one coming to calm the crowds down and he could not ask any of his employees to put themselves in danger by staying with him. He did not leave the store for three days. ALL DURING THAT TIME THE ENTIRE family feared for his life. As far as any of us were concerned the people rioting were all bad and our relative was an innocent victim. I was too young to understand the reasons behind the crowds taking to the streets and damaging property. Looking back at that incident I realize two things: there had to be some legitimate reasons why people were angry and secondly, there were some individuals who saw an opportunity to wreak havoc in the neighborhood. When a violent act or tragedy takes place, people witnessing it may only see things at face value. They may not be interested with someone else’s concerns. Maybe that is part of the problem; it certainly seems more so these days from what I have seen and heard on the news. This may sound trite, but I find it so true; “You don’t know someone until you walk in their shoes.” Or what is that other saying that goes, “There are two sides to every story and the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle.” With more and more people responding to disagreements/conflicts with anger, thinking the louder they shout the more they will be heard, it is no wonder the world seems more like a scary place. This dramatic, film festival winner reminded me there is more to a story than what one sees for themselves. THE KILLING OF A BLACK MAN by a Brooklyn police officer affected more than those who knew the two men. Starring Anthony Ramos (A Star is Born, White Girl) as Manny, John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman, Love Beats Rhymes) as Dennis, Kelvin Harrison Jr (The Birth of a Nation, It Comes at Night) as Zyric, Jasmine Cephas Jones (Blindspotting, Mistress America) as Marisol and Giuseppe Ardizzone (Boardwalk Empire-TV, Gotham-TV) as Officer Jim Gambini; I found the story gripping throughout the movie. This was writer and director Reinaldo Marcus Green’s first full length feature film and I found his script and direction new and fresh, considering the subject matter has been done before and is a current issue in society. I found the acting to be this raw realness that added to the tension I felt throughout the picture. This movie has the ability to allow the viewer to look at the bigger picture, pushing the boundaries beyond face value. Living near a city where violence occurs on a weekly basis, this story could have easily taken place here.
3 ½ stars
As soon as the movie was done, all I wanted to do was find someone who grew up in the 1940’s and plead with them to tell me all they knew about baseball player Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers. I wanted to hear about the times, the games and the attitudes that were prevalent among the people and players. Physical strength can be measured by endurance, power or weight. I think mental strength is actually tougher to achieve. Watching the mental strength Jackie Robinson had to have every single moment was infinitely more compelling than anything I have seen from the recently released action movies. Chadwick Boseman (Persons Unknown-TV, The Express) did a solid performance as Jackie Robinson. The verbal cruelty he endured was unbelievable. Harrison Ford (Cowboys & Aliens, Firewall) as Brooklyn Dodgers’ owner Branch Rickey, despite his extra padding, was okay; but I was still reminded that he was Harrison. His character, who came across larger than life, left me wanting to know more about Branch and his motivations. I just could not get over this man’s drive, determination and foresight by bringing in a black baseball player into an all white baseball world at a time when discrimination was the norm in society. The acting from Christopher Meloni (Oz-TV, Runaway Bride) as Leo Durocher, Nicole Beharie (Shame, The Express) as Rachel Robinson and Lucas Black (Jarhead, Get Low) as Pee Wee Reese was strong. Based on a true story, this inspirational dramatic film was geared to wring out the maximum from each heartfelt scene. The music was written to push at the viewer’s heart and I have to tell you I was teary eyed through over 1/2 of the movie. One did not have to have a knowledge of baseball to enjoy this movie; the story was more about civil rights. If for no other reason, it is worth seeing this drama just to see what the ugliness of ignorance looks like; not that we have stamped out ignorance yet. This movie did what I believe a movie should do: take the viewer away to a different time and place and experience the world through someone else’s eyes.
3 1/3 stars