I didn’t post a note in honor of International Women’s Day for the same reason I failed to acknowledge Black History Month or bow to Mother Earth on April 22.
It’s not because I don’t care but rather that these commemorations are more of a list-checking exercise aimed at a mass of people – let’s call them ‘bunch of white guys’ – who fail miserably to be respectful, tolerant and supportive every other day of the year.
There has been a lot of brouhaha – some of it in The New York Times– regarding Green Book winning The Academy Award’s Best Picture, many suggesting Spike Lee’s Blackkklansman was much more deserving.
I am not sure what to make of this childish outrage, given that the awards orgy has far less to do with film-making than faux grandstanding.
Hollywood’s attempt to do the right thing in correcting racial representation in filmmaking, as right and wonderful as it is, has all the grace of Lenny embracing his mouse, or a strung-out actress clinging to her award.
The thing is Blackkklansman was a mediocre film at best, burdened by limited characters, heavy-handed newsreel footage and a trite rendering of the central issue – racism.
The long and short of it is that Blackkklansman wasn’t a Spike Lee masterpiece – apologies to Barbra Streisand – and pales in comparison to Jungle Fever, Mo’ Better Blues, Malcolm X andDo the Right Thing. Nor does it compare to Boots Riley’s own Sorry to Bother You, a film that takes risks and challenges the viewer.
No, Spike Lee wasn’t robbed of anything, nor did The Academy fail in the selection of Green Book. It’s status quo, folks. Even if the New York Knicks won a game.
I’ve spent my life in a state of high anxiety, waiting for the Cossacks. I am always worried. When one cause of worry exits my skull, it is replaced immediately by another. They meet shoulder to shoulder, one entering, the other exiting the cave leading to my tympanic membrane.
Remember being a kid where the world opened to something, no matter how fucked up and confused, a mess of a house, people not acting right, nobody paying attention, and it was just beyond that, through those faux trials that something would be revealed, a room of mirrors, a skeleton villain to smash up, and then outside in the fresh air?
I liked those days as much as I could, even without the booze, turning off the reality of what a shitty crew everyone was – sister, brother, mother, father – not a clue of how to care, make any sense of anything except to do what was next – this holiday, that dinner – sitting there waiting for someone to pick me up. Yeah, being an adult is better.
Remember when you were a kid and thought you knew more than anyone gave you credit? Remember when you were all grown up and thought you knew everything? Remember when you got older, maybe halfway from start to finish, and you began to forget what you said? Remember that? No? Of course you don’t.
Glen Hall would always carry a suitcase into the bar, which I thought was a little odd, and he’d hand it over to the bartender to keep behind the bar. It was always very light when he gave it to the bartender. But when they had to leave to catch the train, Glenn would get the suitcase back and all of a sudden it was very heavy. It took me a while to figure out that the bartender would fill it with beer so that the boys could have a few on the train.
A Bill Murray character pitches the idea of a long-time hockey fan who comes early to his team’s games to watch warm-ups and befriends the opposing goalie before the Stanley Cup finals by talking about gladiator mentality of the goalie, the defender of the universe. He helps him sort his game sticks as he realizes an opportunity to damage his confidence and so help his team win. He takes him out afterwards to a bar and tries to get him drunk, to no avail. The goalie, Elephant, sneaks into a private club which our hero tries over and over to break in and succeeds at the end, finding friends and family inside, with Elephant. He is admonished by all, but promises that there is a plan, citing winning the lottery as the first point. No one believes him until he locks into a death stare – performed by John Turturro and Elephant – during which there is a back and forth series of accusations which makes everyone tear with laughter.
The agent loves the pitch and commissions it to his go-to – played by Tom Hanks – who sets up his work space into a giant white room like a hockey rink to begin the process. Bill Murray’s character is devastated and sets up his massive musical pitch “I am Elephant” during which a giant King Kong set arises out of the dim with the chant of “I am Elephant” as Murray holds up a placard and high-fives a series of animals – elephants, tigers, hippos, Tony the Tiger, etc. – who come out the King Kong door and then from the opposite way, as the scene devolves into chaos – llamas, sharks, emus parading past. However, the agent is sold on the pitch of the Murray character getting to write, and Tom Hanks bows out gracefully. Murray goes on to write the story in which it is revealed that Elephant the goalie actually is using the fan as part of his routine in the championships, always pretending and manipulating opposing fans to his side. Even with this revelation, they all still love Elephant who lets in the losing goal at the end.
You see, man is stupid, phenomenally stupid. Man has always, and everywhere, loved to act as he wants and not in the least as his reason and personal advantage dictates. Even if it were proven to him by the natural sciences and mathematically, he would still not come to his senses, and would do something deliberately to contradict it, simply out of ingratitude, just in order to assert himself.
Let us suppose that man does nothing but search for this “twice two’s four”, he crosses oceans, he sacrifices his life in the quest, but to find it, to really find it – good god, he’s somehow afraid. You see, he feels that when he finds it, there won’t be anything left to look for.
At least when workmen finish their work, they receive money, go down to the tavern and end up at the police station – that keeps them busy for the week.*
*From Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground